The king had requested a family dinner, the same night as the day he had Fenros arrested. To say Eleanor wanted nothing to do with him or the dinner would be an understatement. She was already well aware that Fenros was, well had faced Eva, the lovely
inquisitor. Her heart broke for him, she already didn’t like Eva, but now knowing she had hurt Fenros. Well Eleanor couldn’t stand the thought of the woman.
She’d refused breakfast and lunch, staying in her room and sulking for the beginning of the day until she began to plot how she could save Fenros. Of course, Eleanor hadn’t gotten much of an idea other than to just demand he be released. Besides, how could he be a traitor? She was with him almost all the time and would have known if he was doing anything fishy. Not to mention he was Fenros, her Fenros. He was loyal to her and would never, NEVER, do or think of such things. So all she could feel was anger towards her father, for ever believing that Fenros was a traitor and for locking him up.
Despite all the anger towards her father, Eleanor knew she had to be there. She had to be strong and push her emotions down, face her father, and try and get some answers. Walking in through the doors as the guards opened them to the dining room, she noticed she was the first there so she walked to her seat and stood by it awaiting her father and brother. The fourth chair would remain empty as always, her mother forced to dine in the king and queen’s chamber like normal.
Right behind Eleanor followed her new bodyguard, a man in his 40s who would not give her any space. She had already snapped at him once today and with how closely he had followed her to the dining hall and was now standing not too far from her. She was ready to give the man a piece of her mind again.
Following soon after Eleanor’s entrance Prince Aaron arrived without pomp or ceremony. He strode rapidly across the hall, ignoring the beauty surrounding him, paintings, purple canvases and silver cutlery placed intricately around, but his eyes were fixed on a leaflet of parchment clutched in his hand. He had changed and bathed at least since arriving. His hair was slicked back and he had donned new outfit of black and silver with his personal crest embroidered into the sleeve. An elegant sword swung at his hip and in his wake a new squire scurried, like a frightened kitten following its mother, terrified it might fall to far back and be rebuked.
Reaching the table Aaron threw down the paper he was holding an irritable frown dominating his face has he muttered obscenities under his breath. It didn’t look like he had done much sleeping the previous night, and his eyes were sunken and bloodshot. Despite this he managed a small smile for Eleanor, but it quickly vanished when he saw the absolute righteous fury burning underneath her feigned mask of emotional control.“I understand your anger dear sister.”
Aaron said trying to cajole her. “I too am taken aback, but perhaps it would be better for your sake, and that of our friend in chains to conceal your temper. I know you better, but our lord father is not dullard, and he will see in a moment that you wish to shove the nearest fork down his throat. Just as quick as I noticed. Perhaps something to calm the nerves.”
He waved his hand beckoning the new squire. “Sister, meet Justain Royce, son of the late Simmion Royce, and my squire. Boy, pour us wine.”
Justain stood blanky for a moment staring at Eleanor before springing into action gathering the nearest glass goblets and a pitcher of wine and began pouring a glass for Aaron.“Not me you fool.” Aaron hissed resisting the urge to slap the lad across the head. “Serve the princess first, Were you taught nothing?”
Justain mumbled an apology leaving Aaron’s glass half full, before rushing around the table to where Eleanor was. Aaron groaned in exasperation but said nothing more picking up his half full goblet and draining it in a single gulp.
It had been an interesting few weeks for Justain. Interesting, confusing, and terrifying. He was completely bewildered, unable to think and remember as he usual did. Aaron had been explaining all the delicate principles of serving those with power on the road. He had done so in great detail in fact, laying out everything Justain would need to know and more. Such as in what order to serve drinks, whom to bow to, and by what title he should address each person as a squire. Of course Justain had nearly forgotten everything the moment Aaron had explained it, and he’d been to scared to ask the Prince to repeat himself. Thus he went about every new task, and he had many even in the last fourteen hours of arriving, with all the delicacy of a man holding a volatile magical explosive. Justain figured he was of such low importance that he couldn’t go wrong by just scraping and bowing for everyone. “Apologies my lady.”
