Chapter 7- Everose
A week after the attacks I was able to get up with assistance, Veryan helped me gently into a bath. Every bang and loud noise made me jump, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Veryan would often ask, when she saw me start to breathe fast or tears would roll down my cheeks. My answer was no every time, but she still asked anyways.
“Eliza has made you beautiful gowns, if you’d like to see them.”
I nodded as Veryan rinsed the soap from my hair. I picked up a piece of my hair and looked at it, everything seemed so dull now, the colors seemed less bright.
“Today, for the funeral you will be wearing one of your mother’s gowns. It was your father’s request. Eliza has tailored it so that it will fit you.” Veryan said quietly.
Tears came to my eyes, it would be as if my mother was holding me, walking with me, supporting me, one last time. I asked Veryan to let me soak for a while. I closed my eyes as the tears silently ran down my cheeks.
I would be strong today and not cry in public, so I let it all out while I was alone. Finally, when the water was cold, and I was shivering I allowed Veryan back in. She helped me out and dried me off. She wrapped me in a towel and sat me down at my vanity, allowing me to use her as support.
She twisted my hair so that it was piled on top of my head she then secured a black veil to cover my face. One piece of blonde hair fell, brushing my cheek. Veryan’s hands went to pin it back up, but I shooed them away. Eliza and Sara helped me into the dress. It was soft silk, black ruffles cascading down the back into a train. The neckline was high, perfect to hide the scabs from the scrapes I had gotten when I fell down. They put black gloves on my hands and then stepped back to admire me. My eyes stayed fixed on the floor.
“You look just like the Queen, your highness.” Eliza said.
I refused to look in the mirror this day was not for me, it was for my mother. I sighed and walked out the door.
Hayther silently followed me, dressed in all black we almost looked like shadows moving across the floor. I felt like a shadow, just observing the world, like I wasn’t really a part of it or even here. Hayther and I met my father outside my mother’s chambers, even though I knew she was in there, dead, I felt like we would still see her smiling face. Her body was laid out on a wooden platform that would be carried to where she would be buried. Her hands crossed gently on her stomach.
She looked like she was asleep. Flowers were everywhere in the room trying to hide the smell of death. I stared at her face begging to the goddess Everose to make my mother open her eyes, to breathe again, but she didn’t move.
“She was always so full of life, I thought for sure I would go first.”
My father said as he closed his eyes and knelt next to my mother’s bedside. I moved to the other side of the bed and knelt down.
My father began the pray; “Goddess Everose, we humbly ask you to take Queen Melena into your heavenly arms and guide her soul so that she may find peace. We ask that you anoint her as our guardian and let her watch over our kingdom alongside you. We praise thee goddess Everose.”
Once the prayer was done we both got to our feet and the guards who were assigned to carry her entered the room. Hayther would have been one of the ones assigned to carry her but since Jordan’s death he never left my presence. My father and I started the long walk to the garden with my mother right behind us. Nobles were invited for the funeral, and the king of Rimerona with his wife and Prince Dorian were there as well. Though Prince Dorian wore no smug smile, only a face of sadness. I thought to myself where were they when the rebels attacked?
Unexpectedly my thoughts were interrupted by something cold and wet hitting my head, everyone looked up simultaneously as rain cascaded down, in Delgurany when it rains at a funeral it was said to be the goddess Everose crying, and that her tears are purifying and a sign from the Goddess that she has received your loved one’s spirit. All eyes were back to my mother as her body was placed into a wooden chest carved with lilies and lined with white silk sheets.
My father and I stepped up and placed both our hands together on the top and closed it over my mother’s face. The guards lowered her into the ground, we all rang out.
“Long live Queen Melena!” The two servants started the work of covering her with dirt, we all turned to start our trek inside, drenched to the bone. As we were walking across the lawn I grabbed Hayther’s sleeve and slowed my pace down, until we were alone.
“What have you learned from the one you captured?” I asked quietly.
I lifted the veil that covered my face, Hayther’s mouth twisted down, he was deciding whether or not to tell me something.
“It was Eric, from your birthday.”
My heart began to race, I knew I had recognized his voice and face
“But my father sent out guards to capture them?”
“Killed” he paused, “they were all killed, an ambush had been waiting for them in the Forest.”
My mind started to come alive all those men I had seen climbing the wall were dead?
