Note This was written between midnight and 5am, while messed up on caffeine and a writing high, so quality is.... very much not guaranteed. Yay for first drafts?
Pt 1 / Pt 2
Pt 4 / Pt 5 / Pt 6 / Pt 7 / Pt 8 / Pt 9
Pt 1 / Pt 2
|Ryertame walked slowly through the palace halls, giving himself as much time as he could to work out what he was going to say. Once, his king would have listened to everything he said and congratulated him on taking the initiative. Now... well, if they didn't have a shouting match he'd call it a success. Although that was asking too much given what he'd done.|
A flock of giggling maids came down the empty hall towards him, and he straightened, clasping his nervous hands behind his back. He lengthened his stride and kept his eyes focussed ahead of him, glancing in their direction with a nod only when they stopped and dipped curtsies to him. As far as they were concerned he was just deep in thought. They didn't need to know that the man in charge of the palace guards could be worried about anything less than a full scale invasion, and even that could only warrant mild concern.
He wanted to lose himself in his worries again, but a few minutes later more maids went past, these wearing gold brooches marking the queen's hand maidens. Melorn had returned then, for however long she decided to tolerate her husband this time.
Ryer didn't really want to deal with her as well, but with her usual talent for timing, the queen happened to be leaving her chamber as he approached.
“Captain,” she greeted warmly. “Are you to meet with my honourable husband?”
He bowed. She was either in a good mood or planning something; 'honourable' was not the word she wanted to use for him, and she only refrained from speaking her mind when she had a good reason for it.
“Indeed I am, my queen,” he said.
She clapped her hands together with a smile. “Well then,” she said, “it seems we share a destination. Perhaps we could walk together. I have missed your company.”
Ryertame bowed again, offering his arm. “Nothing would please me more,” he said. “Though I fear the journey is too short to catch up the lost time.”
“Indeed,” she responded. “We shall have to take lunch together soon. But tell me, why do you seek my husband today?”
He briefly considered a lie, but decided it was too difficult. “I have word for him of a prisoner,” he said.
“Oh, do you mean the thief I've heard so much about?” she asked. “Has his fate been determined?”
“I was hoping to speak to his majesty before I spoke of it,” Ryer attempted.
Melorn drew him to a halt, and he saw sincerity in her gaze. At some unseen cue her maids dropped back to a discreet distance.
“Please, Ryer,” she said. “I know things between you and my husband have been strained of late. I'm ashamed of my part in things, but what's done is done. Let me offer what aid I can.”
He gave himself a moment, then nodded slightly. “The thief is a hybrid, and a highly talented and well connected one,” he said. “He is guilty, but more use to us alive and free.”
She grinned. “You've given him work, haven't you?” she said, entirely too amused by the idea. “Oh please do tell me what.”
Ryertame looked away, gathering himself before he looked back at her. “I'm offering him the role of royal secretary,” he said.
Melorn's smile faded and her hand slipped from his arm for a moment before she recovered herself. “I had not thought the position available,” she said.
“However it turns out, the change won't be immediate,” he assured her. “But the change is a necessary one.”
“I understand,” she said, and they began walking again. Then between one step and the next her attitude changed and she went back to her earlier relaxed confidence. “Would you mind if I speak to my husband first? My morning has gone more swiftly than I had expected, and I would like to go out for a ride while the day is young.”
“Of course, my queen,” he said. “Perhaps I'll wait in the sun room. It has always been my favourite.”
“An excellent idea,” she said.
They made the rest of the walk in silence, and for a brief time Ryer let himself simply enjoy her company. Things were rarely so simply done, but he could allow himself the illusion.
The guards at the door to the king's chambers took one look at them and clearly decided to keep all opinions to themselves, letting them in with sharp salutes and carefully blank looks. No one in the palace knew the whole story, but those close enough to the king and queen knew enough to stay out of it.
Leaving her maids in the waiting chamber, Melorn let herself into the king's bedroom with little more than a knock, while Ryer retreated to the sun room. Knowing that Melorn would not let her husband get away with a short visit, he took off his boots and sat at the edge of the pool in the centre of the room, resting his feet on the top of the cool water. The room was as well cared for as the rest of the palace, but Ryer got a sense that it had not been used in the six months since he was last in it.
Confident that he would not be disturbed until the royal couple were done, unless there was an emergency, Ryer let out a slow breath and relax.
Almost two hours later he heard Melorn's chatter as she let herself out, giving him time to dry his feet and put his boots back on before the king came into the room. They shared a brief, tense look, and the king went to stand on the balcony. Ryertame took his position in an archway behind and to the left of his king. For a long time neither of them spoke.
“My wife informs me that you wish the thief to be spymaster,” King Azcarth said at last.
“It is my proposal,” Ryer said quickly, “subject of course to-.”
The king lifted a hand and Ryer fell silent.
“Is that your final answer?” he asked, turning to face the captain.
Ryertame met his king's gaze. The question was one that had never been spoken aloud, but was clearly understood by both of them. “It is, my king,” he said, wishing he could be as certain as he sounded.
After a short moment Azcarth looked away.
“Very well,” he said. “You may go.”
The captain took three steps back and left his king's chambers without a word. Walking more swiftly than he had earlier, he went to take word to the new spymaster.
Pt 4 / Pt 5 / Pt 6 / Pt 7 / Pt 8 / Pt 9