He gasped as he spilled some of the wine staining the pure white tablecloth with a few crimson droplets. There was something about Eleanor that made him even shakery and muddled than normal. He beat a hasty retreat trying not to stare at the princess as he went to fill Aaron’s glass and then stand quietly out of the way hoping everyone just forgot about him and he would be left alone in the shadows of the big hall. He wouldn’t cry, no he wouldn’t dare, and even still all his tears had long been spent. He just hoped with all his heart that when Aaron introduced him to the king he wouldn’t force him to show off that gastley trophy he had brought with him.“It is alright Justain.”
Eleanor told the boy, smiling softly to him. She hoped her brother wouldn’t be too harsh to the poor child. But this was her brother, child of her father. It sometimes seemed she didn’t fully belong in the family with how harsh and brutal her father and brother were. But they were her family and that was that. Looking to her brother, her smile kept for only a second before she began speaking. “I will not hide all of my anger, father would be an idiot to not know I was angry even if I hid it. Besides, you and I both know I’m not the one who would want to shove a fork down father’s throat. Violence isn’t my way brother. It is you who needs to hide their frustration and anger so he doesn’t believe you want to shove said fork down his throat.”
Eleanor looked to the drink that had been poured for her but she was in no mood to drink. She didn’t need it to calm her nerves. She hadn’t ever been a fan of drinking to begin with, her brother knew this yet choose to ignore it. Besides, her face now was unreadable. It may have been readable when her brother entered, but masking emotions was a skill she was good at, one she had always been able to trick her father with and many others. Standing taller, Eleanor glanced from her brother to the door. All they awaited was their father. Once he arrived and sat down, the two could also sit and dinner could begin.
Sipping his wine Aaron smiled cooly back at his elder sibling, his eyebrows raised ever so slightly in amused fashion. “You wound me El.”
He clenched his fist close to his heart in feigned pain at her cruel words. “You know I hold no malice towards our beloved father.”
Aaron held Eleanor’s eyes only for a moment before he broke, looking down and chuckling. “Alas you read me like a book. I have never been able to hide my feelings from you, they are concealed like sparkling stones are hidden on the bottom of a calm lake. Transparent as glass… But truly, what son does not hate loathe the father’s ways? I would wish him no harm, not in the fork-throat stabbing sense at least. Though that is not to say he does not frustrate me to no end. And you as well if your mood is any indication.”
Aaron fell silent, swirling his wine and watching the door expectantly. When the king made no appearance he look back to Eleanor expectantly. “Do you know where he is, perchance? I have no mood to wait out the evening in hunger. The road and battle makes a man ravenous, and I am wearied. A proper meal, and a good night's rest would do me, and my feet a world of good.”
The main doors to the the hall opened quickly, The King walking through just as the door was wide enough. As soon as he entered his eyes were on both Aaron and El. He sighed irritably and as he moved to his position at the head of the table. According to what happened in Fenros’ ‘interrogation’ it was clear he was up to something. Now…. he had to find out who he was working for.
Without so much as a grunt of acknowledgement, he sat down and snapped his fingers for the servants to start serving the food. He was hungry and that didn’t go well with his mood. He leaned back in his chair and on his right arm as he looked back and forth from Eleanor to Aaron. Eleanor face was blank once again. He narrowed his eyes slightly at this, annoyed that she was doing that. She was probably bent out of shape he took her bodyguard from her. Childish.
He wasn't just annoyed with El, but with Aaron as well. Fenros did bring up the fact Aaron was greedy and self serving like any other nobles. He knew this, but with the recent assassination attempt, all were under suspicion. Especially when Aaron ignored his orders and took the brat under his wing. He wanted the family dead. He would deal with that in a moment though. He started to drink, allowing the silence to fall.
For a few moments after the plates were filled, He looked to El, and decided to give her the only bit of good news he received. “I just received word, there is a prince in a kingdom to the south that despite all his interests, is willing to settle down with an older maid.”
