This is #6 of The Autumn Queen — if you need to, start at the very beginning.
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The moon was dark that night. Everything out on the fields flickered bronze and gold in the light of the torches. Fire was such a different light than the moon; the yellow of it cast everything into a feverish glow.
I live it over and over and over again.
Please don’t make me watch.
“Commander, the Queen!”
I can’t live through this again.
Everything is gelled around me; I can’t think fast enough, speak fast enough, move fast enough.
She and Elias face off amidst the war raging around them; they do not care to send a champion to the other. This battle, the men and women dying around us, they are nothing compared to the battle they have planned for one another. I see, then, that my brother’s insistence on coming to the field was not to stand and watch over his brothers in the Order, nor to be near me and help me try to salvage what control we had left.
He had demanded to be let onto the field knowing that she would come, and they would at last be within arm’s reach of one another again.
Their horses draw alongside one another, and they speak, but I cannot hear their words.
I cannot hear my brother’s last words.
He does not see the bowman of the Queen throw off his nightcloak. He does not see the bowman draw and loose the arrow. He does not see the head pierce his chest or the shaft follow it swiftly, leaving only scant inches and the fletching fountain from his falling body. His steed quicksteps back, trained to know his rider is insensate.
I am told the Queen trampled the bowman — that the boy was errant. A true shot, but not what had been ordered. I am told she wept for him, the father of her stolen child.
I know nothing save the scant weight of Elias’s body as I pull him to my horse, and the way he tries desperately to draw breath enough to pray. I stanch the blood with my cloak, but the arrows of the Queen’s bowmen are murderous past parallel; it is not enough.
Elias dies in my arms, and in the chaos, the Queen and her guard depart the battlefield, caring nothing for the thousands slaughtered in the name of her lost Prince.
In that moment, my brother’s blood still hot on my hands, I vow her Prince will remain lost to her forever.
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