When everyone had arrived at the location and had their fill of champagne and canaps, that was when the King entered. He walked down the red carpet and whoever he was about to pass, knelt down and bowed their head. Silence descended.
The King's face was expressionless when he walked along the lines, and finally stepped on the pedestal, up towards his throne.
He was alone. The Princes and Princess had already entered the venue beforehand and waited down below. The Queen was nowhere to be seen.
"My dear subjects", the King started his speech and raised his hands. He looked like he wanted to embrace the whole world, however, his face remained cold. His subjects, who were already used to his habits, didn't think of his mimic as dissatisfying. Instead, they thought that it was reassuring.
"Today is a great day for a feast. All of you know why we are here, and I'm sure you anticipate seeing the one who saved us from the Renat army invading the southern border. To those who only heard unbelievable rumors, I can say: this army was way bigger and more frightening than any of you can think of. If he wasn't there, this army would by now have slaughtered their way to the capital, to our very own territories and homes, threaten our lifes and families."
Some nobles moved uncomfortably, some had a look of disbelieve on their face, or even indignance. They weren't happy to hear that they wouldn't have had a chance in their King's eyes. Why should one person be able to ward off a catastrophe all of them together would be unable to face? Wasn't someone like this also able to defeat the whole of the Iceland's army then?
"Of course", the King added, "That doesn't mean that he killed the whole army. That is something that belongs to the realm of myths. The biggest part of the invading army was still on stand-by, he only defeated the vanguard. However, by defeating them with not a single soldier left, in an unknown and frightening way, he did something that none of you would be able to do: he took their hope from them. He took their vigor, their will to fight, and their believe in an easy victory. Instead, he gave them fear."
The King looked at his subjects. His hands had sunk, his eyes earnest. "All of you are at most soldiers. Great warriors, for sure. But in the end, you will bleed, and you will die. You can fight the Renats and kill them, but you can't give them this horrible feeling of no matter how many they send and how good they are, they would not be able to claim victory. That is how he defeated their main army. Not by killing them, but by making them fear him enough to lay down their weapons and run away."
The silence that followed was eerie. Everyone who once fought in the army, thought deeply about the King's words and wondered what they would feel if they had such a foe, and whether they would be able to continue fighting. They found no answer.
After a while, the King raised his voice again. "The one who did all this, who saved our land from the horror of an all-out-war with a single fight, is not with us today."
Clamor broke out. Everyone had thought they would finally see the hero, they would see the one who could defeat the Dragsean just as easily as he had the Renat's. Now, the King told them that they had all gathered here for naught.
However, the King raised his hands to indicate he wasn't finished yet. When the crowd calmed down, he said: "I know, all of you must be furious. You are here to see him, but he is not here. Before you judge him, however, let me explain why."
He made a pause until even the last gaze was locked onto him, some curious, some unwilling, or even angry. "I met with the mage who did all this one week ago. As the King, I was pleased to find a responsible hero, someone who cares more about his land and the people than about fame and power. He is a silent man, but when I wanted to hold a feast, he was curious to meet all of you.
However, his best quality is also his curse. His sense for responsibility is exactly why he can't be here with us today. As you all know, news spread yesterday that the diplomats from Dragsa were murdered on our grounds, right next to our capital. We are in a situation that is difficult to explain and can end in war any second.
When the hero learned of this, I couldn't hold him back. He didn't want to wait for even a day before he traveled back to the boarder to protect us all from the possible threat. He was afraid that even a day might cost us lifes if the Dragsean decide to attack. So, he isn't here, because he is out there to protect all of us, so our homes and families are safe."
A murmur went through the crowd. The indignation was gone. Though the nobles wanted to meet the hero, they now understood, and they were nearly satisfied. His action gave them the answer to their main question. The hero would protect them. He was traveling to the boarder, prepared to repeat what he did to the Renats with this new threat.
"So, what are we doing here today?", The King got back to the beginning of his speech. "Well, first let me remind you that there is still a medal to present. The hero might not be here in person, but so is the one who brought him to us. The person who defended the southern boarder together with the hero and who the hero assingned as his replacement in this ceremony. Let me introduce to you: Nathaniel Julien Raymond Icefall, Earl of the southern boarder, and my first-born son."
For a second, there was shocked silence, then chaos broke out.
Every noble's first thought was: "There was another prince?" They felt indignation why such a secret was kept from them, especially when it was the first-born son, a possible heir.
"Why only introduce him now?!", someone exclaimed. "Maybe he is a bastard...",
Another voice called out: "What about the Crown Prince? Won't he be dissatisfied?"
And a fat merchant in a striking yellow west lamented: "Oh god, maybe his position will be removed. Why did I spend so much money to curry favor with him?"
In between the mass of discussing people, some cursing in dissatisfaction, Nathaniel's face had darkened, and his hands clenched into fists. The last part of the introduction wasn't part of the script. It wasn't beneficial to his investigations either. After so many years of cold and fearful treatment, why acknowledge him now?
But the answer occurred to him soon: As always, the King was only looking out for himself. When Emilian was the most possible heir, the nobles preferred currying favor with Emilian instead of the King. However, with another prince added, the balance would shift to the King's side again. He had the freedom of choosing his heir after all. It was the desperate move to hold on to his power when the dispute with the Queen threatened to split his country apart.
Nathaniel never imagined that this would be the reason he would be acknowledged by his father. Not because of his acts for the country, nor because his penance was over and the King regretted his harshness. No, it was solely for political gains.
Just as cold as his heart was his gaze at the King when he finally stepped on the pedestal to receive his medal.
"Don't look at me like this", the King demanded in a stern and quiet voice, and let the golden medal fall into Nathanliel's gloved hands. The white peaks surrounding the gold made a strong contrast to the black of the leather. King William Icefall hastily pulled his hand back. "I also didn't want this. Be greatful to your great-aunt. Without her, you would forever be an unknown Earl."