Yet another week... and now we find out who's grabbing Will! This week's update is inspired by the prompt: "He said what to you?"
“Varket.” I tried to keep the surprise out of my voice, but I’m sure I failed. “To what do we owe this honor? Are you here to attend the games?”
“No,” he said shortly. Then he smiled, an unctuous, disturbing expression. “Unbeknownst to most of the attendees, the king was present at the concert last night. He heard of our little discussion, and he was fascinated with your take on the architecture’s impact on the music. He’s been undertaking some structural improvements to the city buildings—I’m sure you’ve noticed some of the decline in areas.” Varket could barely hide his disdain as he looked at my family’s home.
“How very interesting,” I said politely, not meaning a single word. “And this has to do with me, how?”
“As a beta, the king is very interested in hearing your thoughts. I overheard your brother say you were hosting your friend here, so he is more than welcome to attend the tea with the king as well.”
Alarm bells rang in my head. They wanted both of us to visit with the king? Had they found out about what we were doing? Was this some sort of ploy to lock us up and take my abilities? Until I came of age, my abilities were still weak—yet what other use could they have of me? Of us?
I waved hand in front of myself and Teddy, who’d remained silent at my side. “As you can see, neither of us are anywhere near attired to be presented to the king. We shall have to change.” We had to get away from them; the best option was if we could get inside. Maybe we could sneak out through the servants’ quarters.
Varket’s eyes narrowed. “No need, dear boy. The palace chamberlain will have proper suits waiting for you.” The guard holding on the back of his carriage stepped down and opened the door. “Shall we depart?”
Teddy was still silent as he climbed in the carriage ahead of me; I made sure I sat on the velvet seat next to him, leaving the other bench open for the man fetching us. The guard shut the door firmly behind Varket. The first block we were quiet.
“Your friend is very quiet,” Varket said. “A gamma, correct?” He stared at Teddy. “They’re always so… soft.” The look on his face sent a chill down my spine.
“Yes, Teddy is a gamma.” We all knew Varket was already aware of that fact. My chilly tone had no effect on Varket, other than to make him smile again—that same, nasty expression that made me want to be ill. The rest of the ride was made in silence.
We had to go through several gates and up a very long drive before we reached the king’s castle. The tall, stone walls were forbidding and added to my unease. My stomach churned; I wasn’t sure if I wanted this visit to really be tea or not. Trying to eat or drink when I was so nauseated would be risky.
I stepped forward, expecting Teddy to move up to my side. I turned, and saw Varket had him by his good arm and was saying something in his ear. Teddy’s eyes were huge, and he jerked out of Varket’s hold.
“Shall we go? I’d hate to be late, since we still have to dress.” I moved Teddy to my side away from Varket. I knew a predator when I saw one, and the slimy toad wasn’t getting his hands on Teddy ever again.
“Of course.” Varket led the way to a small chamber where two sets of clothes were set out on the bed. We were finally left alone, but who knew if there was someone listening in to our conversation.
“Here, let me help you.” I began to untie the sling holding Teddy’s arm securely to his side. “Are you okay?” I whispered.
“H-he said he was going to teach me my place… under him.”
“He said what to you?” I couldn’t keep my voice down. I shot a glare at the door, wishing Varket would come back in. “Don’t worry about it, Teddy. Let’s just get ready for our tea with the king.”
The lack of guards and the clothing suggested we were actually having a meeting with him. It seemed they hadn’t get caught on to our investigation like I’d feared. Was this part of the process of getting our abilities? Woo us, since we didn’t know any better? Cater to my ego about being a beta?
Well, it wasn’t going to work. My anger only made me more determined to bring the king and his cronies down.
My nerves were shot by the time we got back from the palace. My mother was agog with delight, insisting on hearing about every second of our time with the king. She demanded to know what we spoke about, if I remembered to mention them, if I was refined and gentlemanly during the tea service.
It was as exhausting as the actual tea. Worse, on the way back to the house, Teddy had fallen into a fugue state, and he was still out of it. My mother shot him a disgusted look when I used that as an excuse to escape.
“Hopefully he didn’t act in such a fashion among the nobility.” She sniffed.
Once again, I helped Teddy undress. He was sitting there, naked, when his head snapped up. “The room with the skeleton is in the king’s palace. That’s where the device is hidden.”
“Why do you think that?” I asked, not because I didn’t believe him, but because I wanted to follow his logic.
“We passed the theater on the way back; it was just a matter of considering the direction of the tunnel and the distance. It’s definitely there.”
It wasn’t a big surprise… but it did complicate things. We wouldn’t be able to sneak in through the front door, after all.