I stared at her, trying to see through her beauty, to see through the enchantment cast upon me. The parts that wanted to believe her, they were the same parts that made me feel like a young boy. But this was not who I was, not who I had become and who I must be! I would fight my way against the waves of desire I had for her and be who I was expected to be: ruthless!
“I am King!” I roared at her, the pent up anger, frustration, and yes, the fear, spewing out like a cork bursting from an overly fermented bottle of wine. I was upon her instantly, my hand against her throat, pinning her up to the post where she had just been tied and bound.
My men flinched back, shocked by my outburst, and I felt her muscles tense. Would she cast a spell? Perhaps she could put me out of my misery and end this hopeless situation that she had forced me into. I let go of her neck without a further word, never having looked into her eyes, afraid of what I might find their. This could not be the focus of my morning. There was a battle to prepare for.
I stormed to the adjoining tent where my make-shift council awaited me, discussing the castle grounds and all possible ideas for attack. Their faces showed hope and this bolstered my confidence for a few moments.
“Stephen, tell me our plan.” The tent went silent, and when I glanced up I saw the blank look of the young man merely posing as my brother. The anger returned in an instant and I swept the maps to the floor with my arm, pushing over the table they had been laid upon. “Find my brother and bring him to me! How can I make decisions without him here? It is his duty to be with his King in this time of battle!”
The men around the table looked at me suspiciously and I realized my error too late. They should not know that I depended so heavily on another. I should have the answers to all of this myself. “Find him!” I barked at the soldier guarding the tent entrance. Instructing others to clean up the maps and form a comprehensive plan, I left once again.
A courier was outside the tent speaking with my man urgently and I strode to them. “Is there news?” My tone made the young man jump and begin to stammer but my servant interceded.
“My Lord, there is news of the town gathering outside the castle walls. Word is that Mirkyn is readying his men to meet us just as you challenged him to. He is in rage of your capture of his daughter. Some of the scouts have already begun to search the woods around the open field to the southeast of the walls.” He bowed his head and slightly stepped back, knowing his place, and I took a moment to be gracious.
“Thank you, boy,” Then I walked back to the largest tent, where Ella had been re-tied just in front of my makeshift throne, with deliberate confidence and patience. As a King should demonstrate.
Striding to my seat, I sat and stared at her. She had glanced up swiftly when I came in, an emotion in her eyes that I did not stop to consider. Now I studied her with an open assessment, not saying a word and motioning for her to stop when it seemed she might have something to say herself. After several minutes a young page came to tell me that the council was once more ready to meet with me, but I dismissed him along with the rest of the men in the room, asking them to wait outside until I bade them return.
Once they had left, Ella’s face began to change and I was disappointed that she could not hide the feelings of both concern and hope that flickered across her face. I had considered her a much stronger character, and chastised myself for falling so easily for her charm. A sneer crossed my face as I stood and slowly walked to circle the place she was tied. After giving her sufficient time to squirm, I stopped a few feet from her face and leaned in close, speaking in the strong and authoritative way Father would take pride in.
“Listen to me, Ella Vadrini, daughter of the usurper Mirkyn Vadrini,” I paused to deliberately spit in the soft dirt next to her bound feet, “you will tell me all that you know of the plans and schemes I shall come against and you will do it swiftly and concisely. Your words will be carefully considered by myself, and if I consider them to be true, I will concede and unbind you from this post. Only then will I take you, hands bound together like the betrayer you are, and use you as a mere tool of barter in order to obtain my Kingdom back. You and your kind will continue to be hunted and banished from this land, as if no concession were made in these past few months toward the acceptance of magic use. It has been forfeited by your actions as a traitor to this Kingdom.”
“But Percy, you must listen-” she tried to interject with a panic in her voice.
“No! You will address me as King Percival Dur’Abarshan and I will not listen to the rantings of a misled temptress! You will merely tell me what you know of this man, Mirkyn, as it applies to this situation. If you choose to attempt more deception, whether in speech or action, I will be forced to swipe this blade across your milky throat and end your short life. It will be an act of mercy.”