The breeze sank to the floor as soon as it came through the windows, rolling stubbornly across the length of the room. As if it knew it would have to fight for every rustle of drapery, shift of paper, and swirl of dust it stirred. Everything in the room was heavy, dark, solid, and rich. One man’s image of a king, empty now of all but the echoes that linger where that man once walked. The former master of these chambers was not coming back. Its new occupant wondered that the room did not crash down on him in disapproval.
Muddy boots, worn leather, and serviceable weapons did not make the proper picture against the backdrop of old wood and silk. The very carpet seemed to disapprove. Well, he was going to be the king. The room would just have to get used to him.
The king in all but coronation took another look around and decided he would redecorate. He’d never cared for red. Maybe he’d have some of his old furnishings brought over instead of living among his uncle’s choices. Not that his furnishings would approve of him any better, but at least they would dislike him for abandonment instead of intrusion. On second thought, perhaps he’d better commission entirely new furnishings. And he hated that he now had to consider what political and cultural information the act of changing his furnishings would entail.
He’d taken the royal chambers because he wanted there to be no doubt he was going to rule. After the shocking death of his uncle and cousin, strength and compassion were needed. Promises of stability and power and continuity. He sank into one of the armchairs and rubbed his temple. He knew what he needed to do. He’d done this on a smaller scale before – and then had dropped it all on his eminently capable steward and fled.
He contemplated the long dark spiral of days spent in service to his country, the bright chain links of the past couple years, and the bottles of wine hidden behind dark wood cabinet doors. Drink was the immediate, easy, answer. But it wasn’t the right answer.
There was a knock at the door before he could give in to temptation. He stood and turned toward the sound. The door opened and his dearest friend stepped through. “You made quite an impression on the staff,” Callen said. “They glared at me until I said my name. Though I’m surprised you didn’t simply permit the guard access.”
“Sets a bad precedent. A man could then steal a uniform and pass blithely through. Better to leave it to names and additional identification.”
“And I thought you were paranoid before,” Callen said.
All he did was raise an eyebrow.
“And you have good reason,” Callen admitted.
“Flame and Blood I do.” The soon to be king walked over to his friend. “But for now, let’s beat the tar out of each other.”
“At your service, sir.” Callen grinned. “I’m here to keep you sane.”
“And I’m here to keep you humble.”