Destiny's Children: Joby

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A week and a half after the night Shyla had caught us, Hector arrived and I was glad. The king had been looming over me at every turn, warning me that he was coming as if it was supposed to strike some sort of impending doom in my heart. His appearance signaled the end of the king’s constant reminders which he seemed to track me down every hour to give. At last I would get some peace.

Rossannah and I were wandering around the fields, talking about the growth of the plants. It was a topic I didn’t know anything about so I listened and nodded my head to act as if I understood. We looked up to see him riding a jet black horse which he rushed into the stables.

“Let’s go!” I cried to Rossannah, anticipating that this was the psychopath that the king was so adamantly against taking over his precious kingdom.

We ran to the stables, hand in hand, laughing as we tripped twice on clumps of dirt or rocks that hadn’t been removed. The first time Rossannah tripped and brought me down with her, and then I returned the favor as we neared the stables.

We got our first good look at him when we burst through the stable doors. It was all new. I had never stepped foot in the stables before as I had never particularly cared for horses.

Hector was handing the reins of his shiny black stallion to none other than the man who had guarded me before I signed my marriage contract with the king. I was shocked. I had thought that he was a soldier or something to that extent. It turns out he was no more than the servant who took care of the horses. I allowed myself to wonder for a moment what would possess the Hawk to have an affair with a man who worked for her when she was so adamant against speaking with the servants.

“Hello, I’m Joby,” I introduced myself as he finished talking to my guard. He had very specific instructions as to how to take care of his horse.

He looked at me for a moment, considering me, and then his face erupted into a look of excitement. He charged at me like a mad bull and I instinctively took two steps back before he wrapped his arms around my waist and swung me around in a gigantic hug.

I was taken aback by everything about him. I had expected someone totally different. He had blonde hair and blue eyes and when I had imagined him I thought that he would look more like the king.

He was also very charming. We walked around the fields together with Rossannah and he spoke animatedly about what life was like where he came from. He drew us in as he talked about sports and horseback riding and parties. He seemed to live his life on a playground and was adamant to invite others to come and join him.

His speech was another thing I hadn’t imagined as well. It was exciting and boastful. His sentences were sometimes cut off and forgotten if he saw something that interested him and he would go off on another subject entirely. The king’s speech was always very mechanical and deliberate. I could see why the king would think that this man was disturbed. I decided that I liked this man.

“It’s time for me to go to the council, I think,” I said as I looked up at the sun. I invited Hector to go with me. I assumed that he might as well see what the protocol was if he was going to be the person who took over in the event of my death. He thanked me warmly and we parted with Rossannah to make our way to the big room.

We met up with the king about half way to the big room. He approached us and we stopped to chat before going to council.

“So I see you’ve met Hector,” the king smiled, knowingly, “Doesn’t he make a good first impression?”

I glared at him. I didn’t know what he was insinuating, but I didn’t like it. I was only allowed to contemplate it for a moment before I saw Hector lunge from beside me toward the king and thrust his fist at his face. The king winced as the fist caught him in the jaw and glared at Hector as he rubbed it to alleviate some of the pain that the blow had caused.

“Nice to see you again, Hector.” the king said as if this exchange was normal. Then he started to walk off to the big room. I looked at Hector for an explanation.

“I always knew there was something up with him,” Hector explained to me in an accusatory tone. “It was his eyes. Nobody in our family has those eyes. I just would like to know how he did it, and how he managed to get himself back in power.”

“Let’s not talk about that,” I flushed. I was embarrassed by my folly with the marriage contract. Still, I liked this man who attacked the king. I had wanted to do that for as long as I could remember.

We walked into the big room where council was held and I motioned for Hector to sit down with the population. I took my normal place behind the table. As I sat the king gave me an “I told you so” look. I looked away from him trying to hide the satisfaction on my face. The king’s issue with Hector was his problem, not mine. I liked Hector.

“Do you see?” the king whispered to me after council was over. “He is unstable. He is happy one moment and he goes off into rages the next.”

“Maybe just with you,” I countered. “You have that effect on people.”

“Hmph. You’ll see. He’s not through yet,” the king promised me.

Two weeks went by and I didn’t see anything wrong with Hector. Every day the king continued to promise me that I would see what was wrong with him sooner or later. At the time I thought that it was just wishful thinking on his part, but the time finally did come when Hector began to show his true nature. From then on it was a downward spiral of one incident after another.

It all started during breakfast one morning. The king, Rossannah, Shyla, Hector, and I had been having an uneventful meal. The Hawk had taken meals in her bedroom since Hector had arrived.

