Part 1

1 0 0

"Where is my daughter? Where is she?" the queen cried, delusional to the point of hallucination.

Kyrrin dropped his head into his hands. He and two other knights of the queen's Guard kept vigil by her bedside, but despite the other knights' devotion, Kyrrin couldn't imagine they felt the same pain he did. How could they?

He had to turn away from the sight of his queen, who no longer looked anything like her strong and robust self, but there was nothing comforting to see. The palace room was built of cold grey stone that, while excellent protection from enemies and the elements, was unyielding to his need for warmth; the curtains were drawn over the windows like a shroud. Royal family members, governors, and healers clustered together but paid him no mind. All their attention was focused on their queen, who lay still and weak amid her bed trappings, the center of attention as everyone watched and waited. The people were eerily silent, not even whispering to each other, which made him even more uneasy.

The queen was dying. The royal physician had announced that very afternoon that there was nothing more he could do for her, nothing anyone could do for her. It was time to prepare for the inevitable.

Kyrrin wanted to cry. He wanted to curl into a ball and sob. He wanted to scream and pull at his hair. He wanted to give in to the fear and loss and utter devastation he felt.

But the Queen's Guard didn't cry. They didn't let others see what they felt inside; they didn't give in to the urge to lay their emotions bare for the world to see. As the heroes of their people, they remained stoic, strong. They kept their masks in place. They didn't let the world see who they truly were. They were not to be seen as ordinary people, but as something solid and infallible.

Kyrrin took a deep breath and sat up straighter, watching the queen toss and turn on her bed. What was left of her glorious hair—once her pride and joy—had been reduced to a brittle, colorless wisp around her grey face. She was so thin he was surprised she didn't injure herself as she tossed.

"I want my daughter!" she sobbed, searching around the room with unseeing eyes. "I want my daughter back. I should never have given her up. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!"

Her cries cut Kyrrin to his soul. If he could give the queen her daughter back, he would.

But he couldn't.

"We will send an escort to the far reaches of the Northern Kingdom," the Knight Commander swore, dropping to one knee beside her bed. "Your daughter will be found and returned to you, Your Highness, I swear it."

Kyrrin shook his head absently. The queen's heir and only child had left the palace four years before when she came of age, claiming that she needed to travel to other kingdoms and learn from other monarchies to one day be a fit ruler. She hadn't been seen since. Yes, the Knight Commander would send parties of his men to find her, but they never would. She was gone.

Kyrrin looked helplessly to the ceiling as another wave of despair rolled over him. The queen was too young to die. She wasn't even in the prime of her rule. She hadn't had grandchildren, or any of the other rites of passage that marked a woman as moving into her sage years. She was too good of a person to die from a disease the healers couldn't even identify.

"I want my daughter. Tell Ghree I've changed my mind." The queen began sobbing again, and Kyrrin broke. She was everything to him, but the queen didn't recognize him anymore. He would never get to say goodbye to her, as the healers had told him to do, because in a way, she was already gone.

Without a word, he got up and left her chamber. As he exited, the queen's stony-eyed niece took his place at the bedside. She would be the next Queen of the Land, as the right to rule in their kingdom was passed through the female blood line, and even though Kyrrin would one day serve as a knight in her guard, her gaze glanced off him without recognition.

For Queen and CountryWhere stories live. Discover now