Chapter 14: Aftermath

  It has been 4 days since the fall of the capital. The royal crest of Edwin’s household once again flew over the capital and border watchtowers of Highland. 

  Everwood, Jarodor, and Vidfamne took notice of this. With no information coming from the kingdom and all spies sent there never returning, Everwood and Jarodor pressed Vidfamne to send an envoy to determine what happened in Highland.

  Vidfamne had no direct action in Highland, and with its connection across the continent, Everwood and Jarodor felt an envoy from Vidfamne would have a better chance of returning alive.

 “Ha…Those fools are going push this onto me.”

  In her castle, Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne sighed. She held two letters from the Everwood and Jarodor royal families requesting her to send an envoy to Highland.

  “What will you do?” asked a lady next to her. She was Shelley Lancaster. An official advisor to the duchess and her longtime friend. 800 years ago, Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne found Shelley Lancaster. She was only 13 years of age and was being sold as a slave.

  She, not liking the thought of one of her kin being a slave, bought her and raised her like she was her daughter. She taught her many things about politics, and soon Shelley Lancaster proved to have talent.

  Over time Shelley Lancaster worked her way through the ranks until finally becoming the duchess personal aide and advisor, a role she took seriously and with pride.

  “I do not have a choice. I have to send an envoy to Highland. I too am curious to how that fool Lance Von Winters lost to his kingdom to a child, and all in one week.”

  “Do you think he was betrayed by Count Gunnleifus Varma?”

  “The possibility does exist, but the question that would come to mind is, where is Count Gunnleifus Varma? I don’t see that guy staying quiet with the borders to Highland closed.”

  “True. That guy always loved the finer things in life. Then can we assume he is dead as well?”

  “Yes, and it scares me.”

  “It does?”

  “The former king was a good ruler, but even he was overthrown. Prime Minister Herman Clark excels at management but not military or political affairs. I really can't think of anyone capable of turning the tide so quickly. The only possibility is…”

  “The former crown prince, Edwin Von William Highland”

  “Correct, but from the reports I got from Euphemia, there was nothing special about that boy. If anything for a royal he should have been a disgrace.”

  “Could it be that lady Euphemia was mistaken?”

  “It’s hard to believe, but that is looking to be the most likely scenario at the moment.”

  “Then how are we going to approach Highland?”

  Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne thought for a moment. How she approached this would determine the relationship between Vidfamne and Highland. While Vidfamne in no way aided the downfall of Edwin's father there was the matter of her daughter canceling her engagement to him.

 Highland might attempt to hold Vidfamne liable for triggering the revolt by not going through proper procedures to annul the engagement.

  Past marriage arraignments with Highland have always failed similarly, but this was the first time that such an action caused serious trouble for the royal house of Highland. Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne didn’t think she could, just play it off like she did so many times before.

  Lady Rania Euphemia Vidfamne was someone who resembled Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne very closely in terms of beauty and intelligence. Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne was finding it had to believe that the Euphemia could misjudge the character of someone.

  [Was he hiding his capabilities? Or did he develop them in this time, or perhaps there is a third party I am unaware of?]

  She thought to herself. If Edwin was responsible for the events in Highland, then clearly, he was a capable man.

  However, she could not reprimand her daughter for marrying the hero.

  A hero is indeed a valuable asset to marry into one's family, especially during times of war. With her marriage to the hero, Euphemia had secured Vidfamne place in the alliance, as an important member even though they were not sending troops or aides.

  Vidfamne could not afford to do either, as they couldn’t do so. Their troops roughly number just over 4000 for the whole territory. They were well suited for defense, but not attack.

 Vidfamne also could barely afford to raise crops for the local population. Sending food out was also not an option. The only thing they could afford to send as rations would be fish, but it spoils quickly and is not practical for a marching army.

  Another advantage would be the children born between them. It is well known that children born from strong fighters tend to become strong themselves.

  The union between Euphemia and the hero would result in strong grandsons or granddaughters.

  [Granddaughters?…hum]

  “Shelley”

  “Yes”

  “I will send you to Highland. Find out as much information as possible and-”

  Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne laid out her instruction to Shelley Lancaster. Shelley paid close attention to her words, never showing any concern that her life would be in danger if she went.

  Two days past and Shelley Lancaster was in a castle town in the east of Highland. The town was the capital of the territory of former Count Gunnleifus Varma. She had never visited this place before, but she noticed that the coat of arms that were once associated with the house of Varma no longer flew and were replaced with one she had never seen before in the registry of Highland crests.

  “I have kept you waiting envoy. My apologies.” The person who spoke was a beauty. Her long light blue hair was tied in a ponytail, her red eyes stared at Shelley Lancaster as she walked across the room. She wore an expensive-looking knight’s armor. She must be a high-ranking knight. “I am Count Margarita Prigent. Through the benevolence of his majesty, Edwin Von William Highland, I have been given the rank of count and this territory.” 

  Shelley Lancaster stood up as soon as she heard her introduction. While they were still just speculating, at least now she confirmed that Edwin Von William Highland had indeed take back his father’s kingdom.

  “Greetings count Margarita Prigent, I am aide and advisor to Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne. Shelley Lancaster. It’s an honor to meet you.” She said before curtsying

  “There is no need to be so stiff. Please have a seat.”

  “Thank you very much.”

  “Now then, what brings you to Highland?”

  Margarita wasn’t beating about the bush. She came out and asked Shelley as to what reason for her travel.

  “I wish to seek an audience with his majesty, Edwin Von William Highland-sama, to re-establish the connection between the Highland and the Duchy.”

  “I see. It’s unfortunate, but his majesty is too preoccupied right now to receive visitors. We should reschedule this for another time.”

  “Eh…”

  “Is something the matter?”

