The trip to Ipalés was unexpectedly short and somewhat unnerving. The usual golden sun became shrouded in clouds, creating rather pleasant hiking conditions. However the clouds had made the evenings darker sooner, not just because they appeared earlier in the day, the clouds were distinctly darker as well. The routes up the mountain to Ipalés were not as well defined as those to Korona in Kova, however as an experienced traveler it wasn’t a problem to sleep in the open.
The terrain of Evren was very plain and simple, though there were enough trees dotted around that making a simple shelter was not very difficult.
I still had a spare water skin as well as two spare fish as I approached Ipalés, the daunting tower spiking in the distance beyond those thick castle walls. I had never been to the capital before, and it was slightly less impressive than the stories told, perhaps because it lacked the stone which brought it so much power.
The city really showed its age, the stone buildings were cracked and many buildings were being constructed, ruining the city’s atmosphere. The people lacked energy or urgency, and strolled around minding their own business. Even the market felt lacking in people, like it was made for a much larger population that dwindled over the years.
The layout of Ipalés was strange to see. The huge castle felt underwhelming and pushed out to the side of the city on the right. There was a large lake in the middle of this city within the outer walls and everything was based with that at the center. As a sign that the lake was so important, a massive tower was made at its center putting everything else to shame. Now that did look magnificent, though I wondered what its purpose was.
I wandered through the city in disbelief that I would soon receive my prize, but it would happen, and it would be amazing: a life of luxury and ease until the end of my days.
However it wasn’t going to be that simple. After requesting a meeting about the stone I was put on a waiting list for 6 days. It made sense that they were busy however I would have thought that news of the stone of the conqueror would be a priority. I lacked the funding to survive for so long, so as a last resort I took note of the date and left the city, living on the outskirts was going to be a lot easier. After a couple of days I would return and rent at an inn, using most of my money before getting to the meeting. That way I would be able to look my best and find out about current events.
A long 6 days passed and I was finally granted an audience with the King of Evren, whose task it was to be an audience to the people. To the side of him were presumably his advisors, there was also a lot of rich looking people. Maybe after this I would be allowed to join them.
I was held in a rather long and unpleasant line, many people were there to discuss problems with their village and injustices that had happened to them and it was depressing to hear. If the king was subjected to this daily then I felt bad for him – he must not think well of his kingdom in the slightest.
Hours past and at last it was my turn.
“Next” the person on the left called, after a peasant was finished with their village being attacked.
I knelt in front of the king.
“Stand” he said.
“You’re majesty, my name is James Reave, and I would like to present you with this…” I took out the shining stone, “The stone of the conqueror.
There was a stunned silence, then the king started to laugh, he gave his man on the left a look.
“Guards, escort this man out, he is clearly not in his right mind” he said.
“Wait, what? I HAVE THE STONE!” I shouted but they ignored me.
“The stone of the conqueror has already been found!” the same man continued sternly “As well as that we’re not so stupid to think a plain rock is the stone.”
“PLAIN? DO YOU NOT SEE IT? LOOK IT GLOWS!” I pointed the shining rock at them to no effect. They weren’t able to see it somehow.
A guard looked like he was about to grab me so I pushed the stone as far in to my pockets as possible and let them grab me. There was no outrunning these guards.
Everything was mad; the whole country had gone crazy. How could they not see that the stone was real and shone brilliantly? In the wanted posters they had shown the stone and it was perfectly identical. Everything was wrong.
I came with the guards to where they were taking me. It was a route through the entire city leading to the market place. There was a place on its outskirts, a stand with three holes in it, one big in the middle and two small on either side. They were going to put me in the stocks.