A fateful union – part 4

Hugo’s hands started shaking. “Who attacked us?”
“The kingdom of Pravus” replied the messenger. With hesitation, he added: “And their king Nequior has ordered you to come speak to him”
“Prepare my horse” said Hugo.
Shortly after, Hugo was on his way to the kingdom of Pravus. In the distance, he could make out smoke rising from some of his villages. He kicked his horse in the sides. Every minute mattered.

The sun was still high, when Hugo arrived at the palace of Nequior. It was wholly made of stone with no regard for adornment. Hugo felt cold just by looking at it. Before he could take another look, he was pushed inside. Hugo’s eyes took a moment to adjust to the darkness before he could see a tall, thin man in full armor and a red robe sitting on the throne. The man smiled viciously. “You know why you’ve been summoned, don’t you?” he said. His voice echoed through the empty hall. If Hugo wasn’t cold before, he was now.
Before Hugo had the chance to reply, the man continued: „That was a rhetoric question. I told you before. We don’t have to fight. Just share some of your resources with us, and peace will prevail. So imagine my surprise when the month is over and I see no merchants from Hugo at my doorstep, eager to give me what is mine. Do you not want peace? Listen closely Hugo. Begin with the payments, or I will start sending catapults instead of those kind raiders that you met today. Now get out.”
Hugo was dragged out of the hall just as ceremonially as he was pushed in. He was practically placed onto his horse. And off he rode. Hugo had to hold back tears. That was it. Nequior had asked for so much that his kingdom would never be able to set up a proper defense. And while the other kingdoms would prosper, he would sift through dirt. This is how Ferdinand must have felt. Just that for Hugo, it wasn’t a possibility; it was now reality.
He rode past his villages again. The smoke was gone. At least his people were still eager to rebuild. He wasn’t sure he could say the same about himself. By the time Hugo got within sight of his home, it was already getting dark. There was a foreign army stationed at the gate. That was it. Nequior must have decided to lay siege to his kingdom. A knife in the front, a knife in the back. He rode into his village, probably for the last time as king.
Yet when he got closer, he could hear the troops singing. Some of those voices came from his own people. What was going on? He rode to the front of the gathering, which was in the very center of his village. There was a large fire and a majestic banquet. And there was Ferdinand.
“Hugo!” he shouted. “You’re getting slow! My people started the celebrations already, my apologies. I read your letter, and I have heard of what happened to your kingdom. Consider this army as my first act of agreement.”
He held out his hand. Hugo shook it, tears flowing from his face. Ferdinand leaned closer and looked at Hugo. “Together, my friend, we will achieve true greatness.”
The End

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