A knock on the door caused the woman to lift her head. Talis opened his eyes and looked at her. Her own were wide with surprise, worry, and even fear. Smiling lazily, Talis lifted a finger to his lips and she giggled. The woman, whose name he had already forgotten, returned to her work as his eyelids slid shut again.
“Prince Talis!” a voice boomed from behind the door accompanied by another barrage of banging.
With a cringe and a growl of frustration, Talis hissed a few choice words as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed as the woman scurried back to keep from being kicked. Muttering under his breath, he adjusted his clothes. When he saw the woman sitting there watching him, he raised his eyebrows.
“Well?” he snapped.
With a squeal like a pig, she jumped to her feet and tried to fix her hair as best she could. He had made quite a mess of it, he noted with satisfaction. Once they were presentable, the prince opened the door to his room with practiced nonchalance. His left arm held the door at a point over his head as he rested his right hand on his hip, leaning against the wood with an easy smile.
“What can I do for you Darmon?” Talis asked as the woman came up beside him. She shrank slightly at Darmon’s accusatory glare as she flattened her back against the jam and tried to slip by the intimidating man who made absolutely no attempt to move out of her way.
Before she could get all the way through, Talis grabbed hold of her wrist. “Come back later won’t you?”
The woman flushed red and giggled again. She gave a hasty nod as the prince reluctantly released her and she hurried down the hall. He watched her with leer, cursing Darmon silently for not having knocked only a few minutes later. With a sigh, he looked back at the man who had disturbed him.
“Another one?” Darmon growled.
Folding his arms across his chest, Talis could understand full well why the woman had shrunk from Darmon. The man truly was frightening to look at. He had the blackest hair and eyes, with a prominent brow that cast his already tanned face into darkness. He was tall, taller than Talis, and twice as wide, all of it muscle. There were scars along the bulges of his arms, some of which the prince wasn’t sure of the source.
Talis, however, was used to the man and shrugged in response, grinning, “What can I say, they’re fond of their prince.”
The man snorted like bull as he said, “The king has called for the council to gather.”
Talis rolled his eyes, “Again? Why does he do this? We already know what his decision will be.”
“It is only to placate those who disagree with him,” Darmon said roughly. “He thinks that if he pretends to reconsider his position at least once a year, he will keep us satisfied.”
“Well I’m not satisfied,” Talis stated firmly, allowing Darmon into his room. He looked down the hall to make sure no one had been listening to their conversation before he shut the door. “We need to convince him that his blind following of the Dictum is outdated and based on superstition.”
“We’ve tried that,” Darmon said. “For years we’ve tried to argue our point. He doesn’t listen. He is bent on following the Dictum, no matter what.”
“Then what is there left for us to do?” Talis demanded with irritation. “No other kingdom has a king who willingly shares power with another. We must be the laughing stock of the entire Realm! Surely they must view us as weak for putting so much credence into superstition. While other kingdoms progress, we remain in the dark. And we do so happily! If he would just let me into the council, at least to the meeting, then perhaps I could persuade them.”
“You have not been invited,” Darmon reminded the prince, his lips curling slightly upward.
Talis glowered at him. He hated the amusement on the man’s face. He got it every time he reminded Talis that he was not a part of the council. Darmon, on the other hand, was. Though he opposed the king on virtually every topic, Talis’ father had been quick to give him a seat among the council. Talis, however, was apparently not worthy of such a distinct honor. No, his opinion was not permitted to be heard. No matter how hard he had pressed his father to appoint him a seat, he had been denied. It was only through Darmon that he learned of their discussions and was able to have his say heard.
And he had no doubt that he did have his say, for Darmon was as passionate about their cause as the prince was. Why, Talis was uncertain. He had no stake in the affairs of the kingdom. All the same, he was one of the very few who held the same beliefs as Talis and was in a position to speak to the council. And that made them unlikely allies.
“So what do you plan to say that will change his mind?” Talis asked doubtfully.
“You let me worry about that,” Darmon smiled hideously as he glanced back at the bed. “You just continue with your usual princely activities.”
The derisive comment did not go unnoticed by the prince, but he said nothing in response. He was already very aware of Darmon’s opinion regarding Talis’ daily trysts. The man made no attempt to hide his disgust with each new woman coming and going from Talis’ bedchamber. The prince, however, cared not for his opinion. After all, what was the use of being royalty if he didn’t get some pleasure out of it? He certainly wasn’t going to have his opinion heard.
Seeing that his remark would get no reaction, Darmon laughed and stalked back to the door as he said over his shoulder, “I will inform you of the king’s decision when the council concludes.”
“I don’t see much of a point,” Talis snapped. “We know what he’ll say.”
“Things change,” Darmon said ambiguously without looking back and then he closed the door behind him.
He stood for a moment in the dark hallway. A servant came out of a room and took one look at him before she hastily vanished behind another. Darmon grinned as he swept down the corridor. Oh yes, things were about to change.