The sound of funeral bells ring out from the church as the people line the streets to see their beloved king off. Lillian joins Prince Winston and his mother in the carriage as they ride behind King Erben’s funerary casket. She looks out to the people on one side of the street. Their heads are bowed and once the carriage passes they fall behind it. By the time they reach the church the entire town arrives with them though the only ones permitted inside the church are the king’s family, the lords, the highest ranking knights, and a few nobles of the kingdom.
The church itself is constructed of stone and three stories tall. The very upstairs floor consisting of rooms for the resident monks and the center floor is where the studies are located. That same floor is also where books are written. Unlike the other churches built St. Peter’s Grand Cathedral serves as the seat of the church’s power. A fact that the Agion kingdom has always boasted since the decision was made years ago. It is from here that over half the books that are written come from, which wasn’t that many, and where the world’s knowledge is kept.
The inner sanctuary boasts a high ceiling. The windows are arched and decorated with colored glass and mosaics of figures from the bible. Columns are spaced evenly along the length of the sanctuary which is lit by chandlers of candles hanging from the ceiling. The altar is made of wood from a willow tree and decorated with gold sheets and candles and for this occasion flowers. Stone carved statues of angels stand on either side of the double oak doors in the back. Two more are located on either side of the altar in a praying position. This establishment is nothing less than a testament to the church’s wealth and power.
Once the service begins Lillian sits on one side of Prince Winston with Malinda on her other. Witnessing the king’s funeral takes Lillian back to her father’s death and how he, as the most powerful lord of the realm, would have had a similar service though she would never know. Her father’s injuries were so severe and because of her and her late mother’s position they were forced to have a private service for him and her brother. The royal family didn’t even know.
She looks to Prince Winston beside her. He seemed to have sensed how she had begun to feel before they left and sought to comfort her. She appreciated that and even noticed that she enjoyed his comfort and affection toward her. It has been a long time since any such attention has been given to her or since she sought such attention and she remembers the reason why.
She turns her head to the other side of the aisle where the lords sat. There sits the very man responsible for every horrid thing that ever befallen her; Lord Argon. He was the only rival to her father in power and that combined with his greed for power itself lead to him ordering a group of bandits to kill her father and brother. She burns him with her gaze to the point there is no doubt in her mind he felt it. Before she could see if he reacts Lillian’s attention is taken back to the front of the church as the pope, who wanted to be over the service personally, gives the signal for everyone to rise for prayer. Lillian clears and refocuses her mind. Now was not the time.
As the service comes to a close King Erben’s body is carried out followed by those in the sanctuary row by row. Lillian watches along with Prince Winston and the others as the king’s casket is reloaded into the funerary royal carriage to be taken to the royal crypt located in a part of the royal manner behind the castle where the other kings and royal family members of yore rested.
As it does so the gathered people toss flowers behind the carriage as a form of farewell. When the carriage is out of sight everyone gathered disbands some muttering amongst themselves others with eyes still filled with tears. Lillian looks to Prince Winston. His eyes are teary, but they did not flow.
“It will get better, my prince.”, she says taking his hand. Prince Winston turns his head to her and forces a small smile.
“I know.”, he says simply and delivers a pick upon her cheek. Lillian’s heart flutters because of it. How she had come to love Prince Winston’s affection and attention. Although it was not always this way. After the trauma of having her innocence forcibly taken from her, Lillian was frightened even to be touched by anyone. It was only with Malinda’s help and Prince Winston’s patients was she able to overcome her demons.
As they are lead to their carriage by guarding knights Prince Winston looks around. Lillian has no doubt he is looking for Vincent. He indeed had been on duty during the service providing security at the front of the church. As she suspected when Prince Winston finds Vincent he motions him over with a wave of his hand. Vincent obediently falls in beside Prince Winston. At the same time enclosing the circle of knights.
“The coronation preparations will be beginning right when we arrive home, however, I’m going to need to begin my duties before then.”, Prince Winston says addressing them both. “I also want us to talk when we get back. Let’s meet in the third library.”, he goes on stopping before entering the carriage. Lillian is surprised by the prince’s words. The three of them had never done such a thing before or they never had the opportunity to do so honestly. Nonetheless she and Vincent nod their heads in understanding and Lillian follows Prince Winston inside the carriage.
“What do you want to talk about?”, she asks him.
“You’ll see.”, Prince Winston responds.
