Running on foot, Rael’charon arrives in front of Alceste city gates ahead of the group. The city guards immediately recognize him and salutes.
‘Lord Rael’charon, sir!’
The Chief Advisor speaks, ‘I bring with me the captive, Robert Chandler and his captor, Hulferd, ex-general in the Order of the Lions, now the guildmaster of Hunters’ Guild Sansarine in Rand. Send word to our King and I need four men to escort the captive to the palace. Go now, and make haste!’
‘Yes, sir! But, where is the captive?’
‘Oh, they should arrive about... now.’
Just then, Robert, Ney’varíth and Hulferd come in sight, their horses galloping in full speed. The guard leaves his post at once, and another comes in his place. Ten minutes later, the group enters the city with four soldiers escorting them. Robert, his hands bound and his cloak down, covering his face, rides with Ney. People are looking at them and points at Robert, murmuring in low voices. But Robert pays them no heed. The memory of his capture in the Dwarven Realm of Grad flashes in his mind. This is happening again. The path we must take to follow the Right Way.
And he ends the ride of shame in the inner gate of Marlham Palace, after passing the drawbridge through the outer gate.
Robert enters the familiar-looking, marble-white corridors of this palace, and more memories resurface in his mind. A view of the stables where he used to work... The royal family garden where he saw Eloise for the first time... The corridor to the royal family chambers where his love fell apart into a hopeless state... And the silent corner where he said goodbye to Eloise, the princess he could never marry, and left her in the pool of her own tears. He can still her Eloise screaming his name in his mind, again and again...
‘Hulferd and the captive, Robert, stay here and wait for summons!’
The royal crier’s voice startles Robert, but his face remains calm and cool as he tries to be. But his heart is racing wildly.
I love without hope
I see without feel
I crave without courage
How can I see her again, in this base disgrace? No matter how badly I crave for her, we will never be together. Half an hour later, Robert’s chain of thoughts is broken by another loud voice.
‘The King summons Hulferd and his captive, Robert Chandler! Proceed into the throne hall!’
Hulferd pats Robert’s shoulder. Robert looks back at him and Hulferd mouths, ‘Brace yourself, lad. I’m your defender, not your captor.’ Ney also smiles at him.
Robert nods and walks into the hall. His feet tremble on every step he takes. Cold sweat runs down his face as he sees familiar faces in the hall: Sir James Hickram, Lady Irene of Everglades, the twin knights Sir Eldric and Sir Alaric, Sir Theval, Sir Vincent the Raging Bull, Sir Mallard – now the Grand Marshal and leader of the Order of the Lions. Duke John Walthorn stares back at him with loads of hatred on his face, and Rael’charon, his face remains as serious as ever. Robert looks at the throne, to the King of Lore, George XIV, his hand rubs against his forehead as though he is pondering very hard about something.
Next to the King, here’s a sight that makes Robert feel his heart is being ripped out from his chest: The beauty so divine like a star in the sky he can never reach, the Princess of Lore, Eloise Galford. Robert’s and Eloise’s eyes meet, and the disappointment on the Princess’ face makes Robert think of seizing a sword from a gurad and kill himself with it rather than to live on in this abysmal shame.