Milos never wanted to be king. He wasn’t fit to be king. The gods obliged and blessed him by making him the second-born son. Now Genos was dead, and he was the Crown prince of Garion. The gods must be laughing at him now, even worse his father.
A message of his return was sent ahead, and he was greeted by more soldiers. He spotted one of the royal carriages waiting for him at the port. The captain tapped on the window once and a spindly old man immerged. He inspected him from head to toe. Twisting his head from side to side.
He stepped back and rested on his cane. I admit that the likeness is remarkable.” he said adjusting his spectacles on his nose. “They say that you are the Crown prince boy, what do you have to say about that?” The captain and all the others around them stiffened. They weren’t going to let him go anywhere near the palace until his identity was fully verified.
“Darrien, I have ceased being a boy many years ago and it is obvious that you too are well past your expiration date.” replied Milos.
The upturned scowl of the old man melted away revealing a brilliant smile. “Only the Milos I knew would return such a cutting remark. I am happy to see that you have returned safely.” he laughed as he pulled him closer and hugged him.
“It is good to see that you too Darrien. Safety is relative. I was probably safer if I remained where I was. I heard about Genos.” he said stepping away from the old man’s grasp.
“Yes,” he said becoming more crest fallen. “We should go. I have much to update you on before getting to the palace.” he said as he ushered him into the vehicle.
“I am sorry to interrupt Your Highness, but what should we do with the prisoner?” asked the captain who had supplied his name as Hardling.
“Place her in a secure carriage and then in a cell in the upper level of the palace dungeon. Whatever you do, do not incite her anger. It is safer for your men that way.”
The captain looked a bit puzzled about his strange request, but he nodded regardless and stepped away. He then followed Darrien into the carriage.
“Your prisoner?” asked Darrien. He had sworn all the men to secrecy as he didn’t want news of Aliana’s presence in Garion to be general knowledge, at least not yet. As someone from the boat would probably spread the news to an ear most eager to listen.
“Princess Aliana of Arnay.” he said picking out the dirt gathered under his nails and rubbed it into his pants. It was a nervous habit of his and he hasn’t done it in years. But being home generally made him uneasy.
“So, we did have the Princess hostage but we just never knew.” said Darrien.
“Actually, she had me hostage.” he sinking back into the cushioned chair.
“I beg your pardon my lord?” said Darrien taken by surprise, which was novelty within itself as nothing ever startled the old man.
“She found my poster thinking that I was a criminal and blackmailed me into bringing her into Turion.”
“Why would she want to come here?”
“She is searching for the red sapphire and believed that we had it.”
“But doesn’t she know that the red sapphire is just a title for whomever possesses the magic of her ancestors?”
“Her father kept her uninformed of many things it seemed.”
“Is she the Red Sapphire?” asked Darrien curiously.
“That is yet to be seen.” said Milos. He didn’t know why he was protecting the princess as at this point he was less than enamoured with her.
“I see,” said the old man thoughtfully and Milos wondered if he did truly see.
“Tell me about what has been happening in the palace.” he said changing the subject.
“Baron Kelikos has been trying to wheedle his son Nominus into the graces of the king, hoping that he will name him heir after his passing. Havendale and Mistwall aren’t having it either they are claiming blood ties on both the king and queen’s side as to why one of your dear cousins should be named heir.”
“Do any of those houses want the crown badly enough to kill Genos and then blame it on Arnay?”
“That is a possibility, but an unlikely one. Genos was highly favoured as the future monarch by everyone, you know that.”
Milos did. His brother was perfect, while he was the court jester. He began dreading each moment he came closer to the palace. His father was so embarrassed by him that he had wanted to marry him off to Lady Sonetta of Dunwall. ’All you have to do is to ensure that the dykes don’t break. Even you can manage stuffing mud in cracks Milos.′ he had said.
Lady Dunwall was a soul-sucking harpy who was always posturing herself for greater elevation in court. When he had first met her, her endless jabbering had driven him up the wall and he would rather be thrown in the deepest part of the Landing with boulders attached, than to spend a minute much less a lifetime chained to such a woman. I suppose she too felt the same as her goal was to marry Genos, whose superior position gave him the chance of choosing his own bride.
He told his father just as much. The king then gave him two choices, to marry Sonetta or to leave. He chose to leave. The posters must have been his mother’s idea as he doubted the king regretted his going. He would be out of sight as he’d intended in the first place.
Darrien was the only person he told of where he was headed. He was the only one who ever saw past his pranks or had the patience to deal with his surliness. He seemed to have more faith in Milos than anyone, including himself. He claimed it as seeing ‘the possibilities.’
He gave him a purpose and contacts that helped him integrate into the Arnayan society seamlessly. He had enough learning to become a magistrate and enough cunning to become a spy. Which he had been doing for the last two years. Quite frequently he had broken into the Arnayan palace, ferreting information from the court and then ferrying it to Darrien who would then tell the king.
He didn’t think that his father knew that it was him supplying the information and it was just as well. But Genos did, he would send letters to him through Darrien. It was risky but his brother insisted on enquiring about his wellbeing. Perfect, loving Genos. He would have made a great king, now he was gone.
“We are here. Welcome home Your Highness.” said Darrien.
A footman opened the carriage door and he stepped out. The palace stood on the highs hill of the city isle. He could see the north shore and where the Hone emptied into the lake. The southern shore was hidden as all he could see was blue waters glistening out to the horizon. A few lights were already being turned on in the thousands of households below, so when the darkness had eaten the lake another of pure light would be born. It was truly a magnificent sight to behold and was one of the best things about living in the palace.
He turned his back on the view and took in the coral coloured building before him. Dark blue banners laced with silver threading were everywhere, but alongside them, swathes of black cloth waved reminding him that the country was in mourning.
“Shall we?” said Darrien.
Milos nodded stiffly and then followed.