Chapter 10:


The Scorned

We were led to a building that 'huge' doesn't even begin to describe. It was obviously built for a king, and it looked the part. After walking down a long corridor we went through two giant doors and entered a brightly lit room. Looking around, I noticed that it was relatively empty except for what looked to be about ten people at the bottom of a set of stairs. Above them were two giant chairs with a man and a woman seated. I assumed these to be the King and Queen.

Looking them over, the word that came to mind for the King was ordinary. He was an older man that had no outstanding features. It looked like a random man had been found on the street and dressed in expensive clothes. On the other hand, the Queen was regal, very attractive, and was a good deal younger than the King.

The Queen listened intently to the group, while the King was showing no interest at all. When he noticed Selene and I, he waved the group to the side and turned his attention to us. He stared at us for a while, then said, "I believe that it is proper for people to kneel before their king." Looking around the room, I noticed that all of the guards were now kneeling. I looked to Selene, who just shrugged and waited for me to decide what we do.

Turning back to the King, I calmly asked, "If you are no king of mine, why should I kneel?" A collective gasp echoed throughout the room from my words. The King seemed taken aback by my refusal, but I noticed laughter in the Queen's eyes for a brief moment, though it quickly disappeared.

The King angrily slammed his fist on the arm of his throne and yelled, "How dare you come into my kingdom and defy me. I rule everything that is around us, more towns than you can count. Do you see how perfect our capital is here? That is all because of me!"

The room was eerily quiet while the King had his fit. Studying the faces of the others in the room, they seemed to be more embarrassed than upset.

Thinking on his words, a thought hit me, and I asked, "You said you were in charge of everything around here. I just came from a town overrun with bandits, and the townspeople had nothing. Are you the ruler of that also?"

The King gave a snort of disgust and replied with disdain heavy in his voice, " That town hasn't paid their taxes in over a year, and yet they beg me for help. But, yes, I am their ruler, too."

I paused to digest this idiot's words, then asked, "You do understand that they can't pay your taxes because they have no protection, correct?"

The King started to get upset again and yelled out, "That is not how things work. They pay, then I help. It has always been like that! You don't understand how difficult it is to run this kingdom!"

That was all I needed to hear to understand that there was no getting through to this man. I looked right at the King and did an exaggerated bow and at the same time said, "Oh, my great King. Thank you so much for letting me be in your presence, but, unfortunately, I can't stay any longer."

With that, I turned around and began to walk out of the room, while the King yelled at the guards to stop us. I was almost to the door when I felt Selene grab my arm, causing me to stop. I spun around to face her and snapped at her, demanding, "What?!"

Shrugging, she responded, "I'm not sure. I guess I didn't think that would be your reaction. I figured you would want to hear him out."

I wasn't sure if it was what she said or how she said it, but I had had enough of her 'appraising' me.

I roughly grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out of the building, leading us into an empty alley. Pinning her against the wall, I hissed, "You have been watching and testing me since we met. You are going to tell me right now why, or I will leave and you will never see me again."

Selene was quiet for a long time, trying to judge if I was serious or not. Before she could answer, I heard the familiar sound of soldiers approaching.

I snapped my head to the right but paused when I saw the Queen standing there. With a snarl, I asked, "What? Are you going to ask me to kneel like your husband?" The Queen let out a long sigh, then, to my surprise, she slowly knelt. Still, on the ground, she looked at me and said with a pleading voice, "Please. I need your help. I know you two must be tired. If you like, I can have a room arranged for you, and we can talk in the morning."

I stared at Selene for a moment and then hissed in her ear, "We will continue this later." Turning to the Queen, I said, "Lead the way."

Selene chuckled and murmured under her breath, "Didn't think you could just walk away."

The Queen seemed taken aback by how quickly I agreed but immediately regained her composure and got back to her feet. Brushing the dirt off her gown, she waited for me to walk next to her, and we slowly followed the soldiers.

We walked in silence as we were lead back into the giant building. After making turn after turn, we finally stopped in front of a door. The Queen pulled a key from her gown pocket and opened the door, saying, "Thank you for staying." She then stepped to the side, letting us enter. My only form of an answer was to grunt as I walked past her.

Looking around the room, I was surprised at how big it was. There was a huge bed that could fit both Selene and I. There was also furniture and other items scattered throughout. Selene happily ran through the room, touching everything that she could. I assumed that she had never seen an actual room, having only lived in her cave. With a grunt, I laid down on the bed, not knowing what to do next. Selene launched herself through the air and landed on the bed next to me, giggling.

With a very contented sigh, Selene said, "This feels amazing. I can't believe you had things like this all your life." I didn't even bother to correct her. Instead, I rolled away from her and tried to drift into a sleep that I knew wouldn't come.