Taking the Lion’s Share
Rayward’s Gate was a welcome sight to Dimona. The Queen of Light was able to breathe easy knowing that when she woke the first thing that she would lay eyes on from her bed chamber balcony would be the magnificent expanse of her great city sprawling as far as she could see. The sight of Viros’s streets and towers had rapidly worn of the Rayward queen and she cared less and less for the city of the Redmoon’s the more time she spent within its seal wall. The end of the Vermillion Council’s conclave and the subsequent journey home had been Dimona’s favorite part of the whole ordeal. The only thing that left a question in Dimona’s mind about the conclusion of the conclave was if she would enjoy a return to the warmth of familiar sheets and the taste of native wine more than being blissfully separated from the presence of Rustwatch’s Iron Lord.
The magnificent queen rose from the coattails of a sound night’s sleep as the first light of morning entered her room. The feel of the sun on her flawless ivory face was the perfect start to the day. She slipped from her oversized bed and promptly adorned herself in the red and gold velvet dressing gown that had been set out the night before. She made her way of to the small collection of bottles and goblets near the grand fireplace across from the foot of her bed. Her hand drifted towards the bottle of red wine that contained a vintage that she had a particular fondness for. Her discipline and sense of propriety took hold of her before she could remove the crystalline stopper form the top of the wine bottle. Before she allowed herself to regret the decision the Rayward queen poured herself a long and tall goblet of water.
Dimona thought about sitting and enjoying the cool but modest beverage in the comfort of one of the fine chairs that surrounded the fireplace. Her fierce hawk-like eyes continually found themselves being drawn to the balcony and the sunlight that cascaded in through the glass panes of the folding doors that separated her room form the outside. The allure of the breaking dawn was too seductive and Dimona Odinstar quickly found herself sipping her water while gazing out at the splendor of Rayward below her balcony.
As she slowly drained the beverage in her hands she found her mind returning to Viros and the numerous discussions that occurred behind closed doors and around small council tables. Try as she might the Rayward queen could not wrest the memory of Coal Roarkwin’s insolence from her mind. She wanted nothing more than to sound the clarion call to arms, raise her banners and march straight into the heart of Rustwatch with every sword and shield in Rayward at her back. Dimona felt her lips turn into a sweetly cruel smile as she entertained the fantasy of putting the Iron Lord’s head on a spike for all his grimy soot ridden followers to see before razing Rustwatch to nothing but dust and charred corpses.
Dimona hated the chimera as much as any of the other leaders of Argaia’s great cities but for a much different reason. The grotesque beasts kept her from finishing the long standing feud that festered between Rawyward and Rustwach. A sea and leagues of coastline and countryside were not sufficient enough barriers to keep the insult that was the Iron Lord’s realm from plaguing Dimona’s spirit. Every day that Dimona was forced to continue battling the things that were birthed by the red rains and not settling her score with Coal chipped away at her resolve. Several lifetimes ago Dimona would have thought that she could have waited for whatever measure of time it too to rid the world of the chimera but the weight of years had begun to accumulate. Dimona had been standing on the same balcony and sipping water while she reveled in the majesty of her gilded cage for hundreds of years. The prospect of eternity spent behind Rayward’s seal wall was beginning to worm its way into Dimona’s thoughts.
A knock at her chamber door pulled Dimona from her ruminations and saved her from a languishing in emotions that were rapidly souring. She turned from the breathtaking vista of Rayward at her feet and returned to the confines of her room. She tightened the macramé chord around her waist and pulled her dressing gown in tight to minimize any exposed flesh. Dimona checked her countenance in the tall standing mirror at the side of her bed to ensure that she presented some appropriate measure of a ladylike appearance before she spoke. “Announce yourself,” said the Queen of Light with an aura of power that befit her moniker.
“General Bosk-Hailey, your majesty,” came the curt bass voice of Dimona’s most senior military aide.
“Enter,” Dimona said in a way that sounded like it was as much a command as it was a grant of permission.
