Price of Freedom
The hours that passed felt like days, all a blur. I couldn't get Andrea out of my head, her heartbroken face when the doors closed in front of her, separating me from her for who knew how long.
I sat on a throne, slouching. Kenna stood behind me, reading out something about assigning guards. She had been appointed as my herald and rarely left my side. Neither did the blacksmith who had given himself the title of “Captain of His Majesty's Royal Guard” although he was the only guard I had so far.
Excalibur was sheathed and propped up against my armrest, looking gloomy. Honestly, I would be thrilled to have my own real sword at home, but as long as my sister was by my side.
“Kenna?” I asked.
“Do you have any siblings?”
She was silent for a while. “Not really, sir. I used to have a brother, but he died in the war.”
I looked at her, my gaze piercing her nervous one. “Do you miss him?”
Kenna nodded fiercely. “Every day I live.”
I sighed. “I've never wanted to say this, but I feel the same way.”
“Why, m'lord? Forgive me for asking.”
“Andy...” I started. My eyes stung and my nose tingled like it did whenever I was about to cry. “Andrea. My sister.”
“Did she die in the war as well, m'lord?”
I looked up at her, aghast. “Die? Good grief, no!” I quieted down again. “I'm just never going to see her again.”
“M'lord! I'm sure that's not true!” Kenna fidgeted with her rolled-up scroll. “That girl... the one I saw you with at the square... was that Lady Andrea?”
The tears began to fall down my cheeks. “Y-yes,” I choked out. “That was her.”
Kenna looked around. “Where is she? Did she have her royal bath? What about her gown? I'm sure she'll look lovely...” she trailed off at the sight of me putting my face in my hands and sobbing. “She's not here... is she?” Kenna asked slowly.
I could only shake my head.
My eyes were scrunched shut, but I could feel a small cloth dabbing at my face. “Your Majesty...”
“Please,” I said in a strange voice that came out a few octaves higher than I imagined. “call me Logan.”
She was quiet. I wondered if she gave a glace at her father, asking if it was okay because I heard a grunt behind me. “King Logan...”
“No. Not King. Just Logan.”
“K—Logan, do not fear,” she said softly. “It may be too late for Raydan, but it is not for Andrea.”
I looked up at her, mouth slightly open. “What did you say?”
She looked both confused and petrified at the same time. “I believe I said it is too late for my brother, but not for Lady Andrea.”
I stood up quickly, suddenly filled with energy. “That's it!”
Kenna cocked her head at me. “Pardon?”
I spun around to face her, and her bewildered father behind the throne. “Is there a law that prevents me from giving the crown to someone else?”
“Uh... as long as that person is related to you and is male, you're allowed to make them the king,” she answered. “But that normally happens on a deathbed.”
“Wonderful!” I cried, taking the heavy crown off of my head. It was beautiful, but I didn't need it. “That means I can make Art the king!”
Kenna stood up and gasped. “But, m'lord!” she said. “Logan. Arthur has no family. His only family is his uncle and his cousin who are both barbarians!”
I groaned and sat back down. “Of course! I'm not related to him yet.”
Kenna stared at me as if I was crazy, but didn't ask any questions.
I drummed my fingers on the sheath of the Sword. “Then I suppose I must put it back.”
A heavy hand slammed on my shoulder. “No,” growled the smithy. “We need a king, boy. You can't put that sword back just because you don't want to be king.”
“Father!” Kenna cried. “He is still king now!”
“Enough, Makenna!” he barked.
Her pale face was flushed with anger, but she remained silent. I saw her ball her hands into fists at her side.
The blacksmith poked a sausage-sized finger in my chest threateningly. “You will stay here, whether it's the last thing I do.”
With that, he stormed off to his chambers, grumbling something about babysitting kids who didn't know anything.
“Logan?” Kenna asked once he was gone.
I sighed. “Yes?”
“Maybe... maybe someone else could put it back for you,” she suggested with a shrug. “If you aren't allowed to leave, I'm sure someone else will.”
“Thank you, Kenna, but your father will see that I don't have Excalibur with me, and he'll kill me.” I stood up and began walking towards my rooms. I heard footsteps behind me, informing me that Kenna was following me.
“Don't say things like that. My father's just angry because he used to be the Captain of the Royal Guard until the king died, so because he had nobody to protect anymore, he became a blacksmith.”
I furrowed my brow. “He really was a Captain of the Royal Guard?”
“Yes. His job was his life. He would have died to save the king, but there was nothing that could have been done.”
I reached my door and opened it. Someone had oiled the hinges recently so it didn't squeal in protest as I entered.
The room was far too large for me. It was the size of my cul-de-sac, but much more nicely decorated. Honestly, the closet was the size of me and my sister's rooms together. I would probably sleep in there if I had to.
Behind me, there was a sound of clattering metal and someone cried out in pain or shock. I took a step forward, but Kenna held out her hand in warning.
“No. I will deal with it. It could be assassins.”
“But I was just crowned hours ago!”
“The black market works quickly here.” Seconds later, she was gone, her light footsteps on the stone receding to silence.
I headed over to the large window and flung open the curtains. The sun was shining, but everything seemed gloomy to me. It was like my loneliness was casting a shadow over everything I saw.
I suddenly heard footsteps again and the door opened once more.
“Kenna? I've been thinking about telling Andrea something.”
She didn't answer. She didn't so much as acknowledge me. So I carried on.
“My parents... fight. They don't fight, per say, but they definitely argue. About stupid things, like what to cook for dinner, what backpack to buy Andrea for school, even what type of sweater I should wear in the winter. Whenever they do, argue that is, I take Andrea outside and we practice archery. Lately, we've been doing it more because our parents are fighting, even more than usual. I know that Andrea has a hard time asking for help, from teachers, from friends, even from me.” I took a deep breath. Why was Kenna so quiet? “But... she doesn't know why I take her outside when mom and dad fight. I don't even know. But I'm afraid that our dad might hit her, or our mom might insult her. She's the closest thing I have to a family... I don't want her to get hurt.”
Kenna was still silent. I slowly turned around.
“Kenna?” I whispered.
She was not there. Instead, another girl was, a girl with familiar copper hair and freckles. Her turquoise eyes were wet and her cheeks were streaked with tears. She wore a ripped grey skirt, white, flowing shirt and tight, black bodice. She wore familiar brown riding boots and her hair was up in a ponytail.
“Andy?” I asked, surprised.
For once, she didn't correct me. She just held my gaze and sobbed. I quickly swept her into a hug and closed my eyes. We stood there for a couple of seconds and then let go of each other reluctantly.
“I... I know,” she choked out. “I know...”
“What?” I asked gently. “What do you know?”
“Logan... I know.”
Her next words made my blood run cold.
“I know why mom and dad fight.”