“How do we know this?”
“We believe Eric is their leader.”
I stopped walking and stared at Hayther through the rain, suddenly my mind felt clear for the first time since the attack.
“Take me to him.”
Hayther started to shake his head no but I stopped him.
“Hayther I need this. I need to see him, please?”
I stepped a little closer Hayther’s face looked so solemn and he had bags under his eyes. I gently placed my hand on his cheek, the rain coming down in sheets all around us, but I didn’t even feel it.
“When was the last time you had an actual good night rest?”
He looked into my eyes as he leaned closer then right before our lips touched he pulled back and pulled the veil back down to cover my face. He took my arm, and we continued towards the reception hall where people were gathering to console my father and me.
He called from over his shoulder.
“Tonight, once everyone has gone to sleep. That’s when I’ll take you.”
Then he escorted me inside and up to my room. Veryan helped me dry off and get into a new dress and then it was back down to be surrounded by people, when I just wanted to be alone.
After I had sat through the dinner, hardly touching it at all and received every single person’s condolences I could head upstairs to my room. Hayther assisted me up the stairs and then handed me off to another guard.
“Please make sure she gets to her room safely.” The guard saluted Hayther and offered me his arm. It was a quiet, slow walk to my room. I was grateful that the guard did not try to make conversation he let me just drift next to him.
Prince Dorian came into view from around a corner and he stopped. He looked unsure and then approached me, he bowed. I did not curtsy for it hurt too much still.
“Retiring for the night? May I accompany you?”
His eyes flicked to the guard at my side, I nodded.
“Leave us, Prince Dorian will escort me the rest of the way.”
The guard started to protest but with one look from me, he bowed and left us alone. Prince Dorian took up my arm in his and I leaned on him heavily. He put up no protest to me leaning on him so, and we continued towards my room.
“How is your family?”
I asked through gritted teeth, Prince Dorian chuckled softly.
“Ever the diplomat” he sighed. “They’re fine, thank you.”
I glanced at his face and saw he also had deep purple bags under his eyes, apparently no one was sleeping anymore.
“Were you injured during any of the fighting?”
My question caught him off guard and he paused a moment, I welcomed this respite from walking and didn’t protest when he stopped.
“No, I was very thankful to have one of your guards with me, although he did disappear right after our first fight. I found him later, the rebel had taken pity on him and not fatally injured him.”
I sighed a little.
“Well I’m glad you are okay.”
He nodded and seemed as if he were going to say more, but then he continued down the hall. Once in front of my door he pushed the heavy doors open, Veryan’s face appeared, red and blotchy like she had been crying. She looked surprise at seeing Prince Dorian, he fumbled and said
“Um, hello” Veryan stared at him a moment and then sank into a deep curtsy. Prince Dorian cleared his throat and looked back to me.
“I wanted to let you know that my family and I will be heading home at first light tomorrow. We want to give your family time to heal and grieve.”
With that being said he again bowed and kissed the top of my hand, he then turned from me and bowed to Veryan who again curtsied lower than I had ever seen before.
Veryan reached for me and helped sit me in front of my vanity. I caught her eye in the mirror as she brushed my hair out and I quirked an eyebrow.
“During the attack he had come upon me in the hallway while I was on try to hide and he was nice enough to make sure me and a few other maids were safe.”
She turned away to fetch my nightgown, I mulled this over wondering why she had omitted that part when I had asked her where she was when it all happened. Veryan helped get undressed quickly and then into bed. I asked her to leave a candle on my bedside table so that I could read for a little while. She quietly bid me good night and then left leaving me alone with my thoughts. I thought about what I would say to Eric. I would walk in and show no fear, I was set on what was to happen tonight. I anxiously waited for Hayther to give the signal at the door.
At some point, I must have drifted asleep when suddenly I jolted awake at a noise from outside my door, I grabbed my robe and wrapped it around me tightly. I went to my bedside table and slid the drawer open inside sat a small red dagger, I grabbed it and quickly shut the drawer, thrusting the dagger into my robes pocket. I walked towards the door and waited for the signal from Hayther. Three quiet taps came from outside my door, I opened it just a smidge and saw Hayther’s grim face staring back at me.
We hurried through the corridors as fast as I was able, I fought through the pain knowing that I would be able to look the man behind all of this in his eyes. The halls were dark and quiet, everyone slept, unaware that their princess planned to kill a man tonight.
