The King's Crown
The hands on the clock seemed to move faster with every minute he spent urging them to slow down. He still hadn't decided upon what he should say to his friend, for congratulations seemed cruel with how bittersweet all the day's ceremonies would be. Asbel stood guard outside of the quarters belonging to the prince – no, king – he silently corrected himself. He waited in the quiet hall, alone with his unsettled thoughts.
He also felt worried about leaving Richard when the dilemmas of Lhant would inevitably demand his attention sooner or later. Between all the soldiers who lost their lives during the rebellion and those who fell serving Cedric, the quantity of able and trustworthy guards was severely lacking. Even with most of Dalen's army serving in Barona, the amount of soldiers dispersed in the city to guard the parade route left few at the palace.
To complicate things farther, he could tell that Richard was mistrusting of all the guards, save himself. But how could I blame him for that? Any remnants of the royal guard who survived were stripped of their ranks and imprisoned. After their lethal betrayal to Richard's father, it would have been foolish to let any survivors return to their posts. He crossed his arms as he leaned against the door tiredly, quite aware of how few hours of sleep guard duty had left him with.
We were still fighting our way through this castle this time yesterday… His gaze fell to the floor as the thoughts of time swirled around in his mind. It was much easier to focus upon protecting the newly crowned king, but some thoughts of how quickly things were changing was impossible to avoid. King Ferdinand was ruling everyone peacefully such a short time ago.
…How many days has it been since Richard lost his father?
How many days has it been since I lost my father?
Before his mind could sink any deeper into the dark thoughts, that he couldn't voice, a welcomed distraction presented itself. However, it did not come in the most welcomed way. The door he leaned against too heavily was quickly opened just far enough for him to lose his balance. He fell gracelessly and ended up sitting on the floor and blinking lamely as Richard looked down at him, his eyebrows arched in surprise.
"Are you alright?" he asked as his knight scrambled back to his feet.
"Of course, Your Majesty," Asbel replied with a salute as he adjusted his coat.
"I've told you too many times before not to bother with those formalities," Richard said, though he sounded bemused. "Are you sure you want to come for the parade? You really haven't been taking enough care of yourself."
He's really acting like himself this morning… Asbel thought as he smiled politely.
"I wouldn't want to miss it," he said, though as usual, it didn't feel like the right thing to say. Since Wallbridge, he never knew what was right to say. It was getting increasingly difficult to avoid pushing the conflicted monarch further away.
"The people need to know…but it's still just a silly formality," Richard sighed as he pulled the door farther open.
"You still need plenty of guards," Asbel said as he stepped inside, glancing around at the king's expansive quarters.
Richard stepped aside and motioned for him to come all the way inside. The room was as spacious and lavish as one would expect, though he didn't see a significant amount of personal items. The bookcases were too far away from him to inspect, but the various items above the mantle looked like nothing more than overpriced gifts from other nobles.
"Do you mind giving me a hand with something?" Richard inquired as he fastened the several locks on his door.
"Sure," Asbel said without giving it a second thought.
"There's a certain cloak that I'm supposed to wear for the coronation," he began as he started over to the closet, "but it's on the uppermost shelf and the box has a glass lid."
"Glass box on the top shelf," Asbel rephrased. "That was well thought out."
The size of the royal closet could shame just about any average noblewoman's. It looked to be even larger and more cavernous than the office back in Lhant. It was hard to guess how much gald it cost to have the tailors make so many royal attires. Richard led the way to the back of the closet and pointed to a large box with a thin layer of dust on the top.
"It's that one. You only need to help with getting it down."
"I can carry half of it too," Asbel volunteered. "Do you mind if I stand on that lower shelf?" he questioned as he glanced at the array of shoes neatly lined up on it.
The vastness of Richard's collection of high boots could easily be called frightening.
"It's fine," he replied, sounding mildly disinterested.
"Is all of your stuff in here?" Asbel questioned as he tested the shelf to make sure it'd hold his weight.
"Oh, no," the king said casually. "I have a separate closet for boots and other shoes. There aren't many pairs in here."
"Is it…really big like this?" he asked lamely, glancing around to see that his friend's definition of 'not many' must have meant at least a hundred.
Asbel still tried not to knock things out of place as he climbed up on the low shelf. It was rather awkward to navigate around the higher shelves and rack of shirts, but he managed to pull the box out and lowered half of it down to Richard without mishap. He balanced his half over his shoulder awkwardly as he hopped down to the floor.
