For the People

Tehveor buried his head deeper beneath the blankets as his door opened. The shuffling steps suggested it was the same servant who had stoked his morning fire and brought in the water. The man wheezed as he tugged the curtains aside, letting the red light of sunrise into the room.
It leaked through the loose weave of his blanket, and Tehveor peeked at the shapes around him. He clenched his hands, trying once more to convince himself that the caves were a dream. Gregorn’s animated excitement, Master Skafar’s deepening frown as he saw Setta. Even his own mother’s voice, which swung between anger and fear as she spoke so many words that he didn’t understand. He’d ended up hiding his face against her chest and clamping his hands over his ears and, for some reason, that had made them stop talking. She’d brought him back to the castle and stayed with him until he fell asleep.
“Hasn’t he woken yet?”
Tehveor swung his eyes to the maid outlined in the doorway.
“Not yet,” the old servant answered. “I’ll have to rouse him soon, but I thought it best to let him sleep.”
“I brought his clothes. He’ll need to be fitted later, but I think these will do for breakfast. I wonder why she didn’t bring his things from home.”
“It’s not for us to speculate.”
“Poor little thing,” the woman glanced toward the bed. “It must be terrifying being uprooted like that.”
“Children are resilient,” the man spoke. “He’ll adapt soon enough.”
Tehveor shrank as the woman left, and the servant walked toward his bed. He didn’t want to adapt. He wanted to go home.
“Sire, you must wake now. You have only a short time before breaking the fast.”
Tehveor pulled the covers down to his nose, peeking at the man. He was a grandfatherly sort, with cropped gray hair and a clean jaw.
Lines ran through the servant’s face as the man smiled and whispered, “Good morning.”
Tehveor swallowed, then asked, “Will the king be there?”
The servant flinched, then smoothed the lines back into tiny creases. “I cannot say, sire. He might, but he may not be back at all today.”
Tehveor pushed back the blankets and reluctantly allowed the man to help him with his clothes. The shirt fit loosely and the only buttons were on his wrists, bringing the generous sleeves to a tight fit at the cuffs.
“Why do they use so many buttons here?” he asked.
The man smiled. “They’ve started doing that now all over. Ties come loose. You don’t want your sleeve ties dropping into your breakfast, do you?”
Tehveor’s eyes moved to the man’s own sleeves where the ties were knotted and tucked inside. “I suppose not. But they’re hard to get on.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” the man said. “I am called Thymon, and I will care for you and your chamber. When you need anything, I will fetch it for you.”
“I’m Tehveor,” Tehveor said.
The man huffed another laugh, but his eyes softened as he whispered, “I know. I know who you are, Tehveor.”
Neither spoke again as he helped Tehveor into a short tunic and cinched the outfit with a brown leather belt. The royal family dressed differently at the castle, with pants pulled over the boots instead of tucked inside and hair combed with water to keep it in place.
The sun peeked over the wall by the time Tehveor was ready, but he blew out a breath as he stepped into the hallway and heard Darshon’s voice from the door catty-cornered to his. He returned Thyman’s grin as Darshon’s cheerful song continued.
Tehveor stepped to the door as the singing was replaced by an exclamation that Tehveor was not allowed to use. Tehveor tapped on finger against the door.
“Enter!” Darshon called.
He followed the voice into the room where the young prince sat on the floor, warring with his boot straps.
“Are you better?”
“Yes,” Darshon answered, “except I broke my lace.” He tucked the broken leather cord beneath a second that wound around his boot top. “It still hurts, but I don’t dare tell. Mother will make me drink that horrid medicine again.” He sent a fierce look over. “And you can’t tell either.”
“I won’t say anything, but maybe you should.” Tehveor dropped to his knees beside the prince. “Madam Hynneth thinks the physician could make you better. She said you might not get better without his help.”
“I don’t care.” Darshon yanked his knot tight. “Madam Hynneth always says I’m dying. I’m going to drop a mouse into her wine next time I see her.”
He grinned to himself, pleased with the idea.
“Then you’re not really going to die?” Tehveor asked.
“No. Mother says my heart may give out eventually, but not for a long time. Kael says he won’t let me.” Darshon shrugged. “But I’m not scared. I know I’m not going to die.”
