The Fifty Years' War Prologue
By Alex Weitzman
Characters, things, events, and places in this story are based on Squaresoft's Final Fantasy Tactics. Sue me.
"Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore -
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over -
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
"Well, gentlemen, if that is all I shall say goodnight," King Diwanu Zonerol stated to his advisors as he slowly stood up. His advisors glanced at each other and stood as well, keeping their heads bowed in reverence of their sovereign. Diwanu internally smiled at the respect shown to him and motioned for his page, who brought the royal cane.
Diwanu turned once again to his advisors - some generals, some politicians, and all leeches in his eyes - and said, "I suggest we meet tomorrow. Over breakfast, for once." He thought for a second. "I'm not sure when you people rise. Valowa, what is a good time?"
Valowa, the chief representative of the people of Ordalia and Diwanu's much younger brother, looked about his fellow staff members and shrugged. "Whatever time is good for you, Your Majesty," he said, masking any negative feelings he might have held with a gloss of unassertive charm.
"Nine, per chance?" offered Randall, the leader of the Red Dragons, Ordalia's main fighting force.
Diwanu grinned. "Too early. I have already sent for the Queen to stay in my room this evening, and I may be somewhat.......tired before I actually dream tonight." Low chuckles from the all-male crowd. "Eleven will do. Besides, it will be a Saturday; we can sleep in without the Glabados church folk requiring our presence for mass."
The advisors all nodded and went on their way. Diwanu and his accompanying page went the opposite direction out of the meeting hall down toward the King's bedchambers.
Queen Imalgia looked in her husband's obscenely large mirror. She knew the mirror was a sham to him - a gift from the far more vain Valowa. Diwanu never liked looking in the mirror much, particularly now that he was surrounded with so many young courtiers and generals. Imalgia was also aware of the danger to her own life; at 24 and under half her husband's mid-50s age, she was expected to breed. None of his previous wives had before, and she knew that his thinly veiled excuse of "needing to talk to her" was simply a desire to have her in bed. But while she may have been intelligent, she was also obedient, having already changed into her bedrobe.
The door opened to reveal her husband, wobbling a little more than usual. He looked up and smiled warmly. Imalgia knew that the smile was sincere, as long as the wardrobe was sincere. "Good evening to you, my lord."
"And a good evening to you, my dear." He hung his cape on the small hanger beside him and sat on the bed, allowing his cane to fall at his feet. She almost went to him, thinking he was ready to begin, when he spoke again. "Incredible how seethingly stupid this entire system is."
Imalgia blinked in surprise. "What do you mean, my lord?"
"That. Right there. 'My lord.' Lord of what? Of Ordalia? Oh, please. The only reason I am here, wearing that cape and using that gold-plated cane, is because I was lucky enough to be born of a queenly mother and grow to young adulthood without being murdered by one of my father's associates."
"But the Zonerol family is ordained by God to be the king!" Imalgia said in return. She didn't believe in God, but she thought he did. Nothing assures continued living like sucking up.
Diwanu chuckled. "Imalgia, don't humor me. I know you can see past the religious ridiculousness. Glabados is on the way out in Ordalia, anyway. It's far stronger in Ivalice. The Glabados priests here tried to 'ordain' my family just to catch favor with the people. The fact is that the monarchy does not reward those who are smarter, stronger, or even of nobler birth. It's just who can murder each other sooner."
She stood there and said nothing. What could have been said? All he was saying was the simple truth that everyone knew and almost everyone embraced. As a woman, her place was to be quiet and submissive; she'd never been much for it, but living was better than dying. However, for the king himself to be admitting such heinous facts...
"It's in their eyes, Imalgia," Diwanu continued, not even looking at her but staring off into space. "As a monarch, I have been shark bait ever since putting on the crown. The sharks swim around me, smiling and patient. My advisors.....they all pathetically drool at the sight of the throne. They bow not to me, but to their god Power."
He lay on the bed, glancing at the glass of water by his bedside. "The day I die, I'm sure there will be much confusion. Not as much about how I died; no one cares about that. The confusion will be the chaos of opportunity-mad parasites clamoring for the kingdom. I'm sure Valowa will be the worst of them." He reached under his pillow and discreetly pulled out a small bag. "But none of that matters tonight. You are here, and your wonderful being shall keep this aged body warm. I hope you don't think I meant to take advantage of you tonight; I'm sure there was reason to think that based on past deeds alone. Just....keep me company."
Imalgia lowered her head for a moment. All that had progressed before her had bewildered her so much that she wasn't even sure what to do. The king seemed to be, perhaps, mentally ill.
How sad, she noted, that a point of clarity in his mind is such an obvious sign of insanity.
She raised her head up as she thought she saw some hand movement of his around his water glass, but it was nothing. "Come to bed, Imalgia." She weakly smiled and got under the covers with him. After he took a large sip of water, he lay down beside her and went to sleep. She, as well, closed her eyes, still pondering the paradox of her husband the King.
The next morning, the castle arose not to the Juravis' cry, but to one far more human. The guards surrounding the castle headed for the King's bedchambers, with the ones who were at their post outside the bedchamber's doors inside first. When they arrived, they completely understood why the Queen would scream. Anyone would if they woke up next to a corpse.
To be continued in Decade 1...
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