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Rated: GC · Short Story · Fantasy · #1972785
In the middle of a rebellion, two leaders decide the fate of the kingdom.
Queen Regent

         At the entrance to the cathedral the chariot holding the paragon of all the empire considered evil fell in a heap.  With the word “brothers” said quietly, one disciple collapsed, whipped past the point of breaking.  As they slowed approaching the cathedral, the muscle in his left calf twitched one last time and gave out.  A change in the exact walking pace they’d stuck to for most of the journey was too much for the muscle.  As one man broke, so did the others.  The crash was a loud calamity of chains and flesh and shackles, but louder still was the crunch of bone under the weight of the wood. 

         The chariot, as the Hunter was so fond of calling his creation, was a shoddy piece of construction 6 feet wide and a little more than 12 feet long.  Nothing more than a platform made of logs and roped together to form a basket, and on top of the raft of logs a cage had been constructed of wood and metal to hold whomever the Hunter captured.  Iron bars had been attached to the raft as supports and it was to these bars that the disciples were chained.  Cuffs around the wrists were attached by chain to the collars around each neck and to the support bars.  As the raft collapsed forward, crushing the three disciples chained to the front, it dragged the rest forward by their chains. 

         The slave master, called the Hunter, cracked his whip and hollered even more than he had been, already.  No one there spared the time to wonder how he wasn’t hoarse yet.  He set upon the closest disciple with his whip, screaming almost incoherently about the last few steps to the final destination. Suddenly the space in front of the cathedral was littered with the unpleasant snaps of impact on skin as everyone with a whip or a weapon descended upon the backs of the twelve disciples who remained. 

         No amount of whipping, cajoling or any other force could entice them back to their feet.  Their feet, scabbed and torn and still bleeding, had borne the raft more than 30 miles to this spot, and those who weren’t dead would die in mere minutes.  The huge cathedral building loomed in front of them, they had reached their destination.  Looking up, the sight of their captured leader, brought all the way into the heart of enemy territory, brought terror and comfort to each visage.  Duty done, they would all die with honor, no matter what the fools under the influence of the current regime were told to believe.  None of them moved from the ground where they fell.

         “Have some dignity, you fools!” Screamed the Hunter.  He chose one who had fallen into the back of the chariot and dragged him to his feet by a whip around the neck.  The disciple stood as straight as his chains and his muscles made useless would allow.  Arms pulled taught by his wrist cuffs, and sweat and blood and bile dripped down his chest.  A crooked smile adorned his face, split open several hours ago by the same whip that now held him somewhat vertical. 

         “Have you no pride as men?  Stand up, you decrepit souls.  Face your end with what little dignity you have left.” The Hunter yelled.  He unwound his whip and the disciple crashed to the ground.

         “If you wanted to have the glory of the imagery of my own people being forced to drag this little cage of yours in-“ the Augury was cut short by a blade slicing across his mouth, adding fresh blood to the dried blood he was coated in.  His point was not lost.  Eyes narrowed and jaws set forward, a few of the slave drivers sent angry glares at the slave master.  A few others cast fearful glances at the bishop and his contingency of the faithful.  No human could match the pace that had been set for them on the trek from the City of Silent Souls.  No matter the magic they were infused with when they were captured, without restoring prayer or sleep, it was long gone.  The only thing keeping them moving, despite the Hunter’s belief that it was his whip and his drivers, was the will to see their task through to the end.  The delivery of their Augury was that task.  They had succeeded as far as any of them were going to.  They would die content. 

         “Silence!” said the Hunter.  “You, and you, fetch some peasants to drag this creature in.  The king will not like to be kept waiting.”

         “There is no king, master.  We have a queen, preserved she be under Gods, until later today when the ceremony is complete.  You will do well to remember that, lest you face the wrath of the Gods.” The Bishop said.  His fat form had not suffered for the 30 mile walk from the City of Silent Souls, as he had ridden in a real chariot for all but the last half mile of it, and had made it a point to eat full meals in front of the captured slaves, fed barely edible scraps of almost rotten meat and old, hard bread, and that only to keep them alive to carry the Augury.  Every few miles they were splashed with water to the face.  They became quite adept at swallowing as much of that water as they could, no matter the taste of dirt and sweat.

