Beneath the Crown

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Chapter 14

Ash

“Wait, you are going to show us around?” I asked as my voice took on a higher pitch.

Surely he has people to do that for him.

“Yes. Who better to guide you than someone who spent their whole life in these walls.” I frowned, “But don’t you have more important things to do?”

When he met my eyes, I could see a smile playing at the corner of his lips, “not today.”

“Oh. Ok. Well, thank you, that’s very kind of you.” I said and turned back to my food. I felt Connie’s hand on my arm and turned to look at her.

“You ok with this”? She whispered.

I nodded, “yeah sure. Why wouldn’t I be?”

She gave a look of raised brows and I sighed, “I promise, I’m cool with it.”

I am so not cool with this! Not after what we spoke about last night and then him trying to kiss me. What is he up to?

When breakfast was done, I stood and followed Connie out of the dining room. We paused to wait just outside the door while the king spoke to the staff.

“Hey Ash, are you sure you’re ok about this? I can ask him to not do this if you want.”

That sounded very tempting, but who am I to tell him what to do in his own home.

“No, really, Con, it's fine. I honestly don’t mind. It’s just a little weird for me still.”

“What is?”

I took a quick glance at the door then back at her, “He’s a king. A king. And suddenly he has the time to spend half a day walking around the palace with us? You don’t think that’s a little strange?”

She smiled, “Not really.”

She knows something.

I narrowed my eyes at her, “What don’t you want me to know?”

“Nothing. Just relax, have fun, and don’t be so stiff with him. He’s just a normal guy.”

“There is nothing normal about him,” I mumbled before the door opened and the king came out.

He gave us a bright smile, “Where would you like to begin?”

“Well,” Connie said looking around, “We’ve seen the grand hall and the garden. Maybe let’s start with the ground floor and work our way up?”

“Alright. Well, the ground floor is mostly the grand hall. The throne room is there, as well as the kitchens and main dining hall.”

We began walking towards the stairs and when we got to the bottom, he led us through large wooden doors. Behind them was a bright room, with large windows looking out at the gardens, beautiful stone floors that looked like marble with veins of gold in it. Massive pillars stood in two neat rows all the way down to two big gold chairs.

“This is a room I try to avoid if I can.” The king said as he lowered his gaze away from the thrones standing higher up on a small set of steps.

“Why?” Connie asked, “Isn’t this your room?”

He stepped forward, “It is too. . . Elaborate. I only sit here once a year, on the day of Favours. Even then I hate it.”

“What is the day of Favours?” I asked as I tried to picture him sitting in that big gold chair.

“It’s a day that the public may come to me and ask me for favors. Be it releasing someone from prison, or granting them land, or whatever it may be. Each year, two hundred people are given the chance to come to me and ask me for whatever they want.”

I nodded, “Do you grant them what they want?”

He gestured for us to walk forward and I turned to see where Connie was. She stood in the back of the room with her phone in her hand taking pictures, completely not interested in what he was saying.

I rolled my eyes and walked with him.

“I try to. As many as I can. Some are not possible.”

“Like what?”

He met my eyes for a moment, “Well, last year I had a woman come to me and ask me to release her son from prison. He was the only family she had and she was too old to live alone. I wanted to agree. I felt heartbroken at her words and the way she pleaded.” “So why didn’t you?”

He took in a long breath, “Her son was found guilty of murdering three of the royal guards in an attempt to steal gold from the palace. His punishment was death. If I released him, I risked the law being challenged again like that.”

“So what did you do?”

He stopped at the foot of the stairs and looked at the throne, “I granted him life instead. He would not die, but he would never walk free again. It was all I could do.”

“A stay of execution. That’s still very kind of you, considering what he did.”

“His mother didn’t think so. She took her own life a week later.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said as his eyes lowered from the thrones. I took in a breath and looked at the gold chairs.

From closer, I could see they were different. One was engraved in golden flowers of some kind. Stunning details with bright jewels set into the frame. The other one was engraved in a bird type creature with rubies for eyes and two swords in its claws.

I smiled, “His and hers?”

He broke out of his thoughts, “Yes,” He said with a smile.

“They’re stunning,” I said as I examined them again.

“Come,” He said and held out his hand to me. I frowned at him as my nerves ran wild in my stomach.

“What?”

“Please?” He said as he held his hand out for me.

I swallowed, “um, ok.” I said and placed my hand into his. He led me up the stairs and to the thrones.

He pointed to the flowered throne, “Please, have a seat.” He said and let go of my hand.

I stepped back, “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” “It’s alright, there is no one here but us.” He said and I spun around to find Connie, but she was gone.

Seriously!

I turned back to him and as my fingers felt like they would break from how hard I was twisting them, he held out his hand again.

I nodded and took it, and he led me back to the gold chair. I sat on the very edge of it at first, trying not to touch it at all. He sat down next to me and leaned back.

I edged back slowly until both butt cheeks were on it, then finally sat down properly. I placed my hands on the golden armrest and let out a breath.

“How does it feel?” He asked from beside me.

“Powerful,” I said as I looked down the hall between the line of pillars. Being higher up above everything gave my view a more dominant feeling.

“Yes. That is how its meant to feel. That is why I hate sitting here,” He said and stood up. He reached his hand out to me again and lifted it up to our shoulder height as he led me down the stairs.

That was incredible.

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