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Chapter 8 - Lost
I woke up exhausted, the town meeting had gone on for hours last night. There were forms to sign and people to meet, arguments to resolve and plans to oversee. It was all a blur, and today I would be going through it all over again.
My day was booked by the minute.
I would be spending most of my morning riding through town and meeting the locals. From the few who'd talked to me yesterday I knew what it was going to be like. They would start out making small talk, and discussing their lives and children, but once they got comfortable around me they would start bringing up every petty problem they could think of and expect me to reciprocate with wise and thoughtful advice.
They seemed to expect I knew everything.
I had barely been outside the castle growing up. Sure, I knew about the history of the Kingdom, and its geography, but what did I know about day to day village life? Before coming on this trip with the Knights I'd never even spent the night outdoors.
I knew about the merchants routes and what the selling prices of various goods should be but I didn't know how they started their business or where they farmed their agriculture.
I realized my experience in the real world was extremely limited. Of course I'd learned the rudiments of being a knight, I'd done the same training that Sir Corry and Sir Roden had, but with many adjustments. Training masters went easy on me, never wanting to correct my stance or improve my aim. I had to work twice as hard to be at the level of everyone else, and with little guidance at that. I never got to do any of the fieldwork either.
Being in this situation now, and realizing how handicapped I was made me resent the restrictions I had been put under growing up. And the worst part was that people seemed to be in awe of me, of being a Prince.
I'd be happy to give it to them, if only I could.
Look at them, with their happy families and loved ones. And here I was with a marriage expiration date looming up.
I allowed myself only a sigh of frustration. I couldn't afford to show how upset I was. Another of my many perks, I thought bitterly.
The afternoon would be even worse. I would have to preside over cases brought to the court. I was more of a figurehead than anything with no real decision making power. It would be hours of sitting in an uncomfortable chair and listening to confessions and false accusations. At least I didn't decide the fate of the guilty, but would I be able to sit there and support it if the punishment didn't fit the crime. And would people hate me for not stepping up in their defence?
It felt great to be back.
I had left the Fief early this morning with a cheery farewell to Charlie and the twins and arrived back only moments ago in the late afternoon. I nipped into the mess hall from the workers doors to grab a plate of food and ate in the kitchen. No one expected me back for another few hours and I didn't feel like announcing my presence just yet.
I took my time walking the grounds until I couldn't hold off my arrival any longer.
Going inside I headed towards my parent's chambers and spent the requisite amount of time telling them about my journey and filling them in about the twins and Anna. Afterward I left to find the Queen and repeated my news for her. She told me the King was expecting me and had just left to go see if I had returned.
I quickly navigated the halls to catch up with him. "Uncle!"
He turned around beaming "Celia, I trust you enjoyed your trip?"
"I certainly did Uncle" I said embracing the King. He began walking down the hall and motioned for me to follow. I fell in step with him as we passed by living quarters and he nodded to various residents.
Eventually our path led outside to the courtyard behind the castle.
"The castle feels empty without John around." He commented.
I laughed "You mean without our constant arguing?"
He smiled ruefully at me. "You two never did get along did you? John always was a stubborn one, never knows when to throw in the towel."
"Well, it wasn't just his fault, it takes two to argue," I said with an embarrassed laugh.
He nodded and we continued on in silence for another few minutes. "I wanted to thank you for what you did for him."
"What do you mean?" I asked confused.
He looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes "I have it on good authority that you let him win a certain duel not long ago."
"Oh! I.. uh..." I could feel my face flushing. Think fast, think fast...
He didn't give me a chance to explain. "You always understood how important image was for him even if he didn't."
I only nodded, not trusting myself with words.
"I wonder... do you think..."
I looked at him, confused at his hesitation.
"I worry about Johnathan, and I know he doesn't want it but... do you think he'll make a good King?"
I stopped startled. I definitely had not seen that one coming. "Well, don't tell him I said this, but I think he'll be great"
He smiled relieved. "You do?"
"Yes, I mean, we may not get along, but I've seen how he treats those below him; the palace workers, the merchants, and even the young pages. He's always kind and respectful to them, and they like and respect him in turn. He may not always know how to behave, or lose control of his emotions, but those are things you can learn." I said confidently.
I looked back at the King to see him watching me with admiration, though I couldn't figure out why. When he noticed me looking he smiled "Of course you're right, I never had any reason to doubt"
He started to leave, then turned around and opened his mouth to say something, but only shook his head and continued to leave. I headed off to my room wondering what he'd meant to say.
I spent the next two days in the practice courts. As each hour passed I became more worried about seeing John again and worked off my anxiety in the field. I became more and more uncertain about what I would say to him.
Finally the day arrived of his return. After pacing restlessly in my room and spending more time outside I was called in by Millie and wandered over to the reception room.
The King and Queen were there as well as my father. After a few tense minutes there was a knock on the door and two knights walked in.
"Sir Roden, Sir Corry, I hope your journey went well?" The King asked, forever polite.
The Knights exchanged a look and shifted nervously causing worry lines to crease the faces of everyone present.
"Well you see, about that..." Sir Roden began before the King held up his hand.
"It's alright gentlemen, the debriefing can wait until my son joins us."
The Knights exchanged another look and Sir Corry spoke up. "Well Sire, that's just the thing, he uhh... isn't with us"
The King looked puzzled, not understanding what the rest of us immediately knew. "I don't understand what you're saying, where is he?"
"We.. uhh.. lost him"
YOU ARE READING
The Last DanceHistorical Fiction
Prince John's biggest fear? Becoming King, and everything to do with it, from the sheltered life, to someday having to get married. Celia, a lady knight, minus the 'Lady' if she can help it, is not looking forward to coming of age and attending the...