A young man is thrust upon the throne for the sake of his people. A heroine vows to do what is right above all else. They are bound together by duty, but each has an unbreakable promise to keep.
“Take him to the interior hall. Bar the doors and set a guard.” Thripp seemed to spin in circles as he barked orders at whoever fell in his sights. His arms flailed wildly, pointing to various places in the castle. Everyone he laid eyes upon was given a job and a place to be. He delegated with wide eyes, scanning the room with chaotic method. It was apparent then to James why his father had kept the man so close for so long.
Four guards suddenly tucked James between them and spirited him off to the interior hall as Thripp had indicated. They were past bad feelings and precautionary drills; the worst had already happened and now they were in the aftermath.
When the heavy wooden bars were fitted behind the doors, the echo off the walls made James' heart sink even more. He felt less sure they were there to protect him than to imprison him.
He'd been in this room, the 'interior hall,' many times before while growing up. It was richly wrapped in tapestries and housed towering rows of books. The library, as he knew it, had always been just another room in the castle to James. He'd always thought the doors were rather large for such a place, but he'd never had a reason to explore any records on architecture.
Now, he paced, following the windowless walls. A library painted over a bunker, he wondered. He wagered that the castle was an entirely different place to his father. What else would he find now that—
James shook his head. Those were Thripp's words, not his. Not yet. He knew it was foolish to think that his life would have transpired exactly as he'd planned. He'd always expected setbacks, but he'd never had a reason to believe everything might just be completely derailed. And Thripp's emergency was no setback. James knew he'd end up far from where he'd ever meant to go. There were no more fresh starts ahead of him. Inheritance is a heavy thing, he thought.
There was a series of loud cracks at the door. The guards clustered before unbarring the door and pulling in Thripp. James didn't look up from studying one of the tapestries, but Thripp kept his eyes squarely on him as he marched through the room. The doors pinched shut again with a heavy echo.
“Your father is dead.”
James looked only to the guards' to see their restrained reactions.
“We're still investigating who and what brought him down, but we've confirmed his death.”
James could feel Thripp's unrelenting eyes, but he followed the patterns in the tapestry for a moment more. “What's next?”
“You're the king, James. What is next?”
Only then did he meet Thripp's worried gaze. The old man looked a breath away from panic. Preparedness was not the same as being ready. “I want to know exactly what happened. If we're dealing with an assassination, I want to know motivations. Whether it was one of Riorden's dogs or someone less obvious and much closer.”
“I'm not sure that King Riorden would risk the upheaval after all this time. Whoever it may be, if he's after the crown, he'll find you too."
“I can't rule from a library,” he glanced around the room, mocking its identity, “and besides, I'll want to see his face.” James glided to the doors and motioned to the guards, “if you would,” he waited.
“Your Majesty,” the guard bowed as he widened the doorway.
James turned on his heels just inside the room and cornered the guard. “No,” he instructed, thinking of what he might prefer, if anything.
The guard nodded uneasily and whispered a feeble, “Sir.”
James acknowledged the guard's courtesy and continued out of the 'interior hall.'
Thripp said nothing as he caught up to him. His opinions would undoubtedly surface later, which James looked forward to. He needed the help.