         “Any of the peasants would love the honor of delivering this witch to Her Majesty.  It will add to his humiliation that those dedicated to him were unable to see the deed through.  He shall die with less than no honor.” The Hunter continued as though he had not heard the chastisement of the Bishop.

         “Do you mock the Gods, man?  The queen shall hear of this, and the archbishop.  No matter your current status and allowances, the Gods will not be pleased.” Said the bishop.  He took a step toward the Hunter, who did not raise his whip, nor his voice.

         “I care not for the Gods at the moment, priest,” he said.  The bishop’s flock bristled at the intentional insult.  “I work for the man who will be king, and as far as I am concerned, he is king already.  His word is my law, under the Gods, and I will not have a man like you question me.”

         Several of the faithful raised voices and arms, the threat of a battle between the Hunter’s men and the faithful loomed and the Augury was temporarily forgotten.  Hair stood on end as an influx of magical energy bristled.  Tension spilled over into the crowd of townsfolk gathered to see the spectacle and silence spread through the square.  The bishop, whether through a sense of propriety or because he feared the result of facing men trained in the apprehension of magic users, was the first to stand down.  He held up a fist and said, simply, “We shall see how long this Hunter will hunt.  Carry on.”

         Guards stalked out into the gathered crowd to find peasant men with the right shine to their eyes and strong hands and backs.  No less than 20 men were selected to drag the chariot the last 100 feet into the cathedral.  The Augury chuckled, earning him a long gash down the left side of his back.  The blood he was drenched in created a sticky, sickly mess at his feet, the new mixing with the old.  As the crowd clamored to be selected, two of the guards unchained the corpses at the front of the chariot and dragged them over to his cage, the only piece of the chariot built well.  Iron matched the wood frame piece for piece.  The bottom of the cage was a deep metal bowl, oiled to slickness. 

         They had barely been able to fit the Augury into the cage due to his size and wingspan.  Ropes that bound his wings in place had been used to strap him to the roof of the cage by the bone protrusions from his back that expanded into wings.  The ropes had long since tightened and retightened from the motion of the chariot and had only a few miles past torn his wings out of the socket.  It was the only time a scream had been wrenched from the Augury at his torture, as he fell forward against the front of the cage.  His wrist chains were slowly pulled tighter so that his arms held him up, but not before the jagged inside of the cage had worked splinters into his face. 

         The pace had increased as a direct result of his disciples knowing the pain that losing his wings had caused their leader, until a warning from the Hunter slowed them again, lest they wear their bodies out too soon.  The bishop had nodded his approval at the quicker pace, and a resigned sigh escaped him as they resumed the slower.  He brought out a fan to air himself off, though the day was warm and not hot.

         A pole with two hooks had been erected above the Augury’s cage before they left the City of Silent Souls.  A new addition that the Hunter was quite proud of, the pole served both as a flag, flying Her Majesty’s colors and the symbol of the hunter, and a visual warning to those who might think of disobeying.  All those loyal to the Augury’s rebellion who had not escaped or been selected to carry his conveyance had been hung from those hooks and bled dry, each throat cut brought a cheer from the entourage that remained of those who had captured him. 

         Only now, at the end of their journey, were the last two women left on the hooks for the majority of the ride cut down and discarded, merely skin sacks of bone, most of the muscle and fat picked clean by scavenging birds and the liquid dripped dry.  They were chosen to show the empire had no mercy for lawbreakers.  Some from the crowd cheered.  More than one person wailed in remorse or shock or fear.

         Two of the men from the front of the chariot were their replacements, hung up violently by hooks through the back of the neck over the cage containing the Augury.  The third was simply laid out over the planks that made a top to his cage.  Spasms and twitches wracked all three bodies as muscles long abused and taught finally relaxed. 

