Alexander was conflicted.
If Sara won the duel, then the kingdom would be saved. But if she won...oh, if she won...the thought was unbearable.
This is ridiculous! I'm the Prince of Avana, for crying out loud! Since when must I listen to the instructions of a mere prisoner?
Adrian would be rooting for Sara. Adrian always rooted for the more moral of the two. Once, when watching two knights-to-be who weren't as far along in their knighthood as Adrian was, Adrian had cheered for the weaker of the two because the other had "recently left his fiancee for another woman." Alexander had been amused at Adrian's sense of propriety...and also convicted. If only he hadn't chosen a broken road...if only he had stayed as disciplined and prudent as Adrian.
Ah, there were no excuses for Alexander. Nobody on which he could blame his moral decline. There was only himself. He'd been the sinner from the start.
The sound of feet pounding down the hallway stirred Alexander from his thoughts. A page appeared and bowed deeply to Alexander. "Your Highness," the page said breathlessly. "Your mother, the royal queen of Avana, wishes to see you. She was getting rather adamant about it, you see, and she - "
Disturbed by the interruption, Alexander set down the sword he'd been idly examining. "Thank-you," he said absently to the pageboy, then made his way to his mother's royal chambers.
On the way to the royal chambers, Alexander kept wracking his brain, trying to understand why his mother would ever call for him. Ever since...well, ever since the incident happened, she'd let him know in no uncertain terms that she was disappointed in him and wanted nothing to do with him. Frankly, Alexander hadn't been expecting such harsh words from his mother. After all, he was her flesh and blood! How could she possibly hate him as much as she claimed?
But wouldn't I hate myself, too? The unbidden thought was a hard one to shove away. It would have been easier to bear with a bottle in hand.
I have to win this duel. I just have to. I'll go crazy if I can't!
The queen's royal chambers were dim, evidence to the fact that the inhabitant was still dreadfully ill. Alexander hesitated, then approached the bed in which his mother lay. "Mother, I - "
"'Your Highness,' if you please. Which I'm sure you don't."
Lowering his head, Alexander found his mouth empty of words. What could he say? Finally, "Why am I here?"
"I'm getting worse. The doctors fear there is only one herb which can save me. It is in the town of Cor, a town which refuses to import their most precious goods. They will be punished for it, as soon as I'm well - seeing as you aren't capable of doing anything productive on your own."
Alexander was tempted to remind his mother that he had more important tasks than fetching a plant which he secretly hoped wouldn't cure her, but he thought better of it.
"I need you to send your knight, Adrian, to fetch some for me. You see, Cor is rather far away, and they don't take kindly to intruders."
Alexander stiffened. Adrian? He couldn't send his dearest friend to so hostile a territory! He turned and walked away. "I'll tell him," he said quietly.
"Before you leave, I want you to remember something: the herb is called Orvani. And also this: I don't love you, and I'm not proud of you. As soon as your father returns, you will be properly dealt with."
Alexander slammed the door behind him on his way out. He had more important things to do. Things like winning a duel against Sara so that he could keep his mental sanity.