The gates closed behind the carriage as it entered the castle walls. The entourage split into the troops and the guards, and the carriage followed the guards. They entered another section of the castle and parked the carriage. The king had been sitting since the gates closed, and he had his eyes closed. The blue-haired woman looked at him carefully. She remained silent, and soon the attendants and advisors arrived.
“Help the king down, quickly. Get him to the room,” said the chief attendant. A couple of attendants climbed into the carriage to help, but the king waved their hands away.
“No, I’ll get down myself.” King Fidel lifted himself up and slowly tried getting down. He slipped a bit on the bottom step, and the two attendants caught him from behind. They looked at the chief attendant, who nodded silently at them. Even against the king’s inaudible objections, they put his arms around their necks and walked him into the castle. The blue-haired woman kept a few steps behind them, and the rest of the attendants followed. The advisors had already gone ahead to the meeting quarters.
The attendants sat the king in his chair at the head of the meeting table. The advisors had already taken their seats. The chief attendant and the other attendants left the room. The blue-haired woman stood a little behind the king’s chair. Once everyone was situated, the advisors began speaking.
“How should we proceed?”
“Do we have a plan in place?”
“What of an heir?”
“Quiet! One at a time! We’ve gone over this before, months ago before King Fidel left. What we should do right now is ask of the king’s health. Miss Aoi, please do tell us what your people said.” The one speaking was an old human with long grey hair. It was one of the three advisors directly under Fidel, Rillin.
“Sir, thank you. As you all may know, I am Aoi from the kingdom of water. I have been sent to watch after the king’s health. I am here until he dies.”
“Dies? Death, he is going to die?” A few of the advisors had begun shouting in disbelief, but it was again Rillin who silenced them.
“Men, please. She didn’t say he was going to have a shortened life yet. Just ‘until.’ I assume that’s the goodwill of the water kingdom. Please go on, Aoi,” Rillin said.
“I didn’t mean to cause a commotion. Forgive my choice of words. It appears I stumbled headfirst into the problem. It was a slip, but it was correct. Until he dies, and he will. In three years, at most,” Aoi said with a heavy note. This time, there was no commotion from the group. Rillin, who had been smiling in expectation of a more positive answer, was dumbstruck. “My people have cures for many things, but unfortunately we have nothing that can help your king. The best we could do was prolong his life. Even that only adds a few years. My assignment here is to do my best to see that he lasts the full three years, comfortably.” The group still had no response to the heavy words.
King Fidel spoke up, saying, “Friends. I am not dead yet. You’re too silent. We knew this may have been our answer before we sought the guidance of the water people. Friends, we have three years. Do not grieve for me yet. For now, I live. For now, I can make an appearance to my people. Now, I can set in motion the events that will guide our future. Do not ask about what the future holds. I have nothing more I want to say or hear. You are all dismissed.”
The advisors were obviously frustrated, but they heeded the words of the king. Everyone, including the king, left the room. Aoi assisted Fidel as Rillin guided them to Fidel’s room. She laid the king down on his bed, and dismissed Rillin from the room. She closed the door to the room, and again went to the king’s side. Prepared before they arrived was a bowl of porridge. Aoi took a small bottle from a satchel she had sent ahead of their arrival in the kingdom. She sprinkled a small bit of powder on the white porridge. It turned green as she stirred it. She had Fidel sit up while she fed him.
A knock at the door interrupted them. Aoi got up and walked to the door.
“The king is not to be disturbed,” she said.
“It is important that I talk with him,” Diren said. He was a grey hare, and one of the advisors directly under King Fidel. His power was about equal to that of the other two advisors that answered only to the king, and their authority was right below that of the king’s.
“It has been a long journey, he must rest,” she said firmly.
“Tell him that it’s Diren, who has come to talk about the events surrounding the day.” Aoi hesitated for a moment, but did eventually walk back to the king.
“Sir, a hare is here, named Diren. He wishes to see you and refuses to leave. He wants to talk about the day.”
“Diren. I need to speak with him. You will let him in. Then you must leave this room. Come back only when Diren leaves,” Fidel said.
“But, you’re–” she started, but the king cut her off with a hand motion. She left the room as Diren walked in. She waited for a few minutes by the door, after which it opened and Diren walked back out. She was startled for a moment, as the meeting was very short.
“Miss Aoi, thank you for your help. You can attend to him again. Our business was important but short, especially in view of his health. Now if you’ll excuse me.” He walked off. Polite, for a hare, she thought.