The sovereign’s quarters felt cold. Caspian stood in the doorway, the Aspirian crown dangling carelessly between his fingers as his eyes roamed over the oversized bedroom that his parents had once occupied and that now belonged to him by rite. Somewhere in the back of his subconscious, he’d known that the day would come when he took over everything that had belonged to his father, but to actually take the first small steps toward that life was surreal. This room in particular held so many memories that his head felt like it was swimming as they flooded back to him at once. Distant childhood recollections of running to his mother when he’d had nightmares, days when he’d used the space to hide from the servants, early morning meetings with his father to study skills he would need to become king… and more recently, visits to Atlas when his father had been on his deathbed.
His throat tightened, and he took a shuddering breath to steady himself. He hadn’t expected this to be so difficult. It was just a room, but since all of his memories were either painful or nostalgic, it was hard for him to bring himself to step further inside. He glanced over his shoulder with a wince, wondering if it was too late to change his mind about going back to his old bedroom. He could just pick up a change of clothes and some toiletries and sleep in a place that was more comfortable, but deep down he knew that putting it off wouldn’t make it any easier for him to move into the new room later. Now that he was king, he needed to toughen up.
So, taking one more steeling breath, he forced himself to close the door behind him and walked slowly up to the four-post bed. Even from a glance, he could see that the sheets had been recently changed, but his skin still crawled with the knowledge that this was where his father had breathed some of his final breaths before he’d been rushed to the hospital. Gingerly, he ran his fingers over the crisp duvet and set the crown down on the nightstand. When he was alone, it was easier to let the weight of his new role ease from his shoulders, but the stress of becoming a monarch was replaced with a messy tangle of emotions that were just as heavy in their own way.
He stood by the bed for a few minutes before he peeled himself away from it to take off the ceremonial garb he’d been wearing all day. The staff had moved all of his clothes into his father’s wardrobe while he’d been at the banquet, so he dug through the options until he found an old set of pajamas tucked away near the back. The top and bottom were soft cotton printed with the logo of his favorite football team, a gift from his mother that she’d given him about a year before she’d died. Leaning into his nostalgia, he untied the sash around his waist and slipped out of his tunic and trousers, replacing them with the old clothes and ambling back over to the bed.
His cell phone had been moved into the new room as well, left on a wireless charger on the nightstand. Leaning back against the edge of the mattress, Cas picked it up to find hundreds of missed notifications from every social media account he had. People he’d never met or even chatted with online were congratulating him on his new status as if they knew him personally, undoubtedly trying to bolster their own followings by pretending to buddy up with the new king. He rolled his eyes to himself and turned off his notifications altogether, uninterested in reading the comments at the moment. Instead, he turned to his texts, where he found a string from a group chat with Jay and Miles spread out over a few days’ time:
M: The soldiers stopped by but I told them I didn’t know where you were. Got your back, man.
M: So… are you ever gonna tell us where you and Iris went?
J: Hey, I think something’s up. The soldiers just came by my place and they were pretty serious. I heard about your fight with your dad, but maybe you should go back to the palace, Cas.
J: I just heard about your dad’s passing. I’m so sorry. If there’s anything you need, just let me know.
M: Yeah, same here. Also, I hope you’re OK. Haven’t heard from you in a couple days. Text us back when you see these.
J: Hey Cas, think you can get us invites to your coronation? We’d love to be there but we’re not on the approved list.
M: I know you’re king now and all, but it would be nice to get even a ‘K’ back from you, dude. Or are you too good for us now that you’re in charge of this place?
M: ……Actually, if you ARE too good for us, please don’t have me arrested for that last text. Thanks.
J: Miles, you’re an idiot.
He smiled to himself. In spite of everything that had happened, he was glad that his friends had continued to reach out to him. He wished he’d seen their messages earlier though, because he hadn’t even thought about making sure they would be able to attend his coronation. Having not seen them there at all, he guessed they hadn’t been able to secure invitations on their own. Too tired to call them, he tapped out a reply on his keypad:
Hey guys, sorry I went AWOL for a while. Things have been crazy, as I’m sure you noticed. Thanks for the well wishes. I’ll call you both when I can… I’m still processing all of this, so now’s just not the best time.
He paused, then added:
Also, Miles you are an idiot. Just because I’m king now doesn’t mean we aren’t still friends. You should know you guys are more important to me than that.
Setting his phone down on the nightstand again he let out a sigh and laid back on the bed, sinking heavily into the plush, memory foam mattress. Although the room didn’t feel like home to him yet, the bed was enticingly comfortable. With plenty of time left before he expected Iris to call him, he pulled the duvet out from below his body and crawled underneath it, hoping to get a little shut-eye first to decompress after yet another hectic day.