Chapter Thirty-Four – continued
“And the Countess Olidan?” Kyanan prompted, one eyebrow raised.
There was an edge to Adrian’s next sigh. “Yes, of course.” He eyed Kyanan. “I trust Lady Madeline hasn’t been caught slinking around the castle?”
“Absolutely not,” she said, her answer coming quickly and efficiently, one hand making a sideways slicing gesture. “The fact that she snuck in for the sole purpose of seducing you has the guards keeping an even warier eye on everyone who passes through the gates.”
“Excellent.” He frowned. “If that was seduction…” he trailed off, a shudder running through his shoulders. “Well, what’s on my schedule today?”
Kyanan quickly flipped open the satchel she always carried and drew out a paper. She leaned forward and slid it across the desk to him before pulling back to draw out a copy of her own.
“Council meeting in two hours followed by a meeting with a few of the merchants who have noticed the weather turning for the better.” She looked up at him, her gaze sharp. “I suggest you bring in Thomas Marksworth for that as you’re not as familiar with how merchants operate.”
Adrian pressed his lips together and nodded. “Yes, please request his presence.” He met her eyes. “Especially since it’s the merchants who ensure the people like Thomas are treated poorly. I would have some input from Thomas about how the merchants can rise to the occasion.”
Kyanan flashed a smile. “Already taken care of.”
“Of course it is. Thank you, Kyanan.” He waved to the drawer that always brimmed with supplies. “And thank you for keeping my drawers stocked.”
She inclined her head as faint, running steps could be heard. “All part of my job for ensuring you have all you need to serve as Crown Prince.” She turned her head towards the door as the footsteps grew closed and frowned. “Who is running so early?”
Adrian shrugged and went back to studying his paper. “I need to squeeze in time to check on Abigail and to take the message to Olidan Manor of the Count’s death.”
“Of course. I’ll make it happen. You may assume you have all the time you will need to do both.”
“Excellent. What’s next?”
Kyanan visibly jumped in her seat as Adrian’s eyes snapped to the doorway. A young girl, dark strands of hair falling from under the cap she wore, sagged against the frame. Her face was red, but Adrian wasn’t sure if it was because she had been running or if the tears streaking down her cheeks had anything to do with it.
Slowly, Adrian rose, Kyanan following suit a moment later. He kept his eyes on the girl, though, as she gulped down air.
“What has happened?” he asked, his voice calm and gentle.
“You must come, Your Highness,” she gasped out, bowing deeply.
Adrian was around his desk in moments. The girl gasped as he suddenly appeared before her.
“Where?” he asked, his voice still as calm as he could make it. “Is it Lady Olidan?”
Almost frantic, the girl shook her head, more loose tendrils of hair falling from beneath the edges of the cap that appeared to be an inch too large for her head. She gestured as her lips trembled and she blinked back tears, but her movements made no sense to Adrian.
“It’s the King,” she finally whispered. “You must attend to the Queen.”
Adrian didn’t even wait for Kyanan; he bolted from the room, rushing headlong down hallways and up stairs. He crashed into more than one person, but didn’t pause to apologize. Shouts and yells followed him. But he paid them no heed.
His breath echoed in his ears, but his legs seemed to be used to all the rushing he’d been doing lately. Instead, his heart beat drummed louder. The last message he’d received had found him face to face with the Count Olidan’s lifeless body. Fear clawed at him as he tried not to think about what he would be facing when he reached the royal quarters.
Adrian skidded to a halt before the chambers of his aunt and uncle. Two guards quickly pulled the doors open for him and he had to fight the urge to rush in.
The chambers were dark and hushed. There were a few scattered servants, but all was quiet except for some murmurings coming from the bedchamber. His footsteps quieted by the thick carpeting, he quickly made his way over.
Coryn sat by the bed, her hand tightly wrapped around that of Gray. Her hair was tangled and her face was red and puffy. She was clothed only in a light dress and a shawl over her shoulders.
As he approached, she turned her head, her lips trembling. He rushed the remaining steps to her side and knelt down beside her, the blood draining from his face as he saw his uncle lying in the bed, the covers drawn up to his chin.
Gray’s eyes were glassy, his forehead drenched in sweat, and his breathing ragged. His body was still and soft moans emanated from his throat from time to time.
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