It was a quick fluid movement. If not for the actions that had followed it I would have dismissed it as an accident. The king motioned Ashlee to come and serve him more oatmeal. Ashlee obliged and on her way back to her spot, Hector nonchalantly stuck out his foot as he gulped down another spoonful of oatmeal. He caught Ashlee’s legs. The pot of oatmeal flew up into the air and across the room, and Ashlee, not being able to catch herself, landed face first into the hard floor. She sat up sputtering and crying as blood poured out of her nose.

“Oh Ashlee!” I called out, running to her side with my cloth napkin. “Are you alright?” I held my cloth napkin up to the nose of this poor, mousy old woman and looked up at Hector, frowning in confusion.

“Hector, did you have to?” the king scolded as he also rushed to Ashlee’s side and helped me bring her to her feet.

“Oh relax, man.” Hector replied, slowly sliding his foot back under the table into its proper place. “She’s only a servant. It was good for a laugh.”

I opened my mouth to yell at him, but the king put his arm on my shoulder as a warning to keep my feelings to myself and for the first time since we met I completely trusted him. It was an uneasy feeling that I would rarely experience but I allowed it to take over in moments where the nature of the situation called for it.

“Let’s get her to a bathroom and clean her up,” the king ordered. “Shyla…Rossannah…would you mind helping. I think the majority of us are finished eating, servants can go to the kitchen and start clean up there.” I realized that he was trying to clear everyone out of the room so that they wouldn’t be left alone with Hector. For the first time I saw that the king had a protective nature about him and wondered what it would have been like to grow up with him as an older brother, which was probably what would have happened if my mother had not left me in the woods with Grandmother.

We left Hector there in the dining area, completely oblivious to the fact that he had done anything wrong. I looked back at him in disgust as we all shuffled in a little group, each holding on to Ashlee in some comforting way as she blubbered in dismay over the sight of her own blood and the confusion over what had just happened to her. Hector just sat there, calmly eating his meal. Each spoonful was carried deliberately to his mouth without a second thought. I wondered how someone could do something so horrible and then carry on as if nothing had ever happened.

“It’s starting,” the king informed us when we were all in the bathroom, safely out of earshot of Hector. “Nobody is alone with Hector for at least a couple of days, understand?” We all nodded in agreement, still confused as to what was happening.

“Ashlee, after you get cleaned up, you bring out the special table.” He addressed Ashlee as if they had done this before. She responded as if this was a normal part of her day, as if she was expecting this all along.

I washed Ashlee’s face and she looked at me in appreciation. Great. Just another reason for her to follow me around. I guess it wasn’t normal for someone in charge to take such an interest in someone so low on the totem pole, unless of course it was the kind of interest Hector took in them. The king didn’t seem to want to participate in Ashlee’s renovation. He simply handed it over to Ashlee and watched as I took it out of her hands to clean her so she wouldn’t have to look at herself in the mirror.

By lunch I noticed the new table. It must have been made specifically for the occasion of Hector’s visits. It looked like a normal table, but when you pushed your chair in after you sat down there were solid slabs of wood blocking you in from each side. It would be impossible to slide your foot out without pulling yourself out first. Hector must have a problem with tripping people.

The king told Ashlee that she didn’t have to serve the meals while Hector was around. She refused the kindness. There was no way that Ashlee was going to miss out on the small interaction that she had with us. However, you could tell she was nervous because when she passed Hector her hands would shake a little and you could hear the top on the pot she was carrying shake in fear against it. It was disquieting to all of us.

Over the next three days, servants steered around Hector when he would pass them. Sometimes he would start to scoot out from his place at the table and we knew to halt any requests for seconds. We would finish eating what we had and wait for him to get up and leave the table.

His demeanor was different as well. He was sullen and prone to outbursts of screaming for no reason. Anything could set him off. I avoided him at all costs.

Then after three days, he was his old self again. The regular table came back. His charming smile came back. Everything I had liked about him came back, but my warmth towards him had changed forever.

“What is wrong with him?” I asked the king over supper one night, when he had left the table and I was sure he was far enough away so he couldn’t hear me.

“Sometimes he is Hector,” the king explained, “and sometimes he is not Hector.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Hector is sweet, charming, playful, and all-around a good person,” the king clarified, “but he shares his body with Victor, Mary, Juniper, Todd, and sometimes…very rarely…Roman. I guess there are others, but those are the ones that I have seen.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” I countered.

