He climbed into the empty coach, ignoring the cheerful greeting of the young boy holding the door. Saunders quickly dipped his hand in the pocket of the rear seat and removed the single pistol he found there. Swiftly, he shoved it under the seat cushions of the forward seat and sat upon it, hoping no one had noticed his delay in seating himself. The pistol made an uncomfortable lump, but he’d only be sitting on it for a couple of hours, so it wouldn’t be unbearable. He took a moment to check the pocket next to his seat and verify that his pistol was ready for use.
He cast his mind back over the explicit instructions he’d received last night, making certain he’d complied with every point. Everything he held dear depended on it. Saunders allowed his gaze to wander out the window, as though he were bored. Everything must appear normal.
Princess Tanella was now descending the steps in company with her maid, Shayla, and her Father, King Jameisaan. Shayla hastened directly toward the coach, and accepted the hand of the coach-boy as he assisted her to enter. She immediately sat on the rear seat and began arranging her skirts to suit her satisfaction.
The rustling noises annoyed Saunders and he scowled at her.
“Is aught amiss, my Lord Saunders?” She leaned toward him solicitously.
“No! Why would anything be wrong?” Saunders felt panic begin to twist in his guts. If anyone suspected, “’Tis only that the sun is bright this morning and I was up late preparing for this most unexpected excursion,” he lied.
Shayla nodded and settled back against the seat, and Saunders forced himself to relax, if only outwardly.
He watched the king kiss his daughter farewell. His heart wrenched as he contemplated the events to come, and how he would feel, were he in Jameisaan’s shoes. He glanced at the maid, Shayla, so like the princess in appearance. They were cousins, daughters of twins, and in fact, only a marriage or two from being his cousins as well. It was a mistake, Saunders reflected, to employ your relatives. Love of family far exceeded any vow of fealty, and could be used as a weapon against you.