It was hot. That was the first thing he had noticed when he sat down next to his father. And it smelled of cooking meat and garlic and herbs, a smell not entirely unpleasant. Now he was staring down at the third course of the meal, a large bowl of soup filled with shavings of pork and vegetables, but he could not bring himself to take another bite. The smell was too over powering, and the taste too rich for his liking. He had gotten used to eating the foods of the town, flavourful but yet had a distinct plainness to them that he much preferred to the foods of court.
And someone was saying his name, his real name, Astiel. He looked up, his father was looking at him expectantly, and there was a short, stocky man standing behind his fathers chair.
“What do you think Astiel?” his father said, his dark stormy eyes, so similar to his brothers, were boring into him, a silent chastising for his inattention.
Asher was silent for a moment more, forming a polite apology before saying it aloud.
The short man was looking at him with amusement flashing in his piggish eyes and Asher was relived to see that his father did not seem to be terribly angry, if only slightly irritated at having to repeat himself.
Asher nodded his approval too his fathers proposal, his opinion was of course inconsequential in the final decision, but his father had always strongly urged his two boys to state there opinions openly, and never allow one to dissuade you once your decision was made.
‘A good ruler allows advice, a great ruler may never have need of it.’ he would say. Asher did not believe this in entirety. A great ruler must have need of advice for he should not be willing to discount any, no matter their standing among society, and a king would never have an understanding of the lower town, for he lived in wealth all his life. That was why Asher wondered among the people of the kingdom. Again his father was speaking and he turned his attention to the conversation.
“…I do believe it is the best the for Cieldior right now, it is a menace in the kingdom, and in many of the others as well.” His father was saying. Asher didn’t understand what he was talking about, a menace among the kingdoms? The many kingdoms had been at peace for years, Asher could not remember a time when it was not so. Interested now, he turned away from his now fourth course, a small plate of shaved ginger duck, and toward the king and what he assumed to be a high standing lord of some large land.
“Yes my lord, I do agree. They have been giving land owners some trouble for quite some time now. It is a source of power that must be soon eradicated and law enforced upon it with an iron fist.”
His father was nodding, his eyes thoughtful, and the man appeared to be pleased with himself. Then his father seemed to have noticed Asher’s interest in the conversation, and he turned toward the other man.
“Perhaps we should continue this conversation later, away from curious ears, and prying eyes. My chambers, perhaps for a drink?” the man nodded politely and made his way back to his seat not to far down the table, just past the varying members of the royal family and court.
Troubled by the newly arising power in the empire, and his fathers unwillingness to discuss the matter with him, Asher excused himself on the grounds of a head ache, an ailment he was commonly plagued with. That of course didn’t seem to fool his father, who’s keen eyes were likely to see right through a lie such as that, he admitted then to wishing too see his brother, who was ill in bed, before he was to far gone in sleep.
With a wave of his hand, his father excused him for the night.
Knowing that he must go see his brother, for the king would check with the nurse on duty to verify in the morning, Asher made his way through the palace, and across the many courtyards to where his brothers rooms lay, far away from his own, and close to the kings, for he himself was only the second priority.
The door to his brothers room was slightly ajar, and through it he could see a thin pale form sprawled across the bed, head propped up on a pile of pillows, and a grin across his face.
“Brother” said Asher as he pushed open the door and stepped through. An expression of surprise flashed across Kygo’s face, but his usual easy smile soon reappeared.
“Astiel!” said Kygo “I’m so glad your here!” Asher smiled at his brother. He looked as if he were about to collapse, but he acted as if Asher had just arrived for tea.
Still smiling Asher moved closer to the bed, and sat down in the chair. “So Astiel,” said Kygo, a mischeviouse grin spreading across his face. “I’ve been trying to convince Amelia here” he looked toward the small woman standing on the far side of the room. Her face bright red, probably at having to disobey a prince. “To bring me some nice ale” his grin turning into a mock frown “but she won’t do it” he was smiling again “what do you say brother? Would you bring your dear sickly sibling some?” Asher smiled, and chuckled. Of course Kygo knew he would never get the ale, but he seemed to enjoy embarrassing the maid. Asher knew however that it was playful, and harmless. Most all the servants knew Kygo’s sense of humour, and they usually played along. This poor girl however honestly seemed to think that Kygo was a drunk.
