Leopold stood in the castle's large court, dress in the appropriate princely attire, the silks and satins he hated so much. At the end of the court, sat upon a raised platinum throne, was his father the king. One hand rested on the shoulder of a slave girl, the clutched a framed portrait which the prince could only see the back of.
The king's eyes fixed upon his. Even from a small distance Leopold could feel the stare's sharpness, a look so cold that it burned like ice. Most sons saw disappointment on their father's face, but what he saw was hatred. An accusation: murderer.
The other people in the court had previously been nattering away, but fell into a complete silence when Leopold had entered the room. He felt them all watching him. It was no secret that the king loathed his son.
King Faramond's eyes eventually flicked away, never being able to look at his son for more than a moment because he bore the eyes of the only woman he had ever loved, the mother who had died bearing him a son. His fingers bit hard into the slave girl's flesh. She stifled a groan.
Coward, Leopold wanted to yell at him, but the guilt he had been made to feel for his mother's death and fear of the consequences prevented him from doing so.
"You will be wedded to Nieneve of House Dracarys," said the king, speaking directly to Leopold for the first time since the prince could remember. His words caused an outbreak of shocked exhales of breath and whispers to fill the court. One of the king's advisers scuttled over to him and asked, in the politest manner, if his majesty's decision was the wisest choice.
"Silence," commanded the king. The court immediately fell quiet again. "I have made my decision and my mind shall not be swayed."
The painting slid from his fingers and clattered to the floor. He stood up and exited the court.
As soon as the king was out of earshot, an uproar began in the court. Leopold watched as people dashed across the court, courtesy forgotten, cursing the Dracarys but not daring to complain about the king's decision. The king's council were huddled in the corner muttering to each other in voices that only they could hear.
The hand of the king Apophis Vyper, also Leopold's uncle, stepped up to where the portrait lay discarded and picked it up. The prince had not realised he had been in the room until then - his uncle had a habit of keeping to the shadows - and walked up to greet him.
"Has my dear father finally gone mad?" Leopold asked him loudly, looking at a face not so unlike his. Apophis too possessed the Slythonian green eyes and thick black hair streaked with grey, which he had oiled back in a similar fashion. He was also despised by the king for the resemblance he bared to his deceased sister, but had held onto this powerful position for so long because the alliance between the two houses depended on in.
"Be careful what you say nephew," he told the prince in a voice no louder than a hiss. "Even the king's own son can be guilty of treason." He stared at Leopold with black eyes that seemed to swallow rather than reflect light.
Leopold laughed at that. "As if his majesty could stand to be in the same room as me long enough to condemn me to death."
Apophis lips curved into a smile, but it didn't reach his eyes. He handed his nephew the painting of his future wife. "You'll like her, she's pretty."
Leopold glanced down at the portrait and found himself immediately taken in by eyes crystal blue and framed with thick lashes, pitch black hair that cascaded down past her hips. Then his eyes fixed on the plunging neckline of her dress. Before he could resist the temptation he said, "looks like the whore you sent me for my birthday last year."
His uncle chuckled dryly. "An expensive whore, she was. I had hoped she'd have been charming enough for you to stay away from the city's brothels for a while, but no such luck."
They left the court and began to walk down one of the castle's many passageway. When Apophis was sure they were alone he added, "the king was following my advice when he matched you with her." He placed a hand on Leopold's shoulder and arranged his features so that he appeared solemn. "It is no secret that there is tension between the royal family and the Dracarys, but if we let things simmer any longer we could have a war on our hands."