by: Ken Williams
After three days, the talks were finally over between Hydrops and the Atular. They were a success. The White Atular would join so long as Seliamire could be paired with a Hydrosian groom of nobility. Hydrops refused to force such a match, but allowed Seliamire to stay again under the protection of the Watr family until she found a mate. Hydrops would not to do anyone what was done to him and Rose. It would not be fair to either party. Baron Grannis wanted the Hydrosian rule of law to be overruled in the case of Admiral Guilon Tarkes and to have him tried and executed in Crimzen Atul, as was to the right of family vengeance. Hydrops allowed it. As much horror as Guilon had committed in Hydros, it was nothing compared to what he did to that old man. His two sons were butchered and his granddaughter, a priestess to their Sun God, was killed and desecrated, more than her father and uncle. All that was left was an old man with nothing left but revenge and two grandsons who had left to become mercenaries. Many mercenaries left their names when they joined, so there was no hope of finding them.
Keuryl had asked for exactly what Hydrops had expected: to take over as Lady of Ebon Atul if Hydros invaded. None of the Glarigas siblings trusted the other. Mrdinar was a monster, Gylnul was a schemer, ever cunning, Mikkren was kind and loyal, the bane of any suspicious person, Ommon was a wild card, Keuryl spent the last four
years in Hydros, and Wyk was…Wyk. Hydrops never met the youngest Glarigas. He focused more on the allies and enemies he had. Wyk was neither.
Valory had not asked for anything for joining the Empire. Her people had longed for a war for a while. The world had been at war for almost a decade and the Blue Atular had not been involved to offer their pride and power. Their time wasn’t here yet, but it might come. Mrdinar was restless and after Nima’s attack, Mrdinar would have been likely to blame Hydrops and declare war. He didn’t, though, which puzzled the High Landsponge. Surely he knew that Nima’s death was a direct result of her attack on Hydrops. Did he blame the Kakurl? If he did, that would make Hydrops laugh. A war in Kakurl territory would be a disaster.
His thoughts were interrupted by Countess ur Draler coming into the room, looking distressed. Hydrops calmly looked at her and asked, “What’s the matter?”
She stumbled on the words, “My e-eldest son, Kar… he’s dead.”
“They say it was night fever. They lost him before they could cure him. He went so fast they said.”
“Night fever?” Hydrops asked, thinking of the possibilities. Night fever had been dead for centuries.
“It was Bathori. I know it!” the Countess asserted.
“Bathori? She’s been here, under my protection this whole time. It’s more likely that the demons and Black Atular are behind it.”
“Why? What do they have to gain?” she protested
“What does Bathori have to gain?”
“Assurance that her rule will hold. She’s the third child. She passed the test of heirs, and takes a last name, but she doesn’t like leaving anything to chance. You’ve seen her. Everything has to be smooth and perfect with her!”
“Killing her brother would be risky and foolish. Mrdinar would want your family dead for the same reason Baron Grannis lost his family. Without the ruling families, there is a power vacuum.”
“Then we make war!” Valory demanded.
“No. Not without proof. But you should return. All Atular leaders should return home. That’s an order.”
Hydrops left without another word, ignoring the Countess’ protests. He walked down a hall of the Sea Citadel when King Hydrops’ Minister of Justice stopped him. The twig of a Hydrosian called out, “High Landsponge Watr, the King has need of your presence in the dungeons for a trial.”
Hydrops paused. Any trial he was intended to preside over was delayed until he officially reached at adulthood, at the age of ten. He was only nine years old. Hydrosians developed twice as fast as their flesh counterparts. “Whose trial? My predecessor?”
The Minister did not answer. He only led Hydrops to the dungeon. Hydrops wondered if the former High Landsponge Nagerons Aseal was the one on trial. He was
the one who started the group known as the Purple Wave. Not long after Hydrops the First took the throne, the High Landsponge defected and tried to put the current lord of the Hydros family on the throne. He failed, primarily because two individuals of the Purple Wave captured and tortured a young noble boy, Hydrops the Second. When it was leaked that Hydrops was being tortured by the Purple Wave, Nagerons surrendered and the Wave was disbanded. Afterwards, the district that captured Hydrops went rogue, leading to a young woman named Atsin Calar, who had formerly been a member of the Purple Wave, rescuing him, and dying at the hand of his primary tormentor, Mueyar Guin.
Hydrops entered the dungeon and looked around, seeing Chrysie Squall in the prisoner’s hold. Hydrops looked and saw his father with three of his Ministers and seven guards.