The bronze inlaid door to the queen’s bed chamber swung open and the broad armor clad frame of the general entered the chamber shortly thereafter. The aged military man kept his eyes downcast in deference as he walked. Once the man was a respectable distance from his master he offered a deep bow to his queen.
Dimona lifted a pair of fingers, indicating that she accepted the general’s show of formality and etiquette. As the man stood upright once more the Rayward queen began to speak. “What it the purpose of your visit at this early hour?” she asked with a tone the conveyed neither genuine interest nor irritation for the unscheduled audience.
“My queen, I come to report the news of your city while you were summoned to the conclave,” responded the man with quick speech and a prod upward tilt of his chin.
Dimona refrained from sighing or rolling her eyes. She respected the general as he was a sound military leader and unquestionably loyal servant but he all too often had a propensity for making a big show of nothing. “General, I thank you for your service as regent in my absence but it does not appear that there was any great catastrophe in my brief stint away from my throne. Would it be safe to surmise that all is well and normal in Rayward?” queried the queen in a tone that some would easily mistake for gentile and nurturing.
Bosk-Hailey flicked his eyes down and to the left as he chewed on a mouthful of embarrassment. “Yes, my queen. No attacks on the wall, no men lost and order was maintained in your streets. Your war council and command staff is convened and ready to receive your orders at your leisure,” said the veteran warrior as he stood to full attention while delivering the report of his duties in his master’s absence.
“Very good, general. I will be joining the rest of my command staff and discussing the will of the Vermillion Council presently,” said the Rayward queen with unfiltered ire mounting in her voice. She noted that Bosk-Hailey picked up on the frustration in her voice. She could see his rampant curiosity and concern being quelled by his better sense of station and breeding. “You have something you wish to say?” Dimona asked in a way that was as much a question as it was an order for the man to speak.
After the briefest hesitation Bosk-Hailey voiced the contents of his mind. “Was the discourse had at the conclave unfavorable? Is Rayward not to lead the vanguard against the chimera threat?”
“I will not lie. The news I received at the conclave was less than ideal. Rayward will feature prominently in the coming initiative…” Dimona trailed as memories of Coal Roarkwin’s smug and pompous antagonizing renewed its assault on her pride.
After a lingering span of dead air Bosk-Hailey filled the silence with wary speech. “It would seem that a prominent role for your military in the coming war would be favorable and reason to celebrate.”
Dimona huffed as she spoke next. “I will have a prominent role, right alongside the Iron Lord and the soldiers of Rustwatch. The Council bid our two cites to collaborate in the offensive,” Dimona said through grit teeth and a stern frown. “How does that news strike you?” she asked her trusted advisor.
“If I may be blunt, your majesty,” responded the general almost reflexively.
Dimona said nothing but nodded her head in approval.
“The notion of Rayward knights fighting beside filthy Iron Men while we should be slaughtering them…disgusting,” growled Bosk-Hailey.
Dimona smiled wickedly as she spoke. “My feeling precisely.”
Silence endured for a moment more before the general broke it with a few soft words. “Your majesty, if I may say something?”
“Proceed,” Dimona said calmly with an air of readied judgement.
“Perhaps Rayward might not be able to take arms directly against our old foes in Rustwatch but that does not mean we can not battle them indirectly while we wipe out the chimera,” said the general slowly and cautiously.
“Go on,” Dimona said as she was unquestionably intrigued by the general’s cryptic statement.
“You majesty, surely the heroes who rise to acclaim in the coming campaign to destroy the chimera will never be forgotten. Their honor will reign supreme across all of Argaia for all of time. Let Rayward bury Rustwatch under mountains of battlefield glory. For every one of the rain spawned beasts that an Iron Man slays let a knight of Rayward slay twice as many. If we can not cut the Iron Lord’s flesh we can at least cut his pride,” said Bosk-Hailey with clarity and fervor in his words.
Dimona kept her face an emotionless mask for as long as she could before allowing her eyes to go bright with cunning and her lips to curl into a guile-filled leer. “You are dismissed general. I will join the war council shortly and we can continue discussing how best to kill the chimera and humiliate the Iron Lord.”