He reassured himself in that moment, holding her delicate body in his arms. It had only been a few hours; but the not knowing what was going to happen to her was legitimately frightening him to the brink of madness.

Once Ariella was dressed for the night, Mae left Cal to watch over her. The shadow of the candlelight against the wall was the only thing moving within the room. Cal sat completely still at the edge of Ariella's bed as she lay there, still unconscious. He watched her with weary, tired eyes, not baring to look away. What if she'd twitch in her sleep? A flicker of her eyes? Something to keep him from slipping deeper and deeper into that dark place that so few escaped. If he lost hope, there'd be nothing left inside of him to keep going.

He blew out the candle.

The sunlight poured through the draped windows the next morning and Mae walked into Ariella's chambers to find Cal, completely awake and unmoving. His solemn eyes were fixed on Ariella's hand, clasped within his own.

"Dear lord have mercy." Mae muttered to herself as she walked over to the Prince.

Cal raised a hand to her as she approached him, "I am not leaving her."

"Your Highness-" Mae said worriedly, looking to Ariella and back to him, "I beg you take care of yourself. Mademoiselle Ariella will be waiting for you right here when you return."

"What if she wakes and I'm not here to comfort her? What will she think of me then?"

Mae gave him a sympathetic look, "Forgive me for speaking so plainly, Highness, but perhaps you should get some rest? Your thoughts are surely scattered after such a night."

"My thoughts are perfectly fine, thank you."

Mae sighed, walking over to Ariella, "Then perhaps you'll help me carry her to the wash room."

Cal paused, almost startled that she'd let him stay, and walked over to cradle Ariella in his arms. Mae walked ahead of him to open the door and clear a path to the wash room.

The door to Ariella's suite burst open, startling the both of them.

"Forgive me, Your Highness, the council requests your attendance immediately."

"Tell the council I am preoccupied." Cal said simply, and continued to the wash room.

Mae stopped him from taking another step, "I am fully capable of caring for her in your absence, Highness, perhaps you should attend to this meeting. Remember, she will be waiting for you when you return."

Cal looked around the room warily, from Mae, to the butler, and back to Ariella in his arms.

Cal set Ariella down on the sofa, and looked back to Mae, "I'll call for someone to help you."

He walked past the confused butler, and out into the hallway, not daring to look back.

The butler raced to catch up with him, "Your Highness," he breathed, his short legs becoming tired from nearly running beside the Prince's wide stride, "In the- in the dining hall. Where the council is meeting," he finally said, stopping himself in the middle of the hallway to catch his breath.

Cal continued down the hall at his fast pace, not bothering to look back or to remember where the dining room even was. Instead, he walked down the grand marble staircase and followed the sound of voices.

He burst through a set of french doors to find the council members, all paused mid sentence as they looked up to find him in his rugged state.

"Y-Your Highness," stuttered the Duke du Bois, the first to rise from his seat and bow.

"Good morning, Gentlemen," Cal said shortly, and took his seat at the head of the long table, "Shall we begin?"

"Protocol states, Highness, that we must follow a strict guideline for a council meeting in the absence of the King," stated a councilman that Cal hadn't bothered to learn the name of.

"Damn the protocol." Cal muttered, "Let's begin."

The noblemen stared at the Prince in shock, glancing around the room at one another.

"H-Highness," the Count de Loielle stuttered from the back of the room, "Perhaps we'll forget the protocol for just this one session, considering the situation. I suppose the commencement in absence will suffice."

"Very well," Cal began, "I, Prince Callan de Moreau, hereby declare, in absence of King Henri, the commencement of the royal council, on this day, the twenty first of August, seventeen-twenty-four."

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