Once the pirates were the most powerful of men. They went to every port in every duchy and made the dukes pay taxes to them. If the dukes refused to pay them, the pirates would simply kill them. No king was strong enough to fight the pirates. All those who tried were killed by the pirate lords.
The pirate lords controlled a sea each where they made the dukes pay taxes to them, and if a duke declared war on one pirate lord, the rest of the pirate lords would help the pirate lord in need, and so the pirates were as good as invincible. The pirates had an alliance sealed by blood, one that could only be broken by death, and so the pirates were strong for many years.
Every highborn boy wished to stop the pirates, and every lowborn boy wished to be one of them. Being a pirate meant a rich and happy life; no suffering, no worries, life was gold and glory. Therefore the amount of pirates grew enormously every year, and as the new pirates joined the pirate lords’ companies, the pirate lords grew even richer and more powerful.
Then came a time when gold was not enough to satisfy the pirate lords. They became greedier and began to explore dark places no man had ever been before, but something went terribly wrong, and today the pirates are no longer powerful. The pirate lords found something that made them break their alliance, and today the dukes are the most powerful of men.
It was no surprise to me that Sweatflint yielded. This monstrous king from the north had put Usanda, Treefort and Taxton to the torch when they would not yield, and so the city had been surrounded by the northern king’s host from all sides of the city walls. There was nothing the duke of Sweatflint could do but die or bend the knee. The people of Usanda, Treefort and Taxton had chosen to die a free people with swords in their hands, but the duke of Sweatflint had chosen life. Not only his own life, also the lives of thousands of people, who would have been killed if the city had fallen in battle. Fall it would no matter what. It was a rich city, no doubt, but it did not have the strength to stand against the most powerful king in the world. Blaise of Rainport almost ruled the entire west, apart from the Redlands on the westcoast. He actually holds the entire Pink Shore now. No king in history had even held so much land. The pirates had always been an obstacle. They made sure nobody could threaten their power.
I began to wonder what city King Blaise would take next. The King could choose whichever city he wanted, he had the strength. What would I do if I had so much power? Would I conquer the world? …Or would I stay safe behind my walls and live in peace forever? It almost seemed like a waste to stay behind your walls when nobody could prevent you from conquering the world and all its riches - exactly like the pirates used to do.
Everytime I looked down on the Great Square I saw the big crowd that had come to see the duke kneel to King Blaise. I was surprised how happy they all looked. It was almost as if they weren’t sad the duke was to yield. He had served the city well. Sweatflint had become a great city under his rule. I began to wonder if King Blaise would conquer the great cities of Kantarbay one day. Having them as a part of the kingdom would be good for the trade, and it seemed that the king could have any city he wanted. With Sweatflint he had finished conquering the south now, and his army was doubled in numbers. I was sure the king would want to conquer the rest of the world someday, it was only a matter of time. Sweatflint was just one small step.
More people kept gathering in the Great Square. There were thousands of people, and the weather was good. It was hot as usual; the sun was always baking during the summer in Sweatflint, and I loved it. I was a child of Sweatflint, and I would always be so. It was part of my soul. I never felt comfortable when the sun didn’t warm my skin. I wondered if the king would like this place too. But I didn’t know him yet... perhaps he had nothing but blood and gold on his mind. I hoped not. I hoped he would appreciate the beauty he had conquered today. The pink buildings and grey streets of Sweatflint made an incredible sight during the summer, yet when winter came and the grey clouds hid the sun, it could be a rather sad city to linger in. Everybody always stayed inside, including me. I was glad winter did not last as long down here as it did in the north where the king came from, and the sun was good for the trade. The market was open longer here than it was in the north. I was a trader. I would never have earned so much power and gold in the north as I had here in Sweatflint. The city would not have been half as rich and beautiful if it was of the north. It was truly a blessed city. The pink landscape surrounding the city, the pink walls, the grey streets, the blue and golden roofs and the blue sea… Sweatflint was not the number one wealthiest city in the world, but it was probably the prettiest. If there was something the south was known for it was its beauty. The northmen did not think much about beauty unless it was a woman’s beauty. I remembered all the busy brothels I had seen in the northern cities when I was selling rare wine up there.
