Prince Winston spends the rest of the day thinking about what he had learned from his mother. The whole situation with Vincent would have to be resolved soon he knows, but a part of him did fear what maybe his dear friend’s response would be. Nonetheless it had to be done.
The coronation would take place in the next coming weeks. Not only that, but his marriage to Lillian will also be pushed forward for security of the crown purposes. As a result he arranged with his mother that if he is allowed to oversee the preparations for the coronation she can get to work on the wedding that will take place after.
His meeting with the Order of the Lords however will have to come first. Not that he needed their permission to rule, but it would be best to keep confrontation with them at bay for the time being, but again he admits that he needs Vincent.
As he resides in the throne room awaiting to take care of any appointments today Prince Winston looks to one of his servants to his right.
“Where is Sir knight Vincent?”, he asks.
“I don’t know myself sire, however, I will make haste in finding out if you wish.”, the servant replies with a bowed head.
“No, there is no need.”, Winston says to the servant. He adds to himself. “He most likely is preparing to take his leave tomorrow.”
Jamonson approaches him stopping at the steps that lead to the throne. Jamonson was once over the royal stables as the caretaker along with his nephew who was named Benjamin. Seven years ago, before he met Vincent, Winston looked to Jamonson as his escape from his royal life by means of horseback riding lessons. However, Benjamin was found to have committed actions of abuse and torture against Vincent who also became a stable boy after meeting Prince Winston.
When Winston found out it was the night Benjamin tried to kill Vincent, however, in the end it was Benjamin who ended up dead. When Winston brought Benjamin’s actions to everyone’s attention he had made sure to separate Jamonson from what was going on as much as possible.
This allowed him to retain his position, however, due to personal reasons Jamonson decided he could no longer work in the stables, but instead of resigning Prince Winston offered him a place in the castle which he gladly accepted for the prince.
“Are you ready to receive your people, sire?”, Jamonson asks.
“Yes. I am.”, Winston responds refocusing his mind.
As the line of commoners with grievances come in they part to let someone through. To Winston’s surprise it is Vincent. He doesn’t say anything. He only bows in greeting to Winston who returns it with a respectful nod before Vincent takes his place among the other present guards.
Though he is happy to see his friend, the prince still wonders why he came when it is obvious he assigned enough men to be present so that he didn’t have to be. Winston guesses that Vincent may wants to hear how many bandit complaints will come in and from which parts of the kingdom. A situation that he too wants to know about; Winston admits to himself.
As the last grievances are being heard Winston examines in his head what he has learned. The news of what happened in Gordowe did two things. First it did cause unlawful activities by bandits too slow for a time combined with the actions of the Order of the Knights that Winston had approved of afterwards. Second it gave people the courage to start coming forward about other activities; most of which are still in the east of the kingdom. Although now it seems a resurgence maybe on the wind.
As he begins to settle the last grievance, a dispute between two farmers over a runaway cow and some damaged crops, he gives a side glance to Jamonson who he had been given the responsibility of writing down the day’s grievances.
I will have to look at that when I am finished, he thought.
After announcing that the two will work together on their remaining crops and that the farmer who owns the runaway beast of burden will reimburse the other farmer for the damaged crop with whatever revenue he brings in after the harvest the prince approaches Jamonson.
“I will take that.”, he says referring to the parchment on which the grievances were recorded on. “Did you get everything?”, Winston asks.
“Yes sire. Every last one.”, Jamonson answers confidently giving away the parchment. Jamonson goes on as Winston gives the hand signal for everyone to leave. “I must say this was a brilliant idea, Prince Winston...to keep the record of the grievances you hear and the solutions you give for them.”
“Just a way to make sure I am serving the people well. I also like the idea of reflecting on this sort of data.”, Winston says glancing over the document. “Stop right there and get back here!”, Winston says making his voice louder without looking from what he is reading. He turns around rolling up the paper to Vincent who is walking towards him. “You are going to help me look over this just this once.”, the prince says pointing to his friend with the now rolled up parchment.
“Let me guess...I don’t have much of a choice do I?”, Vincent replies smirkly.
“Not in the slightest. Besides, you want to look over this just as much as I do.”, Winston answers. Vincent tilts his head to one side.
“Well, can’t argue with any of that.”, he replies.
“Would you like me to stay?”, Jamonson offers Winston with an amused expression.
“No, I think we got it.”, the prince replies.
Bowing his head Jamonson exits the room leaving the two boys alone. Winston remembers there is a lot he needed to talk about with Vincent. What he doesn't know is how to bring it up to him. Looking to his friend he wishes he knew what Vincent is thinking. This would be the first time they had talked since Winston told him of his plane for his council and since he talked with his mother.
