Friday, October 24, 2008

Chapter One: An Impossible Task

As promised, here's chapter one of The Ultimate Evil. All comments welcome! Remember, this is copyrighted by US law.


Chapter One

An Impossible Task

A good king had ruled Validor not that long ago. He had lost his wife to disease shortly after his daughter’s birth, but did not let his grieving affect his ability to rule the country with compassion and grace. He was a kind man who had been very skilled with the sword, and though ruling Validor had demanded most of his time, he always found enough hours in the day to spend time with his only daughter and heir, Aduan. She was a very beautiful and skilled girl, one of the few women who could expertly wield a sword.

But sadly, this king became subject to a terrible disease. The castle was usually a happy place, but it had not been since the king had become ill. Now everyone was sad and distressed, not knowing what to do.

Aduan paced outside the door that led into her father’s chambers. Her heart raced and fear slowly mounted in the pit of her stomach to the inside of her chest.

Taon, the king’s closest friend and advisor exited his room, shutting the door quietly behind him. Aduan approached him.

"Your father is very ill," he told her gravely.

Aduan hung her head. "Do you think he will live?" Her voice was meek.

He shook his head sadly. "There is little hope that he will survive." He paused. "I’m sorry."

The princess nodded sadly and entered her father’s chamber. Everyone had been warning her not to enter the chamber because no one knew what disease the king had contracted. But she wouldn’t listen. Her father had stayed by her whenever she had taken ill, and now it was her turn to return the favor. She sat quietly, holding his large hand in her small ones. But never did his eyes open.

She maintained a vigil with him for many days, hardly taking the time to eat. Then, one dreary day, despite the heroic effort of the physicians to save his life, the king of Validor passed on.

Taon walked into the chamber. When Aduan flew to him, sobbing against his chest, he knew that it was over. He encircled Aduan as he would his own daughter and comforted her.

Validor mourned for their beloved king and many came to pay their respects at his funeral. Many tears were shed as his body was burned in glowing flames. However, the king’s death could not have come at a worse time. While his ashes were still warm, a crow from Morlaya, the land ruled by Arvil, the Dark One King, soared across the land crying, "The time is near! The time is near!" This was Arvil’s threat of war. The Validor Council only referred to it as a threat, hoping to prevent the people from panicking. However, everyone secretly knew that war was immanent. Arvil had been planning it for far too long and the future looked bleak.

The crow’s cry frightened the people present because all knew of Arvil’s shape shifting powers, and there was no way to know if this crow was one of his minions or the Dark One King himself.

With the passing of the king, it was now time for Aduan to assume the throne, but Taon did not think she was ready, and he was not alone in that opinion.

Just one week after the death of the king, Taon called an emergency Council meeting. All twelve members of the Validor Council responded quickly and met in the conference hall. Taon walked in and heard their quiet whispers, knowing that their many conversations all circled around the princess.

The head of the long table was reserved only for royalty, and it should have been Princess Aduan’s seat, but she had chosen not to attend the meeting. Taon would be sitting at the head of the table, stepping in for the royal heir. The vizier knew that already the Council was not pleased, and the meeting had not even begun.

"Gentlemen," he said from the head of the table. "You may be seated." He was immediately obeyed and began the gathering by saying, "I mourn the death of our beloved king and I am sure that you mourn with me. However, it saddens me even more so to see our only princess and heir to the throne refuse to attend this important meeting."

"I concur," said Sir Yeugh, a skilled knight. He was dressed in his armor and the colors of Validor, which were red and gold. His blonde hair, which was chin length, had been pulled back in a ponytail. "Though I respected and admired the king, as he was my friend, he did not do the best that he could to raise his daughter."

"Though I do agree, I do not believe now is the time to accuse the king of any wrongdoings," Taon said. "He never truly got over the death of his beloved wife, God rest her soul. He raised Aduan the best way he knew how."

"By giving her everything she ever desired." This snort came from Lord Gallim, the royal treasurer. "He even raised the taxes at one point just so Aduan would have all the gifts she wanted for her twelfth birthday." There were murmurs of agreement around the room.

