© Copyright 2009 - Darqside - Used by permission
Storycodes: FFFF; latex; encase; hist; MF; cons; X
Part 2: Kyrios the Experienced
Time passed as the four Queens ruled Azmondia and all of the King's decrees seemed ancient and forgotten. Peace was certainly present, but the world was far from silent. It was in an age of dragons and beasts of ancient lore that a young man entered the kingdom on a single horse.
He wore no sword, no armor, but simply the clothes on his back and a sack in which he carried food and other things. The man seemed to not concern himself with many things, and appeared to be a simple traveler through the kingdom. He settled in at an Inn on the far end of the kingdom, only planning on staying a day or so it seemed.
It was when he saw the pillar of the Four Queens that had been constructed and placed in the kingdom's square as a testament to their four rulers that he appeared to be fascinated by the pillar.
"Such beauty I have never seen in the lands I've traveled, who are these four maidens I wonder?"
As to answer his question, a villager mentioned the Four Queens that rule the land. It was curious that this man had never heard of their renown.
The white pillar had been built before the sealing had happened, so it revealed the four Queens in their glory, each holding a symbol of their duty as rulers while pointing in the directions of the four great winds of the world.
"Is it possible for me to seek an audience with these Four Queens? I wish to look upon them myself."
At this the villager nearly scoffed him to scorn at the traveler's foolishness, seeing the Queens themselves was an impossibility, even should you obtain an audience with them. His intentions seemed even more foolish. But even after being laughed at, the young man maintained his desire to meet the four Queens.
"I'll judge for myself whether these maidens are worthy to rule this kingdom by themselves. Besides, I could use some entertainment to pass the time."
He was told that should he seek an audience, he would need to meet with the soldiers and wait at the gate of the castle before letting himself in.
"So you want to meet the Four Queens of Azmondia, boy? I wish you the luck of the gods if you have any hope of catching sight of them." A young soldier mocked him. "Assuming you don't simply anger them and they execute you for treason. You better show your respect."
"Oh don't worry about me…I just simply wish to find out a few things." He said with a smile.
The young man followed one of the high guards down the long castle hall to the Room of Four Thrones, where the Queens held audience.
"Your Graces, this young man seeks an audience with you…I do not know from which kingdom he hails, but please be cautious with him, he is foreign to us." The guard announced.
The young man appeared before them and knelt to one knee.
"And why might you seek audience with us, young sir?" Queen Wessa asked, her sisters looking on. "Please pray tell us your name."
"My name is Kyrios the Experienced. I am but a humble traveler whose name you may likely forget, and I have come out of curiosity to meet the Four Queens of Azmondia."
"Kyrios the Experienced," Soutana addressed him, "I have but two questions for you: what sort of experience does your name imply, and now that you've met the four of us, what say you?"
Kyrios chuckled, "My majesties, mine is such that I have traveled the world and encountered much that I cannot recount my experiences in a single day. As for what my mind and heart says of you, the Queens of this land, I say I have been smitten asunder by your hidden beauty."
Nartha replied somewhat derisively, "A teller of stories no doubt, seeking fame have you? Power? Or perhaps the riches of this land? You seek to sway us in your favor by flattery, but such trickery we cannot abide."
"You misread my intentions my Graces, I merely wish to seek out something of far greater value, the love of you four beautiful maidens. I have seen the statues in the kingdom square, and it is those faces I wish to see."
"So you come in courtship?" Wessa answered him, "Whilst our father the late King has given the right to such men as you to seek out our heart-felt favors, it is not without its own challenges and trials. Perhaps you jest if you consider the means and motive behind your futile attempts at courtship?"
"Futile perhaps, but not without merit." Kyrios replied, "I wish to test the worth of the Four Queens of Azmondia."
"You do jest!" Nartha replied, "You? Test us? When you would be the one who would seek our favors and fulfill the tasks set by the King himself? That's nigh unto treason! You walk the razor's edge opposite our favors, young sir!"
"Not so, elder sister…" Astara interrupted, "If he says he wishes to test our worth, is it not within his rights to do so? After all, not many can say they know the true worth of a woman. Let alone a Queen."
