A v a r i c e | S i x
S i x
❝A man will never know of his arrogance;
lest someone show him of his carelessness.❞
“MY DEEPEST APOLOGIES FOR THE DISRUPTION sire,” the man’s voice was just as I had remembered it to be: deep and gravelly with a slight accent. His hands fell to his sides. They’d been out when he pushed open the door so roughly.
The king, unlike the rest of us (including his own kin) was not disgruntled by the man’s appearance. “You are forgiven. Please, have a seat.” The man walked with proper poise all the way to his seat, not even acknowledging the many stares he was receiving.
He sat straight across from me, though obviously not purposefully. He gave a seat of space between him and the youngest prince out of respect, just as anyone would. One of the waiters filled up his plate and wine.
We all stared in bewilderment at this foreign man.
“What kept you?” the king asked as if they were old friends.
“I thought I spotted a lycanthrope, so I went after it.” Hearing him say this so casually, while he lifted wine to his mouth no less, was like a slap in the face. I was certain everyone’s jaws dropped. My mother even gasped, but she wasn’t alone.
The king smiled. “I see. Well, dig in.” He encouraged. He turned to look at his other guests. “Everyone. Dig in.”
We did as we were told. Everyone began to eat or drink, but no one talked and hardly anyone stopped looking at Mystery Man. The king must’ve gotten fed up with it, because after a long sigh he waved the seneschal over to him, whispering something in his ear.
The seneschal pulled back, straightened out his shoulders, and said loudly, “Gentlemen and gentlewomen, if I may have your attention the sire has asked me to introduce you to our new arrival.” The Mystery Man glanced up for once and glanced at everyone. When he reached me, his eyes stopped, and I was certain my heart did the same thing. “This is Sir Cain. He has come a long ways to help our kingdom with our lycanthrope problem.”
So he was knight.
And his name was Cain?
I shot a look toward my mother to see how she would react to that information. Just as I had figured, she was appalled. Cain was not a common name, and for good reason.
The seneschal took a step back and went silent. In contrast, the entire dining hall erupted in murmurs and whispers about this oh-so-mysterious Cain. I heard mother whisper to Father, “Cain? Cain? Only atheists would bear a child named Cain.”
Sir Cain had to have heard my mother’s harsh words, but he acted as if he hadn’t. Sir Cain stared into my eyes intimidatingly, even while he sipped his wine. I had to break eye contact a few times, but he never deterred. It was unsettling.
Chatter went back to normal soon enough, but only indifference was shown to Cain. No one asked him any questions or even so much as glanced at him except for a handful of people. I wanted to ask him questions, but my parents wouldn’t approve and they were sitting right beside me. So, I did my best to ignore him and my parents, instead giving my unwavering attention to the suitor who had sat next to me.
“...what about you?”
I blinked at the suitor, coughing on my wine while I tried to rack my brain for what he’d been talking about. I set my glass down. “Oh, uh, what did you say? I’m sorry.” He waved my apology off politely and retold me the story he’d been telling me. And this was why I forgot, I thought to myself as I listened to him drone on.
Luckily, his boring story was cut short. The king had finished his meal, and was now standing. Everyone respectfully turned his way, no matter if they were in mid-sentence or mid-bite. “The meeting will now begin. All of my men rise.” The men who are “his” per se rose from their seats. The king’s eyes roamed over all who were standing. “Now sit.” They all sat. “Gentlewomen, my queen has arranged an after-dinner tea arrangement in our second dining room.” He dismissed the women. The king turned to his children and said something quietly. Only the eldest prince stayed beside his father while the rest left.
I stood up with my mother. We were escorted out, following the queen and a seneschal to the second dining room that, luckily, was just down the hall. Mother and the other women got along just fine, most likely because A) they had a son they wanted to match up with me or B) they had a daughter that I could be friends with or was also looking for a match.
Not many women around my age came (in fact, just one) so I was a loner as we tumbled into the second dining room and took our seats. I ignored them most of the time while I was there. I had wanted to join the meeting, listen to what everyone had to say, but I suppose it was foolish of me to think I could do such a thing.
I was handed a cup of tea, a refreshment from the awful tea Grandmother Lilith had been serving me. The women, of course, began to gossip. Their gossip was mostly about who’s with who and Cain, but I did catch Marquise Trill’s name a few times in the mix. Curiously, I leaned forward to try and hear better.
“...the pub. Such a shame, too. Those things she’s been saying. She’s completely lost her mind.”
“Lost her mind, you say? In what fashion?”
“Oh, you haven’t heard? Everyone’s been talking about it. Marquise Trill is a maniac; a complete lunatic. She’s been spouting falsehoods about the lycanthropes. You won’t believe what she has to say about them.”
