Jarya Zhulan, Minister for Internal Affairs of the Empire of Valuan, swallowed another pill of herbs and washed the disgusting medicine down with a big gulp of red wine. The taste was bitter and the sweet Lithian wine did not really improve on it. Jarya coughed loudly and grabbed for his walking cane.
It had been years since he was last able to walk from one room to another without relying on this wooden walking support. As a almost seventy year old man it would have been weird for him to jump around like a teenager. He chuckled to himself. The minister also grabbed a notebook and his quill and made his way out of the stuffy study.
The rather small room, located at the seventh floor of a guard tower, had been used as a office for the Ministry of Internal Affairs for almost three hundred years now. A ministry that had been founded solely to gather and process information and instigate quick responses. The minister himself was appointed by the emperor personally for life and it was a very honorary position. At least it should have been. Though since now already forty years, Jarya was simply gathering information only to relay it to a ruler that thought very little of public opinion. Even at times, where the reports should have given way to concern, Jarya hardly ever found anyone to listen to his advice.
Sighing, he slowly descended the staircase and thought of all the wasted hours of hard and proper work, that had never been used. The countless warnings he had issued on possible trading conspiracies, smugglers or rebellious dukes. It was frightening how ignorant the emperor was at times.
Jarya shook his head and banned these unnecessary and treacherous thoughts of his mind. The only news, that counted for the royal family, Thersin, were information regarding the old blood of the Valurén.
The bloodline of the former imperial family still remained strong. Even though they were all killed hundreds of years ago, their infidelities with whores, minor ladies and all sorts of citizens, had strewn their blood all over the country. Every few years there was a child born somewhere within Valuan, with the characteristic silver-white hair of the Valurén bloodline. The task of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, was to find those, report them to the emperor and send assassins or order them killed by local soldiers. Since his inauguration there had been 43 Valurén children born, found and killed. It would have been weighing heavily on his heart if he did any more than just report his findings and receive a descriptive report with either “eliminated” or “eliminated with xy complications”.
Sighing he starred out of the window. Sometimes he had his doubts. Eyeing the royal gardens, that the Thersin family called their own, he gazed at the hundreds of small fountains and waterways that drew through grass and flower fields that were cared for by dozens of gardeners. Overshadowed only by the very rare Arponexi trees, that were know for their stunningly beautiful pink flower petals and their sweet and delicate fruits.
The size of the fruits were approximately that of a strawberry, though the were more solid and green. Only a single bite into the crunchy and bitter peel revealed a sweet, pink-violet core. The combination of those two tastes united uniquely and made the fruit all the more delicious.
Jarya had to grin that even the large Tharken war dogs of the royal palace would even prefer the Nexi fruits to raw meat.
He played with the thought of visiting the royal stables to feed a few of the whelps. But with his next step a heavy sting of pain shot up from his leg into his back. The thought of walking all the way down to them were quickly growing less appealing. He decided to just pick a few fruits for himself and to enjoy the sunlight in the palace garden. With a bit of luck he would even get to talk to a member of the royal family by chance to relay some informations directly instead of having to write lengthy reports that were hardly ever read. Yet just as he stepped out of the shadows of the tower, a well known face came running at him.
“Cliff? Why are you back already? This soon?” Jarya Zhulan croaked before he coughed to fix his shaky voice.
“Minister.” Clifford Hrilldon exclaimed quickly, before he bowed to try and catch his breath. The budgetary advisor for the Ministry of Internal Affairs looked like he saw a ghost. “Bad news, I’m afraid. Minister, you should probably sit down.”
Jarya frowned. “Revolts to the south? Did something slip our informants attention? Or again problems with the trading guilds? Is it the war effort?” He asked in a calm tone as he stepped back into the tower. It was necessary to remain level headed. No use in getting excited. That was just bad for his health.
While the minister sat down on the staircase, Clifford tried to hastily summarize. “The Temple of Order thinks that the assassin, that we sent for the Valorén child, was killed in action. It has been three months since he called in which is unprecedented.”
“Hmm. Not the best message.” Jarya explained in a calm manner, resting his head thoughtfully on his cane.
“Not the best message?! The emperor will be enraged! Minister, you know just as well as I do, that the return of a true Valorén is feared.” Clifford threw him a worried and almost angry glare. “What if they release you from your duty? And not in the good way?”
“It is almost winter. The north will be drowning in snow now, and sending an assassin now would be outright stupid.” Jarya gestured for his employee to sit down as well. “My dear Cliff, you know I’m not in the best of shapes. My health is deteriorating. Maybe I will live for a year. Maybe five. But a child aged seven will not be a credible threat to us.”
“Minister, the Valorén are dangerous. What if one of them really comes all the way into the capital? You know what is hidden in the Temple of Order in Antalia. How could he claim that it is not of importance?!”
Jarya hit his employee softly with his walking cane against his head. “Calm down Mr. Hrilldon.” He shook his head frantically over the impatience of his advisor. “I will introduce to a certain piece of knowledge that will calm your worried mind.” The old man smiled cryptically. “A true Valorén only awakes in the year of his sixteenth life cycle. After that awakening took place, his eyes will take a violet color and he will slowly gain access to his innate powers of his bloodline.”
Clifford Hrilldon raised his eyebrows. “That means, a child will be unable to use the Sword of Ending? Only after the awakening?”
“Correct. It will be a threat in nine years at the earliest. Until then the southern war will be over long ago and we can take care of this properly.” Jarya sighed. “Though I will not be alive for that anyway. We will gather information regarding the child and we will try to get someone close to him. Besides… Zenshin is allied to us, so we can try to get to him by political means as well.”
“So for now we do nothing? Do we even tell the emperor?” Cliff frowned.
“No.” The old man decided. “The boy may live for now. My successor will have the unpleasant mission to get rid of this mess. My family cannot take the failure of an old man. And you will relay this problem as a “new” development to the next minister. He will solve it, especially being in your care.”
After he saw the worried gaze of his advisor he added: “Don’t be a fool. You are promised to my niece. Before I am dead I want to see our families united. Don’t risk your own future by telling the emperor, when we can just let my successor handle it. He can send an arm, a group of assassins or whatever else he will deem necessary.”
Clifford nodded, much relieved. “Understood.”
The Valorén won some time again. Clifford had not believed his own ears when he had first heard the story. Born in Zizhenua, a small city to the north of Valuan, his mother had barricaded herself to hide his identity for weeks.
Then she even fled the city northwards, to save her child. When caught she hid the child and took her own life by biting off her tongue. She likely hoped that someone would find it and save it. After the town soldiers were unable to find the child, the town major reported that they left it in the woods to die. A old tradition that was often used for crippled babies in the area.
It had been a very unpleasant event for the town major, when a seven year old child was spotted north of the border and had been taken by a foreign swordsman. His head was no longer attached to his body.
Though the child’s luck had not run out. As if it was not enough, that he was found by someone that offered him shelter, they even defended him against one of the best assassins the Temple of Order in Antalia had to offer.
Clifford was really curious if this luck would remain even in the future…