Home > The King's Commander (Legends of Meria #1)

The King's Commander (Legends of Meria #1)
Author: Cecelia Mecca

sChapter One






Castle d’Almerita, Kingdom of Meria

“They’re all dead.”

So the rumors are true?

“I came right away,” I say as the man I’ve served my entire life buries his head in his hands. One by one, the others pile into the throne room behind me. King Galfrid doesn’t even seem to notice. Standing, he moves to the window. I wait with the other members of the Curia as the most powerful man in the kingdom slips his hands over his bowed head in complete despair.

“Vanni?” the king’s chancellor whispers to me. I shake my head. This moment deserves silence. Reverence.

Friends. Brothers in arms. We’ve lost so many this day.

Including the king’s son and successor.

A warm breeze drifts in from the open windows. In the chambers below us, only small, shuttered openings and arrow slits puncture the castle walls. A safety precaution. But we’re so high above the earth up here, only the sea is our witness.

Bright orange and crimson silk hangings flutter in the breeze as our king stands still next to them.

The whole Curia is now assembled. When the heavy wooden doors are closed behind the last of us, my liege finally turns to address the men assembled before him.

“The rumors are true. The boat sank this morn, one survivor living to tell the tale.”

My chest swells with hope—could Prince Matteo have survived after all?—but in the very next breath he dashes it.

“The captain’s son lives. As does my nephew, who apparently imbibed too much drink last eve and lasted only a few moments at port before he disembarked. All others perished in the sea not long after the Oryan left port last eve. According to the boy who washed ashore clinging to a piece of wood”—his voice cracks—“its port side struck a submerged rock and the ship quickly capsized and sank.”

We all cross ourselves and mutter words of sorrow for the boy and the implications of Galfrid’s nephew having survived when his son did not.

Matteo. A wave of nausea hits as I think of the prince, the boy who became a man alongside me. The strong and thoughtful son of our king. How could he be gone when just days ago we trained together, Matteo as skilled a swordsman as any.

I push aside thoughts of everyone I knew on board . . . and the fact that I was originally supposed to go with them.

Galfrid needs us now, more than ever. And I live to serve him.

“We will mourn tomorrow,” he says. The king’s voice is strong, but his eyes betray him, at least to me. While all of those present serve at the pleasure of the king, I alone was raised by him. My heart bleeds for him, and for the kingdom.

The loss of Prince Matteo weighs heavily on us both. Despite my intention to focus on the king’s words, I cannot help but think of him. His last moments. His promising future as the king Meria needed. Though not for lack of trying, the king and queen of Meria have produced just one child, and he is now lying at the bottom of the Merian Sea, along with two hundred of our most skilled warriors. The heir to the kingdom is dead.

The king addresses me. “You will go to him. Tell him of what’s happened here. Bid him to return.”

Silence follows his words. None, including me, need to be told of whom he speaks.

I nod.

“He will not come.” Thomas voices what each of us already know.

But Galfrid doesn’t waver. “He must.”

Pinning his hopes, the kingdom’s hopes, on the journey I’m about to take, the king begins to issue further orders. As the Curia, his most trusted advisors, discuss the further implications of this unfolding disaster, I’m already considering who to take with me, whether to journey by land or sea, and what to say when I arrive. As the first commander of the Curia, I should at least be able to gain an audience with him. But will he listen? Will he return with me?

“What say you, Vanni?”

I’d not been listening.

“Apologies, sire.”

Though not temperamental, the king is not a patient man. At his scowl, Ren, Galfrid’s second commander, repeats the question.

“Will we mount another attack on Edingham?”

It was an easy decision.

“We have a more imminent threat.”

The other members of the Curia proceed to argue with each other as if the king hadn’t just lost his child. Some remind Galfrid of the reason he agreed to the attack. Or the preparations we’ve been undergoing for months. Others agree with me, that the king’s nephew will waste no time gathering support to lay claim to the greatest prize in Meria.

Heir to the crown of our great kingdom.

“Enough,” the king says, and the rest quiet. We all know one man’s opinion matters more than the rest.

“Edingham will have to wait until Vanni returns.”

All eyes turn to me.

There are just seven people in all of Meria who know the king has a bastard son. Six of them are in this room. The seventh? The king’s wife, who insisted the babe be sent away.

“He must come.” I can easily read the king’s expression. Hidden beneath his regal bearing and trimmed white beard is a look of gut-wrenching grief and worry. I’ve never seen him like this, and he does not wear the emotions easily. But there’s only one comfort for a king who cares about his kingdom above all else: to know his crown will pass down to a worthy man. His nephew, whom none in the Curia like, does not meet that description.

He must not become the heir. I will ensure it.



Chapter Two






Murwood End

God be praised, it is, at least, a blessedly sunny day. We have so few of them here, even in summer, and the sun is a necessary part of my plan.

“Is that jasper?” Anna, the cobbler’s wife, peers over my shoulder. “Tis a most unusual color, no?”

It is. Which is the precise reason I’ve choosen it.

Whatever she may think, the cobbler’s wife does not need her husband to fall in love with her again. She needs to see herself as Anna, a person whose worth is not dependent on anyone else. I’ve visited her so often, she’s given me three new pairs of shoes as payment, yet she still refuses to heed any of the advice I offer.

My amma says to save the jasper for when I have no other hope for healing. With luck, this will bring Anna some peace.

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