“What has she to say?”
“Ask her yourself.”
The conversation ended after that, changing into something about a rumored affair.
Marquise Trill knew something about the lycanthropes then, something that must’ve made her mad. She was probably over-the-top with her hatred, more so than anyone else I was sure. I had to talk to her at some point, maybe get a few words out of her about what she believed the lycanthropes to be.
At one point during this tea party, I had an opening.
The entire time I had been looking for my chance to escape, and here it was. The door was open, people were coming in and out. I could slip out without anyone noticing and listen in to the meeting. Taking my chance, I left at just the time when Mother was locked into a heated conversation and no one was paying attention to me.
I could remember my way back to the first dining hall relatively easily, so there was no trouble there. Staying out of sight from butlers and maids and ladies-in-waiting was what really had me thinking. I couldn’t just stand by the door and press my ear to it. I would surely be caught. What else could I do?
A door opening near to the first dining hall door was my answer. Of course. Why hadn’t I thought about the next door room?
Smiling to myself, I peaked into the door that had still not closed from a butler leaving. The room was pretty settle, meaning there was nobody within it. It held a beautifully crafted couch pressed up against a wall with a painting above it and a coffee table before it. It had to be a resting, waiting room of some kind. It was wonderfully decorated with statues and paintings, but I hadn’t the time to really get a good look.
I snuck in once I was certain no one was around to stop me and pressed myself against the luckily rather thin wall between this room and the dining hall in order to listen to what they were saying. I positioned my body in such a way I could watch the door for any intruders while still being able to listen closely to all that was said.
After calming down my heart and breath, I could hear the conversation within the room.
At first I didn’t recognize any of the voices speaking, but then my father spoke. “We should attack. If we wait any longer, more people will be killed.”
“We can’t,” the gravelly voice could only belong to Sir Cain. “Attacking now is preposterous. Most of your men don’t even know how to kill the beasts.” This comment gained quite a few outbursts that were settled by the king’s baritone.
“Silence.” The king ordered. Everyone quieted immediately. “Cain, if you would be so generous to teach our troops how-”
I held in my gasp. No one said “no” to a royal. “No?” the king questioned, just as surprised as I was sure all of us were.
“No.” Cain held his stand. “These inane men are no match for what lies ahead, and even with training they would still not be ready to face the lycanthropes.”
“Lycanthropes,” my father scoffed. “There is no such thing.”
“Ralph Victoire, you’ve not a single follower in your dispute and yet you still argue. Perhaps you should be taken off of this mission, since you clearly aren’t able to comprehend that there are stronger, more intelligent beings besides humans on this earth.” Not only had Cain’s words made my father sound imbecilic, he also showed impertinence when he used my father’s name without title.
I was beyond angry by this, yet also quite satisfied.
“Then how do you plan to stop the beasts?” Marquis Trill saved my father from certain embarrassment, just like what Lydia might’ve done had I been in my father’s stead.
“Although he couldn’t be here today, Ian has got a great plan to stop them and I intend to follow his lead. Anyone who wishes to follow as well knows where his house is, yes? Join us. Become lycanthrope hunters. But I will not allow knights and soldiers and ordinary men to go after what they don’t know about.” Cain.
Ian? Who was Ian?
The room went quiet then, sadly. But I wouldn’t be able to hear what they were saying besides the point, because of a screeching voice in my ear. “Cerise!” Mother was angry. “What do you think you’re doing?”
I quickly turned around, eyes wide with fear. “Nothing! I was simply...looking at the color of the wall. Such a lovely color, right, Mother?” I arched an eyebrow at her. Mother stared at me. I knew that she knew I was lying, but she wouldn’t out me just in case someone of importance happened to walk by.
She had come in through a door on the other side of the room, one I had forgotten to look after. “It is,” Mother agreed, and then tugged me away from the wall and out of the fancy waiting room. “Do not leave me side while we are guests at the castle, do you understand?” she whispered lowly in my ear, but I was too preoccupied to truly hear her.
At the same time as we retreated, Cain stepped out from the dining hall in a flourish. Mother and I stopped and she looked back inquisitively. When she saw it was only Cain, she gave a huff and turned her nose up, stomping in unladylike fashion to the tea room. I, however, stayed where I was, looking at him.
He looked right back at me.
Was he going to say anything? I wondered to myself. Perhaps I should thank him.
I stood and stared instead, and after a minute’s time Cain had become uninterested in my presence and proceeded to leave the castle.
I unfortunately had to return to the tea room, but I didn’t stop thinking about what had happened or what I had learned.
Who was Ian? And what did he know?
I wasn’t sure, but I knew I had to find out.