There was no discussion of the contested crown during the three days of preparation for the funeral. Jared’s widow, the Princess of Tayma, faked just enough tears to make her grief believable to anyone who didn’t know her. She clutched Omar as if he was her most treasured possession even as Omar cried for his nanny. She also stayed close to the king’s side. Mark narrowed his eyes, wondering what she was up to.
The funeral procession was formal and attended by most people in the kingdom. Some in attendance seemed genuinely grieved by the loss of their prince, and Mark knew Jared had been beloved by his subjects. He really had been a good Crown and would have made a great king.
Some who attended the funeral seemed there out of curiosity or reveling in the pageantry of seeing the royal family convened outside the palace walls, which was rare. Mark couldn’t remember the last time they’d ever been out together.
His father, King Sayid of Madain Saleh led the procession with Mark on his right and Tayma carrying little Omar to the King’s left. His mother, Queen Salaina walked a few paces behind her husband. That was one tradition Mark intended to put to rest as soon as he was in charge. His queen would walk beside him, as an equal.
When the internment had been spoken, and the family began the procession back to the palace, Mark noticed one young lady break away from the crowd and kneel as Jared’s gravesite, sobbing into her hands. No one else seemed to notice and Mark casually left the procession and returned to stand beside her.
Mark stood close enough that the woman was able to lean her head against his leg for support. He reached down and patted her on the head, then spoke words she probably wouldn’t hear from anyone else, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Jared will be missed,” she sobbed, probably not realizing she was talking to his brother. No woman in the kingdom would be so bold as to call the crown prince by his first name unless she had a very familial relationship with him. Even then, never in the presence of royalty.
“By all who knew him,” Mark agreed, then patted her on the head again and turned to walk away. He paused for one more acknowledgement. “Take all the time you need.”
At that, the young lady, probably in her early twenties, gasped and looked up at him, horror crossing her face at the bold way in which she’d spoken to the prince. “Your Highness?”
“I will forget we had this conversation,” Mark stated.
“Thank you, Your Highness.” She lowered her gaze and twisted her hands in her lap, wringing a white handkerchief over and over.
Mark started to leave again but stopped and took a deep breath, steeling himself for whatever the answer might be. “Are there any other… family members I should know about?”
“No, Your Highness, we were careful.”
“I don’t need to hear details,” Mark halted her sternly. “Please just let my brother’s memory rest in peace.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” she whimpered.
This time Mark didn’t hesitate but walked briskly away from the woman and vowed never to do the things his brother had done.