I paced in front of the door to the chamber, thinking. No one had listened to Elliot. They simply didn't know or respect him enough to believe such a wild story. So if they wouldn't believe us, we would simply have to find a way to catch the killer ourselves. After all, he might strike again. As I thought, I saw the Baron and Baroness of Ores walking toward the door, their son in tow. I waited for them to greet me, but then I remembered that they couldn’t see me. Despite my appeals and planning, I still found it hard to remember that I was dead. I followed the family inside. They bowed and then began to talk about how they were experiencing a drought.
It was rather routine; at least one noble family a year suffered from one pestilence or another on their land and asked for relief from the stores. A lot of them were just grabbing for extra resources, but the baron seemed to be suffering from a serious problem. Most farms are dependent on the River Cor for water, but the baron’s land, being farther away from the river, depended more on rain than the small amount of water that trickled down from the irrigation ditches. And with the unusually low amount of rain this year, the crops were failing.
I watched, half interested, thinking of how I would handle the situation and watching how Artemidorus did it. They were starting to finish up when Lawrence, who had been napping on the throne, not used to being up so early, woke up with a start and turned toward the Baron’s family. His eyes widened, and sitting up in his chair he gave a shout.
All of the adults turned in surprise. But my brother only had eyes for one person.
“You took my toy!” Lawrence yelled at the Baron’s son.
The boy’s parents turned to him in horror. I found it quite humorous that what to the adults was an atrocious breach of etiquette was to the children a silly spat they would probably forget in a few days. Adults could sometimes blow things out of proportion. An image of Jerold’s face floated into my mind and I quickly pushed it back down.
By now, Lawrence was making quite a scene. He was jumping up and down on the cushions, shrieking, “Off with his head!” I doubted that he fully comprehended what he was demanding. Artemidorus, looking flushed, tried to calm him down.
“Your Majesty, there is no reason to throw a fit. We will retrieve your toy.”
“No!” The baron’s son shouted, “It’s mine!” Both of his parents shushed him.
The regent rubbed his forehead in frustration.
“Fine,” he said, “Take him to be executed.” The parents let out a shout and fell to their knees begging. Artemidorus waved over Orion and whispered in his ear.
“Let them out the back and let them know that their son is not to be killed.” Orion nodded and walked over to tell them. No one saw any merit in informing the boy himself, and his howling was heard long after he had left the chamber. Lawrence, now thoroughly awake, turned to the duke.
“I do not want to sit here anymore! When is Brother coming back?”
Art stiffened. “I already told you, he is not coming back.”
“No.” Lawrence shook his head, dark curls bouncing, obviously certain that his reasoning was superior to Art’s. “Brother promised to play with me. He has to come back.”
I grimaced as I remembered the promise I had made on my way to a luncheon only a few days ago.
I hurried down the hallway, scowling. I was late and I hated being late. Not that anyone would complain to a king. All of the children were to stay in Lawrence’s room until it was over so the nobles would not have to worry about tripping over their own offspring. As I tried to think of a way to avoid the girls who would no doubt be desperately trying to catch my attention (I had already planned my proposal to Sarah), Lawrence almost knocked me over in his effort to catch up with me.
“Play with me,” he said, his eyes pleading. I shook my head.
“Later! I am busy!”
“You never play with me,” Lawrence pouted, stomping his foot.
Since I was expected soon and I had no desire to race wooden horses, I tried to think of a way out of this.
“You know what? I promise that I will play with you next week.”
Lawrence’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Promise?”
“Promise.” Pacified, he walked back to his room. Of course, I would never have thought that I would not live until then.
Artemidorus sighed. “Why not go to the lake while your brother is… away?”
Lawrence brightened. “Okay. But I am hungry.” Artemidorus nodded and gestured to the servants to prepare breakfast. I left the room with them, taking advantage of the open door. An idea was beginning to formulate in my mind. Perhaps if I managed to get Elliot into a position of power, we would be able to monitor the going ons in the castle. But it was almost unheard of for a slave to rise into a high position.
Unless he did a service for the country. Something clicked. Of course! I had to set up a situation in which Elliot would save someone important. Lawrence would be the obvious chance, but that would be risky. If something happened to Lawrence, there would be a power struggle among the nobles. And that might give Inji reason to invade. We had a pact, but the infighting might give them enough reason to take over. And once they did, they would not leave anytime soon. Also, Lawrence was my brother, and I do not know what I would do if he got hurt. The next choice was Artemidorus. I thought about it for a while, and then began to walk towards the exit. I had to tell Elliot.