Periods Following Revolutions Are for Recuperation and Restructuring
“The masons say it will take them two months to complete the repairs to the castle…”
“I want it done in two weeks,” Sam interrupted.
“Your Majesty, I’m not sure they can do that.” Sam didn’t know if Benny always sounded so nervous or if he was made nervous by Sam. He hadn’t been too nervous to beat the old master of servants to death with a candlestick a few days ago.
“I’m sure they can if they try.” Sam smiled. “Have their children brought in to the castle to watch the construction. I have a feeling that will make them work faster.”
“Yes, your Majesty. Um, a lot of the guards were killed in the fighting.”
“I know that.” Sam made a left turn. Two more turns and a door, a hundred and nine steps, and he’d be at his bedroom. His new bedroom. It wasn’t as familiar a walk as the one he was used to. “I killed some of them.”
“Yes, your Majesty. The guard captain says they don’t have enough people any more.”
“I’m sure they can go recruiting in the nearby towns.” Sam shook his head. He hadn’t realized that being king meant he was going to have to do everything by himself. People really were too stupid to live their own lives, honestly. “There must be plenty of people who’d be happy to get a sword and some steady pay.” And stupid enough not to realize that their families would be used as collateral if they took those things.
“I’ll tell them, your Majesty.”
“The old guard—are any of them still hanging on?”
Benny paused for a moment. “I believe two of them still are, your Majesty.”
“I should pay them a visit.” Sam didn’t really care. He’d had any guards who had fought for dad and lived nailed to the walls of the castle, along with dad’s body and those of a few others in the castle he didn’t like. There were lots of people around; he wasn’t too worried about a few who weren’t going to live much longer.
“Yes, your Majesty.”
“Have you found my brother and sister yet?”
“Um…” That Benny didn’t say anything more was answer enough.
Sam sighed. “If you’re not going to use your tongue, I can always take it out for you.” There were plenty of servants here who’d be happy to take the role of master of servants, Sam was sure.
“Nobody knows where they are, your Majesty!” The words came out a tumble. “There are no records of where your—of where Solomon sent them. He must have been the only one who knew.”
Sam felt frustration tug at his throat, and there was a crack nearby, power fluttering in response. It was still new, this power that came from being bonded with the stone. He’d broken a lot of things by accident. “Well, I guess that gives you something to do, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
“I want them to come back here so we can reunite. It’s been so long since I’ve seen them.” Sam had cells prepared for them in the dungeons, special ones that he’d cast spells on to restrain any magic.
“Yes, your Majesty.”
Didn’t he know how to say anything else? “You’re boring. Go away.”
“Yes, your Majesty.” Benny paused again. “But…”
“What?” Irritated now, Sam took a breath. The hallways still smelled faintly like the blood that had stained them a week ago.
“What about the woman, your Majesty?”
Sam didn’t answer, just kept walking. Benny was smart enough to stay quiet.
They reached the doors of Sam’s bedroom and he put a hand on the handle, pushing it open. “I haven’t decided yet,” he said finally. “Henry.”
“I’m right here.”
Sam knew that Henry was right there—he’d been told to wait in the room. “What do you think I should do about—what’s her name?”
“About Daisy.” Sam sneered her name. The woman they’d found in dad’s room after the fight.
The pregnant woman they’d found in dad’s room.
It had been Henry who’d convinced Sam not to eviscerate her on the spot.
“What do I think?” Henry repeated, dumbly.
“Yes, that’s what I said—you’re the one who wanted her kept alive. Do you still want that? Or have you changed your mind?” When Henry didn’t answer, Sam sighed, sweeping into the room. He put his hand out in the direction of where he knew there would be a wooden chair and sat in it. “Here—I promise that I’ll do whatever you think is best when it comes to her, okay? Just tell me what you think.”
Sam had to admit, he was glad he’d let Henry beg him not to do it. The idea of taking that baby—dad’s baby, Sam’s sibling, was appealing. He hadn’t decided if he wanted to raise it or not, but it would have been a shame to just kill it before it could be born.
“I think…” Henry’s voice was dull, and it seemed a lot quieter above ground than it had in the dungeons. “You shouldn’t kill her. She hasn’t done anything to you and neither has the baby.”
Sam couldn’t help but smile a little. There were things about Henry that really hadn’t changed—yet. “Okay. You heard Henry, Benny. Make sure she’s taken care of. And I want to know when the baby’s born.”
Sorcerers did need clans, after all. Maybe he would keep the baby alive.
“Yes, your Majesty.”
“Get out,” Sam said, tired of him. “I don’t want to hear you until tomorrow.” He didn’t really want to hear from Benny ever again—it was exhausting, having to spend half his day deciding stupid things like who the new head chef was going to be. Why should Sam care?
“Yes, your Majesty.” And Sam heard that, so Benny wasn’t very good at following orders. But Sam didn’t bother punishing him for that now—he had a feeling he’d get annoyed and kill Benny in the next day or so. But if he did it here, there’d be blood all over the room and he’d have to put up with servants coming in to clean it up.
The door closed behind Benny, and Sam sighed. “Being the king is a lot of work.”
Henry didn’t answer that.