         “Spill it.”

         Their throats and bellies were cut deep, draining blood and bowels into his cage.  The added mess raised the level inside the bowl to just under his knees.  Some splashed onto the peasants unlucky enough to be close enough.  One of them vomited loudly, not bothering to turn his head, adding to the refuse in the cage.  Black and red shone in the Augury’s eyes, causing the peasant who vomited and another who happened to be the only other person looking at the cage to run screaming from the chariot. Two replacements had to be chosen for them, for they would never come close to the Augury or the cathedral for the rest of their lives.

         “Idiots!” screamed one of the Hunter’s men.  “He is completely harmless.  Look, we have him tied up and beaten.  He is defeated.”  He tried to accentuate his point by whipping the man in the cage a few times.  He also made the mistake of looking into the eyes of the man he was whipping.  Conditioned and hardened, he only dropped his whip and fell to his knees, later claiming he tripped to anyone who asked and many who didn’t ask. 

         As his dearest friends dripped dry above him, the Augury could not contain the growl that escaped his throat.  It was the final straw for the Hunter, who lost control of himself.  He leaped up onto the chariot, despite almost sliding in the muck, and began tormenting the Augury. 

         “There is nothing left you can do, fool!” he said, as he whipped and stabbed through the bars of the cage.  Each strike, no longer concerned with keeping the man alive for his king, took the Augury closer to death.  Each impact, whether whip or the knotted iron cudgel the man preferred, dropped the Augury lower on his chains.  Eventually at a word from the bishop, tendrils of magic wrapped the Hunter’s weapons and tore them from him.  Some of the Hunter’s men took up their arms again for battle, but they were subdued, both by other forms of magic and more sensible of their compatriots. 

         “Knaves!  We have brought him this far at the request of the man who would be king and the Regent to the Gods, preserved she be under Gods, and you want to have the entire hunt wasted on the temper of one man?  No, men, stand down.  Your job is finished,” said the bishop.

         The Augury slumped against the cage once more, hanging limply by his wrists.  The bishop ordered one of his healers to see to the man.  Slim tendrils of magic worked their way into the Augury as men on the outside of the cage tried to hold him up.  One of the healers working in magic looked up at the bishop and shook his head, slowly.  The breath of the Augury came ragged and slower with each breath.  A disciple held up a hand.  In a gravely voice he said, “let us.  You have no more use for us.  Let us die in peace, under the Gods.”

         The bishop nodded his assent.  The Hunter tried to scream a protest, but as his mouth opened, one of his own men held a hand over it and forcefully made the Hunter sit.  One of the bishop’s men gestured to a guard, who began opening the iron cuffs that held the disciples to the chariot.  As each one was let loose, he crawled toward the Augury.

         “My last strength be yours, brother.” Thin streams of magic escaped the closest man, who’s body slowly withered and disintegrated. 

         “May you live with honor under Gods.”

         “Live, that I may not die in vain.”

         “Brother.” “Brother.” “Brother.” “Brother.”

         “Brother, may the Gods see fit to honor you.”

         With each death, the Augury’s head rose a little more.  Each time those thin tendrils of magic flowed through him, his color darkened and some of his strength returned.  After the eighth, he could lift his head and no few in the crowd noticed the tears that made mud rivers down his face.

         “My last strength is yours.”  After the ninth, the Augury opened his eyes and at least three people in the crowd gasped and fainted.

         “Brother.” “Brother.” “Brother, live and die with honor.”  The Augury was able to hold himself up and the wounds in his face had closed enough that he could speak.  The wounds in his side were still oozing blood, though the gash in his back had stopped.  One of his legs hung useless and the wounds on his back where his wings used to jut out were dripping blood, wrenched open as he fell.

         “I accept your sacrifice, brothers.  The Gods have seen fit to let me live another brief moment.  Honor, my brothers.  Let them see who here acted with honor.” The Augury said.  His deep bass voice carried into the crowd and some of the peasants wept at his words.

