In a regal antechamber off the royal Great Hall, the King of and Queen of Endruskenlessinia are milling about with some of the Prince’s playthings. Attendants stand by in silence. The Queen, silently weeping, is pregnant. Mahkyel (the perpetrator) enters with a guard, casually eating an apple.
The King asks, “Who could do this?” without looking up.
The Queen sniffs quietly.
Mahkyel hands the fruit to his cohort and approaches the King. “We will find him, my brother. Do not worry.”
After a three quick knocks on the floor (by an outside attendant) NEET the royal advisor enters. He is followed by Dirkennion and Marvella, flanked by four guards. Neet says, “My King, these two constables have come to offer their service.”
King looks at Neet, then at the visitors. Mahkyel leers at them. Queen makes a small sound of surprise. King glances at her, then returns to his son’s play figurine. “An Ehara, and a woman. I think not.”
Mahkyel betrays a sneer, a hand on his sword-belt.
“Good King,” Dirkennion says, bowing. “May I be allowed to speak?”
King glances at Queen again, then shakes his head curtly. The guards look ready for action. Marvella glances at Dirkennion in question.
While the King’s back is turned, Neet and Queen meet eyes for a second.
Neet says, “Very well, my King. Come!” he says to the visitors. He leads Dirkennion and Marvella and the guards away.
Mahkyel steps close to his brother. “I will find our Prince, my King. We have some clues to follow.”
King nods with sorrow, handling the figurine.
Outside the Royal Hall, Neet leads the party to a guard house and dismisses the men posted there. He tells one guard to stay and the rest to go on. Dirkennion looks at him, curious.
“You are Ehara, ever honorable. Is this not so?”
“It is so,” Dirkennion replies. Marvella doesn’t understand what is happening.
Neet pulls a bejeweled bracelet from a cloth in his pocket. “The Queen has two of these. Its match is missing.”
Dirkennion holds the bracelet up to study it.
“That must be worth a fortune,” Marvella says.
“Correct, Lady Constable.”
Dirkennion returns it. “You believe the match was payment?”
“It is my strong guess. Prince Juno’s schedule is kept within an inner circle as tight as the Queen’s jewelry. And I would surely be a fool to ignore how often the King’s brother Mahkyel scowls in the Prince’s direction.”
Marvella reacts. “Ah, that would explain a number of things.”
On the far side of the courtyard, Mahkyel and eight torch-bearing riders emerge from the royal stables and speed toward the main gate. Dirkennion watches them cautiously, staying hidden in the guard house.
“Mister Ehara,” Neet says, to get his attention.
“Dirkennion. This is Marvella,” he adds, introducing her.
“The King must save face, even among his inner circle. If word got out of his weakness in a time of crisis…”
“It would be a boon to his enemies.”
“And the Queen?” Marvella asks.
Neet swallows. “She is desperate. As a mother, she fears the worst.”
“What happens to an advisor who is found to have gone against the King’s wishes?” Dirkennion says.
Neet shrugs sadly. “Unknown. The Prince is a good child, just a kind soul. He is all that matters,” Neet adds.
Dirkennion glances at Marvella. “Very well,” he says to Neet. “You have our word–we will do what we can to rescue the Prince.”
“With much gratitude, Mister Dirkennion,” Neet says, bowing respectfully.
He leaves and the impressed guard escorts them to the other guardhouse to retrieve their weapons and packs and Marvella’s horse.
Dirkennion asks him, “You will not speak of this?”
“Agreed,” the guard returns.
As Dirkennion and Marvella collect their things, she says, “I notice you did not promise a safe return of the child.”
Dirkennion nods. “To do so would be foolish. We do not know his condition, now.”
“I hope it’s not too late,” she says, mounting her horse.
to be continued…