There probably was never a royal heir who fit a princely description as well as Marques. Handsome, debonair, filled with life, humor, and ambition. Marques also inherited his mother’s compassion. Though he studied with his father such academics as geography, oceanography and biology, he enlisted in the military at an early age. Guided by Maestro Sanchez he was taught war strategies and leadership. Most importantly, Marques set himself to the study of medicine for the express purpose of finding a cure, and prevention of the plague that swept through Alisubbo after the war. He was very near a breakthrough.
Marques snuffed the lantern on his desk just as he heard the footsteps pass his den; sharp clatter of hard heels on the marble floor. The stride was long and steady followed by another quicker, shorter pattern. Military boots. Father was not alone. The men stopped in the hall near his door. He held his breath to listen. It would be inappropriate for him to interrupt the King during a discussion with his officers. Considering the hour of the night Marque’s curiosity was peaked.
“And where do you suppose the troops are?”
“Your Majesty, they rode off from the city a few minutes ago.”
“And who led them?”
“Valerio, Your Majesty, with Bernardo at his side. There were a good ten others tonight. It’s not the first time we’ve witnessed horsemen riding into the meadows.”
A silence followed, save for his father’s footsteps. Marques knew where in the great hall the King was. He was pacing near the alcove by the parlor. There was a window that overlooked the garden; a favorite niche of the king’s whenever he was contemplative, or troubled. Though the hour was late, moonlight was probably shining on the fountain. Marques saw his father in his mind’s eye, clasping his hands behind his back and resting his gaze on the stream of water that cascaded from the bronze statue.
His father advised him long ago that if he gave nature the attention she deserves, she will take anxiety away, and replace confusion with solutions
“He is leading a coup is he not?” the king asked.
Marques’ eyes burst open wide. He walked quietly to the door but feared opening it, lest he be discovered eavesdropping. Yet how could the Prince Royale let a matter as grave as a rebellion pass?
“Your Majesty, I can’t tell you for sure, but…” The young lieutenant was afraid. Even through the walls Marques sensed the tremble in his voice.
“Go on Lieutenant. This is your home, the country wherein you were born and raised. If there are traitors in our midst, you’ll be called on to defend the Crown. I would hope you’d inform your King.”
“I have heard rumors. Talk that more than two thirds of the men will ride with Valerio. That he is leading an army against you.”
Marques’ heart broke for his father, and fear took his breath away. With so many of their soldiers against the king, how could his family survive?
“Have you heard it from Valerio’s lips?”
There was a long silence. Marques held his breath. For a moment he felt the lieutenant’s angst, the man was not much older than he and had been in Valerio’s charge ever since he joined the service. The soldiers are loyal to their commanders, even more so than to their king. Tonight this man was making a choice.
“Yes, your highness.”
The last silence ended with a quiet “Dismissed.”
Footsteps tapered into the distance.
If indeed Valerio was leading a coup, all of the palace was in danger. Father would want to call the guard, rally his troops, be prepared for battle.
Marques pushed the door open with a racing heart.
His father stood in the alcove, moonlight casting a glow across his face, his hands clasped behind his back. His shoulders were not broad and proud tonight. Tonight they bowed in defeat. He didn’t move.
“Son,” the king said without turning to face him. “There is a time when no matter how hard you listen to the voice of nature, you will not hear an answer.”
Marques stepped closer to his father. He would have run up and hugged him if he were younger. “Don’t give up, sire.”
As soon as those words parted from his lips, he knew his father had already conceded.