The Brothers Bronzebeard (Part 3)

First Muradin died, and then there was the trouble with Brann… our king is in a difficult position.


 

Scene 3; Ironforge, the High Seat. As the invasion of Icecrown Citadel commences.

“… so ye see, it’s quite impossible to –”

The king came up unexpectedly, whirling Senator Redstone around and grabbing his robes near the neck to pull him dangerously close to Magni’s enraged visage.

“Could ye repeat that, Redstone?” The king’s voice was a growl that seemed to shake the High Seat.

The portly senator wasn’t used to this kind of physicality. His voice lost its haughty self-assuredness and went up in pitch. “Yer brother Muradin was declared dead, Yer Majesty! Dead is dead!”

“But he’s alive, ye dolt! He’s in Icecrown with King Varian, who knew him personally before Muradin ever came tae Northrend.” He said the next part slowly so it was properly understood. “How much proof does th’ Senate need tae reverse th’ declaration?”

“M-my king, th’ Senate can’t reverse it. Th’ laws of th’ Senate specifically ensure that a declaration o’ death removes all claims tae inheritance o’ the throne, because o’ th’ danger of th’ undead. Muradin can never be king, Yer Majesty! Regent, perhaps, but…”

Magni released the squirming senator ungently. Redstone straightened himself out, trying to regain his composure as the king paced the dais angrily.

“What blasted bureaucrat declared such a rule? Any fool can see that me brother is alive; he’s nae some risen abomination!” Magni paused, then rounded on Redstone again. “I’ve need of a proper heir tae th’ throne, and ye’d dare defy me on a technicality?”

“My king,” came Belgrum’s soothing rumble, which drew the king’s ire, “th’ law has extensive precedent. Anvilmar’s heir was declared dead by the Senate just after th’ High King’s passing. Whether his death-like state was because o’ that witch Modgud’s trickery or due t’ an unintentionally poisoned cask o’ Wildhammer brew… well, tis a never-ending debate among the historians, but ultimately, the bickering over the succession is what caused the War o’ th’ Three Hammers.”

“That’s more reason tae throw out the bloody thing!” He focused on Redstone again. “Here’s a choice fer ye, if ye can put yer political jockeying tae rest fer th’ span it takes me t’ speak it: d’ye want Muradin Bronzebeard, a battle-hardened dwarf o’ the royal line to be yer next king? Or d’ye want whatever that sooty bastard Thaurissan planted in Moira’s belly to rule? Find me a quorum that wants th’ former, Redstone, because if ye come back sayin’ the Senate wants a Dark Iron king, I’ll take a swim in the Great Forge and grant their wish!”

The senator nodded silently, bowed awkwardly, then straightened his robes and showed himself out of the throne room, trying to escape the searing gaze of the king. Magni, for his part, slumped into the throne, stroking the bridge of his broad nose, exhausted.

Belgrum sidled nonchalantly to a nearby keg and set about filling two mugs. The time it took was just enough time for Redstone to leave the High Seat completely, and for the nearby guards to acknowledge Belgrum’s signal that the king needed privacy.

As he handed one mug to the king, he spoke softly once again. “Disownin’ Moira is th’ surest way to ensure her issue never sits th’ throne. Ye’ve never spoken o’ the possibility, and I’ve never spoken of it before. But I’ll put ye tae th’ question now, my king: why won’t ye do it?”

Magni looked at the mug, and then up to meet Belgrum’s measured gaze. “No Bronzebeard king has ever given up on his child. In me heart, I want her tae come home. Maybe she’s nae a warrior, but maybe Ironforge doesn’t need a warrior-king. I judged Moira poorly, thinking she didn’t have the mettle to rule, but she has the best qualities ye could ask for in a Bronzebeard. Brann’s unconventional wisdom, Muradin’s fearlessness…”

“Her father’s stubborn pride,” Belgrum added.

Magni smiled ruefully. “Aye. Blood tells.” The smile faded. “But Thaurissan’s get? No. Never. I’ll never subject my people t’ that. They need a king they can put their faith in, and no one who’s ever trusted a Dark Iron has ever come out o’ th’ deal in one piece. If Moira has birthed Thaurissan’s son, he’ll be as twisted and villainous a cur as his father. Blood tells.”

“Ye realize, of course,” Belgrum said, “that Moira will never return without her child. As much as ye refuse tae let her go, she’ll do th’ same fer her own.”

“D’ye see the trap Thaurissan planted for me now? If I disown Moira, I dishonor me ancestors by failin’ to stay true to me kin, and failing tae uphold th’ line o’ kings. If I let her claim stand, a Dark Iron dwarf will sit upon this throne one day. Either way, he wins. That’s why th’ Senate has to reverse th’ claim and allow Muradin tae inherit. Muradin is th’ only way tae keep Thaurissan from getting his victory.”

During his brief visit to Northrend, Magni saw how much the Frostborn loved Muradin, even without knowing of his heroism before Arthas betrayed him and stole his memory. He has become a great kingbut for a different people than his own. He suspected that some would use Muradin’s kingship over the Frostborn as a reason to bar him from the crown, but Magni couldn’t let that stop him from trying. It was the only chance for his people, unless…

He looked into the mug, seeing the dark amber reflecting the lit braziers of the High Seat. He’d been wrong about Moira, and now he knew it. A priest cares for her people, just as a warrior protects them. He had ignored her words then, distraught as he ever was over her failure to be a son. And he realized now how close he’d driven the kingdom to ruin by denying her for so long. If he’d embraced her properly, would she have been so rebellious? What other wrongs had he upheld in the name of tradition?

Who are my people?

Something clicked within his mind. The feeling was akin to what he experienced many times as a craftsman: the instant when he saw in his mind’s eye what a weapon would become before he set himself to crafting it.

A year ago, if someone had suggested it to him, he’d have called the fool mad. However, now that it was his own idea, his own madness… he could just imagine Brann smiling his mischievous grin.

He would need time, though. If all it took to secure Muradin’s inheritance was wrangling a few senators, then it would buy him the time to gently open communications with Shadowforge. He’d feel much more confident trying to build that bridge if he knew that the kingdom’s future was secure.

He looked back at Belgrum, raising the mug in salute. “Maybe there’s a path out o’ this, old friend. Might not be as simple as I’d like, but now’s not th’ time to be choosy.”

Belgrum bowed silently, tapping his mug against the king’s. “Of course, my king.”

The king and his advisor drank deeply, and hatched a plan.

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