I set the note down, utterly confused. Whatever debts Mott might have owed to Conner, there had to be enough gold in this box to cover all of it.
So when did Trea get the coins, and why hadn’t she used them? And what connection did she have to my mother? Mott said Trea had worked her whole life for Conner, so she could never have been at the castle.
Yet if she had never been at the castle, how could she have been there at Darius’s birth?
Realization deepened within me, ideas I did not want to consider, suspicions I did not want to face.
Truths that I should have seen before now.
Despite what was recorded in the castle records, Darius had not been born at the castle. My parents had lied about that. They had lied in their story of what a simple birth it had been for my mother, with only a single lady-in-waiting to attend her.
Accepting that as fact unfolded answers to questions I’d never realized I’d had. They led me down a path I did not want to walk, a path I didn’t know even existed. Yet here I was.
Finally understanding why my father always seemed frustrated when he asked how Darius could be so like him, while I was not.
Why, following the pirate attack on my ship, my father had kept me away from the castle in hiding and had allowed Darius to remain at the castle, where it was far more dangerous.
Why my father was so insistent on my conforming to behaviors expected of a king, though as the younger son, I would only ever be a military leader, or manage the royal holdings, or become a priest. Never a king.
I reeled back, pushing my hand through
my hair and fighting away tears for the truths I did not want to know, then finally letting them spill.
For I understood now who really was the eldest son of King Eckbert and Queen Erin.
Who was their only son.
Darius was my adopted brother.
Once I understood the truth about my brother, I suddenly had to see him. A thousand questions were crashing through my mind, and the only way I’d ever get them settled was to talk to him and find answers.
My stomach churned as I made my way back to the rock home deep within the forest. I was careful to check the area to be sure no one was around, then stepped into the clearing. I wasn’t sure where Darius would sleep, or if anyone else was inside, so I decided the best way to enter was through the door, as any normal person would.
I put my hand on the door, only to find it opened from within, but most unexpectedly by Mott.
I stood back, confused. He looked around the area, then said, “What are you doing out so late? You’d better come inside.”
I followed him in and he closed the door, then locked it. We both turned to see Trea standing near the fireplace, a shawl wrapped over her shoulders and a solemn expression on her face. Mott began staring again.
“This is Jaron?” she asked Mott, and he nodded. To me, she added, “You should not be here. Don’t you know what the Prozarians have planned for you?”
“I’m here to see … my brother.” Never before had it required effort to speak those words, but it did now.
“Your brother is part of those plans! He doesn’t want to be, but they’ve left him no choice.”
“I’m here to see Darius.”
Mott frowned. “Trea and I have been talking. We don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“I’m not asking if it’s a good idea. I want to see him.”
Trea’s hand flew to Mott’s arm, gripping it with the tips of her fingers. “Oh no. He has the box.”
It was slung crossways over my shoulder, as it had been before, and now I shifted it to rest behind my back.
Not that it mattered. Desperation marked Trea’s voice as she asked, “Where did you get that?”