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Chapter three: The Audience

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When they stepped outside the knights' quarters, the eastern portions of the horizon had begun to twinge orange, while the western part still clung to the light blue of daylight. The two siblings followed close behind Kratos, to whom people still continued to bow and show their respect as they made their way down the busy street.

It was a matter of minutes until they arrived back at the castle. The same guards still stood at the ornate wooden doors, and bowed with due respect as Kratos approached them. "I wish to grant these two their audience with His Majesty," he said as they stood upright again.

"B... but sir," one of them began, "these two speak of Sylvarant attacking Tethe'alla. It's just impossible. We had a decisive victory –"

"Which is precisely why we are vulnerable right now," Kratos interrupted. His voice seemed to overpower the guard's, despite that Kratos's tone was quieter. "Let us through."

After looking at each other hesitantly, the guards pushed the doors open and held them there. Martel gave a word of thanks as the three proceeded through the doors. A sight like no other they had seen before greeted them: a grand throne sat on top of an altar that had five stairs leading up to its height, and a long, thin red carpet sprawled from the stairs to the great doors they had just passed through. Two archways stood on their left and right, leading to other parts of the castle, and a balcony twenty feet off the ground bordered the walls.

The doors shut with a grand sound before Kratos spoke. "I will most likely do most of the talking during the audience, but you must know how to present yourself to the king, especially because you are half-elves," he said in a hushed voice. "You must bow when he enters the room, and remain on one knee when he takes the throne until you are dismissed. You must call him his proper titles, and do not speak unless spoken to. So long as you do this, he will be more likely to listen, and more importantly, I can guarantee your safety."

The siblings nodded.

"Very well. I will go summon His Majesty from his room."

Without another word, Kratos departed into the right archway.

"My, Mithos, isn't this magnificent?" Martel said, walking forward toward the throne as she moved her head around slowly, taking in the panoramic scene. "I never thought a castle would look this amazing... oh, Mithos, wouldn't it be nice to live here? I bet they have rooms and rooms of books..."

The boy stopped taking in the grandeur of his environment momentarily to smile at his sister. She had always loved to read; on occasion they were allowed to read from the library of Heimdall, but they never had money enough to buy books of their own. Mithos thought for a moment and then gave a soft laugh. "We'll just build our own castle someday. And then we can put as many libraries in it as we want."

Laughing and smiling, Martel looked back at him. "Yes! Oh, and we would have a great balcony, too. Where you could look down on the middle of the castle, and when you looked around you could see the land for miles."

He could not help but continue to smile. "That sounds great."

The two fell quiet again, and as they did, footsteps in the distance became audible. They glanced at each other before congregating midway between the throne and the door, standing side-by-side on the carpet. Their eyes fixated on the archway in which Kratos had left.

It was seconds after that he emerged, with a man in tow behind him. He had dark brown, nearly black hair that barely touched his shoulders, parting his face like curtains on a window. His off-white, warmly colored robes were tailored with designs almost as ornate as the one on his long red cape which flowed behind him. This man made his way toward the throne, the light from the hanging chandelier almost acting as a spotlight as it shined on his crown, causing it to shimmer.

Both Mithos and Martel bowed low as he entered, staying with their torsos almost parallel to the floor until he sat upon the throne, after which they dropped to one knee each.

After what seemed like ages, the heavy, deafening silence was broken by the king's voice. His tone seemed to fill the whole room; filled with a power and want to command, a pride which only he who rules unquestionably can know. "What are your names?"

"Mithos Yggdrasill."

"Martel Yggdrasill."

They looked up at him as they replied, but remained nearly motionless otherwise.

Though this pause was not nearly as long as the one he had taken before, it seemed to go on for ages nonetheless. "It is my understanding that you are half-elves."

The two cast glances at each other, not moving their heads. Unsure of whether to reply, they waited a few moments, but the king continued. "If not for Kratos's words, I would have had you thrown into the dungeons below for your hubris. Do you understand exactly how far you are below me? Exactly how much arrogance you are display by presenting yourself before me like this?"

Mithos bit his tongue – he knew he needed to concede, but if he opened his mouth to reply he felt sure he his reply would be that of defiance.

"We understand, Your Majesty," his sister said in a soft voice behind him.

Nodding once curtly, the king resumed, "Good. Now, what is this that is so important that Kratos saw to it that you have my attention?" His dark eyes moved over to Kratos, and he mumbled something that was inaudible to the two siblings in front of him. The knights' captain did not meet his eyes.

