Monday, February 11, 2013

Scout's Honor - Chapter 112

< Chapter 111                                                                                             Chapter 113 >

Author's note: This chapter is too important to restrict to the normal word count, so enjoy a double length chapter today.
Rupor throws a wrench our hero's plans to rob the treasury by leaving one of his guards on duty.

           The other guard said, "Boy, go to the page quarters.  You won't be needed until morning."
            I countermanded, "Stay here until Her Highness dismisses you, Milo."
            Milo sprang to a thirteen year-old's idea of attention, "Yes, sir, Captain Rice!"
            The guard gave me a sullen glance and we said nothing else.
            With the palace settling in for the night, the hallways to Callan's room remained empty.  Time crawled by until, after half an hour, a man approached.  His hair was more gray than black and his large frame was softening with age, but his bearing was unmistakable.
            "Good evening, Your Majesty," I said.
            King Damon said, "You must be Captain Rice.  I was told you were attentive."
            I gave a small bow, "How may I help you, sir?"
            "If she's not too tired, I wish to speak with Princess Callan," he answered.
            "Milo," I said, "convey His Majesty's request to Her Highness."
            Shortly, I escorted King Damon into Callan's room, instructing Milo to remain outside the door.  The king accepted my presence without comment.
            "I've come to offer my sympathies," Damon said, "and to see how you are faring after your long ordeal."
            "Well enough," Callan said.
            "Well enough to protest your Council of Lords decision to place me in charge of the search for your parents," Damon said with no change in inflection.
            "And?" Callan challenged.
            "Your concern for the feelings of your men is commendable," Damon responded.  "You were right to protest."
            "I know," Callan said.
            A wistful smile played across Damon's lips, "You remind me of Elise, Rupor's mother.  You have the same spirit and are even more beautiful than she was.  Elise would have liked you, Princess Callan."
            Callan was silent for a few seconds before saying, "You still mourn her."
            "Every day for the last twenty-three years," Damon said.
            "And Queen Beatrice?" Callan asked.
            "A political marriage," Damon answered.  "My lords and advisors badgered me to marry again for the good of the realm and to insure the succession.  I finally gave in hoping they would leave me to grieve in peace.  It wasn't fair to Beatrice, who deserved a loving husband.  It wasn't fair to Rupor, who knew only that his mother was replaced by a stranger.  And, most of all, it wasn't fair to Raoul."
            "The Spare Prince," Callan said.
            "Words I've regretted ever since uttering them."
            "I'd heard you still used the nickname," Callan said.
            "No, only that one time.  But too many others use it and Raoul knows its origin.  The words cannot be unsaid or the damage to Raoul undone."  Damon hung his head.  "Worse, the effects of my second marriage extend beyond my family, even beyond Tarteg's borders."
            "I don't understand," Callan said.
            "I've waged two wars against Mordan over relatively minor disputes.  Had I not remarried -- or at least had I been allowed to grieve properly for Elise -- I doubt either war would have been fought.  Your subjects and mine have paid terribly for my mistake."  Damon looked into Callan's eyes.  "Mixing politics with affairs of the heart breaks many more hearts and just your own."
            Sighing, Damon stood, "I've kept you long enough, Princess Callan, so will bid you good night."
            As King Damon walked to the door, Callan's eyes met mine.  I could see we both shared the same thought.
            King Damon wasn't involved in the plots against Mordan's royal family!

If King Damon isn't man behind all these plots, who is?  Could it be someone our heroes haven't even met?  Find out more in Chapter 113, coming Wednesday!