I waited in the foyer, glaring at my father. He and my mother were standing close to me, keeping me from running. I groaned and tossed my head back.
"I cannot believe you laid a hand on her," my mother hissed.
"It was an accident," I repeated for the hundredth time. "She spoke out of turn!"
"That is no excuse for causing physical harm," my father snapped. "You will stay and apologize."
"This is ridiculous," I snapped back. "I do not need to apologize to a human."
"She is one of your subjects," he said angrily. "I don't care what your personal feelings are towards her! You're lucky word hasn't spread!"
I fell into silence, wondering why she hadn't told anyone. Did she fear I would do it again? After being up all night being punished, I would make sure I wouldn't; even on accident.
I didn't have much time to think on it, though, as someone knocked on the doors. I groaned quietly and my father gripped my shoulder tightly. A guard opened the door and Viveka walked in. When she saw me, her eyes narrowed angrily.
"I'm sorry," I spat.
"Yes, I can hear the sincerity in your voice," she snapped.
"Do you accept the apology or not?"
I growled and made to walk forward but my father stopped me. He glared daggers at me. The human had her arms crossed stubbornly. I sighed heavily.
"I really am sorry," I said in a low voice. "I did not mean to injure you."
"And?" my mother prompted, shoving me slightly.
I glared angrily at the floor. "And we will be compensating the families who have suffered since losing their fathers and husbands."
"Thank you," she said in a quiet voice.
I waited but no one said anything. I tapped my foot impatiently, trying not to speak. I groaned loudly.
"Do you accept the apology or not?" I repeated.
She glared at me. "I accept your parents' apology!" she snapped. "It is clear it does not come from you!"
I opened my mouth angrily but my father gripped my shoulder again. My mother beckoned for Viveka to follow her. I glared at her as they passed but she kept her eyes focused forward. When I heard the library door shut, I turned to my father and pointed up the stairs.
"See!?" I demanded. "What good did that just do!?"
My father shook his head wearily. "I do not understand you, Cian. You don't realize the favor she had done for you."
"By forgiving you?"
"No. By not spreading how you injured her. There would be... unpleasantness if she did."
Someone else knocked and the doors opened again. The man who was with Viveka came storming in, glaring at me.
"Chester, son of Johnathan," I said calmly. "How can I-?"
"Viveka is not to know about this," he interrupted and, before I could respond, he punched me.
I stumbled and tripped over my feet. I fell and stared at him in shock. He was breathing like a bull.
"Touch her again and it will be much worse! I don't care if you're the lord! She's been through enough without having the lord of our kingdom hurting her!"
"She told you?" my father asked, making no movement to help me.
"I had to force it out of her, but of course," he snapped, glaring at my father. "How could you have let that happen!?"
"I did not," my father said calmly. "He has been punished." He looked at me. "And it would seem he's received his second punishment."
Chester looked mollified. "Forgive me, King Nelo."
"King Nelo?" I snapped, scrambling back to my feet. "What about me? I'm the one you hit!"
"Cian, wait for me in the throne room," my father said.
"No. I will stay right here. I'm not leaving a madman alone with my father."
He rolled his eyes. We both knew Chester wasn't a madman, that I really had deserved it. I refused to admit it, though.
"Are you her betrothed?" my father asked and Chester shook his head.
"No. We do not feel that way about each other."
"Then what is your relation?"
"We grew up together. Our fathers were best friends," he said. "He was with Miles during the raid. My father had survived, though. I helped her and her mother learn how to run what was left behind from Miles's farming business."
"So you are, essentially, siblings?"
"Yes, your highness," he said and my father nodded thoughtfully. "Why do you ask?"
My father turned to me with a look in his eyes I didn't like. I narrowed my eyes at him. What was he thinking?
"My son needs a... lesson in manners," he said finally.
"What!?" I yelled, my hands balled into fists.
"Since you, aside from her mother, know her better than anyone," he continued, "perhaps you know if she could help him."
Chester looked between the two of us then erupted into laughter. He doubled over, holding his stomach. I glared at him, seething, until he composed himself.
"Once again, forgive me," he said, wiping away tears of mirth. "But have you met Viveka? She loathes him."
"And she has no manners herself," I snapped.
"Not towards you," Chester snapped back.
"She yelled at my mother," I argued.
"And apologized," my father reminded me.
"You're serious about this," I breathed. "You have given me an assignment! Something much more important than lessons in manners."
"If you won't be stubborn, it should not take long," my father said calmly. He turned to Chester. "What do you think she'd say?"
He thought for a little while. I wanted to pace but my father immediately grabbed my elbow. I snarled at him and he tightened his grip with a warning glare. Chester had looked up, shocked by the noise, and I turned it into a sneeze.
"If you approach her with it as a... suggestion for how she spoke to the queen, she would receive it better."
My father nodded. "Very well. Thank you for your input. And for helping teach my son what happens should he upset someone twice his size," he added with a smirk. "You may go."
Chester stared. "You are not going to punish me?"
"Striking your son...."
"Oh, he's fine," my father said and I clenched my jaw.
"Okay," Chester said slowly. He bowed to my father. "Have a pleasant day, your majesty."
He glared at me then left. I rounded on my father.
"Are you serious!?" I yelled.
His stare was icy and I growled.
"You will be leading this kingdom someday," he said coolly. "I cannot have a son succeed me that loses his temper and injures an innocent young woman."
"There's nothing innocent about that woman," I grumbled. "And who said I wanted to ascend to the throne?" I added.
"I know you miss your sister," he said gently. "We all do. But this is your fate. You cannot run from it."
I jogged up the stairs and turned.
"Watch me," I snarled.