Even before crossing the border into camp, Christian could tell something was amiss. The First Controller marched through the camp perimeter, ignoring the mud he kicked up, frustrated by the loss of his horse earlier. Mercy and empathy were much more exhausting than he had thought.
Christian made a bee-line for Sarkard’s tent, arriving to the sounds of something being thrown to the ground inside. He gritted his teeth and prepared to enter the second storm he’d experienced today.
Pushing the tent’s flap aside, Christian was greeted by the sight of Sarkard pacing with heavy footsteps, his face strawberry-red. Over the King’s shoulder, Christian spied a portly bald man, who wiped his forehead with the arm of his tunic, presumably relieved to not have the King’s full attention any longer. The King stopped and approached Christian immediately once the Controller had entered.
“Where have you been?! You’re useless, First Controller!” King DeLure’s lips quivered with each word he spoke.
“Leading your men as you asked, My Lord,” Christian said, entering his happy castle he mentally went to when dealing with this irrational man. King DeLure opened his mouth to reply but Christian held up his hand. “Before you spit more curses at me, I’ll need a status update on the north and west fronts, please. Thank you.” Christian lowered his hand and crossed his arms.
Sarkard blinked before opening and closing his mouth. The man behind Sarkard’s eyes were now wide as saucers before shifting his attention to the ground as Sarkard turned to look at him.
“Did you hear him? Catch up the First Controller!” Sarkard spat at the man before returning to sit on his throne, his head held low in one hand.
“Well,” the man’s voice squeaked. He cleared his throat, “The northern front was a resounding loss, but we have no idea how – they had…” the man pursed his lips, “Zero troops stationed there. Most of the soldiers that returned have been babbling about an old woman…”
“Argh!” A vase flew from Sarkard’s hand, shattered against the ground near the plump man’s feet.
He continued, ignoring the interruption, “The troops at the west front, the one with the stone wall, was reported to have lost visibility in the storm. Only one has returned…” the bald man brought his voice down to a whisper, “That soldier reported some unknown creature overtook them. He said it resembled a gorilla but with a few extra arms and eyes the color of King DeLure’s crest.”
“Red?” Christian asked.
“Yes. He also reported seeing a youth that looked extremely similar to King Acetate himself, apparently standing by The King’s side throughout the skirmish.”
Christian exhaled. “Is that all?” It was a lot to take in.
The portly man shook his head. “Giskant also arrived. He began marching his forces toward the northern gate a few moments ago.”
“He was supposed to come with me, or not at all!” King DeLure screamed, jerking out of his seat. He stalked over to Christian, pushing the bald man out of his way. “Go find my grandson and bring him back to me!”
“Sir, what do you think I can do that the front line couldn’t? I can’t even change until nightfall. The soldier must’ve been mistaken – Lady Shannon wouldn’t keep your grandson from you…”
“Oh ho ho, if you believe that then you clearly don’t know her!” The King resumed pacing the length of the tent. “Giskant… My grandson… This creature…” he mumbled, dropping his eyes to the floor. Tears of frustration were streaming down the King’s face when he glared back up at Christian, “First Controller, what can we do here?” King DeLure’s chest was heaving, clenching his fists to fight back the tears; all the while, his eyes locked on Christian, awaiting his response.