Before Dad sees, I slip the new copper into my desk drawer.
Dad stands right in front of me. He’s still in his full regalia and his hands are clasped in front of him like one of those players from the dull ball games my grandfather liked; I wonder if he expects me to kick him in the royal jewels.
Soc stands behind Dad with a smug look on his face. They're waiting for an explanation but I'm not willing to supply them with one. They threw me out of the banquet without attempting to stand up for me.
“I did nothing wrong.” On this occasion I don't deserve censure and I’m not backing down nor am I willing to accept their discipline.
Dad says nothing. We often play chess together, and whilst I don't enjoy boredom I am capable of being patient when there are points to score. Tonight, it feels like my honour is on the line. The clock ticks and none of us say anything. Galileo is no longer purring. I cross my arms and stare back at him, determined not to even blink first. Although I am aware of Soc and Nate, this is between Dad and me.
He breaks the silence first. “Well?”
I’ve won and I permit myself a little smile.
“Angus, there is no humour in this.”
“Do you see me laughing?” My hand circles my face as I ask him. And although I am satisfied with winning the first point, I agree with him. There’s nothing funny about being at the bottom of the pile when it comes to his priorities.
“I want an explanation?”
“About what? About the fact I tried to help a woman that you just abandoned to her slimy bastard of a husband?” I cross my arms and glare at him.
“Angus! I want to know what you thought you were doing?” His temper is rising and his face is bright red. He runs his hand through his salt-and-pepper hair, making it stick up in a variety of directions. If he didn’t keep it so short it would be curly like mine.
I shrug and bite my lip rather than respond with the rude, swear laden speech brewing in my mind.
"Dad, I think you should listen to him..." Soc steps forward and attempts to stand up for me. "I mean we know what a nasty... well General Luis can be unreasonable."
“Soc, Nate. Leave us.”
“Dad?” This time Soc touches him on his shoulder.
“Socrates!” Dad’s anger is escalating and he points at my bedroom door. “I said leave.”
Soc bows and leaves the room.
Nate lingers. “Loren, Sir… it really wasn't Angus's fault. He was trying to help Lady Aya.”
“Nathaniel! Leave us! For all that is good on Litae what do you think I plan to do to him?”
“Sir.” Nate bows and follows Soc out. They leave me alone with a father more angry than I have ever known him.
Dad removes his cloak; he throws it on my quilt, unbuckles his sword and throws that awful thing on top of the cloak. He sits down on the edge of the bed, uncomfortably close to me. “Well?”
“I tried to help Lady Aya Luis. She collapsed.” I make eye contact and I’m determined not to be the first to break it.
“But when her husband... well he told you to back off and you didn't."
“I tried to get her proper medical help – yes. So tie me to the post and flog me.” I continue to look right at him. “Might as well. It's easier to deal with than being betrayed by my father in front of a room full of people.”
“Angus, don't be ridiculous.” He sounds old. Somehow his hair is more grey and his eyes are more sunken. “I did not betray you. General Luis is an important man. He's close to Evelyn and her husband. We can’t afford to offend him.” His gaze shifts away from me.
I’ve won another point. He broke eye contact first.
“Yeah, I know. He like every other person on this island is more important than me. I get it, Dad. I get it.” I swing round to the desk and play around with the motherboard and wires. They're incompatible with each other but Dad doesn't know that. I'm hoping he will think he disturbed me in the process of putting the new copper together, so he won’t look for the new one I’ve built.
My chair spins round. Again, my father shows his superior strength and skills as I can't get my feet down fast enough to stop the momentum. “You do not get out of this that easily. We have a duty to this country. We have to serve the people. We have to do this.”
“Why? Can't I just leave?” I would stand up but he's stood with an arm either side of me, his hands resting on the desk behind me. I'm pinned in place. He's eaten strong spicy food at the banquet and his breath is turning my stomach. Had I been someone important, a delegate or even General Luis he'd have bothered to brush his teeth first.
I turn my head to the side…
“Where would you go?”
I look down at my hands and try not to think about my small blackmailer and Ursula. There's no way I'd survive. Dad knows that. I know that. The whole country knows that.
“Angus, the people of the island rely on us. Thanks to these people we have a comfortable way of life many here cannot afford. We owe them.”
Because of my forays into town I know that's true but today the lid of the jar just keeps tightening and I feel like I'm running out of air.
A night of blood, mayhem and magic thrust Prince Angus, the youngest son of the king, onto the throne of Covesea Island. He's never wanted to be king. Social media calls King Angus a clown. His subjects don't rate his ability to lead them in the trade negotiations with one of the planet's superpowers.