Smiling Asher said “Come now brother, I don’t think the poor thing gets it. Enough”
Still smiling Kygo turned toward the maid “My annoying brother seems to be right, as is he always. My apologies Amelia, I was only joking with you.”
A forced looking smile appeared on the girl’s face, and she bowed low, her dark hair falling into her face. “Yes your highness, of course. Thank you”
“No need.” Said Kygo, turning now back toward Asher. “Now brother, why have you come?”
Asher looked toward the floor. He knew his brother hated being when he worried about him, he always said it made him feel far sicker than he really was. Sighing Asher said ” I just well, I wanted to make sure your okay is all. Ingrid mentioned that this attack had been particularly bad. Well you look horrid but you seem alright so I guess that satisfies my concerns.” Asher stopped, rubbing the back of his neck, and shifting his weight in the chair.
Kygo was frowning now, his lips thin and tight. “I’m fine brother. Really, I’m alright. You need not be worried after me”
Asher sighed “Okay Kygo, whatever you say. Make sure you get some rest alright? Its late already” he turned now toward the girl, Amelia his brother had called her. She was in the far corner of the room, staring at him. When he caught her eye, she looked quickly away, her face turning red again. ” I apologize again for my brothers behaviour Amelia.” Smiling he added “and if he continues to bother you as such, let me know, I’ll be sure to kick his butt for you”
The poor girl was red as a beet, Asher shot his brother a quick flash of an amused grin, and moved to the door, closing it behind him, then made his way to his rooms, eager to see the white wolf.
The walk back through the gardens were long, and cold, winter was not harsh as it was up in the mountains, but it helped little that the fabric of his tunic was thin and offered little if any protection against the wind. The moon giving little light, and the many plants and bushes brushing against his arms, Asher made his way in the dark. When he finally reached his rooms he eagerly opened the door, welcoming the heat, in contrast to the cold winds and frozen rain of winter in the capital city.
Shivering and wet Asher made his way to the bathes. He had no intention of washing again however the hot water would seep the cold out of his bones and, hopefully, prevent a flu.
He stripped off his new tunic and boots, frowning at the ruined fabric, and slid into the water, sighing as the heat immediately took effect, soothing his frozen toes and fingers. A second later he felt a cold pressure against the back of his neck, then soft fur rubbing against his shoulder as the wolf came around to face him.
“Hello” said Asher, twisting in the water to look directly at the wolf.
The wolf cocked it’s head the side. Its blue eyes shining with an emotion Asher could not quite decipher.
Warm finally, Asher stood, running a hand through the length of his black hair, he reached for a towel, and rubbed himself dry before pulling on a pair of thin linen pants and making his way over to his desk.
Guessing, he was sure, that he would be cold after the long walk from the hall, Ingrid had brought in a pot of steaming tea. He made a mental note to thank her in the morning.
Pouring himself a cup, Asher made his way to the bed. It had been a long day and really he only wanted to sleep.
He quickly finished his cup of tea, setting the china cup on the table beside his bed, and blew out the candle.
Asher settled into the pillow, its soft feather down moving and shifting to accommodate for the weight laid upon it. The wolf had climb onto the bed, and he could feel the heat of its body pressed against his side
Finally, he thought, silence and sleep and peace. He suddenly remembered the money he had made selling the game he had caught. He had to make sure he brought it into town the next he went, he could not of course keep the money. His family had more money then he knew was necessary and many did not. That was another reason he enjoyed hunting. Knowing there was someone who was about to get a full meal off the money he had made.
Finally he closed his eyes and emptied his mind of all things, picturing only a blank whiteness slowly fading into darkness.
‘Asher’ somebody whispered
He sat up, looking around. He shook his head, he must be hearing things, of course there was no one in his room. He laid back down
He scrambled to relight his candle, and it took only a moment. The room was alight suddenly with an orangish glow, and it was empty.
He blew out the candle and laid back down. He was just exhausted, that was all. Closing his eyes he tried again to do the relaxation exercise.
He fell asleep shortly afterwords.