Kellan’s first thought was--raiders?
Then he scrambled out of bed, rushing to Zara who had only blacked out for a brief second. He helped her sit up, his wound burning fiercely.
“You okay?” he asked, smiling despite his worry and concern.
She nodded, then her expression broke into panic again. “Raiders,” she repeated. “They’re inside the castle walls!”
Fear cracked through Kellan. He didn’t stop to think about he hadn’t heard anything--his room was at the far back and few sounds reached there, so it made sense. But he lept his fear out of his expression and said calmly, “Have some water, Zara. It’s all okay.”
He sat her down on the bed and poured her a glass of water. then he patted her shoulder and said, “You get to the cellar, okay? Where’s Asa?”
“I don’t know,” Zara said, pale.
“I’ll find her,” Kellan assured before she could get too worried. “You get yourself to safety.”
She nodded, and Kellan quickly pulled on his jacket and grabbed his sword. There was going to be a fight.
He gave Zara one last smile before running out of his room. The hallways were unnaturally quiet, and he saw a young maid huddled against the wall, crying in fear. He stopped in front of her and she were too out of it to even curtsy. But Kellan understood.
“Please, my lady, don’t cry,” he said. “Go to my room, okay? Princess Zara is there, she will take you to the cellar. You’ll be safe there, okay? Tell her I sent you.”
She dropped into a curtsy then, stammering, “Thank you, sire.”
Kellan smiled. “Quickly, now,” he said, and as soon as she started moving, resumed running.
Chaos reigned in the front yard of the castle; a long line of soldiers stood in formation, holding back an angry crowd. Swords banged against shields, shouts rang out—but as Kellan came to a stop atop the stairs, everything fell into a deathly silence.
Then a clear voice rang out—“Prince Kellan! I demand an audience!”
Kellan swept his eyes over the crowd and stopped at at the front: a proud man stood there, chin lifted, his powerful features resting in a scowl.
From where he was leading the soldiers, Ahad shouted, “Name yourself!”
The man drew himself up.
“I am Nasir,” he said proudly, “son of Dayyaan.”
Kellan clasped his hands behind his back and gave him an impassive stare. “Tell me,” he said, making sire his voice carried clearly over the courtyard, “what do you desire?”
The man bristled. “Did you not hear me? I am the son of Dayyaan! I will have some respect!”
“I asked you,” Kellan said coolly, “what you want. I do not care about your heritage.”
Nasir’s face turned red. “I want what is my birthright,” he said furiously. “And what was my forefather’s.”
“Dayyaan’s birthright,” Kellan said quietly, “was to die.”
“I will not hesitate to declare war!” Nasir shouted. “I will take the Crown by force!”
Kellan spread his arms in an open gesture. “By all means,” he said, “you can try.”
Nasir’s face turned an alarming shade of purple. Then he grit his teeth and said calmly, “So be it. My men—” he grinned a feral smile— “come, and achieve your birthright.”
The raiders roared in approval and deafening noise broke out again as they pushed against the wall of soldiers.
Kellan unsheathed his sword and as Ahad met his eyes, his mouth a thin line—as if he knew Aryan and Kellan had talked about him, and what they had said. But instead of showing hostility, he nodded once, as if to say, Are you ready?
Kellan nodded back, and the line of soldiers broke beneath the pressure, and both sides charged.