"The Arch Duchess Orange will see you now," The young man said in a very dry tone.
Faris stood from the chair and bowed, then followed the man into the room, where The Lady Orange was sitting. She did not stand, instead, Faris once again bowed.
"I am grateful you have been gracious enough to host me tonight," Faris said and then rose from the bow.
"The Prince is calling you a traitor to the Crown." The Duchess said looking grim.
"I see the mirrors have been quite busy tonight." Faris tried to smile.
"So, what would stop me from holding you until his men come for you?" The Duchess smirked and then coughed.
"I will sign away Codger's Crossing over to you, once I am in control of Feren again." Faris hoped it would prove enticing enough, there was no backup plan.
"And what if Prince Ban has already promised it to me?" The Lady Orange crossed her arms.
"I know that Prince Ban has no authority to do anything to the lands of the Feren's until I have been arraigned by the Queen," Faris said nervously.
"You do not think Queen Ada is eager to see you then?" The Duchess grinned.
"I can only imagine, My Lady, that she is very eager indeed." Faris had to grin himself. A moment of levity was at the least worth savoring.
"Oh, if only my sister could see her stalwart son, a renegade." The Lady laughed, and then coughed.
"You had me fooled." Faris smiled.
"Did I? You devious delinquent, lying to your Aunt so," The Duchess smiled, "So what else has Ban been up to, that foul mouthed imp."
"I have a story for you." Faris sat on the ottoman in front of her.
"Just like old times my boy, except your telling the stories now." The Duchess smiled, "I still get Codger's, though, right?"
"Of course Aunt Bella, of course." Faris grinned.
The Lady shooed her servants away and they talked well into the night. About strategy and then reminiscing about family.
"I must be off to bed, thank you, dear Auntie Bella," Faris smiled tiredly.
"You know your parents would be very proud of what you have accomplished. They loved you very much and never regretted having you, ever." The Duchess said emphatically.
"Thank you for the kind words, but we both know they wished for a daughter and true heir," Faris sighed.
"Listening to Aulder again are you?" The Duchess frowned, "Off to bed with you, tomorrow is a new day. We will see what it brings."
"I hope it brings better things than today did," Faris shrugged.
Faris left the sitting room and his Aunt. He slumped a bit with fatigue. It had been the longest day he could remember in a while, even during the war with the shadows. He opened the door to the guest room he used to sleep in when he would visit with his mother. It still had the ugly pumpkin color scheme and the scratchy bed sheets. He felt small again. Like the lanky youth he used to be. Before everything sat so heavy on his shoulders. He sighed and laid his clothes one by one at the foot of the bed and then crawled under the blankets. Drifting off slowly as his mind wandered from problem to problem.
There was a soft knock on the door. Faris roused barely and grunted. The door opened and butlers brought in fresh clothes, breakfast, and warmed towels. He raised his head slightly and realized he had been sleeping so soundly he had saliva on the side of his face and part of the pillow. He hurriedly wiped with an edge of the blanket and sat up.
"My Lady is awaiting you in her sitting room, please join her at your earliest convenience." The older of the men said.
"Thank you. Tell her I will be along shortly." Faris stretched and then moved to get out of bed. The butlers bowed and left the room.
He grabbed a bit of toast and smeared some jam on it, then put it in his mouth and grabbed the towels and headed to the bathroom. He showered quickly and dripped dry while gulping down the rest of his breakfast. Then he dressed and went to his Aunts sitting room.
"I am so sorry little sapling." She said looking sadly at him.
"What?" Faris was confused, both by the use of the pet name his mother had for him and the sadness on his Aunt's face.
"It seems that The forest clans and some of the freeholders of Feren fought back instead of swearing fealty to the crown, Ban is saying he will hang them, but if you give yourself up, he will pardon them." His Aunt sighed.
"Then I have to go of course," Faris did not hesitate.
"You do understand you did not make that choice for them." His Aunt asked rhetorically.
"I can't let them die, I am responsible for them," Faris argued.
"Oh, my little sapling, it's become part of you, hasn't it?" The Duchess sighed, "It was so long ago."
Faris went rigid, he held his hands to his face for a moment then ran them through his hair.
"What I can do now, is go and save my people." Faris sighed, "I have to do this."
"I know." she said sadly, "Give your old Aunt a kiss on the cheek and a hug before you do."
Faris bent over her and realized she was more frail than he remembered her being. He hugged her and kissed her forehead. He walked out of the sitting room and into the long hallway to the front door. He opened the door, then opened a port to his own estate. He stepped through and the guards in blue took him into custody, and brought him into his former dining hall, now made into a throne room. And on a chair on a freshly made dais sat Prince Ban. The Prince sneered at the sight of Faris.
"Take the other prisoners to the city jail. We have Faris now." Ban said to a guard on his right.
"You said you would pardon them." Faris protested.
"I said I wouldn't kill them for treason," Prince Ban said sternly back, "Let us see if anything remains of the private dungeon that used to run under the estate. I want to keep him close."
And with a motion of Ban's hand Faris was dragged off to the basement of his own estate.