He said flatly. Finally he had some way where this girl could be useful. Especially after the assassination attempt and that damned Earl who didn’t know his place with her.
He looked down at his drink as he sipped it. “You leave at the end of the week to meet him and be wedded.”
He said in a matter of factly tone. Having this business with Fenros happen now was just as well. He didn’t want her to stay all clingy to her bodyguard.
Head turning to the door as it opened, Eleanor watched as her father strode in. Watching him until he sat down, sitting only after he did. Food was quickly served and Eleanor couldn’t help but to just stare at the food, she picked at it in the tense silence that sat over the family. It wasn’t until she had just gripped her glass of wine, deciding maybe a few sips to help take the edge off wouldn’t hurt, that the silence was broken.
Of course the way the silence was broken only broke Eleanor’s facade. Though her face for the most part remained blank, anger blazed in her eyes. Yet another marriage proposal it would seem. One with the addition of the words older maid. No doubt, a sly insult from her father, she knew he wished she had been married off many years ago yet here she was. Eleanor didn’t realize how tightly she was gripping her glass until it shattered in her hand, red wine spilling all over the table, some even on her dress. The glass exploding outwards, while some embedded itself in her hand.
Just as it shattered, Eleanor snapped her head to her father and stood to her feet. All anger on full display. “I’m quite tired of you choosing who I marry father. You don’t seem to be able to ever make good decisions in regards to it so maybe you should give up on the love business and instead focus on not being a terrible king!”
Eleanor snapped at her father, glaring down at him in his chair.“Imprisoning people falsely would be a good start. Not only in regards to the events of today with Fenros but our own mother. What sort of image do you think you are setting to the people of the kingdom by locking their queen away in some tower! Then imprisoning and torturing probably the most loyal knight of the vanguard! You are sending a terrible image to the people is what. No wonder there are rumors of a rebellion against you!”
Eleanor finished yelling and not only did she leave the servants nearby standing paled in shock, but she shocked herself. She had never blown up like that, especially not at her father. She tried to sense any regret within herself though and she had none.
The king sat in shock as the girl broke the glass in her hand. He sat there staring at the girl he raised as his daughter, as she started to yell at him. Each word only making his blood boil a little more. Suddenly getting the gaul to tell him he cannot tell her what to do, or who to marry that is. That he is horrible in making decisions in that department.
His eyes narrowed as he was called a terrible king, as she explained herself he started to see that perhaps this girl really could be apart of the attempt on his life. She just openly admitted that he was a terrible king, Bringing up his wife, and of course, Fenros. She was acting like a child who’s favorite toy was taken away. Once she was done, he only grew more angry. She was only confirming the inquisitors theory in his eyes.
He stood up, and threw his drink to his left angrily. Hitting Aaron’s new squire in the chest by off chance with the half filled glass. “You dare speak like that to your King?! I tell you what you do, that is my role. You’ve lived a comfortable life growing fat off of my kingdom and not pulling your own weight.”
He pointed to Aaron, “He at least deals with with problems that arise. While you sit and play around with your bodyguard. It's time to grow up and become an adult you ungrateful brat! Unless you truly want to just take the kingdom from us!” “Me? Not pulling my own weight?! You call murdering countless innocent lives pulling weight?! I at least have gone out of my way to help the people of our kingdom, the commoners not the damn greedy and lazy nobles. The people you treat like dirt.”
Eleanor slammed her hands down on the table, further pushing glass into her hand. Her anger blinded her from the pain though. “I act more like an adult than either of you two! You two don’t even have the decent manners of children when it comes to dealing with people around you who you see beneath you. You could care less for any of the people who serve you, you are the selfish and ungrateful one father. Ungrateful for the life you were given on a silver platter. Did you ever think of what your life could have been had you not been born royal. I surely have plenty of times. It allows me to not take things for granted and people for granted. BUt you just use and abuse people. Enjoying the show and how people have to follow your every order simply because of birthright! One day it is going to come back to bite you and if you keep acting the way you do, it’s going to be sooner than later!”