My biggest wish was that nothing really changed in Sweatflint, but I knew that it unlikely. I had heard bad stories concerning the king’s laws from Pinktowers and Crossia, who were some of the first southern cities to yield to this king... But it might not have to be like that here. We were going to yield peacefully; there had been no bloodshed in this city, in contrast to the rest of the southern cities. The king would like us. He would think us smart. Yielding was the wisest choice. No life had been sacrificed.
More people kept gathering in the Great Square though it seemed impossible for more to fit. The square was big but there were more people than I had ever seen before. I understood why they all came, though. If my attendance wasn’t required of me I would have been down there as well, but the duke himself had told me to come to the Balcony of the Blessed today. “I want my entire court to kneel before the king. Otherwise he might believe I am not fit to keep on ruling the city in his name. A ruler with no support is no ruler at all. He is a dead man yet to be killed,” he told me on his last council meeting as a duke. The council meetings took place at the Pink Palace, the duke’s palace. I was a member of his council and had been so for a couple of years. I owned a lot of ships and had been one of the most important people when it came to making the city wealthy. The duke knew that, and he rewarded me for it. The duke was just and had a great insight. This king could never get such an insight. Sweatflint wasn’t his home, it was only a throphe.
The ceremony could begin any moment now; the only thing missing was the king. The council had gathered on the Balcony of the Blessed, waiting for him to ride through the main gate that would lead him to the Great Square and up to the Balcony of the Blessed where they would kneel before him. The view was breathtaking from up here, the sea to the south, the crowd to the north, the palace to the east, and the green gardens and Temple of the Sun to the west. The king had never seen this view before, and I hoped he would be glad he didn’t burn the city when he saw it. This was the city centre, and from here you could see all its beauty. This was most beautiful place in the entire south.
The crowd was suddenly noisier and they began to cheer much louder than they did before. When I turned my attention to the crowd to see what was going on, I saw the king arriving on his black horse. He came riding through the Great Square, approaching the Balcony of the Blessed with two dozen mounted knights all around him. He was a broad man, and he looked strong and proud. The people were happy to see him I observed. Or were they happy that the city was to be spared? There was no telling but I thought I knew the answer deep down.
The king dismounted and climbed the hundreds of stairs that lead from the Great Square to the Balcony of the Blessed. As he came closer to the council I could tell he was a great warrior indeed. He was tall, clad in mail, and he generally looked very fearsome, but he was comely as well, and his crown was the best part of him. The dukes of Sweatflint never bore a crown, but this king did. I decided it was a tradition I liked. Why had the southern dukes never worn crowns? The king’s crown made him look almost divine. I had never seen anything like it before. I had only heard about it. The gold was shining in the sunlight. Perhaps this was the gods’ work.
When the king had climbed the last step he turned around and waved to the crowd, and the amount of cheering reached a level I had never thought possible. They loved him already. But did he rule by winning people’s hearts, or would we see another side of him soon?
The king turned to the council who were to kneel soon. They were the only ones on the Balcony of the Blessed. Twenty people they were: rich merchants, cousins to the duke, and the duke himself. The duke had ruled the city for half a lifetime, but his family had ruled the city for an entire century, after having killed the former duke, whose family had ruled the city very badly for hundreds of years. Would things around here change as much as they did that time? And would it be for better or for worse? Another incapable ruler would stop the positive development in the city. It would be a disaster for the trade... and me.
