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Chapter 8     

Regal Requests

        The royal dining chamber was a place of elegance. Tapestries covered the hewn stone walls. An intricate, hand-woven rug covered the floor nearly wall to wall. The tabletop was one solid piece of dark wood, nearly black and buffed to an impressive shine. The table''s legs were broad and sturdy. They curved inward then outward to where they joined the four corners of the table. Their feet were carved as giant eagle's claws grasping nearly perfect spheres.

Each wall bore torches evenly spaced. They burned brightly, but did little to add to the light of the room, for hanging from the center of the ceiling, positioned exactly over the table, was a large, elaborate chandelier. The glass of this piece of handiwork consisted of crystal on the outer edges, but also rubies and gems of green, yellow, and purple. They were all held together by a polished gold framework that wound like a web throughout the outer rim of the light and then inward and upward to the ceiling above.

The chairs were as black as the table. Their seats and legs were of one solid piece of wood that had been carved, steamed, and bent to arch in a most unique fashion. The arms and backs of the chairs worked their way upward with the resemblance of jungle vines intertwined and arching upward and outward to form a most comfortable resting place for the arms and back.

The table bore a spread of food that soldiers on a lengthy march could not even hope to witness in their dreams. Flasks of multicolored wines were interspersed between place settings. Three large trays of meats formed the centerpiece. Fruits and breads were positioned for ready access and were in considerable abundance.

Those at this table had feasted well, their gluttonous appetites had barely managed to make a noticeable subtraction from the bounteous spread. Ishmael clumsily raised a golden bejeweled goblet filled to overflowing with wine.

"A toast to the masterful mind of our leader. May his strategies always lead true!"

 "To our leader!" all of Amalickiah's officers cheered, banging the table. They clinked glasses together slopping the wine on both table and rug alike, and drank.

"Brother, you are nothing short of amazing! Each time I believe I've figured you out, you surprise me again. I don't know how you do it!" Ammoron offered with an incredulous smile, in addition to the toast.

"That, dear brother, is why you are about to only become the brother of the king, and not the king himself." Amalickiah returned the compliment.

Ammoron nearly dropped his goblet, "Brother of the king?" He looked about himself, particularly at Ishmael who continued to smile at his leader. Then he added, "I see your plotting is not yet done."

"I've only just begun. If you think you've seen plotting, just watch me woo a queen." Amalickiah took a large gulp from his goblet. The men looked surprised at first, then laughed and slapped each other on their backs. 

~~~ - ~~~ 

Over the next several days and weeks, Amalickiah became a common visitor to the throne room. His first visits were very formal and full of the pomp and circumstance any person should be expected to give to a nation's queen. Amalickiah initiated several conversations speaking of his respect for the late king and his dismay at his tragic, untimely end. He vowed several times to bring the traitors to justice and punish the Nephites for infiltrating the Lamanite people and stirring them up to plot against their own.

As the visits continued, his speeches turned to be of himself and how he managed to track down Lehonti and the oath-keepers. He alluded quite directly to his cleverness in merging the two armies without shedding blood. He did not miss opportunities to share impressive details about his past accomplishments. Nor did he withhold expressions of deep remorse for those that had been lost, such as Lehonti's supposed unfortunate bout with jungle fever.

"We did all we could to make him comfortable. We moved him from that wicked place. We carried him on our very backs. He wanted for no attention. I ensured that his servant kept a constant vigil. I also sent my top officers to check on him each evening and throughout the day. It was a cursed experience for a noble warrior," Amalickiah said with pity.

"Perhaps it was the gods punishing him for leading those who dared break their word to their king. If so, nothing you could have done could have prevented his end," the queen offered.

"Perhaps, my queen. I had not thought of it in those terms. I merely saw him suffering and wished I could end it, and soon," Amalickiah said with his notorious double meaning.

As the visits became daily, the queen grew to expect and anticipate them. One day, when Amalickiah entered and knelt, the queen bade him to rise, "Amalickiah, you have become a true and trusted servant of this court. Please, take this seat I have had prepared for you."

The queen pointed to a finely adorned chair that sat to the side of her throne and the empty one of her slain husband. It was turned on an angle to face her throne, but was on ground level, leaving it about two feet lower than the throne she occupied, as the thrones themselves resided on a small platform with two steps leading up to them. Amalickiah gave a shocked expression.

"My queen, I could not but kneel in your presence!" he said.

"Good Amalickiah, please take hold of my generosity. I wish you to sit in comfort so that we may converse with more ease," the queen explained.

"I thank you, my queen, this is a rare and heartwarming offer." Amalickiah bowed his head and glided his right hand to his chest and then outward to his side in a show of full deference.

He rose and crossed to the chair, walking, if not strutting, with a noble gait. He eyed the lavish chair as being satisfactory, but only for the time being. As he sat, he again nodded to the queen, but his eyes fell upon the empty king's throne. He knew that in time, that seat would be occupied. He fully intended to become that occupant.

On a later occasion, the queen asked Amalickiah how his plans for defeating the Nephites were progressing. Amalickiah sat upright with genuine interest in elaborating on the topic. A rare scene unfolded as Amalickiah's enthusiasm exceeded his normally carefully calculated communications.

Words raced from his mouth. His arms gesticulated wildly. The queen became overwhelmed by the unusual vibrancy of his descriptions. Her eyes grew wide, then a small laugh escaped her lips. It was a sound not heard in this throne room, or this kingdom, for many, many months.

Amalickiah was in mid-sentence when he heard the laugh. He had been so caught up in his description that he had actually lost consciousness of the fact that he was speaking to someone other than himself. The sound of the laughter disrupted his train of thought. His initial thought was to smite whoever it was that dared intrude upon and mock his thoughts. It was only for a moment, however, as he caught himself and regained awareness of both his position and who his audience was.

He simply stopped talking, and let his formerly flailing arms fall limp to his sides. He found the queen with his eyes and asked, "What?"

"Don't look so hurt, dear Amalickiah, I was merely overwhelmed by your enthusiasm. This is a side of you I am not accustomed to. You seem to be quite taken by your plans," the queen responded.

"Yes, my queen, I guess I am. I am pleased that my words have entertained you, although that was not their intent," Amalickiah added.

"Oh, yes, Amalickiah, they have entertained me. To be honest, I have grown to look forward to your words." She paused then added, "and your presence."

"Again, I am glad that I can please you, my queen." Amalickiah bowed his head respectfully, and saw this as a prime time to add some flattering words, "And, I must confess, my queen, that I find myself longing for these brief visits and conversations. I find them to be the highlight of my otherwise drab days."

"I am truly pleased to hear that." The queen was surprised to feel her cheeks flush and hoped that no others could see the effect this man seemed to have on her.

Not too many days after this exchange, Amalickiah found himself the invited guest to dine privately with the queen. The dinner was by far the most impressive Amalickiah had ever had the privilege of attending. He wore his most impressive robes and remained in his best of manners. Servants kept their distance, but surrounded the table ready to serve the tiniest whim of their queen and her guest.

Both queen and commander were oblivious to the servants. The two dinner guests lingered at the table long after both had finished eating. They were enwrapped in conversation. The queen was intrigued by Amalickiah's every word.

Amalickiah, meanwhile, was choosing his words carefully to ensure they continued to maintain that effect upon his prey. Even in matters of the heart, his every word was coldly calculated to elicit the effects he desired. He saw that the queen would soon be his, and thus the kingdom. Soon, Moroni would learn to tremble at the very mention of his name. 

