Tainted Saint, Chapter SixtyMature

There would be no wasting time. Though Amadeo wanted Cassandra to make the choice of whether she would come to him or not, there were other things Amadeo needed to do. Heading for the stable, he knew who he needed to speak with.

Lemuel Morris.

Yes, Lemuel was a hard worker. Insecure, certainly, but that was how Amadeo's workers usually started out. Once they recognized the significance that was given to them when they joined in the King's service, their insecurities gave way to a confidence that was not based on their own identities, but on who they became, because of Amadeo's kindness.

Lemuel was uncomplainingly shoveling manure when Amadeo came across him. Setting the shovel aside, Lemuel wiped his brow with a clean edge of his sleeve and bowed. "Your Highness," he said, slightly winded.

"You're doing excellent work, Lemuel," Amadeo said warmly. "Your work ethic is impressive. The other hands keep telling me about you."

Shrugging, Lemuel simply said, "It's easier to push through when I'm working hard." He chuckled. "Even when I'm working with manure."

Amadeo laughed, as well. "Thank-you for what you do."

Lemuel could not have looked more surprised. "Excuse me?" he said. "You're...thanking me?"

"Of course. I appreciate what you do."

A genuine smile tickled Lemuel's lips and brightened his eyes. "It's nothing. Well, I mean, it's the least I can do." A look of sadness briefly crossed his eyes, and he turned away so as to hide his face from the King.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Lemuel paused. "Well, that's not entirely true. I'm just...thinking of Cassandra and Lizzie. I wish Cassandra would stay and realize what she's missing. And Lizzie..." His voice trailed off. "I'm sorry. You wouldn't be pleased."

"You miss Lizzie." Amadeo's heart twisted in pain. He saw recognition in Lemuel's eyes and knew he'd deciphered Lemuel's sadness.

"Not enough to return to her," Lemuel said softly. He inhaled deeply, then slowly released his breath. "The other workers say the desire to return will fade with time, but..." He stopped speaking again and only shook his head.

"I'm here to listen, Lemuel. Please, share your burden with me. I want to hear your heart."

Lemuel sighed. "Thank-you," he muttered, curt. And then, he turned and headed to another part of the stable.

Amadeo watched as Lemuel walked away.

It was a common disease, the belief that Amadeo did not care about his people. Even worse was the fact that the disease ran just as rampant among Amadeo's followers as it did among citizens such as inhabitants of Nicu.

One day, Amadeo thought, one day, they will see how much I care. One day, they will understand. And they will feel insecure no longer.

The End

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