A Silent Game of Spies

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Keldrick joined his brother in the hallway. “Do you know what this is about?” he asked Kendrick.

“No, not an inkling.”

A Royal Summons was more than a visit me at your leisure and you are on my schedule, so attend me on time and certainly more than a drop by my study by day’s end. A Royal Summons was an executive order issued by King Rhutgard Firthing, whose word was law. One did not disobey the King of one’s country… even if he was your father, mused Keldrick as he straightened his surcoat.

They arrived at the entrance to the Great Hall, barricaded shut and guarded by the King’s Guards. They stepped aside to allow Keldrick and Kendrick inside. The Great Hall doors boomed shut behind them, and Keldrick expected to see an impressive array of diplomats, envoys, ambassadors, and the like in attendance.

What he saw nearly stopped him. No one sat in the Great Hall. Had the messenger given Keldrick the wrong time? But no, Kendrick had received the same time as well. Were they early? Or worse, late?

There on the dais sat his father on his throne, in all his kingly attire.

“Approach us.” He beckoned them with a formal wave.

Ah, the formal Kingly “We.” Keldrick recalled his first Royal Summons at the age of six. Keldrick had been told that Father would be sitting on the throne up on the dais. Keldrick would be not allowed to approach or speak to Father at all during the ceremony. Keldrick had understood that well enough, but what he had not understood was that Father used the royal “We” throughout the ceremony. As soon as he began to use the “We,” Keldrick had immediately become confused. Of whom was he speaking? Who was “we”? Was Father speaking of himself and Mother and his brothers and Keldrick? Father kept saying “We have decided…” and “We have chosen to…” but Keldrick was terribly upset, for he was so confused.

His older brother Merridon had not helped matters by laughing at him. Several of Father’s counselors, Keldrick’s tutor, and other people he had not known had covered their mouths to hide amused smiles. Keldrick, flustered, kept asking the people around him, “Who is ‘we?’” Finally, his tutor had escorted him from the Great Hall. It had been Keldrick’s greatest embarrassment for some years to follow, though he finally found it humorous himself, as he did now. He wondered if every time he heard the Royal “We,” he would recall that day….

He and Kendrick advanced toward King Rhutgard, their demeanor stiff and formal as required.

“Your Majesty,” they both murmured.

“Follow Us.” King Rhutgard rose from his purple cushioned throne and stepped down from the dais. They glanced at each other behind his back. Kendrick shrugged, and they followed Father into his study behind the Great Hall.

“Close the door.”

Keldrick closed the door. They were now alone with their father. Not even Lord Stanyard was with him. That was odd, Lord Stanyard almost always attended Father at his side.

Father – King Rhutgard… Keldrick knew when he had to distinguish between the two… stood behind his great mahogany desk and gestured for Keldrick and Kendrick to sit down in the wooden chairs across from him. Keldrick circled behind his brother and seated himself. Keldrick tried not to frown with concern – but he felt as though his father the King was going to reveal something important.

Once he and his brother were both seated, King Rhutgard gazed down at them for a few seconds. Keldrick hated that look, that Romeny blue-eyed stare that measured and judged you of worthiness, and left you wondering if you had been found wanting.

Mother told them both upon occasion that they looked almost exactly like Father did at his age. Well, Keldrick thought to himself whenever Father delivered this same penetrating, intense stare as he was right now, he was never going to glare at his own children the same way….

“We have decided to allow you into more of our meetings. As you are of age now, We think it best to expose you to what is – and has been… occurring about the Kingdom of late. Other than, of course, social engagements.”

The King kept his voice even and did not allow sarcasm to color his last comment, though Keldrick knew it was implied particularly toward Kendrick.

King Rhutgard observed their faces for a response to this news, but as Princes, they had been trained to remain impassive. The King nodded once. “You shall start off by merely listening and watching, not contributing. Any contribution you should have will either be shared with Us or Lord Stanyard privately.

“After you have learned which Cabinet member speaks for what interests, We will give you more responsibilities, allow you in different meetings, perhaps. For now, this is how you shall begin. Anything Lord Stanyard tells you, follow as if We have given you the order Ourself.

“How speak you?”

Keldrick and Kendrick both agreed in firm declarations, though Keldrick’s mind was spinning.

“Very good, then. Dismissed.”

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