Releasing a deep sigh, Zigra laid her head against my arm. This rare display of affection made me look down at her with my eyebrows raised.
“Is everything alright?” I questioned. Due to Leo’s request I was escorting Zigra back to her room. After all, he’d been the one to promise Lord Ilarion he’d take care of Zigra in his absence. And he had promised her my personal protection.
She hummed sleepily, but her head shook in denial.
Puzzled, I stayed silent. Patiently waiting for her explanation.
“It’s nothing. I just didn’t realise how homesick I’m feeling, now that Rion is no longer here with me. I miss Mangandaall. And Harriette. And the river down the forest and all that.” She explained. Her voice was low, indicating that she was sleepy. I’m sure that if I could see her face right now, her eyelids would be half closed and a drowsy look would dominate her turquoise eyes.
Her honest answer made me feel sad for her. This must be the first time she’s staying out of Mangandaall. And she was here all alone too.
I didn’t know how to console her, so I stayed silent.
She patted my hand with the hand that was hooked on mine.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll be home in another two days anyway. I just need to suck it up.” She added. She looked up at me and I could only see her eyes from between her eyelashes. They were filled with drowsiness.
I smiled down at her.
“At least you’ll not have to brave another ball. Besides, we won’t be in the castle tommorrow. We’ll be out riding.” I told.
It captured me how her eyes lit up at the concept of riding. I could tell she’d be game to go out riding if I asked her to come right then. She’d be ready in no time and follow me trustingly down to the stables. It was truly gratifying that she’d give me her trust so willingly. It didn’t go at all with the princesses personality.
She nodded her head and looked back front. Her head fell back on my arm and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say she was walking with her eyes closed. Letting me to lead her to her room and nowhere else. As I said, her trust was gratifying.
I nodded my head at a passing couple. The lady’s eyes almost popping out seeing a Lady in my arm. She gave me a knowing smile. Besides shaking my head I didn’t stop to chat. By how Zigra hadn’t looked up at me with a big question mark in her eyes I knew my assumption earlier was correct.
We finally came to a stop in front of her door. Zigra didn’t detach from me in an instant. She was that out of it. “Princess.” I gently straightened her up. The way she startled and turned to me with a swish of her skirt.
She blinked at me, and then her eyes darted around the hallway before landing back on me.
“Sorry. And thank you.” She told. Her sleepiness leaking through her composed monotone.
Amused, I nodded my head at her. It wasn’t always you see Zigra out of sorts.
Her head cocked the slightest bit to the side. “Very well, then. Goodnight.” She added. Her turquoise eyes appraising me as she said so. Even sleepy her gaze sure was sharp. Curtersying, she stepped back into her room.
Smiling at the blank look she threw over her shoulder, I shook my head and started walking away. I distinctly heard the door clicking shut in place.
A moment later a shrill scream pierced through the air. A scream that had me running back to the room I had just left.
I tried the door to find it was locked. Gritting my teeth, I looked around the hallway to find it empty. It was late enough that not a single Lady/gentleman was lingering out in the hallway. However guards should be stationed around here somewhere.
“Zigra! Is everything alright!” I shouted, banging my hand against the door. Not a sound escaped. I was sure it was Zigra who screamed.
My heart beat surely against my ribcage. Fear gripping it tight.
“Guards!” I yelled even louder than I had before. I knew my voice would carry down the hallway. However instead of waiting for them, I rammed my shoulder against the door, forcing it open.
As I stumbled into the room, my eyes flitted around the whole room taking everything in.
The first thing I saw - to my relief - was an unharmed Zigra standing frozen right in front of the door. My relief was short lived as I noticed her hand covering her mouth and her horror struck gaze locked on something on the floor.
Following her gaze I grimaced.
Their lying in a pool of his own blood was one of the two guards Rion had left to protect Zigra. He as clearly stabbed in the guy and left here to die. The sound wasn’t fresh - as far as I could say from the short look I got - and the man was long since dead.
That and the smell.
Holding my breath, I gently turned Zigra around. It wasn’t until then I noticed the tears flowing down her face in a steady stream. My breath caught in my throat and I pulled her into my arms. She let out a harsh breath and slumped against me. Her fingers fisting on my coat, but still her body didn’t wrack with sobs.
“Hey, Hey, Hey. It’s alright. Shh..” I whispered softly as I led her out of the room. By then a hoard of guards had appeared down the hallway and seeing me step out of Zigra’s room hurried over.
I gave a hurried explanation of what was going on. Ordering various guards to various duties, I wanted to get Zigra out of there. I would have let someone take her to the Queen, but with the way she clutched onto me, I knew trying to separate her from me would cause an unwanted scene. Something I didn’t want in the middle of everything going on.
I ordered one guard to go inform the Queen while another to get word to head of guards, Sir Doniel.
I was about to lead Zigra away from their when she suddenly planted her feet firmly on the floor and looked up at me. Taking a deep breath she composed herself. Surprisingly she held her tears back - though she did nothing to wipe the tracks already left by previous tears.
“Albert.” She told me. Again, her voice was surprisingly strong and blank as was natural for Zigra. It was the broken look in her turquoise eyes that told me how hurt she was over her guards death. And it wasn’t just because she’d seen him lying in a pool of his own blood. I had more to do with the fact she knew the man. As a person.
I knew Albert was her other guard. The one that was missing.
Without a word to her I ordered another guard to go find for her missing guard. I could understand her fear. I could see it in her eyes plain as day. It was strange to find her shutters not drawn in the presence of so many strangers.
With that, I gently gathered a limp Zigra in my arms. I didn’t carry her as I knew the gesture would not be appreciated, but I led her over to Queen Caitlynn’s parlour. I gently settled Zigra down on a couch.
The Queen had not yet arrived at the parlour, but I did see Berlim a hallway down on guard duty.
Ordering the man to stay with Zigra I hurried back to her room to investigate the matter. I could trust Berlim with Zigra. I knew the man genuinely cared about the princess.
I found Sir Doniel had arrived at the crime scene and was busily ordering everyone around.
“Vincent, there you are!” Sir Doniel exclaimed the moment I was within his sight. “What happened? How on earth did Princess Zigra’s guard get murdered under our watch?” The man demanded near me.
I shook my head to clear any thoughts of Zigra and focus on the task at hand. Stepping past sir Doniel I walked over to the dead guard. Then I explained to him what had happened. How I had left Zigra in the room to hear her scream and find the guard already killed.
However, there was something bothering me. Something I kept to myself until I could confirm my suspicion.
I couldn’t get the image of Monique trying to seduce the very same - and very dead - guard of Zigra’s into conning the princess. Or forget the fact that he’d blatantly refused. I really couldn’t get the thought that this was done out of revenge out of my thoughts.
I couldn’t confirm anything without proof, hence why I held my tongue. I wasn’t willing to point a finger at anyone because of a superstition or make a rash decision because Zigra meant a lot to me - as a good friend and hopefully Leo’s future fiancé.
And Leo means a lot to me. A lot more than I would ever care to admit.
So checking out the dead guards wound I figured he’d been killed for a while. I could only guess when the ball was still ongoing and the hallways empty.
I helped sir Doniel with investigations. This wasn’t a matter to be taken lightly. It could have easily been Zigra they had been after. God! We were going to be in so much trouble if the princess died in our care.
It’ll also be a devastating blow to my perfect status as a guard. Also, all of Zigra’s confidence in me would be for naught. Because she’d be dead. The one thing she always seemed to believe I would never let happen. I have no idea why she trusted me so much, but she did and that trust was something I was going to protect at all costs.