“Sir, the boy’s an orphan. He has no family to haul in for questioning.”
Kern stood in a dark corner with his back against the wall and his thick arms crossed, feeling more than just a little displeased that the King accompanied them to the lower dungeons. This was his turf. It was not a place for spoiled royals to wander about and muck up his interrogation process. If the King wanted anything from the boy, Kern would be the one to extract it – not the bejeweled and luxuriously robed commander who couldn’t hide the shake in his hands from too much drink.
“An orphan,” The King repeated. He mulled over the word as he circled Peton slowly.
Kern rolled his eyes. “Your Majesty must have a full schedule today,” he said, pushing off the wall and stepping into the flicker of candle light. “Rest assured the boy will be handled properly. The information you requested will be provided with haste.”
The King froze with one hand on the thick wooden cross that Peton hung from and turned his head slowly to look at Kern. “If I didn’t know better, Kern, I’d take that comment as an underhanded attempt to kick me out of my own dungeon.”
“Of course not…” Kern struggled for words.
“Then, you are saying I am mistaken?” The King let his palm slide off the beam and faced Kern. “I’m not sure which is a bigger violation of your servitude; the fact that you implied you can handle this issue better than myself, or that you assume I am too stupid to comprehend your insult.”
Even in the dark lighting, Kern was certain the King could see him pale. He went down on one knee and lowered his head. The toe of the King’s left shoe was scuffed, and though wardrobe was not his station to manage, he would be sure the King had a brand new pair of silk slippers before the hour came to a close. And women waiting for him in his quarters. Lots of women.
“Forgive me, Sir. I mean no disrespect. Please consider my impertinence to be one of eagerness. I only want to question the prisoner with haste, so that I may swiftly put your worries to rest. Surely the Princess has nothing to do with this ingrate. If I have insulted you, I accept your due punishment completely, Majesty.”
It was more than Kern had ever said to the King in one breath. And it wasn’t fear or humility that caused him to bow before the poor excuse of a ruler. It was desire.
The fair A’rissandra Brynx would belong to him. And Peton Dahl was quite possibly the only person in Ernoth proper who knew where the pretty little thing had run off to. Kern wasn’t going to kill the kid. Sometimes keeping a prisoner alive was more helpful. He was going to remove his flesh in pieces until he got the information he needed and then let the lass wallow in grief, knowing he betrayed his friend. It was a job the impatient King could not perform. Besides Peton, Kern knew the only other man in the room that loved A’rissanda was himself. Love was a powerful motivator.
Kern waited, with his breath held in his lungs until the burn became unbearable. When the King touched his shoulder, the air escaped in one massive gust.
“Do you know why you are one of my most trusted advisors and head of Ernoth security, Kern?” The king asked.
“No, your Majesty.”
“Because, Kern, you fully understand your place.”
The muscles in Kern’s jaw twitched as if electrocuted, yet he said nothing and remained bowed in submission.
– Copyright Trish Marie Dawson, The Dry Lands (Hutch & A’ris)