         “Gods preserve us,” said a priest next to the bishop.

         The mood had changed in the past two minutes.  Both the stall of needing to replace the manner of the chariot’s transport and the realization that maybe the man in the cage still posed a threat of some sort had quieted the gathering outside of the cathedral.  The Hunter, let loose from his confines now that he had calmed, sent one of his men around to a back door, to let the man who would be king know they had arrived.  The silence stretched beyond the point of being uncomfortable, not quite into the realm of contained panic, broken only slightly by the occasional weeping sound from the crowd.   

         Another silence stretched inside the walls of the cathedral.  The silence of waiting and anticipation had only just now begun to reach uncomfortable.  Stained glass windows between huge stone pillars and brickwork let enough light into the cathedral that the torches were not yet lit.  Inside, high windows and mirrors filled the room with light from the sun.  Rows of high-backed chairs filled two cabinets that ran almost the length of the room, some 300 feet.  Near the east walls, shadows of the flying buttresses lie diagonally on every fifth row.  Every seat was filled with noblemen and noblewomen who had been invited to the coronation.  A front section was reserved for the leaders of other prominent cities in the nation and on the other side the ornately decorated pews of the righteous, reserved for the archbishop, cardinals,  bishops, and, if there was room, which there was not at this ceremony, priests and deacons.  These were therefore made to sit just on the other side of the carved ivory wall that separated the archbishop’s pew. 

         “I cannot presume to say that I know better than her holiness, but it would seem prudent to give others of her cast who have reached high standing with the Gods more attention, wouldn’t you say?” said a priest from the newest city in the realm. 

         “You are right, you cannot.  Her Majesty does as is best for the nation under the Gods, of that I do not doubt.  While we can still sense that she has the favor of the Gods, I will not lower myself to questioning her decisions, even if they cause me very temporary personal discomfort.” Sniffed another.

         “I truly don’t mind,” claimed a third, “were we any closer, we would be looked upon more closely, don’t you think?  Whether by unchaste nobles or those clamoring for one of our positions, it is not the type of attention I, myself, am looking for.  Either way, I am content to sit right here in the middle.  I do wonder when they will stop dallying around and get on with this coronation, however, as do I wonder what a new Regent to the Gods portends.”

         “Rubbish, the man who will be king has made his claims.  We know exactly what kind of Regent he will be.  Too careful, too boastful, too fat and too concerned with his lady, Her Majesty, who, might I add, can take better care of herself than he ever could.” Said the first.

         “You would do well to moderate your tongue, and if not that, your volume, sir.  This lattice work is made of very thin ivory, if you cannot tell, and you seem to have caught the Archbishop’s attention.” Said the Archbishop.  The young priest slammed his back against his chair, sat up motionless and didn’t say another word for the rest of the day. 

         “Lovely day for a coronation, wouldn’t you say, Archbishop?” Said a bishop sitting just in back of the man, “and if my sources are correct, a lovely day for an execution!”

         No voice carried on that bit of conversation, though abrupt turning of heads and almost audible glares silenced it quickly enough.  Though many of the men in the Archbishop’s pew new of the successful capture of the Augury, and the plans the Archbishop had hatched with the man who would be king, not one of them had spoken of it aloud, save in private conversations behind at least one closed and guarded door. 

         “Peasants know what they know to be true is true, you know.  Nobles, on the other hand, are a very superstitious lot.  Who knows what any one of them may believe about certain, very unpopular and infamous individuals.  Why, it could be said that some of them might want to leave rapidly.  Others still might want to take matters into their own hands.  I would hate to be the man that instigated any of that,” said a bishop, to no one in particular.

         The silence in the rest of the cathedral continued, except for other pockets of conversation covering all manner of topic, ranging from the latest in ladies fashion to where each noble might be from to what the man who would be king was rumored to have eaten for breakfast.  Fewer still were conversations about the coronation or the Councilor or Her Majesty. 

