Lomaeus lounged in the throne, using a fragment of ermine robe to clean the blood from Fangor, his serrated broadsword. The owner of both robe and blood had been dragged away several hours ago and handed over to a roaring crowd, who cheerfully dismembered the corpse. Lomaeus had no idea what happened to the pieces, nor any inclination to find out.
Sword clean, he heaved himself out of the throne to re-sheathe it, then strolled down the massive central aisle of the throne room until he reached a fireplace. He threw the bloodied rag into the flames. His stomach rumbled.
“DEEPS!” he roared. When no reply was forthcoming, he roared the name again, so loud that the echoes rolled for a full minute. Soon the scarred face of his second in command appeared at the entrance to the throne room. Lomaeus fumed during the five minutes it took the other man to stride the length of the room and meet him. Deeps bowed.
Lomaeus flapped a hand at him, secretly rather pleased.
“You don’t need to do that, Deeps. Unless there are people watching.”
Deeps straightened again.
“Of course. What was it you wanted?”
For a moment, Lomaeus thought how much better that question would have sounded if it ended in “Sire?”, but his stomach rumbled again.
“Food, Deeps. I’m famished! Think I missed lunch today… You know, when I was liberating a kingdom and dispatching a foul tyrant.”
Deeps nodded impassively.
“I remember, sir.”
Despite his hunger, Lomaeus couldn’t help but feel there was a note of reproof in his Lieutenant’s words. Well, he was king now, wasn’t he? Absolute ruler, at least. Liberator. That should be worth a cheese sandwich of anyone’s money…
“You couldn’t round up some decent scoff, could you Deeps?”
He was alarmed at the pleading tone in his voice, but decided that a correction would only draw attention to it.
“The kitchen staff have run off. They were slaves, and you announced that the death of the tyrant had freed all slaves. They all left right then.”
He looked up at Deeps.
“I don’t suppose you could…?”
Deeps raised an eyebrow that was bisected by an old sword cut.
“I’m supervising the burial troops, sir. And the distribution of the treasure. There was a good deal of looting and fighting until I stepped in there.”
“Well, good, that was the right… Sorry, hang on, DISTRIBUTION of the treasure? The treasure of the palace, as such?”
Deeps looked surprised.
“Well, yes sir, as per your orders sir.”
Lomaeus frowned, trying to remember giving any such order.
“I told you to hand out the fabulous treasure of the tyrant?”
“Not me directly sir. But you have said a number of times during the campaign that when the palace walls were broken down, the slaves would be freed and the wealth of the palace returned to the citizens, sir. They were being a bit zealous and undemocratic in their attempts to follow your orders, as it were, so I regulated things a bit. Made sure no one hogged all the good stuff.”
Lomaeus trudged back towards the throne, urgently feeling the need to sit down. Of course the treasure belonged to the citizens, that was obvious. And yes, he had said about freeing the slaves, because that was what you did, wasn’t it? But it would have been really, really nice to have freed the slaves and still had dinner, and maybe a chance to wallow in the treasure rooms for a while. He had seen the distribution of the wealth as more, you know, something he did himself. Magnanimously. Bit by bit. Endowing new buildings and things. Maybe the odd statue of…of…well, alright, of himself. But he was the liberator, wasn’t he? It was thanks to him that the bloody peasants were free of their shackles and able to bugger off home with armfulls of his bloody treasure, while he had to make his own bloody sandwiches.
“Will that be all, sir?”
Deeps’ voice echoed through the hall, as he hadn’t followed Lomaeus back to the throne. Would that be all? It was quite enough, Lomaeus thought. He waved the man away, then noticed another figure strutting down the aisle of the throne room. This bloody place is too big. I want a nice room with a door I can shut, thought Lomaeus. And a kitchen just off to one side.
The messenger huffed to a halt and threw himself flat on the floor in front of the throne.
“I bear tidings for the Great King Lomaeus, Liberator of Slaves and Giver of Wealth.”
Lomaeus grinned, frowned and growled at the messenger’s words.
“Get up, get up, man! What tidings?”
The messenger struggled to his feet and spoke, still averting his eyes.
“Sire, the peasants are flooding into the city from the surrounding countryside. Your army burned the fields around the capital to starve out the Tyrant, and now there is no food for the people. They are choking every gate, and there is panic in the centre of the city as people try to hoard the remaining food. Stores have been ransacked, Sire.”
Before the man had finished speaking, a second messenger was prostrate on the floor in front of Lomaeus. This man didn’t even get through his greeting before Lomaeus prompted him for his message.
“Sire, the Archmages of Westermount present their greetings and congratulations on your victory. They are concerned, however, that the slave trade between the city and their Magedom will be threatened by your determination to free the slaves here. They seek assurances that this is not the case, and to that end have dispatched a wing of Winter Dragyns to the South Wall.”
When the messenger had finished, the only sound in the immense room was the grinding of Lomaeus’ teeth and the slapping footfalls of a third messenger. Seeing the look on the Liberator’s face, and the way his fingers worked at the grip of his mighty sword, the new messenger gulped, skipped the formal greetings and ploughed straight into his message.
“Sire, several of the escaping…I mean, the liberated slaves took revenge upon their former masters. Fighting has broken out in some areas of the city between former slaves and masters, as well as treasure looters and food hoarders. Some of the former slaves that were leaving by the South Gate were eaten by Winter Dragyns, but then the starving peasants from the outer kingdom attacked the Dragyns, killing one and wounding two. The others retreated and the peasants are roasting the beast outside the walls. A goodly number of the food hoarders are said to be heading that way now. Also, a second wing of Winter Dragyns has been seen approaching from the West.”
All three messengers cowered in fear of Lomaeus’ response. He struck a kingly pose upon the throne, apparently deep in thought, then held out a gracious hand.
“Friends, give me leave to think on this. I shall send for you directly with orders that will set all arights. This day has seen a mighty victory, it shall not also see the dissolution of this mighty city. Be brave, my friends, and give me your patience.”
They exited with many bows and profuse thanks and blessings. Lomaeus smiled wisely and kindly until his cheeks hurt. Once the hall was empty again, he stood and walked behind the throne. Just before he had been run through, the Tyrant had been scrabbling back….here! There was a concealed lever behind the throne, opening a secret door. Whistling a merry tune, Lomaeus entered the dark tunnel. He didn’t know what was beyond the doorway, but the Tyrant had thought it a better option than facing a well-armed opponent, and Lomaeus was willing to bet he’d find a neat escape route, maybe some treasure and, possibly, some decent food.
The closing of the secret door made no sound in the suddenly empty throne room.