“Good,” Hydrops the First droned, “Hydrops is here so we may now begin. Chrysanthemum Squall, you are accused of plotting in acts of sedition and attempting to infiltrate the royal family for espionage. How do you plead?”
“Not guilty,” Chysie responded, “I have done absolutely nothing wrong.”
“Then I will call the first witness, well, the only witness. Hydrops Shekal Watr the Second? Tell me, was the princess, Rosianna Flowrs involved with Lady Squall?”
“They were friends. To my knowledge, they met at the Victory Ball two months ago.”
“Were they close?”
“One could say that.”
“That’s all I need to know. Chrysie Squall, you are found guilty of treason to the Nation of Hydros. Your sentence is death.”
Hydrops the Second reached for his sword. “You can’t do that! She has done nothing wrong!”
The King frowned. “High Landsponge, you will serve as executioner.”
Hydrops looked at the guards and the Ministers. He could kill some of them, but he would never be able to free Chrysie. He stood over her, sword in hand.
“Don’t do it,” his inner voice told him, “only one person deserves execution today. You warned him. If you don’t, your threats will seem empty.”
He looked again at his father, and then at Chrysie.
“Do it!” the King commanded.
“If you did, maybe Rose will finally choose freedom,” another inner voice interjected.
That voice couldn’t be right. Hydrops shut it out. King Hydrops would pay for this, but not now. In honesty, a death like this, a simple piercing of the nucleus would be nothing near what he deserved. Hydrops wanted his father to realize how powerless he truly was before he died.
“I grow impatient, High Landsponge,” Hydrops the First said.
Hydrops knelt over to hear Chrysie Squall’s last words.
“Tell Rose that I love her. With all my heart,” she said as tears formed in her eyes. Hydrops raised his sword over her hair, pointing the tip over her nucleus. He shut his eyes and brought the sword down. He lifted his sword from the watery remains and pointed it at the King.
“King Hydrops. This action has sealed your fate. Mark my words, you will reap this a hundred times over.”
Hydrops turned and walked away, going deeper in the dungeons, specifically to the cell of former High Landsponge Nagerons Aseal. Nagerons had brought shame to the ancient title of High Landsponge by rebelling against the throne. Hydrosians had always said, “A sponge never turns back”, though originally that was an insult to Atular soldiers, the original sponges. Hydrosian guns put so many holes in the Atular that in the early wars, Hydrosians thought it funny to call enemy soldiers “sponges”. Now, all soldiers were sponges, mainly landsponges, and Hydrops was the best landsponge. Hydrops picked up a lantern as he entered the chamber which held Nagerons’ cell. As Hydrops walked in, the former High Landsponge groaned and sat up.
“Ah, young Prince Hydrops. How you’ve grown since I last saw you. Five years was it?”
Hydrops shivered. He had seen Nagerons when he was imprisoned. He just watched him being tortured, like it was part of his plan.
“Four,” Hydrops replied.
“Only four? I’m sorry, a cage makes one lose a sense of time. Now, why would such a respectable figure as Hydrops Watr the Second visit a nasty traitor like me?”
Hydrops gathered courage for what he was about to say.
“I need your help. I want contacts in the Purple Wave, mainly those who want my father gone, but don’t necessarily want the Hydros family on the throne.”
Nagerons laughed, “And why would I do that, boy?”
“For an imperial pardon?” Hydrops responded, smiling slightly.
“A pardon would be nice. And imperial? You’re building an empire? It sounds like you’re growing to be a true Hydrosian. The world is ours by right! And you will take it back for us!”
The idea was tempting, but it was not the way of his Hydros. It was the old way, and the old way only brought death and destruction.
“This is not about conquering the world. This is about defeating the empire in the North, which seeks to destroy us.”
Nagerons laughed, “But you want to kill your father to take Hydros. Face up to it. You want him dead, but you’re not man enough to do it yourself.”
Hydrops grabbed Nagerons by the neck through the bars.
“You have no idea how many men I’ve killed for my nation! I’d kill the King myself if not for laws older than gods! One who kills family is condemnable!”
“Do you condemn all killers of their family?”
Hydrops thought about that. Moss had killed her father in the duel. He never condemned her for it. Hydrops couldn’t take the discussion anymore.
“If you’re in, you have letters to write. I’ll take them from you weekly. No one will know who doesn’t need to.”
Nagerons grinned evilly, “I’m in.”