It took Draegnerys seven days to realize that Zuriel was not an honorable man.
The first day, the morning after he had stormed out from his home, his papa’s words ringing in his ears...
...Zuriel welcomed him with a wide smile and open arms and told him that they were destined for greatness.
The second day, Zuriel amassed an army, dragging sons from their homes, and told Draegnerys that he would be his second-in-command.
The third day, he trained Draegnerys and the other recruits in basic maneuvers—parry, thrust, attack, defend—and clapped Draegnerys on the back as dusk fell for a job well done.
The fourth day, he threw a knife at Draegnerys, roaring about his ineptitude and calling him a disappointment for failing to make the soldiers stand in straight lines...
...and he left with Phaesya for a long ride, long after dark.
The fifth day, Draegnerys stood stonily at Zuriel’s side as he told the town that there was a traitor in their midst...
...and listened to Zuriel laugh that evening as he imagined the people’s reactions as the rest of his plan took effect.
The sixth day, Zuriel sent the Dargols to arrest Stefan, and told Draegnerys his plan for the both of them, for their great destiny.
And the seventh day—
Draegnerys did not think about the seventh day. He made sure of it. Most of the time, he managed to prevent himself from thinking about the other days, too, all the days that came before it.
A clean slate, he told himself that bloodstained morning. The count starts over.
He made it through Day One, barely. It seemed that everywhere he walked, he smelled that rotten, pungent, metallic tang. He made it through Day Two, also. And Day Three, and Four.
It was Day Twelve now, and Draegnerys knew that Zuriel was certainly crazy, if not psychotic.
“Draegnerys,” Zuriel said over breakfast, buttering his bread with a razor-sharp knife, “send some of the Dargols into town, tell them to take care of any peasant unrest.” “Yes, Zuriel."
“Any rebellion must be squashed immediately.” “Yes, Zuriel.” Draegnerys bit into his roll. It crumbled in his mouth like dirt. There had been bread on the ground, that day, stained, soaked in—
“And Draegnerys?” “Yes?” He glanced across the table and met Zuriel’s glittering eyes. “Do try to pay attention when I speak to you.” “Yes, Zuriel.”
He managed to leave before threw up all his breakfast. ~+~+~
He thought of Wyl, sometimes, when he was too tired or weak to stop himself. Thought of his bright blue gaze, his curious glance, his warm smile.
But then he would catch himself, and force the memories aside. This was not the time or place for those kinds of thoughts. Pretty things did not survive here.
~+~+ Draegnerys had never killed a man. He had witnessed death, murder, but he had never drawn his own sword and—
He was not certain that he would be able to, either. And that scared him. Because one day, Zuriel would order him to do it. And Zuriel had no use for men who could not follow orders.