In the Land of Ever After

In the Land of Ever After

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Chapter 30 - Announcements

Cogsworth is nervous. Adam isn’t.


Adam rode down to the village with Cogsworth the next day, having already sent a messenger to say he wanted all of his people assembled so he could speak to them. This time he was wearing his father’s crown and a suit of crimson silk trimmed in gold braid, and he looked very kingly indeed. Cogsworth had dusted off his formal clothing as well, and he was nervous even though Adam wasn’t. “We could have just had it announced, released a statement…”

“No, they need to hear these things from their king,” Adam insisted. They weren’t even down the mountain yet and he could already hear his people where they were assembled in the market square. “And I’ve other matters which need to be handled in public as well, so best to get it all out of the way at once.” He winked at his steward. “Don’t worry, if they riot I’ll protect you.”

Cogsworth snorted. “You’re more of a threat to yourself with a sword than to anyone else, Your Majesty.”

Adam smiled. “Not anymore – Prince Charming of Asher was quite at loose ends in the two weeks leading up to his wedding, and he saw fit to expunge some of his nervous energy by teaching me the finer points of sword-work. He’s an accomplished swordsman in his own right, so I learned quite a lot from him. Enough to defend myself or someone else, anyway – I’ll not be accepting any offers of duels, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I worry about many things, Your Majesty.” He was still frowning. “We’ve not had titled gentry in Valeureux in generations…”

“Which tells me that either nobody had earned one in a while or my ancestors were falling down on their jobs,” Adam cut him off. They’d been over this already. “I’ll know once I’ve read through the history books this winter, but the reason behind it makes little difference either way.” He raised an eyebrow. “I realize the lingering effects of the curse cause people to resist change, and I’m hoping that’s what this is, Sir Andrew, and not a reflection of your opinion of John’s fitness for his position.”

“Of course it isn’t!” Cogsworth snapped, and then sighed explosively when that made his king smile. “You’re terrible, just terrible. You know I respect the man, his fitness isn’t at issue with anyone in the castle, believe me. But the people…Your Majesty, public opinion is a tricky beast to manage. I’m simply worried about what they’ll make of all of it.”

“So was I, which was why I announced that my father had been found and I was now king yesterday when we rode through the village – as well as that Princess Elsa was my sister and we’d be having new trade coming in thanks to some of the people we’d met on the quest. Now that they’ve had a bit of time to absorb all of that, I’ll let them have the rest of it. And you know they’ve all been speculating about what changes were going to be made now that I had the authority to do it.”

“True.” They were nearing the bend in the road which would bring them into view of the village, and Cogsworth straightened, smoothing down his vest in the front and adjusting the open lapels of his jacket; the jacket hadn’t buttoned when he’d put it on, as being able to eat again after ten years of deprivation had been a mixed blessing to a man who had always liked his food. “Well, we’re here.”

“It will be fine,” Adam assured him. “Just make your announcement and then I’ll take care of the rest. I actually did plan this out with my advisor on the trip home, you know – it kept him awake so he didn’t fall off his horse.”

That made Cogsworth snort, and then they were rounding the bend and a very loud cheer started to go up. Adam smiled and waved, and as soon as he’d reached the packed square he and Cogsworth both dismounted and stepped up onto the small platform which had been erected for that purpose. Cogsworth cleared his throat, waved his hand for silence. “Good people of Valeureux!” he proclaimed, and Adam hid a smile; Cogsworth was very soft-spoken until he actually wanted to be heard, and then he was positively sonorous. “His Majesty, King Adam of Valeureux,” the name brought another cheer, which he rode out with a smile. “Yes, yes, I feel the same! His Majesty King Adam has called you all here to speak with you this day about some of the changes which have only recently occurred in our fair kingdom. Your Majesty…your people.”

