The Kingdom's Capital, Volantis, was a wonderful place. No matter how you looked at it, this city was brilliant. The people living in the capital were well-educated, the streets were clean, the order was guaranteed by the royal guard, and many nobles who held no interest in managing lands or waging wars often took long vacations in there, enjoying their days in markets and special establishments of entertainment.
However, Volantis had a dark feature as well.
It was the refuge of many fallen nobles, and home to many bastards. The Child King, Reynold of the Grand Porfield House, was only 16, yet he was already on the throne, giving out absurd orders. A few months ago, he ordered a massacre, potential enemies of the crown. A few days ago, he burned a few maids for spilling milk on his royal robe.
Everyone could imagine the kind of king he would grow up to be in the future: a mad king who would satisfy his every desire at any given moments. However, the Child King was far from being childish. He was very intelligent, to the point that his genius far surpassed the comprehension of his tutors. He was well-versed in History, Mathematics, Geography and Philosophy. His heroes were tyrants who lived a long fulfilling life.
It's not like he did stupid actions on purpose. His character was just wicked and he loved to see others in pain. He had no empathy for his people, something that could probably be linked with his childhood. His brothers and sisters only wished for him to die. So he killed them first.
As for the rumours about him killing some commoners to pass time, it was not the accurate truth. He had an instinct for traitors and suspects. He believed that the two maids were spying on him, so he acted first, to give a warning to his enemies.
On the surface, he acted as mad, spoiled king. But in reality, he was taking many measures, acting through an intermediary, the prime minister, Lord Baltan, a Grand Knight who swore loyalty to him, a man who saved him several times from death during assassination attempts.
With economic reforms lowering taxes, the merchants were more affluent in the capital, and the palace was enriching itself. And the King spent it to strengthen walls, create an army of loyal soldiers in secret. Behind the curtains, he also made many deals with the Magical Court, purchasing the service of several acolytes who wished for the kingdom to flourish, or acolytes driven by greed.
"My Grace, I have received an interesting piece of news. Do you remember the Moonlight Household?"
"Mm? Of course, I already told you that I have remembered every piece of History in the past five centuries since the creation of this kingdom. The Moonlight Household walked alongside my ancestor, and swore to contain the Barbarian Mountain Range and its savages. In the past three centuries, they only requested help twice from the Magical Court, though the birth of a new Barbarian King might lead them to request help a third time. So, have they asked anything yet, for you to mention them?"
"No, my lord. The Viscount Allan Moonlight has departed to the mountain range, to supress the barbarians. It is unlikely for him to fail. I know him from the Great War, he is a sturdy fellow. We never spoke, but he is a man of Honour, loyal to the crown. He is affiliated with the Count Faraday, one of the few powers in the kingdom that isn't hostile to the crown."
"Well, they are prospering in their rural territories, and they have their hands full. These people rose to their position through hard work, and they never stopped being soldiers. I heard the Count Faraday has annihilated an Orc tribe not too long ago."
"You must be wondering why I act like a madman, right?"
"We do not have the full protection of the Magical Court, and the previous three kings didn't do anything worthy of mentioning besides, except my father who won the Great war and died in the process. We have proof of a horde of Desert Riders in the South forming around a Thraal, some sort of chosen king. Their numbers now exceed a hundred thousand, and they showed hostility when I sent them gifts. They are probably looking forward to raid our lands. In the North, savages are preparing themselves for war. Although they are honourable men, my grandfather killed their king and they do not forget their grudges. I cannot mend this relationship with words. I have to crush them in battle, but if I reveal everything, doing so will be tough. In the West, the Malak Kingdom is fighting desperately against a horde of magical beasts. If they lose, our kingdom will greatly suffer. So I have to kill the useless nobles in my kingdom to come out from these hardships as a winner. If I fail, I die. Thousands will die along with me. And I don't want that to happen."
"I never questioned your acts, my Grace. I am just a humble servant."
"I know, I know."
"Anyway, the Moonlight Household have grown a lot in this past decade. Their army has reached the 1000-men threshold, and their economy is prosperous. Insiders have confirmed the rumours of their youngest heir, Drake Moonlight, breaking through and becoming an official knight after defeating Jonas Heart, a famous gold-rank adventurer and leader of the silver wolf, who had organized a rebellion."
"How old is he?"
"This is impressive. Even royal knights only break through after years spent in the battlefield. He must be talented."
"He has lunar elven blood flowing in his veins, and his father was very talented as well. Strong lions give birth to strong cubs."
"Send him a gift. They have been loyal to the crown, it is time that I reward them. For the cub, give a minor membership to the Magical Court, as well as an elixir of strength. If he continues growing, the kingdom might welcome a Grand Knight in the future. For the Viscount, deliver him 200 high-quality crossbows for his army. The barbarians are strong, but against a crossbow formation, they won't be able to do much. For the Count Faraday, gift him a ship full of beautiful women. I heard he was quite the lady-killer. He will feel young again…"
The King was anything but…mad. He was akin to a fox, a puppeteer who would eat your soul if you showed an ounce of disloyalty.
"Oh, it is time to uproot the Silverith Duke, who has been planning a revolution. Ask support form the magical court and conquer his lands. Afterwards, these lands will become under the jurisdiction of Lord Yol, lord hebert and lord Helmholtz. These three lords are acolytes from the Magical Court, and they served me truly well.", the king said while looking at the ring on his finger.
If one were to look closer, they would find out that it was a freshly crafted magical artefact, one that could be used to summon a magnetic field protecting the caster from any incoming damage.
Only acolytes could use such artefacts.
And the king could use this artefact, better than anyone would think.