Laws of Gods and Men

Michel Salvatore is a boy saved by a benevolent Queen. A rags-to-riches narrative at first glance, Michel soon realises he had entered a court of gods at Her Majesty's behest, a feat of great honour to a mere mortal.

He did not care for glory or all the others.

For his hatred burns for them.

*An entry for the "Strange the Dreamer: A Writing Competition" with the theme of GODS AND MORTALS.*

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3. Conquest

It is a few months forward now, and already I ride at Her Majesty's side towards the Eastlands. All of the Eastlands have abdicated to her reign on peaceful terms. All but one.

The capital, known only as the Rift, has refused every diplomatic attempts including mine as well. The king would not be swayed by the charm of even Amare’s finest consorts. Like Aerith in the Northlands, they are dead set on conquering Amare instead.

We now march to war.

I’m not sure of leaving Amare, but Her Majesty insisted. Grand Maester Peadar had been appointed to keep watch of Amare, should anything happen. Should an army ambush the kingdom while we’re gone.

‘Worry not, child,’ Peadar said. His figure marked by time, Her Majesty is sure he is the most suitable to replace her for the time being. He wraps me in a gentle embrace. ‘This, is a great honour to serve your Queen. Go, and be proud.’

‘I’m not sure-’

‘Your weakness, my boy, is that you worry too much. Amare will remain as grand as it is,’ he stressed. ‘After all, you already set our countermeasures.’

I smile at the sentence. It was my suggestion to keep several divisions of our army in Amare at his disposal.

‘It was wise of you,’ he added. ‘Now go, boy.’ He embraces me one more time and moved on to Her Majesty. ‘Bring them hell, Your Majesty,’ he roared. She laughs and embraces him, then she kneels down to kiss his hand. He jerks away in mock horror. ‘Your Majesty! Never in my lifetime should you kneel down to me.’ 

She laughs. ‘Nonsense. I will, Peadar. Trust in me,’ she answered as she rides her steed. ‘I always do, my Queen,’ he exclaims and he bows.

They embrace once again, and my chest tightens. Only a few moments later do I realise, I envy her. Peadar and she are what my father and I were supposed to be, had he been a different man, a better man.

We leave him at the gates, and I watch as he turns his back and returns to the palace.

‘Fear not, Michel. I have deep faith in him,’ Her Majesty says.

We go forth to the land of the sun.

 

***

 

She rides in full regalia, her silver armour reflecting the light of the sun. Unlike the Westlands, the Eastlands is abundant of it. The heat scorches my skin, but I let it be, for this is crucial in our plan.

The army of the Rift believes their large numbers will grant them this victory in one swift move. Instead, that will be their fall.

‘Prepare the men,’ Her Majesty commands.

Already, the front lines appear in the horizon. They’re going all out for this one battle. I smirk. I was right about the king. Stubborn as he is, he will give it his all for one chance of conquering Amare.

‘Charge!’

What followed next was carnage.

 

***

 

It is not long until midday, and our armies stand at a standoff. Her Majesty looks nervous. I notice her shaking palms, one at the hilt of her sword. I can tell, she is itching to battle it out herself.

‘Don’t,’ I say to her. ‘Wait.’

‘Are you sure this will work?’ She asks.

‘Trust me, Your Majesty.’ I look again at the horizon. The sands of the desert is caked with blood, and corpses litter the landscape. I take an additional caution for the ones in gold armour, the Rift’s army. I wait for the faintest signs.

The sunlight burns further, and already my throat begs to be relieved.

No, not yet.

I see a ripple in the golden army. I see some stagger, then more. The next, most of them already show the signs I need.

Fatigue.

I nod to her, and she shouts once again. ‘Second and third battalion, charge!’ A new wave of soldiers ride into the battle, and this time, Her Majesty joins them. ‘Wait here,’ she implored before she rode on.

She charged at her enemies, and struck down those who opposed her. It is not long before both her blade and her silver hair are dyed by the crimson that is blood.

