I hate and despise you all, Duke Bryan thought to himself for the millionth time as he slumped resentfully down upon his father’s shoddy throne, staring at his father’s shoddy court.
The throne room of Columbiana had seen better days, so had the throne.
The tapestries celebrating the glorious victories of fourscore years ago and the ones glossing over the embarrassing defeats of twoscore years ago were equally faded and tattered. They couldn’t be removed without revealing the state of the walls they covered. The Throne Room of Columbiana was still called the White Room but no one remembered why anymore.
The cast iron chandeliers were cracked and covered with rust, their bobeches were long broken or missing entirely, candle wax dripped freely downward upon the jittery courtiers below.
The stained glass had been replaced over the years with stained glass. A different and altogether more disgusting way of conducting a sunlight that was clearly embarrassed to be there at all into the throneroom.
The floor (for what it’s worth) was immaculately clean and brightly polished. An unintended side effect of the incontinent chandeliers. Buffing out the wax, was way easier than cleaning it up.
Also the Regent also liked to watch the courtiers slip and fall on their butts. It was the only thing that brightened his day at court
Lord Trelvis of Sorianonnydel,was in the half courtesy of his people. Proper kneeling being pretty much out of the question for centaurs. He stared down at his delicately manicured hooves nervously. So brightly polished for his first presentation at court that he could clearly see the wispy blonde curls of his chin beard.
Trelvis licked his lips. The Trelvis reflected in his hooves did the same. Clearly mocking him!
Trelvis was nearly in tears at the sight. He fought the need to keep his tail from swishing worriedly from side to side. To keep the skin on his haunches from twitching when flies landed with excruciating delicacy. This day he had to win the approval of a mad man.
“Be up standing!” The chamberlin called out.
Trelvis and the rest of the court rose fearfully. They knew they were in the presence of a monster.
Duke Bryan regent for his father King Ronald IV, was puddled down upon the Emerald Throne staring at the court with malevolent hatred.
“Which one of you parasites is first?” The Dread Tyrant sighed in resignation.
A tall slender male of what should have been graceful carriage shambled forward in a manner that the court assured themselves was quite graceful. Blonde of hair and excessively shiny of complexion, with pointed ears that only drooped a little. He proudly folded his arms across his chest refusing to bow to Duke Bryan. The court silently gasped in approval at the cultural integrity of man and his people in refusing to pay homage
The Chamberlain inhaled deeply. Preparing to deliver a long and involved list of titles, that he had memorized. “His Glory Prince El Ruyined. Suzerain of the Mephealeunian Peoples of the Southern Marshes of…”
“No!” Duke Brain growled. “Whatever the hell he wants the answer is, no. The Swamp Elves are in the kingdom illegally.”
The court gasped. How dare he actually admit that? During the regency of the good Earl Earl and Princess Perseverance, no one would have dreamed of saying such a thing out loud where people could hear you and everything! Certainly never in public, if you did.
“As such Columbiana is under no obligations to them whatsoever,” Duke Bryan finished.
The Swamp Elf prince staggered drunkenly forward. “Amin feuya ten’ lle! Lle naa haran e’ nausalle, Utinu en lokirim!”
The court was near to weeping in silent delight at the beauty of the defiance shown, Duke Bryan, by the incredibly ethnic Prince El Ruyined. Even if they couldn’t understand a word of it.
“Lasta lalaithamin,” Duke Bryan replied with a cruel smile.
El Ruyined, swallowed suddenly unsure of himself. The Golden People weren’t used to the None People actually understanding their language.
“It’s not a secret code, you moron. You invaded the kingdom thirty years ago. What did you expect by now? And yes The Wall is going to be repaired if it’s the last thing I do.”
Prince El Ruyined angrily spun on his heel one and a half times. Was helped to complete his rearward orientation by the Court Chamberlain and staggered furiously out of the Royal Presence. Pausing only briefly to deliver a titty twister to Lady Dunham, to her delighted squeals and those of her almost husband Matt.
“Next!” The Tyrant groaned.
“A delegation of burghers from the Province of Leighland,” the chamberlain sniffed.
Duke Bryan lifted a dejected eyebrow at the chamberlain, before sighing and focusing his gaze on the delegation. “Ah, I see the problem.”
The delegation shuddered at the monster’s gaze. Except for their leader who after a perfunctorily kneeling rose to his full height. “Sire we account ourselves. Rightfully I think, honest men. Hard working working men as well.”
“Clearly you have no business being here,” the Duke muttered.
The court tittered at the outlanders, obsequiously.
“SHUT THE HELL UP!” Duke Bryan screamed at his court. “Okay,” instantly calm, he turned to address the man leading the delegation. “Obviously you didn’t know who you were supposed bribe or your introduction would have taken a half hour.”
“Uh…Sorry?” the leader offered.