         One such conversation took place uncomfortably close to the throne and Her Majesty and the Councilor.  A page and an apprentice were discussing things they shouldn’t be, and were events of the rest of the day to play out differently, they would both be cast out of their positions and their families shunned.  The Councilor happened to have an assistant with very good, magically enhanced ears.

         “She’s too timid.  She won’t say anything directly to the queen or to the king about the queen and she doesn’t even realize her position is losing credibility.  Don’t shush me, it’s true.  I see things you don’t, yet,” said the apprentice. 

         “I don’t care, don’t talk so loud.  If what you say is true she probably is aware of it, and wouldn’t want one of her own apprentices overheard talking about it, you know?”  said the page.  He was holding a banner at the end of the last row behind the platform where the throne stood.  He was fidgeting so much a casual onlooker would likely be confused as to where the breeze at the back of the room was coming from. 

         “Shut up, fool.  I know enough magic to tell when someone like that is listening in.” said the apprentice.

         “Curses, they can do that?  Like, listen to a conversation even though they aren’t right next to us?  What are you doing talking like this at all, then?” The page fidgeted so much he almost dropped the banner and got a few loaded looks from those around him. 

         “No, they still have to be close enough.  Shut up.  Anyway, I’m going to need your help.  I know of a plan to…help… her see the folly of her ways and I’m going to need you to be in a certain place at a certain time.  You’ll have to take my cowl and make it visible.”

         “No.” said the page.  He moved away from the apprentice before another apprentice motioned him back to his place at the end of the row.

         On the Regent’s throne, the Regent held her scepter against the side of the throne.  Thin threads of magic fed into the platform on which the throne sat, cutting off the platforms ability to amplify sound throughout the cathedral.  She spoke quietly, anyway.

         “The coronation ceremony will start when I say it does.  A few plans already long in motion have to be timed correctly for the coronation to have its fullest impact on the people.  You will know, Councilor, when that time comes, and you will not ask again.”

         “Besides, it does noble born well to be made to wait for a change, instead of everyone else waiting on them,” said the man on a slightly smaller throne to her immediate right.  He sat as tall as she did, though his throne sat lower.  As robust as he was tall, the man who would be king was not sweating yet, but soon would be.  His long hair was tied back in a knot that sat comically over a loop in his throne, until he leaned forward to look at the Councilor.  The woman to the left of the queen sat in an ornately carved chair that looked plain next to the throne.  She had long since learned to control her face and body language for just such occasions.  It would not do for them to be seen having a heated argument on the day of the coronation of the new king and Regent to the Gods.  Still, she felt a bit of heat escape her grasp and make its way into her lips.

         “Do not forget, you are noble born, yourself.  It seems unwise to anger those from neighboring cities, as well.  Have you forgotten so soon how far into the realm the corruption of rebellion has spread?” Said the Councilor.  She forced her face to loosen up, as though they were discussing the weather, or what delicious tea they had for breakfast. 

         “It is my sworn duty to advise you on the political status of the nation, and I must do so now.  Quelling talk of the rebellion has become an onerous task, taking up more of my people’s time than should be necessary.  People are afraid, blessed Regent, and when people are afraid people latch on to whatever is closest that dispels that fear, no matter how stupid or dangerous.”  She said.  She smiled politely and her hand waved in a gesture she hoped looked inclusive. 

         “As your queen has already told you, there are well-laid plans in place that move us ever closer to squashing this miserable rebellion once and for all time.  The Regent to the Gods is a very crafty woman, Councilor, and I assure you, your needs will be fulfilled,” said the man who would be king.

         “You have been told of the power vested in me by my position, but you do not believe the extent of it.  It has been said that I am the most powerful Regent to the Gods since Heliorre, and I believe that to be true.  I can do things you can’t even imagine, Councilor, but I cannot be everywhere at once.  We have discussed at great length, you will do well to recall, that this much power will be better shared.  The position of Councilor will feel this increase in power, as will that of king.  With it, the Gods will craft a new and lasting peace through our hands and throughout the lands.  If you do not believe the Gods know what they are doing, you may leave at any time,” said the queen.

