chapter two;

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In theory visiting the prince shouldn't be that difficult. Unfortunately, theories were not always correct, and Darryl found his mood souring as he trekked his way to the opposite end of the palace, towards the apartments. They were well-guarded rooms on the fourth floor, and he was fairly sure that the prince's rooms were at the far back. Something to do with making it so that someone would see if he attempted to escape palace grounds without a supervisor. 

Darryl supposed he was that supervisor now, although he wasn't overly fond of the idea. 

In all honesty, he was tired. It had already been an incredibly long day (Did the King realise how much time it had taken simply to locate the tradesman he had requested? All for a bolt of blue silk?) and he was at the point at which he just wanted to shrug off all of his gear and head to bed. Dealing with being forced to be some kind of babysitter for his royal nuisance wasn't exactly what he considered to be a relaxing task. So he'd just have to get in and out quickly; introduce himself as fast as possible, check to make sure the astrologer wasn't there and then make some quick excuse to return to his quarters for the night. He had a feeling he'd need all the energy he had for their excursion the next day. 

It was with this mindset and a beat of optimism in his step that Darryl arrived in front of what he could only assume were Prince Zak's rooms. From the outside it would be difficult to differentiate this room and it's occupant from any of the other palace rooms, but the sheer noise that was coming from behind the doors gave it away. Nobody sane would be awake at this time if they didn't have to be, and Darryl was almost sure that the prince must not be in his right mind. 

Taking a deep inhale to steady his emotions, Darryl reached up one hand and knocked on the doors. The noise inside quietened just a fraction, and then footsteps led up to the door barely seconds before it swung open. Determined not to waste any more time than he needed to, the knight stepped inside, shielding his eyes from the harsh glow of light from the lit fireplace. 

Inside were two people. One - whom he could only assume was the astrologer - had situated himself next to the doors, leaning back on the wall with an almost wary expression, as though he feared Darryl may turn around and decide to kick him out. Which he had every reason to fear, because that was exactly what Darryl planned to do. King's orders, after all. The other - the prince - was curled up neatly on an armchair by the fire. Or he would be, if he wasn't leaning over the back of it to check who had entered the room, an almost self-satisfied look on his face. 

"You must be the person fortunate enough to be accompanying me tomorrow!" The prince started, voice raising in tone a little as he spoke, as though this was a topic that genuinely excited him. "Are you excited? It's a big honour for you, I know. Can we take Vincent?"

"I'm thrilled," Darryl replied, trying his best to keep the hint of sarcasm from his voice. It wouldn't do to act like that in front of a superior, even if said superior was younger and also ten times more annoying. "And no, we can't. In fact I'm under express orders to kick the astrologer out. So, astrologer-" An incline of the head towards Vincent, who now seemed very preoccupied with staring at the floor. "Please get out. King's orders."

"No. He'll stay right here."

Darryl's eyes narrowed for a fraction of a second. These weren't his orders, they came directly from the King himself, and who was Darryl to overwrite them? Nobody at all. That's who. The prince - Zak - on the other hand... well. He seemed more than perfectly content to disregard the hierarchy in favour of his own rules, and those rules often ended up with someone being in trouble or in danger. Darryl would rather it resulted in the former if anything at all. Getting the prince in trouble was one thing. Letting him get himself in danger was another thing entirely. 

"I'm under the King's orders to get him to leave," Darryl replied. "So I'm afraid he has to leave whether you like it or not, your Highness."

For a split second it seemed as though Zak might actually listen to what he was saying, and Darryl had been about to thank everything he could possibly thank for it when a slow smile crossed the prince's face. 

"You're under new orders," Zak murmured, lips curling upwards into a small smirk as he spoke, as though he had already figured this situation out and now only needed to execute whatever plan he had formed. "Vincent stays."

Darryl barely opened his mouth to protest before he was cut off yet again, this time by Vincent, who appeared to have been observing the conversation from the corner, the glow of the fire casting an almost luminous glow over his skin and hair. 

"As Zak said, I think I'll stay. We barely got to finish our conversation before you came in. You are, of course, welcome to join us if you'd like, though."

Zak's eyes practically lit up as his friend finished talking, and Darryl was almost certain he wouldn't like what was going to come next. 

"Wait, yes! That's a great idea. Come sit down. You can stay, too. Then we'll all get to know each other before the trip tomorrow." Zak rambled, barely reacting when Darryl attempted to interrupt. "It'll be great. Come on, agree. You know it's a good idea!"

Darryl pinched the bridge of his nose. Deep breaths. "It really isn't. I shouldn't be here for too long, I shouldn't be listening to you over your father and I certainly shouldn't stay here and have some kind of tea-party with you and the astrologer that I've somehow failed to remove from the room."

"Even if it's not a good idea, it'd be fun. Besides, you're going to be with me all day tomorrow. You may as well start today!"

"You realise that statement made no sense, right?"

Perhaps it was a bad idea for Darryl to be speaking to the prince like this, but in all honesty his impeccable manners were beginning to slip. His plan of getting in, introducing himself and then getting out quickly appeared to have gone out the window and any hope of getting a good amount of sleep had all but slipped away. 

"Come on, stay. You may as well since you're here now and all. I'm sure Vincent and I will make you comfortable!" Zak continued, and what's worse was that Darryl could feel himself begin to consider the idea as though it was a good one, even when he was more than aware that it was most definitely not. "We're leaving early tomorrow, so it's not like anybody would notice if you stayed."

"I'm not staying all night."

Zak brightened up. "So you will stay!" 

"No," Darryl said quickly, realising his mistake. "Absolutely not. Not for one second longer than I need to, because I'm tired and I definitely should not be here. You might think it's fun to mess with the guards, but let me tell you. It's not funny for them."

"At least have a drink, you look like you could use one," Vincent murmured, pointing to a table where glasses were stacked up in a strange formation, as though ready to come tumbling down at any moment. "Then you can go."

Contemplating his options, Darryl slowly reached out and took one of the glasses and was about to reach for a jug of water before Zak stopped him with an arm in front of it. 

"Sit down if you're going to drink something. I don't need it spilt over the carpet. It was expensive, thank you very much, and having it replaced would be extremely annoying."

Darryl did as he was told, and took a seat. Just one glass of water wouldn't take that long, and then he'd leave. He really would. Or, he probably would. He meant to. But the room was warm from the crackling fire, and he'd been running around all day tirelessly, and sleep beckoned like an old friend. In mere moments, the glass slipped from his hands and he was asleep. 

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