King Javan’s Year

King Javan’s Year by Katherine Kurtz Read Free Book Online

Book: King Javan’s Year by Katherine Kurtz Read Free Book Online
Authors: Katherine Kurtz
the knights spurred on ahead as they approached the awakening city, and the portcullis rumbled upward and the gates swung wide just before the main party reached the city wall. The guards on duty gave Javan royal salute as he rode through the gates, and he squared his shoulders and tried to look confident as Charlan led the band on up the King’s Way toward the castle on the hill.
    The castle yard was abustle with activity as they rode into it, crowded with horses and liveried servants and armed guards and courtiers all milling apprehensively. The heat was already oppressive. As Javan’s party rode into the yard, a wave of somberly dressed lords of various degrees came spilling onto the great hall steps. Pushing through from their rear, accompanied by Sir Tomais, who had once been his squire, was a worried-looking Rhys Michael, set apart by the bright splash of a short crimson cape slung over one shoulder, despite the heat.
    The brothers’ eyes locked as Javan drew rein and flung his right leg over the pommel to jump lightly to the ground. Charlan was at his side immediately, opening a path for him as he headed up the steps. Bertrand and three more of Charlan’s knights followed close behind, gloved hands set casually on the hilts of their swords, though their expressions spoke of a far from casual concern for their royal charge.
    Rhys Michael came partway down the steps to meet him, a guarded look of relief on his handsome face. The crimson cape slipped down onto his arm as he reached out to embrace his brother.
    â€œThank God you’re here!” he whispered fiercely, dropping his forehead to his brother’s shoulder for just an instant. “Let me put this on you, before we do another thing,” he added, just before the two drew apart. “It’s the clearest symbol I can think of, for the moment.”
    Nodding slightly, and more relieved than he could say, Javan let his brother lay the cape around his shoulders, noting the murmuring the action produced, as Rhys Michael also seized his hand and kissed it. He need not have feared on Rhys Michael’s account. As they turned to go inside, arm in arm, Charlan taking the lead and the other knights at their heels, Javan pulled off Rhys Michael’s signet and passed it back to him.
    â€œHow is he?” he murmured, nodding to several lesser courtiers as they headed left across the near end of the great hall and down a short flight of steps.
    â€œNot good. He had a reasonably comfortable night, once he’d had me send for you, but only because of the medication.”
    â€œWhat are they giving him?”
    â€œExtract of poppy.” Rhys Michael made a face. “Oh, it makes the coughing stop and eases the worst of the pain. But it also eases him into such a heavy sleep that it’s difficult to rouse him. The fever hasn’t helped. Most of the time I don’t think he’s really aware what’s going on around him.”
    â€œWhy do I suddenly suspect that the former regents have been trying to capitalize on that?” Javan murmured.
    With a mirthless laugh, Rhys Michael ushered his brother through a short colonnaded passageway that led into a wing fronting the gardens.
    â€œThat was the thin line I trod, when I took it on myself to send for you. I hope you don’t mind that I threatened them with the thought that I might soon be king.”
    â€œNot at all.” Javan’s answering smile held the same grim determination. “I used the same argument myself, when persuading the abbot that he oughtn’t to try to stop my leaving. But back to Alroy—the drugs do ease him?”
    â€œThat depends on your definition of ease,” the younger prince replied. “His lungs still fill with fluid; he just doesn’t cough it up, or realize that he needs to.”
    â€œAnd Master Oriel concurs with this treatment?”
    â€œAye. It’s probably the one thing on which he and the royal

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