My grin faded as quickly as it had come. “When did you last see the Devil’s Scope?”
He shrugged. “When Darius gave it to Wilta on the beach, in exchange for Amarinda.” I continued to stare at him, and with a long sigh, he finally said, “I suppose it’s good the lens is gone. We cannot take any risks of her getting it.”
Another beat passed, then he seemed to cheer up. “Perhaps you’ll reward me with a new title? Something more than just captain of the guard.”
I was ready with an answer. “I’m glad you asked, because I have been waiting a long time to give you this title.”
His eyes narrowed. “What is it?”
“The one I offered to you earlier: minister of oats.”
“It’s too late. I’ve decreed it!”
“It’s not yours to decree,” Tobias pointed out. “That’s for the king to do.” His eyes softened. “That’s for Darius now.”
“Jaron clearly is confused about who is the true king here.” We all turned, startled to see Darius approaching us. He eyed me. “You forget who you are, Jaron, and who I am. Let’s settle this.”
I stood to greet Darius, feeling strangely anxious about speaking to him. I did understand who he was, who he would be now, and I’d accepted it, but that wouldn’t make this conversation any easier. Perhaps because I no longer had a sense of who I was.
Notably, Amarinda was not with him. His only explanation was, “Don’t worry. She’s safe.”
Darius next gave his attention to Tobias, who looked terrified. Tobias reached for a weapon at his side, then realized he had no weapon there. So he squared his body to Darius’s and stared back at him, respectfully, but with courage.
“Do you really love her?” Darius asked Tobias.
Tobias rarely looked directly at anyone, but he did this time with Darius. “She’ll choose who she will choose. But for my part, I love Amarinda more than my life.”
Darius kicked at the ground for several seconds. “She and I have talked. Take care of her.” Tobias began to say something, but Darius finally glanced up. “It’s her choice, not mine. We’re not friends, Tobias.”
I stepped between them, then pulled the king’s ring off my finger and held it out for Darius. “I believe this is yours.”
He only stared at it, gave a sad smile, then turned to me. “Can we talk?”
All of us were standing now, in deference to Darius’s title. I looked around. “Shall we talk here, or alone?”
“It doesn’t matter. Everyone will know the truth about me eventually. How long have you known it?”
“Only since coming to Belland. But I don’t care, and neither should you. We are brothers, Darius, as we’ve always been.”
He smiled and turned to Fink, at my side. “And i
s this our brother too?”
Darius offered his hand to Fink, who pushed it aside to close Darius in an embrace. Surprised, Darius widened his arms at first, then finally closed them across Fink’s back.
The instant Fink pulled away, he began speaking, so quickly it was clear he never intended to take a breath. “I suppose you’ll want your old room back, but Jaron gave it to me and I’ve changed a few things. Or maybe you’ll want the king’s room, that makes more sense. Jaron hasn’t used it yet. He’s still in his old room, which I can’t understand because the king’s room is much bigger, but maybe that’s for the best because it’s yours now.”
The instant he was forced to draw a breath, I grabbed him and pulled him away from Darius, then said, “Leave him alone, or he’ll never want to come back.”
Darius turned to Trea. “Is it true? My father was Bevin Conner?”
Trea’s eyes filled with tears. “The only father that should ever matter is the one who raised you and loved you as his own, King Eckbert.”
“If Eckbert was anyone but a king, that would be enough.” Now Darius turned back to me and Imogen. “Will you both walk with me?”