The Iron Rook V
It all went according to plan, nearly everything to the detail, with every member of the Royal Guard under the influence of Sage Ordon. The secret coupe was done silently in the castle grounds, by the royal guards, the men Duncan had brought with him (Gerald too), and the Riverlords and their men. They overwhelmed the king's guard on duty that eve, all but one, of course, a new member who was on his one day off a week. For their worth though the kings guard managed to take down over 40 men, most of them the royal guards, but a few of Gerald's and Lord Toby's too.
They didn't stop with the Royals either; they killed all of the present council and nearly all of the servants as well. It wasn't an assassination, nor a coupe. It was more accurately a purge. However, the plan was unknowingly changed, by Duncan, Mira, and Gerald. When the time came for it, Benjin Macfore took a small unit of his men and killed the king and queen's youngest, the infant boy. And this boy was then replaced with another child, by Mira, at least, that's what Duncan had told Pascal and his fellow lords, their plan was to have the sickly infant replace the royal and then die of natural causes, leaving the crown for the taking; what they believed would be theirs.
But the child was not at all sick, he was rather healthy, and above all, he was Mira's nephew. And the following morning the news of the great tragedy was told to the people. Duncan and Mira waited anxiously in the council room, one of the few rooms in the castle unstained with blood. Soon as Sage Ordon left the castle to announce the tragedy to the people, Duncan went to Gerald and told him, "Now is the time, be quick, it must be done before the Sage returns."
Nearly an hour later Gerald returned to them, his plate armor glistening red with blood, along with his titanium sword. He had set out with so few men, what was left that they brought, and returned with only four. It was evident he refused to bring the royal guards with him. Yet, he was smiling, even had a limp in his walk; he was injured in the battle.
"Is it done?" Mira asked anxiously.
Gerald smiled at her, "Would I be here now if I failed?"
She rolled her eyes at him. "Well then, what the hell happened to you exactly?"
Gerald pulled up one of the chairs and sat down, letting out a pained breath. "We were outnumbered, near seven to one. I'll give Lord Pascal this; his reputation doesn't speak well enough for him. That man's a true warrior, mighta had me in these odds, even without proper armor."
"He didn't use the Royal guards," Duncan explained to Mira when Gerald didn't give her a proper answer. "Either way, it's done, now we need to keep Gerald and our few remaining men out of sight while Ordon proclaims me acting king regent. He should be returning any moment now with his Nobles to make witness to this proclamation. So stay here and tend to your wounds best you can in silence, we still have a facade to keep. Mira, you come with me."
Ordon returned with several credible noble men and woman he had stashed away in the city for exactly this time. They saw firsthand the dead king and his family, along with the slain kings guard. Along with them came the newest member of the kings guard, and the youngest in history: Ser Erquin Sais. A tall, broad young man, with a bald shaved head and a fierce look in his eyes.
He was clearly distraught by all of this. When asked about it, all he could say was "I shoulda been here."
Before long, after the surviving royal child was revealed, Sage Ordon made his announcement and decree that Duncan Whitetree would be acting king regent until the king had come into the proper age. Immediately afterward he took his leave of the castle and disappeared for many years to come.
And when the inevitable question came up of who had done all of this, Duncan spun the story of the independent Riverlords who arrived at the castle under false pretenses for the festivities. And then while all was quiet, they and their great force of men went around the castle slaughtering the royals and everyone else they could. Until, they were finally stopped by the efforts of the royal guards, and of Lord Gerald Ironwroth and his men.
One thing the Sage hadn't realized that fortunately Duncan did was someone would need to take the fall for all this. He was planning to make it be the Greenlanders, but they were not anywhere near the court, playing it safe. It was a very long first day as the king regent for Duncan.
He needed to find new nobles to bring into the court, and complete the council. On top of it were the endless stream of letters sent in by ravens and hawks, and owls, there were seats to be filled, and every nobleman with ambition had made their moves soon as the news traveled. He'd hoped it would be a few days at the least, not a few hours.
And the city below fell into disorder as everyone thought with the king and queen dead they could do whatever they pleased. The city guards, the Sky Cloaks, wrangled it under control before it got too bad, though. That, at least, was one less headache to contend with for the time being.
Duncan appointed ser Erquin as the new commander of the king's guard and gave the young knight his full trust to find the best new men to fill in the vacant spots. Erquin immediately requested his dismissal to search out the right men outside of the castle, and the city. Though it was an unusual request, Duncan heeded it, neither he nor the future king would be in any more danger for a time. Gerald had also won over the royal guards to his side so they would be well enough to guard them until Erquin completed his quest to fill up the kings guard.
At the end of that day Duncan had visited the prince's chambers, Mira and Gerald already took their gifts back; he figured it was time he did as well. He found the box at the bottom of a chest, where he likely stored his other valuable gifts and items before they were looted.
The secret to the box was the small bumps on the panels; they wound around it in a spiral pattern. Duncan pulled on the edges with some force, and an additional panel opened itself in the middle, and all the colors changed into square tiles. There were seven colors on the box now, Orange, Red, Indigo, White, Aquamarine, Gold, and Maroon.
On this particular box, every colored tile had a small bump on it that couldn't be seen but instead felt. But, the key was that on each panel there was one tile without a bump. And after lining those tiles up the box folded into itself and opened up a spot where any item could be fit in there. Inside the box, Duncan found a rolled up parchment with a small golden crown seal on it. The box was empty when he gave it to the prince.
He picked it up, broke the wax seal and looked at it. It was a letter, and he read it slowly.
To my son Levi, the man who gave this gift to me took four years to open it. It took me two days. I hope by the time you have opened this box you will have learned a lesson, one I think that the man who gave this to me was trying to teach me. It's hard, and dedicated work to rule, and you can’t' force it. But if you think about your choices and act smart you will be a great ruler.
Finishing the letter Duncan felt melancholy. For he realized that Bryce would himself, have made an excellent ruler.
It was late in the day when Mira had come to Duncan with a man named Zereff, claiming himself to be a sorcerer. He was old, with a peppered grey beard, wrinkled skin, and dulled indigo eyes. He dressed in baggy, grey shaded robes with dark blooming roses designed in the fabric; and had a twisting cane with a pointed end at the bottom to help him walk.
When he spoke, his voice was tired, and hard to hear. "Jocelyn Imburgh, Flora Redthorn, and Haden Wellis are on their way here now, behind them are three-hundred soldiers," he said in a solemn tone. "They intend to take the castle by force, finish what you started and then blame you for it all, claiming you were in conspiracy with the Riverlords and Sage Ordon."
"So you expect me to take your word at all this because you're the king's personal sorcerer who, 'lives in a hidden area of the castle'?" Duncan asked skeptically.
"You should take his word for it because it's all true, at least, the small army of men coming to the city led by Haden Wellis and the other two nobles," Mira said, covering for the claimed sorcerer. "I spent days verifying this, my spies had been discovered and paid off well to deceive us. That small army is just three days away from us, I sent word to some men I had around the area, they got back to me with the same exact reports about seeing three-hundred men marching our way up the kings road."