Alexander dipped the quill pen back into the pot of ink, knocking off excess ink before scratching away at the paper, glancing at the candle, the flame weak and threatening to go out any minute.
An icy breeze swept through the room, the shutters hitting the palace walls.
Alexander finished the paper with his signature, blowing on the ink to help it dry faster.
Hot air wafted past his ear. "It's been done."
Blood dripped onto his pants as a necklace swayed in his face, clasped tightly in a small, bloodied fist.
He turned, meeting Honor's gaze. "What took so long?"
He didn't expect an answer, Honor never answered that question.
The boy's lips curled in a slight smile, blood rolling over them and down his chin, the necklace falling from his hand and Alexander caught it, grimacing at the slick fluid.
Honor straightened, walking to the mantle, holding his hands in front of the fire.
Alexander rose, dropping the bloody necklace in the wash basin and knocked on a passage door, glancing at Honor. "You may leave." He had no use for him now.
His manservant walked in, eyes falling to the droplets of blood on the hearth where Honor once stood.
"Ready for bed, your highness?" Kane asked.
Kane undressed him and changed him into his night clothes, waiting for him to get into bed before he added a few logs to the fire, blowing out the flickering flame, pulling the curtains shut, glancing at the bloody droplets on the floor before leaving, wishing Alexander a good night and sweet dreams.
Alexander knew his chambers would be clean of blood when he woke up in the morning.
He pulled the blankets up to his chin, curling up and drifting off to sleep.
"Mother, Father," Alex bowed to his parents the next morning before joining them at the table.
The king sipped his tea. "Good to see you." For once were the unspoken words.
Alex glanced at the empty chair. "Where's brother?"
"He won't be joining us this morning, he's unwell," the queen excused her heir.
Alex held in a grunt. Of course. William often felt unwell in the mornings. Probably from the over commsumption of alcohol and whores the night before. And he refused to listen to Alex. He can't do that when he becomes king. Yes, he can, because he'd be king so he can do whatever he wants. Alex wanted to roll his eyes, but he wisely chose to stay silent, not wanting to start a fight so early in the morning.
The king cleaned his plate of food within a matter of minutes, setting his crumpled napkin on the table, settling his gaze on Alex. "I saw your creature wandering the halls last night."
Honor. "And? He means no harm," Alex responded calmly, feeling his heart speed up with annoyance.
"You know how I feel about that thing. I thought we told you to get rid of him," the king said tightly.
"You know how he is. He won't leave me. I can't do anything about it," Alex shrugged helplessly.
His father pursed his lips. "I don't feel comfortable with him in the castle."
"He means no harm," Alex repeated.
"Oh, dear, be nice. He's never shown ill-intentions for all the years he's been here," the queen spoke lightly. "I'm sure he was just going to the kitchens for a snack."
"He was pacing in front of William's door."
Alex's heart skipped a beat. "He was concerned. He cares so deeply for anyone dear to me," he lied straight through his teeth.
The king narrowed his eyes. "Anyone dear to you," he murmured. "Right."
"If he so much as breathes wrong, he won't be given a second chance," he threatened.
"You don't have to tell me twice," Alex gritted out.
"Your pet is always welcome," his mother said lightly, patting his hand and giving his father a dark look.
The king may be the one who handled the kingdom, but his wife handled him. And both ruled with an iron fist. Odd William was the exact opposite.
"Thank you, Mother," Alex said quietly.
She smiled. "Why don't you bring him for lunch? It's been far too long since I've seen him."
"I'll see what I can do."
Despite his mother being so sweet to Honor, he knew she also didn't trust him and was suspicious of him. Alex would be too if Honor was William's.
The king rose, giving either a chance to leave before finished if they desired, which the queen did, as she followed him out of the Great Hall.
Alex slouched in his chair, quickly straightening when he saw Kane's look.
"You know why they don't trust him."
Alex rolled his eyes, rising. "Yes, I do, but they have no proof. And neither do you," Alex interrupted Kane loudly before he could speak.
Kane changed Alex into his riding attire and followed him outside to the stables for a ride.
Since Alex wasn't the heir, he had no responsibilities and was allowed to do as he pleased.
One of the neighbouring princesses was supposed to arrive today and he figured he'd meet her entourage outside the city.