We arrived at the dungeon, its massive wooden doors being guarded by two guards. Hayther told me to wait a few feet back, he walked up and whispered something to one of the guards, he looked at the other guard and nodded. Hayther motioned me forward, he put his hands on my shoulders gently.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
The torch light made his eyes glow, I took a deep breath and nodded, Hayther held me a moment longer.
“I’ll be right there if you need me.” Then he turned around, nodded to the guards and the doors creaked open.
The smell of sweat and feces was overwhelming, but I didn’t show how much it bothered me. Most of the cells were empty, a few had dark shadows in the corners, but I couldn’t make out any distinctive features. Straw was thrown across the cold hard stone I noticed as I walked to the very end.
In the last cell, I saw a hunched dark figure, it raised its head and my eyes met Eric’s. His face was bruised and bloody, his blonde hair was disheveled around his face, and yet he smiled at me, blood stained his teeth.
“What an honor, the Princess has blessed me with her presence? Your goddess Everose must be smiling upon me today.”
I cringed, how dare he talk of our beloved Goddess. I took a deep breath and braced myself. I kept my tone of voice even and arrogant, almost like I was bored.
“You are the one who orchestrated the attack on our kingdom?” He turned his face away as if embarrassed.
“Princess you flatter me. I’ll admit I had help planning, I knew there would be many guards and we would need lots of support if we were to get through.”
He spoke as though we were discussing nothing more than our favorite flavor of sweets. Thick metal bars separated us, I would need to get Hayther to open up his cell door so that I could deliver my fatal blow, so I decided to try and rile him up.
“And you feel no guilt for the atrocities that you have committed? You are from Carastil so, no I guess I wouldn’t expect you to feel remorse for what you have done to innocent lives.”
“No man or woman is entirely innocent. I believe one of the men who died was your personal guard, was he not? Or perhaps more than just your guard, your lover? Was that the first time you had ever seen someone killed, you are a pampered pig!”
He lurched forward towards the front of the cell and I stepped back taking in a gasp, the chains bound to his wrists jingled loudly as he pulled them taught. Hayther stepped in front of me, drawing his sword, from behind Hayther I could see his face was one of fury, our eyes locked. His eyes were gray in the torch light, I couldn’t look away, I needed him to really get Hayther angry.
“You’re a monster,” I whispered.
At this he started to laugh he took a few steps back and collapsed onto the ground.
“No princess you are.”
I grabbed some of Hayther’s shirt and held on tight, I needed him to want to protect me, to think I was letting him get to me.
“Me? I’m the monster? You are the ones who have killed so many with no sympathy, for what?” I screamed, letting him get the better of me, but Eric just kept laying on the stone floor laughing, the torches lighting him up, almost making him glow.
I tried to calm my racing heart, I would succeed tonight, I would end his life.
“Why did you try and kidnap me?” Eric stopped laughing and stood up getting as close to the bars as possible.
“There is an old prophecy in Carastil. The first female born of Delgurany blood named after their goddess, said to have lived a thousand lives.”
My stomach dropped and sweat broke out across my entire body.
“Will pay with her blood and right the wrong that she created eons ago. Only then will Carastil finally prosper again. I am the great deliverer; the gods have spoken to me! I am the chosen one and you are the forsaken!”
At this Hayther roared to life.
“Shut your filthy mouth! Or else I will shut it for you, permanently!”
I was quivering now, my legs barely able to hold me up. I let go of Hayther’s shirt hoping he would open Eric’s prison.
“I seem to have struck a chord with this guard, how fast you move on princess when one lover dies you take on another!”
Hayther whipped around and grabbed my elbow he muttered through clenched teeth.
“We’re leaving now.”
Hayther started to walk and I wrenched away from him and pulled out the dagger from my pocket. I lunged at Eric through the bars, adrenaline pumping through my veins. I managed to swipe his cheek with the tip of the dagger and he stumbled back, Hayther was behind me instantly pulling me away and ripping the dagger out of my hands.
Hayther bellowed at me, my stomach was on fire again, I had strained myself too much. My vision was spotty and my heart heavy with failure. Hayther dragged me down the corridor towards the entrance, from behind us I heard Eric yell.
