It should have been an ordinary autumn morning in the inland royal capital, but the place was in an uproar.
“Huh? What do you mean, we can’t enter the town?”
“It’s an order from the castle.”
“What? Nothing like this has ever happened before. What is the reason!”
There were three roads that led to the royal capital, which had steep mountains behind it. As there was no chance of them ever being attacked, it was not surrounded by any walls. And so people from all over were able to visit it freely. It was just seen as a lively town that happened to have a castle. However, as goods came in from all over, the roads were very wide.
Normally, you would have been able to enter the royal capital freely, but on this day, soldiers stood guard, and since that morning, people were forbidden from entering or leaving.
In comparison, Midland was a place with connections to the three territories, and had many merchants and monster hunting Adventurers, which meant there were a lot of problems. And so they had quite a lot of soldiers in order to keep the peace. However, in the southern country of Lowland, or the inland country of Highland, soldiers were seen as being more similar to police officers. They would mediate between residents who were fighting, and try to prevent problems from arising in the first place. And so they were few in number.
The only soldiers were the ones in the castle. And their role was to protect the king and castle, as tradition dictated. But as they had never been invaded by another country, the people of the town rarely thought about their purpose.
But now these soldiers were forbidding them from entering the town. Those who came early in the morning were generally farmers, and so not being able to do business for one or two days was not too big a problem. Still, they had never seen the soldiers use force like this before. And so they were anxious and confused. Many did not return, and there was now a long line of traffic near the entrance.
“You can’t just tell us that we can’t go in without giving us a reason. And how long is this going to last?”
While the people were right to question them, the soldiers were unable to give them an explanation, and could only repeat that the orders were from the castle.
The soldiers themselves could hardly believe what was happening. Late the previous night, the king’s brother had called them in and said,
“Prince Norfe has taken the king hostage. He wants the throne.”
Of course, they could not believe this. Furthermore…
“It’s possible that he has asked other countries for help. And so until the matter is settled, no one is allowed to leave or enter the royal capital. It will be your job to ensure this.”
That was what he said to them.
The king had been ill for a while now, and so everyone knew that his younger brother, Lord Adol, was running things in his place. Prince Norfe had not even been ten years old at the time, and so it seemed only natural for Lord Adol to take his father’s place until Norfe was of age.
And once Norfe grew older, he started to travel and work in other countries. And so the people knew about Norfe, and he was well received. While few had ever seen Lord Adol in person, it seemed to most that he was working hard to support the prince, and so he was rated highly as well.
Besides, the situation had never been the cause of trouble before. Though, a few months ago, there was an incident where trade with the other territories was temporarily suspended, but it did not greatly affect anyone who wasn’t directly involved in trading.
Now that Norfe was of age, the people had assumed that Lord Adol would teach him for a few years and then Norfe would be crowned king. The soldiers had also thought this.
And so they could not comprehend the idea that Norfe had started a rebellion, and was trying to take the throne. Why would he do that, if it would be his in just a few years? And what was this about being in contact with the other territories?
They had all seen Norfe at the castle, and it never seemed like he was in a rush.
“Hey, what about the prince’s personal guards? Surely they know what is happening.”
Apparently, they had split into two sides. One side had locked themselve’s up in the king’s room. This was quite a blow to the guards who wanted to believe that the Prince was innocent.
Besides, if Norfe was innocent, that meant that it was Lord Adol who was plotting something. However, while there may have been some friction with outsiders, the people did not feel that Lord Adol had made any mistakes. For instance, with regards to the recent welcoming of the birdfolk. The people had accepted this willingly.
“That’s it! These birdfolk are from the other territories! Are any of you acquainted with them?”
And so they had gone searching. But perhaps because it was night time, they were unable to find any of the birdfolk. In the end, they did not know what to believe. And so by morning, they soberly went out to close the roads.
“But surely we should be allowed to leave?”
“All traffic is forbidden.”
There was a lot of chaos, but once the morning rush had settled, sounds could be heard coming from the direction of the castle, and people started to gather around. After some time, a rider appeared. He went to the plaza and spread out a sheet of paper, which he began to read.
“Prince Norfe has taken the king hostage. His demand is that the throne be passed to him. While the situation is still being resolved, it is possible that His Highness has asked the other territories for aid. And so until the matter is settled, no one, including citizens, will be allowed to enter or leave the capital.”
It was what the soldiers already knew. However, the people were still confused, and they rushed up to the mounted soldier.
“Hey, you! What are you saying? Prince Norfe would never do something like that. He’s an adult and practically king already. What point would there be in knocking down the frail king?”
“Other territories? But we aren’t even fighting!”
“I heard that there was trouble before regarding the Saintesses, but hasn’t that been resolved?”
The soldiers knew that something was strange, but still had to obey Adol’s orders anyway. But to the people, Lord Adol was just a representative until Norfe was old enough. They thought of him as an honest, good uncle who supported Norfe.
And so when something seemed strange, they did not hesitate to say it. However, the soldiers could not reply.
“Hey, what is that?”
Said someone who was near the back of the crowd as he pointed at the sky.
“A flying house?”
“Is that what I think it is? Those things that fly around in Midland.”
It wasn’t just an airship. There were numerous white-feathered birdfolk flying around as if they were following it. And they were carrying people.
“The birdfolk are carrying adults…and they all have white hair… Hey, one is coming down!”
However, in spite of flying very low, the bird person did not land, and continued to fly around as if to show off the person that he was carrying. The person who was being carried slowly brushed the hair out of his face. Then they went back towards the airship.
“Did you see that! The skin and hair that glimmered in the sunlight. The webbed hands. And those weren’t ears, but fins!”
Cries of ‘merfolk’ began to echo around them.
“Hey! Over here! Hey, you! Person from the castle!”
Someone who was riding a carriage near the entrance started to shout, and a soldier ran frantically.
“A dwarf and elf. And beastkin…but why…”
“Was the news from the castle really true then?”
People who they had never seen were gathering at the royal capital now.