Two weeks, five febrile days, and one nasty infection later, Aliana still hadn’t moved. Milos had two countries to rebuild, but he couldn’t bear being away from her. He wanted to be there if she woke. He wanted to be there if she stopped breathing. Her face today was still calm and peaceful.
“She looks better today? Do you think?” he asked Lania who was second only to him in the person who spent the most time with Aliana.
“Her skin is gaining some colour and her cheeks look less ashen. The last fever was two days ago, so she is improving. The baby is fine as well.” He nodded once as she offered him a slight smile and then went to the other end of the chamber to sit and sew. She still didn’t trust him alone around his wife. It annoyed him to no end sometimes, but she did have her uses as a healer. Her herb poultices worked wonders for Aliana’s wound which was a healthy pink line, instead of the angry, red, oozing welt it had been a few days earlier.
“Your Majesty, the king’s mother.” said his attendant announcing his mother who walked in shortly after. She came to sit by him and took his free hand.
“How is she today?” she asked.
“Better.” he said not looking away from her face.
“Good that means that you can leave then.”
“Why would I do that?” he said turning to face his mother.
“Because you are king and your people need you, they need to see you.”
“They will, once she is awake.”
They have had this conversation countless times since he woke. He had always managed to delay, his excuse being that he wanted to be near his wife. That was the main reason, but also because he was afraid. How could he face his people when he had hurt so many of them?
His mother had told him countless times that he wasn’t to blame and of how he had fallen on his own sword just to prevent Moriah using him. But that was in vain, as his father in his grief-stricken state had called on the witch, who then reanimated his body with a corrupted soul. Aliana went through trying lengths, even after an assassination attempt on her life to win him back.
The stories were all over the continent now and he couldn’t bear the whispers or the conversations that halted abruptly every time he walked into a room. Everyone would sit up straighter and all eyes would be peeled at him. He was accustomed to having the eyes of the court on him. However, it was because they were waiting for an opportunity to jest, now it was because they were afraid.
He had only left the palace once and that was to see to the burning of his father. That was enough.
“A carriage has been prepared for you to go to Dunwall. We need to assess whether the dykes can be repaired. It may be many years before we can start planting there once more, but the growing season is going fast and if we don’t act soon. The country will face famine.”
“The Dykelands again belong to the sea. There is no repairing it. Have them prepare land along Garian Arbors. The main reason Catalands has been so underused despite the rich soil was because of the fear of grim. They are mostly dead and the few that remain are deep in the Arborlands. Speak with Whitby as well. His land is planted mostly in wheat. We can arrange a suitable agreement regarding food security.”
“Very well then, I will do so. But by the gods Milos you will have to leave this room to lead. The people of Arnay and Garion are looking to you for guidance.” she chastised him.
“I will but after she wakes up.” his mother left and he was mostly alone with his wife again. He placed his arm under her head and put one hand on her stomach. He continued to watch, counting her breaths.
He didn’t know for how long he would be allowed to hold her like this. When she woke he didn’t see how she would ever forgive him for what he’d done. She carried their child and he nearly killed them both. He was going to lose not one but two very important people in his life and he was wholly deserving of it.
He decided that when she wanted to go, he wouldn’t try to stop her. He loved her enough to let her leave and he deserved the life of solitude that would follow. But for now, this was all the time they may have left together and he was going to cherish every second knowing that it might be the last.
Aliana listened closely to all that was happening around her. Milos was there, he sounded like himself again. Same stubborn self. If she could, she would have smiled but everywhere hurt and she was just so tired. She would try again later.
She heard a soft song being hummed and her face and body being wiped down with a damp cloth. It was Lania she was here. She had whispered to her about Doranand’s proposal. She knew that something had happened between them in her absence. She was happy for them both. She would tell them when she woke. Her eyes twitched and her lips parted. But that was all she could manage for now.
Doranand came in a couple of times, he told her about the correspondence between him and the other earls in Arnay. His father was dead and so he had taken his place. Chrisoncor was alive, but they had lost Riverdale and Lurion. He assured her that all the new heirs were her strong supporters and that they were heading into the Mudlands, with the river wraiths to clear all the evil that had sullied its once pristine beauty. She tried to tell him that she was glad, but the words were stuck in her throat.
It was morning, she could tell because her eyes were open and the sun streamed into the room. This wasn’t her chamber or her bed either. Nothing of Milos hung anywhere and it was far grander than what she was accustomed to. This room was fit for a king. But then again her husband was king.
She shifted slightly and looked up. Her head was tucked under his arm and rested on his chest. The other hand he had splayed over abdomen as he kept their baby warm and protected. He was still asleep but it wasn’t peaceful. He was worrying that much she had gathered.
She lifted her arm which felt like dead weight and brushed her fingertips over his forehead and down his jaw. He captured her hand in his and then brought it to his lips brushing a soft kiss there. His eyes opened and then he was looking at her.
Her throat was dry but she knew the first thing she wanted to say. “I love you Milos.” her voice was gravelly but she knew that he heard as his eyes widened and he was suddenly more alert.
“You’re awake.” he said sitting up and looked down at her. She groaned slightly. “I am sorry,” he panicked, “did I hurt you?”
“No, you stopped holding me.” she said again and she watched as smiled, probably unlike he hadn’t for many days now. His face became pained once more.
“You shouldn’t want me here after what I did. I could have killed you and our baby.” he said looking on her still flat abdomen.
“The stabbing was a bit much, but I did stab you first Milos. And our baby is fine, right?” she joked. He didn’t laugh.
“The baby is well. Aliana you are the most important thing that had ever happened to me. I don’t deserve your love or your forgiveness and I understand fully if you were to decide to leave...”
Aliana at us slightly and placed her fingers over his mouth. Of course he would think that he was undeserving. Her lovely shattered prince, He never saw his worth and so many had made him doubt himself.
She took his face in her hands and cupped it gently. “Milos look at me, please.” she said as his eyes were downcast. He flicked them up and she could see the well of hurt that lay behind them. “You are my husband, my king, the father of my child. The man I love so much, I risked death to get him back. I am not going anywhere, not unless you want me gone. Do you want me to leave?”
“I do not.” he said as he clasped my hands over hers and rubbed his lips over her fingers. “I will spend the rest of my life making it up to you, I promise Aliana.” he said earnestly.
“We will make it up to each other.” she said as she held his head and pulled his face towards hers. His kiss was chaste as if he was afraid that she was going to change her mind. “I have a busted gut not busted lips Milos. I have had your kisses, so I know when you are holding back.”
He laughed. “So you love me?” his eyes twinkled with hope and it warmed her thoroughly that she was the one who had made him this happy.
“Yes and nothing you do or did could change that. Neither of us are perfect, but we make each other better. You are a good man and will make a good king. We will rebuild our family and our continent together. You are the green to my red and nothing but death will ever divide us.”
“My Queen, my Sapphire, my love.” he answered and all the worry lines marking his face faded completely.