This is chapter 1 of book 2 in The King’s Spy Series. Click here to learn more about the gifts in Hamal’s world.
A Princely Introduction
The soldiers arrested Gray Adorin the moment he stepped through the gate.
His young friend Tell was clearly startled when the prince’s men surrounded them, but Gray wasn’t surprised. Indeed, he would have been disappointed if no one had met them here, considering everything he’d heard about Lukas Fao.
“He’s a seer,” he quietly told Tell as they were escorted through a side passage to a holding room built directly off the gatehouse. The room was a perfect square, with benches nailed to the walls and inconveniently small windows set out of reach. Iron lamps hung in clusters along the walls, providing light where the windows did not.
Tell was scowling. He turned to Gray with fire in his eyes, and Gray was fairly certain the boy hadn’t heard him.
“The prince of Ra-Faal,” Gray explained. He used a slightly louder voice, having learned over the last three weeks that sometimes a louder voice was required with Tell. “He’s a seer. One of the best on the continent, or so I’ve heard.”
He watched as the words found ground in the boy’s consciousness. The fire tripped for a heartbeat, flashing with surprise, but then the heat doubled back, raging up even hotter than before.
“The prince is a seer,” Tell repeated. He glared at the guards who took up position on either side of the closed door. “I have determined that I hate seers.”
The words were fully expected after the sorry circumstances Gray and Tell had endured the last several days, but when Gray considered how this was one prince describing another—indeed, one cousin describing another—he couldn’t help but laugh. The room was not quite large enough for his merriment, and when the guards looked at him with narrowed eyes, he tried to adjust his good cheer.
“Don’t worry,” he told Tell. “Other than gifting and gender, you will discover that this seer does not have much in common with the last.”
Still, Tell scowled. After a long moment in which the only sounds, muffled and distant, wafted in through the ridiculous windows, the boy asked stiffly, “Have you met the prince?”
“No, but I know many things about him. He is one of the few direct descendants of the House of Rayme to sit on a throne in Dasken.” Gray looked at Tell, brows lifted.
“And,” Gray continued, frowning at the boy, “he is considered wise, even by his enemies. He rules the province well, and across the continent, readers say that Lukas Fao can wave his hand and create wealth. Ra-Faal is, as you know, the richest province in the whole of Dasken, and much of that was the prince’s doing.” Gray walked over and sat down on one of the benches nailed to the southern wall. He folded his hands casually and looked up at Tell. “Of course, he had the assistance of a friend of ours.”
Tell pretended he wasn’t interested, but he clearly was interested, and at last he said, “Which friend?”
“Shel Galen,” Gray replied and, though he didn’t look at them directly, took note of the guards and their reactions. The one on the right broke form and glanced quickly at the one on the left. The one on the left tightened his grip on his sword hilt.
Tell blinked and seemed to forget that he was in a poor mood, brought on by the word seer. “Oh. I knew they knew each other, but I didn’t realize they were actual friends.”
Gray continued his subtle observation of the guards as he explained, “Lukas Fao is Shel’s attachment. You can explain it in any way you wish—his closest friend, like a brother only more so—and every description would be accurate. Lukas listens to Shel, and Shel listens to Lukas.” Gray shrugged. “Therefore, Ra-Faal knows prosperity that is unmet by any other province in Dasken. Truly, having a sage as a companion works wisdom in unexpected ways.”
Tell folded his arms and looked again at the guards before blurting, “If that is true, then why have we been arrested?”
Gray put his head back against the wall and momentarily closed his eyes. He hadn’t slept much in the last several days and was looking forward to a comfortable bed tonight. “I have a feeling that Shel didn’t tell him. All the sages—Hamal, Jessen, Kent, the rest—they can be like that sometimes. They don’t always think the way the other gifts think.” He sighed and opened his eyes. “It’s a slightly different case with Shel Galen, of course. Did Shel forget? Does Shel ever truly forget anything? I would think not. So, then, it must be that he feels it is wise for us to meet Lukas Fao in this manner.”
Tell paused as he sorted those words. “Wait. The prince is coming here?”
Gray didn’t miss the sudden stiffness in the boy’s form. Swallowing his chuckle, Gray replied, “Yes. I suspect he saw us coming from a long way off.”
“And you are certain? I mean, that he is not like…?” Tell didn’t say the name.
Gray couldn’t fault him for his hesitation. “No, he isn’t. You’ll see.”
TWO HOURS PASSED.
Tell paced much of that time, while Gray lay back on the bench and slept with his arm across his eyes.