~~~ - ~~~ 

The wedding was inevitable. Only the Lamanites of the highest birth were permitted within the throne room. All others were ordered to spend the day in celebration and commemoration of the queen's new mate and their new king. Amalickiah's officers and henchmen were given seats of honor, toward the front. The Lamanite minister wore a stately robe of monkey skins and toucan feathers. His words were a confusing mixture of religion and paganism, but their intent was clear. Once spoken, the queen had a husband, and Amalickiah had a kingdom. Upon their conclusion, the queen's face beamed a beautiful smile of love rekindled. Amalickiah's face beamed as well, but for a much darker reason. 

~~~ - ~~~ 

Amalickiah sat upon his new throne, without the queen present. His key men who had witnessed and aided him in his climb to power knelt before him. Amalickiah wore a large, red, regal robe.

"My brother, you have finally done it!" Ammoron said out of continued respect for his ever awe-inspiring brother's ability to achieve his highest goals.

"That's 'king'," Amalickiah sternly corrected his insolent subject.

Ammoron was at first taken aback, not sure if this was a sarcastic correction, but the tone of Amalickiah's voice, and his glare made it clear that it was a sincere correction.

"Pardon me, my king. I meant no disrespect," Ammoron forced himself to bow his head respectfully.

"You are pardoned," Amalickiah magnanimously declared.

Ammoron appeared to be withholding a bristling at the pardon, but Ishmael interrupted, and removed attention from the king's small-minded brother, "Great king, I compliment you once again for your foresight and ingenuity. Might I ask if you are ready for your final conquest?"

Ishmael's platitudes were not missed by Amalickiah's ego. He had longed to hear such words and fully appreciated hearing them delivered with such ease and respect.

"Yes. Now I am ready," Amalickiah responded.

"Wonderful! I am eager to expand the power of your mighty kingdom. When do we attack?" Ishmael queried.

"Within a fortnight, just as soon as we have assembled the troops once more."

"And where do we attack first, great king?" Ishmael asked.

"Zarahemla?" Ammoron guessed, still ignorant to the verbal formalities of addressing his new king.

"Oh, no, no. Not yet. I want to play with them first. Sting them in some vulnerable spots to let them know we're still around. Once we've made our point, then we'll hit their capital city, their blessed Zarahemla," Amalickiah disclosed.

"Interesting. Where do you propose to 'sting' them first, my king?" Ishmael persisted.

"Where else, but their most vulnerable spot?" Amalickiah offered.

"Ammonihah? The city's still practically a ruin from the last Lamanite invasion -" Ishmael spoke with more than a twinge of surprise mingled with satisfaction.

"Precisely. What better place to test out my new army than by giving them some easy target practice?" Amalickiah smiled, and paused allowing the men to enjoy the comment. The king then added, "Ishmael, you have served me well. You have shown the greatest understanding of what must happen and when. I'd like you to lead this first assault."

Ishmael was visibly surprised, nearly losing his balance from his kneeling position, "Me? I'm keenly honored. But, aren't you coming?"

"No, not this time. I want to plan our little party in Zarahemla. Our new armor coupled with Ammonihah's weaknesses should make this an easy quest. Besides, you deserve this. Go and enjoy." Amalickiah said the words with the attitude of a boy tossing his playful puppy a meaty bone.

"Thank you, thank you, my Lord. I am honored. I will endeavor to make you proud." Ishmael bowed respectfully. He was keenly delighted and flattered with this unexpected assignment.

"I'm sure you will. Just don't weary my men more than necessary. I've got a busy schedule planned for them." The king's smile increased as he pleased himself with words he had longed to utter for many, many months. On this day, his dreaming and scheming were coming to fruition. Ishmael and the others bowed respectfully before leaving his regal presence.

©1999, 2003, 2012 by Douglas V. Nufer

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