“What do you mean he can’t be killed? He is the king! I assure you he can die like any other man,” Prince Lorre stepped forward in the knee-high grass. Hand touching the pommel of his sword, he nearly drew it in anger.
Helmstock took a step backward. His hands held upward was the only sign of submission he gave. He was taller than the Prince, and of a stockier build, but only slightly so. “No, my grace, I promise you, I have tried.”
Releasing his sword, Prince Lorre touched his forehead with a closed fist. He paused for a moment before he spoke, putting his thoughts in order and letting his anger abate. “I sent you on this task and gave you, not only the tools needed, by the gold as well. I gave him reason for you to be in his castle and as a person studying Magic of the Spirit you could roam the halls and the staff would believe you were practicing your skills. Now, if you can, tell me exactly why is it he still sits on the throne and I do not.” He had been pacing a circle around Helmstock as he spoke. When he finished he stopped and the other had to turn slightly to face him.
“Five times, mind you five times,” Helmstock held up an open hand. “As he worked about his gardens I had an arrow drawn that should have taken his life. Two bow strings snapped as they were pulled back,” he folded his fingers with each excuse, “then a crack in the bow itself rendered it useless, the arrowhead fell off, and the last a quail flew before my window just as I was going to release the arrow.”
“Don’t you check the tools of your trade?” Prince Lorre chastened and folded his arms across his chest.
“They were new items purchased the day prior from different vendors and random pieces from the lot at that. The original strings I carried with me from here, my grace. These attempts on his life were not the same night, but over the months I was there. I checked the my weapons thoroughly before every use.”
“Your nephew is prone to drinking. Speaking freely about the man I say he is a fop. I used all I had.”
“The full satchel!”
“My grace. After it did not work the first time I tried it on some stray cats. Moments after they drank the milk all were dead. The next time it still did not work. Alley dogs were killed, then goats, then a sheep, then a farmers cow. I bought the thing from the farmer, took it out into a field and fed it an apple with the powder sprinkled on. It convulsed so I had to run it through with my own sword lest it lay there the night writhing in pain. Each night, with each dose given stronger than the one before, the king was not effected.
“I tried a different method. A fire near his tent as he was hunting, the tinder didn’t light. The damn thing didn’t even spark! Until . . . “
“You were away from the king.” Prince Lorre finished.
“Until I was well away from him and wished to make a fire to warm myself.”
“This was beneficial to you?” Prince Lorre asked.
“Yes, very much so. I was cold and wished to heat some meat also.”
“How many times total did you try this murder?”
“More than I could count. A stone I was going to push off a parapet as he walked below solidified to the parapet. A stone mason was called a few days later for its removal and all the king said was that it was unusual.”
Prince Lorre placed a hand on the mans shoulder and Helmstock winced.
“Have I hurt you?” the prince asked noticing his sudden discomfort.
“No. I believe I know what is next. I will die here this day, true? I have failed you in this grave matter and this will be my end.”
“My man, all men in my nephews lands serve me as well. Some serve me with guarded loyalty. Only a few serve me with the fierce loyalty that you do. Come, I still have need of you.” his tone was a somber one. He turned towards the path that would eventually take him to the village and the castle he called home. Helmstock followed obediently like any lapdog would.
“Before my brothers death,” Prince Lorre spoke up. “When Geralle was king, he said that at times a long walk would be useful to help clear the head, rethink ones thoughts. I think we have a long way to go.”
* * * * *
At his work in the mill, Elyas paused. For a brief instant, he saw something outside on the lane across the stream from where the water wheel turned. It was just a flicker of fanciful colors that had caught his eye. Perhaps someone was dressed up in brightly colored clothes coming in through the western gate, the Kings Gate. A courier, no doubt, or traveler dressed in lively finery.