"Gentlemen," Taon said, his strong voice silencing the muttering around the table. "I do not disagree with you, but do not think that the king was oblivious to what he had done to Aduan. Out of everyone here, I was the only one present with the king at his deathbed. As he lay dying, he admitted to me that he realized that he had raised Aduan in a way that was not best for her or the kingdom. He wished for me to guide and raise her until the time comes for her to assume the throne."

"That time has come," Yeugh said. "We need a leader. She needs to be taught, but the damage done is extensive. What if she can’t be?"

"Then the king’s third cousin is next in line," Gallim said. "He lives in the southern parts of Validor, oh, what is his name? Never mind, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that there is no other living relative of the king except for his daughter."

"That is correct," Taon said. "Arvil has destroyed every other relative, and as it stands right now, I believe that Princess Aduan is not ready to become queen. Are we all in agreement on that?"

All the heads around the table nodded. "However," Yeugh reminded the Council, "we need a leader. The day Arvil attacks will come soon. We need someone to help us fight him."

"And it could take years to teach Aduan what she needs to know," Gallim added, looking Yeugh across the table. "We don’t have that amount of time considering the warning we received only one week ago. I would say if she does not learn what she needs to at the end of this month, then we need to appoint a new king of Validor, one that will order us to prepare for war."

"So you are with me in believing that war is a certainty, then?"

He nodded. "Especially with the warning the crow gave," he said with a shiver.

Taon was shocked. "One month is hardly enough time to correct all the damage that has been done!"

Yeugh stood up, banging a closed fist against the table. "Morlaya is on our very doorstep! We are the only country to border that land! Also, Arvil’s shape shifting power is the greatest we have ever seen. He could be here right now, impersonating a member of the Council, and we have no way of knowing it! We need someone who will lead us to action; otherwise, there is no possible way we can stand against the Dark One King."

"And there are many things that Aduan must learn—many more than you might think, Taon. She is a princess, but she does not know what that means. She does not believe that Arvil’s war will come and is taking no precautionary measures to help protect Validor against it. She cares more about her appearance than her people. She is arrogant, conceded, and spoiled—none of the qualities we need—so let us appoint a new leader now." the treasurer suggested.

"Without giving her a chance?" Taon asked. "That hardly seems fair."

"I agree with Lord Gallim," Yeugh said.

You would, Taon thought. You want Aduan off the throne as much as he does—perhaps more. "Is that why you are giving her only one month? You know she cannot succeed within that time."

The grin that formed on Yeugh’s lips told him that was precisely the goal of the Council’s devious plan. In their minds, she could never become a capable ruler. He looked around the table. "What would the king do if he could see you now?"
"He would agree with us."

"Possibly. He did come to see the error of his ways. But our late king believed in people. He believed in the good in those who may not seem to be. Do we honor his memory by not granting his daughter the same courtesy?"

But the Council would not be swayed, even though they admitted his words were true. "One month, Taon," Gallim said. "We will wait no longer."

Taon closed his eyes. This task would fall to him, he knew, since it had been the king’s final wish. To succeed would be nearly impossible, but he would do his best. He opened his eyes.

"Very well. Are we agreed?" All heads around the table nodded. "Then let us consider the meeting at an end."

Everyone shuffled out of the room, but Taon remained. He leaned forward and laid his head in his hands, pushing his brown hair back as he did. The Council knew that they were asking the impossible from him, but they felt it couldn’t be helped, and Taon knew that they were right, no matter what the king would have done. War was near, and a capable leader was essential. Would Aduan be up for the enormous task?

But even though he loved her as if she were his own daughter, he doubted she had the desire to listen to him. She didn’t even think that Arvil’s threat of invasion was true, though she had heard it with her own ears.

Taon sighed and left the room. He needed a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow was going to be the start of many long days.

So, what do you think? If you like the story and have a Facebook page, you can scroll down to the bottom of my blog and find a link that takes you to a fan base that I have created for The Ultimate Evil.

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