As the supper hour approached, the guards changed out, and Gray caught snippets of the quiet conversation that took place outside the door. He heard a reference to the prince and several mentions of Shel, which made him smile. A short time later, servants arrived bearing trays of food that did not contain what was typically offered to those detained in Dasken. Covered plates boasted roast chicken, river clams and cream, and bread that actually dripped with butter.
“This is not what I expected,” Tell whispered to Gray.
“And this,” Gray replied, “is not the first time I’ve found it helpful to mention Shel’s name in difficult circumstances.”
Tell looked at him quickly. “You knew this would happen? Wait—you did this on purpose?”
“All I did was mention how Shel Galen is the prince’s close friend,” Gray replied. “His very close friend. That by itself would have bought us a nice supper, but the prince is also a seer, and one can never quite tell what a seer will see and what he will not. Or what he will wish to reward. Thus, in the stronghold of Fao, Shel’s name will always purchase double what it would anywhere else.”
“You are quite the schemer, Gray.”
“How are the clams?”
The sunlight had changed to starlight and the temperature was slowly dropping when, finally, the door opened again. Gray and Tell stood from the bench as another set of guards stepped into the room. These men bore the insignia of the House of Fao on their armor: an eagle in midflight. The marking had always seemed appropriate for this specific house and now all the more so because the current first lord of that house was a seer.
Gray glanced at his young companion, who stood next to him with his hands clenched at his sides, jaw muscles tightening.
The prince of Ra-Faal followed his men into the room and stopped still the moment his silver gaze fixed on Gray. If he noticed Tell at all, he gave no sign.
The torchlight said he was younger than his thirty-five years. His dark hair was cropped short like a soldier’s, and he didn’t wear a sword, which was unusual for a Dasken prince. However, Gray knew that some seers preferred knives to swords, and this man apparently fell into that category. With just a glance, Gray could count five knives strapped to the prince in various places and suspected the presence of several more he couldn’t see.
Lukas Fao, one of the most powerful men in Dasken, stared at Gray, his silver eyes narrowed, gaze intense as he used his gift.
Out the corner of his eye, Gray saw Tell slowly begin to relax. The boy’s fists unclenched; his shoulders lowered a little bit, and he took a large breath. The boy was a feeler, and it seemed that he had just realized that Gray was right. This seer was different from the last; this one had no intention of harassing them. At least, not anything more than a few hours’ stay in a holding room. The prince had detained them because of something that Tell could feel, apparently—something that was easier on the soul than what had driven the last seer.
Gray bowed politely, a move Tell hurried to emulate. “Your highness.”
“What are you?” the prince asked, his gaze on Gray.
Gray remembered how Shel had described this man: blunt, shrewd, suspicious, intelligent, quick. A man who knew what he wanted and could perceive in advance how the people around him would respond. He certainly didn’t bother with hesitation this evening.
“It’s called a par’salthaine, your highness,” Gray replied, imitating the prince’s stark manner of speaking. Though most on the continent would be unfamiliar with the word par’salthaine, he suspected that Lukas Fao was an exception.
And so he was. The silver eyes narrowed. “Every par’salthaine has a specific purpose. What is the purpose of yours?”
“I can break the laws set by lawmakers, your highness.”
A moment passed in silence that seemed to move. The prince stared at him, and Gray wondered what the man was seeing. The working of the seer gift would always be of interest to him.
In the end, all Lukas said was, “That is quite the gift.”
Yes, it was.
For the first time, the prince turned his attention to Tell. He studied him until the boy began to fidget and then, looking back to Gray, Lukas directed, “Tell me why your friend doesn’t like seers.”
The unexpected command jarred Gray’s senses.
The prince’s face gave very little away. It was a schooled expression, one used to being studied by others. In this unexpected moment, as Gray looked into silver eyes that spoke as much as stones, it was difficult for him to perceive why Shel considered this man his closest friend. Yet the answer had to be here, hidden somewhere in the stealth.
That was why they had been detained—so one seer could learn about another?
The room stood quietly all around them, one long moment drawing into another. Tell threw a concerned look in Gray’s direction.
“It’s a long story, your highness,” Gray said at last.
“I have the time.”
Of course he did. He had waited until the end of day to meet with them, so he would have time to listen to the full story. Gray let his breath out slowly. He never liked the sensation of unexpected movement, of being picked up and positioned by someone else. Shel had hinted at his friend’s intellect and cunning, but as always, he hadn’t told everything he knew. He hadn’t warned them that Lukas Fao was unpredictable.
“Very well, your highness.” And then Gray said the words he had hoped to say to Shel but, for the moment, would have to speak to a stubborn prince instead. “It began with a dragon.”
– H –
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Copyright notice: © 2018 by Lauren Stinton. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.