Ashes of Horizon — Chapter 2: Dignitary
Written by Scarlet
Kheyri was seated on the smaller throne beside the more prominent, empty throne that sat upon the center of the dais. Lord Roshan stood a short distance away, his handkerchief now tucked into his sleeve, his eyes roaming about the great hall. Pillars supported the high ceiling, and light fabric hung from between the pillars, flowing in the breeze that slipped through the open windows facing the gardens.
“This place hasn’t changed a bit,” he spoke, looking down at the marble flooring.
“What business did you come here to discuss, Lord Roshan?” Kheyri demanded coolly, not wishing to sit idly while the man marveled. His eyes locked gazes with hers as a sheepish smile spread on his chubby face.
“Right, yes, yes. The matter I wished to discuss. You see…” He withdrew the handkerchief again, beginning to fidget with it as he started. “You know I have traveled far, and I would not do so unless it was something gravely important.”
Kheyri nodded, crossing a leg over the other as she clasped her hands over her lap.
“I have been dealing with barbarians at my borders, and my coffers have run dry in my desperate attempts to fend off these savages.”
“Barbarians?” She raised a brow at that.
The man nodded frantically, beginning to pat his head again. “Where my barony is, it is closer to the edge of our lands, and we are susceptible to attacks. Of course, I have tried hard to defend my people, spending every coin to hire soldiers and even mercenaries, but it is to no avail.” His gaze shifted from hers to the empty throne.
Her eyes narrowed at his awkward fidgeting.
“Why have you not gone to the other baronies for help first?”
“Your father and I are closer than I am with the other barons. I believe he would be most generous in his aid and understanding.” That much she could agree with. Her father was a very generous man, sometimes to his detriment. “It was why I wanted to see him.”
She bristled at his words. So he intended to use her father. Aware of his addiction to gambling and indulgences, she came to the conclusion that he was in debt and lying through his teeth.
“And this is why he put me in charge of such matters.” The man pursed his lips, beginning to wring the handkerchief in his hands. “But please understand that I am not unfair. I am willing to lend you a company of my military force to aid your people.”
Lord Roshan shook his head.
“I am more than willing to hire more soldiers and mercenaries. All I ask of you is a loan.”
She clenched her teeth for a moment before speaking calmly.
“My men will take care of the barbarians. During this time, you can refill your coffers through your usual means.”
He gave an abrupt, sharp laugh.
“I think you are misunderstanding me, Lady Kheyri. This was exactly why I needed to speak to y-”
“I am in charge here, and my word is final.” She leveled him with a sharp look. “I will see you at dinner. Until then, Lord Roshan.”
The man was sputtering, his pale face now red from embarrassment and perhaps anger. Drawing in a sharp breath, he forced himself to bow, gritting out his thanks before briskly turning away down the hall. She could hear him muttering under his breath angrily, but she paid it no heed, instead massaging her temple to ease her frustration.
A servant provided her with some freshly strained tea, and she sipped it, feeling calmer. When she had drained her glass, she returned it to the servant before speaking.
“Welcome the people.” One of the guards by the hall’s main entrance bowed before retreating. Within several minutes, a line filled the hall, extending out to the hallway. One by one, the local citizens explained their situations to her and she paid attention, keeping a pleasant smile on her face. They spoke to her respectfully, even when visibly upset with their situations. There were a few farmers from just outside the city, expressing concerns about their crops suffering in the heat, to which she offered funding to aid in building more wells where river water could not be accessed. Some people came to simply give gifts of varying kinds; food, clothing, and perfumes. There was a pair of men who argued over the theft of property. It had turned out that both were landowners, bitter that one had built some property on the other’s land. She had chosen to settle the dispute, telling the one who built on the other’s land to pay the landowner rent. Neither of them seemed too pleased with the decision, but with the agreement of those behind them, they smiled and thanked her for her wisdom. By noon, the line of people was gone, and her head was aching from exhaustion and boredom, her chin seemingly plastered to the palm of her hand.
With court duties finally having come to an end, she stood from her seat, feeling the discomfort in her legs ease as she exited the hall and towards her father’s office. Upon entering, she smiled at the smell of fruity tobacco. It reminded her of her younger days when she used to sit upon her father’s lap as he smoked his hookah and told her exaggerated tales of the history of Lonica. The room had some comforts, a plush velveted chair, though that was only installed for Kheyri’s use, as well as a large patterned rug on the floor. Some steps ascended to the balcony that gave a view of the city, only obscured slightly by the silk curtains that hung from the archway. A tall golden hookah sat beside her father’s desk, the coals on the top reduced to grey ash.
Letters were fanned out on the desk, and her father seemed heavily invested in reading what was in front of him. Upon hearing her enter, he looked up.
“There you are, daughter of mine,” he said as he stood and crossed the room, the falcon-crested staff of the office clutched possessively in his left hand. A gentle, affectionate smile crossed her father’s wizen features as he reached out to hug his daughter. “I see you have made time in your busy schedule for an old man like myself,” he said in jest.
“Oh, Fusil, I’ll always make time for you,” she laughed gently, using the name she endearingly called her father. She wrapped her father in a brief embrace, tilting her head up to plant a small kiss on his cheek. He had a large grey and white beard that bobbed when he spoke, and his skin was a touch darker than hers. Any laugh lines he had were concealed by his facial hair, save for the crinkles at the corners of his eyes, which were deep from his joviality. When they parted, he returned to his seat while she chose to settle herself in her chair.
“I had heard you spoke with Lord Roshan.” Her father’s voice was rich, his age having added to his pronunciation of each word, making him sound all the wiser. She nodded, watching as a servant replaced the hookah bowl with a newly prepared one, the coals on top emanating heat, as they left the room shortly after. She relayed to him the details of their meeting, to which he tutted, and finally smiled at his daughter. “You dealt with him well, my dear. I am grateful every day that I entrusted you with these duties.”
She smiled at him, glad to relieve him from these tasks. Her father picked up the hose of his hookah and held it between his lips as he drew in a long puff. The water inside the glass base bubbled as he did so, and the fragrance of summer fruits spread about the room. Taking one more puff, he set down the hose.
“I have dealt with a bevy of letters since this morning, all detailing finances, changing of trade routes, even a letter from the sovereign himself.” At Kheyri’s brow-raising, he continued. “He wanted a show of support, to which I will need to visit the capital myself. And he also expresses concern about you being unwed thus far. Which brings me to my topic at hand.” He leaned down, retrieving a sheet of paper from a basket below his desk and sliding it across the surface towards her. “I have prepared a list of suitors for you, all of whom should befit the role of Lord and your husband.”
At the last word, he gave her a warm smile.
Hello, this is an original work. Please do not post this elsewhere. Thank you!