• Grace A. Johnson

The Conspiracy (Reign: Part 2)


Reign

Part Two: The Conspiracy


High Castle of Magni

Year I in the Reign of Queen Ambrosia

I’m a fool.

Were I a better man, a better Guardian, I would not be here. As a matter of fact, I would be in there, engaged in the conversation I was rather listening in on. At the very least, I would be respecting the privacy of my superiors and minding my own business—that is, attending to the Queen, who had most likely retreated to her room after supper.

But the years had time and again proven that I was not a better man, nor a better Guardian, nor in any way deserving of the title bestowed upon me because of naught but my privileged birth.

And now that my eavesdropping had been justified, I was free to continue listening. I inclined my head to the small sliver afforded me by the neglected door. ‘Twas often that doors were left cracked open or unlocked, due to the presence of trustworthy Guardians at every turn. The greater portion of us knew not to repeat anything that was heard—better yet, not to hear anything at all. It was not for fear of punishment that we kept our lips sealed—it was that we quite honestly had nothing to repeat. Business dealings were either commonly known or boring topics. Meetings between the Guardians were never of any import to others within the castle walls, for when the Elders deigned to speak to us, it was usually concerning a new regulation or a party going out to survey the lands beyond Magni’s walls.

Of course, private discussions between two people—such as a queen and her advisor or husband—were often carried on in hushed tones that forbade anyone from catching what was spoken.

But no private discussions had been had within several years now, not since the death of King Galen two years past.

Until today, that is.

I quieted my thoughts, particularly the ones that demanded answers to questions I couldn’t voice, and strained to hear the Guardian’s words.

“Something must be done.” Governor Kasek’s voice, gravelly and hushed as if he sensed my presence.

A shuffle—papers, feet, a dress? Nay, the long robe worn only by one person…

“What do you propose, Kasek? There is naught which can be done,” piped up a voice far louder than the other murmurs within the king’s old study. Commandant Rubin, likely with his corded arms folded over his chest and his ankles crossed before him.

Then, before Kasek could reply, a smoother, gentler voice. One of few years and little hardship. One trained to flow like honeyed milk. “You underestimate the lengths to which I will go, Rubin. As do you, Arawn.”

…the Regent.

My thoughts resumed their chatter, each one overlapping the other. The foremost: what business had the Regent with the Guardians? The second: why had I not been summoned? The next: what had gone so wrong that only the Regent had the will to change it?

Despite his lofty title, the Regent held less power than the child queen did. His title was merely that—a title, the role he played at court and toward the people of Magni. His was the face behind the nation, the voice that spoke decisions made by the governors and commandants.

He had once been King Galen’s advisor, though there were few instances in which his advice had been implemented. The Guardians’ voice rang over his every time, and the king was all but forced by their power to concede, regardless of his advisor’s opinions or his own intentions.

It was for the best. The Guardians knew Magni far better than the one who wore the crown—whether ‘twas a grown man or a young girl. We knew the land, we knew the law, and we knew the people.

Because we had made it.

Why then was it the Regent, who stood in Queen Ambrosia’s place as the listening ear, nodding head, and smiling face, to whom the Guardians turned?

“A legitimate claim must be made, else the throne will be corrupted,” said the Regent, consideration coloring his tone.

Another shuffle. Was he rifling through Galen’s desk?

I braced myself with an elbow against the war, leaning toward the opening with as much body control and silence as I could retain. I could see nothing but the gleam of Commandant Rubin’s chain mail in the sunlight. Certainly nothing that attested to the Regent’s movements.

“Or the Commonwealth could be reinstated,” remarked the commandant, light bouncing off of his armor as he shifted away from the wall.

The Regent scoffed. Another man, perhaps even I, would toss my hands in the air, laugh, or even shake my head and sigh.

But not the Regent. Ever he was in full control, calm, contained. I’d not once seen his feathers ruffled, not in the years I had known him.

