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Shatter Soul – by Ben
Alaric escorted George into the Royal apartments.
“Quit apologizing!” The King’s slurred speech gave them pause and they looked at one another. The King’s manservant shrugged and waved that he should continue. Alaric narrowed his eyes. Coward.
He knocked on the door frame as the King spoke again, “What do you mean it might not work?”
George clapped him on the back and slid past to stand by the King, leaving him on the uncomfortable side of the King’s bleary-eyed glare. He fought the urge to fidget. Instead he stood at attention, pretending he was in the parade grounds.
“George.” The King pointed at the far wall. “If you would be so kind to get us some more brandy and several other cups.”
“Of course your Majesty.” George walked to the opposite wall the King pointed and opened a tall cabinet.
“Soldier.” The King pointed to Alaric’s left. “Tell the lieutenant to come here.”
He bowed then left, thanking the Gods he didn’t have to witness the spectacle of an insane drunk.
“Lieutenant.” Alaric saluted rapping his breastplate with his knuckles. “The King wishes to speak with you.”
“At ease private.” The lieutenant peered at him closely. “Talking to himself again?”
“Yessir. I mean…” He wasn’t supposed to gossip and he felt his cheeks flush under the commander’s scrutiny. “He spoke before we entered, Sir.”
The lieutenant nodded. “You have the watch,” he said then entered the apartments.
A few tense minutes later he returned. Alaric saluted again, glad for the heavy gauntlets protecting his hands from his breastplate. The lieutenant looked thoughtfully down the hall for a moment before turning to him.
“You’re still on watch duty. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Alaric saluted, again. “Sir.”
He heard them before they came into view. A double collum of Royal guards in black and gold tabards marched toward him, the lieutenant and Physic Yin at their head.
“Private Alaric.” The lieutenant drew him inside the doorway and Yin, a black bag in his hand went to the study. “Before we go any further, are you ready to die for your King today?”
Even knowing he shouldn’t, Alaric paused, eyes darting. He’d never really thought about it. He trained to fight and kill, but die? For a mad King? What would his sister do without him? He mentally shook himself; she’d be fine. His honour demanded his life before the King’s, insanity be damned.
“Yes Sir, I am.”
“Good man.” The lieutenant clapped him on the shoulder, hard. “Second lieutenant,” he called out. “You have the watch.”
One squad followed them into the room, closing the doors behind them. His eyebrows rose when two guards dropped a heavy bar into place securing the door.
“You,” the lieutenant said, steering him towards the study. “Have been invited to drink with the King.”
“Sir?” Alaric asked. “I’m still on duty.”
The lieutenant sighed. “He’s drunk already and probably wouldn’t notice if you just held the cup.” He put his hand on the study door. “I need you ready more than the King needs a drinking companion. He, and I, fear an attempt on his life tonight. Stay sharp.” With that he pulled open the door and motioned Alaric inside.
The fumes of alcohol assaulted his nose and his eyes watered. He blinked rapidly to clear them and found the King slumped in his cushioned chair. Yin stood over a makeshift operating table. Draped in white cloth the table jarred with the rest of the dark wood in the room. George stood off to the side, a glass filled with a clear liquid in his hands, and a faint sneer twisting his lips.
“George,” the King slurred, nearly intelligible. “Get that man a drink.”
“At once your Majesty.” And he handed Alaric the glass.
He touched the rim to his lips and the acerbic bite burned the inside of his nose. He coughed and the King laughed.
“We’ll make a man of you yet!” Turning to George the King pointed. “Drink up man! Tomorrow we all may be dead!”
The manservant paled and his hands shook, but he poured another drink, the glassware clicking together.
Alaric turned, the King leaned back tipping the rest of the alcohol into his mouth. His eyelids fluttered a moment then closed. Alaric’s shoulders sagged and he let out a deep breath.
“That,” Yin said. “Will be all gentlemen.”
“Bbut,” George stuttered, “I must attend his Majesty.”
“There is no need, and you will only be in the way.” Yin motioned them towards the door. “Quickly now. Before he wakes up.”
George opened his mouth, to protest Alaric supposed, but a firm grip on the manservant’s elbow was enough to steer him to the door.
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