"I wonder at your reasoning, Kyrios the Experienced," Soutana replied, "What sort of test have you in mind for us? What sorts of measure have you for judging our worth?"
"Merely via the means through which you judge me, your Graces…first I ask, what is the test through which I must undertake to capture the hearts of the Four Queens of Azmondia?"
Wessa 's lips could be seen smiling at his inquiry, "It is said that should a man be of responsibility, of courage, of strength, of wisdom, of kindness and dignity, and of integrity. And should he claim to be in pursuit of the love of the Queen, she is to accept his marriage proposal and be unsealed to him, and he is to be King. But you…you have quite the challenge to face, Kyrios the Experienced, for you face the four of us, who, as yet, find opposition in you."
Nartha was virtually laughing through her mask, "You seek to amuse us with petty attempts at courtship; however you have not stated whom it is you seek among us? Whom do you favor? Myself? I am a woman who favors strength in a man, and you've nary displayed that! You don't even carry a sword. If it is knowledge and wisdom you seek in your suitor, then try Soutana or my sister Astara, or perhaps the throne is what you seek with Wessa, but I doubt any of them are interested in any airs you put on for us."
Kyrios stood stock silent for a moment, then replied with a smile, "As I stated before, my Graces, this is a test of your worth. And so, the choice should be obvious. I choose…all four of you."
"Preposterous! You attempt the impossible! No man could gain the favors of four women of such different tastes as my sisters and I! And to fulfill my father's wishes four times over?? It would be easier to lose your head on a chopping block!" It was obvious Nartha was about to draw her sword, when her sister Astara stopped her.
"It was never forbidden that one man could not pursue all four of us at once, dear sister, and think on this: should he fail at one of us, that does not mean he fails at all of us, so the odds are in his favor."
"You speak in riddles I nary comprehend, dear sister." Nartha sat back down, "Whether he seeks to challenge us, or we challenge him, it is of no concern to me, his challenge will be met, and it is my duty to this kingdom to see to its protection. I will eliminate any threat I see, remember my words, Kyrios of Experience."
Wessa smirked through her mask, "So are we in agreement then? He is allowed for a time, to pursue our favors. As to whether or not he is allowed to test us, remains to be seen, should he fail in his pursuit of one of us, it does not mean he fails with the remainder (although I will remind you, that it may affect our later judgments of you, Kyrios), and…should he succeed in winning any one or all of us, we will follow the King's decree to the letter…is that understood?"
The Four Queens nodded in agreement, and the announcement was made throughout the land that the mysterious man known as Kyrios the Experienced would begin his enormous undertaking of wooing the hearts of the Four Queens of Azmondia. Rumors far and wide began to fill the halls and castles of the surrounding kingdoms. It was as though a knight was taking on a four-headed dragon! Still other rumors surfaced: what would happen should he win their favors? A King with four Queens was absolutely unheard of! Even should he win just one Queen's favor, the kingdom could not be divided; there was simply no means of this. Even worse, he was simply a commoner! Unheard of!
It was agreed that for a time, the young man Kyrios would take up residence in the castle, if only for the purpose of spending time with any one of the Four Queens he so wished. He of course lived in one of the soldier's quarters, usually reserved for the sick and dying (at Nartha's behest of course).
Kyrios took to living at his lowly living quarters with no complaint, even if farm animals were randomly placed on his bed at odd hours of the day (apparently Nartha's doing as well). The first time he 'tested' one of the Queens was in the courtyard among the soldiers.
Nartha was giving training commands to several new recruits when he came upon the spectacle. The soldiers shuddered at the scorn in her voice as she tossed him a sword.
"So, Kyrios the Experienced, how experienced are you with a blade?"
"Enough." He replied, "But I must say I don't like using it on other people, messy business that, blood everywhere…"
At this the men chuckled and circled around Nartha and Kyrios. It was quite the imposing spectacle to see the two face one another. Nartha in her black armor and mask appeared as a large imposing demon to anyone else and Kyrios in his simple traveler's clothes and no armor to speak of, with a cheap sword in his hand to boot.
