Nyle looked all around him as the horses wearily plod down the main street to the castle. Scorch marks on buildings and the look of fear on the peasant’s faces shocked him.
“What happened here?” he asked a young guard beside him. Maybe he would be a little less tight lipped than the captain.
“There was an attack on the castle by Hinderland soldiers."
Nyle gasped. “Was anyone in the royal family killed?”
Grim expression covered every face of the guards surrounding him. He knew that someone had. “Who was it? Was it the … King?”
“Nay. Not the king, but the prince.”
Nyle felt a bolt of pain strike him. It took him many long moments to master his shock and find his voice. “Why did you not tell me this before?” His hands gripped the reins so hard they ached. It hurt to speak calmly.
Kenhelm was dead? Childhood affection had settled into something more in Nyle’s heart; time and distance no barrier to the love he felt for his best friend. It took all his acolyte training to hide the sorrow and agony beneath a mask of calm. He could not risk losing it or his secret could be revealed.
“We were ordered to keep it quiet. The King doesn’t want anyone outside the city to know. There are things going on beyond this attack. We were bade to fetch you to help with them," the captain said. He glared at the soldier next to Nyle who clamped his mouth shut.
“Prince Elden wants my help?”
“Nay, Prince Elden perished in the attack. You were summoned by Prince Kenhelm.”
Shock and relief took the place of the pain in his heart as soon as Nyle realized that his friend still lived. He took deep breaths, pushing back the nausea he felt from the sudden surge in his emotions that stirred a deep well inside him.
He kept his face serene, the long years of training once again helping him hide the turbulent feelings swirling inside him.
“Heradotus cradle Prince Elden on his passage to the afterlife. I shall render prayers of thanksgiving that the Prince Kenhelm and the King yet live.”
The guards fell silent, respecting Nyle’s silence as he began the cantas silently. The rest of the journey through the city went by quickly. Before he had a chance to clean up Nyle was rushed by a chamberlain from his horse straight to the audience chamber and before the king.
“Your Majesty.” Nyle knelt before the king and bowed his head.
“Rise, Acolyte.” The king studied his face. “You have grown into a man in the years away from court, Nyle.”
Nyle fought an unmaly blush and inclined his head. “Thank you, Your Majesty. I live to serve you and the gods.”
“In this time of strife, the Crown has need of you. We do not know when you will be able to return to your studies to join the priesthood, lad.”
Nyle spread his hands wide. “I will use what skills I possess for as long as you need me, Your Higness. Service to you is service to the gods as their chosen representative. I can think of no greater honor.”
The king leaned forward on his chair. He looked tired and much older than Nyle remembered. “We appreciate your loyalty. The Prince Kenhelm lies gravely injured but before he fell unconscious he spoke of a map and a legend you two found as boys within Elden’s things. This is what we believe the Hinderland soldiers were seeking. They slaughtered Elden and his pregnant wife in their bed and ransacked his room. Another contingent attacked my quarters but were repelled by the guard. We do not know where this map is hidden, nor what it contains as Kenhelm has yet to wake.
"We are soon to be locked in a difficult situation if Kenhelm cannot be brought back. We need to find out what this map is and what it leads to as well. Without it, we cannot stop the attacks that will only come again. You are our best hope for both."
Nyle felt the weight of the king's expectations resting on his shoulders. He stiffened his spine, standing up straight as he took a deep breath. "I shall do my best, Your Majesty." He closed his eyes as he bowed low, a silent prayer in his mind to Heradotus that he was strong enough to carry them.
The king sat back in his chair and waved for a guard to come forward. The man led Nyle to Kenhelm's chambers, though he didn't need to. Nyle remembered the way, years of running from his chambers to the Prince's couldn't be forgotten. There were guards standing outside the room and when Nyle entered and saw who was on the bed, he immediately knelt.
"Your Majesty," he said, bowing before the queen. She was swathed in a black lace veil but he would recognize her long dark curls anywhere. Two ladies in waiting sat on a settee while the queen sat next to Kenhelm. He rose as she said his name.
"Nyle. You're finally here." The queen stood and went over to him, enveloping him in an embrace. Nyle smiled down at the petite woman, the only mother figure he ever remembered having. Tears were flowing down her face under her veil, making the lace stick to her cheeks.
"You have to save him Nyle. I can't lose both my sons."
Nyle kissed the back of her hand, squeezing it. "I promise I shall do my best, my lady. Everything I have learned to use in this life I will try until he is once again well."
The queen nodded in understanding. She knew the traitorous secret that he had shared with only one other person in the world and that person was now lying next to death in the bed at their side.
Nyle had magic.
Sooo, what did you think??