Beneath the Crown

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chapter 3

Zasrus

King's Palace

After ending the call with my brother, I sat back in my chair and stared at the painting on the wall in front of me. It was of Raylon, our father and I before my brother got his scars.

If only things were different.

I smiled and pulled my chair in before picking up yet another ledger. I had so much work waiting for my attention, but I felt tired. Tired of it all. Tired of the responsibility, tired of the duties and the decisions that all rested on my shoulders.

I never wanted any of this.

I thought back to the day my brother announced his decision. I knew he would do it, but to hear the words spoken in front of all the royals set my path in stone. I would be the king, and there was no turning back.

But no one asked me if I wanted it. No one spoke to me about what I had planned for my life. Part of it was my own fault. I didn’t speak up when I had the chance. When Raylon got hurt and the healers couldn’t help him, guilt tore at my insides.

It was my fault.

I couldn’t disappoint my brother again. When he told me that I would be the king, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I didn’t want to be.

I lay awake many nights, dreading the responsibility. But I would do it for him.

I would do anything for him.

I let out a long sigh and turned the pages to today’s entries.

Later, when the guards informed me that Laylar wanted to see me, I closed the ledger and made my way to the hall. I found Laylar standing by the main doors, speaking with one of the cooks.

When the cook saw me approaching, he bowed and stepped away. Laylar spun to me, “Father, why are there settings for four extra people at the main table? The cooks tell me that you demanded it so.” She asked with her arms crossed and a brow raised at me.

“They are for the fathers of the other families,” I said and watched her hey eyes burn with fury.

“I told you I didn’t want them here!”

“Laylar, they are a part of our lives, we cannot exclude them from such important celebrations.”

“It’s my birthday! You told me I could have anything I wanted, and I told you I did not want those stiff old men here.”

“I know you did, my dear girl, but when they heard about the celebration, they assumed they were welcome. I couldn’t tell them that they were not.”

“Urg!” She cried out and stomped off in a huff. I turned to watch her leave and smiled.

I do it all with love my child. You will see.

I went out onto the main patio and looked up at the sky. My thoughts took me to my beloved queen, and what she would have thought of all this.

I know I would not be able to keep this surprise from you, my love. You would see right through me.

The thought of Mistasar made a lump form in my throat.

Will I ever feel the kind of love you gave me? Will I ever love someone again?

I left the patio and returned to the hall, only to be stopped by one guard after another, asking about placements of furniture, decorations, food, and an endless list of other things.

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