When the gates to the castle opened up for him, Kasser pulled on Abu’s reins to prevent him from entering immediately. His eyes scanned through the guards and landed on the one who was tasked with opening it.
With the long battle over, this was usually the time when one got complacent. However, this was the most critical moment to be on guard otherwise, they would be open for an ambush. This was one of the most basic teachings one learned in warfare, and thus Kasser hadn’t let down his guard even once.
Normally, he would’ve just entered without a scene, but something stood out to him as he stared at the guard. As if realizing he was being scrutinized, the guard squirmed beneath his gaze.
The more he looked at him, the more Kasser found him familiar.
He knew for a fact that most of the guardsmen who were tasked with staying behind in the palace were low ranking officers. Which was why it was troubling him why someone who was familiar was staying as a guard when he should’ve been one of the warriors contributing to the battle.
For a normal person, the surrounding area was dimly lit. As it was still not dawn, there wasn’t enough light for anyone to see a person’s face clearly.
But that wasn’t the case for Kasser.
For in his eyes was his Praz, lighting it up with a bluish hue, making him see the person’s face as clear as day. But as the guard’s face was trained to the ground, he couldn’t see it properly from atop Abu.
“Raise your head.” He ordered, and the guard flinched at the harsh tone. Hesitating, the guard eventually raised his head. As he faced him nervously, the King knew the guard knew he was caught.
He was definitely someone he was familiar with.
“Sven,” he said, narrowing his gaze at him.
“Yes, my king.” The guard quivered and hunched in on himself, trying to make himself appear smaller.
Normally a warrior with his status was still busy cleaning up in the aftermath, dirtied from the sweat and grime on their armor from all the fighting. But one look at Sven’s armor, Kasser could see it was very clean which meant he hadn’t been a part of the fight.
For him to leave his post, someone should’ve gotten in contact with him and informed him of these changes, but he never received word of this change.
A cold look flashed through his eyes as Kasser thought about someone meddling with his soldiers, but he soon schooled his features back to indifference.
Sven was Kasser’s favorite warrior. He was outstanding, a man of many talents, and had morals. He was certain he wasn’t the type to cower in the face of Larks.
Sven bowed his head.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Kasser nudged Abu, and the horse began to enter the palace, followed by his entourage and Sven. The distance to the castle from the gate was long, mostly because it was located in the center, surrounded by tall walls.
He half expected for the palace to be dark, but to his surprise, he saw the lamps still lit up, shining brightly as if expecting his return. The light leaked out from each window, and he wondered why it was still on.
As soon as he reached the garden, he pulled on the reins once more and Abu stopped in his tracks. The chamberlain came out to greet them with a puff. He was followed by an array of servants and other courtiers, welcoming his return.
This sight was normal.
“Your Majesty, we’re delighted to see you return!” the chamberlain said.
As a king, Kasser frequently left the castle at a moment’s notice. Several times a day, he’d leave and return like a common person leaving their house which meant they were used to him leaving without a word as to where he’s going to or how long he’d take to return.
Even today, when he returned, there was no notice, except for the warrior who had gone ahead when the gates opened for him to inform the palace servants of his return.
The chamberlain approached him, helping steady Abu, as the king climbed down his back. As soon as he touched the ground, the chamberlain and his entourage bowed in reverence.
The chamberlain straightened up. “Yes, Your Majesty?”
“Why are the lights on?” he asked him.
Despite not being low on oil, and the royal family having enough to spare to not worry about it, it was protocol not to waste valuable resources whenever an emergency happened. This was why he couldn’t understand why the lights had been lit up when his time of return was uncertain. The chamberlain certainly didn’t possess enough authority to permit this type of continued use.
“It was under the queen’s orders.” He replied.
Kasser was taken aback. The queen? He hadn’t expected that answer.
“The queen’s order?” he asked, frowning in confusion, “Why?”
“She has waited religiously for your return, Your Majesty.” He began. “When she left to go to bed, she told me to leave the lights on in case you returned late in the night. Something about making you feel less lonely when you return home.”
He had expected for the reply to come shortly after his explanation, ready to defend the queen’s good intentions if the king wasn’t certain, but when no reply came, he finally chanced to look up.
The king’s face had hardened, but he didn’t look angry. Quietly, he observed his master.
Kasser thought it was a foreign concept, one he wasn’t used to. Did he think of the castle as his home? He didn’t think so.
For him, the castle was a symbol of power, of his blood, and birthright. For him, it was only part of his kingdom, something to rule over and protect from danger. Hearing the word home from the chamberlain…
He didn’t know how to respond.
Shaking the thoughts away, he figured he must solve first this issue with Sven before delving into another business. He nodded to the chamberlain, who bowed back and stepped aside before Kasser turned to Sven.
“Come with me.”
Sven bowed his head.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
As Kasser entered the palace halls, he couldn’t help but feel something had changed in his absence. Everything seemed different today.
He didn’t have any problem navigating the dark hallways. Hence, the use of the lamps was for the benefit of the courtiers who roamed the hallways, especially after sunset. But oftentimes, the light provided was only enough to shed some light and not stumble and fall.
He’d never seen his castle this bright in the dark. He could even see that no corner was left unlit.
He soon reached the Oval Office, and as his habit, took a quick glance at his desk as soon as he entered. Immediately he went in front of it, scanning its contents and saw there was nothing on it.
He heard Sven come in after him, and that’s when he began to interrogate.
“On whose authority was it, that you stayed behind instead to fight the Larks?” he asked.
During his short walk through the halls, Kasser had thought about what he knew, along with the facts presented to him at the moment, and came up with a rough conclusion.
Sven couldn’t have missed the opportunity to fight against the Larks to save his own skin, it wasn’t in his nature, so he must’ve been ordered by someone. Someone high enough to have swayed from his position.
“Chancellor Verus.” He answered softly.
Kasser hummed in reply. It was just as he expected.
“Elaborate,” he said, turning to Sven, “With details if you will.”
“I was tasked with patrolling the fortress’ perimeter.” He began. “Just make sure if something was wrong, report anything unusual.”
“And have you?” Kasser asked him, “Reported anything unusual?”
“Only once, Your Grace,” he said, “When the gates opened right after the green signal was lit.”
“The gates were opened?” Kasser asked in an alarmed tone. “On whose authority?” He demanded.