“They all have their quirks and fetishes,” the king went on, ignoring my comment, “and for the most part we are safe. They mostly act out on people that are weaker than they are…servants, slaves, and children. Stay away from Roman if you can help it, he’s the reason mother doesn’t eat with us when Hector comes to visit.”

“So Roman was the one that came out?” I wondered.

“No, that was Victor,” the king corrected me. “He likes to torture servants. Mary likes to torture slaves. Juniper likes to attack the elderly. Todd likes to hurt children.”

“What about Roman?” I prodded.

“Don’t worry about Roman,” he assured me. “Roman never comes out.”

“How do I know which one is which?” I asked.

“They each have their own batch of crazy. You’ll learn to recognize them.”

“What is he still doing here?” Rossannah spoke up angrily from beside me. I jumped, startled. I had forgotten that Rossannah and Shyla were still at the table with us.

“He’s here to prove a point,” the king said, defending his decision to have Hector in our presence. “I don’t think she gets it yet.”

Over the course of the next few months we were exposed to the horrors of Hector’s personalities. I grew accustomed to waking up in the morning and asking Hector over breakfast what his name was. Most of the time he would laugh and say that he was Hector, because he didn’t know about his other personalities, although they all knew about him. He thought it was some sort of game when I would ask him these questions. The king was impressed with this because up until I had implemented this simple, yet effective method, no one had thought of it. This gave us a good idea of what we would be dealing with that day, and who we would have to keep him away from. We even managed to capture a few new personalities and I began to write them down in a book to help us deal with the issues that they brought with them when they appeared. Even though it helped, it wasn’t fool proof because he could experience changes in personality throughout the day, but he usually woke up in the morning with the personality he would carry until he went to bed at night.

Hector’s presence brought out something that I had ignored until the king had mentioned it being the target of one of Hector’s personalities. Slaves. I had known of their presence in all of my years living there, but never seen them. I learned later that this was because they were often hidden away in chores that were not visible to most people. I had felt as if I had been the only one forced to do labor without any pay when I was brought back after the war, but I learned later that there were entire communities in the kingdom that were created and maintained on the backs of slaves. It left me feeling sick to my stomach. I decided that this was one of the things that I needed to change with my power.

“They are not even born into it,” the king argued with me when I brought it up to him. It was the first time that I ever sought him out to discuss something that had to do with his part of the world and not mine. “When somebody breaks the law, they get sentenced to slavery. It deters people from doing it and also rewards people for being good. It’s a win/win situation for everybody. I don’t understand your problem with it.”

“I lived it,” I announced. “For two years! I was forced to do whatever was expected of me! I’m still living it! You have no idea what that’s like.”

“I have every idea what it’s like!” the king bellowed back and stormed off. He found me again two hours later and we discussed it more calmly.

“Before we started this slavery thing,” he explained, “we executed anyone who broke the law. Laws are placed there for the protection of everyone. We make them slaves and give them to people who are struggling to pay people to work for them. They feed them and clothe them and save money and make money at the same time. There is a standard that the slaveholders have to meet or else they lose their slaves. We then also have someone constantly watching them to make sure that they don’t get out of line again. It’s humane.”

“I understand the need for a punishment,” I countered, “but forcing someone to work for you is never humane.”

“It’s better than killing them,” He argued again.

“That depends on the person,” I answered. “I think I would rather die than spend my life in captivity.” He considered this for a moment.

“Let’s go visit a slave community,” he said, “I will show you it isn’t as bad as you think it is. It’s not like what I did with you. We have always been at war, and I had to try to rein you in some way. This is better than that.”

I agreed to tour a community with him. We loaded Hector in a carriage with us so that we could monitor him and started on a two-day journey. We left Rossannah and Shyla at the castle.

We got there in the middle of the night. We chose a large house and knocked on the door. The woman who opened the door was ecstatic to let us in and showed us to two rooms. One was meant for Hector, and one was meant for the king and me. I opened my mouth to protest but the king held up his hand to quiet me. I remembered that to the rest of the world, we were married.

“I will sleep on the floor,” he offered when the mistress of the house left us alone in the room.

“I don’t mind the floor,” I answered back. “It’s kind of like the ground. The ground feels like home.” He looked at me, thoughtfully. Then he climbed into the bed and fell asleep. I lay down on the floor and fell asleep as well.

In the morning he shook me awake and I followed him down to the family’s dining room, where a crowd of about twenty people were seated. They reached and scooped and ate whatever they could get their hands on. We sat down with them and their actions quieted as they caught sight of us. I felt as if I was on display. No one said a thing.