"You realize that this mask I wear allows me to see my enemy even if they can't see me." Nartha teased him, "But even despite that, I have a propensity to miss my target on occasion. Should I miss, you might end up getting killed instead of disarmed."
"Then I suppose I'll have to make sure I don't miss before you do then." Kyrios swung his sword in an arc surprisingly wide, giving hints that he was a beginner. "Do be gentle, my Grace."
Nartha lunged at him with her sword faster than any man anyone had ever seen. It was obvious she was going for the kill even before she attacked, but to everyone's surprise, Kyrios was able to take the brunt of each strike and deflect it somehow, driving her to the left and right with each lunge.
After a time, Nartha resorted to wide kicks which were made worse due to her molded spiked heels that usually served the purpose of spurs for her horse. She nearly grazed Kyrios with her heel, except he managed to lean back in time, the attack merely slicing a hair off his head. Several cuts of the blade were aimed at his face, and even under all the pressure she maintained, no stress appeared on his face. His eyes were calm, narrow, and even appeared in brief moments to be deadly.
Even after all her attacks however, he never once tried to attack her. Merely using the sword to deflect attacks or guide her blade elsewhere, or ducking and dodging her kicks. The men had to widen the circle simply to avoid her wide attacks as she continued to strike out at him, but he still kept dodging. In a critical moment however, her footing was lost on the smoothness of the ground and she would've fell on his sword by accident if he hadn't tossed it aside and instead caught her by the waist.
"You fool! You've thrown aside your sword, that's the same as surrendering." Nartha quickly regained her balance and brought her sword to his throat.
"Maybe so, but I'd rather surrender than be dead, or be a killer for that matter." He choked a little at the blade pointed at him.
"You've a tongue sharper than most swords and a head full of ideas, Kyrios…" Nartha sheathed her sword, "And you held back. You're certainly no fool."
"Were I such a fool, I would be dead, as would many others I love and respect."
"So is that why you don't carry a sword?"
"One of the reasons…my head full of ideas has saved me more times than any sword."
"Be sure that head stays fast on that neck of yours, you might lose it if you lose that skill."
"Skill or no, I'd never kill a woman in a sparring match."
"See that you don’t. I take my leave."
At the end of the spar, a circle of dumbfounded soldiers watched as Kyrios walked silently back to his quarters, perhaps the only man to beat the Queen in a sword battle without having once raised his sword against her, not to mention being the only man to defeat her.
Later that day, Kyrios was invited to a meal among the soldiers.
"You're the talk of the barracks, Kyrios…"
"That's…nice. Thanks for the food."
"So you beat the Queen without using your sword to disarm her? How much 'experience' do you have anyway? Ever killed anyone?"
"No, I haven't….now, if you don't mind I'd like to eat."
"You haven't killed anyone?! But how did you get so good at sword-play?"
"I prefer not to talk about it…it's not something I like to boast about."
"You do realize Queen Nartha loves sword fighting…it's the only way she knows to get her 'pleasures' if you know what I mean."
"If you mean getting hot and sweaty in this swelter, I'd say she doesn't know many pleasures in life."
"Well…sorta…I mean…yeah, you're right of course but…see she likes to get hot and all…"
"She likes to get hot, you say? Well it probably isn't hard with that black rubber armor suit of hers is it?"
"They say something special happens to the Queen when she gets hot like that…something inside the suit…"
"And where did you hear that? Did some sage tell you?"
"Well I heard it from a buddy of mine who heard it from somebody else…"
"Idle gossip isn't good for morale you know…" Kyrios smirked.
"Still, just saying is all…if anyone's going to win the Queen's heart of ice, it's you."
"So I guess I get your vote of confidence then?"
"Well it's either that or I kill you if you make her unhappy."
"I guess there's no turning back now, then."
"Glad we understand each other."
After that, it was understood that Kyrios would be left by himself to wander the barracks as he pleased. And should a soldier be found attempting to pull a prank, he would lose his station. Of course, no soldier had ideas of the sort. They greatly admired the man who outwitted Queen Nartha, even if the Queen herself did not.