“Because I decided I won’t,” Darshon said, starting on the other boot. “Last winter, I was so sick even the physician didn’t think I would live. Mother started crying, and Madam Hynneth told Father he’d better keep Kael away and bury me at once so the sickness wouldn’t spread. She thought I was asleep and couldn’t hear, but I wasn’t. I can almost always hear, even when I can’t wake up. Then Mother screamed at Madam Hynneth to…” he paused. “Well, I’m not allowed to say what she said. But she made everybody leave, and she shut the door and cried. The only reason she stopped was because Kael found the door locked and heard her crying, and he started crying, too.”
He was interrupted when a young man slipped into the room. Darshon lowered his chin, glaring upwards. “Did I tell you to come in?”
“Forgive me, My Prince.” The servant dropped his eyes, folding his hands and stepping back into the hallway. “I didn’t realize you were awake.”
Darshon’s head tilted up. “Well, don’t add lying to your rudeness! It’s common knowledge that the servants listen at all the doors. And even if you weren’t spying, you could have easily heard me talking before you blundered in.”
The servant’s broad shoulders stiffened at the reprimand, but nothing in his voice sounded insulted as he asked, “What is My Prince’s wish?”
“My wish is that you would leave. The fire is built, the water poured, and I don’t need help dressing like a common child. Now go away!”
The servant bowed with some relief and backed out, slowly closing the door.
“He ought to know to knock,” Darshon muttered. “Barging into my room like he owns it.”
“Maybe he didn’t want to wake you,” Tehveor softly defended. “I scarcely knew when my servant came to build my fire, he was so quiet.”
“Yes, well, Karvorn is a bumbling fool, who keeps getting caught with the kitchen maid. Father won’t allow them to marry, but they keep kissing anyway, and last time he was whipped for it. Father said he’ll be sent away if he speaks to her again or offends one of us. He’s been a lot more obedient lately.” Darshon stood up and brushed himself off before adding, “But maybe I won’t tell this time, if he’s good for the rest of the day.”
Tehveor swallowed and tried to change the subject to relieve the poor servant from Darshon’s scrutiny. “You were telling me about when you were sick.”
“Oh yes!” Darshon’s voice slurred as his chin pressed against his chest to lace up his vest. “So Mother opened the door, and pulled Kael inside and locked it again. She told him the doctor didn’t know anything, and she wouldn’t let me die. I was so mad at Madam Hynneth for acting like I was already dead, that I decided I wouldn’t ever die—at least not until she does.”
Darshon looked so grumpy that Tehveor was afraid to say anything else. He listened to the boy’s chatter and complaints until they reached the family dining room. Setta smiled at Tehveor as he slid into his seat, reaching to squeeze his hand. A servant girl offered a tray of fruit, carefully avoiding eye-contact with Darshon, and Tehveor wondered if she was the one Darshon’s servant had been beaten for kissing.
“Are you feeling well, Darshon?” Margaret asked.
Darshon shrugged. “Well enough.”
“Why are you late?”
“Because my servant is an idiot,” Darshon answered. “And I dismissed him.”
The servant girl took a measured breath at the same time as the queen.
“If you’re going to dismiss your servant,” the queen spoke softly as she tore her bread into tiny pieces, “then you need to be sure you arrive here on time. If your father was here, he would be angry with you and your servant.”
“Well, he’s not here.” Darshon glared at his goblet. “Because he’s too busy for both of us.”
Margaret set down her fork and reached for the boy’s hand. “I am sorry that you are upset, but your choices affect other people. If you cannot act like an adult, I will send you back to the nursery where your pouting will not harm anyone else.”
Darshon’s eyes flickered to the girl as he reached for a pear. His chin trembled slightly as he drizzled a large helping of honey across the fruit.
Setta reached for Tehveor’s hand. “Did you sleep well?”
“Yes.” Tehveor swallowed. “Except, I forgot where I was.”
“You’ll adjust to where the room will be your own, and the bed will feel like your bed.” Setta smiled at him, then took the honey from Darshon’s place to pass along. Tehveor drizzled the honey over his bread, wondering where the king was, and nearly dropped the spoon when the door opened with no warning.
Darshon shrank into his chair, but the flicker of fear replaced itself with a scowl as the man from the library stepped into the room. Remarr gave a short bow toward the family before sliding into a chair at the foot corner of the table.
