(The following is a prologue to an untitled story by Laura)
Her desperate wails echoed through the palace, ringing in Darius’s head until he almost felt guilty. He looked up at the rain pounding his study window. Outside the night was black, except for the occasional flash of lightening.
“He’s dead My King,” Cavan said in his odd hissing tones, “I was a success. The prince is dead.”
The nub of the beeswax candle flickered; its life nearly extinguished.
Darius smiled. “I am not king yet, Cavan.”
The tan skinned Lake Lander smiled, showing the black gaps where his canines had been removed marking him for a traitor. “Soon; your brother draws nearer to his death with each gasp. I lost my hold on the mountain cat before I could finish the job, but I will make sure infection will poison his blood. He will not last the week.”
“You must teach me to possess animals,” Darius said, “It seems a most useful skill.”
Cavan nodded. “My people call it black magic to inhabit anything that is not your soul partner. They are afraid of power.”
“We are your people now Cavan. You will help me rule once I am crowned, as my most trusted advisor. Now see that His Majesty meets his fate.”
Cavan bowed his head. “Of course My King.”
Once the Lake Lander had left Darius pulled out a piece of parchment and dipped his pen into an inkwell.
The letter he wrote was short.
Her Majesty Leonia, Queen of Ferria.
My brother is dead, his son as well. I come to collect my dues.
He thought a moment before signing:
Several levels below Darius’s apartments, in the palace infirmary dark figures watched from the flickering shadows cast by the oil lamps. Silence hung heavy in the room, except for the occasional crack of thunder and the pounding of rain against the rippled glass panes of the tall windows.
Queen Sidonia had stopped crying. It was not enough to express her grief. She looked at the ruined and smashed remains of her son lying on the leather topped table. Across from her the doctor hovered, all in black, with a long beaked mask. He never looked more like a crow, waiting above the dead. She wanted to shove him back, an irrational fear that he would begin to peck at her son.
Sidonia looked back down at her boy. He had been so handsome, she thought, what cruel god would befoul him so? Trampled, they told her, by his horse in a hunting accident. Her husband had been mauled by the mountain cat that had spooked their mounts; he would soon follow their only son to the grave.
“No mother should outlive her son,” Sidonia whispered, looking at the wreckage of the prince, she attempted to brush the blood matted hair from his smashed face. She scooped him into her arms cradling his head against her breast.
“It is most unfortunate,” she heard someone say. They sounded as if they spoke from behind a wall, a wall of aching sadness. She wished they would leave, that they would all just go away. How could they ever understand? There were no words for her grief, no way to describe how much her soul ached, no language for the black pit where her heart had once been.
She walked out of the room, silent as stone. The dark shapes of people melted out of her way.
“Your Majesty!” She heard someone call, but they sounded distant and muffled, as though she moved underwater.
Slowly Sidonia walked up winding black marble staircases, passed halls lit with dim burning oil lamps. She went through a dark, unoccupied, office belonging to a minister of finance and out a door on the opposite side to a balcony overlooking the cliff that dropped into the ocean below the great palace of Verena. Rain pounded down around her, but she never felt wet. She moved as if she were in a dream. Lightning cracked, but she never heard the thunder. She stepped up onto the railing and threw herself into the night.
No mother should outlive her son.