I paced the battle command room as I waited for any news from anyone as to where Ash and Laylar could be.
After examining the spot of blood in the garden again, I found some of her hair laying there as well. She was hit over the head. What if she is dead?
I bit back the pain and anger I felt at that thought.
“My king,” Rein called out from one of the stations, “Lord Savnor is once again asking to see you. Shall I tell him-”
I spun around and stormed out of the room. I have told him a hundred times I’m busy.
I made my way to the grand hall, now empty and stripped of all decorations. I found Savnor standing in the center, with two of his red-robed guards.
“Lord Savnor,” I shouted as I approached, “How many times do you need to hear that I am busy before you understand?”
“I need you to hear me, my king. I need you to listen to my bid for the charter.”
Is he serious?
“Not now!” I shouted and spun to walk out.
“I wonder, Zasrus,” He called out after me, “Have you ever wondered what it must be like to suffocate to death?”
I stopped dead in my tracks. My skin turned cold and I slowly turned to look at him, “What did you say?”
“I’ve always imagined it to be a rather peaceful way to die. Simply going to sleep and never waking up.”
I marched towards him, “Did you take them?” I asked as I got close, but the two guards at his side drew their weapons on me and I stopped. I glared at them for a moment before turning my furious gaze to Savnor.
“Now do you have the time to talk to me?” He asked as he crossed his arms with a small smile.
“Where are they?”
“Safe, for now. But they don’t have long. I would say by tonight you will be looking for two corpses.”
My anger burst out of me and I grabbed the weapon from the guard as with my fist I knocked the other one to the ground. Savnor stepped back, “I am the only one who knows where they are!”
“Tell me. Now! Or-”
“Or what? What will you do, boy? We both know that those two whores are more important to you than the kingdom itself.”
“You dare to call my daughter a whore!?”
“Oh please, everyone knows she has been fooling around with that common boy. The guard you keep around. And the fact that he is still alive makes me wonder how competent of a king you are?”
“This is treason, Savnor. You will die for this.”
“I am already dying! All that is left for me now is to leave my son a legacy.”
“What do you want?”
“I want you to abdicate.”
“If I do then Raylon will be king and you will still have nothing.”
“No,” he said as he smiled and began walking around me, “See, Raylon didn’t want the throne. That is not a decision that can be changed. So it will fall to the next in line.”
“The next in line is my son,” I said between clenched teeth.
“He is too young. And in the event of a prince being too young to take the throne, tell me, Zasrus what happens?”
I clenched my jaw as I stared at the stone floor.
“Tell me!” Savnor shouted.
“The throne falls to the next house on the charter.”
“Exactly. And seeing as how you will be signing the new charter right now, making my family the next in line, I will be the king when you abdicate tonight.”
“Even if you are king, the judge will never allow this to stand. He will order your execution.”
“Yes, he will, and rightfully so. But once I am dead, my son will take my place.”
“No. I won’t do it. I won’t let you get away with this.”
“Very well. Then I will send you the corpses of your daughter and this new woman in a few weeks, once they are nice and rotten.”
My daughter, my firstborn baby girl. I cannot let anything happen to her. And Ash. The woman I have longed for since my queen died. I will not let her be hurt again.
“Fine,” I growled out, “I will do it. But I want to know where they are.”
He laughed, “You stupid boy. That is not how this works. You will get Laylar and the whore back once I am crowned. So the sooner you get the arrangements in place, the better.”
“I will kill you for this,” I said as I met his eyes, “I will slit your throat for harming them.”
“I look forward to it.” He said and walked away.
I rolled my hands into fists and spun to run back to the battle command.
As I entered I shouted, “Rein! Raylon! Captains office, now!”
I went in and paced as I waited for them to enter. Raylon shut the door behind him and I turned to look at them, my eyes stinging.
“Brother, what is it?"
“Lord Savnor has them.”
“How do you know?”
“He just told me. He will kill them if I do not give him the throne.”
“He has Laylar as well? Do you know where?” Raylon asked as his voice grew more furious.
“I don’t know. All he said was that they would suffocate to death by tonight if I do not give him what he wants.”
“My king, you can’t,” Rein said in a soft voice.
I looked at him, “I must. If I don’t then Laylar will die. Ash will die.”
“But if you do, then the kingdom will be faced with another war. House Savnor is hated by almost all of the people in this kingdom. If not for their fighting men, they would have been destroyed a long time ago.”
“I know, Rein. But I will not sacrifice the women I love for anything. Especially not for a kingdom I never wanted to rule over in the first place.”
“Give us a minute, Rein,” Raylon said and waited for the boy to leave. Once the door closed again he turned to me, “What do you mean?”
I let out a long breath, “I never wanted any of this, Raylon.”
“But you are the best king this kingdom has had in over a hundred years, how can you say that?”
“You never gave me a choice. You told me I was to take your place, but no one ever asked me what I want.”
“But you agreed to take it.”
“Because I couldn’t bear to disappoint you!”
He came over to me and placed his hand on my shoulder, “You could never disappoint me, brother. You may not have wanted the throne, but you have turned out to be one hell of a king.”
“No, I have not. I have led our people into a war. I have signed an alliance that will lead us to another one, and with Savnor doing this, it could mean the destruction of this kingdom. How is any of that the marks of a good king?”
“War is not all,” he said, “War is inevitable. Sooner or later. But it’s the way you find peace after that matters. You turned our enemy into an ally. You have made us stronger. What Savnor is doing is not on you. And trust me when I tell you this brother, he will pay very dearly for his actions.”
We left the office and went back into the main battle command center. As I began to pace again, Rein came to me, “My king, may I have a word with you please? In private?”
I nodded, “Yes,” I said and he followed me out of the room. I spun around to him, “What is it, Rein?”
“I think I might know where they are,” He said in a quiet voice.
He took a small step closer to me, to speak quieter, “From what you said, my king. Lord Savnor told you that they will suffocate by tonight. I have worked out how big of a space they would need if they were either together or alone in an airtight area. Either way, I have come to the same conclusion.”
When he looked up at me, I met his eyes, “Where are they?”
“I believe that Lord Savnor has them in a tomb.”
“Yes, my king. The dimensions are the right size, and no one would hear them cry for help on the Home of the Dead. Not only that, but no one would dare to open a royal tomb without permission from you.”
“We need to go find them,” I said and spun around to march back into the command room but Rein grabbed my arm and stopped me.
I looked down at his hand on my arm, then up at him. This time his eyes didn’t move from mine, “My king, if you leave now, Lord Savnor will know, and we don’t know what else he may do. I will go find them. Give me the chance to prove myself to you.”
I shrugged out of his grip, “That is my daughter and the woman I love. I will not leave their lives up to-”
“Up to me? My king, forgive me, but your daughter is the woman I love. And if you think that I will do anything less than everything I am physically capable of to save them, then you have not been paying attention.”
His words made me grin. This kid has balls, as Ash would say.
“Very well. You have until sundown to find them both and let me know. If not, then I will do what I must to save them. Even if that means giving up everything I am.”