Quentin remains standing alone before the king as his friends step away, his eyes downcast as if in thought. The king’s own gaze falls upon him in mild curiosity. Around the court people begin whispering. The Dunhillians are sure this is some sort of breach of protocol.
“What is on your mind, young one?” the king says firmly. His tone reveals he brooks no foolishness within his court.
“Your Majesty,” Quentin says, “I was wondering if you could answer a question about the realm.”
The king’s eyes narrow and he glances at Kyeran momentarily before shifting back to the young man before him. “What is it?” he asks. “And be quick. The business of the realm continues on while we bandy about.”
“I’m sorry… It is hard to try and put this into words,” Quentin apologized, half to the ruler, half to the gathered nobility. “Where I am from there are a certain number of… places… where one may lay a wreath or an offering. They are small and far between.”
The king’s expression changes from one of mild curiosity to a scowl.
“I would have thought that as we came to larger towns and cities these… places… would be more prominent,” the young druid pressed on. “Yet I see not even a stone bier or any other semblance of worship in this magnificent city. Why is that?”
The king remains silent for a long moment, his face flushed with anger. All whispering has stopped. Finally he says, “By what right do you ask your king such things?”
Quentin looks up and a ferocity is in his eyes that takes everyone aback. The king even sits back on his throne slightly. “By what right?” he says loudly and clearly. “By what right do you strip away such things?” The people of the court are openly displaying shock at the address to the throne. Some are smiling with glee, as if this was some sort of entertainment to fill their boredom.
As if remembering his proper status, the king stands, his face red. “How dare you address me like that?” he says. “I am the king!”
Unperturbed, Quentin presses his point. “The question stands, your Majesty.” To everyone in the court he appears to be a small rock about to be enveloped in the flood of a royal torrent.
“You have no idea what you speak,” says the king. “When I was a boy… probably before your own father was even a twinkle in his father’s eyes… things were much different than they are now.” He takes a deep breath.
“We were at war for a generation,” he explains stepping forward. “Our kingdom was being bled dry and by whom? By my father. He had dreams of power, which he spoke of often, and they all cried out for the blood of his enemies.”
“My father was insane,” he says with a sad note. “I prayed to the gods for help and yet they never answered. They never brought us any guidance. They are a myth and all the murdering and carnage my father wrought proved that.” He looks at Quentin with bitterness. “Only when I was almost a man did I recognize that my father was creating a religious hysteria by calling for the death of those that support other gods. When he cried for blood the priests echoed and then the gullible took up their arms and struck at the enemy in frothing fanatisicm. And they did the same to us. I asked myself how any god worthy of worshipping could let this all happen. I came to the conclusion that there were none who were.”
“That is why there are no places to worship,” he says finally. “After I challenged my father’s abominable ways he attacked me. It was then that I slew him, witnessed by my companion, Vitrik, and two of my father’s counselors. That day I swore that there would be no reason beyond necessity to do battle. I ordered the temples and the shrines destroyed; the so-called priests driven out. Without a place to gather and people to teach them the importance slowly went away and became what they should have been all along. And those priests uttered curses on me, yet here I sit, untouched.”
“You went too far,” Quentin says in judgement. “The gods were gone, but they have returned and found our world still in need.”
The king’s expression becomes incredulous. “Who are you to say such things?” he says dismissively.
Suddenly Quentin’s voice changes from the normal quiet tenor to a strong baritone and his eyes begin to glow with a pure white light. “He is ours,” comes the voice from his lips. It carries a force that spreads out like a wave across the floor and the king falls back into his throne.
“I was the first,” Quentin says, “Primus of the gods. We tried to protect you from the power of the Ancients as they vied for control of all things, but even our might was depleted.”
The members of the court utter an audible gasp at the words coming from this unassuming man’s lips. Even the king’s eyes widen with shock as he remains seated, stupefied by the statement.
Quentin continues, “We have now returned to find the world in need again and yet we are gone from the hearts of men. The dragons begin to stir and their evil will spread across these lands again as the dragon-blooded hurl themselves upon their altars of their masters. You must gird yourselves for the future.”
“Dragons?” the king scoffs. “This is some sort of dupe… and you, my friend, are nothing but a skilled trickster.” He smiles and waves his finger and shakes his head. “You almost had me there.”
“Silence!” roars the voice from Quentin’s mouth and the king is knocked back physically into his throne. “Know this, Lucius Alwin. Our vessels have been selected and are now ordained!” With that Quentin raises his staff into the air and jams the iron shod end through the thick flagstone of the floor.” Immediately the ground shakes and 9 streaks of light shoot off along the floor in all directions.
Pratch leaps in front of one only to have it dart around him and travel into the wall. “Aww, c’mon,” he mutters plaintively.
“But this is not all, king of the kingdom,” Quentin continues to utter. “You and your line are now bound to this land. If it dies so do you. If it thrives, so will you. Sangmar, aid me!”
And with that Quentin’s staff begins to change before everyone’s eyes. The once simple, iron shod quarterstaff begins to expand and grow. Within moments buds appear and form branches and the bottom begins to split into roots. The staff continues to transform into a tree in the centre of the court while the flagstones crack loudly and buckle under the force. Suddenly a wind blows through the court, despite the windows and doors being closed. The force of it pushes members to and fro. The entire court gasps as the eternal flame above the throne is blown out before everyone’s eyes.