King Tendarian was actually standing outside on the royal dock as the Toeaux escort reached the Seslin dock. Konnor’s heart dropped when he saw his father and his entourage of soldiers standing there, waiting for him. He had to wonder if his father really even cared or was just standing there to make a big show of everything.
The soldiers stopped the ship at the dock. Konnor let out a long breath before standing up. It was already morning, he and Timothy had sat in those chairs for the entire flight. He walked to the edge of the yacht and down the platform leading to the royal dock. Almost immediately, servants came to his and Timothy’s sides, wrapping them up in warm blankets. He wasn’t really sure why, it wasn’t like it was raining outside or even was very cold. He just figured that no one really knew what to do to greet them when they were shipped back after running away. He looked at his father for a minute before finally saying, “Father...”
King Tendarian turned his back and started to walk off the airship dock. He didn’t say anything as he descended the carpeted stairs and walked the short ways back into the castle. As his father turned away, Seslin soldiers thanked the Toeaux soldiers and helped them get ready to leave again. Servants guided him and Timothy off the dock and towards the castle, no one left him or Timothy alone. Konnor looked at the faces of the servants around them. He didn’t recognize any of them. He knew all of the servants before he left, had his father replaced all of them?
He walked closer to Timothy as they got back to the castle, the ticking and humming of the castle workings resounding in his ears. They were paraded through the front doors. Konnor whispered, “I’m sorry I got you involved in all this. Now we’re in trouble and it’s my fault.”
Timothy shook his head as they stopped in the grand foyer of the castle. “I would gladly follow you Konnor.”
The butler came up, addressing Timothy, “Lord Kendrick is waiting for you in the parlor, Sir.”
Timothy glanced at Konnor before following the butler to the parlor. Konnor felt bad about all of it. He didn’t mean to take his friend from his family. Unlike him, Timothy had parents that cared about him a little more. He hoped that Timothy’s family wouldn’t punish him too harshly, it was really Konnor’s fault for dragging him away.
He stood in the entrance for a moment longer before the servants guided him up the stairs and back to his room. A clean set of clothes were set out on his bed and the door to his bathroom was open, it was clear that his father wanted him to play the part of a prince again. He couldn’t resist though, the servants were still at his side almost guiding him to the bathroom to get cleaned up.
Luckily, he was alone when he went to the bathroom. He didn’t need anyone supervising him while he showered. He didn’t know what his father had planned for him, only that it wouldn’t be good. It never was. He stayed in the shower extra long, partly because it’d been weeks since he’d really been able to get clean, but more so because that would delay seeing his father. No one rushed him, which he found surprising, but he figured if he stayed in the bathroom much longer, someone would come in.
He finally walked out of the bathroom, completely wrapped in fluffy towels. The servants that had been waiting for him were insisting on helping him dress. The servants picked up the clothes and stepped forward. Konnor pushed the nearest servant from him, making the young boy stumble and fall back onto the floor. He hadn’t meant to be so forceful, he just didn’t want anyone getting near him.
Konnor discovered that he could do things for himself and he liked that. He reached a hand down to the servant to help him stand up. The servant stared at Konnor’s hand for a long minute before taking it to stand up. He kept his head down and Konnor really felt bad. “I’m sorry.” He looked at the other servant in the room, who had been watching in stunned silence, “I can handle this myself. I’m sorry, I just don’t need you doing everything for me.”
They both looked at Konnor for a minute. The servant he’d pushed looked like he was about to say something, but thought better of it. They both bowed their heads and left Konnor’s room. He shut the door behind them, but he knew they’d stay right outside in the hall. He knew that he wasn’t going to get a moment’s peace after running away.
He let out a long sigh. There wasn’t anything he could do but follow orders. He picked up the black slacks and pulled them on. He fastened the white button up suit shirt, even putting on the ruby cufflinks, the servants had left out for him. Lastly was the gear-enhanced suit jacket. As soon as he put it on, the gears clicked into place and the fabric fitted against his form. All the gears were hidden under the black fabric, save for the decorative ones attached to the shoulders.
He looked at himself in the mirror. He didn’t feel real. He felt like he was playing dress up and he just couldn’t bring himself to fully play the part that his father wanted him to. He opened the door and sure enough, the two servants were standing there like guards in the hall. He let out a sigh and walked into the hall, shutting his bedroom door behind him.
The servant who had watched him push the other away, stepped forward, gulping as he said, “King Tendarian is expecting you in his study.”
Konnor nodded, “Thank you.” He turned and started walking down the hall, hoping that they wouldn’t follow him. Luckily, they left him to face his father alone. Although perhaps he would have liked to have moral support for that. He couldn’t dwell on that though. He went back down to the second floor of the castle to a large room on the east side.
King Tendarian was almost always in the study, it got the morning light and had so many books that it was practically a library. The actual castle library was on the west side, getting the evening sun, and was a large room that reached all the way up to the third floor, with entrances on each floor. Konnor had spent many an hour hiding among the bookshelves. For the study, Konnor was rarely allowed in. Only on times when his father summoned him like this.
He stood at the large double oaken doors, taking a deep breath. He didn’t want to go in there and face his father. His father wasn’t necessarily known for his wrath, but that didn’t mean he had a warm personality. Most of the time, he was cold as ice and looked at Konnor with contempt. He pushed his shoulders back, holding his head high as he knocked on the door. It wasn’t long before he heard an “enter” from inside the room.
