A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, Part 2. Character: Perandes
We balanced on the brink of war. It was perhaps not entirely obvious to see from the ornate hall in which the negotiations were to take place, between the elaborately carved statues, delicate furniture and richly dressed diplomats, mingling under the light of the chandeliers. Nonetheless, the merciless threat of war loomed over all our heads.
After fifty years of unstable peace, naval skirmishes on our shared sea became more frequent. The ambassadors of Súthenaira were already an hour late. The Notorious Southernland, as the rest of the known world whispered. Our beligerent southern neighbour. I sighed as I warmed my nervous hands on a cup of warm tea; as newly appointed High Ambassador Perandes of Terenōr, it was to be my job to bring about some kind of peace agreement with them. If they ever showed.
High Count Erensil was also missing. A nobleman of immense wealth and sophistication, he had been deemed crucial to today’s meeting, but was nowhere to be seen. He had been due to arrive on the wings of his magnificent dragon, a beautiful and rare creature of our land.
Time sluggishly crawled over us with the timekeeper’s monotone ticking, dull politcal conversations and gossip. Apparently Lord Ferreidi, Knight of the Fourth Tower, was to marry a foreign lady from Windland in the east, and the youngest son of Councilman Dandare was angling for a position in the royal court. So it went on, until the heavy door of the hall suddenly flung open with a resounding crash. Outside pandemonium had taken over the royal court, guards, messengers, lesser nobility and ladies in waiting ran about shouting to each other, over and over, the same ghastly news:
“High Count Erensil has been assassinated!”
Eventually someone regained their composure enough to formally report to us. It turned out that the late High Count had hosted a celebration yesterday, where he had been shot between the eyes with an arrow. His dragon had been hijacked; the man bearing the news had to ride all the way to the royal court on an unfortunate horse, that almost died of the effort. The culprit could not be found, but the guards remembered a young ‘Nairan girl they had let in, on account of having believed she was a slave. The general consensus was that she had been the assassin.
At that precarious moment the missing ‘Nairan ambassadors walked in.
There were three of them, two men and a woman, all with long, straight black hair, skin as pale as snow, and eyes in uncany shades of blue and green. They all wore a characteristic ‘Nairan cloak over their right shoulder. The woman’s cloak was navy blue, one man’s was gold, and the other’s was black. I had heard that the colours were earned based on abilities and personality. Their loose clothes and bare feet harshly contrasted the well-tailored jackets and polished shoes of our nobility, and gave an impression of poverty at first. This notion was quickly diffused by the shining metal of the formidable blades they carried at their side, blatantly ignoring any and all diplomatic conventions.
The hall erupted into curses, jeers and shouts of “murderers!” The ‘Nairan ambassadors stood still in the doorway, their hands wandring to the hilts of their blades.
“Enough!” I shouted, trying to avert the disaster, before I realised we had been doomed from the start, and ducked behind a solid oak desk. One of the royal guards, alerted by the uproar, came running, pike at the ready. With a single, smooth motion, the woman ran him through with her curved sabre. A single second of shocked silence was quickly broken by the sound of two more swords being drawn. A massacre followed.
The nobility, traditionally unarmed, was helpless against the assassins of Súthenaira. I cowered behind the desk, not even daring to breathe, listening to the screams of terror and pain. Though it felt like forever, it was over in a few short moments. By the time the guards arrived, the assailants were nowhere to be seen. I crawled out from my hiding place, shaking from the core, and it took quite some time before I could speak again.
Only much later in the evening did I learn of the full extent of the damage. The false ambassadors had murdered the guards at the gate to get in, so silently that it was noticed only after they were gone again. In the hall, we had only been a distraction. As the palace guards scrambled to respond, the black-cloaked man had snuck into the throne room, murdered almost the entire royal family, and gotten away with it. The youngest prince, aged only nineteen, was the only survivor. He had managed to defend himself using a flaming torch, until the guards came and the assassin fled.
Over the course of these last two days, the glorious kingdom of Terenōr was reduced to rubble, by this terrible, unprovoked attack. The only thing we could place our hope in was the determination of that young prince. He declared war on Súthenaira the very next day.