Fly Free, Dear King

For twelve generations, the kingdom of Soleste enjoyed peace throughout each of its 21 provincial states. During the 9th Imperial period, King Klauvius XVI made the province of Nerou the new capital state. The relocation from the former capital of Icen caused an uproar amongst the people, but soon deescalated once everything was settled. A renowned oracle once advised the king that birds like robins signified transformation, growth, renewal, passion, and power. As a tribute to his royal subjects, King Klauvius issued several thousand robins to each state official as a sign of goodwill.
Late one winter evening, King Klauvius summoned his most trusted advisor, Captain Heinrich Benavides, to his conference chambers. The long-awaited meeting had finally come to fruition after a series of cancelations. Benavides rushed down the great-hall, as his men were instructed to wait attentively for his return. He entered the lavishly varnished black wooden doors of the conference chambers with a sense of urgency to learn what news awaited him.
The once vibrant king no longer sat at the helm of the deliberation table, but rested feebly in his armchair by the fireplace. King Klauvius shivered as he was wrapped in two white panther skinned quilts, though a luscious fire roared before him. Recently, he had donned a silky mane of wavy blonde curls. He was a hearty consumer of food and drink, but now his healthy frame had been reduced to a shriveled prune in comparison.
Benavides was moved to tears to see his mentee come to such grim conditions. He solemnly strolled over to the king and placed his sword on the decorative mantle, so that he could perform a proper bow.
“Your Majesty, I have come as soon as you requested,” Benavides said, after clearing his parched throat.
“I— called you here because my departure will soon come. This devilish ailment has ravaged my body, just as it has done so to scores of my subjects,” the king panted.
Benavides took a knee to look his ruler in the eyes and placed a burly hand on his shoulder. He did not interrupt, knowing the king’s premonition of death was a confirmation of what the lead physician declared hours earlier.
King Klauvius continued, “I earnestly hoped to serve my kingdom as a fair king. Some say I accomplished that goal, while others do not believe I was worthy to sit on the throne.” He closed his eyes and paused briefly. An attendant entered the room and placed a smelling salt under his nose to rouse him.  
“Where was I? Oh, yes. The Royal Physician will announce my condition by morning. I do not expect to make it through midday. To the matter at hand; with no heir, the throne will be left deserted and my kingdom will crumble in shambles. I humbly beg of you, dear Benavides, to assume the throne in my stead.”
Benavides turned grey in the face as his jawline stiffened. With a growl, he sprung to his feet. He refrained from scowling and fixed his tone to match the solemn mood.
“There, now, old friend. I am certain your feverish nature has brought you to the brink of madness. You know it would not be possible for me, a common military soldier, to assume the throne of your bloodline,” he said.
King Klauvius sunk further into his armchair and sighed with grief.
“Then we are at an impasse. No one shall assume the throne after my death. The kingdom will be fractured by the two fanatical factions from my cabinet, he said.
Benavides slammed his fist on the mantle, then quickly regained composure.
“I was not sure that you were aware of them. My intel reported unsavory movements within your cabinet some months ago. They call themselves the Greater and Lesser Houses, and each have the audacity to mimic your royal banner with the emblems of blue and white robins.,” he replied.
Another long pause drifted into the room. This time, the king’s labored breathing rivaled the crackling fire logs.
“I have been thoroughly informed of these cults. They claim to represent the golden era of our kingdom, but have robbed my treasury dry to support their efforts,” King Klauvius sniffled.
Benavides turned to look away from the crushed king. Though he could not conceal the grief in his eyes, he returned his gaze once more.
“There are no man-made elements that exist without weaknesses. It is clear the Houses do not share the same cord. Tempers have already been flared by the head of each sect’s assertion to control the entire country. Inevitably, we will be embroiled in war,” he said.
King Klauvius squirmed until he sat upright and stretched his hand towards Benavides.
“You mustn’t let it come to that. You must intervene,” he shrieked.
Benavides clenched the king’s hand, and the two men embraced for several moments.
“I swear to you, I will end this madness,” Benavides whispered.
The oath was sealed with a tender, passionate kiss. By morning, Benavides stood with the lead physician to announce the king’s critical condition. After the meeting convened, he sat alone in the conference chambers. There was no solace for him seated in the exquisite armchair where Klauvius had lingered in his arms until dawn. Bitter tears drenched the quilts doused with his lover’s aroma. Outside the castle, church bells rang twelve times and thirty grey robins were released all at once. This customary ceremony signified that King Klauvius was dead.

The Warring Robins, Ch. 1


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