“It’s been a long time, though. I need a refresher,” I said.
“All right.” Dad set his glasses aside on the desk and leaned back in his chair. “We were at the celebration that night, and everyone was there. Lots of people were drunk. We were all in good spirits about the Vittra King being killed. Konstantin was working, but I don’t even really remember seeing him. You probably had a better view of him than I did.”
I had had my eyes on Konstantin most of the night. While my duties were to stand at attention during formalities and help keep inebriated townsfolk from causing a ruckus, most of that really meant standing at the side of the room and watching. So my gaze frequently went to Konstantin, who smiled much more than a member of the Högdragen was supposed to.
That was honestly what I remembered most about him that night. Him standing proud and confident in his lush uniform, smiling and laughing with anyone who bumped into him as he stood by the King and Queen’s side. Konstantin had seemed like a man in good spirits—not like one plotting murder.
“I grew weary of the party, probably fairly early in the evening. At least by your standards. I am an old man, after all.” Dad offered a small smile to lighten the story. “I headed back to my office, where I worked on a letter to the Trylle. I fell asleep briefly at my desk, I believe, and I kept periodically peeking out so I could catch you before you left.”
“You were kind of stalking me that night?” I asked, raising a bemused eyebrow.
“You were only fifteen and it was your first night on the job, and there were far too many drunk idiots dancing around.” He shrugged. “I wanted to make sure it went okay for you.”
“Thank you.” I smiled, warmed by the thought of my dad watching out for me, whether I’d needed it or not.
“You’re very welcome,” Dad said. “And when you were done, Konstantin found us in the main hall, and that was the first time I’d spoken to him all night.”
“When was the last time you’d spoken to him before that?” I asked.
“Um, I’m not completely sure.” He scratched his temple. “I think probably the day before. Konstantin had come to get me to ask me something on the Queen’s behalf about the celebration. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I think it was just basic palace party stuff. Nothing out of the ordinary, really.”
“Had you ever fought with Konstantin?” I pressed.
“No.” Dad shook his head. “No, we barely spoke. I saw him around the palace from time to time, but the only times we ever talked was if he was passing along a message from the King or Queen, or vice versa.
“I know he was something of a star to folks around here,” he went on. “And I never really bought into the hero worship, but I’d never had a bad word to say about him. He could be cocky, but he was polite and efficient, and he seemed to do his job well, so I never had reason to complain.”
“Did he say anything to you?” I asked. “After you left me in the hall, and you and Konstantin walked back to the Queen’s office.”
“We chatted a bit on the way to the office, talking about the party and how late it was.” Dad shrugged. “We were both tired, but it was all basic, nothing giving any indication that he was unhappy with me.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk, and then rubbed the back of his neck. “That’s why I never thought it was personal.”
“He wasn’t mad at you. He was trying to get rid of the Chancellor,” I said, surmising what I’d long suspected.
Dad nodded. “Right. I don’t know why he went after me and not the King or Queen. Obviously, they have more power than me. But maybe he planned on going after them next. I don’t know.”
“What did he say to you once you got to the Queen’s office?” I asked.
“First he had me looking around for the Queen’s document I was supposed to go over, which now I know doesn’t exist. I don’t know why he was having me search around her desk for something that wasn’t real, unless he was stalling for time, but I don’t know why he’d do that.” He rubbed his chin, contemplating.
“You think he may have been putting off his assassination attempt?” I asked when Dad didn’t say anything for a moment.
He shook his head, as if clearing it. “Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe. Or maybe he was just waiting for the right moment.”
“Did the right moment ever come?”
“Yeah, it must’ve.” He leaned back again, his eyes far away as he was lost in his memory of that night. “When I was bent over, digging through a drawer in the Queen’s desk.
“Then Konstantin said, ‘Chancellor, I am very sorry.’ And I turned around, thinking he was apologizing for misplacing the paper, and I started to tell him it was all right. Then I saw that his sword was drawn.
“I held up my hands, and I said, ‘You don’t have to do this. We can talk about it.’” Dad fell silent, letting out a heavy breath. “Konstantin shook his head once, and he said, ‘I have nothing I can say.’ And that was it.”
“And then he stabbed you,” I supplied quietly.
“I dodged to the side, not enough to miss his blade entirely, but enough so it missed my heart by an inch.” He touched his chest, rubbing the spot where his scar was hidden beneath his shirt. “I cried out, and I fell to the ground. And you came running in.”
I knew how the rest of the story played out. With Konstantin apologizing to me. Then I charged at him and he stabbed me through the shoulder before escaping into the night.
I leaned forward, looking up at my dad intently. “I need to ask you something, and it’s going to sound weird, but I want you to be honest with me.”
“I always try to be honest with you,” Dad replied.
“Do you think Konstantin wanted to kill you?” I asked him directly.
He ran his hand through his hair, pushing it back from his forehead, and took a minute before speaking. “You know, I thought about that a lot then, and I didn’t tell anybody the truth, because it sounded insane. And then after he stabbed me, he’d hurt you, and I couldn’t forgive him for that. He had no business going after you. You were just a kid.”
“Dad. You didn’t answer the question.”
“The truth is … no.” He answered almost sadly. “I don’t think Konstantin wanted to kill me. I don’t even think he wanted to hurt me. It doesn’t make it any better that he did. In fact, it makes it worse. He nearly killed me and hurt you, for no good reason.”