He bowed deeply, and Adam bowed back. “Sir Andrew,” he returned, causing Cogsworth’s face to redden and a ripple of gasps to run through the crowd. “Yes, one of many changes both small and large,” he proclaimed. “As you have no doubt already heard, the quest which took me from you was at least partially successful. After much searching and several accidents both happy and unhappy, we located not only my parents, the former king and queen of Valeureux, but also the bad fairy who cursed our kingdom in the first place – for it was she who lured them away, playing on their own weaknesses. And to our horror, we discovered that they had also abandoned a second kingdom in the same manner and under the same impetus: Arendelle, the birthplace of Princess Elsa and her sister, Princess Anna…who are my younger sisters as well.” This time the murmuring was louder; he kept going. “What our parents were thinking when they made their bargain with the bad fairy we shall never know, and it is painful even to consider so I would beg of you not to speak of it to my sister, who was hurt far worse by this circumstance than I. For the fairy made her plans abundantly clear to us: She disrupted the course of all our lives here in Valeureux to hide the connection between the two kingdoms, and inflicted the elemental power of ice and snow upon my sister Elsa at her birth in order to use her to bring about nothing less than the end of the world.”

A few voices were heard muttering ‘Ragnarok’, and Adam pointed at one older man and nodded. “Yes, that, exactly. The fairy was quite put out that neither my sister nor I had ever heard of it – sadly, our educations were equally lacking. In the furtherance of this she tried to kill Lord Kepperson and I, seeking to drive the princess into madness which would allow this power to spill out uncontrolled…but she failed, and Princess Elsa instead sealed her within a block of ice. We then took the counsel of two wise and powerful sea kings, who examined all the evidence and confirmed me as the rightful king of Valeureux.” That brought forth a cheer which covered just a bit of darker muttering, which Adam ignored – although he knew Cogsworth was marking who those noises were coming from. “They also witnessed my elevation of John Kepperson to the rank of Comte de Valeureux, for his steadfast loyalty and selfless service. He saved my life no less than twice on our quest, and that of my sister as well, and all of those in circumstances where self-preservation might have led a lesser man to seek his own safety first.”

“We haven’t had ranks in generations!” someone called out. “We don’t need ‘em!”

Adam shrugged. “I say we do. I say that when a person under my rule does our kingdom a service, that service will be acknowledged and rewarded. And in fact that was one of the reasons I came down today, to acknowledge just such a service. Master Beauchard, would you please step forward?”

The farmer, who had been standing near the back, approached somewhat warily through the path the crowd opened for him until he was in front of the platform, and was surprised when Adam motioned him up onto it. “Your family was instrumental in keeping the kingdom together while we were under the effects of the curse,” Adam told him. “And the information you later gave Lord Kepperson proved to be key in our finding out what had happened. You have my gratitude, but I would give you something that all might remember it by. Please kneel.” He did, looking shocked, and Adam drew his sword. “For the service you and yours have done for Valeureux,” he said, touching the flat of the blade to the man’s shoulder. “Rise, Sir Martin Beauchard, with the favor of your king.”

The crowd liked that, and this time the cheering had very little of anything else in it. The farmer had tears in his eyes. “Your Majesty…I don’t know what to say.”

“Say that if you have an opinion you believe I should hear, you will feel free to bring it to me, Sir Martin,” Adam told him, sheathing his sword. “And say that you will help bring back the Rubis Marché and our kingdom’s former glory. Valeureux was famous once, and I mean to see her there again.”

Beauchard bowed. “Your Majesty…I am honored by your trust in me. I won’t abuse it.”

Adam smiled, clapping him on the shoulder. “I never thought you would, Sir Martin. We’ll speak again soon, once Lord Kepperson is able to return to his duties.”

“I heard he came back…less well than he left,” the farmer said, and bowed again. “Please convey my hopes for his speedy recovery, Your Majesty.”