         “No, Regent.  I believe in them and I believe in you,” said the Councilor.  Her tone made it clear that there was someone or something in which she did not believe, but she dare not say it aloud. 

         “Good.  The will of the Gods will be done, Councilor, and I would rather it be through my hands.  Speaking of plans, the time has come,” said the Regent.  She stood and moved her scepter away from the chair.  Without any preamble, she started her speech.

         “Gathered here, today, are the most important men and women of our nation and I thank you for coming.  You are all here to witness the coronation of a new king and a new Regent to the Gods, whose reign shall last through the end of the war and long into peace and a new prosperity for the kingdom.  It is the will of the Gods.

         “Though it has not been publically acknowledged, you all know of the rebellion against the kingdom and its leader, deemed demon by some, savior by others.  The man I married has vowed to rid the nation of this rebellion and has, indeed, captured this reviled leader where he made his stand in the City of Silent Souls.”

         A collective gasp arose from the gathered crowd.  Not all the nobles had heard of the Augury’s capture.  Reactions ranged from smiles to frowns to outrage and awe.  A good many nobles, some number less than half of those gathered were physically moved by the proclamation and rose to their feet.  Some raised hands to gesture and some raised voices to speak. 

         A single tap of the Regent’s scepter forced them all to silence.  She took a small step forward and continued to speak. 

         “It is true.  The rebellion will not be able to continue as it has without their leader.  We have made great strides toward the lasting security of our nation, thank the Gods and the men who carry out their bidding.  And behold, our guest has arrived.”

         The massive cathedral doors burst open to admit the procession that had made its way up the thick, long worn stairs to the entrance.  The Hunter and the bishop were the first to pass through the threshold.  Inside there was complete silence.  Every eye turned toward the newcomers.  Every nose in a wave shriveled in disgust as the smell of the chariot preceded it inside.  Then came the chariot itself and noise erupted in the ranks of nobles and clergy alike. 

         The pole with the Hunter’s flag and several dead and disemboweled bodies was now the highest standing thing in the room.  The cage underneath it was almost invisible due to the appearance of the man inside it.  The presence of the Augury, for all his wounds and missing parts and added chains still captured the attention of every onlooker.  Here they saw, more personally than most had ever hoped, why this man had been so dangerous to the empire.  No few nobles fainted.  The chariot continued its slow trek into the room until it came to rest directly in the center between the door and the throne.  It was lowered to the ground with the clatter of chains, the clank of wood and a wet sound that no one wanted to identify.  The sight of the chariot with blood and gore and filth dripping off of it, chains hanging from it, and, the worst offense for some, peasants carrying it into their sacred ground was so foreign and disgusting that no eye could look away.  One set of eyes eventually did just that. 

         The Councilor stood abruptly and stared at the man who would be king. 

         “What have you done?” She said, under her breath.  Her position on the throne platform carried her voice to the entire hall.  “You brought him here?  You doom us all!”

         “Silence!” Boomed the man who would be king.  “This is not your place to speak.  We have captured the enemy, as you can see.  He must be executed in accordance with our law.  No better time to strike such a blow to the rebellion than after my coronation as king.  My queen.”

         The queen took another step forward and rapped her scepter on the platform.  Even the most stubborn of protests ceased as all eyes turned back to the front.  For a moment all was silent again.  The only movement in the room was the squirming of the Councilor, the dignity of her station the only thing keeping her from bolting for the door. 

         “As you all know, we have gathered here to witness the coronation of the new king.  Drastic times are among us, and we shall soon see an end to the opposition.  It is with heavy heart that I begin this ceremony, as I value my own life as Regent to the Gods and your queen.  Much protest has been made, I have heard discussions, rumors and naysayers to no end, but now I do as I must.” She said.

