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The Death of a Queen
The hall was filled with the dust speckled rays of sunlight entering from the north face’s long painted windows. The light filtered through screens of violets, blues, reds and greens and landed like gossamer wisps across the face of Niam Crossing. His skin stretched and folded over a stocky build, with posture warped by years of stress. Niam’s copper eyes observed the scene unfolding below him with tension and an shine that can only be shown after great sorrow.
His sister, Luka, was being carried atop a bronze mat. Her body was still, and with eyes closed, she bore the expression of someone painfully exhausted, but with an intimidating tenacity. Light from the hall showed her skin’s slightly blue pigment; her hair was similar to a wild and unruly monster, engulfing her face as it laid around her head. Suddenly, her hand slid from it’s placing, and hung limp for half a second before a pall-bearer timidly placed it back atop her concave chest. However, in the millisecond that her hand ran free, it seemed as if hundreds of other people’s hands struck out at once to touch the late Queen’s own. In the days following Luka’s death, thousands of civilians, from all over Rottersland, had flooded the gates of the capital in any attempt to attend the funeral. Niam had given permission for the castle to be occupied by those who could not afford to stay anywhere else, and consequently it had become rather crowded. A cloud of sweaty mist began to engulf the air, and breathing was a long, unpleasurable and humid act. As the pall-bearers brought Luka’s body down the aisle, yells of pain and sadness seemed to completely fill all empty space inside the great hall, and Niam was forced to leave to escape the suffocation.
“How does everyone love her so much?” muttered Niam. He didn’t understand how she did it. He was never raised to lead, ever since they were young Luka had been trained and to lead. To rule. He had been trained to hide in the shadows, a quiet presence meant to represent the crown, but to never speak for it. With her death came to undeniable fact that someone would have to take her place as ruler.
Niam was expected to be coronated the following Saturday at noon. Niam would only have one heir, his daughter Ottiline. The last time they spoke was the day of Luka’s death, but Niam could remember it like it was yesterday.
Niam requested his daughter in his main office as soon as he heard the news. With only two heirs left to the throne, Ottiline needs to be protected. She needs to be hidden, thought Niam. As if on cue, Niam heard a soft knock at the door.
“Dad, you needed to see me?” Ottiline said as she walked in. The coolness of her face starkly contrasted her father’s nervous one.
“Yes, I did. You need to know something, and you need to hear it from me,” Niam choked every word out, “Queen Luka, your Aunt, she...She was attacked at an address, and-”
“Is she alright!?” Ottiline’s voice raised in volume and pitch in response to the news. Concern spread across her small face,and the hair on the bottom of her hairline stood on end. All Niam could manage was a slight shake of his head and a watering of eyes.
“No, she faded last night. I’m sorry” Niam said. He waited for her response, but was only greeted with silence, then confusion, then anger.
“Who? Why? Who could hurt Aunt Luka?” Ottiline was yelling at this point, tears collecting at the rim of her eyes. All Niam could think of was how long it would take for the tears to build up enough to finally drain down her cheek and fall to the floor.
“Ottiline, I realize you’re upset. We don’t know who did it, or why. The crown was attacked, and we need to protect it. I will be coronated soon, and that leaves you as the only living heir, Ottiline,” Niam spoke with a calm reserve, he was nervous for her reaction, “you need to be hidden Ottiline.”
“What do you mean?” spoke Ottiline.
“I mean,” said Niam, “that as the only living heir the legacy of the crown is placed upon you. We cannot take risks with your safety Ottiline. You will be sent away for some time, as least long enough to ensure that Rottersland is safe from rebels who want to cause harm.”
“No. No. I’m not going” cried Ottiline.
“ Yes you are. You have to, this is greater than just you Ottiline. You’re going, I say so” Niam said suddenly with a fatherly commandment.
Ottiline began blubbering her words out in confused gasps and tremors of vocalization, “No, I have a life here. I have friends, and my lessons! I can’t leave!”
“I’m sorry. You’re leaving Ottiline. Believe me, this is as hard for me as it is for you, now please...please go pack your bags,” whispered Niam. His last words were more pleading than expected, but he hoped that the message was put across.
“Fine,” spat Ottiline, and just like that, she was gone.
To Niam it feels like an eternity that he had been without his daughter, even he didn’t know where she was sent. Hopefully everything would calm down, and Ottiline could return. Until then, Niam re entered the Great Hall and finished watching the funeral procession. As Luka’s body finally sank into the family crypt, Niam knew that the coming weeks would be full of struggle and hardship. He needed to find out who killed Luka, why Luka was killed, how to rule a people, and most importantly, get his daughter home.