Harvick strode about the castle. Paranoia was starting to grip him, but he knew that it was not altogether unwarranted. There were new faces in this castle, after all, faces he did not recognize.
Now, he knew it was the Castellan’s responsibility to replace servants, but… surely, not so many as Harvick had seen recently.
New Stordish Guards among the Royal Kings Guard ranks. New menservants in the Great Hall during meals. Even a few among the grounds….
And he’d caught a few glances, glances from these new men that had snapped back forward.
If the intention was to make him paranoid, why, then, they had succeeded, though Harvick was standing his ground and refusing to change his routine or act differently.
But – Varley had been gone over a month now in Romeny. And Harvick didn’t like it. Courtship did not take so long as that. Either the girl liked him or she didn’t, and either he had applied for a betrothal request or no. Harvick wouldn’t say no to a Rommish daughter on Storden soil, though he couldn’t remember the last time that had happened. And certainly not a Rommish Royal…. Hmm – Romeny blues, clear over in Storden, who would have thought. That would shake up the bloodline a bit.
Or else Varley had his head stuffed up the Eastern Shield’s ass. Somehow, Harvick didn’t think Rhutgard would rub elbows with Varley. Rhutgard’s boys, though…. Perhaps Varley was just making his rounds about the Eastern Court….
But Harvick just did not think it likely. Varley never did anything without a goal to pursue, one that met his needs.
And now that Harvick saw all these new faces about the Palace, he knew that Varley had moved his piece on the gameboard. Varley’s perfect alibi…. Visiting in Romeny for over a month.
Well, a shame he didn’t know that he’d been disinherited, Harvick thought smugly. But now that all these new men were in place, he wondered what the play was.
Moving against Clemongard was the obvious choice, but how much had he aligned himself with the Ormon Queen? Harvick didn’t think him able to organize an entire militaristic movement on his own without help. Yes. Harvick believed Queen Ormon had Varley on her little leash, and, if she knew what she was doing, she’d better keep him on a very tight collar….
These new troops of Varley’s, all in common clothes… as if no one would recognize them unmarked. Harvick sighed. Most of them were congregated in South Storden. Once he’d discovered them, new faces began showing in the Palace. Harvick knew too much now.
Harvick knew as long as Varley stayed in Romeny, his own days were numbered. His sons had left with their mother for her maternal residence soon after Varley had left for Romeny, but Harvick had met with Uncle Dordonas last week to tell him to move the Queen and the twins to an old estate not on the map. They’d have to stay there alone for some time, until Uncle Dordonas deemed it safe, but better than their deaths. And Uncle Dordonas would act as Regent until Tollard was old enough to take the throne.
Yesterday, Uncle Dordonas told him as they walked upon the green, pretending to be jolly over goblets of wine, that they had been moved successfully. Harvick gave Uncle Dordonas strict instructions to carry out, rolled up in a thick parchment, which his uncle then snuck up his sleeve.
“You recall what you do if I die suddenly?”
His uncle regarded him steadily. Then he sighed. “Aye.” He took a long gulp from his goblet. “Harvey, my boy, how sure are you of that?”
“Of disinheritance? Or arresting him?” Harvick took a sip of wine himself.
“No, Harv. The other.”
Harvick took another swallow of his wine as he studied Uncle Dordonas. Then he raised his goblet. “To family.”
Uncle Dordonas returned his toast. “To family.”
Harvick stood upon his bedchamber balcony, enjoying the crisp night air. Behind him, he heard the popping and crackling of his fire, enticing him to come to bed. He missed his babes – he wished he could hold them.
Harvick looked at the stars in the sky one last time and then turned around on the balcony, ready to go to bed for the night.
And there was a Kings Guard, standing there. In his bedchamber.
The man never said a word.
All Harvick saw were the whites of the man’s eyes as he picked Harvick up over the balcony and threw him over it.
Harvick envisioned the smiles of his baby boys….