Krator was sitting in his chambers when the servant came panting up to him with the letter from the palace. He immediately knew what it was about, even before he broke the royal seal and read it, and his heart sank. To answer the summons would mean a trial, and a trial would put his wife in a state of stress – something that would be risky with her so near to giving birth. However, if he refused, he knew that other soldiers would come and arrest him, leading to his execution and the ultimate widowing of his wife, which would leave his child fatherless.
For hours Krator sat in his chambers, pondering over what to do. Eventually he rose and went into his antechamber. There he sat down and wrote a response to the Princess in which he stated that he would answer the summons and attend upon her the next morning if she would grant him one request – to spare his wife any knowledge of the trial until a decision was made. By the following evening, his request had been granted, and he then began to pack some clothes and food ready for the journey to the palace. He ordered that his best stallion be groomed and well fed, and ordered his servants to air his best clothes.
“In the event that I do not return, you are to stay here and ensure that my home remains safe for my wife and child.” he told his chief servant. “They are innocent of all knowledge of my crimes and must be kept safe at all costs.”
“Yes, sir.” came the calm response. “Will you need anything else?”
“No, thank you. You can go now.”
The servant bowed and left silently. Krator sat down heavily on his bed and thought about his pregnant wife. What would happen to her if he were imprisoned or worse, executed? Would Princess Melaka be merciful and spare her, or would she wait until his child was born and then execute his wife too? He did not regret his actions, as it was clear that Greece was beginning to take over more and more of the islands around Skyros, but he did not want his wife to suffer as a result.
Sighing, Krator dressed for bed and slept until dawn, when he rose and began to ready himself for the journey. His entourage were already up and waiting for him as he walked into the stables and saddled his horse. When he was in the saddle, he turned to face his men.
“You have all been honest, good men and I thank you for your service to my family over the years. If any of you wish to leave my service, you may ride home to your loved ones and I will not blame you.”
None of his men moved an inch.
“Very well then. Let us ride to the palace and see what fate Princess Melaka has in store for me.” and with that, they wheeled their horses about and set off.
After a six hour ride, Krator and his men arrived at the palace gates. The palace itself was eerily quiet, with only a few servants pottering about outside. No stewards came to open the gates, no grooms stood waiting to take their horses, and even when the stewards glanced up their gazes seemed to slide past the riders. Eventually, Senator Demetriou came down the steps from the palace and opened the gates. The riders slowly trotted past him and dismounted before turning to face the Senator, who had locked the gate behind them and now stood waiting for Krator like a disapproving father.
“Come with me, Krator. The Princess is expecting you.” he said, his tone deep and solemn. “You men can go to the kitchen and ask the cooks to give you some refreshment.”
Krator and the Senator walked up the steps to the palace in silence. As they entered the main entrance, Krator could not help but gasp at the grandeur of it all. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, their individual droplets sparkling like the sun over the sea, and the white marble floors gleamed like freshly fallen snow on the ground. Everywhere he looked, there were frescos, paintings or tapestries on the wall and rich rugs on the floors, ornate pillars supporting the roof and vases filled with flowers on tables that gleamed as if they had been crafted that very day.
As they walked into the Princess’s reception room, even more grandeur met Krator’s eyes. In one corner sat the Princess Melina playing the harp, in another was a mahogany desk from Kymi and in still another was a painting easel with a half-finished painting on its frame. In the centre of the room sat Princess Melaka, dressed in her formal robes of state. Behind her sat the rest of the Committee, and on each side of her were two smaller chairs. In one of these chairs sat Prince Kolkos and the other chair was for Senator Demetriou.
Krator knelt before the three chairs and bowed his head. An eerie silence fell around the room, and even Princess Melina stopped playing. After five minutes he was ordered to rise.
“You know why you are here, do you not?” came the question from the Princess. Krator nodded. “Good. We will proceed, then. Tell us, in your own words, what transpired last week in the town of Kymi.”
Krator licked his lips and began. “Your Majesties and honoured Senators, last week I and a few friends went to Kymi with the intention of fighting with some soldiers in a tavern. My friends quickly became drunk, but I did not drink and so kept my wits about me. We left the tavern and were making our way back to the docks when a man came upon us. He challenged us, asked us if we were from Kymi, and when we replied that we were not, he attempted to arrest us. We resisted, at which point he began to shout for the guards and soldiers. My friends urged me to silence him, and so I killed him. We ran to the docks and got away on our small boat to the island. It was only when I was asked to answer the summons that I knew this man was a senior judge.”
“And at what time did you return from Kymi that night?” asked Senator Barberis, leaning forward in his chair.
“At about one o’clock the following morning, Senator.”
“How did you get past the guards at the docks?” came another question, this time from Senator Angelis.
“We told them that we were fishermen going out to fish, and they let us through, Senator.”
“And do you understand the gravity of your actions?” asked Prince Kolkos, steepling his fingers underneath his chin.
“I do, Your Majesty. Had I known that the man was a senior judge, I would have let myself be arrested and dealt with in Kymi rather than kill him.”
“Very well. You may wait outside whilst myself, the Prince and the Committee decide your fate.” said Princess Melaka. Her voice was cold and forbidding. Krator turned to go, and then turned back and threw himself to his knees.
“Your Majesties and Senators, I must beg for your mercy towards my wife. She is heavily pregnant and I would ask that you spare her and my child the dishonour of my execution. Please, spare my life for their sake. My wife is young and a newlywed, and my child is not yet born, and for that reason I ask you to spare my life so that they might not be cast out into the world to fend for themselves.”
“Please rise and leave, sir. Your plea, whilst impassioned, cannot have any bearing upon our decision. Should you be executed, your wife will remain with us until your child is born and a suitable husband can be found for her to marry.” Prince Kolkos replied.
Krator rose, bowed stiffly, and left the room. Once outside, he stood in the antechamber and wept unashamedly. After what felt like an eternity, Princess Melina came outside and quietly asked him to come back inside. Krator nodded and followed her into the room again, and knelt before the thrones once more. Again he waited for an eternity and was then ordered to rise. He stood before them all, his face stony and bleak.
“We have made a decision, Castellanos.” the Princess began. “Your life will be spared, and your family will be safe. However, you are under house arrest for two months and, should we ever go to war, you will be expected to remain at home, in your house, unless you are desperately needed. Is this clear?”
“Crystal clear, ma’am.” Krator replied.
“You may leave. Senator Angelis will escort you to your home, and we will place guards around your house as of this evening.”
Krator nodded, bowed and left. Senator Angelis followed him outside, and the two men saddled up. The rest of their entourage joined them, and they rode back to Krator’s home in silence.