The two women nodded back. Darshon simply glared.
Setta smiled. “Tehveor. This is Master Remarr. He’ll be your tutor now.”
“Hello, Tehveor.” Remarr’s voice was both warm and deep.
Tehveor leaned toward him in a slight, sitting bow. “Hello, sir.”
“You don’t have to call him that,” Darshon muttered.
Margaret’s eyebrows rose, and the boy ducked his head, mumbling, “Well, he’s not a ‘sir.’”
“Mother?” Tehveor asked. “How far is Katal Ieill?”
Setta set her fork down. “It takes several weeks to travel there. It’s the country neighboring our southern border.”
“Does Father live there?”
“Not exactly. He’s been over there for several years, but his real home is here.”
“Why doesn’t he return?”
“He’d like to.” Setta glanced to the other adults. “It’s only that his work is quite demanding.”
“Your father is the ambassador who meets with the king of Katal Ieill,” Remarr explained. “He’s trying to negotiate a treaty. That’s a paper which both countries will sign, saying they won’t go to war. But it’s difficult for your father to accomplish this, because Katal Ieill changes kings so often. He must bide his time to see who will come to the throne to stay.”
“Oh.” Tehveor scooted the fruit around his plate, wondering how long it would take Katal Ieill to decide on a king.
“They had a revolt,” Darshon said. “They didn’t like their king, so they killed him dead.” He stabbed his meat with his fork and held it up. “But now they don’t have a king at all, and everybody wants to take his place so they kill each other.”
“No talk of killing at the table, Darshon.” Margaret scolded softly, “Hold your tongue.”
Darshon winced, then grinned and grabbed his tongue with his thumb and forefinger. The queen sent him a warning look, though the corners of her mouth turned up.
Remarr stood. “Boys. I think it’s time we moved on to lessons and put those fingers to better use.”
Tehveor laughed as he followed Darshon, who was still leading himself with his tongue. They filed down the long hallway, giggling beneath the condescending expressions of former Castallions who watched from the portraits on the wall.
Darshon retired his tongue, wiping his fingers on his pants as they reached the library. A large oak table occupied the middle of the room, directly across from a window covered with thick tapestries. Bookshelves lined two walls, offering more volumes than Tehveor had ever seen.
Remarr quizzed both boys, switching from arithmetic, to history, to languages. Darshon settled in, shooting off rapid answers before Tehveor managed to open his mouth, until Remarr instructed them to take turns. Tehveor winced, but, after an encouraging smile from the man, he began explaining bits of what he knew.
They took the midday meal in the schoolroom, and Kael joined shortly after, tiptoeing to join them on the floor as Remarr recounted the story of the ancient battle of Keleg.
“Welcome back, My Prince,” Remarr said. “Did you have a good trip?”
Kael nodded.
“Did you get any sleep?” Remarr scrutinized him.
“Enough.” Kael rubbed his knees. “Father was out most of the night, and he did not require me to accompany him.”
Remarr nodded with approval.
Kael fidgeted. “He said I’m only to learn the speech for Tanongar, and then I must return to him this evening.”
“He wishes you back out today?”
When the boy nodded, Remarr closed his mouth firmly, before replying, “Of course.”
Kael winced. “Are they very far ahead of me? Will I be able to catch up?”
“We’ll catch you up.” Remarr reassured before clasping his hands. “Now. This speech.”
Kael’s face paled as he swayed.
Remarr reached toward him, but did not touch him. “None of that. I’ll assist you.”
“I hate speaking,” Kael mumbled. “There are too many eyes looking at me.”
“It will become easier in time.” Remarr turned to the younger boys. “Darshon, I believe you have a translation to finish.”
Darshon wrinkled one side of his nose.
“Tehveor.” Remarr surveyed him before his face changed. “Would you like to write to your father? He’d like a letter from you, I think.”
Tehveor sat up. “He will? Will he write back?”
“I’m sure. He writes to your mother every week.”
“What do I say?” Tehveor asked.
“Tell him about yourself.” Remarr handed him a sheet of the very best paper. “He is a kind man. You’ve nothing to be afraid of.”
Darshon’s eyes fastened onto the thick, creamy sheet. “May I write someone?”
