“Father, you don’t understand!”
I felt the sting of a hand across my face, and forced myself back into the kneel I had risen from to protest against my father.
“You do not get to call me Father, you know what my title is,” he growled down at me.
“Yes, I’m sorry, His Royal Highness, Your Majesty,” I murmured, trying to keep my rage in check. I knew he would only listen if I kept my patience with him.
“Now, I understand your worries in regards to Viessa, but I assure you, she will be found by my guards. And even if she isn’t, there is no threat from her. Her husband led the charges, and despite her closeness to him throughout the war, she doesn’t have the intelligence to be of any threat. Dismissed.”
I gaped in shock. He was so far off base; I couldn’t believe I had never noticed his oblivion before. “His Royal Highness, Your Majesty,” I began, hating that I allowed him to force me to call him that, “with all due respect, the deepest and utmost respect, you’re… wrong.” I squeezed the word out of my mouth, knowing that this was a huge risk.
There was a long silence, aside from a small noise from the doo, a gasp of shock from one of the guards, I assumed.
“I’m what?” Allerick thundered. “This is insubordination of the highest order! Questioning the word of your King! If you were not a prince, I would have you hung for this. Lucky for you, you are my son, and killing you may risk the anger of my kingdom. Instead, you shall be thrown into the dungeon. Indefinitely.”
“Please, you aren’t listening to me!” I cried out as the guards pulled me to my fight and began yanking me backwards. “You have to listen to me, why don’t you ever listen to me?” My father simply turned away, as though watching me struggle was an affront to his eyes. “Please,” I screamed as I was dragged from the room. “You have to listen to me, our lives depend on it!”
“OUR LIVES WILL NEVER DEPEND ON ANYTHING FROM YOU!” Allerick roared, spinning around. “You have such an inflated sense of self-importance, but you should never have been born! You are a betrayal to everything this kingdom has ever stood for! It should have been you instead of Priamos! You should never have returned; we all thought you were dead, and we were all better off for it!” He dropped his voice to a harsh whisper that still echoed through the room. “The only reason I’ve never had you taken out is because you’re not even worth that much of my energy.”
I stopped struggling against the guards and went limp, allowing them to drag me from the room. Sure, I had always known that was what he thought of me, but I had never expected him to say it outright. Some delusional part of me deep down thought that he wouldn’t say it because he did love me, somewhere in his cold, blocked off heart, but that he couldn’t show it because he was the King. But now I knew for certain. He didn’t love me. He wanted me dead and the only reason he didn’t kill me was because I wasn’t worth the time. He didn’t even hold enough emotion toward me to get rid of me. I was nothing more than a nuisance to him.
As soon as we were out of the throne room, the doors slammed shut behind us by the doormen, I tugged myself from the grip of the guards. “I won’t cause trouble, just please save me my dignity and let me walk there.” They looked at each other and shrugged, then nodded down the hall in the direction of the dungeon. Sighing, I headed in that direction. My mind was racing. I had promised Emihly that I would meet with her at sunset. A glance out a window told me I should have been there already, and that she was probably ready to storm the castle thinking I had betrayed her. I moved out of view of the window and began to descend down the stairs into the dungeon.
On the way down, I had a brief hope that perhaps the guards would be more likely to get through to my father, so I paused halfway down the steps and turned to the friendlier looking one on my left.
“She’s a necromancer. Viessa. That’s why she’s so dangerous. She’s not just the wife of the rebel leader, she’s a witch. And not just any witch, but the most dangerous kind. Please, if there’s any way you can convince my father I’m telling the truth, please do. I’m afraid the whole kingdom will be in danger otherwise. Everything is changing, and we need to be prepared.” I stared down the guard desperately, hoping he would listen. I watched as he exchanged a look with the other guard, their expressions unreadable, then turned back toward me and kept shoving me down the stairs.
I jolted up from my cot, alarmed by a noise I wasn’t sure if I had heard in the waking world or a dream. A tapping noise a moment later assured me I hadn’t imagined it.
“Do you ever shut up? This is supposed to be a stealth mission in case you forgot!” I heard someone hiss from down the hallway.
“Sorry!” came the returned yelp.
“No, I know, I’m just worried. That guy said he saw him going down here with two guards and the last thing we need is to be caught breaking the prince out of the dungeon.” A moment later, Emihly appeared on the other side of my cell bars, grinning when she saw me. “Oh, you’re alive! That’s good, it would have been a wasted trip if we were just retrieving your body.”
“We actually burn the people we execute,” I muttered, unable to look her directly in the eye. This was a new low for her to see me in. Sure, she’d seen me in my fair share of embarrassing situations, but never as a prisoner in my own family castle.
Morghan popped up from behind her and I scowled. “I thought I told you to leave her home. I don’t know yet if I can trust her.”
“I did leave her home for our meeting,” Emihly said, fiddling with my lock rather than looking at me. “But when you never showed, I decided something must have been wrong, so I decided to break into the castle. I just brought her for backup in case things got ugly.”
There was a click, and my door swung open. I stepped out into the moonlit hallway, looking down at Emihly. Her hair was in stark contrast to Morghan’s, whose hair was coiled tightly into a bun, completely out of the way. Emihly’s hair though was loose and flowing in the slight breeze that ran through the dank dungeon. She glanced up at me, and my breath caught in my throat. Her eyes were illuminated in the moonlight, and I found myself thinking traitorous thoughts once again.
She’s not your friend, Thorin! Her people killed your brother! Before I could address those wayward thoughts, a heard a shout from the other end of the hallway. “There! Prisoner Escape!”
“Run!” Emihly yelled, and she grabbed my hand and pulled me along without a second thought. I stared at our conjoined hands and a flutter rose in my chest as we raced down the corridor. Everything was changing, and not only in the ways I expected it.