The duke of Sweatflint stepped forward from the rest of the council. In his right hand was the pink sword Yarindel. It was the sword of the founder of the city. Whoever held that sword had the power in this city. Everytime I saw it I was afraid what might happen, and so did the rest of the people in Sweatflint. Everything turned quiet now. The ceremony had begun. The duke was a small, black-haired man. He was the opposite of the king, but he was actually a most compatible ruler. He was the best one this city had ever had. It was a pity to see him yield when he was still strong... It didn’t matter though; the duke did not have enough men to beat King Blaise, and it was no shame to yield when it was the wisest choice. Well I hoped it was the wisest choice… I was the one who insisted that there was no other way, and the duke listened to my advice.
The duke went down on one knee before the king and laid down Yarindel on the grey tiles. The pink metal, yofros, was shining in the sunlight and blinded me for one small second. This was a magical moment. Right now the sword was held by no one. Whenever the sword touched the ground it did not belong to anyone. If someone defeated the ruler in battle the ruler would also give Yarindel to that man. Because of this law the ruler had to be a great warrior. Nobody really knew if the duke was a great warrior. Nobody had ever wanted to challenge him – they had always been happy to have him as a ruler.
“Your Majesty King Blaise of the Greenlands and The Icetips, I hereby yield to you and swear to be forever loyal to Your Majesty and Your Majesty’s cause. Yarindel is yours, and Sweatflint is yours as well. All that I own I give to you, in hope of receiving the great honor it would be to serve as your loyal subject and rule this city in your name from this day forward and till my death. What say you, Your Majesty?”
The king looked satisfied and smiled. He was not going to kill the duke. The dangerous face no longer looked dangerous. I wondered if King Blaise had been afraid of the duke. The king was the only one to climb the steps to the Balcony of the Blessed. None of his guards came with him. He was most vulnerable when the duke had stepped forward with the sword in his hand.
“Kolton of Sweatflint, I am glad of your yielding and wish for a long and strong alliance between the two of us. I accept you as ruler of Sweatflint in my stead, if you follow my laws, pay my taxes and join your forces to my army. In return you and your people shall be given the king’s peace. What say you, Kolton of Sweatflint?”
The king’s voice was friendly but deep and so unlike the duke’s delicate voice.
The duke did not look at the king when he spoke to him. He kept looking at Yarindel on the grey tiles, and he did so to show humbleness and weakness. It was expected of him.
“I, Duke Kolton of Sweatflint shall follow no laws but Your Majesty’s laws, pay no taxes but Your Majesty’s taxes and join no other army than Your Majesty’s army. Till my death, I do so swear. By swearing this, Your Majesty can call himself King of the Pink Shores. Your Majesty has conquered all of it there is to conquer. I congratulate Your Majesty. The world has never seen such a powerful man since the pirate lords controlled the seas.”
Well it’s too late to go back now. Every man in Sweatflint had heard him swear his fealthy. Oathbreakers were killed by the city control, whose job was to make sure that all laws were obeyed and sinners punished. Oathbreaking was one of the worst crimes a man could commit, next after treason, and even the duke had to obey his own laws. I almost felt sad knowing the duke would never rule the city as duke again. He would still rule though. Just not the way he wished to rule when he had to obey the king’s laws. He had lost his freedom, but not the city. Not entirely.
“You have sworn and so I name you Lord Kolton of Sweatflint, protector of the city and my loyal subject. Now rise,” the king said. The duke rose. “I am glad to receive such fine words from you, Lord Kolton. I am sure our friendship will be strong, and I will surely visit this lovely city many times in the future.”