Kael laughed. “Who are you going to write, Darshon? Everyone you know is here.”
“I’ll write to you.” Darshon eyed the paper, and then his brother. “And then you can write back.”
“Why? If I want to tell you something, I’ll call across the hall. Besides, there’s not time enough even for lessons.”
“You may use a piece of paper to finish your translation to show to your mother,” Remarr said, offering a piece of parchment.
Darshon snatched it, settling down in front of a book written in T’erish. Tehveor stared at his own page, trying to imagine what his father would like to read in a letter.
“What’s the matter? Don’t you know your letters?” Darshon whispered as soon as Remarr turned his attention toward Kael.
“I don’t know what to say.”
“You could start with your name. He may not know your name. He probably doesn’t know anything about you.”
Tehveor turned to the paper, carefully dipping his quill into the ink to laboriously scrawl the first words.
Dear Father,
He studied the word. It seemed strange to really call someone that.
My name is Tehveor.
“Do you think he’ll like you?” Darshon interrupted his thoughts. “I don’t think he will.”
“Why not?” Tehveor asked.
“Fathers never like their own sons. They only like other peoples’ sons.”
Tehveor set his pen into the inkwell as his eyebrows tucked. “Lord Lesonna liked Martyn, and he was his son.”
“He was probably only pretending. Fathers do that, you know.”
Tehveor winced, then asked, “What are you working on?”
Darshon covered his work with his arm. “I’m writing a letter.”
“Who are you writing to?”
“Myself.” Darshon shrugged happily. “And someday when I’m older, I’ll open it and read it.”
Tehveor peered at the paper. “What are you telling yourself?”
“All sorts of things.” Darshon’s grin grew until it nearly covered his entire face. “About how wonderful I am.”
Tehveor couldn’t tell if the prince was teasing or not. He carefully scrawled his own words until his hand ached, and he retired his pen to flex his fingers.
Kael spoke in short bursts, alternating his words and breath like he couldn’t manage both at the same time. Darshon caught his eye, then twisted his face into a gruesome shape, eliciting a laugh that stopped the speech altogether. Tehveor bit his lip on his own grin as Remarr turned to see what had distracted Kael. Darshon shrugged, and Tehveor blew on his ink to dry it.
“Keep going,” Remarr said.
“I…” Kael put his head into his hands and shook it. “I can’t remember it.”
Remarr’s voice stayed firm. “Don’t think of your father or of the time. Concentrate on reciting it correctly.”
“I knew it last night,” Kael defended. “I said the entire thing to my servant.”
“That’s good. See if you can remember it now.”
“I cannot remember anything with people staring at me,” Kael whined.
“There are only the three of us, and the other boys are working.”
Darshon flashed his tongue out like a lizard, but it did little to relieve his brother’s distress. Kael lifted his head toward the ceiling. “Can’t you speak to Father? He’d rather I not say anything than spoil it. I know he would.”
“My Prince, speaking is part of your job. You must master it while you are young.”
“It’s afternoon,” Darshon moaned, rubbing one eye. “May we go?”
“Yes.” Remarr set his forehead into his thumb and forefinger. “Kael, take a rest. Come back in an hour, and we’ll try again.”
Kael sighed. Tehveor slid his letter into his pocket and dashed out of the door with Darshon, while the prince trudged behind.
“Let’s play search!” Darshon danced around them before generously adding, “I’ll even start counting if you want.”
“I’ll count,” Kael offered. “Both of you hide.”
Tehveor and Darshon scampered off, leaving the young prince reclining against the wall with his face hidden in the crook of his arm.
“Not that way!” Darshon grabbed Tehveor’s arm. “He knows all the good spots there! Follow me.”
The two boys darted down a flight of steps before Darshon pointed down a hall. “You go that way, and I’ll go this way.”
Tehveor scurried through the hall searching for a good place to hide.
“I’m coming!” Kael called. Tehveor ducked through a large wooden door, forcing himself down a stony flight of stairs, which seemed to stretch for several stories until it ended in a musty room.
Two axes crossed each other on the wall, bringing him to a sudden halt. Tehveor swallowed, deciding he’d rather be caught by the prince. He turned, but paused.
Someone was crying.
