This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts.
This is hard! Kind of like writing for a soap opera I would imagine. Anyway, here's today's installment. Tomorrow is the day off so come back Monday for "Days Of Our Roman Lives" : )
Dianthe dressed quickly, tried to drag a comb through her hair, and then followed the old woman to Quirinus’ great hall. She bowed low before the king, who sat in an enormous chair at the center of the main table. The king was surrounded, two on each side, by old men who whispered amongst themselves and then to the king as Dianthe rose from her bow.
“Come closer, child. Into the light,” the King said. Dianthe stepped into a patch of sunlight, observing the men nodding and whispering some more.
Dianthe felt as if she were being judged and found lacking. She raised her head defiantly. “What is this about, old man?”
The old woman behind her gasped, but Quirinus laughed. “She’s got spirit. This may work.”
“What may work?” Dianthe asked as the old woman came at her, probably to instill some manners into her. The King’s raised hand stopped the woman.
“Cardelia has gone missing,” he said.
Dianthe thought that if she were in Cardelia’s place, she would have run too.
“It has come to my attention that, from a distance, you could easily be mistaken for her,” the king continued. “And we’ve got company. They’re a full month’s cycle late but they rule a small but important region that would be very beneficial to acquire.”
Dianthe didn’t like the direction the conversation was headed.
“So, I’m sure we’ll find Cardelia soon, but just for tonight, you’ll be readied to play her role at the evening meal.”
In the guest quarters of the castle, Valerius watched his older brother struggle with his robes. Xavier’s recent injuries made it hard for him to lift his arm without pain.
“Need help, old man?” Valerius’ tone was mocking.
“No, I’m perfectly capable of dressing myself. Get out.” Xavier said, even as Valerius grabbed his shoulders to keep him from tripping. “How bad is it?” Xavier asked as he sighed, defeated. He looked around and carefully sat on the bench near the fire.
Xavier had finally removed the bandages around his face, revealing an ugly, only-just-healed red scar running boldly diagonally across his face. It cut across his left eye, leaving him with a permanently closed lid. Valerius felt like weeping when he first saw it but it would devastate Xavier. He tried for a mocking tone instead.
“Your ugly mug actually looks better for it,” he laughed, but the laughter was hollow, even to his ears.
Xavier could hear the false notes of Valerius’ words. Still, he was glad it was his brother who was telling him. He wasn’t a vain man, but he knew he used to be attractive to women. Now, he’d be lucky if they didn’t run screaming from him. And he could barely walk upright with his injuries still not healed.
“You’ll have to do it,” Xavier said quietly.
“What?” Valerius was confused
“You’ll have to pretend to be me.”