He was likely still focused on the papers, presumably at the king’s desk. But the displeasure I heard was emotion enough. “The Commonwealth? That vile institution? Surely you jest, Commandant. The Commonwealth restricted Magni for too long, stifling our growth with its scattered focus. The monarchy brings concentration, clarity, and purpose. We have expanded and grown under the guidance of a single ruler. Do not take offense, Commandant. There is no doubt your Guardian predecessors tried their best to govern this country, but none can deny the positive change that has been wrought in Magni since the Reign of Anactoria.

“Nay, we cannot revert back to the old, stagnant ways. The usurper must be removed and a more worthy ruler put in her place.”

Ambrosia.

They spoke of Ambrosia.

It was an obvious conclusion, and yet nothing of what they said made a lick of sense. A legitimate claim? The usurper? Surely they did not see Galen’s daughter as an illegitimate supplanter.

Unless…

I nearly laughed at my trailing thoughts and suspicions. Either way you looked at it, Ambrosia was the granddaughter of Queen Myia, and the fourth great-granddaughter of Queen Anactoria.

Hers was the only claim to the throne.

At least, it should be.

If my deduction was correct, why did they think such? And just how did they intend to remove my charge from her position as queen?

Better question: who would they put in her place?

“Only one could claim the throne after her, Your Grace. Only Brehnan remains to share the blood of Queen Myia.”

Ah, there spoke Arawn, ever the voice of reason, supporting the only clear answer to the Regent’s proposed problem.

Me.

Wait a minute here. Surely they didn’t intend to make me king?

“Not Brehnan.”

They didn’t. Good.

Never mind that. Not good. If not I, the last of Queen Myia’s three sons, then who? My mother had been the only daughter of Queen Alianor, and hence all others bearing traces of Queen Anactoria’s blood were too distant of relations to lay claim to her throne.

This not knowing was killing me. If these wayward Guardians and the Regent didn’t begin talking plainly, I might lose what shred of control I had left and burst in upon them.

“The foreign blood of Queen Myia’s husband has defiled her offspring, and thereby, the throne. We must purge the royal bloodline of such filth.”

And just how do you intend to do that, Your Grace? Put yourself on the throne?

“Search out those bearing the blood of Queen Anactoria. We shall wed a man of Magni to one of her descendants, a woman of pure breeding unlike the defiled Ambrosia, and breed a new queen.”

‘Twas a good plan in theory, but what the Regent didn’t take into consideration was that he would find removing Ambrosia and me no easy task. Besides, Ambrosia had all of Magni captivated by their child queen, their hope for a newer, brighter life. The people would not so quickly and blindly agree to the Regent’s foolish scheme—especially considering how shallow his grounds.

Our progressive, growing country—the one the Regent was so proud of—had been enamored by the royal couple, by my parents. The young princess marrying a foreigner, and not for wealth or ties, but for love.

It was a story told by minstrels and poets, one lauded across Magni for, hopefully, righting the wrongs dealt by Anactoria’s hand.

But then Myia had died young, leaving three sons behind, only one of whom that wed. The second son died at ten and four, and the third became a Guardian, taking an oath never to wed.

Ambrosia was Magni’s last hope—perhaps even the hope of nations beyond.

They could not be rid of her, no matter how impure her blood.

“And we shall do what with the rightful heirs?” Kasek questioned, curiosity increasing his volume.

Surely he wasn’t falling in with the Regent? The wise governor knew better than to follow along with the schemes of a landless advisor gifted his title only because of his friendship with the king.

Or did he?

The Regent chuckled, coming into my view in a wave of thick robes and cloaks. The shaft of light before him blurred his expression, but I knew his face well. And I knew that accompanying that soft, rumbling laugh was a malicious glint in his eyes.

“We shall kill them.”




Missed Part 1? Read it here!

#theriver #reign #serial #fantasy #theguardiansofmagni

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