“Alright...I suppose we should just look through this and see if we can get a grip on the situation.”, the prince says nervously.
“Something wrong?”, asks Vincent as Winston turns to sit down on his throne.
“No.”, Winston answers simply. Vincent walks to stand by the throne and Winston’s side looking doubtful. Sensing this Winston seeks to assure him. “I’m fine, honestly. I just have a lot I want to talk to you about.”, A look of interest comes into Vincent’s eyes, but he doesn’t pressure Winston. Instead he looks to the document they are meant to be reviewing.
“Well how about we start with this?”, Vincent suggests referring to the parchment.
“To be honest it’s not much.”, Winston says unrolling the paper. “Taking in everything the people said and not just the grievances themselves there was a drop in bandit activity, however, now they are coming back.”
“Hmm, and not just in the east either. This man here is from the western part of the kingdom. Near where the Lackburd’s home was even.”, Winston nods his head at Vincent’s words. “Don’t forget we still haven’t found those bandits either.”, Vincent goes on.
“Ugh...! Don’t remind me. I know it’s a matter of time before that is used against me and possibly even the knights.”, Winston says with exasperation.
“Don’t worry. I’ll work with Sir Rollrick and the others and get this under control. You know...it is possible we did get those responsible for the Lackburd’s murder in Gordowe. If that network was as vast as it appears.”, Vincent offers.
“Guess I never thought of that.”, Winston says with his head resting on his hand. A moment passes before either of them says anything else.
“You know I have to go, right?”, Vincent says finally breaking the silence. Winston lowers the paper.
“I suppose, but... I guess I thought I could convince you somehow.”, Winston says in a low voice. He looks to Vincent. “I just really need you right now.”
“The kingdom needs me too. Besides what does it look like having a ten year old as a part of your council?
“Oh please. You and I both know that our ages are the last thing on people’s mind. Especially when it comes to us together.”, Winston says brushing that part of Vincent’s argument away.
“True, but that doesn’t change the fact that you can’t be selfish enough to keep me here knowing what I can do for the people.”
“We can both take this on and the order if you are here though!”, Winston contours getting to his feet.
“But we can do better if I am out in the field!”, Vincent retorts, desperately trying to convince his friend. Winston’s eyes become slits.
“I can’t do this alone.”, he says flatly.
“All because I’m not here doesn’t mean I won’t be there for you and you are not alone. I told you that.”, Vincent says stepping to Winston. “You have your mother, Jamonson even Lillian will help you if you let her.”, Winston admits his friend is right, but there is still something he wanted to know.
“Just answer me this. How are you looked at by the other knights? How do they act toward you?”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”, Vincent answers.
“I mean has anyone ever said anything to you about...I don’t know. You being at the castle the way you do or the privileges you sometimes get by knowing me.”, Winston responds fumbling through his words. A look of confusion comes upon Vincent’s face, but is soon replaced by understanding.
“No one has never said anything to me directly. You must remember I have only started to be around you again. During my training we didn’t see each other.”
“True, but still...I just wanted to know.”
“Why...?”, Vincent asks wondering what put this idea in Prince Winston’s mind.
“My mother made me think about it after I told her about the council.”, Prince Winston admits.
“Hmm...”, Vincent replies while nodding his head in understanding. Prince Winston sighs and scratches his head.
“I suppose you do have a point though. No sense in having a council made up of basically kids. I suppose Sir Rollrick will hold your place.”, Prince Winston concedes.
“It only makes sense. Looking at those you chose it is understandable, but at first glance it’s foolish.”, Vincent says agreeing. “To be honest I would rather work my way up like everyone else to get such positions. Otherwise, there’s no honor in it.”, Vincent goes on to admit.
“And for you that’s not an option.”, Prince Winston says with a smile. “So what are we going to do?”
“The bandit problem. If I’m going to be here and you in the fields we need to at least have an idea of what the other is thinking.”, Prince Winston says.
“I’m pretty sure what we’ve done so far is enough for now. It’s only been a couple weeks since Gordowe, but I could work with the others and improve things like tracking criminals.”, Vincent replies.
“Didn’t you start the practice of tracking criminals and their activities?”, Prince Winston asks trying to recall.
“Yes, but it is new and needs fine tuning. I also have some other ideas.”, Vincent tells his friend with a smile. “Trust me. Leave the criminals to me and you handle the lords. Not to mention handling the bandits gives us the people’s support.”, he goes on. Prince Winston places his hand on Vincent’s shoulder.
“Alright. Let’s see what happens.”