"It's a lot heavier than it looks," Asbel said as they made their way out of the closet.
"Most of the needlessly extravagant things are," the king remarked as they set the box down near the mirror.
Asbel removed the lid and gently set it aside. The red fabric of the cloak was bright and soft as the finest fabric gald could buy. He watched as his friend's expression darkened at the sight of it, as though it stirred some of those bad memories they continually tried to ignore. He almost looked wistful as he lifted it out of the old box.
"So what's the significance of this particular cloak?" Asbel asked as he pulled the rest of the thick material out.
"It belonged to my father," Richard said as he looked for the top of the large cloak. "He wore it on the day of his coronation and had it saved for me."
Uncertain of how to respond, Asbel poked through the neatly folded fabric. He found the top first and held it up for the both of them to see. Golden strings hung down from either side, waiting to be fastened by Windor's next ruler. It was also decorated with two light blue gemstones on the front where the strings would be wrapped around.
"I didn't think that I would need it so soon," the king said quietly.
Silence fell between the two of them for a long moment before Asbel responded. "You'll do great out there today…and the cloak looks really regal," he paused for a moment before smiling gently. "I'd probably trip in it, but you don't have to worry about that."
The shadow of a smile pulled at his lips at the light hearted comment – it was almost too easy to push the darker thoughts aside for the other. "Because you'll be close enough to catch me if I did?"
Asbel shook his head with an uncomfortable chuckle. "No, please you wouldn't trip at all. You're more graceful than that."
"Then you don't want to stay that close?" he asked lightly.
"I-I didn't mean it like that," the knight stammered, caught off guard by the question.
"I would hope not," Richard said with a slight smirk.
There was something vaguely unsettling about those frequent smirks that seemed to replace the gentle smiles that Asbel was used to seeing. Regardless, he tried not to dwell upon the fact; it was no time for such worries. There wasn't much time left before they were expected in the entrance hall for the ceremonies to commence.
"Ah…we should get down there soon. Do you want help getting into this thing?" Asbel questioned as he glanced over at the cloak.
"You're starting to sound like a maid," he said bemusedly.
"Don't think I'll dress like one," the knight retorted jokingly.
Richard laughed as he leaned forward to lower his head and shoulders. The young knight fumbled with the golden ties that wrapped around the gems on the front of the cloak. Asbel moved closer as he lifted the cloak out of the box. I'm going to mess his hair up…or something like that… Distantly wondering what had compelled him to volunteer while feeling more than a little awkward, he leaned nearer to pull the cloak around the king's shoulders.
"There you go," Asbel said as he straightened and reached for the golden strings. "I think it ties…like this?"
"I'll take care of it," Richard said as he placed a gloved hand over his knight's to push them away gently.
Richard stood up and walked over to the mirror, leaving Asbel to follow silently. He always looked rather regal, but with the noble cloak and whites replacing the usual blacks and grays, he'd fit anyone's expectations of a king. The fingers within crisp white gloves moved nimbly as he started to tie the golden strings.
"It's a bit too big," Richard observed critically. "Do you think it looks foolish?"
"No, it looks…really fancy," he said lamely, lacking a more eloquent way to put it.
"I suppose we should be going then," he said as the melancholic tone returned. "Thank you for the assistance, Asbel."
Asbel watched as his friend started to remove the locks from the door. He watched silently as the king unlocked each one, but there was something that seemed so habitual about the process that bothered him. He thought back to when they had first met and all the dangers that threatened both Richard and his family when the two of them were just children; living in such a manner for so many years was an uninviting thought, to say the least. The palace may have been grand, but even a prison could be golden.
Author's Note: And so it's edited and here! The concussion fic. XD The whole idea for this was conspired and put to the paper in August when I had a concussion and severely limited computer time. It's been heavily edited since then, but I apologize for anything that's derpier than it should be... XD
A lot of thought went into this, but let's not ramble about that boring crap. My sister Dr. Meh had some great two cents when she read over the draft of this.
"Good, good, get him in your closet, Richard."
"I kept thinking, he's probably smirking every time Asbel bends over or something."
At some point we decided "in good taste" that Richard should try to trip Asbel near the bed sometime when there's more time.
We are very mature adults. We sure are.
Anyway, thanks for reading! XD The next chapter will be up next week. :D