A few moments went by in uncomfortable silence when Hector came down the stairs and took a seat next to me.

“Who are you today?” I asked matter-of-factly, not wanting to stray from my normal routine with him.

“Still just Hector,” he said as he chuckled. “It’s never going to change.” Yeah, right. I thought to myself. Then he noticed the painful tension as well.

It took Hector only seconds to figure out what to do. He reached out and grabbed a plate filled with bacon and began loading it onto his plate. This seemed to start a chain reaction and the group was back to its regular routine.

“These are your slaves,” the king whispered to me. I looked at these people, seemingly normal, attacking the food before me. They didn’t seem to be lacking for anything. They were clothed and some of them were on the heavier side so I knew that they were well fed. The only indication of their bondage came when the meal was over and the man at the head of the table started barking out orders as to what job they would be doing that day. They all got up and obediently went their own way.

“I would like to talk to some of them,” I mentioned to the king and then spoke up to the man at the head of the table, who was also getting up to go and do some chore. “I would like to talk to some of them.”

“I wouldn’t say no to a queen,” the man from the table smiled warmly. It still made me uneasy that so many people who didn’t know me would give me my way so freely.

The slaves didn’t have much to say. They only told me that they were happy with their work and didn’t mind being a slave. I thought that it was odd that so many of them were so willing to be content with that sort of life, until I talked to a large, overgrown man that they called Thor.

“It’s better for us to be slaves,” Thor told me, “than to be out there starving. Some of us broke the law just so that we would have a place to sleep and food to eat.” This made me very sad. At this point I decided that maybe the system that was in place was the best for everybody, but then I saw her.

She was only about six-years-old. She was small and fragile. She had shiny, strawberry blonde locks like Rossannah’s and I instantly thought of her as Rossannah as a child. She was struggling with a large bucket filled to the brim with water. I watched her reposition the bucket many times to try to get it to the field where the thirsty workers were waiting. She’d take a couple steps and set it down, reposition herself, think it over, and then pick it up again. Take a couple steps, and then start the process all over again. She looked too frail to be out here.

“What was her crime?” I asked Thor, pointing to the child.

“She stole some bread for her family, two years ago,” Thor sighed. “Poor thing was too young to know what freedom was like. Too bad, some young people actually do make things better for themselves, and she will never have the chance.”

I stalked angrily over to the man from the head of the table, who was working alongside the slaves.

“I want that girl out of the fields!” I screamed, pointing at the small child. The little girl looked up from across the field, horrorstruck. This seemed to spark an ambitious bone in her body as she began straining herself to make better time with her bucket. I can only imagine what was going on in her mind across the field as she could only see, and not hear me, yelling at this man who was supposed to be her master while pointing at her and thrashing my arms around in her defense.

“She’s fine,” the man from the head of the table tried to assure me. “Look, my son’s out here and he is the same age.” He pointed in the direction of another child, a stocky little boy carrying another water bucket around the fields with ease.

“She is sickly looking!” I maintained. “She’s obviously not cut out for this kind of work.” The man looked at the little girl struggling and a deep realization seemed to hit him.

“I will send her to the kitchen with my wife,” he conceded. “She can help prepare the meals from now on. That should be something she will be better suited for.”

“No,” I argued. “She is coming with me.”

The farmer nodded his head to show that he understood. He headed across the fields to the little girl and I could see him explaining to her that she was going to come with me. She seemed to plead with him and I saw her start to cry in alarm. He soothingly put his hand on her shoulder and she quieted. He wasn’t a bad man, I decided, just another victim of the way things were.

He brought the little girl to me. She looked at me with sullen and scared eyes. It was as if I was taking something away from her. I thought about changing my mind, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.

“This is my home,” she said to me, in tears. “Please don’t take me away from my home.”

“I will take you to your real home,” I reassured her. “You will be back with your family.” Her tears stopped instantly and her face lit up.

“May I pack my things?” the little girl said as she turned to the farmer. He nodded his approval. I discussed with the farmer where the little girl had come from so I could return her to her family. He seemed to be as grateful to get rid of her as she was to be going home.

The king and I took the little girl home together. It was a journey that took another day. Our carriage pulled up to a little shack that was falling apart. I began to wonder if there was anybody inside, when a crowd of thirteen children and two adults began to shuffle out of its tiny clutches. I wondered how a house this small could fit so many people.

I got out of the carriage first, followed closely by the king and then Hector. A moment or two went by before the little girl finally appeared and Hector gingerly helped her down.

