Chapter 38 - The Search for Claire

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Kastali Dun

Reyr took a seat upon the sofa opposite King Talon, who appeared to be brooding (as usual). Darkness had already fallen, and the evening meal had long passed. A fire had been drawn in King Talon's large fireplace; it crackled in the grate, casting long shadows about the room. The other Shields had not yet arrived, so he took advantage of their time alone to ask, "How did your meal go? Did Claire behave herself? Did you?"

After time invested in coaching Talon, he was eager to hear the verdict, but he refrained from asking until now. He had hoped to hear news from Claire, but she had been silent on the matter. In fact, he had not heard from her all day, which was rather unusual, leading him to believe that perhaps the meal had not gone well.

"It could have gone better," Talon mused, without removing his gaze from the flames.

"Ah-ha. That is the reason for your dour mood. What happened, exactly?"

Talon gave an audible tut before shrugging.

"Did she like your gift?"

"She did—or at least I thought she did."

He raised an eyebrow to inquire.

"She left it behind, so I cannot be sure."

"I see. Was that because you said something afterward to upset her?"

"I did my best, Reyr! Everything went wonderfully at first—better than I could have imagined. We..." Talon paused. Meanwhile, his features moved through several emotions before settling into a frown. "In the end, we had another argument. She insulted me, regretted it immediately, then stormed out."

Pride flared up in Reyr's chest. Claire was the only person (besides himself) with enough gall to insult King Talon. Despite feeling pity for Talon's unlucky run-in with her, he silently cheered Claire's boldness. The king needed someone to challenge him; Claire was that person.

"Are you smiling because you think I deserved her insult?"

"Forgive me, Your Grace. I was. But come now, it could not have been so bad. What did she say?"

Talon sighed before leaning his head back and shutting his eyes. When he next spoke, his voice was flat. "Because I am not accustomed to taking orders from women, it is a good thing I failed to find a queen." Lines of grief appeared on the king's features, pairing themselves with his scars. Had his eyes been open, the sadness would have been reflected in them. Even though Talon had found peace, his failure still plagued him. Claire's reminder hardly helped.

"Come now, my king, I am certain she did not mean it—"

Talon's tower door opened, cutting off the remainder of Reyr's statement. Bedelth, Jovari, Koldis, and Verath filed into the room. Reyr glanced back at Talon to see that he had smoothed his features and tucked away his feelings. He appeared as if the conversation had never happened.

The others took their seats none the wiser to Talon's torment. When Talon failed to acknowledge anyone and remained with his head back and eyes closed, Reyr took charge. "Shall we get started?" he asked when they were all settled. King Talon did not answer. The others gave their consent. He took charge, running through updates he had received from the North.

They had only just begun to go over matters of importance when the king's tower door burst open. It was flung hard enough to slam into the wall as it swung back on its hinges. The loud bang silenced the room. Even King Talon lifted his head and opened his eyes.

Desaree rushed into the chamber looking frantic; the guards followed after with worried expressions. Desaree's entry had an immediate effect on Verath, who jumped from his chair. He rushed to her, which left Reyr suspicious. "What is the matter?" Verath asked, his voice was hushed as he took one of Desaree's hands in his. Reyr continued to study their suspicious behavior through narrowed eyes.

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