He took a breath and tiptoed past the axes to peek around the corner.
A guard snored nearby with his head tipped over his chest, leaning far over a chair until he looked as though he might tumble onto the ground. A row of bars interspersed a long hall. Tehveor inched forward, peering into the dim cells.
The first was empty, except for a rat that sat up on his back legs and cocked his head at Tehveor.
The second held an occupant who lay on cold stone, holding his stomach and moaning. Tehveor followed the sound until he peered at a woman huddled in a grimy, brown dress.
Tehveor stared. He had seen dirty women, peasants working in the fields, some looking quite miserable. But he had never seen a woman in a state even remotely resembling this. He could not think of one thing a woman could have done to be bad enough to be locked away with only matted straw and a bucket.
“Hello?” he whispered.
Swollen, bewildered eyes rose to his. The woman pulled a string of dark hair out of her face. “Where did you come from?”
“I’m Tehveor. I live upstairs.”
She wiped her eyes before crawling onto her knees to cover her exposed ankle with her skirt. “You shouldn’t be down here.”
“I heard you crying. Why are you in here?” Tehveor’s voice quivered. “I didn’t know they put ladies in prison.”
“A lady…” She huffed a short laugh. “I was brought here after my husband was arrested.”
“Is he here?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. He was, but…” She closed her eyes, breathing slowly into her hand.
Tehveor reached through the bars to touch her shoulder. “Don’t cry. What’s his name?”
“Mauran,” she choked. “His name is Mauran.”
There was a thud down the walkway, as guard and chair finished their topple. Tehveor crouched close to the ground. The guard rubbed his head, muttering to himself as he trudged up the stairs.
“He’s gone for his ale again,” the woman whispered. “Better hurry out, before he comes back. You shouldn’t be down here.”
Tehveor jumped to his feet. “I’ll find Mauran first!”
He hurried through the prison, peering into each cell until a hand reached through the bars and grabbed his shirt.
“You.” The man spat, yanking Tehveor against the bars. “You the king’s brat?”
Tehveor shoved back against the iron. “Let me go!”
The man spat on the floor near Tehveor’s feet. “Or what? I’ve got nothing to lose, taking you with me.” An arm shot out, wrapping around Tehveor’s neck and cutting off his cry for help. The force lifted his feet off the ground, leaving him to kick against the bars.
“We’ll see how your father likes it, losing his own children,” the man hissed into his ear.
Tears formed in Tehveor’s eyes. “He’s gone,” he rasped.
“Let him go!” A voice snapped from the cell across from them. “Now!”
The grip loosened enough for Tehveor to catch a strangled breath.
“Or what? You’ll force me?” The man sneered close to Tehveor’s ears. “You’re locked up with the rest of us scum!”
A torch flickered, throwing erratic shadows across the bars. Something passed through the flame, igniting and blazing in a ball near Tehveor’s feet.
The man released him, crawling back into the corner of his cell. Tehveor stumbled away from the flame, coughing for breath.
The man in the opposite cell reached to catch his hand. “Put it out!” Tehveor jerked away from the hand, but it still clung to him. “Celestion! Put it out!”
The flames created a small path to the bars of the man’s cage, catching a bit of hay from his cell.
“No! No!” The man swatted the flames in his cell with his hands.
A woman screamed. “We’re going to burn!”
Tehveor gasped for breath, then stamped out an ember.
“Help me!” He called back to the guard. “Help me!”
No response came.
“The cloak, Celestion!” the man from the cell called. “Use the cloak! There!”
Tehveor whirled toward the dark corner, spying a black pile of material. He snatched the long garment and dragged it to the fire. Lifting it as high as he could reach, he draped it over the flames.
The fire snuffed out beneath it, but the cape did not ignite. Tehveor grabbed one of the sacks and beat the smoldering edges. He gasped for breath as the flickers turned into smoke. The man in the cell swatted embers into ashes, then fell onto his back, covering his eyes with his arm and gasping for breath.
Tehveor swung his eyes back to his rescuer’s cell, realizing that he’d been called ‘Celestion.’ He dropped to his knees and whisper, “How did you do that?”
“I didn’t,” the man said. He pressed closer, sweeping blue eyes over Tehveor’s face. “Why are you down here?”
