Wren witnessed the spectacle of the court at blade-point, being held captive by the lynx guard. Once again, he found himself stuck as a plaything in the royal menagerie, for events well above his station. The old king’s daughter claimed to be different, to be creating a new future, and yet her she was, doing little but causing more death. He listened as Ederic spoke.
“You really plan to kill me, princess? I stepped up while you ran away. I kept the kingdom running and even turned it around a bit—you’ll notice we don’t keep bodies on display by the cliffs anymore. The Sticks have more food. Aside from the king-killer, our dungeons are practically empty. You’ll note even in your case execution never came up because honestly? Life is worth a damn. It’s the most important thing we got—no point in wasting it.” Ederic preached.
“During your time as princess and Captain of the Guard, what did you accomplish? You led raiding parties at the king’s behest, murdered scores of people who probably did nothing worse than steal food for their families, and you were so wicked you assaulted your own guards for sport. Now you just show up after abandoning your people, demand to be in charge, and order the execution of the person who fixed your mess? Pretty bold.” He finished, looking to the guards who still took no action. Lenoa rebutted.
“How convenient your short reign has been. No travesty befallen your walls, no real hardship to speak of. Simple to criticize the actions of others when you’ve not been tested yourself. We are not faultless, but we are not feeble .”
Ederic cocked an eyebrow as he stared at her, she approaching the throne with her hand on her feather and throne chest piece.
“You’ve played homemaker when you should act as king! The Sick still ails our people, dragonfire still burns away at us from within. What have you done to free us of its curse? To liberate the dominion and her people?”
Ederic scoffed. “What curse? The caustic are allergic, that’s all. We need dragonfire to surv—”
“We do not!” Lenoa stormed up to the viceroy, veins burning. “The myths you’ve been fed about dragonfire are a lie! Like a fool you believed, instead of acting as monarch and challenging everything outside your rule. Our kingdom is besieged by two enemies and you know of neither. It’s true we have been cruel, and we have been merciless.” Lenoa leaned in close, whispering to the viceroy, “The longer you stay here, little Nephilim, the more you will be too.”
She addressed the court once more, “But our path has led to salvation. We can stop the enemy approaching our gates, and more importantly,” she turned to Wren, “we can remedy the Sick.”
Wren watched as the court judged the usurper and the deserter. Two strong, flawed leaders, neither willing to back down. At least one of them would have to die. He leaned in close to the lynx guard, whispering into his ear. The guard met his gaze with overwhelming regret. Wren nodded to the guard, and after a moment the guard returned the gesture. Ederic spoke out.
“Simply put, princess, I don’t believe you. But you and I? We’re fighters. You want this kingdom? You want to prove how much you care about the people? You wanna execute me? Fine. You’re welcome to give it your best, but it’s you and me. To the death.”
Wren loosened his hands as Ederic retrieved a bo staff from behind the throne. The viceroy then whispered to the chancellor, who had the constable bring the princess a rapier with a feather and throne-etched hilt.
“You remember that no doubt. Forgot it on your way out last time’s what I hear.” Ederic spoke to the princess. She examined her blade as though she was looking at a memory she’d forgotten she’d lost. She rose it high, aiming it at Ederic as the viceroy struck the first blow.