“My men will come for me! And you will pay with your blood!” Hayther let go of my elbow once we were outside the dungeon, but he kept a brisk pace. As I tried to keep up with him, I doubled over, gasping from pain. Hayther must have been deep in thought because he was at my bedroom door before he noticed I no longer trailed behind.
He came sprinting back to me.
“Is it your rib?” I gave a small nod, pain still etched across my face. He carefully scooped me up in his arms. My breath came in shallow gasps trying not to move too much. He placed me gently on my bed and then moved towards the door, Hayther stopped and stood with his back to me, one of his hands pressed against the wall. Once the pain had subsided I gingerly sat on the edge of the bed, I wanted to go to him, but I was afraid that my legs wouldn’t hold me.
I looked down at my hands, I had felt so helpless down there, I hadn’t even been able to deny all the ludicrous things that he had said or even get near him with my knife. Suddenly Hayther pushed off the wall and marched towards me.
“What were you thinking?” I looked at him feeling my failure crushing down on me. He sat next to me on my bed, I looked up at his face, it was full of pain and hurt and worry, though his eyes were closed.
“I don’t know what I would have done, if they had taken you, I—” he paused taking a breath. When he opened his eyes and looked down at me, “I would never stop looking for you, Everose.”
His eyes bore into mine, in that moment waves of guilt were pummeling me. I was about ready to tell him when suddenly I heard the door open Hayther’s head whipped around and I looked around him making eye contact with Veryan standing in the doorway.
She looked and unsure of what to do, when neither of us said anything she turned around quietly and shut the door. Hayther turned back to me and laid back on the bed throwing his arm across his eyes so it hung in a weird angle. I was quiet for a moment and then I whispered without looking at Hayther.
“Stay here with me?”, he lifted his arm and stared at me. I felt heat rise to my cheeks.
“Not like that,” I stammered out. “I just don’t want to be alone.”
Hayther scooted so that he stayed above the blankets, but his back was against the headboard. I crawled underneath my sheets and blankets, hesitating only a moment before laying down with my head on his chest. I closed my eyes and fell asleep to the sound of his steady heartbeat.
I opened my eyes to sunlight filtering in through my window, I sat up and tried to stretch my back. I looked next to me and saw that Hayther wasn’t there. My heart felt a little deflated I had hoped to see him sleeping. I laid back down in my bed, thinking about everything that had happened lately. I pushed my palms into my eyes, I don’t know what I was thinking, I would never have been able to live with myself for killing him, he probably would have killed me the moment I got close anyways.
I sighed and reached for the bell on my bedside to call for Veryan when my bathroom door opened, and my mind filled up with the vision of Hayther shirtless and his waist wrapped in a towel. Water still dripped off his hair as his brown eyes stared at me. If I hadn’t been laying down I knew my legs would have given out.
Hayther was the first to break eye contact.
“I fear that people may get the wrong idea about us. After I dress I will be escaping through the secret hallway.”
His cheeks turned scarlet and his hand not holding his towel was slightly shaking. I just nodded, as if this was normal. He grabbed his clothes off of my vanity and silently went back into the bathroom. I laid there stunned, his clothes were outside of the bathroom, that means he— my mind couldn’t even process Hayther being naked in my room. I stared at the ceiling begging my heart beat to calm down, I could hear it in my ears the steady rhythm of it pumping blood, to keep me alive.
Hayther opened the door and marched straight for the secret door, my eyes followed him all the way out. Once he was gone, I rang the bell that summons Veryan, Eliza and Sara to my room. They came and helped me dress for the day, my father had decided that since my mother was buried, it’s time for me to start my training to become Queen one day. I was to meet my new tutors in the north library. My dress was still black, but this one Sara made entirely new. The satin ruffles cascade down to the floor, and pearl buttons run all the way up my back.
I opened my door to leave my room and saw that a new guard, one that I recognized slightly. He had been assigned to Prince Dorian while he was visiting, Axel was his name I believe. He had bleach blonde hair, that hung in loose curls all around his face. His pure blue eyes were so sharp I felt like they would cut me down. Veryan cleared her throat behind me and said
“Princess Everose may I present Axel Wood, your new fill in guard when Hayther is unavailable. He was handpicked by your father.”
Axel bowed deep in front of me and said in a husky manly voice.
“I swear to protect you, Princess.”
