Ophelia strode through the opulent corridors of Ardougne castle, entirely at home. Passing servants bowed or curtsied at her approach, and nobles offered greetings in varying degrees of deference. She smiled inwardly at each occurrence, for she was quite enamored with her accomplishment. Although she had only been a part of castle life for a few months, she had already been accepted and raised high. The kingdom of Kandarin was near enough in her pocket.
Lathas’ summons had been unexpected; as far as Ophelia was aware (and she was aware of quite a lot), nothing was amiss in the city. Perhaps there was trouble elsewhere in the kingdom. She unconsciously quickened her pace, passing a paladin so rapidly he had not the time to finish his salutations. There could be no trouble, not now. The first stage of the plan was due to be under way soon.
“My Lady!” said a voice from behind her. Ophelia was loath to stop, but she couldn’t simply ignore a direct address. She turned to regard the paladin she had (rather rudely) brushed past and found it to be Jarrah, a member of the king’s personal guard. She felt a slight sense of alarm at having snubbed such a senior officer, but Jarrah did not seem to be concerned with that. He quickly caught up to her.
“I assume you have also been summoned to attend the king?” he inquired.
The man was big; Ophelia always found herself craning her neck when making contact with his wary blue eyes. Looking up was not something she liked doing, and wary eyes were not eyes she liked seeing. Jarrah was not a man she liked. “Of course,” she said coolly. “I am, after all, in an advisory position.”
Jarrah smiled, a humorless smile that Ophelia really didn’t like. “Well then, shall we proceed?”
And although Ophelia no desire at all to be in Jarrah’s presence, they resumed walking side by side. Neither attempted to make conversation; the tension became almost palpable as the time they spent in each other’s presence lengthened. Ophelia made a note to herself to do something about Jarrah. He was a bundle of potential trouble.
The doors to the king’s chamber were guarded by two paladins. They crisply soluted Jarrah, who nodded in return. Neither spared a glance at Ophelia, which rankled. Nothing to be done about it, of course. They were his men. The thought that Jarrah had men behind him added to Ophelia’s fears. He definitely needed to be taken care of.
They were ushered into King Lathas’ presence and the doors shut behind them. Lathas was seated on his throne, drumming his fingers on the arm of the magnificent chair with some agitation. He sprang to his feet as soon as the doors closed. “About time you arrived,” he said.
Ophelia blinked. She had opened her mouth to hail the king; that he had preempted her was rather unusual. Jarrah shifted beside her. “What was it you wanted, Your Majesty?” he asked.
Lathas snatched up a scroll from a nearby stand and thrust it at them. Ophelia grabbed it before Jarrah had made more than a small movement. “Read it,” the king ordered.
Ophelia read, and her consternation was so great she did not notice Jarrah using his great height to read over her shoulder. She looked up at the king. “You are wasting time with rumors from a place as remote as the Wilderness?”
“Wasting time!” Lathas barked. “Great Guthix, wasting time? It’s the Wilderness, woman!” He began to pace. “I don’t care how far away it is, that place is bad, bad, bad. I thought I had enough on my plate with my blasted brother, but with him out of the way instead of peace I get this!” He gestured at the scroll.
“My liege, you are certainly justified in your alarm,” Jarrah said. Ophelia narrowed her eyes but did not look at him. “But it would be prudent to send out a dedicated force to discover specifics. You cannot act on mere rumor.”
Lathas nodded distractedly, but Ophelia cut in before he could respond. “Your Majesty, you need take no action at all. There is no reason for alarm at this distance and with such little evidence.” She shook the scroll scornfully. “If the need arises, Misthalin will contact you. That kingdom is at far greater risk were a substantial threat to arise.”
Lathas had stopped pacing. He stood regarding Ophelia with something like suspicion. She felt her heart begin to beat slightly faster. Had she miss stepped?
Lathas nodded to Jarrah. “Leave us. Your advice is appreciated.”
Jarrah looked taken aback at the abrupt dismissal. Ophelia hid a smile, but her feeling of triumph slipped when she saw Jarrah’s eyes. Wary eyes. Even after the doors closed, she felt those eyes on her. Her flesh prickled.
“Just what are you on about?” Lathas demanded. “Does a possible threat from the Wilderness not rank high enough to warrant due caution?”
“I will tell you what warrants due caution,” Ophelia said, stepping closer. She leaned in conspiratorially. “Jarrah. That man means trouble.”
Lathas eyebrows shot up, though not at the proximity of his advisor. “Jarrah? Why would you say such a thing?”
“I helped you rid yourself of your brother, did I not?” Ophelia crooned. Closer. “You can trust me. He needs to be investigated. I suggest you order his arrest as soon as possible.” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “You wouldn’t want anything to destroy what we’ve managed to build, would you?”
“No, I suppose not,” he sighed. Relenting.
Ophelia smiled, now too close for Lathas to see. The plans were under way, and she had managed to throw Lathas off the scent. Lord Drakan would be pleased.