Raylon stood at my side at the entrance to the throne room. Guards in red swarmed all over the palace and three of them stood behind us, with weapons raised. I looked out of the window, at the setting sun, and my heart ached at the thought of my daughter and my love, running out of air.
My brother leaned in closer to me, “It will be alright, Zas. No matter what happens, I will always stand by your side.”
I met his eyes, “You won’t hate me for this? For being this weak? For disappointing you, again?”
“When have you ever disappointed me?”
I felt a tear slip out, “All our lives, brother. I have always tried to live up to the man I thought you wanted me to be and look at us now. I have failed.”
“You have not failed. You are doing the impossible for the ones you love. That is more than most men would do. You are not a disappointment to me, you never have been, and I don’t think there is anything you could do that would make me think of you like that.”
“I didn’t want this,” I said and looked at the door, “But now that I may lose it all. . .”
“I understand, brother. But you are not losing anything. You still have me, you still have your children and you will have Ash. What else is there?”
I nodded to him and pulled in a long steadying breath.
I opened the door and we went in. The long hall was lined with guards in red uniforms. The higher nobility all lined up behind the wall of red, and the other fathers stood with weapons at their backs at the front of the room. I swallowed and made my way to the thrones.
Savnor stood on top of the stairs, with his oldest son, his wives and the Lord Judge.
I went up the steps and stopped.
The judge turned to me, “My king, what is happening? I was taken from my home at gunpoint and dragged here.”
I met his eyes, “You will appoint a new king tonight.”
“I don’t understand,” He said frowning at the crowd, “The prince is too young. Who am I to appoint?”
“Me,” Savnor said and stepped forward.
The judge spun to look at him, “What you speak of is treason! You will die for this! Guards!” He called out, but none of the men moved. Savnor gave me a look, then narrowed his eyes.
“Do it, Lord Judge. Do as he says.”
“But my king-”
I shut my eyes and dropped my head at my own outburst. The Judge has always been a fair, and moral man and to shout at him like that was unfair, but the worry for Laylar and Ash was getting the better of me.
“Yes, my king,” he said in a flat tone. I looked up at him and tried to apologize with my eyes.
He nodded to me and turned to Savnor, “Very well. Take your places then.”
I went up the last two steps and knelt down in front of the thrones. Savnor did the same next to me and I lowered my head.
“All here will witness,” The judge called out, “The crowning of a new king. As the Lord of Justice, the keeper of the law, and the sovereign authority to crown a new monarch, I hereby release the old king of his duty and appoint the new.”
A guard came to his side with a small black box. He opened it and inside lay a small knife made of shining black metal. The handle had studded gems in it, and the blade flowed smoothly in an upward angle.
The Judge picked it up and returned to us, “With the blood of the old,” He called out and I raised my hand to him. He took it and I felt him give me a soft squeeze. I met his eyes for a moment then nodded.
He lowered the knife to my skin and cut a deep gash on the back of my hand, making a cross with an old scar that was there from the day I took the throne.
“With the blood of the old, I appoint the new,” He said and went to Savnor. He took his hand and as he lowered the knife to his skin to set his rule in stone, the door at the back of the hall burst open.