The Tale of Alderch of Treath
A cacophony of clatters and thuds resonated off of the castle walls and made its way to Alderch’s ears as he sat silently at the top of the main staircase. His father Henrig, the supreme commander of the Treath Empire, raged downstairs in the throne room with the sole audience of his wife and co-ruler Ulla. As usual his discontent manifested in the breaking of priceless glass and ceramic wares. A letter just arrived from abroad and anger flooded Henrig’s veins; an alliance with the Magra Empire through marriage was off the table.
“How dare she deny this?” His voice thundered throughout the castle. “When I’ve been so generous as to negotiate and hold off a siege until now? Try diplomacy,” he said with a huff. “Never again!” He picked up a half empty wine glass and threw it against the rough stone wall, adding to the mess the servants would be cleaning up after their rulers drank themselves to sleep.
“I sensed she was disingenuous,” Alderch’s mother Ulla inserted calmly from her high throne, as she took a delicate sip out of her own wine glass. “You told me of her proposal at the last summit and I never believed one word.” Ulla shook her head with a faint smirk and looked down the room at her husband.
The sounds of destruction ceased after Ulla began speaking, though Henrig ignored her and continued walking up and down the center of the room. A few moments passed in strained silence, then he went back and sat down next to Ulla on his throne. He continued his rant, “one chance and she turns her back on Treath!” He pounded his fists on the mahogany armrests.
“Is it such a problem, my love?” Ulla said sweetly, placing her gloved hand on his tensed arm, trying to ease him out of his negativity. “Now we get to go to war, with Magra no less. It is our chance to claim the land and it is what you do best.”
“But what of Alderch? What advantageous match can we make for him now?”
Alderch stiffened at the top of the stairs. It wasn’t that his destiny being out of his hands was a new concept; it was just the anxiety of wanting to know. He was ready. Ready to get married and start a family. Ready to start anew and move out of the capital to raise his children with fresh ideals, morals and priorities. Ready for a piece of quiet while awaiting his parents’ eventual death. While awaiting the time he could wash clean the blackened, brutish Treathian Empire and bring forth an age of light.
“It shall come, my dear,” Ulla said tranquilly, still attempting to lighten the burden in her hot-tempered husband’s mind. “I have faith in it. We will find a bold woman of Treathian blood and muscle to bolster this house.”
“By his age I had won the heart of dozens,” Henrig boasted, straightening up in his chair. “Nearly twenty three and the only thing he’s had his nose in is a book!” He grabbed an unbroken glass from the table at his side and took a swig of wine.
Alderch flinched at the words and fought back the urge to barge in and speak his mind. Alas, that would only prove painful and bloody on his part. At the thought he reflexively touched his fingertips to an old scar on his temple. Henrig always claimed to not enjoy beating his son, but that didn’t stop him from doing so.
“Yes, you have won the hearts of many with your agility and prowess on the battlefield, but we cannot hope for such a life for Alderch.” Ulla sighed, “You have tested him on the field in all manners of might, but he is a quiet boy. A studious boy…”
“Soft and weak!” Henrig interrupted and again slammed his fists. Rising from his chair, he began to pace the room once more. “The meekest in our blood line for ten generations, unheard of!” He downed the last of his wine, and added, “I shudder to think what will become of Treath after our death. How will the empire hold without a strong leader behind these walls?”
Alderch was used to his father’s hatred of him, but that didn’t make it easier hearing the words and not hearing his mother stand up for him. So he got up slowly from his perch on the staircase and turned to make his way down the corridor to his chambers. He didn’t hear his mother’s next comment on the matter.
“He has the heart of a warrior, my love,” Ulla said, gazing off airily into an unseen distance, no doubt ‘seeing’ the future as she often did. “I feel it.”