It felt as if he had woken up in some kind of parallel world.

The chambermaid came in that morning, as usual, to light his fire, bring him hot water to wash with and take away his chamberpot. She usually smiled and chattered throughout in a casual, friendly manner. Today, however, she kept her eyes on the floor and didn’t say a word to him.

The servant who brought his breakfast was similarly taciturn; none of his usual jokes about the appetites of young men, or winks behind the chambermaid’s back. Silence. Cold, unfriendly silence.

He washed, dressed and breakfasted in uncustomary silence, as the people he had considered friends passed through his rooms in quiet, uncomfortable silence. Finally, he settled into his favourite seat by the window to study, but his heart was not in it. He could not understand the change in everyone around him.

A soft cough from the doorway called his attention. The chancellor was standing there, patiently waiting to be addressed.

“Good morning, Chancellor Marson,” he said, setting his book aside. “What can I help you with?”

To his delight, the chancellor smiled – even though this, too, was uncustomary.

“Are you well, sire? No, please, do remain seated. I bring some rather important news.”

He settled back into his seat and gestured to the chancellor to sit opposite him. The chancellor moved across the room, but stood beside the chair rather than sitting down.

“At least you’re talking to me, Marson,” he said. “Everyone’s strangely silent today. I’ve been feeling as if I haven’t any friends!”

Marson glanced quickly at his feet, then back up. “Sire, strictly speaking… Well, some say that a king has no friends; only subjects and enemies.”

He looked up at the chancellor, frowning. “I’m not king, though…”

Marson coughed again. “You are, sire. Your uncle passed away in the night. My condolences, your majesty.”

© Kari Fay