Lenna often walked through the castle with Egrin and Antalos—when they had the time—Marian, and Queen Wilisca. Mostly, she walked with the queen. Each day she spent with the queen, the more she learned about her and also from her.
The queen once had a daughter—a twin of her eldest son, Eoin. Unfortunately, the two infants had contracted a deadly disease. Emrys did not believe they would survive the ordeal. The king and queen had almost lost all hope, when they heard of a possible cure in the possession of the leïfae.
They took the two children to the village where Lenna’s parents had the medicine ready. Inwë warned them that since the infants were already so ill, the medicine might have come too late for them. The king and queen insisted they go on with it anyway. The cure seemed to have worked, and for the next two weeks, both Eoin and his sister showed signs of their health improving tremendously. But sadly, that all changed in just one dreadful night.
A nurse came to bring the children to the queen while everyone busied themselves with the feast held in the throne room. That was when she found something no one could have foreseen. The infant girl lay in her cradle, cold as stone.
The leïfae were blamed for the princess’ death as a result, accused of treason in an absurd story to take over the kingdom, however, it could not be proven. Since then, the two people lived in an almost hostile coexistence.
“I had no idea,” Lenna replied after hearing the entire story.
“No, I supposed you would not have known about the whole thing,” Wilisca said. “No one speaks of it at all in this court, and I doubt your parents or anyone else in your village who knew wished to bring it up. It is one of my deepest regrets.”
“I am certain my parents had no knowledge that your daughter would have died that night. They would never kill anyone. They were never like that.”
Wilisca shook her head. “No, I do not mean that.” She took a deep breath and gently grasped Lenna’s hands. “What I am about to tell you is something I have not told anyone before. Not even my own husband. I know that may come as a shock to you,but allow me to explain myself.”
“Of course, your majesty.”
“I regret ever thinking that your people would have schemed to do such a thing. Back then, I could not think clearly through my grief. Over the years, I have sometimes been only in the company of my own thoughts.” She paused to clear her throat. “And my thoughts have told me that I was wrong. So…so very wrong. I now know that my daughter died only because she was not strong enough as her brother to fight the disease, even with the medicine. My grief blinded me to the truth, and I regret not making things right with your parents to put an end to all of the hatred between our people. Perhaps this is why you have come here so that I might make things right.”
Lenna blinked, confused. Where was she going with this? She clearly wasn’t just rambling mere things. Her words said something that had been on her mind for such a long time. “I do not understand.”
She continued, keeping her voice as steady as possible, “Over these past few months, I have come to know you better. You bear yourself much like your mother when I knew her. I can see your father’s strength in your eyes. You carry your people with you, even in their absence. We could be great allies, should you accept. The choice is yours.”
Wilisca’s words rang with truth over how serious she was.
“Your majesty, I would never refuse you the chance to make things right for yourself. And I would like nothing more than to share a friendship during my time here.”
With a sigh of relief, the queen’s eyes lit up as if a heavy burden had just been lifted from her small shoulders. “You are very kind, Taëlenna. If only we were able to have met each other in better days.”
“You showed great kindness when you allowed me to stay in the castle after what happened,” Lenna replied. “Kindness given deserves kindness in return.”
Wilisca grinned. “Well said, my dear.”
They continued their walk when they came upon Lady Catherine’s son, Bram entering the courtyard. A pale man with long dark crimson hair was by his side, followed by Lady Catherine and her other children. Both men carried saddlebags in their hands as they headed for the stables.
“Ah, Queen Wilisca!” Catherine exclaimed. “How good it is to see you today.”
“It is good to see you as well this fine day, Lady Catherine,” Wilisca replied. “What is going on here? Is your son leaving us?”
She nodded. “He has personal business he must tend to back in Parthor. Once everything is taken care of, he shall return with great haste. It shall be well in time for the wedding, I can assure you of that. He is, after all, looking forward to playing his part in the event.”
“I am certain he is,”Wilisca remarked with a smile. “Will he be leaving today, then?”
“Oh, he must leave today. Appointments have been made that he is not able to put aside.”
Wilisca nodded. “Of course.”
As their conversation continued, Lenna watched as Bram walked out of the stables, leading his horse into the sunlight. His sisters and brother walked alongside him, talking excitedly about how they wished to go with him to visit their home once again. Bram’s companion was close behind, and with his attention towards her. She was not sure why, but the man gave her an uneasy feeling. The man’s eyes were dark and shifty, like a predator watching its prey. They seemed to stare right through her as if he could see into her very own thoughts. She told herself that was simply ridiculous to think of and dismissed the thought. There was most likely nothing to be worried about and she was simply being paranoid.
“Farewell, Mother,” Bram said, interrupting her thoughts as he mounted his steed. “I shall return within a month.”
“Perhaps you will return in time for the hunt?” Wilisca suggested. “My husband does enjoy hunting in the grounds with his sons. It is something we all could participate in and enjoy.”
Bram nodded with a smile. “I would be happy to return in time for the occasion. It sounds too good to miss.”
“Oh, fantastic! We shall be anticipating your return.”
Everyone started to go back inside of the castle, except for Morgaine. She stayed behind to discuss something with her brother. Whatever they were talking about, Bram had a very peculiar look on face, though he tried to hide it. Lenna wondered if she even wanted to know what they could have been talking about. She pushed the thought aside and continued inside, the sounds of clattering hoof beats pounding away behind her.