Ch. 1

King Leroy looked out upon his kingdom, his son, Anthony by his side. The sun was rising as they stood on the balcony outside the royal chamber.

"One day soon this will all be yours my son. The people already look up to you," Leroy stated placing his hand on Anthony's shoulder.

The prince shook his head. "Only because of you, father," he argued.

"No, son," the king turned to look his son in the eye, "You are a good and kind man. You will do right by them and they have a confidence in that."

"They only like me because they fear you," he continued to negate his father's praise.

Leroy narrowed his eyes and let his hand slap the back of the young man's head. "Enough! I did not raise you to question my word. If you weren't ready to reign I would not be stepping down to allow it."

"But why father?" Anthony searched his father's face. "You still have a lot of years left to rule."

Leroy sighed. "I have ruled for many years, starting not much older than you. Though it's given me great joy, I am ready to relinquish my power and watch with pride as my son takes my place."

Anthony blushed. His father had never been a verbose man. His approval or even disapproval was always made clear with minimal words. So he took to heart that his father truly believed in him.

"I will do you proud Father," he promised.

"I know you will son," the king smiled and placed his palm on his son's cheek.

…Elsewhere in the castle…

Prince Timothy arrived home for a visit from his studies at the seminary. His thirst for knowledge had led him to the only place he could continue his education. He cherished the rare visits he was granted to see his family. He only had one more year before he'd become a permanent member of the brotherhood, unless he found another way to fulfill a role in the family.

With Anthony the heir to the throne, he had no future as king. It was a small kingdom, so no outlying regions needed an overseer. No, he actually found contentment in the prayers shared with his fellow associates. Who knows maybe one day he could become the archbishop of the kingdom.

He walked around his father's study perusing the titles of the many books upon the shelves. Reading was a passion he shared with his father that his brother never quite embraced. Anthony read only a few books, but would listen intently to the details when the king and Timothy discussed the plots and meanings of them.

As he was taking a book down from a shelf he heard feet fast approaching. He braced himself before he was wrapped into a tight squeeze.

"Timmy," his sister, Abigail squealed. She was the only person in all of the land who could get away using that moniker. "You're home," she released her hold and stood smiling up at him.

He placed the book back on the shelf and gently took her hands. He spread them out to take a good look at her. It had been months since he'd seen her and she was fast becoming a woman.

She wore her dark hair in a chignon with black ribbons hanging to her shoulders. Her dress was white and full of lacy layers. Her face was made up, but modestly, save for the very red lips that enhanced the natural ivory of her skin.

"How long will you be home?" she inquired.

"Only a few days I'm afraid," he released her hands and reached back for his book.

She pushed the book back to the shelf. "If you only have a few days don't spend them reading. I've missed you," she pouted.

Timothy couldn't help but smile; she had a way of always getting what she wanted. She wasn't only daddy's little girl, but her brothers' as well.

"What shall we do then?" he acquiesced.

Clapping her hands and hopping in place she lost her pout. Grabbing his hand she pulled him out of the library, "We'll go find Anthony and do something together."

Timothy rolled his eyes not sure his brother would be as thrilled as she was to spend time with him.

Their relationship was never a tightly bound one, rather they tolerated each other. At first to please their mother who died form the fever that his the region ten years before. She had contracted the illness when she went out to care for the sick in a nearby village.

After she succumbed they barely spoke. As time passed they had less and less time to share until eventually Timothy went off to the seminary. He loved his brother and didn't doubt his brother would be there beside him if needed. They just had nothing in common.

Abigail though was something they both cared deeply for and if anyone could bring the brothers together it would be she.

When Timothy realized they were approaching their father's chamber he pulled her to a stop. She turned and glared at him stomping her foot in annoyance.

"What did you do that for?" she accused.

"We can't disturb them," he tilted his head toward the door of the royal chamber.

Abigail sighed, "Of course we can. Father may be the king but he always welcomes us to visit."

"Maybe you, but not me," he disputed.

"Don't be silly. Besides if were going to ask Anthony to join us, this is where he is."

Curious why their father would have their brother inside, Timothy relented and allowed his sister to open the door unannounced.

They saw their father and brother out on the veranda looking out toward the kingdom. They turned to see the visitors when they heard the chamber door close.

Abigail rushed forward clearly unaware of the expression Timothy read across the king's face. He wasn't happy with the unexpected encounter, but when his daughter threw her arms around his neck he could only smile.

"To what do I owe this visit?" he kissed her cheek.

Abigail turned to point to Timothy, "Timmy is home and I thought it would be wonderful if we invited Anthony to join us." She batted her eyes and radiated a smile she knew her father couldn't resist.

Unable to deny her a simple request he replied, "Very well. Anthony, go spend time with your siblings. We will finish our discussion after dinner."

Welcoming the reprieve Anthony took his sister's hand and led her back to where their brother stood.

"Timothy it's good to have you home," he greeted his brother gripping both shoulders and giving him a light shake. "The seminary must be treating you well. You're looking good."

"I can't complain. It's a life that suits me. You're looking dapper yourself."

"Yes, well," Anthony turned his siblings toward the door glancing back at their father who regarded his children with pride, "That's kind of you."

Timothy allowed himself to be pushed into the hallway, but turned to face his brother once they exited the bedroom.

"What is the rush?" he asked voicing the irritation of being handled so brusquely.

"Can't a brother be in a hurry to share some quality time with his younger sister and his brother he hasn't seen in months?" Anthony asked innocently.

"Of course he can," Abigail narrowed he eyes at Timothy. "Now let's go to the stables and ride out to the lake," she appealed.

Neither of the young men was as enthusiastic about riding horses as Abigail, but they smiled and agreed it was a grand idea.