Once Prince Winston and Lady Lillian enter the carriage Vincent closes the door and makes his way to his horse. He follows the carriage back along with the rest of the royal guards and knights to the castle. When they arrive Vincent makes his way to the third library in the castle where he meets Prince Winston and Lady Lillian. They each sit in a chair facing each other. Before they start talking Prince Winston orders them some drinks and snacks to be brought.
“The service was good.”, Vincent starts off when they are alone.
“Yes it was. I think your father would be grateful.”, Lillian agrees.
“Nonetheless our lives go on and we still have important things to attend to.”, Prince Winston tells them. Vincent raises his eyebrows in surprise at his friend’s response.
“You sound a lot better now compared to earlier.”, Vincent comments. A half smile appears on Prince Winston’s face as he fidgets with his hands. A habit he couldn’t help.
“I owe it to you two. You both were really there for me and I appreciate that. Not to mention the service helped give me some closure as well.”, he says looking to Vincent and Lillian in turn. “It helped me realize that my father did a lot to help the people of this kingdom and that I must be sure to preserve and build on what he has left. However, I always knew that and always wanted that, but what I newly realized is…that...I can’t do it alone. There is no chance.”, he goes on.
“Well you’re not alone and you don’t have to be.”, Vincent responds. “We are here for you and I think I speak for both of us when I say that we are not going anywhere.”, he continues referring to himself and Lillian. Lillian nods her head in agreement with absolute certainty.
“I know and it is that reason why I want you both to be on my council.”, Prince Winston announces.
“Council?”, Lillian questions.
“It’s something new I am doing. Mainly to give the people confidence in me taking the throne at a young age compared to past kings. The council will act as my advisors whether permanently or temporarily.”, Prince Winston explains.
“Ooh...this must be your answer to the lord’s suggestion of your mother ruling along with you as your co-regent.”, Vincent announces in realization.
“Co-regent? I didn’t know about that.”, Lillian speaks surprised by the news.
“It was not too long ago. When I wasn’t really talking to anyone out of grief.”, Prince Winston explains.
“Yet Vincent knew.”
“Well I told him that night. Anyway, yes that is why I thought of the council.”, Prince Winston goes on brushing the discussion away.
“You want us to be a part of it?”, Vincent inquiries.
“Along with my mother. We all know the greatest threat to the crown is from the order of the lords which is now practically under Lord Argon’s control.”, Prince Winston responds.
“That is a desperate situation. That man is an evil, no good, greedy serpent.”, Lillian comments with undisguised disgust.
By this time the request Prince Winston had made is brought to them. Vincent takes a sip of his drink. He knows his friend is right, but he couldn’t help but be unnerved by Prince Winston’s request for him to be a part of his council. Normally he would have accepted without a second thought especially since it would mean Prince Winston and his family would be more secure, but now isn’t normal.
There is still the threat of increased activity by bandits in the northeastern part of the kingdom. It was only a couple weeks ago that Vincent along with Prince Winston lead a small battalion to free his home town of Gordowe from bandit rule and occupation. Inside Vincent felt that he should be actually a part of the effort of the knights to solve the problem, but he couldn’t do that if he was here in the capital. In all honesty he suddenly feels divided now.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on him, but we can’t be the first to strike. It will only be bad for us no matter what. I think the council is a great idea...”, he starts off. “However, I do not think I can be a part of it.” he goes on. Prince Winston faces him for a moment.
“I know why you say that, but-” the sound of someone entering the library interrupts Prince Winston’s reply. A servant approaches the three bowing her head.
“Please forgive my intrusion, but your mother has requested your presence.”, she says addressing Prince Winston.
“No harm done. I’ll be right there.”, he says rising to his feet. As he passes Vincent Prince Winston lays a hand on his shoulder.
“I know you will be gone later on today, but before you do let’s talk okay?”, he says to him.
“I leave tomorrow morning.”, Vincent replies.
“Then we will talk tonight.”, Prince Winston decides. Vincent grins as the prince makes decisions for him as he tends to do and has always done.
“Whatever you wish.”, Vincent replies sarcastically without argument.
Vincent watches the prince go. Lillian follows after him with a nod to Vincent allowing Vincent to be alone with his thoughts. What should he do? The kingdom itself needed him, but so did Prince Winston. Even if he did choose to return to the field how was he going to convince his best friend to let him go. Especially since he loved him so.