Draiken took a long swig from the flask and wiped his mouth with the back of his gloved hand. The drink went down smoothly, a reminder of just how cold he really was. The knight, Jenson Silvercrest, sat rested against the workbench where Dorian had been, the smallest hint of a smile playing against his lips. Draiken handed the wineflask back to him and removed his gloves, folding them into his back pocket. Ser Silvercrest was one of his father's private guard, but from what Draiken had seen, only in title. The knight hailed from Axiom, the desert city to the south-east. His past was as mysterious as he was, something he had never heard the knight speak very openly about. Something set him apart from the other twelve knights he had sworn an oath with, however. He had certainly paid his dues, fighting bravely in the 10 year war for the Hawkes, but he was not a typical soldier. He didn't seem to have the same drive to achieve honor in the line of duty, or to be a war legend. If he did, he didn't do it selfishly. It was almost as if he had something repent for. He was a man of few words, but not afraid to speak his mind in the toughest of times.
Even having barely spoken to the knight before, these qualities were clear. Jenson was a puzzle. But for some reason, Draiken found him to be more honest than the rest. Not through his actions, or his words... but from the lack of them. The knight grinned before taking another swallow of his flask, his smile almost a reflection of what Draiken was thinking. The prince took a seat on the workbench opposite the knight and regarded him carefully.
"You know, Dorian wasn't always like that," Draiken said, looking back towards the door. "Something tells me that it had something to do with his father dying. As if a part of him died too." His gaze dropped to the floor. "I wonder if I'll feel the same."
The knight's smile disappeared at this. "So, it's true then? Elias is truly ill?"
Draiken nodded, letting out a deep sigh. "I've never seen him like this before."
"You should be with him then..." Jenson said, standing to leave. "He'd want that."
Draiken shook his head. "I'm to go inform the others of his condition."
Something in the knight's eyes hinted that Jenson was coming to terms with his own fears in that moment. For a knight, having nothing to protect made you a knight without a purpose. It was hard to say if his transformation from mercenary of the desert to knight of the realm was fully complete, but he had sworn an oath -- an oath to a man who would be dead soon.
'But I am that new purpose...' Draiken thought to himself. It was true. By day's end he could be Lord of Lanchester. The thought made him sick. Other than his sister, Elias was the only person he considered true family. His distant cousins and uncles played their roles in other courts across the kingdom. Elias was it. And his poor sister. He wondered if she had heard the news yet. He would have to pay her a visit as well. Already, Draiken felt the pressures of lordship hang over his head. It was up to him to calm his father's people, his soldiers, his family. When the castle crumbled, he would have to pick up the pieces. He would have to fight and defend, make allegiances and enemies, and win the people of Lanchester. He would have to do it all.
The sound of Jenson's voice, shook Draiken out of his stupor. "When I lived in Axiom, I served a man who survived worse things than this. In that city, you never saw death coming unless you were the one dealing it. And the man next to you was just as likely to kill you as he was to--"
"--Poison you?" Draiken hadn't meant for himself to say that. The knight hadn't either. The thought hung in the air in silence.
"Don't give up on your father just yet, m'lord." Jenson replied, crossing to the door. He casually shrugged his cloak around his shoulders. In that instant, Draiken realized his sincere admiration for the man. Being called Lord didn't bother him so much. He would remember this moment... and this man.
Draiken watched his stride, both confident and relaxed. "Who was it that you served," he called out after him, "in Axiom?"
The knight opened the door, inviting a bitter draft to escape into the room. "Myself."
Ser Silvercrest disappeared into the rain.
Lord Hawke's chambers were colder than she ever remembered. Regardless of the reinforced stone and multi-paned windows, the chill that she felt was unlike any she had ever known. Attendants milled aimelessy around the room as the in-house alchemist and herbologist Janos Huxley sat on the edge of Lord Hawke's bed. Elias' pale chest was exposed to the cold air as Janos examined his heartbeat with his medical instrument. His breaths were shallow and weak, a slight wheeze with every movement. The mood in the room was solemn as only the sound of the storm outside hung heavily in the room. The herbologist motioned two of the attendants forward with a flick of his fingers. He took the buds of his stethoscope out of his ears and slid the frame down around his neck while taking a step back to ponder the situation.
