‘Ishak had a son?’ Rowena stood staring at the man in front of her, slowly beginning to see the features they shared. ‘I had no idea.’
‘He didn’t mention me then?’ Karthik snorted. ‘I can’t say I’m surprised. I never was the man he wanted me to be.’
‘We can understand that you are angry about your father’s death,’ Bledri said from the other end of the table, ‘but there is nothing we can do about it now except try and catch the man who organized it, and at the moment it appears that Erik is the culprit.’
‘But Erik would never do a thing like that,’ Karthik continued to protest. ‘He was a friend of mine and I know he’s not like that. He wouldn’t stab someone in the back.’
‘But if you are loyal to someone who wants you to kill someone else, then you’re going to have to stab someone in the back,’ Ani pointed out, her arm still wrapped protectively around Rowena. ‘You can’t have it both ways, and I believe that there was a man in this court that Erik placed above the rightful king.’
‘You don’t have any power here any more Ani. Your father died years ago which means you do not control our opinions any more.’
‘I wasn’t trying to control your opinion I was simply stating what I believed to be true. Erik was a traitor to the King and I’m starting to believe that you are too.’
There was an outburst of anger and outrage among the people gathered in the tavern, all shouting at each other, trying to express their feelings the loudest.
‘Silence!’ Bledri slammed his fist down on the table and bellowed as loud as he could. It had the desired affect, making the room quite down almost immediately. ‘Thank you. Now if you would stop fighting for a moment then we might be able to sort this out. Ena,’ he turned back to Rowena, who was feeling a little shaken by the outburst. ‘Did Erik say anything about who he was working for?’
The only thing he said was that he was Madrimian, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to take the throne.’
‘Well that could be anyone in this room,’ Karthik said. ‘How can you assume that I am involved?’
‘I never said that you were involved.’ Bledri said, trying to calm him down.
‘But now that you have mentioned it were you involved?’ Ani looked accusingly at him.
‘How could I be? My father was born in the Indigo Islands.’
‘Yes but your mother was from Madrimar and you were born here. That means that you are within your rights to run in the election.’ Ani smiled triumphantly at Karthik. ‘Do you deny it?’
‘Of course I do. Why would I want to kill the man who was considered my brother?’
‘Because you were jealous of him,’ Ani said, walking away from Rowena and towards Karthik. ‘He arrived in your life and ruined your relationship with your father.’
‘That is a complete lie,’ he said, looking around the room for support but not meeting any eyes. ‘Bledri, will you let this slander continue?’
‘This isn’t slander Karthik, this is the truth. I know you’ve always been jealous of Artem because he made it to the throne before you, and your father helped him to get there.’
‘Ani,’ Bledri interrupted. ‘Do you have any evidence to support your claim?’
‘I don’t need evidence. Everyone in this room knows that Karthik was jealous of his adopted brother; even Artem did but wouldn’t do anything about it because he was too good and too trusting.’
‘Just because you insist on hanging around here, listening in to what goes on, doesn’t mean that you know us and come in here with a complete stranger, accusing me of killing the King.’
‘Can you all just shut up!’ Rowena lost it, yelling at the top of her voice. ‘There is nothing we can do about it now. Artem and Ishak are both dead and there is nothing that can change that. They both meant a lot to me and I didn’t want to come here and speak about it because I knew that this would happen. Now if you don’t mind I’m leaving now. I have somewhere I need to be.’ Without waiting for approval from anyone, she walked away from the table and out of the door. As the air outside hit her she stopped, gulping in fresh air.
‘Are you alright?’ Ani came out of the tavern behind her, her face looking concerned. ‘I’m sorry about what happened in there, I got a little carried away.’
‘I just didn’t like the way things were going. The way they were talking about Artem and Ishak like they didn’t matter. They might be dead but they still deserve some respect.’
‘I know and I’m sorry, I just got a bit carried away. This is my home and I want the best for it.’
‘But by the way you were talking, you take a keener interest in what goes on inside that building than you were telling me.’
‘Yes I take a keen interest and I spend a lot of time in there, but that’s only because I get lonely. No one will visit me at my house and this is the only place where I feel that I fit in.’ There was a silence as Rowena didn’t know how to respond.
‘I’m sorry for getting so upset. I just needed to get out of there. I have to get home, I should be leaving now.’ She began walking off down the street, no idea where she was meant to be going.
‘Come this way Ena,’ Ani said, trying to steer her in the other direction. ‘I’ve got a horse waiting for you around the back.’ She led Rowena around the back of the building where there was a set of stables. Waiting in the yard was a beautiful chestnut mare. ‘She was Artem’s. I thought you would like to have her. She’s got a very placid nature so you should be alright riding her if you haven’t got a lot of experience.’ Rowena approached the mare confidently; reaching out to stroke it’s neck and whisper gently in it’s ear.
‘She’s beautiful,’ she said to Ani. ‘What’s her name?’
‘I don’t know,’ Ani said. ‘But I’m sure it was a beautiful name.’
‘Thank you so much,’ Rowena said, smiling at Ani. ‘I don’t know what I’d have done without you.’
‘It’s been a pleasure,’ she replied, hugging her new friend. ‘Let me know how things get on and if you ever need me then you know where to find me.’
‘I will. You’ll have to come and visit me sometime. It can get quite lonely in palaces too.’ Rowena smiled before going to mount the horse. Artem’s trousers were perfect for riding properly astride the horse, rather than sidesaddle, which Rowena was used to.
‘Good luck,’ Ani said before Rowena rode out of the stable and towards the border.