Ye Olde Scheduling Conflicte
King Andral groaned a standard, highly regal groan. He was seated, as he always found himself at half past noon, upon his throne. The Royal Advisor, who had stepped away to fetch the Royal Schedule, was taking a little longer than expected.
The king reflected on how he should have just kept his grand vizier around. Yes, the man was highly unstable. Perhaps even a touch homicidal, the king recalled, as the number of Royal Food Tasters who had dropped dead of “a troublesome case of not being reverent enough of the king’s meals” had sky-rocketed. However, he always got the Royal Schedule in a timely fashion.
Normally, the schedule was fairly standard. The start of each week alternated between threats of invasion and conquest by neighboring kingdoms and threats of domination and destruction by warlocks, demi-gods, and so on. By mid-week, some force of evil would have successfully kidnapped the princess (or, on some weeks, the prince, who often behaved as the prototypical princess would be expected to, whereas the princess would often be the one stuck doing her own rescuing). By the weekend, things were usually wrapped up neatly, peace restored in the form of treaties signed, villains vanquished, and feasts prepared in celebration.
“My liege,” the Royal advisor said, his words hindered by a rather unfortunate stammer. “You were right about the schedule. Something seems a touch, a bit, a smidge wrong.” King Andral stood from his throne.
“I suspected as much,” he said quietly as he walked to one of the small windows that overlooked the castle’s northern-facing bridge. The cacophony outside was being generated by a decent-sized band of Kuldarian Hell-Bandits, who were known for their unparalleled brutality in combat, flair for the dramatic, and obsession with what they referred to as “war jewelry”. The multitude of piercings on each warrior’s head caught the sunlight just right that the bridge, from above, appeared to have been coated in quicksilver.
“My goodness,” King Andral said. “What a rowdy bunch this is. Dreadfully shiny, too.” He walked toward the chamber doors, his gait slow and deliberate. He stopped, only briefly, placing a work-worn hand on the massive oak door.
“My liege,” the Advisor said. “Surely you aren’t thinking of going out there, are you?”
“Not due until next week, yes?” King Andral said, glancing over his shoulder. Tufts of his beard and mustache obscured the King’s facial features, making him difficult to read.
“You know the Schedule better than anyone else, my lord.” The king huffed another heavy, highly royal sigh, and pushed the door open. Once the door had closed behind the King, the Royal Advisor, sprinted to the nearest north-facing window to watch.
The front gate opened after several long minutes, and out stepped King Andral. His face was a deep crimson, and his breath was almost loud enough to be heard over the Hell-Bandits’ war-screams.
“Yargh,” said one of the more heavily-pierced, decorated Kuldarians. “The king shows himself! Let’s gut him and make him into a stew!” Another Kuldarian, more decorated still, stepped out in front, smacking the previous speaker hard upside his head.
“Yergh,” he said. “No. That’s revolting. My gods, who even let this man join our ranks?” He looked back to his comrades in arms, an eyebrow raised. King Andral waited, so as to not offend.
After as much waiting as a member of any royal family could endure, King Andral cleared his throat.
“Yergh,” said the Kuldarian, who then turned back to face the King. “I am Grom-takk, and these are my mightiest men. We’ve come to claim the princess so as to repopulate the once-prosperous valley-nation of Kuldarras.” King Andral pinched his nose, adjusting his glasses afterward.
“While that does sound like a noble cause,” he said, “I’m afraid you won’t be doing that.” The crowd roared with a mix of enthusiastic disagreement and a number of curse-words the King had never been overly fond of hearing, but had grown accustomed to over the course of his time on the throne.
“Yargh,” said the one Kuldarian, stepping forward with a jagged saber raised above his head. “Big words for such a puny man.” King Andral rolled his eyes.
“Not even the most boot-kissing of my knights would call me puny,” King Andral said, making a great sweeping gesture to indicate his Royal rotundity. “And you’ll keep such thoughts of my daughter to yourselves. You lot aren’t even supposed to be here until next week, anyway.” The king gathered his composure, straightened up, and cleared his throat. Grom-Takk scratched his heavily-bejeweled head. After a heavy silence, Gromm-Takk snapped his fingers. The crowd of warriors parted, and a small, bespectacled man made his way through. He had minimal tattoos on his bald head, and a small satchel belted around his waist.
“I’m afraid, my most fierce lord,” the man said, producing a parchment from its carrying case. “Says here we’re not due for another half a fortnight, as the Dread Wyrm Tsonira will have kidnapped her fair majesty.” Much murmuring of discontent could be heard in the ranks of the Hell-Bandits. The king sighed, checking his wrist-bound sundial.
“Off you go, then,” King Andral said, waving his arms to shoo the heavily-armed warriors away. “If tonight goes anything like I suspect it will, my daughter will be returning shortly. Blood-stained and battle-worn, no doubt. Have you any idea how difficult it is to get dragon’s blood-burns out of stone? Now, off with you. I’ll see you lot next week.”