♔ Chapter One ♔

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 Aline felt indisposed. In fact, she wished to be indisposed, instead of sitting there among the audience in the throne room in the sweltering heat of the summer. Despite herself, she leaned forward, attention rapt, as the convicted was brought in. After weeks of preparation, She'd thought she was mentally ready for this moment, but it was evident she was not. Ever since the letter arrived by horseback, she'd been on edge. Words she could not forget, stating her Uncle's crimes and the price he must pay. Aline fathomed that nothing could ready her for the sight of his gilded hair. Oh so reminiscent of her father in his younger days. Though as she noted, the condemned man's hair hung in dirt-streaked strings across his face. Uncle Lysander. She attempted optimism but failed a miserable wreck. Aline being a born pessimist.

Schooling her face into a mask of indifference, she clenched at the knobs of the armrests as Avila came forth. A resplendent vision in her golden circlet and a gown of crimson velvet and black embroidery. The Queen was a lovely sight to behold. All cornsilk golden hair, ghoulish white skin, and intense green eyes. Avila, considered a great beauty by many, although at the moment she looked a mild touch ill. Though she'd was wont to admit it this left Aline with a hint of fiendish satisfaction.

You mustn't dwell on the things you can't have, she reminded herself drawing her attention back to her Uncle. Who now a hopeless resigned figure kneeling at the feet of his Queen. The nausea intensified and she attempted to swallow the bile creeping up her throat. She couldn't make a scene during such a critical moment when such could affect the meaning of the name of Le Navré.

You must wait a bit longer Aline, and then you can run to the garden. Then you may scream at the birds and blame all your troubles on them. You can scream until your throat is hoarse and your troubles are higher than the birds in the sky. She shakily inhaled and exhaled to the count to six, her hands clenching and flexing as if the motion could shake off the nerves. To no avail would desperation let her go from its tight grip.

A mere month ago, her childhood "friend" (not that Aline would describe Her Majesty in such a fashion), Avila had given the same sentence to another man, The puppet king, the man her uncle was now paying the price for. Aline had refused to attend that ceremony though she imagined it wasn't too far from their current situation. Seeing as both men were condemned to die for the same crime. She could picture the latter kneeling at her feet, like her uncle. In the last few minutes of life, whispering prayers fervently for something - she could not picture what exactly. What did dying men pray for? Mercy? A quick death? Such topics made Aline gag, never who was one for sentimentality. Unfortunately, she found it hard to keep feigning nonchalance in a time such as this. Remember and the dead shall never be forgotten.

This ceremony felt different. Perhaps it was the heat or the undeniable: that the condemned was her dear uncle. Who, try as she might even with artless fervor, she couldn't reconcile this man to such a fate. A man who used to lift her atop his shoulders, would not par with the images of this man in place of the current state. This man who now knelt before the regal figure holding the sword, this man who'd plotted to kill Avila. Queen Avila; and that stupid little royal birthright that had ruined everything. Despite the poncy title and fluff, Aline could not perceive who the Queen thought she was kidding. Little more than a child playing dress-up. Aline's green-eyed envy still bubbled below the surface, even after all these years.

Despite never having been one for politics, she longed for sovereignty. As much if not more than her fourteen-year-old self-desired. Aline's rational snuck back in, declaring, a little begrudgingly, that Avila had not chosen her path. She had not been born into the expectation of sitting on the throne day. It was something Aline could never dream of. Lord Sebastian remained tight-lipped concerning his feelings of his daughter's claim to his name, his land, and his power. Aline prided herself incurably so on her ability to maintain the mounting pressure that was her father's expectation. Well, except the whole marriage thing but Aline would not comment on that diabolic subject. Her entire life she'd been told of the importance of dignity and the complete intolerance of failure and humiliation. And as far as she was concerned, marriage was not in her destiny for all she could help.

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