A March of Kings (Page 18)

Gareth stood there, in his father's ruling chamber, looking out through the open window over King's Court, like his father used to love to do. His father used to stroll out, onto the parapets, but Gareth felt no need to do that. He was perfectly happy, standing here, indoors, at the edge of the window, hands clasped loosely behind his back, and looking out over his people from the shadows.

His people. They were his people now. He could hardly believe it.

He stood there, rooted in place, the crown securely on his head as it had been since the ceremony. He would not take it off. He also wore his father's white and black mantle, even in the summer heat, and clutched in his hand his father's long, golden scepter. He was beginning to feel like a king – a real king – and he loved the feeling. All his subjects, as he walked, bowed to him. To him, not to his father. It made him feel a rush of adrenaline unlike any he had felt before. All eyes were turned to him, all hours of the day.

He had really done it. He had managed to kill his father, to cover up the crime, and to wipe out all obstacles between him and the kingship. They had all fell for it. And now that they had crowned him, there was no turning back. Now there was nothing they could do to change it.

Yet now that Gareth was King, he scarcely knew what to do. All his life he had dreamt of this moment; now that he'd achieved it, he did not know what was next. His first impression was that being king was lonely. He had stood here, alone in this room for hours, watching the court. Down below, in the lower chambers, his counsel awaited him for a meeting. He had decided to make them wait. In fact, he enjoyed making them wait. He was King, and he could make anyone wait that he wanted to, for as long as he wanted.

As he had stood here, watching over his people, he had pondered how to solidify and secure his power. To start with, he would have Kendrick imprisoned, then, executed. It was too much of a risk to have Kendrick alive, the firstborn, the most loved of his family. He smiled as he thought of the guards already on their way to take Kendrick in.

Then he would have Thor killed. He, too, was a threat, given how close he had been to his father; who knew what his father had told him while on his deathbed? Perhaps he had even identified Firth. Gareth was pleased with himself for setting into motions plans for his assassination; he had wisely paid off a Legion member to do the trick. Once they reached the Isle of Mist, he would ambush Thor and finish him off. He was assured that Thor would not return.

When Thor and Kendrick were out of the way, he would turn to Gwendolyn. She, too, posed a threat. After all, his father's last wish was for her to rule. As long as she was alive, the possibility of revolt lingered.

Finally, most importantly, was the one issue that loomed on his mind most: the Dynasty Sword. Would he attempt to wield it? If he could, it would set him apart from every MacGil king that had ever ruled. It would make all the people love him, for all time. It would mean that he was the chosen one, the one destined to rule. It would validate him, and it would secure his throne forever. Gareth had dreamt his whole life of the moment when he would wield it, from the time he was a boy. A part of him felt certain that he could.

Yet another part of him was not so sure.

The door to his chamber suddenly barged open, and Gareth turned, wondering who could be so impudent as to barge in on the king. His face fell as he saw that it was Firth, strutting in past the guards, who gave Gareth a befuddled look. Firth had grown too brazen since Gareth had become crowned – he acted as if he ruled the kingdom with him. Gareth resented him barging in like this, and wondered if he had made a mistake in elevating him, in making him his adviser. Yet at the same time, he had to admit that he was happy to see him. A part of him was tired of being alone. And he hardly knew who he could be friends with, now that he was King. He seemed to have isolated everyone in his life.

Gareth nodded to the guards, who closed the door behind Firth. Firth crossed the room, and embraced Gareth. He leaned back and tried to kiss him, but Gareth turned away.

Gareth wasn't in the mood for him. He'd interrupted his thoughts.

Firth looked hurt, but then quickly smiled.

“My Liege,” he said, stretching out the word. “Don't you love being called that? It's so becoming of you!” Firth clapped his hands in delight. “Can you believe it? You are King. Thousands of subjects stand waiting for your every beck and call. There is nothing we cannot do!”

“We?” Gareth asked, darkly.

Firth hesitated.

“I mean…you, my lord. Can you imagine? Anything you want. Right now, everyone awaits your decision.”

“Decision?”

“About the sword,” Firth said. “The whole kingdom is whispering. That's all they're talking about. Will you attempt to wield it?”

Gareth studied him. Firth was more perceptive than he thought; maybe it was good having him as an adviser.

“And what would you suggest I do?”

“You have to do it! If you don't, you will be perceived as too weak to even try. They will assume that means you are not meant to be king. Because, in their eyes, if you truly felt entitled, then you would certainly try to hoist it.”

Gareth thought about that. There was some truth to his words. Maybe he was right.

“Besides,” Firth said, smiling, coming up beside him, linking arms and walking with him towards the window. “You are meant to be king. You are the one.”

Gareth turned and looked at him, already feeling aged.

“No I'm not,” he said, honestly. “I took the throne. It was not handed to me.”

“That does not mean you're not meant to have it,” Firth said. “We are only given what we are meant to have in this life. For some, destiny is handed to them; others need to take it for themselves. That makes you greater, my lord, not lesser. Think about it,” he said, “you're the only MacGil to have taken a throne, who didn't sit back and have it lazily handed to him. Does that mean something to you? It does to me. To me, it means that you, and you alone of all the MacGils are the one meant to wield the sword, to rule forever. And if you do, just imagine: all the peoples, from all corners of the Ring and beyond will bow down to you, forever. You will unite the Ring. No one would ever doubt your legitimacy.”

Firth turned and looked at him, his eyes shining with excitement and anticipation.

“You have to try!”

Gareth pulled away from Firth, crossing the room. He thought about it, wanting to take it all in. Firth had a point. Maybe he was destined to be king. Maybe he had underestimated himself; maybe he had just been too hard on himself. After all, his father was meant to die – or else he would not have died. Maybe it all happened this way because Gareth was meant to be the better king. Yes, maybe his killing his father was for the good of the kingdom.

Gareth heard a shout, and he turned and looked out over King's Court and saw the parade passing below, the celebration for the new King, the banners being hoisted. He saw his soldiers marching in formation. It was a beautiful, perfect summer day. As he looked down, he could not help feeling as if all of this had been destined. Like Firth said: if he was not meant to be king, he would not be king. He would not be standing here right now.

He knew this was the most important decision of his entire kingship, and it was one he would have to make now. He wished that Argon were here now, to offer him counsel, but he also sensed that Argon hated him, and even if he gave him advice, he wondered if it would be the right advice.

Gareth sighed, then finally turned from the window. The time had come to make the first major decision of his kingship.

“Summon the guards,” he ordered Firth, as he turned and walked for the door. “Prepare the dynasty chamber.”

He stopped and turned to Firth, who stood there, staring back excitedly.

“I am going to wield the sword.”