Chapter 14 | Unfoiled Feelings

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ENOCH

Her screams are going to haunt me for weeks now, but it is something I will just have to bear with until I can go back to her. She is oblivious to just how closely father's temple is watched and it was enough trouble to distract the guards to get her back up to the courtyard without raising attention. I had spooked their horses at the bottom of the staircase and knew it would be a while until they found them.

They were already on their way back when I helped Greta clean herself somewhat from the sewage she sat in all day. I found her there in the afternoon, but couldn't go right over to her. So I waited until the night to find her and get her to the bathing pool underneath the market. It's a community pool and no one goes down there at night because it's creepy, but it wasn't so creepy with Greta.

Quite the opposite...

Adler looks up at me from his plate of minced meat, setting down his fork. "What are you smiling about?"

"Nothing, really," I answer in hopes of driving him off my case.

Father inclines his head back looking down his nose at me from across the long table. Mother left a while ago to her luncheon with one of her court ladies.

"Show some gratitude for the work I have done to bring food to your...shallow plate."

I grit my teeth while stuffing a forkful of food in my mouth. He smiles and waves for Urdmin to leave to join the other advisors waiting for him at his temple. Urdmin pushes his chair back and strides out of the room without complaint, for once. I scratch the side of my face feeling unsure of what the emperor wants to discuss.

We don't speak one on one much. He better not be sending me out of the city.

"You seem to be distracted lately. Your mother tells me Lucas is struggling with the bank's layout. I have been told you drew him a draft of the building yourself. You are to teach him, not do his work."

I cross my arms wondering what he's thinking. "I know. I have been."

The corner of his lip curves up. He picks his fork back up and picks the scraps of meat on his plate while staring at my forehead. Then he looks back down at his plate as his mouth forms into a hard line.

"I was doing some catching up this morning in the library," I try to look unbothered by his statement. His smile returns, "I am so relieved I will not have to carry out any executions this week. I'm sure you are as well. No attempted escapes from any slaves either. There must be something in the water," he says lightly.

I shrug my shoulders and continue eating.

"I know you're displeased with my lag in action toward the enslaved of our population, Enoch. I think I will free them after the roads are done."

Well, this is news to me. I doubt it will come to fruition. "I have nothing against that," I reply.

He leans forward and clasps his hands together. It makes me wonder if I've said something he's wanted to hear. A strange glint forms in his eyes as he looks briefly at me and then down to the table as if considering whether to tell me something or not.

"I know your mother is cheating on me."

"Are you surprised? I did not think this was news to you."

"News? No, but I am interested to know your thoughts on the matter."

"I'm not sure I understand what you mean," I mumble, confused.

His smile widens and it makes me want to get up and leave. I shouldn't have called Greta crazy, but in the moment, I was angry. Not at her though, but the world...the amount of suffering she's went through alone. 

It's despicable what she's endured. I hated leaving her like that, mainly because, in retrospect, I think I was projecting most of my own insecurities on her.

The truth is, I know crazy all too well and I'm staring it right in the eyes.

He picks up his glass and looks down into it while sitting back appearing deep in thought. "I want to know how I can get my wife to love me again..."

I don't think I ever imagined being stuck in a scenario such as this. "Um," I spew out with a scoff. I shake my head unsure if he's being serious. Since when does he care? I tilt my head with a grimace still unsure of what to say. "Well, uh..."

"I'll give you a moment to think about it."

I feel like an idiot suggesting it, but I really don't know what else to tell him. I just want this discussion to end because I know it will not go anywhere. "Why don't you just tell her how you feel?"

I look into his eyes really wishing I hadn't. It's like they can see right through me. His jaw twitches as his face turns red. I stand up just time to witness him toss his goblet at the guard's face by his side.

"Clean it up," Adler says quietly to the guard.

The guard bends down to pick up the glass he dropped and at the same moment he grabs their neck and throws them down on the table. Plates and food go flying as he draws out a knife he keeps hidden in his tunic sleeve. He slashes it across the guard's neck watching the poor soldier roll back and forth on the table.

He purposefully didn't attack to make a quick kill.

He shoves them off the table. "Sit down, Enoch," Father says calm and collected.

I bite back my anger and sit down unable to tear my gaze from the guard gurgling incoherent words on the floor as his life drains from him. Blood spills from his neck staining the white marble floor as he croaks like a dying frog for help.

Father's hands shake as he sits down looking excited as he thrusts the blade into the skull of the guard, cutting off the dying man's gurgled words.

"Those are my feelings. I look at you now and know you do not understand them yourself. Tell me, how I can show her them."

"I-I don't know-"

"Tell me and be honest."

"I don't know, y-you two are nothing alike," I laugh nervously. He looks like he's ready to kill the guard on his other side so I keep talking. "M-maybe you were meant to be separate. I mean, this might be for the best. Some people are meant to be alone I think. Well, who knows..."

"No, I think you're right. However, Urdmin needs to be reminded she is still my wife. I want you to kill him for me before I return from the south sea."

I want to feel surprised, but honestly, this is not a surprising move on his part. I can't say I'm quite against it, but I'll be damned if I let him know that.

"Myself?"

"If you can find a willing person to do it in your place that is fine with me. I'm leaving tonight and will return promptly in two days. Have it done by then, thank you."

"Yes, emperor," I agree stiffly.

He waves his hand and I hurry out of the room.

In a way, this is sort of a dream come true. I'll be able to make the old advisor suffer for hurting Greta and being an all around pain. I don't really know why Adler is making me kill him though. Neither do I know why he brought up that awkward conversation about his relationship with mother, but I should have known he was testing the waters with me.

I've always obeyed him so I shouldn't feel like he's questioning my loyalty to him, but I know he isn't good.

Someone else will step in for Urdmin and the old advisor has been by my father's side since he became emperor before I was born. I don't know his other advisors very well at all, but it wouldn't be much a stretch to see one of them trying to turn father against me.

Little do they know he has been against me since my birth. Still, the idea of one of them plotting against me is annoying. 

☁️

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