“Of course, thank you.” Adam waited until Beauchard had returned to his astonished wife, smiling at the congratulations which he could hear being offered – and making note on his own of who looked less than pleased. Some of the same people, it seemed; he’d compare his observations with Cogsworth’s later to make sure. He raised his voice again. “As I know some of you are concerned about Lord Kepperson,” he said, and the crowd hushed quickly. “Yes, the rumors you heard are probably true; he did come back significantly less well than he was when we left, as a result of the bad fairy trying to kill him and very nearly succeeding. Our long journey back to Valeureux didn’t help, of course, but he was insistent that our kingdom had been without a king long enough…and he was right, although under the circumstances I didn’t like having to agree with him. I have been assured that he will recover, and as my sister and the inestimable Mrs. Potts have devoted themselves to making sure he does I don’t believe he’ll have a chance not to.” That got a general laugh, which made him smile again. “He also has incentive to recover his strength as quickly as possible. My sister begged a boon of me, as her elder brother, and I was happy to be able to grant it: She wished to marry her one true love, the man who sacrificed everything for her, Lord Kepperson. Their betrothal was witnessed by those same two sea kings – and King Sel, who also hails from their part of the North, confirmed that Lord Kepperson is of the old bloodlines, is in fact the head of his family line, and added not only his approval but also his mark of favor. We mean to have the wedding at the height of the Rubis Marché, that all the many guests who may come will return home with tales of the splendor of Valeureux.”

He hadn’t been sure about the reaction this announcement would receive, and so the explosion of cheering rather took him by surprise. Cogsworth chuckled and leaned to his ear. “He’s well-liked, Your Majesty. And that will settle the ones who weren’t sure about having such a high rank given – they’ll see you as doing it so he could marry her.”

“As I had hoped,” Adam told him in similar fashion. He raised his hands to the crowd. “Good people of Valeureux, I’ve given you much to think about, I know. But I will leave you with this reassurance: I won’t be going on another quest for a good long time, if ever – once was definitely enough.”

Laughter. But then a voice raised above the others. “What about your wife? What about the Lady Belle?”

Dead silence fell, and to the horror of the people of Valeureux their young king seemed to age before their eyes. “She was truly afflicted by the curse,” he responded, with such pain in his voice that it touched all who heard it. “The bad fairy admitted as much…and thought it was quite funny. I had hoped to come home and find my wife cured, as the other magic effected by the fairy dissipated on her death…but instead I returned to find Lady Belle missing, snatched from the castle by magic. We think it may have been another fairy we encountered on our travels, a good one who perhaps was trying to help…but unless she appears here to tell us we’ve no way of knowing, and no direction to search in. Magic has few boundaries, the Lady Belle could be…anywhere.”

He was almost overcome at that point, and lifting a hand to his people he quickly descended from the platform with Cogsworth’s hand on his arm. His people, however, did not draw back from him. Instead they pressed nearer, and some of the widowed goodwives in the crowd were bold enough to touch or even embrace him, whispering their understanding of his pain, and Adam allowed it and thanked them brokenly. Others expressed hope that Lady Belle would be returned to him, and he thanked them as well before mounting his horse and turning to ride back up to the castle. Cogsworth waited until they had rounded the bend in the road again, then reached out to clasp his king’s arm – his king, who was young enough to be his son. “Your Majesty…Adam, I am sorry. If I hear any news, any at all…”

Adam patted his hand. “I know you will, Andrew, thank you. I know it hasn’t been easy for any of you, either.” He sniffed. “If you don’t mind my asking…why did you never marry?”

Cogsworth snorted a laugh, which surprised him. “Oh, I tried, but she wouldn’t have me – Agatha, you know. Perhaps I’ll wait until she’s all softened up by the princess’s wedding and then ask her again.”

That made Adam laugh. “I’d offer to raise your rank again if I thought it would help, but she wasn’t impressed by mine or John’s so I doubt it would do any good.”

“No, not with Agatha it wouldn’t.” Cogsworth smiled, a surprisingly sentimental expression. “She’s like no other woman anywhere.”

“No, that she isn’t. I’ll leave it to you, then. But if you decide you’d like me to speak on your behalf…well, she’s been like a mother to me most of my life, so maybe she would listen to Adam if not the King.”

Cogsworth nodded. “I’ve no doubt she’d be even more likely to listen to Adam, Your Majesty. I’ll keep you informed.”

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