'For a Year' is a novella I've been working on, which immediately follows the events of 'Without a King", following Tannix's point of view. I hope you enjoy this sneak peak! I may post more later in the summer!
“You’ll be imprisoned for a year and a day.” I tried to sound stern, keep my voice cold. Finn was holding eye contact, which only made my next words harder. “And then you’ll be executed.” He was instantly pulled away and I only just resisted the urge to tell the soldiers to be gentle. He could handle a little abuse, and I needed to be distant. At least for the time being.
The captain was waiting for me, but without addressing him I headed back towards the council room. At the doors, I handed the bow and quiver back to the guard I’d taken them from and nodded at Eppson. The room was still in disarray. Nobles were standing in little clusters, the number of guards had nearly tripled, and right where I’d left them, Tandrin was talking to the King. I walked over.
“Your majesty, I need a word with you.” I joined them, cutting Tandrin off mid-sentence. “I caught up with the boy, and your men arrested him, and-“
“You gave him his sentence, I assume?” King Edarius asked.
I grit my teeth. I had to be polite. “Yes, but he-“
Tandrin interrupted me smoothly. “Your majesty, the boy wasn’t in on the assassination attempt. Tannix and I can assure you, without a shadow of a doubt, that he’s innocent. His only crime at the moment is breaking into the palace, which doesn’t warrant a death sentence.”
I glanced up; thanking the Goddess that Tandrin was with me. I’d felt confident confronting Meyat, and Tandrin had followed my lead. The niceties of court were his area of expertise.
“We cannot risk the king’s life.” The guard captain stepped up beside me. “The boy was here, and he was aware of the attempt. Chances are he was part of it.”
“He wasn’t,” Tandrin said. “We understand how it looks, your majesty, but he’s innocent. In fact, he’s the one who uncovered the attempt. Without him, we may have failed to get here in time to save you.”
“He uncovered the attempt?” the King looked at me. “How so?”
“I can explain everything to you, your majesty. But we may want to speak privately,” I said.
“Very well. Adjourn the meeting,” he called to another lord. “You two may come with me. We’ll go to my office.” The King walked back through the double doors, flanked by guards. Tandrin spoke to his men briefly, and then we followed the King. When we reached his office, he stopped at the door to address the guards. “All of you stay here. There is no other way into the room and I’ll be perfectly safe with Lord West Draulin’s sons.”
Tandrin and I exchanged a look before following him in. There was a large desk in the middle of the room, which King Edarius walked swiftly around. He sat down, motioning for us to do the same. Tandrin took a seat and I followed his lead, trusting his judgement when it came to etiquette.
“Explain, Lord Tandrix.”
I clasped my hangs together to stop myself from fiddling. All I could picture was Finn being tossed into a cell. I had to think like him. I had to lie, there were details the King couldn’t know, ones I barely understood. I took a deep breath.
“The boy is named Finn, he’s a petty thief from the lower city. I met him about four years ago in the market.” I lied about the location, knowing that explaining Finn’s presence in the Order would cause more problems. “More recently, he found a letter implying an attempt on your life, which he handed over to me. He’s illiterate, but he knew I can read. I gave it to Lord Meyat, assuming he would take the appropriate actions.”
“Do you have this letter?”
“No, We… we left it behind when we arrested Meyat.”
The King’s eyes widened. “You arrested Meyat?”
“I started to realize that he wasn’t going to do anything about the letter, so I tried looking into it.”
Tandrin picked up the story. “Finn told us that he’d seen a girl he knew with the Director. Along with a clue in the letter implicating someone who was called M, we came to the conclusion that Meyat was involved. That explained why he hadn’t taken any action when given the letter. When we went to see him, we found the letter along with a rough drawing of the castle.”
“We realized that the attempt was in progress,” I explained. “So we arrested Meyat and immediately came here. Finn ran ahead, trying to follow the girl. That’s why he was here first.”
King Edarius crossed his arms. “Who is this girl?”
