Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown
Mireya stared out the window to as far beyond the castle as she could strain to see. She never really knew why, but she stared as if searching out this window often. Maybe it was an involuntary manifestation of hope within her. Her people relied on her to show the strength of unwavering hope, and they couldn’t afford her to be without it. But what exactly she expected to see even she didn’t know. The Mist? Her sister? The unresting souls of the dead? All of these possibilities highly unlikely as miles around her castle were heavily fortified, vigilantly guarded, and had been kept clear and safe; she herself hadn’t seen the Mist since it first appeared.
Regardless of why, she still stared.
Even when the sun was high in a cloudless sky, her days were often dark. She couldn’t find the brightness even in summer. Her garden and Courtside used to bring laughter and music to that window through the caress of spring breezes, and now all was silent. No one lingered in streets anymore. The walls around the village stood higher, the doors were barred or boarded, and the doors were thicker and stronger. Along the borders of the town were barricades, traps, and other painful or even deadly manners of obstruction. Though Courtside was probably the safest and most fortified village in the entirety of all the land, no one rested easy within it. The sound of children’s laughter, of mother’s singing, and young boys practicing seemed to fade into forgotten memory.
But even with the desolation, even in the grey, she saw the shades of what used to be. She saw the visions behind her eyes of her people and their lives living at the foot of her castle long before they carried the fears and worries they did now. And if they hadn’t been completely forgotten, maybe they had a chance to return.
“Hello, Durai,” she said still staring ahead not turning to look at him. “What is it?” Her voice was monotone almost as though she couldn’t be bothered with him today. She heard his clothes rustle as he bowed. Curious. He hardly ever bowed anymore. Something was different, so she turned to see him indeed with his knees on the floor in respectful genuflection.
“Your Majesty,” he responded still towards the floor.
“Durai, get up. You look ridiculous. Bowing? You haven’t bowed to me in forever.” She stood from her chair annoyed. However, she dealt with her annoyance as it dimmed in comparison with her curiosity. And then there was concern. She braced herself, ready to react to whatever he was coming to her with.
“Mireya, my guards have returned.”
Suddenly all of her attention was sharply focused, pulled from wherever her mind had been lingering before, and was filled with the adrenaline and anticipation of news. Her eyes were filled with faith and promise and she failed in her attempts to hide a smile. “And?” she asked impatiently.
“They found Althea.”
Within a second, Mireya had run down the small set of stairs that led to her thrown and threw her arms around Durai. Ever since he told her of his vision, that she was out there somewhere, she hoped and longed for her sister back. And now her faith was rewarded, and she felt overflowing with all within her that had been lost. No matter what was past, she would hold her tight in her arms again and never let go of the light she held left to her in the world.
But then she stopped. She couldn’t help but notice her embrace was unreturned. The clouds rolled in to cover the sun. “No, Durai. No.”
Mireya then felt Durai’s arms weakly hold her in return. They were trembling and weak. “I’m sorry.” She pulled away from him and turned to hide her face. “They found her body in a village not too far from the Hill. I’ll spare you the details I’m burdened with.”
In the silence that followed, Mireya moved back to the window and held onto herself as she stood out of it once again. How long had her sister been lying there abandoned, discarded? The tears that escaped her eyes were filled with shame and despair. The treachery of life! She should have tried harder to find her, looked longer and farther. Just the thought of her sister’s body devoid of her living soul abandoned and alone...
“So,” Mireya said swallowing her pain bitterly, “that’s it, then? There is no hope now for this world?”
Durai walked up behind her. Mireya tried not to show how much she wanted him as far away from her as possible. As much as she wanted to be alone in her grief now, the truth was that she barely had the fortitude to be with Durai lately even before this. But she reached down deep and accessed her compassion. As much as this news broke her heart, she knew he must be even more distraught. He had kept the search for her for so long. Even the morning she was discovered missing or gone or whatever, he was like a man destroyed. She turned to him and saw the pain on his face as he was looking out of the window just as she had.
She sighed; she was not really strong enough in this moment to comfort someone, but still she needing to be a compassionate leader. She wanted more than ever to throw her responsibility, her title, and all of the expectations in a fire and blow the ashes as far as the wind would carry it. It was so unfair, and she felt so unable to keep going and going unending without rest carrying so much for so long. The burden and weight was crushing her so hard she had to be a diamond by now, but all she could see within her heart was the blackness of coal. How was she ever going to keep this up? And alone?
“So, what can we do now? Is there anything we can do?” Mireya spoke without even a trace of hope. In her mind, she felt that she would soon be creating plans for the new future with this unrelenting curse. “This would be the world now, and we must find a way to live in it,” she thought silently to herself. What brought them all to this? She still blamed herself.
Durai said softly and with confidence, “There is always hope. There has to be. She wouldn’t want us to give up hope in the end.” This optimism was very unlike her Durai, and she looked at him impressed. Though she couldn’t see the light in the darkness now, if he hadn’t given up hope, neither would she.
“Do you really think so? I’m strong enough to shoulder the weight if there isn’t. I’m not as fragile as that yet.” Maybe his words reached her, maybe she had the courage in her heart all along and waited for her spirits to reach its lowest. Regardless of why or how, Mireya found some small reserve of her leadership prowess and wore it proudly. She could still be who her people needed her to be. After all, these people were all she had left.
“As a matter of fact,” Durai said as he turned to her, “I truly do think there might be ways left untried, secrets left undiscovered. I may not be a Healer and master of the life of the earth, but I do know Magic.” He extended his palm to her and from it emerged dancing ribbons of light in all hues of green. Tricks like this had always delighted Mireya in a child-like way, and she couldn’t help but smile at him, if only simply for the attempt he had made to lift her spirits. Maybe her people weren’t all she had left. Maybe she just hadn’t been giving him a chance. All they had was each other now.
“I believe that there are texts hidden deep somewhere that may hold answers that I may be able to power through. It may take time, but I won’t give up trying. The people are counting on us.”
With his final inspirational words, he held Mireya’s hands in his own. She felt a tear fall from his face onto her hands. She took one of her hands back and placed it tenderly at his heart. “She will always be with us both. We’ll finish this for her.”
“For her.” He kissed her hand as he took leave of his Queen and walked the long hall to leave. And with his back to Mireya, she couldn’t see the deceptive, sinister smile spread across his face.