Holding back a condescending sigh Aaron motioned his squire forward. The lad was covered in red wine, and his cream-colored tunic was stained as if he was drenched in blood from some terrible wound on his chest. He looked a little shocked but hurried forward to Aaron’s side all the same. “Attend the princess, Justain, she has spilled wine on herself.”
As Justain move hesitantly forward to obey Aaron remained seated, staring at his standing family an annoyed expression etched on his face. “El, I - I thought we discussed this? But perhaps I am being too harsh? Father please, forgive her. You can clearly see she is in a state of shock, speaking foolishness, from the assassination attempt. Hellfire, it took me nearly a full day after my encounter with one of Royce’s retainers before I recovered...”
Uncertain whether he had been successful in defusing the heated conversation the Prince tried to gently nudge evenings discussion to less tumultuous waters, giving the servers an angry glare that demanded they finish their duty and leave.“The mission was a success. Your armies performed adequately as expected, and those few levies and knights the Royces’ were able to gather either surrendered, or perished by the sword upon the siege’s conclusion. Sir Bennrick of the Vanguard even now remains to steward the manor until young Royce comes of age, or you deem the titles worthy of another family.”
There was a hint of a plea in Aaron’s voice. He did not wish for his sister and father to be at each other’s throats, and he knew all to well the paranoia that clouded his father’s vision, making him dangerous even to his own children. Fenros’ fate was a clear testament to that. It had taken Aaron some time, but he knew the game was won in wiley ways, not through brash outrage and shouting.
Eleanor’s head whipped to look at her brother. She ignored anything he said after not only ordering the poor boy to attend to her but also apologizing for her. With fire in her eyes she stared down at him. “Do not apologize for me! I am not a child, I am not in a state of shock. Stop trying to weasel your way into the good graces of our father. You are sometimes no better than him. Forcing this poor child to serve you! He’s terrified! You don’t even bother using your own manners. Have you forgotten mother’s teachings of the uses of please and thank you. Try using them. Also instead of buying yourself fancy things you should start helping our people too. Mother would be disappointed if she saw that you were following in father’s footsteps. Murdering and mistreating people. I know I’m disappointed. But the only person to blame is father, you of course can’t see that as you are blinded by the same life that was handed to father on a silver platter as it is the same one being served to you.”
Taking a step back from the table, her face only softened to wave Justain away. She didn’t need his help nor really want it. After she looked away from him, Eleanor’s face hardened again. Anger still clear on every feature. “Both of you may believe you know what is right for this kingdom but as you sit here on your chairs, people starve and die from things we could be helping with. But as I have no power, that all falls on you two. You two are doing nothing to help the main population of people, instead you have only made their lives worse. I am disgusted to be a part of this family and to have to call myself a royal of this broken kingdom.”
Sitting straighter in his seat Aaron felt his blood boil. How dare she? How dare she accuse him of such things when she knew nothing of the trials he undergone, nor the vicious coldness of the people she spoke so highly of. She saw them, yes, while surrounded by guards while the scraped and pleaded for coins. But had she seen them stab each other in the back for the tiniest copper? Or how they lied and stank and were cowed by the slightest threat. “You go to far sister!”
Aaron slammed his fist on the table, making the tiny shards of glass from Eleanor’s shattered goblet dance and scatter. Aaron knew better than to get angry, he knew better than to make enemies of the one person he could trust, truly trust never to betray him but her words cut deep, and his pride flared like a forge’s fire.“Must we sell the clothes from our backs? Must we wallow in the streets with the beggars and give up these comforts to state your guilt at being born amongst this family? Should we mingle with the people we seek to rule, and how then would we bring about a better kingdom? I broke my arm fighting,”
Aaron raised his bandaged limb glaring daggers at his sister, challenging her to deny the wound. “Fighting to stop a tratorious family from rising up against us? For this family I would give ten fold more. For you, for father, and for mother. You, us, means everything to me and I would kill a thousand more innocents if I must. You call it cruel, you call it murder, but how quickly do you think Lord Royce would have taken your head as well as mine if he could? You know nothing of these realities, though you speak as if an authority. Our power is of the divine, and we must wield it as our ancestors wielded it. So that our children might wield it after us. This is our burden and our privilege. You know as well as I.”