I notice her gleaming eyes.

She enjoyed it.

 

***

 

It is near the end of day, and we have the king and his royal court kneeling before us. Their survivors as well. Most have surrendered to our army, but not these people. Her Majesty looks down from her steed.

‘Your Majesty, what do we do with them?’ I ask. She peers through them, one by one, before finally giving a command.

‘Off with them.’

I still said nothing, did nothing, as the Queens Guards butchered them.

‘Let’s go, Michel. We have won,’ she said, turning her back to the screams of what is left of the Rift.

‘Your Majesty-!’ I shout.

‘What?’ She asks. ‘Speak, Michel.’

‘Why did you….’ I don’t finish my words, but she understood.

‘They are no use for us anymore, Michel, and I cannot risk a rebellion in our ranks.’

‘But Your Majesty…’ I pleaded.

‘What? You bore me now, so make your point.’

‘There’s decency, Your Majesty. Mercy,’ I implored. She scoffs.

‘There is no use of mercy for those who just won’t listen. We’ve given them enough mercy when we sent our messengers, or have you forgotten how that turned out?’

I lower my head. I haven’t.

Our messengers, butchered. Some dead, some alive to tell the tale. All missing a limb or two. For some, even more. The dead, sent in boxes.

But that had not made me forget, how her eyes lit with pleasure as the screams went on.

‘Roses, see to it that you take care of this,’ she commanded the five Roses of Amare’s royal court. Three men, two women. One of them appeared to have been nearby an explosion, for smokes envelop her tiny body. A child amongst them?

They marched to the survivors, and we continued to ride our way back to the camps.

‘Your Majesty!’ A squire exclaims from afar. He rides his steed to our camps and quickly dismounts him. He runs to us.

‘Yes?’ Her gentle face returns, no sign of the cruelty earlier visible on her face. He panted in exhaustion, and still he tried to speak. She holds him firmly. ‘Breathe, child. Breathe.’

He regains his composure, and hands out a letter.

‘Grand Maester sent this for you, my Queen.’

She reads it, her face growing colder the further she reads down. ‘What is it?’ I ask. She closes the letter. She returns it to the squire, and sends him back to Amare. ‘Thank you,’ she said to him. ‘Now return and fear not, all is well.’

‘What is it?’ I ask again.

‘We go to the North,’ she replied.

Lord Lyon has made his move. Now it’s our turn.

 

***

 

We passed through the village, through snow-ridden fields littered with frozen corpses of dead soldiers after we conquered Aerith. Her Majesty had not bothered to even look for survivors this time. The sky is dark, as if the death itself had come. The nation is one of ice, and she is ice personified.

Lord Lyon had been killed, but she had brought one more prisoner to torture. His screams are so terrifying it was nothing like I’d ever heard before. This is worse than the Rift.

‘Michel,’ she called out to me. I turn to her. My eyes widen as I slowly recognise the man chained by the Queens Guards. My breathing comes ragged, and I stagger.

‘What is to become of this one?’

The swine he is, I never considered him a genuine threat. Let alone a pawn of the Northlands.

Your father, isn’t he?’

He has gotten considerably thinner, his features rougher than I remember. He looks around, to his left and right, desperate for escape. I step forward, looking at his pathetic figure. His eyes narrow in sight of me, then it widens as it dawns on him who I really am.

‘Michel, is that you?’ he whispered.

I say nothing. My hatred burns again, wild as inferno.  I clench my fists, and my chest comes taut. So many things I wanted to say now that I’m above him. So many things I want to do. Tears stain his cheeks.

‘Please, my son. Save me,’ he pleads. His voice quivers, much to my disgust. Perhaps also a little to my delight.

Further inflamed, I am nothing but a mere inferno of hatred for this man alone.

'Decency,' I had said to Her Majesty. 'Mercy.' I suppose I'm a hypocrite, for I have no such things in reserve for my despicable, wretched excuse of a father.

