The Tale of Edgar and Essa
A few days later, Tedros walks up the stairs to the top of Valor Tower, looking around. He thinks about what would happen if he did become king – whether the people would accept him, whether they would prefer Rhian.
Alison joins him at the top. “What are you thinking about?”
“What happens if we get my throne back from Rhian.”
“When. When we get your throne back from Rhian.”
They look out beyond the moat, to where the Endless Forest looms. “I just keep thinking… what if it’s not my throne?”
“What do you mean?”
“What if it belongs to… Rafaela?”
Alison sighs. “The throne of Camelot has always been passed to the male heir, Tedros. It’s your throne.”
“But that’s a sexist notion. It’s ridiculous.”
“It’s tradition.” With this parting short of wisdom, she walks downstairs, leaving Tedros alone. Or at least, that’s what he thinks, until Essa walks out from behind a bush.
“You should speak to her.”
“She’s not my sister.”
Essa laughs. “She’s your sister, Tedros. You need to talk to her.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
She laughs again. “There’s that trademark Tedros pigheadedness. I didn’t know Elena – that doesn’t make her any less of my sister. At the end of the day, Tedros, blood is thicker than water.”
He pauses. “Thank you.”
Her smile is nothing short of serpentine. “You’re welcome.” She makes to walk off, but then kicks him in the face and he goes down, shouting.
“What was that for?” She drags him over to the railing and picks him up. “Do you have to wear those heels?”
She looks down at him. “You’re the reason this all happened. You shouldn’t have used my name. This is all your fault.”
“I didn’t know.”
“Edgar would have never got involved if it wasn’t for you. Rhian wouldn’t have known about his heritage. You would still be on the throne.”
“I has no idea.”
“I know you didn’t.” Her eyes brim with unshed tears, and Tedros takes advantage of this to surge up and push her out of the way, pinning her to the floor.
“I should get Alison. You tried to kill me.”
“I had to at least try.”
“No. You didn’t.” He leaves her struggling to get up as he runs down the stairs.
Rowan walks into Ruby’s room – he hasn’t seen her since the day that he met her stepfather. Rhian is in there every day, though, and he has seen Anastacia lurking outside. Today, Rhian is out in the city, and Edgar with him, so Rowan judges it safe to go.
He opens the door and slips inside, looking around. Ruby is sitting on the sofa, leaning forward and resting her head on her hand. “Rowan,” she says without looking up. “What are you doing here?”
“How are you?”
“How do you think I am?”
He doesn’t reply – the question didn’t warrant an answer. “Sophie and Rhian are getting married in a month. We need to stop them before then.”
“Have you got any poison?”
He glares at her. “You’re not poisoning my brother.”
“Not killing him, no. I just need something that will take Edgar out for a bit. No-one will be able to even get close with him there.”
“I’m sure I can find something. How do you want to administer it?”
“Something absorbed through the skin. We need to put it on something only Edgar will touch.”
He thinks for a minute. “Cutlery.”
“No. Too risky.”
“We wouldn’t have enough to put on everything, and we don’t know what he’d be wearing.”
“I’m not sure, then.”
“Could you shut that door, please?” she asks, pointing to the door leading to the coffin room. He nods and gets up, but before he can close it he hears a voice.
“Those.” Miles points to the row of torture weapons on the wall. “Only Edgar and Rhian touch them. There’s no danger of it hurting anyone else.”
“We coat the weapons with the poisons?”
Ruby nods decisively. “It could work. He’s right.” She sounds vaguely annoyed.
“It’s… what do you call it? Poetic justice. Hurting them with their own weapons.” Rowan leaves then, to find the poison, and Ruby goes to shut the door. “Happy birthday, Ruby,” Miles says quietly.
“It’s your birthday today. You’re seventeen.”
A tear falls down her face as she pictures how she is going to spend the rest of her birthday – locked in this room at best, and… she doesn’t want to think about the worst.
“You should know something.”
“What?” The words come out harsher than she intended, and she winces.
“James isn’t in there,” he says, nodding towards the coffin. “Rhian told me yesterday, while you were asleep. He was buried in a mass grave outside Camelot.”
Ruby says nothing, just closes the door, but her mind is whirring. If he is not in there, then something else must be. Something important. Something worth hiding.
A slow smiles spreads across her face.
Something like Excalibur.
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