The ache in his back and shoulders had died down to a dull pain. This was much better compared to the white-hot burning that had caused him to blackout. How long was that? Two days, a week, two weeks? It was hard to tell time counting the unknown amount of hours he was unconscious and when the others were surrounded by constant darkness.
His left shoulder was heavily bandaged and when he tried to lift his hand it refused to go straight up. His father had done this to him. He didn’t want to, he had pleaded with the king to spare him and take his life instead. The king refused. He then begged the king to let him administer the whipping. He was angry at his father when he made that request, but after they’d reached one hundred and he’d passed out, he now understood. Anyone else would have whipped him until he died. His father spared his life but destroyed his left shoulder. That too because he was a right-handed swordsman. He would need his right side to fight.
The wounds were still very bad and infection if not blood loss should have killed him, but someone had been coming at nights to clean the wound and change the dressings. He didn’t think the king would have offered such a mercy, so someone was doing it behind his back.
He sat up stiffly on the cot, but that motion alone made his body swoon with vertigo. He held his head down and took in shallow breaths and allowed the pounding in his temples to subside. He would fight the feeling and stay awake just to see his would-be nurse, even if all he could offer was thanks.
It took some time, but his patience was rewarded as he heard light footsteps coming down the corridor. Someone whispered to the guard, the locks clicked, and the door fell open. He shaded his face from the sudden intrusion of light. All he could make out was the slim silhouette of a female standing at the door.
“So you are my would-be saviour then?” he said still squinting at the woman.
“No, it seems that I am already too late for that.” The woman stepped forward and her face became illuminated in the light of the candle which she brought.
Doranand took in a sharp breath and sit back in the cot. Brown eyes, brown dress and brown hair on which stood a small circlet of gold. The queen had come to visit him.
“You seem surprised to see me Lord Doranand. I must say that I too am surprised to see that you aren’t suffering from blood poisoning.” she said softly. Her voice had a seductive lilt to it which made one wanted to sit forward and listen. He however restrained himself and instead stared directly into her eyes. “I wonder which of the palace wretches has been defying the king.” she said stepping closer.
She pulled him forward, pressing her fingernails into his wounds, sending sharp jabs of pain up his neck and down his back. “Not bad work,” she said as she completed her inspection. “I could have done better, but at least my job has been made simpler.”
“For the sake of curiosity, may I ask what brings Her Highness to this part of the castle? Cobwebs and dirt aren’t the preference of most fine ladies.”
“I am not like most fine ladies, as you well know. In Nur, dirt and cobwebs are city treasures, so I feel quite at home here, thank you.”
So why didn’t you stay there! He wanted to say but he bit his tongue. If Arro-Bar hadn’t married her Aliana wouldn’t have felt the need to leave the palace and search for some gem. They would be upstairs going about their regular lives.
“She is fine you know, my sources tell me that she is being treated like royalty in the castle of Garion. Prince Milos has returned to the court and they say that he seems to be quite besotted with her.”
“Prince Milos of Garion has been dead many years now.” he ground out.
“No, not dead as he would have everyone think. In fact, you have met him.” he raised a brow in question. “Why he is that handsome thief that spirited the princess away from your clutches.”
“I have no reason to lie.” she laughed. “Apparently the prince has been playing spy within these castle walls for the last two years. He was the one who wrote the letter to your father telling him that you requested an escort to Whitby as you’d eloped with the princess.” she handed him a folded piece of paper.
The handwriting looked similar enough to his, except for the curling T’s. His father wouldn’t have noticed the difference. But the proof was there. He had wondered how his father had known where to meet him, but it was all laid out in the letter.
“I suspected the prince’s presence the minute I got here, but he’d managed to elude me twice. The last time he fled through the princess’ room.”
“Are you insinuating that Aliana helped him, because she wouldn’t.”
“Wouldn’t she?” she said lifting a brow. “But then you knew her best, you were after all friends. I on the other hand am just an outside observer who is stating facts as they appear to me.”
Aliana would never...In fact her face after she found out what he and his father had been planning had been one of pure betrayal. That couldn’t be an act. Could it? He rubbed his hands along his jaw which was rough with overgrown stubble.
“While you loved her, she played you for a fool Lord Doranand. Used you as an alibi to escape with her prince. She never even considered what would happen to you when you returned to Evan.” she crooned.
“What do you want Your Highness?” he snapped.
“I want to restore you to your place as a captain in the king’s army.”
“Why?” he said surprised.
“Because I think you have the most motivation to do what is needed to bring Garion to its knees.” she said flatly.
“I cannot accept.” he said shaking his head.
“I knew that would be your response, but I will give you two days to think about it.” she bent down and tilted his face to look at hers. “And think carefully about it Lord Whitby. For while your beloved Aliana is waltzing in finery with her prince, you will be left here to rot and no nurse will be coming this time to save you from your ills.” she then walked out of the room taking all light with her.
This couldn’t be true. Aliana was never able to get along with her father, but she would never commit treason. She loved Arnay too much to do that.
”Thief and liar he might be, but at least with him I know what I am walking into.” Those were her words and she’d said them which such conviction. In that moment Doranand was unsure of himself. He wasn’t sure about anything.