King Periphral sat up straight, startled by the loud knocking on his door.
“Oh,” he wiped his sweat off his brow. He had been too distressed lately, facing the dilemma regarding Morteus.
“Who is it?” King Periphral asked loudly.
“Someone one wants to speak to you, your majesty. They sent a messenger. Should I let him in?” Captain’s Vailos’ voice came from outside the door.
King Periphral’s thoughts jumped straight to Morteus. “Let him through.”
“Thank you, my lord,” the door swung open and two dark figures walked in. Captain Vailos escorted a hunched figure across the red carpet laid out on the floor.
Captain Vailos bowed when they reached the king’s desk. The hunched figure, King Periphral now saw, only had one leg, which was why he was limping across the room. He had a pair of shadowy eyes, and his mouth was set in a grimace. Gray stubble covered his chin and face. He shifted his weight and stood straight, looking at the king with an obstinate look on his face.
Captain Vailos nudged the man, but he acted as if he didn’t feel it.
King Periphral narrowed his eyes.
“Forgive his audacity, your highness. I could be wrong, but he might be unaccustomed to bowing to a king,” Captain Vailos said in a worried tone.
The man cast a spiteful look at Captain Vailos, and King Periphral crossed his arms. What do I have to deal with now?
“I bring a message from my master,” the man said in an imperious tone before King Periphral gave him permission to speak. “He has honored me with the job of being messenger, seeing that I cannot fight.”
Fight? King Periphral frowned, but did not show his confusion otherwise.
“And who may your master be?” King Periphral asked, his voice low.
“That is of no consequence,” the messenger gave a swift response. “In time, you shall know. I was instructed to tell you that your secret is no longer safe. I am not to give any other information away.” The voice was robot-like, mechanical.
I can see where this is going. King Periphral gave an inward sigh. Blackmail. He received such threats so often; he had become desensitized to them. “We here at the castle to not respond to blackmail, if that’s where you’re heading,” he said in a weary voice.
“Blackmail?” The messenger chuckled. “Certainly you don’t want your secret broadcasted to the nation,” he said in an ominous tone.
The gears turned in King Periphral’s head. Secrets? He had too many. Which one was the messenger referring to? Then something clicked in his head and he gasped. Morteus must have reached Cardiza and told them I was attacking!
Then he reconsidered. Morteus couldn’t have convinced someone to call him master.
“I have no secrets that would be of interest to anyone,” King Periphral kept his voice calm and smooth.
“There, there,” the messenger’s voice had a sardonic edge. “Let’s skip the stage of denial, shall we? We all very well know that you have some very dark secrets.”
King Periphral felt panic seeping into his veins, but he pushed away the instinctive alarm. He looked from the confused Captain Vailos to the smug messenger. “You have no evidence,” he said, attempting to keep his anxiety out of his voice. “Of whatever you are trying to accuse me of.”
“Hmm,” the deadly tone droned. “Not very convincing, your majesty,” Sarcasm dripped from the voice. “My master says that unless you want your secret to be broadcasted to the world, he suggests you adhere to his conditions.”
“Conditions?” King Periphral’s voice went from anxious to incredulous.
The messenger rolled his eyes. Captain Vailos looked at him, with an expectant yet perplexed looked on his face.
“Okay. So here’s the deal. My master told me not to spend more time here than necessary. Either you give me what my master wants, or else your secret will be publicized.”
“That’s an empty threat,” King Periphral’s voice hardened. “I told you had no evidence of any secret. I have no idea what you’re referring to.”
“I assure you that my master does have some most convincing evidence. And Ialso told you that I would not tolerate such pitiful attempts at manipulation.”
King Periphral’s heart thudded to a stop. “What is it that you want?” His voice hardened. He crossed his arms and shot a piercing glare at the messenger.
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll figure out,” Nonchalance rung from every word. “I hear that you’re a smart guy,” The messenger gave a sardonic smile.
King Periphral paused. What is this man getting at? Feeling a headache coming on, he rubbed the sides of his head. “Captain Vailos, until this man starts talking any sense, please take him and lock him up in one of the rooms. I have too much on my mind to deal with him now.”
Captain Vailos looked at the man beside him and sank into a deep bow. “Yes, sir.”
The messenger was calm as he turned to regard King Periphral. “That’s a mistake you’re making there. If my master doesn’t hear from me by noon tomorrow, they will strike.”
Captain Vailos shook his head as he grasped the man and began hauling him towards the exit. “Don’t make your situation worse than it already is,” he said in a harsh whisper.
King Periphral shook his head. “As I said, I don’t respond to blackmail. Take him away now.”
“Guards? Take this man away. He has threatened the king,” Captain Vailos hollered. Soldiers streamed into the room, pinned his arms behind his back, and dragged the messenger out the door.
“You’ll regret it, Periphral,” the messenger said, louder, his face rotating around to face the king. “Remember, noon.”
And with that, the door slammed behind him.