Shah wished people would leave him alone. He wished more than he could tell them to do so, order them out. But, his father would say that was showing his temper, or his grief by display of temper, and a King must seem strong at all times, and stronger still when times were bad. His hold was fragile enough, being a new and young King in the face of his father’s assissation. He could not afford to give even an appearance of weakness.
He drifted through the halls, grateful for the momentary reprieve, knowing that all too soon they would come in frantic search of him.
Father, he thought sadly, what am I supposed to do without you?
Not all of the assassins had been caught, his father’s harem had already dispersed, none choosing to remain in the palace after so great and personal a tragedy…and he had never taken anyone into his own harem. No one had ever appealed, not in such a way. Lust alone, his father and harem had never ceased to tell him, was not good enough a reason to choose a man for his harem.
Over and over he heard their voices, all the advice, all the reminders. Crowded into that was the noise of advisers, councilmen, nobles of the court, foreign ambassadors, military advisors–all looking to him for answers now. All of it rested on his shoulders. He was no longer learning at his father’s side, preparing to take over in another ten or fifteen yeas.
Those days were long gone, and he had best hope he had learned enough to manage while he struggled to learn the rest.
He could hear voices far away, laughter and shouting and more general conversation. Servants, nobles, all mingled together while he hid away in this momentarily forgotten corridor. He longed to take his horse and go for a long ride, or hide in his rooms reading, stroll through his gardens admiring his flowers…
But he could do none of that, because a King did not hide and like it not, he was now King.
Why had his father never told him how very lonely it was to be King? Perhaps his father had never been lonely, not with the men who kept him company. Would Shah ever find such men? Sometimes, he doubted it. At his age, his father had already had two, and he’d had his full five before Shah was even born.
Shah sighed softly, and began to prepare himself for rejoining his court. The way eyes would watch him, follow him, the way everyone wanted to speak to him advise him, attempt to win his favor. He hated that most of all. It had been bad enough a prince, a thousand times worse as King.
He drew in a breath, and let it slowly, then began to walk back down the hallway toward the distant sound of voices.
The sound of music stopped his short, and he lingered at the intersection of two hallways, looking down the one he had ignored in favor of the hallway he had chosen. It was beautiful. He had never heard such exquisite playing.
He turned when the voices flared up, louder than ever, and he thought for a moment someone called for him–but the music caught him, sweeter and more apealing by far. He hesitated a moment longer, then turned away from the voices and went in search of the song.