Looking up and causing his sky blue eyes piercing that of the king's, Mithos spoke up. "We have heard that Sylvarant plans an attack on Tethe'alla. We know that the army is moving here and they plan to attack the capital."

At this, the king laughed. "After the defeat we handed them less than a fortnight ago? Your fantasies sound more ludicrous than Kratos's. He, too, tells me Sylvarant plans to attack."

Kratos turned his head to face that of his king next to him. "My Lord, I have reason to believe what these two speak. We suffered heavy casualties in that battle. It is my belief that Sylvarant wishes to strike while –"

"Yes, Kratos, I have heard enough of your fantasies! I am the king of Tethe'alla! I will not be caught unawares! Especially by Sylvarant scum..." The king looked back down at the siblings with discontent swimming in his eyes. "What is more, how do we not know these two are spies? Why would two half-elves care about Meltokio's fate? They should be thrown in the dungeon!"

"I have firm reason to believe that these two are not spies, as I have told you," replied Kratos, his voice remaining as calm as ever. "You gave me your word you would listen to what they had to say and let them walk away."

After giving a condescending laugh, the king said, "Yes, Kratos, you have always been the biggest sympathizer with vermin that I have ever met... if you were not one of the best knights Tethe'alla has ever seen..." But he shook his head as his voice trailed off into quietude and looked back at the siblings. "Get them out of here."

Before anyone could say anything the two guards behind the half-elves took hold of their wrists and yanked them onto their feet. "Wait, please!" Mithos said, his voice high and desperate, as his guard began dragging him toward the door.

"So many people will be hurt, please, we are telling the truth! We do not wish to see a war tear the land apart!" Martel cried.

"How dare either of you talk back to me!" The king yelled, getting to his feet. "Get them out of here, get them out of my sight! Kratos, see to it that they make it well a ways from the city!"

"How can you call yourself a king?" Mithos shouted – he no longer cared about respect. It was clear the king would not listen to him. "Don't you care about your people at all, about their safety?"

"Enough!" Bellowed the king, his booming voice resounding of the walls and causing all to be still. He was on his feet, staring Mithos down, his eyes raging with the flames of hatred. "You disgusting creature! Throw them in the dungeon, now!"

Instantly, Kratos looked back at him. "Your Majesty –"

"I gave you my word on the assumption that these two wouldn't dare be so insulting to me! I am the king! Those who oppose my rule shall see no mercy!"

The guards began to drag the siblings not toward the exit now, but toward a different door, one that surely wasn't going to lead them to anywhere they wanted to go.

"Let him go, please!" Pleaded Martel, her voice as equally desperate as her eyes which fixated on the king. "Please, he just –"

But her sentence stopped suddenly as she let out a small yelp of pain. Mithos swung his head around and saw his sister now on the ground, and the guard that had been detaining her pulling the blunt end of his spear away from where he had just struck her stomach. "Quiet, half-elf!"

And that was it. Adrenaline and anger powering him, Mithos forcefully pulled away from his guard and drew his sword in a fluid motion. "Demon Fang!" He shouted as the shock wave left his blade and traveled along the ground until it hit his sister's assailant, knocking him onto his back.

"You impudent!" Spluttered the king, before looking at Kratos. "Kill the boy, now!"

"No!" cried Martel.

Before anyone could take another action, Kratos had drawn his sword. "Demon Fang!"

The blue attack shot along the ground at a rapid speed, stopping only when it hit the king, sending him flying back into his thrown upon impact, and he became motionless, quite clearly knocked out.

Everyone else shocked into stillness, Kratos seized his opportunity and rushed to the one guard who remained standing and his the back of his head with the hilt of his sword, and he fell to the ground face-first.

"I don't know how long they'll be out for, but it won't be long. We need to get out of here quickly." He turned his attention to Martel. "Can you walk?"

"Y... yes," Martel said as she got to her feet, unable to hide her surprise. "Sir Kratos..."

"There will be time for chitchat later. Follow me outside and act as if nothing happened."

He sheathed his sword and Mithos did as well, and without another word the swordsman pulled open one of the immense doors. The guards both looked at Kratos as one of them spoke up. "Captain Kratos, how is the king?"

"He is well," Kratos replied curtly, "but has gone to rest and wishes not to be disturbed."

"Ah, yes, of course. Good day then."

