The guards grimace and keep their heads lowered. “Y-Your Majesty, we’ve searched the whole village, b-but her Highness.. well.. we can’t find her.”
“CAN’T FIND HER!?” His palms slam down on the arms of his throne, and I feel myself jump. “YOU MEAN TO TELL ME YOU’VE LOST MY BELOVED CHILD, THE HEIR TO THE THRONE?!” He growls low. Stubble shadows his jaw, roughing his outlook. Who can blame him? His daughter has been missing for a few days.
Well.. not missing.
Jerny turns his head to me, but keeps his eyes on the cowering, reproached guards. “Any news, Darby?”
I shake my head. “Um.. I don’t think now is the best time to discuss this.” I glance hesitantly towards the King.
“Let’s talk in my workshop.” Jerny resigns and goes right back to the wise enchanter he is.
I nod and focus my gaze back onto the soldiers, but my mind spins. I’ve never seen his Majesty this upset since.. since his wife died. His Majesty isn’t a normally intimidating King, but that day was an exception.
I can remember it as if it was yesterday. Josie and me were watching from behind a pillar, as the King sobbed over his wife’s body. She was just near death, and his Majesty had been like a howling dog.
He had yelled at the royal healers, who were unable to revive her Majesty.. poor Josie had to watch her own mother die. I don’t think Josie has revealed this to her father.
But now, here he is again. A desperate animal in need for peace of mind. He’s afraid of losing someone he loves.
“Go! Leave me..” His Majesty shields his eyes with his hand. I can’t imagine how he must feel.
The soldiers bow and hurry out, clamoring over one another to escape the Kings wrath. Meanwhile his Majesty’s composure crumbles, with no one else in the throne room except me and Jerny.
My uncle walks closer to the King’s side, concern clear in his eyes. “Your Majesty..”
“I have no other choice.” His voice shakes. “I have to call an audience with the Council.”
Jerny’s brow furrows only slightly, but I’m not surprised. The Council has been one of the only things on my mind the past few days.
“Jerny.” His voice is firm, and that’s when I know. His decision has been made. “I have no other choice.. we’ve been scouting for Josie all throughout the Heaven’s. The only other place she could be is..” His voice drifts off. We all know were he’s thinking of.
“Your Majesty, I have full confidence that your daughter is safe.” Jerny assure’s him.
Yep. She’s safe.
In his mansion.
I try to ignore the twinge of jealousy in the pit of my stomach. It’s very obvious now that my fate doesn’t belong with Jabeth. For all I know I’ll become an old enchantress with sixteen cats while I watch Josie and Jabeth rule the realms, together.
I refuse to go down this spiral once more. I shake my thoughts away and focus on the task at hand. If the King ever found out Jabeth and Xavier are harboring Josie in the Hell’s, it will be all out war. From the looks of it, he wouldn’t be so enthusiastic about his daughter in the Hell’s, whether his truce with the King of the Hell’s of not.
And if his Majesty found out me and Jerny.. knew.
His forgiveness can only go so far. This might just be the true trial of his Majesty’s compassion and his friendship with Jerny.
“Your Majesty..” Jerny continues. “You’re daughter told me she was going off on vacation for a week. After all with the engagement and everything.. you know how stressful it’s been on her.”
The King removes his hand and takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself. “I suppose so. I could just be overreacting, I’ve always been very protective of her.”
Jerny smiles and bows. “Yes, you are a wonderful father.”
The Risen King shakes his head. “This marriage was approved by the Council and by both me and His Majesty. All I can hope is they won’t do anything too reckless.”
It’s a little too late for that.
I look up to find the King’s gaze on me. “Your Majesty?”
He beckons me over and I hurry to his side. The second our eyes lock I feel all the breath leave me.
In a pair of blue eyes, I see a naked vulnerable, widowed father, not a King. It’s so obvious how much he trusts both me and my Uncle. It feels like a punch to the stomach to have to lie to the man who has always been like a second father to me. “If you hear anything about Josie’s whereabouts. You will alert me, won’t you?”
I answer with a nervous giggle. “Um, your Majesty-”
“I just want to see my daughter safe.” He cuts me off. He needs an answer.
I’m sure there are many who would take a look at his Majesty and claim him a weak King. But even a King needs a chance to breathe, and a chance to cry. Risen or Fallen, we’re all part human. And we all need a chance to be vulnerable. We all need a moment when someone is willing to take us into our arms and provide the security we need.
We all need someone who is willing to protect us from our demons, and protect us from the world’s. To protect us from our fears.
His Majesty’s fear, is losing his loved one. His only daughter. The last remain of his wife.
I can’t bring myself to avoid his question. If I lie to his Majesty, my life, and possibly Jerny’s, will be on the line. But as cold as I can sometime’s be, I just can’t bring myself to it. “Yes, you’re Majesty.”
I bow to him. “I will tell you as soon as I hear.”
He smile’s, reassured. “Thank you.” The King waves us off, excusing us. Instantly me and Jerny head to his workshop hidden in the Library.
Once the door shut’s behind us, Jerny casts a sound charm, sealing our voices in.
"We cannot, under any circumstances allow the King to discover Josie's whereabouts. Do you understand?" Jerny whirls to me and points a finger to the ceiling.
I sigh. "But-"
"No buts! Darby, if the King found out about Josie's current state in the Hell's, what do you think would happen?"
Um.. a lot? "I know-"
"No you don't know. Darby, if his Majesty found out, our lives would be on the line, war would wage with the Fallen's realm. Peace would be out of the question and Josie and Jabeth would be right in between it.."
Josie and Jabeth.. I mentally slap myself. SNAP OUT OF IT!
"Now is not the time to make mistakes. I'm afraid I have dug ourselves into a hole much to great for us to climb out and come clean with the chance of redemption."
I huff and look around the workshop. Messy as always. I can almost still see Josie rummaging through Jerny's human artifacts.
"Then what would happen? The Council would become involved, Darby. Who knows what they would do." Jerny shakes his head and plants his hands on his hips. "If the people found out, there would be massacre. People would run to the gate and take the first train to the Hell's.. I don't know how the Fallen would respond, but it wouldn't be good."
I feel exhausted as reality hits me like a smack in the face. "The Heaven's and the Hell's haven't exactly been on friendly terms. The engagement has caused enough, contempt as it is."
"Exactly! Which is why you and Xavier need to keep touch." Jerny paces the workshop's floor.
I grimace. "Wait, what?"
"Xavier is the only one keeping you updated about Josie's situation. If anything goes wrong you'll be the first to know."
Unless Xavier decides to keep it to himself. "What if I'm caught?"
Jerny pales. "Don't even think like that.."
I look down at my shoes, irritated.
He sighs. "I will gladly take all the blame."
My head snaps up. "Jerny, no-"
"I cannot let you and Josie get into the amount of trouble you would. I advised Josie to leave, I snuck her out, and I created the story of her on vacation."
I shake my head and close my eyes. "This is such a mess."
A breath of silence fills the air. Jerny slowly approaches me before placing his hands on my shoulders. "Hey. It'll be alright."
You can't just say that right after you tell me why it's not. Reluctantly, I look up at my uncle, who's giving me the most encouraging smile that he can. "All that matter is our goal."
I feel my heart clench.
"We have to keep Josie's trip a secret until she comes back."
I close my eyes again.
"It's only seven, maybe six days." He pulls me into a soft hug, trying to cheer me up. I return his hug, clinging to the last bit of hope I have.
We can't mess up.
Stars, Josie.. stay hidden. Stay safe.
Come back home.