With a loud, heavy sigh, Peter fell onto the back on the couch on which he sat. “Are you telling me,” he groaned, “that in order to go home, I have to travel all the way to some godforsaken forest?!”
James blinked and stared at the boy, unable to form a response to the disrespect that he had just heard.
Sir Carter cleared his throat. “Shallavaughn is a good long way away, young friend,” his said, speaking as though Peter had not just criticized the king. “It it is not at all forsaken by the gods, though, I daresay.”
“It is a blessed place,” the cloaked man added in a low voice.
Nashtra looked over at Peter. “I have a feeling that you would like it,” the elf told him. “It does not course with the energies that Vathalloín does, but rather with a mystical air. Many call it spiritual.”
“How do you plan to get me there alive?” Peter asked, narrowing his eyes.
“You shall have us with you,” Sir Cater replied.
Peter raised a brow. “I thought you had to guard the king.”
“Indeed, young man,” King Leonars said. “I am going to the Forest of Shallavaughn myself. It is not safe here in the capital city.”
“What…?” Peter looked between the king and the other men, completely baffled.
“I beg your pardon for interjecting,” Himeko said, at least breaking her silence, “but if His Majesty leaves the castle, would that not allow Duke Emerias to take over?”
“She is wise even for someone so young,” King Leonars noted with a sort of half-smile. “It is true that Emerias of Ellynswift vies for my throne and my crown, but I am no longer so unprepared. I drew up several documents last night, one of which names Baron Richard Mathias as regent in my absent.”
“And my father as second regent,” James added, “should anything happen to Baron Richard. They are signed and sealed, and Duke Emerias has no say otherwise.”
“A baron as regent?” Cerys asked. “Won’t Emerias take offense to being passed over in favor of men of lower rank?”
“Of course he will!” James nearly laughed. “And not one of here cares about the lowly duke’s opinion. Once the evidence in that crystal comes to light, he will be imprisoned.”
“Along with all the others plotting against me,” King Leonars added.
“Then why leave?” Cerys asked. “There won’t be anyone left to hurt you.”
“There is also the matter of the noir beasts,” Sir Carter reminded her. “Whatever is afoot, whatever is causing them, they are most numerous around the capital city. We must take His Majesty as far from the noir beasts as we can, and from there discern what is controlling them.”
“There is a certain political advantage to it as well,” James added. “If our king stays here, he will have to keep busy filling the roles left open by the imprisoned nobles. They will no doubt be stripped of their titles for treason. With a regent in place, Summerlay’s laws state that those positions need not be given a permanent candidate. The regent can name someone to look after the land until the king returns to restore order.”
“Is that really an advantage that you need?” Cerys asked.