Why in the world should I save him? He had squandered all we have to fill up that belly of his, the one who had beat me, cut me, starved me, humiliated me. I thought of all the wine that he drank, all the wine that he had gotten from my work.

Mine.

My heart filled with the darkness Her Majesty had.

Choke on your own blood. Swallow it. Drown in it, just as you did your wine,’ I hiss. As he grimaced at the prospect of his own demise, my lips twitch in a cold and bitter smile.

Her Majesty’s eyes widened, her face paled even further than it already is. She suddenly looked aghast of my words. Her face twitches in various emotions. Disgust, regret, self-loathing, then it settled on a cold, stern gaze.

Father’s eyes widened, then it narrowed, his face contorted with anger.

‘You bastard, disgraceful, ungrateful son of a whore-!’

‘You bore me, Father,’ I say nonchalantly. My voice comes bitter. ‘Had you been a better father, things wouldn’t have come to this, but I guess it’s for the best, no?’

He grits his teeth.

‘On another hand, how is dearest elder sister?’ I sneer.

He grunts. ‘Ran off. Met some high lord and ran off, that sneaky whore. She’s dead to me, that-’

‘Speak no more, Father.’

I strike his face. He whimpers in response.

Pathetic.

‘So she’s no longer with you? I suppose not even the most obedient of us could stand you, the pathetic man you are.’ I sneer yet again.

I stare at my palms, red from the sheer force I had exerted. I look at my father's cheek, my hand's shape imprinted in red blush. Blood cakes the lower half of his face. I play back the whimper he'd made when I struck him in my mind. A string snaps within me, and I strike him.

Again.

And again.

And again.

Again I look at his blood on my hands. The whimpers he made from every touch of my hand....

This feeling... it's intoxicating to say the least. My heart flows rivers of joy, it beats in pure ecstasy.

‘Believe me, I wanted us to have more time, Father. Merely a time of father and son bonding. I wanted to make use of that time….’ I turned to Her Majesty. She nodded, allowing me to enjoy this one moment.

‘...Until your very soul is dead.’

The look on his face, I couldn’t even describe it. Oh, how I enjoy this moment so. I want to stay here, to make this moment last forever, but alas…. We are short on time.

‘Any last words?’ I ask him. I kneel before him, adjusting my position so I could look at him in the eye, one last time. He lunges for me, but the chains restrain him.

‘Don’t be so full of yourself, wretched brat. You’re nothing more than a whore I sold. You are nothing,’ he spat. I step back, flinching from his words, but I quickly compose myself. ‘He is yours, Your Majesty,’ I say.

She exhales, I say relieved it’s over. It must’ve been hard on her. I’ve told her how bad things were with Father, but I never imagined she’d witness the whole thing unravel before her very eyes.

‘Bring me his head.’ Her voice came sudden, cold, cruel. I rise up, and I look down on him, just so he could see how the tables have turned.

‘I'm sure you'll find a home in hell, Father.’

I take one last glance of his face. The horror, the utter despair of his situation settles on his face. I delight at the sight, and I turn my back. A shame I couldn’t get more of that, but as I said, we are short on time.

'Please, my boy,' he begs. 'Have mercy.'

I have none for him.

He pleads again before he is cut off by the familiar sound of steel ripping flesh apart.

The sword goes through his lungs. I only watch as he writhes, slowly dying on the ground. The blood colours the snow red. Then came the sword, and his body goes limp.

We leave the corpse and ride on to the palace.

I notice a new squire riding beside me, and I remember him from the Rift. He was there during the carnage that was the executions.

‘Were you not frightened?’ I ask him. He looks at me. ‘Oh, what for, my lord?’ he asks. I shrug to the body, and he looks back. ‘Oh,’ he muttered. ‘Not at all, my lord. He had it coming, for he fights against Her Majesty. She is compassionate and loving for those who follow her.’

