True Love’s Kiss – Part 4
Over the next few days I was in and out of consciousness. Mostly out. I woke up a few times to Mils feeding me broth. And twice I woke up to the King’s face, hovering over mine. I could feel his hands on my head and on my chest. A strange heat seemed to emanate from where his fingers touched my flesh. I must have been suffering from fever dreams because there was no way King Kalristian was tending to me in my sickbed.
Eventually, I awoke and stayed that way. The sun was shining through the window across my bed. The bright rays seemed to bathe the room in vitality and I felt like I could jump up from the bed and travel the breadth the Unified Realms with no trouble.
I sat up too quickly and was abrubtly disabused of that notion. My sudden movement disturbed the figure I had just noticed sleeping slumped over in a chair beside my bed. As she shoved the blanket off her shoulders and turned towards me, I realized it was Mils. She looked like she’d been dragged through the hells and back. Her hair was tangled and greasy and she had deep circles under her eyes.
It took her a moment to realize what had woken her. When she saw me sitting up in the bed, a bright smile spread over her tired face. “Be, you’re awake!” She started to lurch towards me with her arms open, preparing for one of her signature lung squeezing hugs. At the last minute she jerked herself to a stop, looking sheepish and almost loosing her balance.
I smiled back at her and opened my arms. “Just be gentle, Mils.” With exagerated movements, she climbed slowly up onto the bed beside me, wrapped one arm around my shoulders and squeezed gently.
“Be, I’m so glad you’re alright.” Her voice shook a little and her arms tightened in emotion. And that’s when I thought to wonder what the hell had happened to me. As her arm pulled at my shoulder a sharp pain shot through my chest and arm, leaving me breathless with the shock of it. I couldn’t completely contain my groan and Mils shot off the bed with a horrified look on her face.
“I’m so sorry.” She gasped.
“It’s okay, Mils. It just took me by surprise. What in the hells happened to me?”
“You don’t remember?”
“I remember being up in the tower with you and Silurianus and nothing after that.” Although that wasn’t completely true. I remembered strong arms wrapping around me, catching me. But I couldn’t remember why I had fallen.
“You were shot.”
What! “Shot?!? With an arrow?”
“Yes, with an arrow. What in the hells else would you have been shot with?” she snorted at me. “Luckily, Kal had followed us up to the tower. He caught you before you fell backward down the stairs and carried you here.” She paused for a moment and then, “Ooohh. He’ll want to know you’re awake!”
I boggled at that. “Kal?” She must have meant King Kalristian. Who else would she be calling Kal? But realizing those arms had been his shook me a bit.
Of course, Mils ignored my question and went to ring the bell for a page. When she arrived, Mils sent her to inform the King that I had woken up.
I felt exhausted by our short exchange and leaned back in the bed, closing my eyes. Mils bustled around the room, doing Heavens knew what while we waited to see if Kal would be coming to see me.
In less time than I thought would have been possible, King Kalristian burst through the other door in the room. I opened my eyes and looked up. For just a moment I got lost in the King’s green eyes. I was shocked by the look of concern that was quickly replaced with relief and maybe a little guilt before he slammed his mask up.
If I thought that had shocked me, what happened next, rocked me to the core. He strode across the room in perfectly measured steps, boots clicking imperiously on the wooden floor, until he was at the side of my bed.
Then, in one fluid movement, he dropped to one knee and bowed his head. He raised his hands in the traditional supplication pose and spoke.
“Master Bierni, I beg your pardon for the grievous harm done to you under my protection. You were detained on my order and I failed in keeping you safe. I offer any form of recompense you would find suitable for the pain and suffering I have forced upon you.” He looked up and I could tell he was forcing himself not to hide his emotion from me. He forced himself to allow me to see his shame. He met my eyes without wavering and finished with, “I am sorry.”
His eyes did not move from mine and I realized he was waiting for my response. He may have been arrogant asshole and he may have treated me horribly when we first met, but the man before me now was a man of honor. I realized I had been silent for too long when a flash of wariness entered Kalristian’s eyes.
“Did you shoot the arrow?” I asked him.
He looked confused but answered, “No.”
“Did you hire the person who shot the arrow?”
At this I leaned forward, ignoring the pain in my shoulder which threatened to make me pass out, and took him by the chin. Making sure my voice remained steady, despite the shakiness I was feeling, I said “Then this was not your fault. You do not need to apologize for it.”
He nodded slowly in understanding and I passed out.
