DALLEON of Waterfort spoke now, as Xandur stood bowing still.
‘Your fame and name is known throughout the realm,’ he remarked in a roaring voice. ‘It is an honour to have you at my humble feast,’ he added.
Xandur leaned further down in utter obeisance. ‘The honour is mine, Your Grace! Thank you for having me here!’
Prince Dalleon was fast to respond. ‘What were you looking for down there?’
The question came all too sudden for Xandur. He didn’t expect Waterfort to cut to the chase that soon.
He stuttered, raising himself. ‘Oh I wasn’t really…’
‘You gave life to my feast,’ interposed Dalleon. ‘And you shun brighter than me down there at the banquet. So why are you here right now? What is it that you want?’
Xandur knew the parting curtains of courtesies were no longer there. And there he was, being presented with an opportunity to state his need.
That very need that brought him looking for someone as scheming as himself.
Someone he could join hands with, to bring down Prince Arstol.
Yet since Xandur entered that top chamber in the Waterfort castle, he knew he wouldn’t have to request just that small need. He knew he’d be requesting something far grander.
Something that would worth the humiliation he’d taken all night. And that would change everything for him, he reasoned.
And here was he with that big question thrown at him. ‘What is it that you want?’
Xandur pulled himself together now, stood upright, and blurted it all out.
‘I want irresistible honour, Your Grace! The magnificence to have all heirsens submit and bow! I want irresistible honour!’
‘And what would you give in return?’ retorted Dalleon.
‘I will give anything,’ replied Xandur. ‘Anything. But don’t ask for my city, I plead.’
Prince Dalleon burst into a hysterical laughter right then.
He stopped short. ‘That moment you bowed to me, Noble Prince, I had your city in my grasp. Why will I take what is mine already?’ he bawled.
‘Your city will continue to be under your control, Prince Xandur. All I need is your tongue of flames and fire.
‘That tongue that made them call you the Breather of Fire. That is everything I want as the price. Can you give that to me?’
Xandur was silent. He was completely unprepared for this.
The old noble never thought he still had something so precious and costly. And Dalleon’s demand now reminded him of the gift’s utter preciousness.
Prince Xandur let out a burdened sigh now.
He’d always cherished that costly gift from the Father-of-All. He’d treasured that flaming tongue with which he’d won captured bastards back into the realm. In the battles at the Dungeon of Fears.
Yet today the valiant Protector of Olde Glassfield was required to let go of the rarest treasure he’d got left with him. The price of an honour from Prince Dalleon.
Xandur wasn’t sure about this. He had been willing to pay any price to find great honour. But now he wasn’t sure anymore.
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He made to speak, but Dalleon intercepted him just then.
‘Many heirsens graced the feast down there but only you were called up here. What do you think?’
Xandur kept quiet. He didn’t know what to reply.
The Waterfort noble went on regardless.
‘We didn’t call you here. You searched for us and came to us. You combed everywhere – and so much we became curious about you. And that’s why this youngster led you here to me. He knew everything about you.’
Xandur was startled. Yet he kept still and contemplated everything.
The hidden prince charged on with a renewed fervour.
‘We’re no joke, Olde Glassfield! We aren’t some plaything for a toddler heirsen. The stairs you took up here leads just one way. And you’ve followed the stairs up here already.’
He paused for one tensed moment. Then his bawling voice dropped as he said: ‘We’ll give you a full tide to answer us.’
Xandur let out a relieving sigh. He didn’t have to make a decision right then. A full tide was a long while and he’d been given forever to ponder.
Dalleon finished his words with a quick afterthought.
‘Are you at all wondering why we’re giving you so much time, Prince of Olde Glassfield? Well, when you come back with your answer you’ll find out exactly why!’
Now Xandur was bothered and curious. He had no idea why Dalleon would give him an entire tide to decide. A full tide to choose his fate.
So it was then as Xandur stepped out of the chamber doors, and out of the old castle, that he became more and more curious with every step farther from Dalleon.
And he wondered and wondered.
Why will Dalleon be so generous?
Why will evil be this benevolent?
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