The duke was now a lord and loyal subject to Blaise of Rainport, and a couple of seconds later the white and golden banners of Sweatflint along the walls were replaced with the green, red and blue banners of king Blaise. It was strange to see King Blaise’s banners on the walls. The white and golden banners had always been there. I never noticed them but now when I would never see them again I sort of missed them. The new banners were quite pretty along the city walls though. However, the blue raindrops on them reminded me of the winter rains. A sun instead of those blue drops would have been a much prettier sight. I loved the sun, or the Sunmother as we called it here in the south. Every man in Sweatflint loved the Sunmother. That was why we gladly sweat. It was a blessing. The sun was our protective mother; all that we were, we were due to her warmth. Therefore we called her the Sunmother. There were other suns too. During the night when the yellow Sunmother set, the white and evil suns came forth. Some were as big as the yellow sun, but there were five of them, and some of them were small. Common to all was that they were cold and pale. Unlike the yellow Sunmother they did not give warmth. Dead they were. The death lingers in the night, but every morning the yellow Sunmother saves us from the eternal darkness and gives us life. There were other, much smaller and brighter white suns too. The children of death. Every morning they vanished, to be replaced by a blue sky, and therefore the morning was the most blessed time of the day. It was a time of relief. The Sunmother’s daily return was a proof of her love. One day the yellow Sunmother might stop saving us. That was why we had to make her like us. We had to be her worshipers. Without her we were nothing.
King Blaise did not worship the Sunmother. Nobody in the north did. That was why it did not linger there were often. Thankfully the king had not burned the temples of the sun in the other southern cities he had taken so he would not burn the temple of the sun in Sweatflint either. If he burned the temples of the sun, the people of the south would try to kill him. Nobody would ever forgive him, and it could easily turn into a war. The southeners were very religious, just like myself. We would never tolerate the king if he burned our temple. I had seen a war before and wasn’t afraid. The battle of Uangruya was a battle that took place in a continent further south than Sweatflint. The old tribes were not happy about the invasion from the east and decided to fight the foreigners. Both sides ended up killing each other. Miles and miles there were corpses and blood. I was selling the special fruit Sundarin that only grows in the pink sand by the Pink Shore. I managed to escape into the jungle before the battle begun, but the sights I saw when I came back from the jungle to find my ship in the harbor were awful. Most of the bodies were yellow or half eaten by maggots and flies, and the stink was the worst part of it. That experience changed me. It hardened my mind and I have not been afraid ever since that day. Well, I have been afraid one episode since, but that day has been erased from my mind... It never happened.
The rest of the ceremony was short. Every man of the council knelt to the king and swore fealty to him, and then it was over. I was nervous when it was my turn to kneel, but when my eyes met the king’s eyes I felt a sudden calmness flow over my body. The king’s eyes told me not to worry, and everything went as planned. After the ceremony there was a great feast in the Pink Palace, which now belonged to the king. Not all of the king’s men could fit in the great hall, but the most important and famous knights were there. I sat next to one called Bahr the Burner, known for having burned many of his enemies alive. Bahr drank a lot of wine for wine was rare in the north, and he fell asleep before the third dish was served. I was actually quite happy about that; Bahr’s laughter had been so loud it hurt my ears. My mind was tough, my body wasn’t. I was not young anymore.
I turned my attention to the king after Bahr fell asleep. He was sitting at the end of the table in the center with the duke to his left and his brother to the right. He was a stiff man and did not laugh as much as his knights did, but he did seem to be amused. There were singers and musicians playing all day, and when night fell, the northern knights and the southern council members were so drunk that I could not remember what happened the next day.
I was in my bed in my mansion. I looked out of the window and could see drunken people everywhere in the streets. A fat knight threw up right next to my garden, and another knight was struggling to stand on his feet, and when a man on a horse rode pass him with a high speed he failed and never got up. The southern wine was obviously stronger than the northern ale. I couldn’t help but smile. They were not used to the wine. I remembered the first time I drank rum from Allameijos. It was sweet but it was also very strong compared to wine. I was probably also funny to look at the next day like those knights on the streets were now. Another drunken knight came reeling down the street in a very slow speed. The people gave him stares as they passed him by. They were not used to see so many drunken knights. Knights were not allowed to bear swords when drunk in Sweatflint – or at least they weren’t until yesterday. We lived under King Blaise’s laws now.