In attendance were the Lord Commander of the Royal Guard, Darius Halycon, the Lord's personal attendant, Bruce Byron, and many other of Elias' closest subjects... including his daughter, Sophia. But none said a word. They only kept their heads bowed in respect. Janos approached Ser Halycon and put a hand on his arm, bringing him aside.
"We need to give him rest now. I will retreat to my study and make do with what I have, but his condition is inescapable at the present moment. I fear giving him anything for his malady until the fever breaks."
The Lord Commander nodded gravely. "I understand. We appreciate you being able to get here so quickly."
He opened the door, cuing many of the spectators in the room to make their exit. One-by-one they filed out of the large wooden door. The Lord Commander was the last to leave, apart from Sophia. He took one last look at his sick Lord in the bed. Elias silently nodded his thanks to Darius, and the knight closed the door behind him. Sophia drew her father's blanket up around his shoulders and neck knowing that the lack of people in the room would only make the chamber's colder. He withdrew into a fit of suppressed coughs and she reached behind her to grab his goblet of water. She held it to his purple lips as she poured some into his mouth.
"Oh, father," she began, "what have they done to you?" She brought the damp rag from his bedside table to his brow, its water blending with the cold sweat upon his cheeks. He had never looked so weak to her.
"Who is 'they', my love?" It was the first time she had heard him speak since he got back.
She looked at him warmly, pushing his hair back. "The Gods."
"This sickness has no divine purpose, child. It was earned." He turned his head and collapsed into a fit of coughs, each one harsher than the last.
"You don't deserve this..." she said sadly. The thought drove her to her feet. She faced away from him, struggling to hold back tears. "No death is earned."
"Tell that to the men who have given their lives to keep our heads from being cut off."
The bluntness of his words reminded her that it was only his body dying. He was still the same resolute father he had been. Even the weak could be strong it seemed. "Your brother will need you now more than ever. I hope you know that." The thought had crossed her mind several times already. They were both young. They hadn't prepared for this to happen so soon. And what were they to do? Take advice from Lady Hollister? Her influence in the court was not unnoticed, but she was soon to become a twice-widowed woman. Would she entrust the fate of Lanchester to them that easily?
She reached down and took her father's hand in her own. "I'll look after him. For the both of us." Sophie parted with a smile. She wanted ever so much to stay the night watching over him, but a part of her knew it would make no difference. “Sleep well, father.” With that, she slipped through the wooden door into the stone corridor, careful to shut it softly behind her. It was her brother's voice that scared her.
"I hope you didn't lock the door," he said, sliding his dampened hood down from over his head. The night had not been kind to him either, she could tell. If she didn't know him so well, she might have mistaken the rain around his cheeks for tears. "How is he?" Her brother asked, quietly.
"Stubborn." She couldn't quite find the words to describe him when asked to. "You should let him rest. Morning will be here soon."
Draiken nodded in agreement. They both knew the likeliness that they could both be orphans by night's end. "And yourself? I didn't see you out there when they arrived."
"I was in the middle of my lesson with Madame Collins. Lady Hollister informed me of--”
“You saw her?” Draiken said, interrupting Sophie entirely.
“Wh-- Yes. She told me what had happened."
Draiken folded his arms. “I haven't been able to find her tonight. She apparently wasn't here at the chambers, not in the council room, throne room, the tailor's or the pavillion...”
Sophie put an arm on her brother's shoulder. “She's probably just distraught. She travelled all that way with him, after all.”
“That still does nothing to temper my suspicions.” He pushed past her towards the other end of the corridor. “Thank you for staying by him tonight. See that you get some rest. You've earned it.” He began his ascent towards his chamber atop the tower and left Sophie to herself. Her words echoed in the empty corridor.
“Nothing is earned.”