Book 2 - Text Updates 014
High above his city, the Barbarian Queen and the Arch Witch slowly circled one another. King Slately watched them.
As the minutes went by, the fight in his spirit began to leach away. The fire in his belly faded out.
His instincts on such matters were keen; this parley had all the appearance of a negotiation. More likely than not, they were bargaining for bits of his Kingdom. The longer it went on, the more fully assured was his own doom.
His Counselors stood silent beside the doorway. They'd nothing to offer him but empty platitudes, and never had.
Should this indeed be his final hour, though, he needed something real, something that would help him face the end with a majesty befitting his crown.
He strode to the edge of the parapet, waving the Counselors back.
As trite as it might be, the crown he wore had always felt excessively heavy. Day after day it sat there upon his pate, cold and unyielding and burdensome and often bothersome. Whether he laughed or nodded or brooded, the ring of gold pressed down upon his scalp and reminded him always of his shortcomings. The strong, shining crown was the ideal, and the little fat man the real.
He did believe in bravery. He did cleave to strength and honor, to fair dealings and just treatment of underlings, to love of his land and its soldiers and beasts. He had simply never lived up to those virtues. At least, not to the degree he would have wanted.
Well, this would be his final chance, would it not?
"You were Bea's Caster," King Slately stated, staring down upon the streets below.
The hooded figure in white said nothing.
The Queen had warned him against speaking to this unit, and had refused to identify her. He knew she would have kept the Caster with her, were it not for the significant spell bonus afforded by the tower.
But Slately knew this one's history. In one of their long discussions, Don King had informed him that Faq now employed Unaroyal's Turnamancer. He glanced up at Queen Jillian, high in the blue. Her wishes seemed distant and perhaps moot. But his question was urgent.
"I should very much like to know the details of her Fate," he said, looking at the Caster. The tower-top wind ruffled her robes, but she stood stock still, looking up in the direction of her Ruler.
The King raised his volume a bit. "It is my understanding," he said, taking on a practiced regal tone, "that she destroyed herself and her kingdom to rob the enemy of their prize. But if you were present in her final hours, I would like to have your impressions of her.
"How did she comport herself? Did she cry or shout hysterically, or face the decision with calm? Did she say anything specifically, that you can recall? Did she consider any other options? Did she ever mention me? Were there many--"
The Caster turned to him, her face still occluded by the hood. She raised her hand, palm up, and brought her fingertips together.
Slately cried out as a searing migraine struck him like a crossbow bolt. He grabbed his ears and held his crown down as he doubled over in pain. A voice, powerful and deep and decidedly male, boomed out inside his head.
"Please don't talk to this Caster," it said.