He did his best to keep his composure as he opened the door and walked in. His father was sitting at his desk on the other side of the room. It took him a minute before he looked up from his books and at Konnor. Konnor looked right back into his eyes. He would be strong, and there was no way he would tell his father about everything that happened. “Father.”
King Tendarian took a long breath, finally saying, “I’m disappointed, Konnor.” He shook his head slightly. “All this chaos because you didn’t want to get married. How is the kingdom supposed to trust the Tendarian family as the monarchy if you run off like this? It’s shameful and petulant.”
Konnor glanced down and back at his father. “Would you have listened if I had told you that I didn’t want to get married?”
The king was silent for a moment, giving Konnor his answer. He spoke again, “Given the state of the Toeaux Prince, that might not even be an option anymore.” He stood up, leaning his hands on his desk as he looked at Konnor. “Did you think I wouldn’t care if you ran away?”
Konnor let out a quick breath, looking away and shaking his head a little. “Did you look for me?”
“I couldn’t let our subjects learn of your delinquency.” For King Tendarian, that was code to say that Konnor hadn’t really been missed. Nor did anyone in Seslin look for him until the Toeaux soldiers brought him back.
Konnor knew his father was never going to get better or even better at pretending to care about him. In that moment, Konnor didn’t care, he just wanted to know that Dax would be okay. He spoke again, ignoring his father’s words, “How is Prince Austeareus’ condition?”
King Tendarian looked at him for a moment, raising a single eyebrow. He paused before finally saying, “His injuries are very serious, but the doctors have been able to stabilize him. It’ll take several weeks for him to fully recover.”
Konnor swallowed hard. He couldn’t let his father see how much he really cared. He felt so responsible for Dax being hurt, and he was. If he could’ve just protected himself better, Dax wouldn’t have had to leave his own fight and come to his rescue. It was too late for that now though. He wanted to ask his father to let him see him, but couldn’t think of any excuse to give without telling him everything that happened when he ran away. He ended up asking, “What happens now?”
“For now, I will do what I can to mend the relationship with Toeaux. We can’t risk having a hostile border. You will stay inside these castle walls. In fact, you will stay in the third floor east wing of the castle and mostly stick to your chambers. Two castle guards will always be at your side, making sure that you stay where you’re supposed to and that no one comes for you.” Konnor’s face fell, he should’ve expected his father to do something like this. King Tendarian sat back down at his desk, “Consider this as getting off easy.”
He didn’t like the sound of any of it. He understood why his father wanted to keep him under such heavy surveillance after him running away, but not letting anyone see him? He didn’t know if he could survive house arrest alone. “If I am to be a prisoner, why not lock me up in prison with the other criminals? I did steal a keelboat.”
“People would ask questions. Everyone in the kingdom would know what you’ve done,” King Tendarian sat up straight, laying both hands flat on his desk, “Do you want to disgrace this family even more?”
Konnor clenched his jaw, shaking his head. He knew he couldn’t fight his father on this. He’d only be given a worse punishment. He didn’t want to be the disgrace his father believed him to be. He kept his head down, “For how long?”
“Until you get married.” King Tendarian’s words made Konnor’s jaw drop. That could take months, if not years. Especially if his father wanted to find him a different prince to marry, and he knew he had no choice in the matter. “With any luck, the Toeaux Prince will still take you.” He rung a bell, summoning a servant. Moments later, two servants walked into the study and flanked Konnor on either side. The king looked back down at the books on his desk, waving them away, “Take him away and make sure he behaves.”
Konnor stood there for a moment longer before taking a breath and spun around, stalking out of the study. The servants followed closely at his sides, closing the study door behind them. He looked to the boy at his left, he was probably even younger than Konnor himself. Were they really who his father wanted to have watching him? At the same time, he didn’t know these servants either, they must’ve been new. He’d known a good number of the castle servants; the ones in the kitchen and at the docks had always been nice and even shown him how to do a few things. He looked at the two servants walking with him as he walked back to his room. “You don’t have to watch me.”
They exchanged glances and the taller one, who was still shorter than Konnor, looked at him. “We have our orders.”
He knew his father was serious about keeping him here. It wouldn’t be easy to leave the castle. Still, he looked to the servants acting as his guard. “Do you think there’s any way that we could convince my father to let me go to Toeaux? To show my support for the prince while he’s injured?”
The servants only looked at each other, staying quiet. He knew that they couldn’t answer his question. He just wanted to go see Dax, to be there with him and help him get better, but he was stuck here and it was breaking his heart. He opened the door to his room, stopping as he was about to walk in. “If you could just guard the door or something instead, I would really like to just be alone.” He could sense their hesitation, so he added, “I’m only going to sleep if that makes you feel better.”
He didn’t wait for them to reply, he walked through the door and before they could follow, shut and locked it behind him. He slumped down against the wall next to him, defeated. He didn’t want to just sit in his room, wasting time, but what else could he do. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath, remembering the fresh air and sun on his face. He remembered Dax’s smiling face as he was pulled into Dax’s strong embrace. When he opened his eyes, he was back in his cold room, sad and alone.
He forced himself to stand up, tearing off the clothes he’d worn for his father. He didn’t want to be the perfect picture his father made him out to be. He wanted to be away from here and at Dax’s side. It was unlikely that any of his wishes would come true.
Konnor crawled into bed, pulling the big, fluffy blankets close around him. None of it helped. He still felt cold and alone. He felt like something was missing without Dax laying in bed next to him. He forced himself to close his eyes and let himself fall asleep. Maybe he could still wake up in Dax’s arms and this nightmare would be over.