Chapter 12 - A Difficult Choice
After the incident with King Draxus in the throne room only moments before, the General had escorted Queen Lillian up to the royal chambers to recover from it.
She needed space and time to think.
The General was not only worried for her health after the attack but also of her fiery determination to see her parents again.
He abruptly commanded the two soldiers standing guard at the royal chamber to keep the Queen inside unless given instructions otherwise by either himself or the King.
No one else.
Having had an hour or so to calm down from what had happened to her Lillian felt her heart aching as she remembered the look in her husband’s eyes as he attempted to strangle her to death.
They were almost inhuman, glowing like dragon’s eyes while he glared at her with such anger.
Anger she didn’t think even existed within him... Until now, of course.
As she sat by the fireplace staring blankly into the heat of the flames she tried to think of any other way she could see her parents.
She knew the soldiers guarding the royal chambers would not allow her to leave, no matter what she said to them.
The King’s command overruled her own, so that apparent option was useless.
The balcony to their room was at least three stories high up and a climb from that height would risk being seen, not to mention the high level of danger she would put herself into.
Not that she had a problem with climbing.
Lillian snuggled her knees in against her chest as she sat in a huddled ball on the chair with her arms wrapped around her legs. She tried to keep faith in him, in the man she married; the King who ruled by her side.
The man she thought she knew.
A sudden voice from the doorway alerted her.
“Yes, I’m only here to collect her dirty clothing for washing... No, I won’t be here long.” the voice spoke to the soldiers as a familiar figure now stood in the doorway.
Lillian turned around. She recognized Ruby’s voice straight away.
The soldiers closed the door behind her as the maiden rolled her eyes and shook her head at the soldiers and their stupidity.
Then suddenly her eyes fixated on the Queen sitting by the fireplace and she stopped with a smile.
“Oh, pardon my intrusion, my lady.” she said bowing her head.
“I’ve just come to gather your dirty clothing for washing. I won’t be here long.”
With that she began to make her way across to the bathing room and gathered the linen and clothing into a large cane basket she held against her hip.
Lillian sat there, watching the maid work as her thoughts began to process.
Her eyes moved to see Ruby’s long blonde hair and an idea suddenly formulated; one that might possibly work.
As she pulled herself up to stand she began to make her way across to where Ruby worked silently.
“Ruby, might I have a word?” Lillian asked.
The maiden looked up at her with another smile.
“Of course, my lady.”
She dropped the basket and made her way across the room to join her Queen.
“Is there something I can do for you?”
“Yes. I need to ask something of you, a favour of sorts.” Lillian began to explain, feeling somewhat nervous.
Ruby nodded keenly. “Of course, anything.”
Lillian smiled upon hearing this.
The maiden may have been willing to agree to anything as she had just stated, but she wouldn’t like what her Queen was about to ask her to do.
Not one little bit...
Shortly after the doors to the royal chamber opened once more and the maiden exited the room, not bothering to stop and converse with the soldiers standing guard at the door.
She continued on her way down the corridor with her basket against her hip until she heard the voice calling out to her from behind, which froze her in her place.
“Hey you, wait!”
She could feel her heart racing as she struggled to remain still. Her body began to tremble with anxiety.
Had they figured out who she really was?
That same soldier came walking up carrying a small piece of clothing that had been dropped when she exited the chambers and he threw it on top of the pile already in the basket she carried.
“You dropped something. Be more careful, will ya?” he announced as he turned and made his way back to the doorway to stand guard.
With a simple nod and a long sigh of relief, the disguised maid continued along down the hallway and out of sight entirely.
Within a matter of ten minutes or so that same maiden quickly made her way down to the royal stables, acquired herself a horse and led it out to the main courtyard.
She was on her way to the main entrance of Castle Krillian where a line of villagers had formed to seek way of passage.
After joining with a group of servants convincing the soldiers guarding the gate that they were on their way back to their village after a long day’s work in the castle, she slipped silently out of the main gates with her horse following along behind her.
Not long after that the maiden quickly mounted her horse, glancing back in the direction of the castle she had just managed to escape from.
Her emerald green eyes were glistening with the tears she was fighting to hold back upon making this difficult decision. One she had already made but was at this very moment finding it difficult to go through with.
The maiden, who was in fact none other than Queen Lillian herself in disguise as her maiden, turned her horse around as she whispered a comment meant for her husband who was obviously too far away from her to hear it; the comment being more symbolic than practical.
“I’m so sorry Draxus... Goodbye my love.”
With a kick of the thin leather boots Ruby had lent her, the disguised Queen galloped off down the dirt road heading North East and on her way to find her parents.
