I ignored Vitale as he approached yet again, in favoring of gazing upon the fool that would soon become my prey. The Duke of Kersti was perpetually outspoken, but he always had a stick up his ass when it came to me. Perhaps because I had a way with the deranged. Perhaps because the moment I realized it, I intentionally acted in ways that I knew would vex him.
I watched as he rubbed the shoulder of his daughter, watching as he rubbed the shoulder of his daughter, eyes narrowed at the throngs of people below them. It was a shame she was the chosen bride for me. I cringed at the thought of sullying Kazbirati blood with that of Ivons.
”Pardon her ladyship, ” Vitale besought when he failed to gain my particular attention.
I sighed, turning to him as the duchess gave a small curtsey. He looked no different than he did before.
”My priest has slain his first beast, then? ” I remarked, knowing damn well he didn .
”Your priest, ” Vitale began, formulating himself with confidence, as he knew the presence of the Duchess of Tomiti would temper the volatile nature of my reaction. ”Has seen to it that the beast formulated his final breath, sire. ”
I exhaled. His defiance did not amuse me, but partial redemption came with the understanding that the priest possessed the faculties allowing him to defy me so commendably.
”Set him at the feet of the king, ” I commanded. ”He will accompany my father in the afterlife. ”
As Vitale nodded, turning towards the pyre, I caught his sleeve, setting an even gaze upon him.
”And I expect, Vitale, you at the head of this endeavor. Overseer is not an occupation that suits you. ”
It was warning enough for the priest, who bowed deeply in response.
”Hes an intriguing fellow, your priest, ” Svetu noted, watching the slender man make his way through the guard formation. They knew to part for him – Vitale was one of the very few inhabitants of Castle Mechi that had full access to the property. No soldier nor guard would dare stop him.
”Intruiging is one way to define him, yes. ” I lifted my gaze to the greying sky.
”He seems to have grown accustomed to Rodakrov, ” she continued. ”Vicars of the south never last more than a few months in the Mad Lands. ”
”He left the Church Sanctorum of Casteria nearly eight years ago, Lady Svetu, and chose to remain. I would hope he would grow accustomed to a new environment within that span of time. ”
She laughed at the comment. ”I have visited Casteria before, sire, and the heat the sun offers is nothing I could ever grow accustomed to. I couldn imagine the cold is any different for the dwellers of the summer lands. ”
”I fear you exaggerate, my lady, ” I parried, in no mindset to offer any sort of praise to my priest. ”If the suns of Casteria truly are as brutal as you claim then the lands of Maraq, south of the Inlet of Abel, would be nothing but dust. ”
”Perhaps not dust, ” she mused. ”But the sand is vast and stretches across the countries like the snow across Rodakrov. ”
”Then my priest may want to give thanks to his god that he does not hail from those tundras of sands. ” My bored response came with a note of finality. I knew of Maraq, of the deserts that embodied the south continent. I knew how the sun blazed upon them for so long, at such close and scorching intervals that their very skin was dyed to the color of the dark oak chairs in the feast hall. I also knew that the Casterian sun had quite a different effect. What I didn know was her sudden interest in him.
Another nipping breeze bit past, prompting me of Vitales incompetence. Time was something he rarely valued. Had I set the captain of my garrison on the task of killing Akim, the damned tiger wouldve been at my fathers feet ages ago.
”Ah. ” Svetu exhaled the sound, shifting herself to better face the dais of nobility. ”Duke Sebe approaches, my lord. ”
I turned in time to watch as the greying man descended the final step of the platform, finding solid footing on the snow beneath his feet. It was trodden and worn into an otherwise sold and even ground, but snow easily hid ice – especially with the ice season so near.
The duke was at least a decade older than my father – my late father – but he was a Krov, a breed that remained solid and strong until death. Frailty was a foreign ailment to the winter lands. His family had been flawlessly loyal to the Kazbiratis since we ascended to the throne many generations ago.
”Lord Kazac, ” I greeted over the whistle of the wind. He was a welcomed sight, always, and today was no exception.
He gave a slight bow.
”Seasons change, Your Majesty, ” he spoke before rising, setting his dark eyes upon me. ”And so, the death of the snow king makes way for the reign of the ice king. ”
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