“Maybe I can get you to make all the stupid decisions,” Sam continued, tapping a finger on the arm of the wooden chair. “You know me well enough to know what kind of decisions I’d make, right?” He smiled. “I’m sure if I can trust you not to shoot me with a crossbow, I can trust you not to turn my castle into something I’d hate.”
“Yeah,” Henry muttered. “I guess you can.”
He managed to fit so much self-loathing into those five words. It was delightful to hear. “I don’t understand why you’re so unhappy, Henry.” Sam stretched out his shoulders. “This is what we wanted, isn’t it? Dad’s dead, I’m king, you’re out of the dungeon. The bed in here must be a lot more comfortable than the stone floor down there.” It was actually a little soft for Sam’s liking.
Henry made a little noise, but didn’t say anything.
“I can’t read your mind, Henry,” Sam reminded him.
“This isn’t…” Henry trailed off, and Sam patiently waited for him to pick it back up. “Why are you pretending so hard?”
“Pretending, am I?” Sam asked, giggling a little. He stood from the chair, made his way to the bed, where he lay down. “What am I pretending?”
“That I care. You know I hate you—and you made sure I wasn’t afraid to say it out loud.”
“It’s not like you can do anything worse to me that what you’ve already done,” Henry said, quietly. “There’s no point in me holding back any more.”
“Hm.” Sam had a feeling that wasn’t true. He had ideas. “Snakes have to shed their skin every so often, you know. It’s healthy, for them to get rid of what they used to be like that.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Now that you’re not trapped in the dungeon it’ll be much easier for me to help you shed your skin, Henry. You already have—we both have, I guess—but you should again. I should have known you’d be too stupid to see it as a good thing, though. Don’t worry, I’ll help.”
“I don’t want your help.”
“Going to sit there and plot to escape now?” Sam asked him. “Get away from the new Sorcerer King? Or maybe kill me, which you’d better do if you plan to run and get anywhere.” A search of Henry’s cell afterwards hadn’t turned up the knife Sam had left down there ages ago. “Except you’ve been sleeping in my bed for a week now and you haven’t even thought about putting the pillow over my face, have you?”
“I…of course I have. But you’d stop me.”
“I would,” Sam agreed. “Well, keep trying. We’ll make it a game. You try to figure out a way to kill me. I’ll be making you into what I want you to be in the meantime. We’ll see which of us gets what we want.”
Except if Henry had so much as considered putting a pillow over Sam’s face while he slept rather than facing him in honourable combat, then Sam had already won.
Henry snorted. “And what, in the meantime you’ll just keep pretending that we’re best friends?”
“Henry, I’m insulted,” Sam said to the ceiling. “You can pretend you don’t care about me, but don’t ignore how much I care about you.” Nobody have ever interested Sam the way Henry did.
“You…” Henry cut himself off. With an audible sigh, he came over to the bed and sat opposite Sam. “You’re insane.”
“I wonder.” Sam did, sometimes. “I think now that we’re out in the real world, you’ll learn to appreciate me a lot more, Henry.”
“I don’t think so.”
“You’re lucky that your stubbornness is something that I find attractive in you. Come here.” Henry did as he was told, and that itself was the only reason Sam had asked him to do it. He crawled across the bed, sitting beside Sam. Sam pulled him down onto his back, and put his head on Henry’s shoulder. Clothed now, sadly. He hadn’t wanted people to have that kind of access to Henry. “You’re going to be my bodyguard starting tomorrow,” he told Henry. “You can stand beside the throne with your sword and be all intimidating. I think you’ll like it.”
“You afraid someone’s going to try and kill you?” Henry asked.
“No. But it just seems proper, and it will give you something to do. I’m having a guest soon. Lord Hans DiFueure. He’s on his way to the castle to visit dad.”
“Don’t kill him.”
“Hm.” Sam smiled. “See, if you want me to do things like that, you’re going to have to give a little ground too, Henry. Life’s a compromise.”
Henry didn’t say anything for a long time. “What do you want? Not saying I’m going to do it, just…”
Sam had a feeling that it would never cease to be cute that Henry thought he wasn’t going to do something that Sam wanted him to. “Benny.”
“You want Benny?”
“I want you to kill Benny,” Sam clarified.
“I’m going to kill him anyway. If you do it for me, I’ll let Lord Hans live. Plus, you know I’ll kill him painfully. If you do it, I’m sure you’ll go out of your way to make sure it’s humane and painless. It’s a win-win for you, really.”
Henry was silent for a long time again.
“I can’t,” Henry said quietly. “I can’t just murder someone like that.”
“You murdered dad.”
“That was different.”
“Not really.” Sam sighed, nestled a little into Henry. “Okay. You’re still new to this, so I’ll think of something else and let you know.”
“What, really?” Henry paused for a second. “I’m not stupid. You’re going to think up something worse and then tell me it’s my fault when you kill Hans.”
“I guess we’ll find out when we get there, won’t we?” Sam asked, taking one of Henry’s hands in his. “If Benny dies between now and then, you won’t have to find out.”
Henry hadn’t sounded as confident that time as he had before, Sam noticed. He should be bored, playing a game that he’d already won, but he wasn’t, not at all. This was going to be fun.