When my servants found out that I was awake they came with my usual breakfast. Fish, different kinds of egg and bread and fruit was my favorite type of breakfast. The serving girl was a little brunette, no more than thirteen winters old. She was new here. I could tell because she did not give me eye contact. I usually told my servants to give me eye contact. My mansion was their home too. They spent more time here than I did, and I wanted to be friends with them. That way they would never betray me. I came from a lowborn family. I knew how easily poor people are tempted, and I would hate to find out that my wine had been poisoned by my competitors at the market or by my enemies in the duke’s council.
“And what do they call you, child?” I asked as she put the trace on the table next to the bed. She was surprised that she was spoken to I could see. She struggled to speak and began to shake a little bit. She had no reason to be nervous. I was a good master; she would learn that soon enough. I bet her former master was bad to her. Poor girl.
“No reason to be afraid, child. I won’t hurt you. You are in Trinnean’s care now. Come sit,” I said to her and clapped the bed where I wanted her to sit. She just stared at me without moving. I had never seen someone stare so much before. She had not expected kindness. She probably thought this was some trap. I knew how cruel some masters could be. She was lucky to be under my roof now. All servants were treated nicely here. He had to. As a member of the council I had to have a good reputation. How could the people follow a man if they know he does not respect them? Being famous left you with little private life, and so I did everything not to be criticized.
“Not very social, are you? Very well, I shall let you go. Then you can see I have no intention of hurting you,” I said to the poor little creature. She flushed and looked at her feet. It was obvious that she was embarrassed.
“My name is Jisha, Master,” she said, her voice fragile. “You must excuse my being shy, Master. I only…” she strained “… I only, I…” I cut her off. It would take some time for her to get used to speak freely, and I would not want to push her. I had already seen a development. The fact that she spoke was a sign of progress.
“It is okay, Jisha. Now go, I am sure you have much to see to,” I said and smiled.
“I do, Master. Thank you, Master,” she said and curtsied.
“Call me Trinnean and spare me your courtesies. Under my roof you ought to feel at home. You live here too now. I want a close relationship with my servants. You will see.”
“Yes ma-“she began but then remembered I preferred being called by my name and not by my relation to her. “Yes Trinnean,” she said. She was embarrased.
“Good. Tell Marlin to get my horse ready on your way out. I am to be present at the Pink Palace by midday.”
“I shall see to it,” she said and left.
After she left I ate my breakfast, took a shower, and dressed. By that time it was almost midday so I went to the stable. I was in no hurry today for the market was closed, so I might as well just go to the Pink Palace and take my time. Besides, my head was spinning when I walked too fast, and I didn’t want to get sick. Did I really drink that much last night? I couldn’t remember much from what happened after Bahr fell asleep.
The ride to the Pink Palace was short, but due to my slowliness it took a bit longer than usual. Being one of the richest men in the city had its benefits and so my mansion was close to the palace. The mansions closest to the palace were the biggest and prettiest. The duke liked to keep his friends close, and the duke’s friends were the richest. My mansion was in the inner city, just next to Eastgate, which led to a poorer part of the city so I wasn’t one of the duke’s best friends... But still a friend. The city was split in four: the harbor, the west, the inner city and the east. Every man who lived in the inner city was considered a fine man, and I had one of the biggest mansions in the inner city. It did not mean that it had always been like that, though. My father was nothing but a fisher. When I was young I dreamt of gold and women and decided to become a trader instead of a fisherman. It was not easy at first, but when my father died I sold his boat and got enough coin to buy a bigger ship, and then things started changing. Now I owned thirty big trading galleys and controlled ten of the duke’s ships. The duke and I had a deal: I could borrow the duke’s ships and use them for business while there was peace, but in times of war I would use all my ships to help the duke win the war. It was a good deal for me. War was not common here at the Pink Shores. Until recently... I wondered if the king would be different today. I quite liked the king so far, but he had only been king of Sweatflint for one day and could turn out to be a cruel tyrant. He burned the cities that refused to yield. He could be a monster. I did not think so, though. The king had seemed like a fair man, serious but not too serious. But perhaps it was a façade. Now I would find out.
