Excerpt: The High King’s Golden Tongue
Allen stared down at the assemblage below, keeping to the shadows of the mezzanine. Warriors of all sorts clamped about, armor rattling, spurs jangling, one great big pile of gleaming metal. They were the finest soldiers in the Kingdom of Harken: the personal army of the High King himself. It had been created nearly twenty years ago by General Nyle Westrow, the greatest swordsman to ever live and the High King’s famous lover, dead the past six years.
Soldiers. Allen hated every last one of them. The kingdom ran on more than soldiers, but even the gods would not be able to make that clear to the men below. He pulled restlessly at the silver lace cuffs of his knee-length jacket, remembered how pleased he had been selecting his new wardrobe. He knew he looked good. The deep blue color matched his eyes, the subtle gryphon pattern woven into it a nod to the royal crest. His hair was not an especially remarkable color, but it was well-cared for and the length showed his wealth and status. He complimented the High King’s rougher-hewn appearance. Indeed, he’d gone to great pains to ensure it. He might not be able to hold a sword, but he could do battle in court like no one else.
Not that his skills appeared to matter to anyone. No, the High King had made it humiliatingly clear that he saw Allen as quite useless. He could still hear the laughter of the court, and his cheeks burned with shame all over again.
Laughed out of court, dismissed like a child, rejected out of turn because apparently his skills—not that his Majesty had bothered to learn of those skills—did not matter if he could not hold a sword. Allen didn’t know what to do; the thought of returning home churned his stomach. His parents had poured an untold fortune into his education, owing the unique skills he possessed would offer something to the High King no one else would.
How was he supposed to tell them they shouldn’t have bothered, should have just sent one of his sword happy brothers instead? All his life he had done as he was told because he knew it would all pay off, that his skills would be invaluable wherever he went.
Instead, he’d been laughed out of court. If he returned home, the disappointment would break his mother’s heart and devastate his father. His brothers would laugh smugly and drag him to the yard to punish him. Just thinking about it made the scars on his back ache.
What was a rejected suitor to do? He should go down there and push on. Allen sought out the man who had coldly rejected him, hating the way that, even as humiliation churned in his gut and anger balled his hands into fists, his chest ached with futile longing.