The Secrets of Kings: Episode 3

7:30 AM

Quinnella: Princess of Frowena

October 6, 1384, 1:39PM

Princess Quinnella distinctly remembered the first time she had ever seen a dead body. It was three years ago, during the Great Battle. Her father insisted on bringing scores of patients to the castle for treatment in an attempt to alleviate some of the burden on the various medical tents and houses that had been erected around the kingdom. Although she had been given strict orders to stay out of the infirmary wing of the castle, her curiosity got the best of her and she snuck through all of the passages she was not supposed to know about to get there. She would hide behind tapestries or other large fixtures so that she could peek in on what was happening. She was only nine at the time and small for her age, so it was fairly easy to avoid notice. Besides, most were either too injured or too busy tending to the wounded to notice her.
She had been returning a few times a day to look in on a boy that was not much her senior. His make-shift bed was near her favorite hiding spot. From what she could hear from the mouths of the women who were treating him, he had been struck by three arrows. One in his stomach, one in his leg, and a third in his chest. Each day she visited he looked worse and worse. His bed became increasingly sweat ridden, his face increasingly losing color, and he was awake less and less. The women whispered of tainted blood and infection. On more than one occasion, the princess had witnessed the boy in the bed next to him, who was also injured, only less severely, reach over and beg the boy to get better. The boys each wore a leather necklace with a blue stone on their chests. The stones were each etched with a symbol resembling an eye.  The matching adornments and clear attachment between the boys, suggested to the princess that the two were probably brothers.
On the fifth day she went to visit the boy, even his breathing had become erratic and he whispered in fear of things that were not there. She had tiptoed from her bed that night to see how he was doing, afraid he might not be there much longer. Most of the wounded were sleeping but he was laying there, eyes opened pointing to the ceiling, frightened yet again of some unknown entity that only he could see. Suddenly his eyes rolled back into his head and his body writhed between a state of shocked stiffness and exhausted limpness. The candles around the room caused his violent thrashing to cast frightening shadows.
The boy in the bed next to him got up and quickly limped the step or so over to his bed, attempting to help the other young man. “Dixon!” He yelled, with tears in his young eyes. “Please! Dixon!” He pleaded.
There was only one woman tending the injured that night and she had fallen asleep across the room. The young boy’s pleading woke her but by the time she had made it over to Dixon, he had fallen into his final, limp state. His eyes were wide open and staring in Quinnella’s direction but she knew that he could not see her. He was gone. The other boy, on the other hand, spotted her just before she ran off into the night.
That was the last day she snuck a visit into that wing. She was haunted by Dixon’s lifeless eyes and the sadness that overtook the face of his brother.
After the ordeal in the infirmary, Quinella had tiptoed quietly through the castle to her parent’s chamber. Her father was away with the army so she did not hesitate to sneak under the covers and pull her mother’s arm over her. She felt her mother stir a bit and plant a kiss atop her golden head.
“Is everything alright, my darling?” The queen asked in a tired voice.
“I’m scared. Can I sleep here tonight?” Quinella whispered.
“Of course, my love.” Her mother responded. After wrapping her arms around her daughter a little more tightly,  the queen began to sing Quinella a lullaby that she had not sung to her for many years.

When the world gets dark
And you can no longer see
I’ll come running
Through the woods for you
Through the woods
Through the woods
Through the cold dark woods
Through the woods I’ll come for you
Through the woods
Through the woods
Through the cold dark woods
Through the woods, I’ll come for you”

* * * *

This distant memory played over and over in Quinella’s head as she sat in the throne room watching as royalty and peasants alike walked through to pay their respects to her deceased mother. Some brought flowers, some baked goods, and others small trinkets which they placed near the box in which she lay.
Quinnella was thankful that her father waited a couple of days before opening the throne room for public mourning visits. Although it was usual practice to have the body laid out on stone to allow everyone to view the actual body, her father insisted on waiting for a beautiful oak box to be constructed so that the body could be laid inside. The King forbid anyone from seeing the Queen’s lifeless body. Instead, he expressed a wish that everyone remember the queen when she was filled with life and happiness. Quinnella was more than happy to support her father’s decision as it meant that she would be spared from seeing another body bound by death without being able to seek out her mother for comfort. Afterall, such comfort could no longer be sought.
She and her father had been sitting for several hours now, watching as people came to say goodbye to the good queen. It was strange to her to see the seat on the other side of her father, the Queen’s seat, remain empty. But for however empty that seat was now, it was clear that the Queen’s absence was truly felt. The casket was barely visible now from the piles of offerings the people had brought and the line of citizens still waiting to pay their respects remained incredibly long.
The Princess spotted Ponce out of the corner of her eye. He entered the gallery and tapped the Herald on his shoulder, whispering in his ear. Quinnella diverted her complete attention to the Herald as she saw him rise. Many of the visitors stopped what they were doing and followed suit so that they could hear what the Herald was going to announce.
“The newborn heir to the throne, the royal prince Remedy will make a short appearance, accompanied by his caretaker.” The Herald bellowed before returning to his seat.
Although it had been three days since his birth, Quinnella had yet to lay her eyes upon her new brother or his new caretaker. Her father told her that it was important that the new prince have time to feed and bond with his new nurse. Although her father never told her so, she had heard whispers that the new prince was small, sickly, and needed to feed to get better. Quinnella was convinced that a short public appearance must have been a sign of an improved condition.
Following the Herald’s announcement, a veiled woman carried a small bundle out from the gallery doors and approached the throne floor. The woman was covered from head to toe, almost like a grey ghost floating semi-gracefully toward Quinnella and her father. The princess could not help but feel a sense of strangeness, yet familiarity all at once as she approached. People did not usually dress like this in the capital, but she was fairly certain she had seen this style of dress in the North when she was a bit younger.
The veiled lady approached Quinnella first, it was almost as though she anticipated the young princess’s deep desire to finally see her sibling. She bent down a bit allowing the princess to see.
Quinnella reached out and gently stroked the newborn’s cheek. It was rosy but his skin, in general, was a bit yellow. His eyes were closed and he furrowed his brow a bit as the princess caressed his face. After a stroke or two, however, the prince began to nuzzle up to her hand.
The young princess was surprised by her own emotional reaction to the child. She had been so strong throughout the past several days. She had barely paused to process the loss of her mother, but with her young brother in front of her - the young prince who carried a part of her mother inside of him - she began to sob, letting out the tightness that had been building in her heart.
The veiled lady reached up and cupped the young princess's cheek, using her gloved thumb to wipe away some of her tears. This is exactly something her mother would have done, and Quinnella closed her eyes for a few moments to pretend it was her. She nuzzled her face against the veiled lady’s soft glove much in the same way as her young brother had done with her own hand just moments before.

Once the princess had calmed, the veiled lady stood upright and moved toward the king, who motioned for her to sit in the seat next to him as she held his newborn child.

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