“I’m looking for Mauran,” Tehveor answered.
The man’s eyebrows drew. “Why do you seek him?”
“I…” Tehveor’s mouth went dry. “His wife was crying because she didn’t know where he was, and I promised her I’d find him.”
The blood drained from the man’s face as he gasped, “Everra?” He pressed his knees against the bars, rattling the chains around his ankles. “Everra’s here?”
Tehveor nodded.
The man fell back, whispering distressed words that Tehveor couldn’t understand.
Tehveor sank onto the floor, hugging his knees against his chest as he gazed around the grungy dungeon. “Why are you here? Are you the man who was going to meet us?”
The man wiped his face and nodded. “Yes. I tried. I’m not sure…”
Tehveor leaned close, but the man’s lips closed.
“Not sure what?” Tehveor asked.
Mauran scrutinized him. “You’re so young.”
“For what?”
Mauran’s voice fell to a whisper. “How can I tell you what I don’t understand myself?”
Tehveor shrank away.
The man shook his head, creeping into a smile. “Fate will tell you. There have been many people waiting for you for a very long time.” He swallowed, eyes flickering with pain. “Someday you’ll find them. When you do, you will rule them, and you will rule them well.”
“I’m afraid to rule,” Tehveor whispered.
“Don’t be afraid. You were created like this for a reason. You must have been, and I’ve been allowed to see you.” He took a breath. “But you must leave before they find you. Will you tell Everra that I’m well?” A smile broke across his face. “Tell her Sentarra will be redeemed.”
Tehveor frowned, but nodded. He inched passed the cell where the angry man now whimpered, returning to the cell of the woman who searched his face with hope.
Tehveor knelt next to the bars and pressed his cheeks to them. “I found him. He said to tell you he was well.”
“Oh!” Everra’s body sagged in relief.
“And…” Tehveor looked down and then back at her face, whispering earnestly, “and that Sentarra will be redeemed. I’m taking care of it.”
“You?” She chuckled, but her smile faded as she leaned closer. “Wait. You’re him?”
He must be. Everyone said he was. It was strange to think of men and women waiting for him, depending on him to grow up and rule them. But they needed his help. Tehveor nodded. “Don’t tell anyone. They don’t know.”
“I won’t ever tell the secrets,” Everra said.
Faint voices reminded Tehveor that he was supposed to be playing a game with the other children. He glanced toward the door where the guard had yet to return.
“I must go. Prince Kael is looking for me. But I’ll come back.”
“Be careful.” Everra reached through the bars. “Never let anyone discover your secret.”
There were a lot of things he couldn’t tell. Tehveor nodded, then hurried up the stairs, trying to rub the soreness from his neck.
“Tehveor!” Kael’s voice forced him to put on a smile. “I’m supposed to be finding you, not you finding me.”
“I can hide!”
“No, stay.” Kael caught his arm. “It’ll take both of us to find Darshon.”
“He went that way, but I don’t know where he is.” Tehveor pointed down the hallway away from the prison.
Kael shook his head. “Darshon can hide anywhere for hours. Sometimes I think he does it just to get at us.”
“We can call him out,” Tehveor suggested. “I don’t want to play anymore.”
“I didn’t really want to play to begin with,” Kael admitted. “But I doubt he’ll come. Darshon!” His voice echoed through the corridor. “Come out! We aren’t playing anymore!”
They called for nearly two minutes before Darshon appeared in the hallway with his arms crossed over his chest. “You’re boring, Kael! You didn’t even try to find me!”
“Yes, I did,” Kael argued. “You hide too well, and it’s too large a place to search.”
Darshon snorted.
Kael puffed out his cheeks with a breath, leading them into the courtyard where he plopped onto one of the benches encircling the fountain. Tehveor sank next to the prince, eyeing the wall of the courtyard, wondering if Mauran had been arrested because he was trying to meet them.
“Why are you sitting? We’ve been sitting all morning.” Darshon walked over the bench, stepping on one side and off the other.
“You’ve been sitting all morning,” Kael responded. “I’ve been standing. And my legs are tired. Besides, it’s going to rain soon, and then we’ll have to go back.”
Darshon’s eyes lit as he spied an orange cat sleeping on another bench. Redirecting his steps, he bit his tongue between his teeth with a grin and snatched the animal’s tail, laughing as the cat yowled.
