In defiance, I ignored the food sent up and go down to the dining hall for dinner. There is a troupe playing, though I do not recognise any of them.
“I thought Jeffet would have stopped this… Mahan practice,” I say to Azman. He sits beside me, stiff and awkward.
“Baginda—He tried, but the nobles complained. They like it too much.”
My eyes narrow at his slip. Are they addressing Jeffett as Raja then? Has he gone so far as to try to claim the throne for himself? “Where is this troupe from? I do not recognise any of them,” I say instead.
“From Bayangan,” he answers. “The Mahan troupes have gone. Most left after the execution.”
I choke on my rice. I’d known—I’d accused Jeffett of murdering Amanah, but having it confirmed still comes as a shock. “When did—what did he do?”
Azman looks confused. “Did you not sign off on his death?”
I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand, unable to find any tissues or wipes on the table.
“Gross,” he says, handing me a handkerchief. “Did you really not sign off on that?” He looks a little troubled.
“Not personally,” I reply, after thanking him for the handkerchief. “Jeffett made me sign the edict. He did not see fit to inform me of what else he has done after that.”
“Oh.” He shifts in his seat, avoiding my gaze. “He made the proclamation in the square, and then he had him beheaded. There was a crowd. It was… messy.”
“I’m sorry, Tuanku. I know you… knew the man.”
I shrug my shoulders, trying to seem nonchalant, but failing. “Do you know what happened to the rest of his troupe?”
“As I said, most of the Mahan troupes left after that spectacle. I… have not seen any of them around, so I suppose they have all left.”
I hope so too, but I cannot count on it. “Who’s in the dungeons?”
His eyes flick up to mine, then quickly flick away.
“Who is in the dungeons?”
He sighs. “I don’t know, actually. I have no cause to check.”
I consider that for a moment. Repetitive actions in the dance catch my eye. I study them, study their movements, scrutinise their hands and fingers, but there is nothing there for me. This troupe either does not know the secret hand language, or they carry no messages. I cannot tell which.
“For the sake of our… friendship,” he winces when I say that, “would you please let me know if any of the troupes are in the dungeons?”
He sits, eyes fixed on the dancers. The dance is nearly at its end when he says, so quietly that I almost miss it, “What good will it do for you to know?”
“It would ease my conscience.”
He doesn’t reply then, just lets me finish watching the dance, then escorts me back to my room.
“I’ll try,” he says. He lingers in the doorway a little longer, then moves to shut it.
He stops when I turn. I don’t want to look at him. I force myself to lift my eyes to stare into his face. “Why?”
“Why what?” He tries to make his face calm, but he’s the first to drop his eyes.
“I just need to know why.”
He huffs. “I thought it was for your own good. The Regent convinced me that you were not in your right mind, that your reason was compromised. What was I to think when I saw that letter?”
“You couldn’t have asked me first?”
“You were compromised.”
“I was grieving.”
“We all were.”
The audacity of his statement strikes me like a physical blow. “They were not your parents.” I slam the door in his face, then lean my forehead against it, trying to stop the tears that flow.
The lock snicks from the outside.
Here's an excerpt from the WIP because I was trying to write something else, but couldn't.
From Raising Cain: How the Bible Shapes the Things You Say
Meaning: Someone who betrays another under the guise of friendship.
Source: Matthew 26-14-15
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