There are downsides, of course.
The first: damn having to use only the phrases he already has, as if he can even remember them all (he can remember more than he thought he did, though, which Duck would find very telling, he's sure).
The second: his son, on seeing him, newly moved back into mourning tears is like a punch in the gut, and Hern thinks that maybe he hadn't thought this through entirely (of course, like you ever do, his inner voice replies with irritating honesty) before carrying it out. His son asks for wisdom, which is at least selfless, though Hern wishes he'd asked for something more concrete, like better skill at mathematics.
It isn't until his son has left that Hern sits down beside his throne, elbows on the floor behind him and feet dangling down the steps, and realizes the third problem.
Usually the throne room had been too busy – it wasn't really quite big enough to be the center of politics for a nation growing more laws and covering more ground by the day, but they'd made do or expanded out into the courtyard when they needed to.
Now, though, it is silent. Blessedly silent, Hern tells himself, though he still chews over the reaction of his son.
He'll be fine. He's had more advice than Hern ever got.
Hern purposefully doesn't think of Kars, or the things he'd wished he'd had the chance to say-- he pushes himself up abruptly, instead, glad of the new feeling of health in his bones, to inspect the room. His grandfather never said it would be exactly like it was in life, and he's not sure he really trusts the old man not to have made some tricky changes.
It's too quiet in here.
Not always. Sometimes the crown is returned, with Duck getting more solemn and irritating as the centuries go by (which Hern keeps forgetting is possible until it happens. You'd think there'd be a limit to how irritating someone could be, honestly) and Hern tries to be properly majestic for the new heirs when they appear. That can be fun, actually. He likes to get a sense for who's taking care of his country these days.
Of course, sometimes Duck comes on his own, to play Nine Men's Morris and talk; once he brings Tanaqui, the sister Hern never found again in life, and Hern breaks into tears that he's surprised neither of them mock him over. But Tanaqui lives far away, and cannot truly leave without good reason. Their grandfather has given her Dropwaithe to look over. And Duck – has gone strange. Stranger, than usual, for Duck.
And sometimes when no one is there Hern sees things, hears things. Not clear, or loud, but at the corner of his hearing and the edge of his eye, like the feeling you get when there's a mouse rummaging in your bedroom and you can't quite find it, but you know that it's there.
He's sleeping on one of the long benches, where some of the lords he liked the least used to sit, when someone sits on the ground next to the bench. He doesn't quite wake up, but moves closer to the weight, until he can feel dimly radiating body heat.
He wakes up, then, but doesn't open his eyes. The body heat fades, but the sound of calm breathing continues—like that of someone keeping bedside watch. That hasn't happened since the first days after the bedroom assassination attempt, before he convinced the guards that an inspection of his interior room and then sitting outside the door to give he and his wife a smidgen of privacy while they slept would be sufficient.
Well – no, it has happened more recently. His daughter, while he was dying. But the sound of the breathing is too low for this to just be a fever-dream, with Robin praying to the Undying that he might again open his eyes.
He opens his eyes.
No one is there. Of course. Of course.
Hern doesn't put any stock in dreams.
Duck stops coming.
Kings stop coming.
The crown sits, in the throne, waiting.
Hern sometimes still plays Nine Men's Morris against himself in the middle of the room with the board Duck brought and left. Sometimes he'll find it after sleeping, or going to look through the corridor at the back at the small library he's acquired with Duck's help, and he'll swear that it's not how he's left it. Someone's moved against him.
Even more frustrating, they're very good at the game, so even if it's just his memory being faulty (and memory is – strange, here. Sometimes it feels like he's been here only days, when he knows it's been – a lot longer than that. And sometimes it feels like he's been here so long that the mountains and valleys have all changed again, and didn't even need his grandfather's help this time) it's not fair that he's forgetting when he's being clever.
Hern likes himself best when he's being clever, at least until after he's had time to realize how much trouble his cleverness has gotten him into. It makes him angry.
Still, when he wakes up one day with one of the newer books with a spine open on his chest, and looks across the room to see the shadows cast to look like a young man peering at the crown, arm put for support on the back of the throne, he's not... actually surprised.
Hern sits up, closing the book carefully as he sets it aside, and Kars looks to him. "Oh," Hern says, suddenly embarrassed. "You're real, aren't you?"
He's inexplicably relieved when Kars jerks a bit, startled, and brings his arm down from the throne, straightening his posture. It seems strange, to Hern, that Kars has his limp – but Tanaqui said he was born with it, before she disappeared. There isn't any real reason for Hern to look like himself when he was alive, either. "I thought you wouldn't notice," he admits, after a moment. "You've been ignoring me for awhile."
"I haven't been ignoring you," Hern replies as he stands, before pausing and raising a hand. "Much. Well, okay, maybe a bit. But you're --"
He is, too, but it still feels rude to say it. He grimaces a bit, instead, at Kars, and Kars laughs. Hern's surprised. He's never really heard Kars laugh, except when the older king was dying.
"Living people visit you, Adon," Kars says, amusement filling the title. He walks a few steps towards the center of the room, and Hern goes to meet him.
There's an awkward moment where Hern thinks, oh, we're blood brothers. I never learned that custom of Grandfather's people. Kars isn't a warrior, we can't just clasp arms. I'm an idiot. Er, before Kars raises an eyebrow at him, amused, and draws him into a quick embrace.
After they let go, Hern says: "But, not all living people."
Kars flushes, though it's a bit hard to tell in the lighting, and moves to the far side of the Morris board. He sits down after a moment's hesitation. Hern sits across from him.
"I spoke to our Grand Father," Kars says, glancing up, flush gone. "After your daughter told me what you'd done."
"Ah," Hern says, voice suddenly weak. For some reason he's never considered the possibility of Kars finding out he has children. He's not entirely sure why that bothers him; he knows Heathens put having heirs above anything else. But Hern loved his wife, too. And he doesn't know – he doesn't know what Kars thinks, at all, so this is a stupid thing to worry about.
Kars watches him for another few moments. "I like her," he says, quietly. "She pays attention to things."
"Yes," Hern says, blinking. He blinks again, quickly. Kars doesn't say anything, so he looks up when he's sure he's not going to embarrass himself by crying. Kars is watching him with a quiet, soft expression that Hern is relieved to find isn't sympathy. "I wanted to talk to you," he says, surprising himself. "I always did. So, I thought—well." He breathes. "Why did you come?"
Kars smiles, and shrugs slightly. "I always wanted to talk to you, too." He tilts his head down at the board. "It's your move," he says.
Hern looks down at the board, with the pieces laid on it, and relaxes.