Thirteen pairs of hands from the girl’s siblings reached out to touch her, to embrace her. I looked up into the faces of her parents expecting relief and happiness but instead I found only sorrow and regret. I looked around at the meager reality of their existence and was instantly propelled into a need to do something. I approached the parents with purpose.

“The forest has plenty of resources, and people that will be willing to help you learn to use them if you mention my name,” I explained. “Tell them that Joby sent you. Everybody will know who I am and that I sent you, but you have to use my name. Don’t call me the queen.”

The mother hugged me. It was clear that I had done more for her than anybody had ever done in her life. I decided that I would now take more of an interest in the lives of the people that I was supposed to rule. I turned around triumphantly to face the king. He didn’t look too happy with me.

“You didn’t have to send them to the forest,” he fumed as we were heading back to the farm with the slaves. “I would have helped them. The key to keeping everybody together is their faith that you will do everything you can to make their lives better. You just sent them to someone else.”

“Who says that everybody needs to be together?” I said, rolling my eyes at him. “Those people will die of starvation before you get to them.”

“Better than them starting a war with us.”

The conversation was over. He knew that something had changed within me after that scene. He knew that it wasn’t his world versus my world anymore. The lines between us had begun to blur together and I began seeing the people on both sides and had an intense need to change things for the better. The problem was that he already thought that things were as they needed to be.

As we headed toward the slave farm where we had left our belongings, I began to imagine ways that I could make the world better. I thought that punishing children in the same way that you would punish an adult was not a very effective way of keeping the peace. Nor was slavery an acceptable punishment. In my mind, it did two things: encouraged crime among the most impoverished because of the promise of a better life, and robbed people of their freedom for the rest of their lives for minor offenses. I thought that a reorganization of justice was in order. My thoughts carried me all the way toward the farm.

We got out of the carriage and made our way toward the house to collect our things. The king stood on one side of the room, and I busied myself on the other. Neither of us felt like speaking to the other.

The screaming started as one voice, angry and maniacal, and then exploded into a multitude of more terrified sounds. I stood up and walked over to the window to see where the sound was coming from and bellowed for the king to follow me quickly as I turned to the door and ran out to where Hector had wrestled Thor to the ground and was forcing his face into the mud.

“Hector, STOP!” I yelled at him as I began pulling at his arms and shoulders. He wouldn’t budge.

“Mary! It’s Mary!” The king reminded me.

“Mary, STOP!” I corrected myself. Aside from a short pause at the recognition of the name, Hector did not stop. We both began pulling at him, but when he raged like this he seemed to have superhuman strength.

Then, all of a sudden, Hector went slack. He sat on Thor’s back looking down at his hands and around at the many people encircling him in confusion. He suddenly stood up and Thor rolled over, choking and spitting out the mud he had wedged in his mouth.

“What happened?” Hector asked, shocked. The time had come for us to tell Hector about his problem. On the way back to the castle we talked about it. For two days we discussed what he was. I showed him my journal that I had been keeping of his behavior. He made me promise to show him after each episode.

When we returned, Hector excused himself to his room, depressed about learning of his condition. Shyla and Rossannah watched as he scurried away without acknowledging them. They asked if he was someone else and we explained what had happened at the farm.

He didn’t eat meals with us that day and the Hawk made reappearance. The next day he came back as cheerful and full of life as ever. He explained that since he didn’t have any control over when he was himself he wanted to be as much like himself as possible when he could be. I liked that. I identified with it.

We had a whole week before there was any other incident. It allowed us to remember that Hector had good in him, although the bad was always there, forever looming around us. I wondered if it could ever be helped.

One day after that week, Rossannah and I were out in the fields for our walk when we saw Hector head out to the stables. I had noticed that the stable hand that had guarded me had left only moments earlier and that Hector was in there alone with the horses. I wanted to make sure that everything was alright so I told Rossannah that I wanted to go check it out.

“Let’s go get the king first,” she pleaded with me, “He has more experience with Hector than we do. He’s stronger, too.”

“You go ahead and get him,” I ordered. “If he wants to hurt the animals or burn down the stables he could probably do it before you find him and get him here. I’m going in after him to try to distract him.”

“Okay,” Rossannah agreed. “Be careful.” I nodded and she ran off as I made my way toward the stables.

When I got there I could hear him throwing things around inside of the stables. I heard the horses whinnying in surprise and frustration and counted to three before swinging open the stable doors to come face to face with him. His hair was slightly disheveled where he was clawing at it with his hands. He looked at me with an irrational gleam in his eye and continued on his unprovoked rage, picking up pails and other items and throwing them across the room. It was as if he was fighting with himself for control.

