Chapter 5 - Breaking the News
As soon as the meeting had ceased and their guests had departed, King Greggory retreated to his chambers to do the unthinkable; to tell his wife the terrible news of their apparent agreement. He could feel an unbearable aching within his heart as he finally reached the chamber door and turned the handle to open it slowly.
He was immediately greeted by Katherine, who was at that very moment pouring herself a drink of water into a glass goblet.
“Oh, I didn’t expect you to be back so soon!” she asked with a smile. “That must mean good news, am I right?”
King Greggory’s face said all he needed to say, his skin painted a pale white colour and dark rings cupping his eyes as he closed the door behind him.
“Greggory, are you alright dear?” she asked, quickly pouring a second glass for him.
“We... we need to talk, my love.” he managed to force the words out from within as he began to walk across the room towards the large bed. “It seems as though our plans may have changed somewhat.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Come, sit with me.” Greggory spoke, his voice still seemingly shaky as he pat the bed beside him and waited for her to join him.
As she did she handed him the second glass of water and then placed her hand over his. Her smile was not reciprocated by him and she immediately knew that something was wrong; very wrong!
“Greggory what is it? What’s happened?”
“I fear you will not be pleased to hear what I am about to tell you, but Katherine, you must know that I love you deeply and would do anything to protect our people. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, peace for our people.”
“I know. You have a kind heart, Greggory.” she complimented him. “What is it that’s got you so troubled, my love?”
He took a moment to gather up enough courage to tell her what he had done, though it was painfully hard to do so. His heart was pumping harder than it ever had before, as if it would burst through his chest at any moment. Swallowing a guilty lump which had formed in his throat, Greggory looked to his wife.
“It would appear that the original offer of lands and riches we had prepared were of no interest to King Draxus after all. He blatantly refused our offer.” Greggory began to explain.
“Oh, I’m so sorry dear... Well, what happens now?”
“We have two choices; we either go to war with Draxus... or...”
“Or?” she leaned in, seeming very interested in what he was about to say.
“Or... we accept his counter offer.” Greggory replied vaguely.
“Counter offer?” she asked, frowning. “What counter offer? You never told me about any counter offer.”
“I need you to know that I did this for our people, for the future of this Kingdom.” Greggory began trying to sugar coat his choice for her. “If I had refused he would have waged war upon us and wiped us from existence entirely.”
Katherine stood now, seeming concerned by the way he was acting and what he was saying. Her green eyes were fixed on his as she spoke next.
“What have you done, Greggory?” her hands moved to rest on her hips now.
“I had no choice...”
“It’s not my fault... Draxus saw her, in the flower garden right before the meeting had started. I couldn’t-”
She cut in mid-sentence.
“-Wait, he saw who?” Katherine continued to question him.
It was time; Greggory braced himself for her inescapable wrath.
“Our daughter. He saw our daughter. She must have escaped her chambers and snuck down as they arrived, I don’t know. I tried to divert his attention but... his sights were fixed upon her. There was nothing I could do!”
“I don’t understand, he saw Lillian?” Katherine hadn’t yet put two and two together and it hadn’t helped that her husband was being purposely vague with the details of what he had done next. “So he saw her, what’s the problem?”
Instead of replying verbally, Greggory’s eyes began to fill with tears as she shook his head softly. Having known her husband for many years, Katherine knew his reaction wasn’t good.
“Tell me what has happened Greggory!” she demanded. “This instant!”
Katherine had become desperate now. There was something he wasn’t telling her and she needed to know what it was!
“I... I agreed to hand her over... to be his Queen... in exchange for our Kingdom’s protection.” Greggory was visibly repulsed at what he had done, though it was clearly too late for that.
Katherine froze, her emerald green eyes wide with fury as she glared down upon him in shock at what she had just heard spoken from his own lips.
“You... did what!” she demanded.
“Katherine, I’m so sorry. I had no other choice!”
“You sold our daughter to that monster? That horrible excuse for a man!”
“Please Katherine, keep your voice down!” Greggory whispered but she would not be silenced; she was beyond furious now!
“You cowardly son of a bitch! How dare you!” she snapped. “You promised me she would remain safe... You PROMISED me!”
“I had no other choice!” Greggory shouted back at her. “What would you have me do? Protect our daughter alone and in turn allow our people, men women and children, to be massacred?”
Katherine’s voice was quieter now, though she was still enraged.
“I expected you to protect your family. She is our daughter, not some object to be exchanged! I can’t believe...” she trailed off, closing her eyes. As she opened them again she spoke, “How long until the exchange is to be made?”
“Well...” he paused, unsure of how to deliver this final piece of bad news to his already furious wife. “It’s not a simple exchange, per say...”
Katherine’s expression said it all for her; her eyes narrow and her brow knitted together while both her hands remained on her hips.
“What do you mean?”
“King Draxus has agreed to unite both of our Kingdoms, ensuring our safety-”
’-Greggory!” she snapped at him angrily.
“He has asked for Lillian’s hand in marriage, Katherine. He wishes her to become his Queen.”
Katherine’s right hand moved up to rest over her heart as she gasped, taking a step back from him and focusing on steadying herself as her legs had suddenly become wobbly. Her breaths were short and shallow as she fought to allow this new information to sink in. That was the final straw for the Queen.
“And you allowed this to happen.” she spoke, almost a whisper. “You allowed our own daughter to be promised to that tyrant... that monstrous excuse for a man!”
“Katherine, my sweet. Surely you can see that I had no other choice.” Greggory spoke, practically begging her as tears rolled down his cheeks. “He promises to take good care of her, to treat her to a wonderful life.”
“And you believed him?” Katherine asked, glaring back at her husband angrily. “You have gone too far this time Greggory! Too far! I will not allow this, do you hear me!”
With that she turned and stormed off toward the door, leaving her husband alone to watch her as she slammed it shut behind her. If Greggory had felt horrible before, he felt even worse after having told her and his heart was crushed in failure. And soon he would somehow have to break the news to his daughter!