Good Night, Sweet Prince – Part Seven

Things are coming together really well, considering that I’m writing this story completely out of order.  The part that I posted on Monday… obviously comes well after this.  However, I don’t think I give anything away in it that would hurt the rest of the story.

**

Before Ilya could even find the words to protest, he was half-dragged out of the room.  He couldn’t imagine what the other servants they would question might say – how they might react.  A part of him wanted to stay calm.  Another part of him wanted to panic.  He focused on one thing: how would Ilija, the simple servant, react to this?

He wrapped that identity around himself like a shield as the guards brought him to a little tower room.  They pushed him down in a chair and then left the room.  Ilya kept his head bowed as he sat in the chair.  He allowed tremors to shake him, allowed the fear to be obvious.  That’s how a servant would react, right?

When the door opened, he startled and looked up.  He watched the spymaster with wide eyes as the man came and sat opposite him.  “Please, my lord,” he rasped, shaking his head, “I’m no spy!”

“Then you have nothing to fear by this questioning,” the spymaster said, his tone calm and reasonable.  He looked down at documents that were laid out in front of him.  “Where did you learn to read?”

Ilya ducked his head.  “My mama intended me for the priesthood,” he said, his voice soft.  That was the truth.  Lies went better with a grain of truth, like medicine with a bit of sugar.  He looked up at the spymaster and shrugged.  “I was educated as such, but… things didn’t work out.  They decided that I wasn’t… pious enough.”

The spymaster nodded slowly.  “The butler says you came to us from Sir Ivan’s service,” he said.  He glanced down at the documents for a moment and then looked up once more.  “That’s Ivan Southrunner?”

Nodding, Ilya said, “When he died, his lady wife didn’t see any reason to keep me.”  This, too, was the truth.  Southrunner had been old and sickly.  His wife was young and pretty and looking to remarry.  The last thing she wanted was for someone like Ilya to be around.  They were too close in age and Ilya was a little too handsome.  Ilya couldn’t have hoped for things to work out more perfectly.

The spymaster nodded again.  Sighing, he said, “Return to your duties, Ilija.”

Ilya stood and bowed and then quickly fled the room.  He was shaking again by the time he returned to the kitchens.  One of the women down there tutted to herself as she sat him down and gave him something to eat.  There were times when looking young and innocent had its advantages.  This time, Ilya felt sure, was one of those times.

**

Weeks passed and the Runecasters left the royal castle, returning to their own lands.  The crisis had passed, at least for the moment.  The spy still hadn’t been found, but the general consensus seemed to be that he had already left.  Still, the threat of another attack loomed and the king decided that it might be best not to have internal feuding on top of that.

Ilya was surprised when he was among those that the king chose to bring with him to visit the Runecaster’s estate.  Clearly, the time of suspicion had passed where he was concerned.  Otherwise, the king wouldn’t have wanted to have Ilya anywhere near him.

He watched from a distance as the king met with the Northhunters and the Runecasters.  His brows furrowed as he watched the argument.  It was brief and, when it ended, it was clear that Lord Andrien had lost.  Ilya watched as he stepped apart to have a word with Lady Northhunter and her oldest daughter, while the men went in another direction.

As the king returned with the two noblemen, Ilya headed into the keep.  This wasn’t anything that mattered to him.  Instead, he looked up at the castle and heaved a sigh.  The Northern Isles were different from Veligrad.  There were hills and slopes and… Veligrad seemed flat and plain, by comparison.

ScottishCastle

Ilya’s gaze strayed to a set of towers.  There was a sort of balcony and he could almost imagine a princess, like the ones in the children’s stories his elder brother used to read to him, standing up there.  The wind would ruffle her gown and her long hair.  He chuckled at the thought and then shook it away.  The Northern Isles were lovely, but this place was not a fairytale land.  There was fear and pain and death.  If Petrov had his way, there would be more yet.

“You there,” a voice called, breaking Ilya out of his reverie.

He spun and found himself facing Sir Georgi.  “Sir,” he said, bowing slightly.

“Lord Andrien needs help to dress for the festivities,” Sir Georgi said.  That was all the explanation he gave.  Then, he was hurrying back towards the castle.  It was all the explanation that Ilya needed.  If he was being told that Lord Andrien needed help dressing, he was meant to provide that help.

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