Those words stabbed through my heart, having him here finalized Jordan’s death. I nodded and made my way down the hall; the pain still presents in my stomach, but I pressed on. his footsteps were silent where Jordan’s had been loud and clumsy.
I could feel the lighthearted feeling from last night slowly give way to sadness and darkness. I opened the library door and found a group of people standing around a table in the middle of the room. The north library was the biggest in our castle. I surveyed the group there were two women and three men, I started to think that one of the men looked familiar when I realized it was Siel, who stood up, overturning his chair in the process, and cried out.
“Princess Everose, good day child, how are you?”
He walked toward me pushing his glasses up his nose. The other tutors looked stunned, as was I, I made no move towards him, though he didn’t seem to notice. He came over and took my hand into his, he pulled me close and whispered.
“Have you read any of the book? Do you remember anything yet?”
I pulled my hand back as my other hand tightened into a fist. an elderly lady wearing a dark purple dress said harshly.
“Siel! You are making her highness uncomfortable!” Siel looked up at me above his glasses, he let go of my hand quickly and backed away.
I cleared my throat, looked at everyone else in the room and asked.
“Shall we begin?”
Siel took his seat at the table and I assumed mine at the head, all eyes were on me and I had no idea what to say. I scrambled trying to act dignified, out of the corner of my eye I caught Axel looking to me as well. I cleared my throat and began.
“As you know I am to begin my training as Queen.”
Heads around the room nodded in affirmation of this.
“So, to begin you could all introduce yourselves and tell me what you shall be tutoring me with.”
With this statement I received a few puzzled glances. The lady that had chastised Siel earlier cleared her throat and stood up, her hair was white with gray streaks running through it, it was pinned up in a tight bun on the crown of her head.
“Your highness, we are not your tutors per say, we are your humble council. You may come to us with questions, or areas that you want to improve on and we will do our best to serve you.”
She paused and looked around at the other faces at the table, brushing her hands on her purple gown she stood straighter and said.
“I am lady Ellen.”
Next a man in all blue stood up and introduced himself as Lord Brenton. After Lord Brenton, a tall willowy woman stood up, she looked at the man next to her and gave a hesitant smile, he nodded and stood up with her.
“Your highness we are Lord and Lady Phibus. I am Anthony Phibus, and this is my wife Penelope Phibus.”
Anthony gently laid a hand on Penelope’s shoulder, I noticed how she leaned back on him. I would ask someone about those two later. Siel did not need to stand and introduce himself, since I knew who he was.
“Well it is a pleasure to meet you all,” I said.
My voice came out much cheerier than I meant for and I grimace. Even though they were my council I was learning a lot today from them.
I sighed and cradled my head in my hands, not caring that for a moment I wasn’t being refined. everyone else remained standing, I looked up and realized that they were all staring at me. Exasperated I waved a hand and said.
“You are all dismissed.”
They stood around a moment longer staring at me, they started to leave when I stood up suddenly, an idea just coming to me.
“I want to learn how to fight, and I want to carry a sword around with me. All the men do.” Every man in the room touched the sword at his side but no one said anything.
“Maybe if my mother had carried one she would still be alive.”
Lord Brenton was the first one to speak up.
“We will see to getting you an instructor immediately your highness. Anything else?”
I paused feeling a bit of relief, I thought that was going to be a much more difficult battle.
“I want my lady in waiting as well as my two maids to learn with me.”
This earned a tight-lipped grimace from a few but no one denied me, they all just bowed and made their ways for the door. Once the last person left I looked up and realized that Axel was staring intently at me.
I sighed. “What?”
He replied in his deep raspy voice “What are you doing princess?”
We stared at each other for what seemed like forever, neither one of us willing to back down. Finally, I looked away and noticed for the first time how big the library was. On one of the walls hung an old tapestry, the cloth had what looked like a dragon on it, the eyes a piercing green. I walked over to examine, something about it looked so familiar. Reaching out, I just needed to feel the fabric and then I would remember.
“We should probably get going.”
Startled, I whipped around almost smacking into Axel. My heart thundered in my chest, I walked out of the room and away from the dragon. I found the nearest maid asked her to send a message to Sara
“Please tell her that I need trousers and a shirt ready as soon as possible. She should also make an outfit for Veryan, Eliza and herself.”
The maid looked at me oddly but didn’t hesitate, scurrying down the hall to find her.