The king’s guards at the Pink Palace recognized me from yesterday and greeted me with courtesy. It was good to see that at least some knights stayed sober yesterday. I dismounted and entered the Pink Palace through its main gate where I usually entered the palace. The council was held in the duke’s old chambers in the great dome, the same place as usual. The duke’s old chambers were given to the king, but the duke was not thrown completely out of the palace; he was given some chambers in the south wing of the palace, and those were just as luxurious as the king’s chambers. There just had to be some changes for people to notice. I did not think the king would ever use his chambers in the palace. I did not think he would visit very often.
When I entered the meeting, most of the other members of council were already there. They were anxious to see if the king would make some dramatic changes in the city and had all come earlier than usual. I found my chair and sat down. Two seconds later the king arrived. We rose from our chairs and bowed. We used to do that when the duke entered the meeting, but now he was almost one of us.
“Please, sit,” the king said. “Rule number one; do not do this every time I enter the room. It is a stupid ritual, and I will have none of it.”
“All right, Your Majesty,” the former duke and lord of Sweatflint said. ”I will see to it that it is decreed none of the members of council shall rise and bow when you enter.”
“Good, my lord,” the king said. My lord... Hearing somebody call the duke ‘my lord’ was strange, but I had to get used to it. I would have to adress him by that title from now on too.
“I have other things I want you to decree, but we will take it easy today. I’m afraid my head is pounding from yesterday’s magnificence feast. I would like to thank you all for one of the best feasts I have attended, but I would also like to ask you to not to speak loudly today. I’m sure you understand exactly why. Your heads must all be pounding as well?” The king laughed and threw himself in his chair and sat like a tired old man. The duke never had hangovers and never sat like that. He had too much pride for that. Even now the duke looked more royal than the king. The king did not wear his crown. He probably only wore it on special occasions or when he was in public. His appearence today was definitely different from yesterday. I did not like it.
“I think I speak for all of us, Your Majesty, when I say that my head is pounding as well,” Haltin said. Haltin was the duke’s cousin and a preacher of the temple of the sun. He was probably the second most powerful man in this city after his cousin, the former duke of Sweatflint, Lord Kolton.
“I can easily see that, Haltin,” the king said to him. “Your eyes look pinker than the Pink Shores!” The king laughed again and grabbed a cup of wine. The rest of the court laughed as well. They did not laugh because the king laughed. They laughed because Haltin’s eyes really were pink, and I was not surprised. The last time I saw him he was trying to woo one of the serving girls but he failed to speak and could not produce a single word. Instead he burped her in her face and got a slap.
“Don’t be afraid, Haltin,” the king said. “I would much rather have loyalty and laughter than courtesy and whispers behind my back.” I actually liked the sound of that. It was almost the same I told my servants at home.
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Haltin replied and flushed. There were some new members of the council who did not know Haltin the way the rest of us did, and they kept staring at him like there was something wrong with him. I almost wanted to tell them not to worry. Haltin was fine, he just had a hangover.
“Now let’s talk politics,” the king said and rose from his chair. He went to the great map of the world at the end of the council’s wall to the east. “I mean to take Eflanturah…” he said and hammered a fist into the map where Eflanturah was. Eflanturah was the only city on the south side of the Channel of Taxes, which separated two continents from each other. It was known for its high taxes and wild creatures running in the streets, not a place I ever came. The people of Eflanturah were never interested in my products, and I wasn’t interested in theirs. They were a wild folk and did not speak the same language as most people around the world did.
“And when Eflanturan is mine I control the Channel of Taxes all by myself,” The king said and turned away from the map so he could see the council members’ reactions. The council turned quiet. Nobody had expected that coming. Why would he want to take a place like that? To control the channel?
“Your Majesty, if I may?” the duke began. The king nodded and allowed him to go on. “Eflanturah is a wild place… it’s placed on the wild continent and it’s the only city in the northern part that hasn’t been sacked by elephants... Why not go west and take the cities in the Red Dust?”
