The King sat quietly in the cramped, dark confines of the ship's storeroom. It was surprising how uncomfortable a bag of grain could get in such short span of time. Shifting slightly on his makeshift seat, the King continued to listen to the calls and footfalls on the deck above. It wouldn't be long before they reached their destination; the call to drop the anchor could come at any moment. He would then be hustled out of this interim imprisonment to the rowing boat that would ferry them across to Golgoth Prison. The King had viewed that foreboding fortress island from the sea many times before. He felt no need to see it again today but it would be good to be on deck, feeling the kiss of the sea breeze against his face.
Kiss...He could see her now, leaning towards him, her face tilting up to meet his, her eyes closing just before...
The King screwed his own eyes tight shut and banished the all too vivid memory with a jerking shake of his head. He had to stay focused; he had to think. Think damn you! You know how these men's minds work, you've been a soldier too. They've been betrayed; you know how that feels. Memories flooded back to him. He remembered the altar, the candles, the plea for reasoning, and his solemn response. Growling, the King's hands clenched into tight fists. Idiot! He should have seen it coming. Unless...Yes, he had suspected they would be coming. He knew they'd try something like this: they were desperate men, desperate to make things right, desperate to somehow resolve the nightmare that their lives had become.
Nightmare...These past nights he had woken from fitful sleep, desperate and choked with guilt. He should have done more. He should have done something.
Is that why he hadn't taken more steps to secure the throne room? Was it because he wanted to be taken? Did he want to be punished? He hadn't even assigned a spy to watch the soldiers after the captain's report of their rebellious talk. The King sighed. They must think him the most wretched of half-wits. He was, he had failed her when she had needed him most. He could have resolved those civic disturbances in some other way; he could have sent someone else. But no, the King had to go himself; no substitutes could get the job done. She had agreed and waved him off with a warm smile and the promise of good news upon his return. But there was no good news, no welcoming smile, no hugs, no kisses...and no goodbye. The silence of death and the bitterness of betrayal were all that awaited him.
Betrayal...Where are the honours these soldiers should have received? Where the glory and adulation? Is the betrayal theirs or ours?
The King's head jerked up at the sound of a key turning in the lock of his temporary prison. He quickly stood up to meet the silhouette, framed in the doorway by a bright shaft of light. "We're here," the figure growled, so low that the King could barely hear him over the wailing sea birds beyond. "Ajax wants you on deck," the man finished, grudgingly stepping back to allow the prisoner's exit.
Iphicles straightened his shoulders, pushing all thoughts of Rena to the back of his mind, before striding purposefully out to meet the sea breeze...