“I don’t know. She called herself Kassia. Finn interacted with her a few times. She could have been anyone, Native, Deoran, or Navirian.”
The King didn’t say anything, and for a moment the three of us sat there silently. I was hopeful – he seemed curious in what we were saying, and we were from West Draulin. It gave us power.
“If what you’re telling me is true, I agree that he shouldn’t be killed,” the King said. “I’ll pardon him, but I need proof.”
“Of course,” I agreed a little too eagerly. Tandrin shot me a glance. “We’ll bring you the letter from Meyat’s office, to start with.”
“That would certainly help.” King Edarius said. There was a knock on the door, and he sighed. “Come in!”
A pair of men I didn’t recognize entered the office. One was tall and thin, the other was short and portly. They bowed to the King, and quickly glanced at me and Tandrin. The taller one began to speak.
“Your majesty, we have information about the assassin boy. One of the guards noticed that he has the thief brand on his shoulder.”
The King nodded. “I’m not surprised. However, Lords Tandrix and Tandrin have assured me that the boy was not involved. I’ve agreed to pardon him.”
“Not involved?” the shorter man asked. “He broke into the palace, your majesty, and evidently he’s escaped from jail before. This boy is more dangerous than he looks.”
“He isn’t dangerous,” I said. “He escaped from jail because he wanted to survive, that’s all.” I neglected to say I had helped him, or that I’d been the one to arrest him.
The taller man looked at me, but carried on as if I hadn’t spoken. “Let us look into this boy’s past, your majesty. We’ll figure out if he’s dangerous or not.”
King Edarius nodded. “By all means, look into him. The young lords of West Draulin will be doing the same thing. I hope that your information matches up, and that I can negate the boy’s sentence. You should all go get started.”
I got to my feet quickly. Tandrin stood more slowly and inclined his head to the king in a slight bow. “Thank you, your majesty.”
“Thank you,” I repeated.
We followed the two advisers into the hall. Tandrin’s knights fell in beside us as we walked down the hallway, the advisers close enough that we could hear their conversation.
“He shouldn’t pardon the boy – assassin or not. It won’t look good to the other noble families.”
“But the West Draulin lords are powerful.”
“He’s a native thief. Utterly unimportant.”
I bristled, but it was Tandrin who stepped forward and loudly spoke. “He’s a person. That alone makes him important.”
The advisers glanced at him reproachfully, and sped down the hallway until they were out of earshot.
“This racism is absurd,” Tandrin muttered under his breath. “Eppson, see if you can check on Finn. I doubt those advisers will allow me or Tannix anywhere near him. Frett, check on Lord Meyat. Cail and Zoyen will accompany Tannix and I back to the Order, and Terone, you’re on break.” His men broke apart with the kind of efficiency that came from being used to following directions. I briefly wondered what my knights were up to as I followed Tandrin.
I was happy to let him take charge. He was the politician, he knew how to talk to people better than I did. And he was heir to West Draulin, giving him enough power to outrank almost everyone who might get in our way. Without him I wouldn’t know where to start. Lost in thought, I didn’t notice that Tandrin had stopped abruptly until I’d almost walked into him. We were at the gate to the palace.
“What do you mean, we can’t leave?”
“The palace is on lockdown, my lord.” The guard at the gate replied nervously, his gaze flicking between Tandrin, me, and the two knights behind us. “I can’t allow you to leave.”
“You are aware of who we are?”
The guard looked down. “Um, yes, sir. Lords Tandrin and Tandrix of West Draulin. That doesn’t change the fact that I can’t let you through. Everyone’s to stay in the castle tonight. I apologize, my lords.”
Tandrin sighed. “Of course. Come, Tannix-“ he grabbed my forearm and guided me away from the gate. Zoyen and Cail followed wordlessly.
“We need to go to the Order,” I protested.
“Not tonight,” Tandrin said. “The papers will still be there in the morning, little brother. But for now we have to let the castle guards to their job. Kassia might still be around.”
“Do you think Eppson will get to Finn?”
“Not tonight,” he repeated.