  “No, no, no. I do not mean to be disrespectful but…”

  “There is no need to hesitate. I assure you I have full authority to speak on his majesty’s behalf.”

  “Is that so.” She replied with a wry smile. “Then his majesty was expecting my arrival?”

  “Yes, you could say that he was.” She replied with a smile.

  [Is this for real. Did king Highland calculate that Everwood and Jarodor would request Vidfamne to send an envoy? There seems more to this king than meets the eye.] 

  “May I enquire as to the reason the king is unable to meet me? Perhaps the duchess can provide some support.”

  “Surely you jest. Vidfamne shouldn’t be in a position to help another country.” Her reply was clear, and while it had no menace behind it Shelley Lancaster could help but think that there was.

  “The duchess has many connections. While Vidfamne may not be able to provide direct support, perhaps she could speak to one of her connections to aide Highland.”

  “Ah…I see your point, but with demon king advancing, it wouldn’t look good to have resources diverted to a kingdom that was recovering from a civil war, furthermore Highland is not a member of the alliance, and I fear accepting such a thing, would lead us to be forced to accept joining the alliance.”

 Highland was one of four kingdoms that didn’t join the alliance. However, it was the only one on the continent to do so, with the other there being island kingdoms in the west and south of the continent.

  “Highland still has no desire to join the alliance?”

  “Yes. We wish not to join or fight any country that is part of the alliance.”

  This statement was something Shelley couldn’t ignore. The reason Everwood and Jarodor were so desperate to find out what was happening in Highland was due to the danger of Highland attacking them while their forces were concentrating on the demons in the east.

  A battle on two fronts would have been devastating for them, especially since they had no idea as to how Edwin had managed to take back his father’s kingdom so quickly.

  Some even thought of spreading a rumor that he had cut a deal with the demons, but the royal families blocked such actions. It was already gossiped of how they betrayed Edwin’s father. If such rumors were to originate from their kingdoms, whatever noble reputation they had left would be dragged in the gutter.

  “You will not attack any country that is a member of the alliance?”

  “Yes. It is a shame to say this, but our circumstances are not that good. His majesty wants to focus on rebuilding Highland rather than pursue war. As a knight, I must admit that fills me with rage, and many knights think the same, but his majesty is adamant that pursuing war will not be good for the kingdom.”

  “Is that so?”

  “Yes, it is. However, should certain kingdoms initiate the attack, we are well within our rights to retaliate. Wouldn’t you agree?”

  “Yes, you’re right on that account. I am sure no kingdom would want to bother Highland as it is rebuilding. Such an action would be shameful.”

  “I am glad you think so.”

  “Well, all that is left is the matter of the marriage between his majesty and Lady Rania Euphemia Vidfamne. Unfortunately, there will be no union between the two, but the duchess hopes this will not cause a strain in our relations.”

  “I am sure it won’t. After all, Highland is well accustomed to Vidfamne not meeting its obligations on the matter.”

  Shelley could only give a wry smile at Margarita’s words.

  “Well, a lot of things happened in the past. Our duchess is fully committed to the union of the two houses and would like to propose that his highness takes some of her granddaughters as...”

  It was at that moment the mood changed. The air felt chilly. The once smiling Margarita now had dead eyes and was releasing an evil aura.

  “You would offer a non-Rania to his majesty?”

  Because Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne had adopted the policy of marrying off her children, who in turn had their own children. There was a need to separate her direct children from those who were born from them.

  It was for this reason that she gave Rania, as the first name to every daughter she gave birth to.

 This way, even if her daughter gave birth to three more generations, it would be easy for the short-lived humans to know who among them was a direct decedent of the duchess.

  “Of course, we are not asking his majesty to take a granddaughter as a wife, but as a concubine. Furthermore, the duchess will be willing to have his highness have as many as he wishes. Think of this as our way of apologizing for Lady Euphemia’s rudeness to his majesty.”

  The daughters born from Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne’s children were all beauties. It was well known that many would seek to have them as wives and mistresses. However, their beauty could not be compared to their mothers.

  “I understand. I will inform his majesty of Duchess Rania Teresa Alumet Vidfamne suggestion.”

  “Ah…thank you.”

  “Will that be all?”

  “Well, if you do not mind, I would like to inquire as to how his majesty reclaimed his kingdom.”

  Edwin had predicted this would happen and had prepared a story of how King Lance Von Winters and Count Gunnleifus tried to kill one another over the throne.

  The story was nothing short of drama, as he created a story where King Lance Von Winters was a womanizing king and Count Gunnleifus was a man who had developed feelings for King Lance Von Winter's wife and sought to overthrow him to be with her.

  In the insuring infighting, Edwin took the opportunity to kill them both and take back his kingdom.

 Margarita explained the story like a school girl reenacting a scene from a romantic TV show, which she had watched on TV.

  [While I can believe that Lance Von Winters was a womanizer. Count Gunnleifus falling in love with his wife? That’s bullshit. This means this story is nonsense. What are you trying to hide?]

  “That is amazing. His majesty was lucky that those two fell out.”

  “Hump…his majesty would have dealt with them one way or another.”

  “In other words, their fallout was not needed to take back Highland?”

  Margarita lost her composer for a second before calmly replying, “As a knight, that is what I believe but what I believe and reality are two different things.”

  “I see.”

  Their discussion ended there. 

Shelley headed back to Vidfamne. She didn’t meet with Edwin, much to her dismay. 

Had she done so, she could at least gauged what type of person he was.

  All she knew for certain was that Highland was hiding something, but at the same time, they had no desire to start a conflict with Everwood or Jarodor. 

  Having found out that the latter part meant that Vidfamne had full filled the request that the royal families of Jarodor and Everwood had given her duchess.

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