Continued from Rumormill.
The princess glared at her brother as he approached the throne. The young man paused, then fell to one knee, his head bowed. “Your Highness the Princess-Regent, I bring words from His Majesty, the Emperor.”
“Speak.” She took a deep breath to calm herself. “Tell me what words my Grandfather and Liege has sent.”
“He says, and I paraphrase, that he wishes to see you regarding the matter of two missing friends of his.” Before he was given leave, the prince rose and turned on his heel. “I will inform him you have heard his words.”
The princess’s face reddened as her glare intensified. “Since my grandfather has called on me, I must set aside audiences and see to him.” She rose. “If it is important, address it with High Priest Nikho.” She walked swiftly after him, eyes boring into the back of his wavy-haired head. As she passed him in the doorway, he gripped his temple briefly, and she forcibly ignored his glance in her direction.
The long descent down the stairs, the long hallways, and finally the ascent up her father’s tower calmed her, and eventually she glanced back, her glare replaced with concern.
Finally, she reached the doorway and stepped through. “Grandfather?” She looked around the reception chamber briefly, and not seeing him, began to ascend further, to his bedroom.
The ancient man laid on his bed, a book held upside-down in his hands as he looked at it with a confused expression on his face as he looked at the pages before him.
“It’s upside-down, Grandfather.”
The man looked up, then flipped it. “No it isn’t.”
“Whatever you say, Grandfather. You wanted to talk to me?”
The old man looked up. “Yes. My friends didn’t come today.”
“Which ones?” She walked over and sat at the edge of the bed, watching him.
“Well, one is fat… no, both are. Huzho and Lhyi. I haven’t seen them since they visited last week, and they usually come every day.” His expression fell, and he looked up with milky eyes, mostly blind. “My maid said to wait, and I did.”
The princess forced a smile. “I haven’t seen them either. I’m sure they’ll come soon. Maybe they’re just busy, Grandfather.”
Slowly, the old man nodded. “I don’t like when they’re busy. I decree…” He trailed off a moment. “I decree…” Again, he trailed off. “I forget.”
“I’ll ask one of the servants to look into it, Grandfather.” She smiled, though the expression didn’t meet her eyes. “Now, isn’t it past your bed time? Zhulhyi should have tucked you in by now.”
The emperor grinned widely. “I told her that she was fired.”
“Grandfather, no.” She frowned. “She can’t tell you stories if she’s fired.”
The man’s expression fell. “No stories? I take it back! I take it back!”
“I’ll tell her that. Now, you have to be nice to her. She’s a nice lady and tells you fun stories, doesn’t she?”
The man nodded. “Yes.”
“Then be good. You lay down and think about what you did, and tomorrow, she’ll be back, if she isn’t mad at you.” The princess rose. “Good night, Grandfather.”
“Why do you keep calling me that, Elhyi?”
“I’m not her, Grandfather. I’m your son’s daughter.” She hurried out, hand over her mouth as the man behind her sighed. Her chest hurt, and she bit her lip hard as she fled down the stairs. Her vision blurred as hot tears formed.