The king grew even more angry. His blood boiling even more as his rage started to blind his thoughts. He fought for control over his reason, he needed her to be wedded to that prince for his lands. Aaron pipped in, and despite his anger towards him for keeping that kid as a squire. He agreed with him. For the most part. “You little bitch. You point your finger at us, but you never complained while you had silk dresses, jewelry, and baked goods! You’ve spent too much time with that peasant Fenros, He has poisoned your mind, much like your whore of a mother.”
He said with venom in his voice.“I should have never taken you as my child, and tossed you on the streets to where you truly belong.”
All the anger was quickly drained from Eleanor as those words left her father’s mouth and into her ears. She wasn’t his child? Her mother… a whore? “What? What do you mean?!”
It was Aaron’s turn to shatter a goblet, the vessel flying from his hand as he stood, his high backed chair falling and crashing to the ground behind him. He was pale, and his hand shook as he looked from his father to his sister, or was she? Uncertainty filled his heart with dread. For a moment he could not even form coherent words as he gaped at the two of them. “Explain yourself!”
He screamed, all sense of propriety lost to the ether.
The king glared at Eleanor. A smirk on his face. “Your...mother… is a whore. What is there to explain. Why do you think she is forced to stay locked up? It’s punishment. I still want my way with her. But she doesn’t deserve her freedom.”
He looked to Aaron. “You.. You are definitely my child. Though sometimes I wonder.”
He said after a moment of thought.
He turned his head back to Eleanor. ” Your mother accidently let it slip when you were young. I was merciful enough to allow you to stay and take you on as my child. But I feel that this isn’t worth the trouble anymore. It makes sense that that the recent assassination attempt was aimed at me, and while you were rushed off by ‘your knight in shining armor. Clearly you don’t like how my kingdom is ruled, and have the gaul to tell me, your KING. How I should. ”
He snapped his fingers. “Guards. Take a hold of that traitorous bastard of a redheaded stepchild.
He said coldly.
Shock filled her mind and her body. Eleanor wasn’t his daughter. She felt some relief, to not share blood with the man. But she also felt fear, fear that now that it was revealed meant her time was coming. She was correct to fear such a thing as the king ordered the guards to grab her. Eleanor looked to them as they approached, she watched the men hesitantly look at each other before the two guards grabbed either of her arms. Their grips were gentle, but firm. Eleanor wouldn’t fight it.
Looking to her father, her eyes locked with his. Her light blue eyes were filled with a burning fire as she stared at him. “Know if you kill me. Your head will follow on a stake shortly. I’ll be happy to watch you burn in hell where you belong.”
Aaron leaned heavily on the table, his knees suddenly felt to weak to sustain his weight. He said not a word as the guardsmen stepped forward to drag his sister, no, half-sister away, to a fate worse than death. He could only stand, and fear. Turning his head ever so slightly the prince eyed his father from his peripheral vision. The king’s cold smirk shattering him to his core. “El, she wouldn’t, she couldn’t… Mother?”
He shook his head trying to make sense of it all. “Sir Fenros, he is the most loyal man I know, he betrayed you at Eleanor’s command? This is madness father!”
He looked to his son. ”Already Lady Eva has interrogated that traitor Fenros. He was hard to crack...but after a few hours of Eva working him, he continued to try and say she was innocent, putting the blame on you Aaron. Saying you were scheming behind me. And tried to escape when she mentioned interrogating El.”
He looked to Eleanor. ”Tried...but was overpowered. Beaten and burned.” He knew how much she cared for him, despite trying to hide it.”
