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Monday, March 03, 2008

3.2.13.1. The Sacred Heritage - Part One


CHAPTER THIRTEEN
STRENGTH OF HEART




Strength has three forms: of body, of mind, and of heart.


3.2.13.1. The Sacred Heritage

The trek back to Myrcalia proves to be none too long for Prince Cristophe Deveraux of Arcadia. Without him knowing it, he rides slowly. He doesn’t want to miss a single second of togetherness for the last time with his mentor, best friend and hunting party leader, Robert Chandler. The group chats, sings, and kills a monster or two along the way just for sports.
The group split in two separate ways in Uvarse after recollecting the first time they met Father Andreas there *) Robert, Kyflynn, Agustina and Desmond are going with Rael’charon to Vochaux to take a ship to Lore, while Chris, Carolyn, Iris and Andreas are going North to Myrcalia, the Capital of Arcadia Empire.

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(* See Book One, Chapter Five of FireHeart - Legend of the Paladins.

‘Say hello to that executioner Byraxx from me, Rob,’ says Chris, obviously kidding.
‘If I happen to meet him,’ Robert answers. ‘But after the humiliation, I doubt he wants to be an executioner anymore. Maybe changed profession to butcher or the like.’
‘Still, we have to go in disguises through there. The Bishop of Vochaux still hasn’t lifted the ban for Loreans because of the Lorean spy case,’ says Rael. ‘An international incident like this will add another reason for Arcadia to wage war upon Lore. We don’t want to risk another incident, but we need more speed.’
Father Andreas speaks up, ‘So, I pray for a safe passage for you all. I think Kyflynn can be a great help for you in fields of “speed” and “stealth”.’
With a sigh, Carolyn says, ‘Too bad we must go to Myrcalia and report to the Emperor. We would like to go to Lore with you.’
Robert can’t help showing his rare smile, saying, ‘Don’t worry, Carol. We shall meet again, though not very soon.’
‘Right, Rob,’ says Chris. ‘The thing we can do now is to prevent war between Arcadia and Lore. We must not fight each other in front of our common enemy: the Dark Forces and the Heir.’
‘Well said, Chris,’ says Iris. ‘Let’s hope we’ll meet again in peace and merry-making, not in battle.’

==oOo==

Cristophe and his group arrive in Myrcalia three days later. As he sets foot in the Imperial Palace, Chris feels a chill running up his face. Ah, our names have been cleared and our problems are resolved, but why still I feel the same chill as before? This feeling, the feeling that this place is not my home, comes again like deja vu. Here I am, wearing the same armor, climbing the same steps with the same feeling in my heart. My father summoned me – is that about Rael’charon’s treaty proposal? I’m included in deciding upon matters of the empire at last. Am I up to the challenge? Am I ready to become a real prince? The answer is behind this door.
The door to the throne hall is opened before him, and Chris walks in with his friends following behind. Inside, only the Emperor, Alexis, Talbot and Bernides are present. It’s way past council hours.
‘You are late,’ says Emperor Sage, as the newly arrived ones kneel before him. ‘How dare you make us wait here two hours after the council meeting? I’ll arrange for your punishment later.’
Chris doesn’t dare to talk back to his father because it’ll be useless anyway, only giving him more trouble. He just keeps on lowering his head and kneeling as the Emperor talks on.
‘But now there’s a more pressing matter at hand. The peace proposal from Lore has been long overdue, waiting for the results of Robert’s trial. Now, as Younger Prince’s name has been cleared, we must decide which prince should we choose to marry Eloise, the Princess of Lore.
The Crown Prince is naturally the best choice. But, if Lore violates the treaty, the Crown Prince will lose face in front of his subjects. Therefore, choosing the Second Prince will still secure Arcadia’s claim over Lore with lower risk. Difficult, very difficult. So, anyone have suggestion on a way to choose between the two princes?’
Talbot, the Chief Royal Advisor as always is the first to suggest something. ‘Your Majesty, I have an idea. Let’s have a tournament in which Prince Alexis and Prince Cristophe will compete. They’ll participate in jousting, swords, archery, plus a written test in warfare fields of warfare and strategy. Whoever is the best between them accumulatively will have the right to marry Eloise.’
‘Sounds like a good plan, Talbot,’ says Sage. ‘A tournament, what a spectacular way to show people that we want peace with Lore. However, we are still open for OTHER suggestions. Anyone?’
This time Bernides speaks up, ‘Your Majesty, I suggest that the two princes are to be tested not in terms of prowess and intelligence alone. Strength of body and mind is indeed essential, but the strength of heart is also to be accountable for.’
‘Ah, really?’ says Sage. ‘Is there any kind of test that can measure those three strengths altogether at once?’
‘Yes, Your Majesty,’ replies Bernides. ‘In fact, it has became a tradition in the House of Deveraux since the First Emperor’s time.’
‘Pray tell us straight away.’
‘The Arsenal of Light, also known as Vadis’ Arsenal is a set of weapons, armor and accessories that Vadis made and used for battle. When the war between Vadis and Adair ended with Enia’s sacrifice, Vadis left his arsenal sealed in well-protected places in the region of Regia Confederation, thus uniting the Five Kingdoms and bound them to protect the Arsenal for ages until the rightful heir comes and takes the Arsenal for good use – vanquishing the ultimate evil.
Sage the Fireheart once used it to defeat Vordac, and then his son Antoine the Avenger also used it. And each time they returned the Arsenal to its sealing place to make sure the next heir will be a suitable one. Then, it has been kept safe for generations – until now.
The Heir of Vordac is on the move, so now is the time to choose the next Heir of Vadis, wielder of his legacy. Anyone may try to claim the arsenal, and the best between the two princes are judged by the total assessment of their virtues, not by how many pieces of the arsenal they claim.’
The Emperor comments, ‘I have heard of my grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s Paladin gears and their feats when using them against evil. The Arsenal isn’t the only weaponry that can defeat or defend against dark energy, but it’s apparently the most effective and powerful one.
Think again, a tournament is costly and too spectacular, whereas this... quest can be done with low cost and hushed-up manner. Plus, we have to be prepared to fight Vordac’s Heir anytime. Choosing Vadis’ Heir will be a sound warning for the denizens of darkness indeed.
So I, the Emperor of Arcadia shall adopt Bernides’ plan.
Father Bernides, prepare communications with Yvais and Archangel Avariel right away. Father Andreas, you’ll be in charge to invite the candidates from the best fighters in Aurelia Continent and you, Counselor Talbot will select them. I give you three days.
Prince Alexis and Cristophe, you two prepare well, for this quest will not only determine your right to marry the most beautiful princess in Aurelia, but also being a leader in the war against evil.
Start now, and may Vadis smiles upon us all. The Sovereign has decreed.’
Immediately, Emperor Sage gets up from his throne, and then walks out from the room. Talbot follows behind the Emperor, glancing at Bernides with hatred and resentment on his face.
Crown Prince Alexis and Prince Cristophe also stare at each other, throwing challenges at each other in the eve of their competition.

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