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A Bargain

by on July 28, 2015

The stories often tell of heroic knights who, alone and wielding only their trusty sword and sturdy shield, bravely venture forth to slay the dragon and rescue the damsel in distress. The stories are, of course, bunk. A dragon is a multi-ton armored flying monster with the ability to loose an inferno of fire that can melt steel. An average knight, on his own, stands about as much chance as a snowball in New Mexico. A whole squadron of knights backed by archers, with a lot of hard work and a fair amount of luck, might have a chance, just. If a well-aimed arrow makes a one-in-a-thousand hit into blank spot in the dragon’s scales, or stabs it in the eye, then maybe, a dragon might be brought down. But when one considers that Philip of House Shirley had unleashed entire flights of dragons against the Lydwinish army, and backed them up with more flights of griffins, and masses of behemoths, and an army of fighting men besides, it is no wonder that the new Prime Minister of Maventry felt supremely confident in his war.

He stood in his map room, watching his lines move forward in great leaps across enemy territory. He didn’t even notice at first when Rowena materialized in his fireplace. She had to make a nervous cough in order to get his attention. “Ah,” Philip said. “So you’ve arrived. Now explain why I should employ you in the service of House Shirley.”

“I’m afraid you’ll need to do more than that,” Rowena said. “I can see what’s coming. You won’t stop at being Prime Minister; you will be the king. Someone else will be Prime Minister then. That someone will be me.”

Philip almost laughed. “You’re very ambitious, aren’t you?”

“All I really want is a good night’s rest,” Rowena said, so quietly that he almost didn’t hear her. “But I seem to have gone too far for that. What I want now is to be secure. Your job will do that.”

“And I should make you second in the kingdom because…?”

Rowena stared directly at him. “I know what you did. I know you hired Mortimer of the Polecat Order to summon the dragon that killed Lady Eulalie. I have been to Shirleyhold, and I read the traces there. I know you murdered Lady Amaryllis and used her death as a pretext for invading Lydwin. And I know that if Prince Evinrude were still alive, he would be very upset with you.”

“But he is not alive,” Philip stated.

“No. He is not. Why? Because I sent him to his death.”


Rowena explained, very briefly, how she had misdirected Evinrude. “In other words, not to put too fine a point on it, you owe me.”

“Fair point,” Philip said. “Or, I could just murder you here and now, and no one would ever know.” He laid a hand on his sword.

“Yes, you could,” Rowena replied equably. “But I don’t think you will. You have a problem, you see. I know you sent someone to assassinate Mortimer. The assassin may have succeeded; he may not. But if he did, who will you send to deal with him?” 

Philip actually hadn’t thought of that. “Ah….”

Rowena came to the point. “Make me Prime Minister when you assume the throne, and I will tidy up this business for you. You will also have the support of the Order of the Rabbit in your claim, and that is no small thing.”

The current Prime Minister was not a man of indecision. “Done.” He extended his hand. Rowena only stared hard at him.

“I am curious,” she said at last. “Why? Why all this?”

Philip shrugged. “Christine. ”

A short, pregnant pause ensued. Then it gave birth. “And? She was what, an oracle? Told you the future? Warned you against your inevitable downfall due to a quirky interpretation of a prophecy?”

“Something like that.”

Rowena waited. He wasn’t forthcoming. Finally, she gave it up. With a bang, she disappeared into the fireplace again.

Philip became king at the beginning of the winter season, just in time to receive the surrender of the last Lydwinish forces. As promised, Rowena became his Prime Minister. She still didn’t sleep very well.

  1. You know, it’s such a silly simple little line but I absolutely loved this:’ A short, pregnant pause ensued. Then it gave birth.’ Very clever turn of phrase, plus it made me laugh out loud, so, bonus 😏 The interweavings and intricacies of your storylines are so much damn fun.

    • 🙂 I am always happy whenever one of my lines makes someone laugh out loud. My work here is done.

  2. Natalie DeYoung permalink

    I enjoyed the pacing of the dialogue here. It struck a nice balance.

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