King Draxus had been counting down the minutes until his duties would be completed and he could at last retire to his chambers and see his wife... his Queen... his Lillian.
A heavy feeling of guilt had hovered over him like a thick rain cloud for the remainder of the day as he eagerly waited to see Lillian again, to apologise for the way he acted and for harming her.
Normally he never would have harmed her and was still having trouble figuring out why he blew up the way he had today. Was it a combination of stress and their argument, or was it something else?
Something to do with his powers perhaps?
He felt disgusting inside, like he had betrayed her beyond reprieve and he was furious at himself for reacting that way. He wished he could take it back.
But he would try to make it up to her. He had to!
He didn’t want to lose her.
As he reached the royal chambers Draxus took a deep breath to calm himself before he stepped inside.
The doors closed behind him as he stepped forward, his amber eyes searching desperately for her throughout the room.
They fixed at last on a figure lying under the covers on the bed and he breathed out a sigh of relief; she was here.
He assumed she was asleep as she lay completely still with the thick black blanket pulled up over her head and her back facing the doorway.
He didn’t expect any less. Draxus knew she would be angry with him and probably didn’t want to speak with him either.
Taking his time to slowly make his way across the room, he stopped beside the bed and spoke softly to her. His tone was gentle and kind; quite the opposite of how he had treated her only hours earlier.
“I know there are no words I can possibly say to make up for what I did to you today Lillian... I’ll spend the rest of my life with the memory of guilt I feel now for bringing harm to you, and I accept it as my punishment, though I know it is not enough...”
He paused, blinking and waiting for her to move or make a sound; instead she lay there silently, simply breathing in and out with her back still facing him and her entire body covered from view.
Draxus decided to continue on with his speech as he stepped forward and sat down next to her on the bed, placing his hand down onto her as she remained still beneath the blanket.
“Allow me to make it up to you. Give me a chance to make things right. Please Lillian, I’ll do anything you ask of me.” he said with furrowed brows, his amber eyes aching with concern.
“Please just say something.”
From underneath the large blanket, the maiden Ruby had her mouth covered by both of her hands as her heart raced in fear.
She felt as the mighty Dragon King sat beside her on the bed, pleading with whom he thought to be his wife.
She felt as his hand rest upon her hip and she closed her eyes, preying he would not think to look underneath the covers.
Ruby and the Queen had secretly switched places so that Lillian could leave the castle and find her parents.
After pleading her case to the maiden, Ruby could not refuse assisting her Queen, so now she lay there pretending to be the Dragon Queen.
But it wouldn’t last long; he would soon discover that they had switched and she feared how he may react to her having basically committed treason.
By now Draxus was beginning to worry as she hadn’t even stirred beside him and he was about to reach for her when his eyes suddenly spotted something out of place; a single strand of hair poking out from beneath the cover.
It was blonde, true, but it was curly?
Far too curly to be Lillian’s hair.
He narrowed his eyes as he reached down and grasped it between his fingers, pulling it up to get a better view.
It was indeed different to his wife’s hair.
Which could mean only one thing...
His eyes widened in terror as the realization hit him suddenly.
He spoke softly as he grasped the covers and threw them back to reveal his worst fear.
It was not his wife.
Lillian was missing!
“What is this?” he demanded as Ruby quickly spun her body around to face him, a look of terror painted across her face as her bright blue eyes stared into his amber ones.
“Where is the Queen?”
She could not reply; she was immersed in fear having displeased such a powerfully frightening man.
He stood up, his expression showing both his anger and his concern at this discovery.
His tone had become more insistent and commanding now as he questioned her.
“I said, where is she? Where is the Queen?”
He reached down and grasped her by the hair, pulling her off of the mattress and down to stand on the floor now.
She cried out in pain as her hair was pulled back hard.
“Aaahh, no please my lord...”
“You will speak now, or I will have your tongue removed!” he warned as he pulled her head in towards him.
“Gone, sire...” she finally caved, speaking with a pleading tone as she feared for her life now.
“It was her idea... The Queen and I switched places. She needed to leave the castle, to... to find her parents...”
Draxus felt his stomach turning in somersaults as he realised what she was telling him.
Lillian was gone.
Not only from her room but from Castle Krillian as well.
Which meant she was now in serious danger!
He bent his head down as he spoke his next comment with a harsh tone.
“I will deal with you later for your betrayal... personally!”
He released her hair as she fell to the ground beside the bed, sobbing in terror.
In a hurry now, he marched angrily out of the room and began to bark commands to the soldiers outside of the door immediately.
“Find the General!” he commanded.
“Bring him to me at once!”