I found myself in a large room with a high vaulted ceiling. At the end of the room there were two thrones. On one sat King Lawrence, William's infant brother. He had fallen fast asleep and his cheek was laid against the armrest. Standing next to him was a man I recognized as Duke Artemidorus. He was slightly shorter than average, with wispy red hair that enwreathed his head like a laurel of clouds. He had a round face with a round stomach to match, but his green eyes regarded me with a cruelty the late king's never carried. I looked around the room nervously and realized that I had interrupted some kind of meeting. I tried to avoid the nobles' glares.
"Who allowed this whelp to enter our midst?" The duke's speech was as short and clipped as his beard and moustache. The guards walked in and grabbed me by the shoulders.
"I am going to teach you a lesson you are never going to forget." I heard Orion growl.
"Wait!" I shouted. But Artemidorus acted like I was already gone.
I looked pleadingly at King William.
"Tell them you have information on my death!" He whispered frantically.
"I have information on King William's death!"
All of their eyes swiveled towards me, and from the expressions on their faces I might as well have been on fire. The silence must have been too loud for the young king, for he lifted his head sleepily before putting it back down. Finally, the regent spoke.
"What on earth are you talking about?"
"The king didn't kill himself. He was murdered."
The duke's brows creased. One of the men in the room let out a loud guffaw.
"You obviously don't know the hearts of the youth. Why, so aroused are they in their fanatical desire for a woman's heart that they would go to great lengths to prove themselves. Why, when I was but a young lad..."
"Don't humor him!" Artemidorus snapped. The man fell quiet, but continued rambling to himself under his breath.
The king's face reddened in anger. "Fanatical desires indeed! Ask them why I would kill myself if I had already asked Sarah to marry me."
"Why would he kill himself if he had already asked Sarah to marry him?"
Artemidorus' eyes glinted like shards of ice. "How would you know that information?"
I turned to William, but he seemed to be at a loss for words. I decided to make up an answer.
"I was cleaning the floor for one of the maids near the balcony where the late king had his last conversation."
"I can't recall her name, but I know that she had brown hair and brown eyes."
The regent scowled, knowing fully well that most of the maids in the castle had brown hair and brown eyes. He addressed the guards.
"Take him away. And give him a severe beating."
I winced. I remember one man who was sentenced to a beating from the guards. We never saw him again, but one of the slaves claimed that she saw them dumping a body in the lake later that night. The guards dragged me through the halls and threw me to the grounds in the courtyard outside.
"Take off your shirt." Orion ordered.
What else could I do? I began to comply, but the younger guard spoke up.
"We can't beat him. He is only a youth."
"Orders are orders," was the gruff reply.
The young man pressed on. "Would they do this kind of thing in your country?"
Orion was silent for a while. Finally, he spoke to me.
"Get out of here." I looked back at him, unsure. He pushed me in the chest.
"Go, before I change my mind!" I made a run for it.
Will came up beside me, shaking his head. "That was a failure."
I kicked a stone. "I told you they wouldn't listen to a slave."
He hung his head. I wondered- and hoped- if he had given up. Then his face brightened.
"I know who you should talk to!" He took off.
"Wait!" I shouted after him, "Who?"