“Don’t worry about it,” the Duke replied. “It speaks well of you.” The Duke changed course. “What do you for a living? You look useful. I don’t’ run into that too often in my job.”
“Er…Miller, Your Grace. I’m a miller,” the miller replied.
“So why aren’t you milling. Instead of wasting your valuable time here of all places?” The Tyrant seemed genuinely curious.
“It’s about our taxes,” The Miller began hesitantly.
“Uh huh,” Duke Bryan was suddenly and distinctly uninterested. “Let me guess you want your tax burden reduced because of some reason that… Wait a minute,” The Duke hesitated, he was hauling something up from the well of his memory. “You’re from… Leighland Province, you said?” He asked. “You do have a reason to have your taxes lifted,” he said in surprise.
Trelvis noticed a very well dressed courtier in the back of the room drop to the floor and scurry crablike out of the room, slipping only once upon the wax as he did so.
“We do not ask for that your Grace,” The Miller stood straight. “We pay our way. We don’t let others bear our burdens.”
“You really don’t’ have any business here,” the Tyrant muttered shaking his head.
“Regardless your Grace. We have already paid our taxes,” the Miller said with some pride.
Duke Bryan looked up suddenly startled. “With what? Your dam was smashed in the spring flood. That’s where you do your milling and your foundry work, right? You ran a loom off it a well. You can’t make up this year’s lost income at this point.” The Duke was quickly calculating “and I know how much it cost to repair that damn thing. I saw the Army Corps of Engineers estimate myself. I also know how much you actually had to end up paying to the Security Contractors I sent in the Army’s place.”
“Thank you for that sire. It was much appreciated,” the miller was genuinely grateful.
Gratitude was so alien to Duke Bryan he had to ignore it. “You couldn’t have had any money leftover for taxes after that.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Trelvis saw Princess Perseverance hustling to the entrance of the court. She dropped the skirts that she had been carrying in a bundle, smoothed the enraged features on her face into an uncomfortable and somewhat alien smile. Adopted a demure pose and slowly began to enter the No-Longer-Exactly-White Room, waiting up just a bit for her husband the Earl Earl to pantingly catch up to her. A well practiced warm friendly and not at all fake smile appeared on his very red puffy face.
“You don’t understand, your Grace,” The miller stated. “Our taxes were advanced here, already.”
The Tyrant locked eyes on his older just arrived half sister and her husband, “by whoooom?” He drawled in a low flat voice.
“Brother, if I may…” Princess Perseverance began.
“His turn to speak Sis,” He turned back toward the miller, “Don’t answer my last question! I believe you were about to plead for debt relief.”
“We shall pay our debts sire. We always do. But…well the ballon interest of forty percent is…”
“Is illegal,” the Tyrant reared back upon Emerald (as was) Throne, tiny shards of cheap green glass flaking off it as he did so. Duke Bryan shook his head in confusion. “How did you even get in here? I know without question, I was never supposed to hear about this.”
“Correct,” Trelvis heard the Earl Earl mutter.
“Uh well we asked a certain gentleman…” The miller began.
“Shut up!” Duke Bryan said in a stentorian tone of voice.
Trelvis sighed, he knew he shouldn’t have been surprised the Duke didn’t want the name of a such traitor made public “The interest rate on your tax advance is reduced to zero. You have ten years to pay back this debt.”
“PLlAGUUPP!!!” Came a horrified noise from the back of the room.
Trelvis didn’t think humans like the Princess Perseverance should have been able to make noises. like that.
“Brother…” she said through gritted teeth.
“It is Sire, during business hours Sis,” the Duke replied. “I will have a few questions in private about…”
“Qwee a’loo na ah vheey!” A deep baritone voice thundered from the end of the courtroom.
The entire court dropped to a kneel and scuttled in a semicircle to face to the sound of the new voice. Including with a deep and malicious smiles Princess Perseverance and her husband Earl Earl.
Lord Trelvis being a quadruped was slower than the rest. Startled at hearing outloud (and in mixed company), the ancient battle cry of the centaurs. When he had completed his turn, he gasped at the sight of the man who had just roared his defiance at the Regent.
A very young man he was, thick of blackbeard and round of of belly. Hairy. Most hairy as well. And was as bare of chest as Trelvis was himself, although that was hard to tell at first due to the hairy thing. Around his vast waist was kilt of jet black and upon his legs chaps covered with thick black fur, unless those were his actual legs, again the hairy thing. His feet were shod in klompen carved to resemble Trelvis’s own hooves and polished to a black shine just as bright.
Trelvis gasped at the masculine beauty that was Crown Prince Branadoc, the Horse Botherer.
The Prince’s only full brother. The Tyrant, buried his face in his hands. Cleary ashamed, Trelvis simply knew in this deepest heart. to be seen before the majesty of the true heir to the throne of Columbiana.
“Christ Bran,” he heard the evil Duke groan, “not now,”