CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Twenty-Three: Seraphina's Summoning
The room was thick with tension when Seraphina entered. The light was bright, the walls a popping dollop of the sun’s rays, yet the faces of the heads of each continent were darker than a moonless sky. They were in the inner portion of the Rosellevienne Palace, hence, there were only thick walls and no windows.
Although the place was expansive, it had been swallowed by a table large and round; a thick carving of polished cedarwood with stout legs. The chairs were tall and forced an upright back so it was no wonder when Seraphina saw Lord Dillian of Denovegasia, who seemed the most casual out of all the representatives of the high family, leaning into the arms of his seat. The others had been preoccupied with an informal discussion. Some smiles were exchanged but the sense of foreboding could not be uprooted, its roots as thick as those of Caelleus.
“And finally, she arrives.” Lord Rupert of Arlandia lifted his green eyes to greet the Celeste. “Join us, Lady Seraphina. We’ve been waiting.” He gestured towards an open seat that faced the round table.
She did as he asked, pulling out a chair for herself.
Her cerulean blue eyes gauged the room, gazing at all the faces she should be seeing except for one particular man.
“Where’s Lord Aeron?” she asked.
“Wherever he wants to be,” Lord Lovis of Preluresia said. “It’s better if we start now. I still have matters to attend to, after all.”
“Yes,” the king answered, nodding. “I wouldn’t want to keep any of you.”
“Please pardon my interruption. What was I summoned for?” Seraphina asked. “As you all know, I’ve had my rights as Celeste temporarily revoked after having been suspended. I cannot perform any task as that would be violating the terms set by the punishment I received.”
Lord Leiland shook his head as an amused chuckle reverberated on his throat. “Lady Seraphina, that would’ve been a logical reason should you have been commissioned for other purposes. However, since this is the crown, do you really think that applies?”
Seraphina’s lips curled as her brows pushed together. “I understand that, but I wish to honor the court’s judgment.”
“Hear us out. We do not intend on trusting anyone else.”
“Not even the Celestial Knights?” she inquired.
“You are one yourself, aren’t you?” Rupert said.
“Yes, but not at the moment.”
“That makes it perfect,” Larkovia’s Lord Lovis stated. He met the woman’s confused gaze. “This matter will call for utter confidentiality. There is no one else better to execute this mission other than a suspended knight who is supposed to be teaching in an academy to pass her time.”
A chorus of agreement rose in the room.
“What is so confidential that you will resort to commissioning a suspended knight?” Seraphina looked between all the people present.
“Disclosure of matters can only be done after you accept,” Leiland said.
She turned to the king and saw a glint of worry in his eyes. She sighed. “Alright, I will do it. Please tell me what is so urgent you had to pull me out in the middle of my class.”
“It’s Prince Bertram,”
“What of His Highness?” she inquired. The direness of the matter was slowly coming to light.
Lady Lerda of Aetheria took the light. “A few days ago, an attack occurred when he came to Aetheria. He had come in his father’s stead to do the customary visits since His Majesty hadn’t been feeling well at the time. He was protected, of course and he managed to fight for himself well. Even so, he was wounded. He was struck at the chest.”
“I’ve not heard of this.”
“Of course you hadn’t. You were not in this world,” Lerda told her. “The wound was nothing serious. He showed signs of recovery.”
“Or so we thought,” King Laedin said.
“That’s how it always is.” Leiland sighed.
“What happened?” Seraphina inquired.
“He started turning.”
“Turning?” she gaped. “Do not tell me—”
“Not in that way,” Lovis said. “I think it has something to do with the wound on his chest.”
“You know how dire this is,” Lerda continued. “This is an outrage.”
“That is an understatement,” an amber-eyed lord muttered. “I am almost tempted to usurp the throne.”
Eyes snapped to his face.
“Rupert,” Lerda warningly intoned.
“I know that option is not viable,” Rupert quickly followed. “Because this exactly is what they are gunning for. Rouse the greed in the hearts of those vying for power, put the meat in front of the dogs. If we bite this trap, it will be the end of everything.”
Lerda sighed. “But we would need a counterplan just in case—just in case this doesn’t work out. While we would like the easy way out, should we stop the prince’s ascension to the throne now, we will not be able to avoid controversy.”
