"I would rather have inherited a war," James muttered. "Wars have a beginning, a winner, a loser, an end..."
Thripp gave him a look.
"Better than a rivalry anyway. Or whatever Riorden had with my father."
Thripp shot another look.
"Vice versa then." James shrugged. He appreciated Thripp's brutal honesty; it was the most useful to him.
They sat in the council chamber waiting on the word to get around to his staff. He could hear the men socializing as they slowly gathered outside of the door. They were waiting to enter until the entire group was present.
James didn't care to undermine their old methods. He wondered if his father had felt the same way when he came into his own inheritance. Though he'd been in the chamber before, the entire process seemed foreign. He was entirely responsible for what transpired. And who would question him? With a little supporting argument he could justify almost anything. He looked at his hands, turning them over. Right and wrong, moral and immoral; there was no one to tell him how to categorize the world. It was him. How would he know?
What would Thripp do?
The men had filed into the chamber and taken their seats. They were waiting for James' cue. He scanned their faces quickly. "Right," he inhaled, "I know most of you, albeit in a smaller capacity than I should, but I think we'll get to orientation later."
They hung on to every word he said. A man to his left shifted in his seat. "Sir, may I say, I am terribly sorry for your loss. We've all lost a king, but you've lost a father and I feel that is something we should respect for your sake. Sir."
James realized his mouth was agape as he listened to the man's words. He quickly composed himself before uttering a deliberate, "Thank you." He was in no place to question the man's sincerity, but he couldn't quite take his words at face value.
Another man spoke up. "King Riorden will have his dues."
James turned to him. "We've proven Riorden's involvement?" The council was already derailed, but he had no interest in the agenda to begin with.
"One of the commoners admitted to seeing a figure fleeing the outer keep."
"That proves nothing. There are villagers claiming they've seen all manner of strange behavior that day."
James resorted to merely observing the argument between the seven men. They placed accusation on nearly every name in the three nearest towns short of their own.
Thripp cleared his throat while James shifted in his chair to appear as though he'd been waiting silently for their composure.
From there, the council discussed matters in the castle not affected by the King's passing. The former king, James corrected himself. Merely hearing the word "taxes" drew him far away from where he was supposed to be.
He felt somewhat useless. He'd spent years shadowing his father, listening to politics and painstakingly learning etiquette. He'd occupied councils and meetings for far longer than many of their members and advisers and yet he still felt like the new kid.
After so many years, people had just gotten used to how things were run. And they knew what to expect from the King. The former king, James sighed.
He wished it was merely matter of respect. That he knew he could inspire, or at least demand. For now, he'd have to wait. He'd have to earn his place. What good is being the king if I have to answer to all these people who probably know better? He entertained the thought for moment before composing himself. He had to be serious in order to be taken seriously. But the words struck him for some reason. Something his mother had told him? James couldn't quite remember. His wandering thoughts were getting the better of him.
Thripp's sharp voice rang in his ears. “I move we resume this meeting at a later date. I must confess my concentration wavers as I have much to do.” James felt Thripp's eyes as he often did. He scanned the rest of council and gave a terse nod. They shuffled from the room leaving him as he cupped his forehead in his hands and sighed.
He knew Thripp could see straight through him. He opted to keep his appreciation silent in light of it. The old man didn't need the acknowledgment and James couldn't bring himself to admit his faults.
“Thripp, what if I gave you the crown?”
The man looked at him without judgment. “I supposed I'd have to start sorting out your kin.”
“No, what if I gave you the crown?”
“You can't refuse, I'm the king.”
The humor was not lost on him. “I'd find a suitable replacement.”
“You wouldn't try it on?”
“Not for all the world.”
“You're too good for it.” James offered.
James left the chamber wondering at all the things he didn't know about the old man.