“Stop it, Darshon!” Kael forgot his legs were tired and jumped to his feet.
Darshon swung the cat in a circle.
“Let it go!” Kael started toward Darshon.
Darshon released the cat’s tail, sending it flying. “Scat, Kitty!”
The cat landed with one leg trapped beneath it, stumbling before it bounded toward the stables. Darshon sat down with a smirk. “I’m going to put hemlock in his water bowl.”
“You don’t even know where to find hemlock,” Kael argued.
“Yes, I do. Father keeps some in his desk with his other poisons. I saw it.”
Tehveor jumped to his feet, hands clenched. “You better not put anything in his bowl!”
Darshon laughed. “Or what?”
“Or I’ll tell Mother you hid under the tablecloth at the last ball,” Kael threatened.
“I did not!” Darshon argued, but he sat a bit straighter.
“Did so. I saw you. And you took the pastries with you.”
Darshon shrugged. “So? Nobody’s there to see me anyway. Tehveor will have to hide at the next ball.”
“Why?” Tehveor knelt to watch a bug journey across the edge of the fountain.
“Because your eyes are strange.” Darshon rolled a piece of grass between his fingers and crushed it. “People aren’t going to like them.”
Tehveor’s face pricked. “There’s nothing wrong with my eyes.”
“That’s why your mother hid you. She didn’t want anyone to know about you, because she was embarrassed.”
“Darshon!” Kael grabbed his brother’s shoulders. “Apologize.”
Darshon yanked out of his grip. “It’s true. Aunt Setta never said anything about him before the nurse said she had a boy and not a girl. Father doesn’t like him. And his eyes are strange!”
“Leave.” Kael pointed toward the castle.
Darshon flinched. “Well, they are!”
“I said leave.” Kael’s tone took an impressive authority. “Now. You’re being a brat, and I won’t tolerate it.”
Darshon glared at the prince, then tossed Tehveor a dark look before he spun away.
“Don’t listen to him,” Kael said. “Darshon has moods. He’s not really bad. He’s just trying to get Father’s attention. But Mother says we can’t encourage that sort of behavior, or he really will end up like Father.”
Tehveor nodded, chewing the inside of his lip and wondering why anyone would want the king to notice them. The servants bowed much lower than normal as they passed. It was strange to think if something happened to King Galephy, Kael would be ruling, however young he was. Tehveor squirmed, remembering the way that Master Gregorn had bowed to him.
“Prince Kael?”
Kael laughed. “You do not have to say “prince” unless we’re in public. You’re family.”
“Kael,” Tehveor corrected. “Do you like being a prince?”
“I like it well enough. Most of it,” Kael answered.
“Would you be a prince if you could choose?” Tehveor asked carefully.
“Yes,” Kael said without hesitation. “Once when I was younger, I decided I didn’t want to be a prince, so Remarr told Darshon he could have the day off, and we rode on horses without any escort into town.” A soft grin accompanied the memory. “He let me watch the blacksmith working, and then the cobbler making shoes. We dressed as travelers, and he said I wasn’t to speak at all, so my speech wouldn’t betray me, but he spoke like a commoner, and we spent the entire day poking about and heard the most awful things said about Father. It was growing dark, and we rode between the homes of the peasants. I asked where the families were, and he said they were in bed because they couldn’t waste candles. Only a few people were in front of their houses, but we couldn’t talk to them, because Master Remarr said if we didn’t return soon, we’d see the thieves and cutthroats.”
“Did you see any?” Tehveor asked.
“No. The only person I saw was a little girl, and I thought she must be lost, but Master Remarr said she had no home and no family and would sleep somewhere on the street. When insisted we stop, he reminded me that I wasn’t a prince anymore. And then we discussed all the things that only a prince or king could do.”
Tehveor picked at the button on his sleeve. “Does it scare you?”
“Sometimes,” Kael admitted. “But I suppose I’ll be ready and grown before I become king.”
“Do you think I could be a good king, if I were a prince?”
Kael shrugged. “If you cared enough, I think you could. You must love all the people more than anything else.”
“Do you love your people?” Tehveor asked.
Kael smiled, turning back to look over the castle walls.
“I do.”