         “My queen, no!  I will not accept your sacrifice.  The sharing of power will be enough, as we discussed.  We have the leader here, and without him the rebels will be scattered and crushed.  I beg you, change your wording and your actions.  There is no need-“ the man next to the queen cut short as the queen slammed her scepter down once more, the amplification of the podium crashed through the cathedral like thunder.

         “All ye here bear witness to the coronation of the new Regent to the Gods.  It is written as law since the great Regent Heliorre that all power of the station will be transferred to the next regent of my choosing, in the manner of my choosing.  I have chosen for the full power of the Gods through their Regent.  There is only one way to do this, and it is through my sacrifice.  All the power of the station will be necessary to drive out the enemy so that good may finally triumph and peace may reign in our lands.” She said.

         She stepped forward once more.  Once more her scepter crashed into the floor, the boom shattered the glass at the top of the steeple.  Magic began to gather around her.  Softly, but so loudly that most of the onlookers cowered their heads, she said, “Now, I give you your new Regent to the Gods, my love, my brother, the man you have come to know as The Augury.” 

         The tip of her scepter dove through her throat as she pointed at the man that peasants had just carried in to be executed as the first righteous act by their new king.  From the wound and from all around her poured blissfully, painfully bright magic.  It swirled around her, raising her body from the floor as chaos threatened to erupt throughout the cathedral.  Her back arched and the scepter fell from her throat to stick in the floor of the podium by the throne.  No blood spilled from the gash in her throat, but blindingly white streams of magic flowed from it, through the hall and into the man covered in the blood and slime of his closest friends. 

         His body rose as hers had, first doubling forward and immediately bursting open, through the chains, the bindings and his cage.  Splinters, burning embers and iron shrapnel erupted outward, tearing through the Hunter’s men and those of the bishop.  The bodies of his disciples burst into flame, inside the cathedral and out.  The explosion speared the pole from the top of the cage, where it stuck into the ceiling. The Augury continued to rise, higher than had the body of the queen.  Long, white wings grew in where his had been torn off and wounds that would have killed him within the hour healed with no trace of a scar.  Black and red storms chased each other through his eyes as his body was replenished.  A torrential scream surged from his lungs as he reached the pinnacle of his ascent.  As the last of the magic flooded into him, his wings spread to hold himself airborne.  One sound, a collective gasp, filled the room before chaos finally burst forth. 

         The Councilor gave up her dignity along with the contents of her bladder and ran, screaming from the room, followed closely by all of her cabinet.  Every foreigner who had come to witness the coronation followed suit, fleeing and falling over each other in a rush to get to an exit.  Everyone else gathered for the ceremony ran in every other direction, trying to get out or trying to get to the man they thought was going to be their new king or trying to attack the man they were forced into thinking of as their king. 

         The full power of the magic of the Regent to the Gods tethered all those who had sworn to the old Regent, the queen they had genuinely loved, to the man they had thought of as the chief among enemies with magical binds stronger than chain or will.  To a man, they rose to defend him from attackers.  The battle was bloody, but swift.  Trained men bound by the strongest of oaths cut down the small number of less well armed assailants in a matter of seconds.

         Seeing the body of the woman he thought he loved finally wink out of existence, the man who thought he would be king dropped to his knees where his heart failed him and he died.  Every man with the archbishop raised their hands to cast magic against the Augury.  Magic, a gift given by the Gods, could not be used against the Regent to the Gods and their spells fizzled out as they were cast.  To a man, they lowered their hands, mouths agape in awe as they dropped to their knees where they stood and bowed their heads.

         The chaos was short lived as the Augury touched down softly on the podium, kicked the king’s body aside and grasped the scepter.  It came easily out of the floor and grew to shape itself to his form and his hands.  He spared a glance above to the spot where the queen had vanished, but only a twinkle of light remained, no more than a reminder of her existence.  His voice, strong and deep and intense as it always had been, carried so strongly with the magic of the podium that within one syllable, one vowel, he had the attention of everyone in the room.

         “I.” he said, and paused.

         “I am your new king.  I am your new Regent to the Gods. 

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