Juan Leolin felt too old for formal proceedings. Juan had to answer for his son’s actions. And it could not be helped. The shame was unbearable and worse still for his wife. He wished so eagerly to be at home with her; in her condition she did not need stress.
“Rian Leolin, you are called here today to answer for your crimes.” King Conri’s voice was powerful; he sat at his throne with patience, demanding the unquestioning respect of all those present. “You are accused of incest, and molestation of a child. What do you have to say in your defense?”
Juan looked around, only few of the king’s closest trustees were present, including his latest concubine.
Lucan had refused to take a seat, and instead stood solemnly at the side of the aisle where Juan sat, staring absently at the figure of his younger brother. The king sat at his throne, where they all faced. He wasn’t a large man, though he had faced a bout of obesity as a child. His face was mostly covered with a mighty red beard, and the most memorable feature of him was the dark blue of his eyes. He held about him a grace that Juan had only admired in royals, such as the young Rei, though her grace might be mistaken for shyness, Conri was not at all shy.
Rian spoke calmly, “I have no words.”
Conri’s voice grew loud, “Did you have words for you sister when you forced her out of her clothes?”
Juan grimaced, “Sire, is that necessary?”
“He’s your son, Juan, his shame is yours also.” Conri said, “What do you have to say?”
Shaking his head, Juan looked away from the king’s stare. “I have failed as his father.”
Conri cleared his throat “I would expect an absurdity like this from a lesser born, but you are a noble family, and it is a disgrace to all of us.” He said, “To me twice as I am your king and more recently kin to you through my daughter. I am asked not by the people to sentence you, but by my own conscious. What I question now is how can I permit a man whose actions are of such degradation, to live and breathe in my kingdom?” There was a silence in the throne room. No high born man had ever been sentenced to death since the uprising in Kyland. And even still, banishment or slavery was more favoured by the people. “In a short time, I have lost not one daughter but two; the first to a freak fire, and the other to marriage. My wife has fallen ill, and despite all the physicians I have afforded her, she worsens. Now here I am, asked to pass judgement on my first born daughter’s brother-in-law. This sentence will not just land on you, boy, realise that your actions have affected the state of your family as well.” Conri leaned into his throne, uncertainty written on his face. “Cohen, I ask what you have to say.”
Juan looked to the far side of the room, where Crown Prince Cohen sat alongside his father’s woman. The boy was the image of his father, already growing a wispy beard. The crown on his head was identical to the one his father wore, but Cohen did not wear a look of confusion as his father did.
“This act is an insult to nature, sire.” He spoke firmly, “But in respect for my sister, I say let the man rot away the days he has left.”
“You believe there should be no consequences for his family?”
“The shame of this is consequence enough, Father.”
Conri seemed displeased. “He has dishonoured his name. He has dishonoured your sister.”
“And should we punish her for his actions against her?”
The king sat without speaking for a long moment, and Juan entertained the idea that Conri enjoyed making others wait on him.
Finally, Conri spoke. “Peredur, Fiala.” None of those seated turned to watch the two knights make their way to the king. The sound of their metal suits was enough. “You are to escort this boy to the Belltower, where he will remain until I find use for him.”
Juan knew the king would never find use for him. Rian would be put away and left to die, like all the other forgotten criminals locked in the Belltower. Surprisingly, it seemed Cohen had gotten to his father. Juan exhaled, the slight fear in his belly dwindled. He would not have to watch his son be executed, and due to the crimes committed, that was almost a relief.
The two knights came to stand at either side of Rian, and Juan closed his eyes, not wishing to see.
“You’re sending him to my mother?”
Juan opened his eyes, shocked out the prince’s outburst. Cohen was the son of Rois Agar, and the Agar family has resided as keepers of the Belltower, an ancient structure used mostly for locking away prisoners of the crown.
The king almost smiled, “You were so eager to lock him away, where did you expect him to go?”
Cohen was on his feet, “My sisters live there, your daughters!”
Conri did not need to stand, “You will not question me boy!” He yelled, “I am your father.”
“Send him to Iridia! Give him to the Draki’s! Let them choose his fate!”
“Sit down boy!” The king roared, his arms flying up before his face as he snarled at his son. “You will learn a king cannot pass off his problems to another! Hard decisions must be made, and if you cannot stand by those decisions then you’re not fit to be a ruler of any kind!” Conri’s eyes turned on Juan. “You will renounce the boy as your kin, as do I, my daughter and all relations.”
Juan went to speak, but Lucan spoke first.
“He is not my brother.”