“I mean to go west someday, my lord. But first I will take Eflanturah, not the cities in the Red Dust. I mean to close the Channel of Taxes.”
“Close the channel?” the duke’s cousin asked. He was surprised. “I beg your pardon, Your Majesty, but you need hundreds of ships to do that. It has only been done a couple of times throughout history.”
“I am aware of that but we no longer live in the days where the seas were controlled by pirates, now do we?” the king asked but did not expect an answer. “I have a plan in mind that I will tell you of later. All you need to know is that I want to close the channel.”
I did not like what I heard. Closing the channel would ruin the trade from the Salty Sea and the Silver Sea completely.
“Your Majesty, I must warn you of the consequences,” I slowly began. I was almost afraid to speak. I did not know if the king had a temper. “The trade-“ I continued but was broken off by the king.
“I am well aware of the trade,” he said. “But the only way to get to The Salty Isles is through the Channel of Taxes,” he continued and turned around again and focused on the map. “And I mean to lay big pressure on the Salt King. He has done me great harm and will pay for it.”
The king’s voice sounded very displeased. Sad almost.
“What has he done to you, Your Majesty?” the lord of Sweatflint asked. Nobody understood this. Not even the new council members from the north seemed to understand.
“I will tell you later, Kolton,” the king said. “But I want none of his friends from the east to come help him when I declare war on him. I want to conquer the isles as quickly as possible. The quicker they are conquered, the quicker the trade will be back to the way it is now.”
Back to the way it is now, I repeated to myself and almost hissed. What was quick? Was it a year or five? The Salt king was strong and had many ships, everybody knew that. I had seen his fleet with my own eyes. It was the biggest one I had ever seen.
The court grew quiet as the king spoke about Eflanturah and how best to take it. He thought it necessary to take it if he had to close the channel. Some were of a different opinion, but the king closed the discussion when he had heard enough talk.
“Let us speak no more of this matter. I have laws to decree,” the king announced.
The laws were not very different from the laws the city had before. The only big change was the military service men between age 18 and 22 had to do. “I want the smallfolk to fight for my cause,” the king said. “That way they will like me better.” The king also removed the ban of whores and brothels in daylight, “Whores are no abomination, and they pay taxes. They are good for our economy,” he told the skeptical southern members of council. I knew he would do this and I didn’t like it. The whoring will ruin our good image and scare the little children. Men who visited brothels were weak. They were controlled by their lust, not their minds.
When the council finished, the sun was already setting. The members of court told the king goodbye one by one and went home to sleep. Their headaches had only grown worse during the day, and one of the king’s men even threw up all over the table while the king spoke. Instead of anger there was laughter. The king liked a good laugh I had observed. He was not a dull man, perhaps I would grow to like him.
“I bid you good evening, Your Majesty,” the duke said to the king before taking his leave, and then it was my turn. I was the last one to leave for I had been the last one to arrive.
“Good evening, Your Majesty,” I said and bowed.
“Wait, Trinnean,” the king said and put a hand on my shoulder when I was about to leave. His hand was big and felt heavy on my shoulder. I did not understand. What was this now? The king hadn’t stopped any of the rest. Was it about the trade? Did he want to make sure I would lend him my ships?
“Your Majesty?” I asked. My voice did not sound the way I wanted it to sound. It was clear that I was confused.
“I want a word with you. I bring you good tidings from your son,” the king said in a low voice so none of the council members on their way home could hear what he said.
Techolas. I had not been thinking about him for a very long time. Something happened that day that was too hard for me to bear. I would not think about it. It did not happen. I did not have a son. Did I?
“Don’t look so surprised, Trinnean,” the king said in a voice so low it was almost a whisper. “Did you really think he died that day?”
“Your Majesty?” was all I managed to say, and my voice was more fragile and confused than ever when I said it. Good tidings from my son? But that was impossible.
“Come this way,” the king said and walked towards his private chambers. “I will tell you everything over some dinner.”