Breakfast would have been easy if he remembered the way down to the kitchens. All the doors in the castle looked the same and he very quickly got lost. By the time two hours had passed and he needed to get back to Nerin, he’d only just been able to make it back to the tutoring room and he was still hungry.
From then on, Nerin dragged him around to different parts of the castle to do whatever it was he needed to do. Lunch with the other servants was spent with Nerin grumbling about how he wasn’t allowed to eat with his brother and Princess Sharina, while the afternoon was filled with more lessons.
As the day wore on, Isiah began to feel more and more anxious. It was as though there was a rock in his gut, threatening to make him vomit. He was to meet with the King at sunset after the prayers were done. He’d seen him briefly the day before when he greeted the Princess, but that was all.
He didn’t even know where King Harudan’s office was. He supposed he could ask Nerin, but he was meant to be escorting him, not the other way around. The only reason he was doing it again was because he’d done a bad job of it the day before.
It wasn’t a good start to his pilgrimage at all. In trouble with the King, forced to escort a young Prince around while he babbled constantly. The other monks had either worked in the kitchens or the gardens. They would probably call him lucky for being allowed to work so close to the royal family, but all it did was make Isiah anxious.
He didn’t know what it was exactly he would be doing. He was oblivious to how things worked in the palace and that was no fault of his own. Barely a week into his pilgrimage and he was convinced that the real world was not for him. But maybe, when he got out of the dreariness of the palace, it would be better.
He could imagine it, the open fields and farms, the mountains to the west and the border towns and Minisia to the east. An open road for him to travel on and pass on his knowledge of the Old Gods to anyone who would listen. He would gain the skills he would need for life, then return to the Sanctum to practice and refine them until he died.
The day ended with another set of lessons and a trip to the library. It was smaller than Isiah had expected it to be, but bigger than the one at the Sanctum. Nerin left with his arms full of books and a pile for Isiah to carry back to the young Prince’s quarters. The books ended up thrown to the floor in an angry huff when a servant came by to tell Nerin that he wasn’t to have dinner with King Harudan and Princess Sharina.
“Leave me,” Nerin ordered of Isiah and the nervous-looking servant. “I will pray and have dinner here. Don’t disturb me unless it is to bring me dinner.”
“Your Highness, dinner won’t be ready for another two hours. The King has called a meeting with his Guard,” the servant said, looking to Isiah as if for help, but it wasn’t as though he could do anything.
Nerin waved them away. “Doesn’t matter, I can wait,” he snapped as he bent down to pick the books from the floor. “Now, leave me.”
The servant scurried away the instant Nerin’s door closed, leaving Isiah in the cold hall alone. The sun was beginning its slow descent towards the horizon. It wouldn’t be long before he had to meet with the King and he still had no idea where he was meant to go. He’d meant to ask Nerin when they’d returned from the library, but there hadn’t been a chance.
He turned down the nearest hall. If Nerin’s quarters were on the top floor, then it would make sense for King Harudan’s quarters would be nearby. But as he walked the identical halls, he found nothing that resembled anyone’s office.
If he was smart, he would have turned back and asked Nerin where to go, but he didn’t want to disturb the Prince when he was in a mood. Instead, he wandered the halls as the sun dipped lower and lower, praying to his Gods that someone would show up to help him.
Outside, the world grew darker. Any hope of making it to his meeting with the King was shot the second he spotted the stars between the dark clouds. It would end badly for him, Isiah knew that, but he couldn’t say that it was his fault. No one had told him where to go.
He turned yet another corner into yet another hall and stopped short. Nerin stood there, leaning with his ear against a door. He froze when he caught sight of Isiah and jolted away from the door.
Isiah rushed forward. “What are you doing?” he asked the boy. “Shouldn’t you be having dinner?”
“What are you doing?” Nerin replied. “You were meant to have your meeting half an hour ago!”
Isiah looked to the office door. Voices drifted from within, barely audible, but he was able to catch the words. “We will do what must be done, despite what people may think.” It was the King’s voice, but he couldn’t tell who he was speaking to.
“I-I got lost,” Isiah answered, his gaze flicking between the door and the Prince standing in front of it. The voices cut off and before either of them could say another word, the door swung open.
The King stood in the doorway and glowered at the pair of them. Behind him was the knight that had dragged Nerin out into the entrance hall the night before. Sir Jonin, if Isiah remembered correctly. “Nerin! What are you doing here?” King Harudan asked, anger lacing his voice. His eyes moved to Isiah, who took a nervous step back. “And you! You were meant to be here half an hour ago!”
“I got lost,” Isiah repeated weakly.
“And I found him!” Nerin supplied. “I went for a walk because I was annoyed and I found him wandering the halls, so I helped him get here, but we were already late.”
Harudan slammed his hand against the door and both boys jumped. “Well, I’m a little busy right now. You, very obviously, young monk, are not a very good escort. So, until you learn to not let Prince Nerin out of your sight, you will escort him everywhere!” he boomed his face contorted in rage. “When he is in his lessons, you will help the kitchen staff. Do you understand?”
“Yes, your Majesty,” Isiah said, keeping his voice low and his eyes locked on the ground.
“And Nerin, for the love of Lune, stop sneaking around! Go back to your room! Now!”
“Yes, Harudan. I will see you for morning prayer,” Nerin whispered. Harudan slammed the door shut and the only thing that could be heard was the irritated noise he gave Sir Jonin.
Nerin grabbed the edge of his robes and tugged him down the hall. “You were listening in on their meeting weren’t you?” Isiah asked.
“Well, I was until you came along,” Nerin replied, shrugging at the glare Isiah shot him. “I was curious, what did you expect?”
“Do you sneak around often?”
“All the time.”
Isiah sighed and tried to ignore the awful feeling in his stomach. The King had yelled at him. Barely a week into his pilgrimage, two days into his stay at the palace, and King Harudan had yelled at him. “You’re going to be a handful, aren’t you?”
Nerin gave him a weak smile as they turned back towards his room. “Of course, I can’t let you have it too easy, can I?” Isiah let out an irritated groan and ran a hand through his hair. He’d known the real world wasn’t easy, but he hadn’t expected to be dealing with a young and rebellious Prince. He would get used to it, and then maybe he would be able to get on King Harudan’s good side.