“Well met, all of you,” Ridley said, smiling wider to the group.
“He must have a charisma score of at least eighteen,” Cerys leaned over to whisper to her friend.
Himeko raised brow and gave her a curious look. “You’re thinking about that now? Here?”
Cerys offered up a sheepish grin. “Why not?”
Himeko shook her head and let James continue with the introductions. There were a couple of ministers from the king’s court, as well as an elderly man in a navy blue robe embroidered with silver crescent moons and gold-threaded stars. James introduced him as a wizard, but Cerys did not hear his name clearly, and dared not ask for it again, lest they think that she had not been paying enough attention. Then there was a knight, much older than Lord Ridley– his nutmeg hair was littered with fine lines of silver– but still well in his prime and ready for battle. He was named as Sir Carter, who served the castle, and more specifically, the king.
Last to be introduced was the man who had not stood on ceremony with the others. He was rather aged, well-groomed, and commanding in his demeanor.
“May I introduce to you our most esteemed leader,” James began at last, “a man loved by many, despite the despicable plots of a handful of nobles. His royal majesty, King Leonars of Summerlay.”
“Your majesty,” Nashtra intoned with a bow.
Cerys blinked, but bowed as well. So did Himeko and Bayani. Peter only rolled his eyes.
“You could have just told us the he’s alive,” the teenager complained.
“It was a necessity that it not be clear,” the king said. His voice was calm and patient, as though his years had granted him the wisdom to not jump to a reaction when a teenager was involved. “Sit down, all of you. There is no need for formalities here.”
Everyone took a seat, the robed men taken the seats they’d had before, Nashtra in a high-backed armchair, Peter on a narrow couch, huddled closed to his boyfriend, and Cerys next to James. There was not room for Himeko with them, so she took the other armchair in the circle, directly across from the elf.
“Allow me to explain it to them sire, if I may,” James said. The king nodded to him, so he went on. “The best way for us to keep the other nobles here—Duke Emerias especially– and to keep ourselves able to move unquestioned, is for there to be a state of uncertainty. If we are to bring the other nobles down for their plot against His Majesty, then we must keep them here.”
“And they have the evidence now, do they not?” the king asked.
“Of course, sire,” James replied. He looked to the others. “May I have the crystal now?”
Cerys looked to Himeko, who slid her pack off of her back and began to open it. As she dug around in her bag, Cerys let her eyes wander over to the one figure in the room who had not been introduced.
“Who is that?” She whispered to James.