Distinct Honor

For one month, the kingdom of Soleste mourned the passing of King Klauvius XVI. Each provincial state held daily memorial services and the entire workforce was sent on holiday for observance. Unfortunately, the two opposing factions of the monarch took full advantage of this period of national grief to mobilize their armies. Both the Greater and Lesser Houses declared civil war against each other.
Several authority figures within the king’s royal cabinet had become disgruntled because of the king’s lack of desire to gain more territories in other countries. The consensus was that this passive standing made the kingdom of Soleste appear weak to the rest of the world. All the uproar came to a head when the Archbishop and the Earl of Nerou conspired with a coup.
Lines were drawn in the sand when there could be no mediation between the two court officials on how to accomplish this task. Devout followers of the Archbishop congregated regularly and comprised their own sect. A white robin was selected for their banner. They called themselves the Greater House, as they felt their cause was closest to the will of the heavenly realm. The Earl of Nerou, who preferred the blue robin to represent his cause, called upon the lower-ranking constables. They formed the Lesser House, as it was not required to have such piety for their establishment.
Meanwhile, Captain Benavides had been summoned to the garrison headquarters for a promotion. He seized on the opportunity to request a summit with several battalion commanders to deliberate a battle strategy to put an end to the war. His unit leaders, Paolo Guitterez and Yasha Malta, were eager to be informed of the latest intel. Through the former king’s reign, it had been nearly impossible to achieve a promotion in rank without deployments to conflicts abroad.
Benavides, Guitterez, and Malta were among the sixteen soldiers who were honored for their service and dedication. Guitterez was the last to receive his new rank insignia. After the ceremony concluded, the soldiers were dismissed on liberty.
Guitterez remained in the reception area of the central office. He was a tall man with delicate fair skin that contrasted against his short, dark brown hair. His brooding mood only seemed to improve in the presence of a woman, which was certainly the case when Malta entered the room.
He shifted from lounging to sit upright, and flirtatiously winked with a nod at her. Malta rolled her eyes to rebuff his signal to sit next to him on the metal bench. She stood beside him with folded arms and her back braced her back against the wall. Her pursed pink lips showed she would not be friendly.
Guitterez did not take her hint to heart, and insisted on engaging.
He gruffly cleared his throat and said, “Congratulations to you, Major Malta. It fit that you were promoted for your ambitious endeavors out in the far east.” He took her smile to mean that she had warmed up to him. With a smug grin, he added, “I must say, your new rank insignia dazzles with the spark in your eyes.”
Malta scoffed, took three steps forward, then pivoted directly in front of him. “Thank you, Major Guitterez. It was also fitting that you received your new rank right at the conclusion of the promotion ceremony. We all wondered if you had been removed from the list because of rumors of fraternization,” she replied sternly.
“Alleged fraternization?” he choked uncomfortably.
Malta returned to her position, braced against the wall as she chuckled quietly. They both straightened their postures when they saw Benavides come out of the conference room with three members of the Tribunal Council. A heated discussion appeared to be in place. Tension descended through the halls with raised but hushed voices. Benavides held his ground, and did not falter under the heavy tone.
“King Klauvius placed a tremendous burden on Benavides, and all of Soleste,” Guitterez whispered.
“If anyone can handle such a hefty obligation, it would be Major Benavides,” Malta replied in her normal voice. She tucked a loose strand of her strawberry blonde hair behind an ear and continued, “few of us have the right to stand next to him. His brilliance has kept this kingdom afloat, even during such turbulent times.”
Guitterez sighed with annoyance. “Our king certainly put a lot of faith in him. That bothered me about Klauvius. I often tried to make sense of just who he was.”
“Klauvius was a lovely man,” Malta answered dryly.
“Benavides seemed to have fancied him greatly,” Guitterez said with a sneer. “I on the other hand, could never fancy another man in the same manner I would fancy a woman like you.”
Malta crinkled her nose and scowled with a death stare at Guitterez. Before she had the chance to rebuke him, Benavides crept into the office, smiling.
The Warring Robins, Ch. 2

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