The trio descended down the stairs, keeping close behind Kratos so as not to draw attention, and also in order to not lose him in the crowd. Mithos glanced at his sister, desperate to talk to her, but she only shook his head when he began to speak, signaling for him to wait. Following Kratos's quick pace, they were out of the city much faster than when they had originally entered.

Still no one spoke, as Kratos had kept going. He seemed intent on getting as far away from Meltokio as possible. Finally, he slowed his pace to a stop, once they had gone well out of the city borders and into a thicket of trees.

"Sir Kratos," Martel said before anyone else could speak, "Thank you. We are in your debt." She bowed low, as low as she had with the king, but this time it was sincere. Her brother followed her example. "If it had not been for you... I don't want to imagine what would have happened to us." She paused. "And... you have lost your position because of us. From the bottom of our hearts... we're sorry."

"But Martel," Mithos interjected, "are you okay? Are you injured?"

She shook her head and looked at her brother. "I'm fine, thank you... but Mithos... you would've been killed if Kratos hadn't saved you. Why did you –"

He cut her off, taking a step forward. "He was hurting you! I couldn't just – I couldn't just stand there!"

"Even so, what you did was foolish," said Kratos, drawing the attention of both siblings. "Even if your intentions are good, carelessness only brings disaster."

His hands curling into fists, Mithos took a step toward Kratos. "You humans are –"

"Mithos!" His sister interjected, placing a hand on his shoulder. Her voice was not strict, but worried.

Kratos shook his head. "It matters not what you think of me. At any rate, I have a request I wish to ask of you."

Martel nodded, still holding her brother's shoulder gently. "We are in your debt. What is it that we can help you with?"

"If you still wish to try and stop this war, as I do, then come with me. I have a good idea where the Sylvarant army will stop to camp for the night before they attack Meltokio tomorrow. There, you can speak with their half-elf commander of whom I spoke before. I imagine he may listen to those of his race."

"Mithos..." Martel said, looking down at the blonde child. "I want to still try to stop this. You do too, right?"

"Of course..."

"Then, we shall set off. We don't have much time." He turned around, but did not move his legs, instead speaking again. "And... on the subject of His Majesty... do not feel too bad. He and I have not been seeing eye-to-eye as of late. I doubt I would have remained in his service much longer."

And then he set off, but had only taken two steps before he stopped due to another's voice.

"Um... Sir Kratos."

He turned to its source – Mithos, whose sky blue eyes stared straight into his own crimson ones. "I'm sorry for my actions." The half-elf bowed. "And thank you for saving us."

There was a brief silence before Kratos replied. "It is all right. And... you may call me Kratos. I am no longer worthy of a title, after all."

And he turned around and began walking, with the two siblings following behind him.

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Chapter three end.

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A/N: Yaayy I finally got back to this. Anyway... originally this chapter was going to include their meeting with Yuan as well, but I figured that would make it just go on for too long so I cut it here.

Anyway, I made a lot of changes from what I had originally planned, and there are still a number of things I'm unsure of, too. For instance, originally the king was just going to kick them out, and Kratos was going to bring them to Yuan, without losing his title, and without the skirmish in the audience hall. But I want to show as much as I can (without overdoing it, of course) just how much Mithos cares about his sister and what he'll do to protect her, especially impulsively. And then it just kind of escalated from there...

I also spent a lot of time deciding whether Mithos would apologize to Kratos for his actions. Because one of the defining characteristics of Mithos, as Kratos points out in Symphonia as being the clear difference between Mithos and Lloyd, is that Mithos does not recognize his mistakes. However I decided to have him apologize in the end, because as I said in my last A/N I picture Mithos as being quite different in this time period (well, in some ways), and that over the course of his journey as he experiences more discrimination, he slowly becomes more and more bitter and of course losing Martel finally snaps him. But so yeah, I didn't want to make him like OMG SORRY, so I tried to make him a little hesitant but apologize in the end because he is, of course, a good person with good intentions.

Also HEY Y'SEE WHAT I DID THERE WITH MARTEL AND MITHOS TALKING ABOUT LIVING IN A CASTLE?

Woo okay I'll shut up now. I mean I could go on for pages about how I create each chapter but that's pretty boring. Anyway, as an ending note, I'm sorry for the delay on this. But I will finish this story, no matter what, because I've wanted for the longest time to write it. I think I'm slowly getting back into writing now so hopefully I will have more up soon. Thank you for reading and reviews are always greatly appreciated.

Thanks again to Pat for editing.

- Medli