I woke a few minutes later feeling a lingering heat like that I had felt in my fever dreams but Kalristian wasn’t anywhere near by.
I looked up at Mils and asked, “Where did Kalristian go?”
“He had to rest. The healing magic takes a lot out of him.”
“Healing magic?” Today was a day for surprises it seemed. Magic of that power supposedly died out ages ago. All that was left today was bits and pieces of parlour tricks and spells that can be read out of a book, like the one to put the royal children into their deep sleeps. Apparently the royal line retained more magic than they let on.
“Yes,” she replied. “He moved you to a chamber in his suite so he could tend to you. He has been here for three days, performing a healing on you whenever you got too restless or cried out in pain. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. And he has to sleep for hours after every single time.” She had been straightening things around the room as she spoke. But now, she turned to me and pointed a finger in my face like our mother was wont to do. “You’d better be nice to him. He isn’t at all like you said he was.”
I had to admit I felt much better than I had before. I rubbed my forehead with my fingers and sighed. “Fine, I’ll try to be nicer to him.”
She locked me with a final matronly glare and said, “Don’t try. Do.” And then she left me to my rest.
It was another day before I felt up to leaving my room. It was just in time, too. It turns out King Kalristian was having a meeting to discuss the shooting that afternoon. I only found out because Mils had been nattering on about all the gossip she heard, working with the Royal Healer.
When she mentioned the meeting, I demanded she take me. After a brief but heated discussion, she gave in.
As I flung open the door to the King’s Council Chamber with as much force as my weakened body could muster every eye in the room landed on me. I recongnized Kalristian and Silurianus. Beside Silurianus was a younger looking version of him. And off in one corner was a fierce looking man dressed all in black.
Kalristian’s stare held concern and annoyance in almost equal measures. Silurianus’ seemed to shine with welcome and relief. The man who must have been his son, unaccountably glared at me with unhidden contempt. And the dark man in the corner looked me over as if he were appraising a horse he was thinking about buying and found it wanting.
I suddenly regretted bursting in unannounced.
Eventually, Kalristian broke their silent perusal of me. “Master Bierni, I did not expect you to be recovered enough to leave your rooms. Please join us.”
Slightly startled at his easy acceptance of my presence, I nodded dumbly and walked towards his desk, leaning heavily on Mils.
Kalristian nodded towards Silurianus. “Please, continue.”
“As I was saying, we were not able to catch the shooter before the castle was locked down. There are no weapons missing from the armory and no one was found with an unfamiliar weapon. At this point we are still talking to some of the servants who were in the area but I fear we will need to move on and employ less…overt methods if we are to discover the identity of the shooter.”
Kalristian nodded again. “That is why I asked Master Nullnomen to join us.”
“No name?” I blurted out. This earned stares from everyone in the room again.
The dark man seemed to slither out of his corner until he was directly in front of me. He leaned into my personal spaced and spoke with a chilling voice, “I have no name. I am whoever the king needs me to be.”
“Yes, he is one of my spies. He will be investigating the incident for me.”
The incident. The incident. I was shot. That was more than an incident. On that note, “Why do you think I was shot? I doubt I have had time to make any enemies since I got here. Do you think the shot was meant for Silurianus?”
Master Nullnomen replied in the same unnerving tone of voice, “A poor assassin it would be who could not even hit his intended mark. No, you were the target. Most likely they thought that by eliminating you, it would force us to put His Majesty back to sleep thus keeping him from the throne without risking the stigma, and thus the punishment, of regicide.”
At that I shrank back, almost collapsing into the chair behind me. The others continued their conversation and I let their words wash over me. My attention was dragged back to the conversation once, briefly, when they spoke of assigning Mils and me bodyguards but mostly I mulled over the fact that someone wanted me dead. Me.
Eventually the others departed, leaving me alone with Kalristian and Mils. She helped me up and we turned to leave. Before we made it halfway to the door, Kalristian’s aristocratic voice called out for me to stop. I turned back towards the desk with a questioning look in my eyes, only to find he had come around it and was standing an arm’s length away from me.
Completely unexpectedly, he reached his hand out and laid it gently on my shoulder. His cheeks tinged pink in an almost invisible blush as he earnestly said, “Be safe.”
That blush did something funny and warm to my insides and my heart squeezed inexplicably for a fraction of a moment, before I nodded and gave him a small smile.
Mils rolled her eyes at me as she led me out of the Council Chamber and back to bed.
To be continued…
Next Chapter - Part 5
Next Chapter - Part 5