I carefully walked up to his writhing body as he turned away from me and reached out my hand to touch his shoulder, but before my hand ever came in contact with the tattered remains of his shirt, his body quieted.

He turned around to face me, eyes blank and staring into the void above my head, searching for something. Apparently what he wanted to see wasn’t there so he lowered his gaze to my face and managed to beam at me with a wide and friendly smile. He walked toward me and reached out his hands to rest them gently on my shoulder and looked into my eyes. Then his grip tightened and his fingernails dug deep into my arms.

“Hector, you’re hurting me!” I complained and batted him away. He reached his arms out again and I slapped him in the face to bring him out of his trance. “Hector…STOP!”

A dark realization hit me as I realized that this was definitely not Hector, nor was it any of the other personalities that I had seen. The body language was deliberately threatening, its primary intention to strike fear in the intended victim. All of his other violent personalities were quick and attacked as a spur of the moment. This one was adamantly dragging out the process for added effect.

“Roman?” I asked horrorstruck.

He chuckled menacingly and I knew that I was in trouble. The king had told me that this was the only personality that I would have to worry about, but was confident that I would never see it. He had told me that he had only come out twice. I wondered what horrors Roman had in store for me. I decided that I didn’t want to find out and turned to dash for the door.

I managed to make it to the still open stable door but was ripped back and thrown to the floor of the stables as he slammed it shut and then turned back to look down at me. He stood there staring at me for what seemed like a lifetime but lunged at me when I finally made the attempt to stand up and escape again. His hands were around my neck now and he was choking me with all of his strength. My hands fidgeted around for something to grasp so that I could attempt to knock him out but I found nothing. Then he stopped.

He stood up. I coughed and caught my breath, relieved that I was no longer with Roman, but that was a foolish supposition. I panted as I watched him pace back and forth in front of me and held out my hand for him to help me up. He looked at me and chuckled again and I realized that I was wrong and this was only part of my torture. It was going to come in waves.

I looked longingly at the door but knew that I would never make it there. I turned to look at him pleadingly, hoping that some part of Hector would come out and save me, and realized that he had exposed himself. He pounced on me a second time, one hand on my neck squeezing the life out of me, and the other fumbling with my dress, trying to pull it up. I know I should have been more concerned with the hand around my neck but I fought with him to keep my clothing in place.

“AAAAAHHHH!” He screamed into my face in frustration. I assume it was an attempt to unnerve me so that I would stop fighting, but it only increased my fervor to protect myself. He gave up on his attempt to disrobe me with one hand and removed his hand from my neck. I began to cough again and tried to roll my body to the side but he roughly slammed my back to the ground. He began to rip my dress in two from the top down and as my breasts fell out, exposed, I felt him mercifully being pulled off of me and cried out in appreciation as the king pinned Roman to the wall. Rossannah rushed to my side, crying out my name and I sat up as she folded her arms protectively around me and I pulled the now severed upper part of my dress together.

My guard appeared in the door and gasped at the scene in front of him. He quickly fetched some rope and helped the king tie the fidgety man into a chair. I imagined Hector as an outline. A shell of a body that could be shaded any color imaginable. He could be bright and filled with sunshine one moment, but then the black darkness could be poured into him and he could take anybody down at any moment. Black can cover any color, even the brightest ones.

After they had successfully immobilized him, the king disappeared into one of the stalls and came out with a horse blanket, which he wrapped around my shoulders to help me hide my uncovered breasts. I pulled it close around me and Rossannah and the king simultaneously helped me to my feet so that I wouldn’t have to take my hands off the comforting blanket.

“Keep him here until you are sure he has reverted back to Hector,” the king instructed my guard.

We walked back to the castle in complete silence. I wanted to say something, but couldn’t find the words to say it. It was harder still to express what I wanted because I was standing beside the woman that I loved and so I just said “okay”.

“Okay?” He replied in confusion and I looked up at him in a mixture of shame and purpose.

“Okay,” I clarified hoarsely, “I understand the need for an heir. I agree.” I felt Rossannah’s hands drop from my back. I looked at her betrayed face and tried to flash her an apologetic glance without it being noticed by the king.

“I think you got it from here,” she seethed, and stalked off in anger. I wanted to go after her but the weight of my responsibility was too great this time. I couldn’t allow the lives of so many people to be in the hands of Hector if something were to happen to me.

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Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.