His horse was already saddled and waiting, so he mounted up and headed out, not waiting for Kane or his guards, urging his horse to run as fast as it was capable.
The wind whipped through his hair and stung his face, his ears hurting from the cold, more than likely a bright red along with his nose.
William should be doing this, not him. But no, his eldest brother couldn't be bothered until the very last possible second, dismissing his maids before they were finished with him and he'd greet the princess with bed hair and a crooked collar and a missing crown. Just like always.
And Alex wasn't wrong, but the princess's smile didn't falter, despite the hidden surprise in her eyes at the heir's messy appearance when the brother who wasn't even her suitor rode out to meet her and gifted her a present, even helped her from her carriage while William just stood at the top of the steps to the castle.
"Princess Rose, how was your trip?" William asked, his voice soft, probably to not irritate the pounding headache he likely had.
"It was pleasant. I was surprised to see your brother this morning," she commented, flashing Alex a smile and he returned it, looking at his brother, feeling smug at the glare he received.
"Yes, it was my idea. I'm afraid I was unwell this morning, but I wanted you to feel welcome."
The smug feeling dissipated with the smile at William's words. He wanted to argue and fight him, but he could already hear his mother scolding him for causing a scene.
"Was the necklace a gift from you too?" Rose asked, lifting the necklace laying on her chest, the sun catching the jewels and making them shine.
William's smile faltered for a brief moment before widening. "Yes. Do you like it?"
Alex followed them inside, parting ways once inside the castle, heading for the Great Hall for lunch, feeling the ache in his legs from hours spent in the saddle.
Honor fell into step beside him halfway down the corridor, staring at him intensely and Alex stopped at the doors.
"Yes, you may come in," he gave permission, pushing the doors open and the two walked in, a scowl twisting his father's handsome features at the sight of the other boy.
"Honor, it's lovely to see you again," the queen spoke cheerfully.
Honor bowed low. "Thank you for the invite," his whispery voice carried far and the queen beamed.
They sat and Alex shifted. "Princess Rose arrived this afternoon."
"Yes... I heard you went out to greet her," the king raised an eyebrow, though his sentence didn't sound like a question.
Alex looked over his plate. "Yes."
"And gifted her a pretty necklace. The maids can't stop talking about it. I can't wait to see it for myself," the queen said happily.
The king picked up his fork, taking a bite, allowing the others to start eating.
"Word reached me this afternoon," the king started after a few minutes of silence. "Baron Uvlik's oldest son died last night. Murder it looked like."
The queen's eyes widened. "No! That is horrible!"
Alex slumped. "I can't imagine how Aaron is feeling," he mumbled, thinking of his best friend.
"Yes. The killer was brutal. Ruthless," the king added icily.
Alex shut his eyes, exhaling. "Who found him?"
"A maid. But Aaron was the first member of the family to see him," the king answered.
Alex swallowed hard. "May I be excused?" he whispered hoarsely.
"Of course, dear. Would you like to ride out and be there?" his mother asked gently.
"I think I'll give him a couple days. I'm sure he wants to be alone," Alex answered.
"Yes, you're excused. Don't forget that creature," the king dismissed him.
Alex pushed his plate away, standing and bowing to his parents before leaving the room, shoving his hands in his pockets, surprised Kane didn't clear his throat at him.
"I can't believe Tony is dead. It feels like just yesterday I went hunting with him," Alex said mournfully to Honor, receiving an awkward pat on the shoulder.
"Poor Aaron... I can't imagine how I would feel if I found Lee dead," Alex thought of his younger brother.
Lee would be returning tomorrow if his memory served correct. He hadn't seen his brother in a year and he hated to admit that he missed the little brat quite a bit.
Alex looked at Honor. "Would you be willing to be there on his way home? Make sure no harm comes to him?"
Honor nodded his head. "Of course."
Alex looked back at Kane. "Don't tell Father. He'll throw a fit."
"My lips are sealed," Kane said tensely, looking disturbed and conflicted.
Honor vanished and Alex looked back at Kane again, chuckling. "What's wrong?
"Nothing... I just hate it when he does that," Kane muttered.
"I think it's cool," Alex hummed, heading out to the garden to see how well his brother was getting along with the princess.