‘Hm,’ I murmur. ‘And what of your people?’ The Rift. I’m sure he remembers the executions, the screams.

‘She was so merciful, my lord. She cared for us, and thus we pledge loyalty to her.’

I scoff. She may be gentle, but she had her cruel moments. His home was such moments.

‘You don’t find the carnage back then dreadful?’

‘What carnage, my lord?’

My eyes widen at the question. He continues on. ‘I do not remember any carnage. As I recall, our people pledged on good terms.’

What on earth did the Roses do to his people?

I look back to my father’s corpse. At first, I felt satisfied. Ecstatic, even. But…. the act of condemning one to death… My vision starts to blur, my mind swaying, and the earth grasping, pulling at my body. I gasp as I find it harder to breathe, poison clogging up my lungs. I look back one more time, and already the finality of this new reality begins to settle in.

He's no more in this world. I made sure never again he'd harm me in here, never again in my lifetime. 

He deserved it.

I killed him.

He's dead.

It’s simply too much. As horrific as I am, I realise that I had never killed before. I dismount my steed and retch to the ground in disgust.

I puked in disgust of myself.

'My lord!' The squire screamed. He dismounts his steed and yells for the others to stop and come to my aid as well.

Horrible and pathetic as my father was, we don’t get to decide who deserves to die.

 

***

 

It is now months and many more sieges after. The Eastlands, Northlands, and the Midlands, conquered. I barely had any time to settle down when Her Majesty approaches me accompanied by the five Roses of Amare. I remember them from our conquest of the Eastlands and the Northlands. Peadar steps forward. He thrusts a gilded staff to my hand.

'Michel,' Her Majesty speaks. 'I name you my royal adviser. Welcome to the royal court of Amare.'

A Rose. Me.

I remember my father’s last words.

‘You’re nothing more than a mere whore I sold. You are nothing.’

A nothing then, a Rose now. I’ve earned it, I tell myself. Oh, how I wished he was here now, to see how wrong he was. What I wouldn’t give, to see that look of utter and absolute horror, the despair in his face one more time? To let it sink in, how I’ve risen, and how far he’d fallen.

I fall and laugh in hysteric glee.

Grand Maester Peadar pushes me back up. 'Be grateful, boy. You've been hailed amongst the gods. Take whatever joy you can with it.' His harsh voice does not distract me, but one word does.

Gods?

My smile falters. Did I hear him wrong?

Mother's voice came back to mind. The Forgotten Gods. Six statues: three men, three women.

Valencia. The goddess of conquest.

Lethe. The goddess of memories.

Yeva. The goddess of wealth.

Aimeric. The god of love.

Irri. The god of the hearth.

Hest. The god of comfort.

My mind flashes back to Mother's grave, the wagon crashing to my stand, my father beating me, my skin torn apart, and.....

I burn. My insides burn. My heart burns. My breathing comes ragged, my teeth bared. If I am a god, then I will be the god of rage.

I look at Her Majesty, and I do not see the mother I had met all the months back then. I see a cruel and self-indulgent god with a crown on her head. I remember the cruel queen in the Kingdom of the Rift, the ruthless queen in the Northlands. She had flinched that night when I told her how I hated the gods so. Now I know why.

She is one.

They walk this earth, ruling what we had. All while some of us suffer in their neglect.

Neglect.

Now they dare walk the earth, ruling us once more? Taking away my mother, my hands, those weren’t enough?

I remember the golden glow of the healer boy's hands. I hadn't imagined that. I also remember how greatly Her Majesty enjoyed the bloodshed that was the Rift and Aerith, and it immediately dawns on me which god Her Majesty is. 

I lunge for him. The healer boy.

No, Hest.

I lunge at Hest. Her Majesty- Valencia leaps to his aid, but I shove her away.

'You bastard gods,' I snarl. 'I'll kill you. All of you,' I scream, my voice hoarse, guttural, inhuman.

Kill me.

End me.

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