ashes and snow

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He didn’t know how much time had passed, but he was still holding Eira close to his chest, where he listened to every inhale she took. It had been quiet in this room since Hedwig had left.

Arkyn wondered when he would finally come back.

If anything happened to her while he was gone, there would be nothing he could do. And if she died, there would only be one to blame. Hedwig had to know that the future of his kingdom laid in his old hands.

His townsmen wouldn’t tolerate losing another queen. They would ask more questions this time, wouldn’t believe if he repeated that she’d died of the disease.

He wouldn’t be able to make them believe it another time.

He let go of her and laid her down onto the medical bed. Her head rolled to the side as it had done hours ago. He wasn’t going to admit it yet, but he had been worried about her.

When he had found her with his guard, he hadn’t been sure what was going on. He had felt anger, a confusion that had lingered coldly in his chest.

But when he had found out what had almost happened, there had only been hatred. He had wanted him dead there and then. But his wife had chosen another fate for him.

For now, he would remain in the jailhouse.

But that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t treat him with a visit there. What he had attended to do wouldn’t go unpunished. He would plant an example. For all to know what would happen if they dared to even try to touch their queen.

Though, Arkyn had been glad to see that Eira had attempted to protect herself against him. It had been hard not to smile when he had noticed the marks of her nails around Zandro’s neck. Even blood had dripped down his skin. She had done well, he decided.

But that didn’t mean that she would have as much luck another time.

She had been lucky that he had come and interrupted them. If he had waited any longer, had walked slower, bad things would have happened to her.

He swore that it never would, but everything was possible.

He would have to give her more guards. He would do everything to make sure that something like this never happened again. Eira belonged to him. Nobody but him was to touch her.

The king watched over his queen, observing as her chest rose with every inhale. His hand stroked over the bruises on her forearm. Hedwig had told him that these were the only sign of what had almost happened to her.

He had believed her either way.

Turning her hand so that her palm lay to him, he saw the imprints of nails on her pale skin. He clenched his teeth. Nothing like this could ever weaken her beauty. Hell, he would bet that even her insides were flawless to look at.

But still, looking at the bruises wakened a monster inside of him.

What had his guard been thinking? Had he believed that there would be no consequences? Well, he had been wrong. So wrong. Only pain would lay in his future now. Arkyn would make sure of that.

He sighed and carefully stroked over Eira’s arm.

He had found her alluring from the moment he’d first laid his eyes on her. Her beauty was unfazed by everything he had seen. She was the image of what he imagined a goddess to look like.

But everything around her felt complicated.

Sometimes he didn’t know how to act around her, how to deal with someone like her. With his first wife, things had been different. She had listened to him with everything she did, never ask unnecessary questions.

She had never left her chambers without being told to, never set off without his knowledge. She had held the perfect role for his queen until she hadn’t. Everything had changed so suddenly that he had only realized it when it was too late. She had turned against him.

And he had done what he had to then. And he would do it again and again.

He sighed. What had almost happened to Eira still didn’t explain her condition now. She had been lying unconscious in this bed for two days now. And she hadn’t been awake for much time too when she finally woke.

Had it really been the witch? Had a spell been cast around them without his knowledge, a curse that threatened to take his wife? How was that even possible with everything that protected him?

Maybe he had to bring his oracle to the kingdom. She had been traveling around the world, but he was the one that told her where to go. His father had bought her when she was only a child, and Arkyn hadn’t let her out of his grip ever since he had become the king. It had been several years since his father had died, and Arkyn had been the one to let her out of her golden cage.

The king before him had kept her imprisoned, available only for him. But Arkyn had let her out to gain her trust, her services. He would have to send her a letter soon.

There was so much he still had to think about.

He and his guards had to figure out what had happened to his other guard, Primitivus. He couldn’t only have lost his life in the snow. Something wicked was going on in his kingdom. He would have to figure out how to deal with this too.

Too many people were dying. If word got out that there were no signs of the killer, his townsmen would fret. They would accuse him of not being a good enough king. He couldn’t let that happen.

His gaze drifted over Eira’s face, her delicate, beautiful features. He lifted his hand, stroking over her jaw, following the lines of her face. His thumb drifted over her full lips.

And he felt so conflicted.

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