Newel rubbed his sweaty palms against each other. He could feel the beads of sweat breaking out on his forehead. Several servants waited on him, adorning him with robes and jewels. Newel grasped the edge of a robe, crushing it in his fist. He could hardly have been more nervous if it were his own coronation that he was attending.
It had been a nightmare of a week for Newel. His father, King Reymound, had died. Preparations for Prince Alton's coronation were immediately begun, placing Newel in constant turmoil for the next seven days.
He knew his mother had always dreamed of him as king -- she expected it of him. Now that his father was dead, was this his chance? Should he storm the throne now? He should. He shouldn't. He must. He can't. Every day the suspense grew worse. Now that the coronation day was here, Newel couldn't think anymore.
He had hardly spoken to his mother since his father's death. She had the appearance of deep mourning and was constantly surrounded by comforters. Was she expecting him to take the initiative?
Newel glanced in the mirror as his princely seal was secured to the front of his robe. The worry had eaten away at him. His face was thinner, and the dark rims around his bloodshot eyes spoke of his sleepless nights. All in all, the prince in the mirror looked miserable.
"At least, I will look as though I have been mourning," Newel thought to himself. His lip curled disdainfully at his reflection. "But I don't look much like a king."
The servants bowed and backed away from him. His preparation was complete. With a boom that sent a dart of fear into Newel's core, the doors were unlatched and swung wide open. There was no chance to delay any longer. It was time to go.
Newel held his head high as he strode from the room and down the long halls. But each step took him closer to the Great Court and the moment he had been dreading.
He dreaded Alton becoming king. He dreaded his own upcoming action as he tried to stop Alton's coronation. He dreaded the thought that, when the time came, he might be paralyzed by fear. He dreaded the surprised and disappointed look in his mother's eyes as she watched him do nothing. He dreaded all these things, each thought stabbing at him cruelly.
He paused before the doors of the Great Court, waited as the doorkeepers swung them open, and then made his entrance, taking his place on the right side. The sweat trickled down his arms. There were so many people there! Only last week, his greatest ambition had been to sneak enough poison into the chicken yard to watch all the birds die of agony. Now he was immersed in his own form of poison - terrified of himself and of everyone around him.
All the key persons were present, and Prince Alton made his appearance. He looked older and wiser somehow. His eyes were sad but he held his head high and walked with purpose.
"Curse Alton for his kingliness," Newel thought.
Alton ascended the steps and the priest began the first prayer. Newel licked his lips. Now? Should he speak now? What if Alton called the guard on him and had him thrown out? Would anyone stand with Newel? Newel felt his arms trembling. If he had been alone in his rooms, he would have screamed and beat his fists against his bed. If he did not act soon, would it be too late?
A gentle touch at his elbow startled Newel and he looked down to see his mother. Somehow she had contrived to move closer to him. She held the black scarf of mourning across her face.
"Not yet, my son," she whispered. Newel looked down into her eyes, reading there a look of patience, confidence, and a touch of triumph. "Soon," she promised, softly. "But not yet. Wait patiently, and I will make you king."
As her words washed over him, the worries of the week melted away, dissipating like steam in the wind. Newel felt himself nearly crumple from the sudden relief, and his breath came in a ragged gasp, almost like a sob. He wished the crowds of people would go away so he could buried his head in his mother's arms and let her rock him as she used to.
She was not waiting on him or expecting him to force Alton out. She had a plan, and she would do it. Newel stared down admiringly at his mother's small gloved hands and enjoyed the feeling of release from his self-torture. All Newel had to do was wait and do her bidding. He had full confidence in her ability to work everything out. Had she not done so in every previous instance?
Newel turned his attention back to Alton. The priest was reading the laws of the kingdom, and Alton recited his vows. With his feeling of dread gone, Newel watched Alton with a cunning look. Never mind that the cunning was his mother's. Every step of the coronation only brought Alton closer to his demise, and Newel could not repress as tiny, smug smile as the ceremony concluded and his brother was crowned king.