The High King, Hail thought, strolling in a meager district buying peasant treats.
What do they call it? Snowpuffs. Cheap imitations of the authentic ones sold in Flesperian market.
Hail was against the idea of Regh joining the company. But as High King, he persisted to visit in secrecy. Because he had never been in Rastite, he said. They were lucky enough to find a favorable spot to camp outside the city of rust.
He caught news about Regh making a visit to the city while he was attending the conclave as the envoy. The guards responsible to keep an eye on him informed him upon his arrival.
Regh’s barracks was the same in size and appearance as the others so as not to draw attention from passersby who planned to wrong them. Having a large encampment for temporary use was impractical especially on hostile lands.
Hail stormed into Regh’s quarters, there was no time for formalities.
Sitting on a makeshift couch made of winterwolf pelt, with legs crossed on top of the table made of ice, was Regh. He twirled a snowpuff. Wrapped in his mahiqa were his fingers, like crystal claws.
“Do you have any idea of the danger you just invited for yourself?” Hail began. “You expose yourself out there, declaring your presence here. In their land. May I remind you that your army is not exactly within reach should they decide to attack.”
Hail was lucky to survive the ordeal without having his head chopped off and delivered back.
Regh didn’t look like he was paying him any attention. His focus was on the treat. Absentminded.
What in Dryar’s bloody pit had his attention now? Hail wondered in the midst of his vexation.
“I came across some people today,” Regh was calm. “A couple.”
Hail rubbed his forehead. “Idianale help me. This is hardly the time for—”
“She acted like you in this regard,” Regh interrupted, “but I doubt that’s all of her, or she’s just keeping up appearances.”
“I don’t really see where this is going.” Hail had other important matters to discuss. Specifically, what transpired in the conclave.
“In Obsidia, there was a family of redheads. If I remember correctly, they were maharlikas too. Flop? Filox? Phlox? I guess I’ll have to confirm that with Kerxis,” Regh punched small holes in the snowpuff. “Were he still with us.”
Hail said nothing.
“Do you remember what I sent my wolves to do thirteen years ago?” Regh went on, referring to the wilderbeasts that found an affinity with him.
“I remember. They managed to get the job done.”
“But we were never really sure about that.” Regh rotated the treat, reshaping its spherical form.
Hail tried to read what those words implicated. But failed. “What are you saying?”
Regh stopped twirling the glutinous ball. He met the chancellor in the eye. What do you think?
Hail had no idea what Regh was referring to, missing a point that was different from his. All he could give in response was a long pause that stretched ’til kingdom come.
Regh leaned his head back so that he stared at the ceiling. “Someone else was with her. He struck me as, I guess I could say, distinctive. Like how he was when we were younger. It’s funny how you can see the past in the face of a random stranger.”
Hail finally understood. No wonder Regh was not paying attention to the more important matter. Somewhere in the ice that encased his heart was the beat of anxiety drumming its way out.
In the High King’s eyes was recognition of a past long scorned and hardly forgotten.
“Val is gone, Regh,” Hail reassured. To confirm further, he added, “Dead.”
Regh knew Hail was right. Because as long as there was no known person who had the abyssal black eyes then everything was as it should be.
Regh shifted in his seat so that Hail had his full attention. Back to more pressing matters. “Now, tell me what the Archii have decided.”
Relieved to get back to business, Hail cut to the chase. “They refused.”
“Of course they did.” Nonchalant, Regh wasn’t fazed by Rastite’s decision.
“Forcing their women and children for an indefinite time of servitude was not the first thing they expected from the High King years after the war. Especially not on an unannounced visit like this. Of course, I did not mention why you were searching for this one woman, and they did not raise the question as well.” Hail continued. “They owe you nothing. If anything, you owe them. ‘As people who were once a part of the mainland,’ they said.”
“Oh, but the sins of the father—grandfather—cannot be inherited by the son. In my case, grandson. So, I owe them nothing. I’m just trying to take back what belongs to the throne.”
“And you will have it. Though I did not get the chance to explain what could happen should they refuse. They were all raging before I could get to that part.” There was a glimmer of amusement behind Hail’s eyes after mentioning this.
In the rush and outburst to get him out of their halls, it left some of the Archii questioning what the High King had in mind. What was there behind the proposal?
With ice-clawed fingers, Regh pierced through the mushy texture of the snowpuff. Red liquid oozed from the holes, tainting the white of it like blood against the snow. It crawled down his fingers.
“Send word back to the capital,” Regh said. “Oh, and you didn’t have to worry about me in the city. It appears none of them have any idea what I look like.”
Appearances that transformed through time were life’s metamorphic change. No one could ever remember every detail of every day for the past two decades that passed since their exile.
Were Regh accused of being High King in this foreign land, he’d simply deny it. Until he made sure he had the upper hand.
"Just don’t they dare tell me that I didn’t ask nicely the first time.” Regh stood up. It was time to take matters into his own hands. “Now, shall we refresh their memory?”
With the declaration, people will remember the details of years ago. Of fire and suffering. Of ice and torment. Yet once again.