He moved over closer to Eleanor. He leaned in and said through his teeth. ”Then was put to death. He attempted to murder Lady Eva and her servant. It only confirmed our suspicions. His throat was cut, and bled like a stock pig. No one will be there to rescue you Eleanor… “
Eleanor felt her heart break hearing Fenros was dead. She didn’t let it show as she stared, face to face with her father. Breaking down now would do no good, no matter how much she loved him. “Then do as you will to me. Just know that the crown will fall.”
The king looked to his son and used his hand to point, palm open to Eleanor. “See? She admits it.” “I never would have thought it of you El, to betray us…”
Aaron said aghast. “You didn’t know you were a bastard. I saw the shock on your face. You would have killed your own father for what? Your concerns for the people? Should you have succeeded and had slain us the kingdom would have been torn asunder in the following wars for power. How many would have perished then…?”
Aaron turned back to the king an undisguised disgust in his gaze. “And what of the noble and powerful house of Allaway? Now that Fenros is dead. Surely Lord Allaway will not abide such an insult? We have seen lesser houses rise in rebellion for lesser slights.”
Aaron cast his hand towards Justain Royce. The boy was standing in utter dumbfoundment, taking in all the proceedings with eyes wider than saucers. “It will not be in our favor to anger the noble families by executing their sons so brazenly. He could have proved a valuable hostage to ensure Allaway’s good behavior…”
The king looked to the guards and waved his hand dismissively, “Take her away, lock her in her room and lock the door. Make sure she’s cleaned up too. She will need to make a final appearance.”
he said gruffly. Looking away without hesitation.
The guards nodded and hauled Eleanor off. Eleanor didn’t fight and she didn’t regret anything. As soon as she was out of the hall, the tears began to flow. She had lost Fenros. She had lost him forever. Just when she finally figure out her feelings for him. It was her own fault for taking that long. It wouldn’t matter though, she wasn’t long for this world much longer. She’d be with him soon enough.
He looked to Aaron who was trying to tell him how to rule. He narrowed his eyes. “Watch your tone boy, I know what I am doing. The Allaways will follow us, they don’t know their son is dead, They will never know. Don’t think you have any room to give me advice when you don’t listen to mine. I told you to kill off that family line. But now you want a pet. Who will bite you when he gets the opportunity.”“I followed your orders father.”
Aaron said with a frown. “Justain is of a cadet branch of the Royce family line, and should the titles have passed normally he would have been the last in succession. Behind another family entirely. But if you fear for my health so, by all means, order his execution and I shall carry out the act myself. But he is as much my hostage as my pet, and I would not see the house of Royce so easily forgotten. I am not so young as to not remember their service to this kingdom and to the crown. Sentimental though that might seem loyalty, and nobility is a rare thing it seems. I would seek to water this plant early, and ensure its growth personally.”[
This resistance was Aaron’s own small rebellion. To flex his muscle as the new Lord Commander of the Vanguard. Perhaps in poor taste and timing following Eleanor’s own, more serious actions, but that could not be helped. The prince was still rattled by the evenings events, and although unease curdled the wine in his stomach, he had to know how far he could push this, despite the nights surprises. “Have you yourself not said father, to keep one’s friends close, and one’s enemies closer still?”
The King was annoyed. After all that happen, he’s going to try and do this? NOW? He saw the reasoning in his sons flawed view. But from his experience. Allowing part of the family to live only brewed more rebellion later on. “Not after they know you executed their entire family!”
He yelled as he slapped the boy on the side of the head. He growled and started to walk away, done with being in the company of his idiot son. ”When he stabs you in the back. Take it as am ‘I told you so.’ “ ”Bring me my food to my chambers.”
King Willum’s departure was followed by an audible sigh of relief from Justain, even as Aaron stood silently, seemingly lost in thought. At long last the young prince turned to his squire, his face awash with a great mixture of emotions, from disgust to confusion to grief. "Not a word of this shall leave this room.”
Aaron snapped suddenly. "Should someone who is not us, know of what happened here I shall personally cut your tongue from your throat and feed it to my hounds.”
With that Aaron strode from the hall leaving Justain yet again to follow in his wake.