“And I do not think it is wise that we just set him aside just because of what happened,” the Preluresian lord stated. “That would be a big disrespect to the honor of the Rosellevienne family and a mockery in the Originals’ names.”
“Not to mention people’s senses are incredibly sharp nowadays, they will know that something has gone wrong. They will try to find out and when they do, the situation will be unimaginable. If we cannot put a stop to this, we risk the stability of the entire world. Stability. Something we’ve worked hard to attain for thousands of years.”
Seraphina nodded numbly.
“I would like to make an oath of blood just in case, all of us,” Lord Dillian said. “None of us and ours will attempt any coup. I do not think we can trust tempted hearts. This, in the very least, will bind us to rationality.”
The King of Valemnia was the symbol of unity—the figurehead—for the entire world. Though he did not possess the absolute control and power within the government, if something were to happen to his successor, trouble was sure to ensue.
“He is not the True Heir, anyway,” Rupert commented, making the king’s brows curl with discomfort. “A king regent will be appropriate until the True Heir is found. Although I admit that Prince Bertram was a worthy candidate, if he is unable to do so, then my son will be more than appropriate to step in.”
Eyes shot him a pointed look once more. The Arlandian lord seemed rather fond of pushing all the wrong buttons in the most inappropriate of times. However, they were aware it was only his tendency to play the role of the devil’s advocate.
“We all know that your son, Lord Corvan, is indeed a worthy ruler, however, this is not the time to be making such recommendations, is it not, Lord Rupert?” Lord Lovis gave him a challenging stare. “But if that’s how it is, I am quite sure that my son, Charles, will be a better candidate.”
“Your son?” Rupert huffed. “Your son is a mere fourth within the circle while mine ranks first. Do you think he is, in anyway, comparable to my heir? Corvan obtained this position before he stepped on his second year. Charles took more than six years to become the fourth.”
“Rupert, you scoundrel! Just so you know, my daughter is al—”
“You two,” the Aetherian Lady, Lerda, interjected. “Do you not think it is very unbecoming of you two to fight for something that isn’t even meant to be fought over for?”
“And you think the prince is curable?” Rupert scoffed. “No demon or Valemnian has had the chance to turn back after they began to walk down the path of damnation.”
“But was the prince willing?” Lerda shot back. “A true transformation lies in consent, Lord Rupert. I thought that was already clear to all of us here.”
“It is. You do not believe the prince transformed out of consent?” Rupert continued.
“Let me correct that tense,” Lerda stated. “Transforming.”
“How does that make a difference?” Rupert insisted.
“How can he?” Dillian finally jumped in. “Prince Bertram is such a kindhearted soul. How can he ever think of becoming what he spites the most?”
There was a brief pause.
“You cannot doubt the morals of the prince,” Leiland debated. “Although, yes, it will be way easier to select a new heir, we cannot not take into consideration the prince’s reputation among his people. He is very much loved and he has long since proven his worthiness of ascending to the throne, despite his lack of the true mark. There have been many great regents in the history of Valemnia and they are some of the greatest kings and queens our world has ever seen. We cannot let this get in the way of our judgment.”
“I thank you all for your unflinching support for my son. However, there’s not much time left before Bertram’s thirty-sixth birthday. And I do not believe I have much time left, either.” The king shook his head. “If a cure is not found by that time, we’ll have to end up with an alternative. We will have to take drastic measures to ensure the doubts of the people don’t rise. We cannot let it happen. Not now, especially.”
At the word alternative, Rupert and Lovis perked up.
“About two or three months from now, Lady Seraphina,” said the king. “That will be the deadline you’ll have to meet. Should you ever fail, a Candidate Selection will take place.”
Seraphina gazed at him. “I’ll see what I can do. I will put in my best foot forward. I also understand that you want me to continue serving in the academy whilst I do this task?”
Laedin cleared his throat. “The summative,” he declared. “Should a solution not be laid in time for the prince’s ascension to the throne, his entitlement to the crown shall henceforth be forfeited and a Candidate Selection shall be held to select the successor. If this is subjected to disapproval, please let yourself be heard.”
When no one complained, the king pushed back his chair and stood.