I don't know who started this absurd Christmas ritual, but it's become as essential to family get-togethers as pecan pie or honey-baked ham. As soon as the food is served and we're all seated around... [+]
had also been taught to be weary, that if I wasn’t careful they would take my kingdom out from under me. Some thought I didn’t listen, not as well as I should have, and for that, I would pay.
Not at the hands of others, not at the hands of the neighboring kingdom’s. No, at the hands of someone much, much closer. Someone I would have never expected it from. It was the ultimate betrayal, something no one would forget. Something I would never forget.
At my age, I was trusted with making a few diplomatic decisions. Not very many, but enough to make enemies. One decision I was tasked with was bringing peace to as many kingdoms as I could. My mother was very opinionated, voiced her opinion on the matter very clearly. But I wasn’t about to listen.
My father said I would be marrying one of the king’s sons. Two of the princes were already married, leaving me to marry one of the other two. The two I was already friends with. The two princes I was the closest to.
With none of us ruling the kingdoms we couldn’t form a peace treaty, and it would be many more years until any of us were able to rule. “Until my dying breath,” was something my father always said about ruling the kingdom. I was sure that the other kings said something similar.
My father hoped to forge a peace treaty with one of the two kingdoms through marriage. My choice was simple, marry Steven or Matthew. Bring peace to the kingdom, figure out a diplomatic way to form peace with the other kingdom. I would have to decide carefully, which of the two kings would be easier to persuade without marriage? After much discussing with the boys we came to the agreement that Matthew’s father would be easier to persuade. Leaving me to marry Steven.
My mother disagreed. She was convinced that I should marry Matthew, that he was a better diplomat. That he would one day make a better king. But I knew better, I had grown up with them. I knew that Matthew was brash and quick to anger, while Steven was more level-headed, thought through his decisions thoroughly before deciding. Steven would one day make a better king.
When the time to make the announcement, both princes were visiting. I had told both of them to be careful, that my mother was not happy with my decision and there was no telling what she could do. They took my warning with a grain of salt and tread lightly around her.
However, that wouldn’t get in her way. No matter how careful they could be, it would never stop my mother. Once she had her mind set on something, she got it done. No matter how risky or damaging it could be.
I was in the market when I got the news. Matthew had come running to find me, out of breath and panicked. All he was able to get out was something about Steven getting suddenly ill and we were taking off toward the castle.
When I arrived, I followed Matthew to Steven’s room. I barged in, seeing him laying on the bed, face pale and sweaty. The sheets were strewn about the bed, several pillows on the floor from when he must have been trying to get comfortable. I was by his side in seconds, sitting on the edge of the bed and taking his hand in mine. I pressed my free hand to his forehead, frowning when I felt him burning up.
“Steven, sweetie, how’re you feeling?” I spoke softly, brushing his hair back and running my hand through his golden locks. All I could get in reply was a slight groan and his hand reaching up to hold my wrist.
“You’re going to do great things, my dear..” His voice was hoarse and I was reminded of all the times he was sickly as a child, “You take care of her, alright, tiger?” Matthew wrapped an arm around my waist as I cupped Steven’s cheeks.
“No, no, no, you’ll pull through, just like before. C’mon, we need you here, the three of us gotta rule, remember?” Steven only smiled before his hold on my wrist weakened. The tears finally spilled from my eyes and I sobbed, resting my forehead against Steven’s barely rising and falling chest.
“Steven, my love, please... You can’t leave us.” Though he was barely audible, I could hear how broken Matthew sounded. Steven’s chest soon stopped moving and my anger flared. He was the healthiest knight of his kingdom, no longer plagued by illness as he once was, he stood tall above everyone.
I rose to my feet, tears still silently falling down my cheeks as I paced the room. Matthew was clutching onto Steven, sobs racking his body. I walked over to him, wrapping my arms around his shoulders and allowing him to cry into my stomach once he had shifted. Neither of us moved, both of us crying over our lost loved one.
“Your mother poisoned him...” Matthew looked up at me, eyes red and puffy.
“Are you sure?” I looked down at him, knowing my eyes looking the same. He nodded and my anger once more flared, “She won’t get away with this, my dear, I promise.” I kissed his forehead and left the room.
I stormed to my quarters and retrieved my sword, thoughts swirling of betrayal and murder. Holding it in my hand, I stared at the blade and debated if I really wanted to do this, there would be no going back if I did this. I only debated it for a second, remembering what she’d taken away from me. This had to be done.
As I walked to the throne room, Matthew joined me with his own sword in hand. I had seen him mad before, but never once had I seen such a murderous look in his eyes before.
Looking at him, we pushed the wood doors open together and entered the throne room. My mother and father sat on their thrones, talking idly to each other. Upon seeing the drawn swords, the guards were quick to draw theirs, though neither of us moved to fight them.
“Leave us,” I hissed, moving my eyes to look at my parents, the guards didn’t move and I growled, “Leave us!” I yelled, and with a nod from my father they left.
“What seems to be the trouble, daughter?” I stalked closer to my mother and raised my sword to her throat. Matthew did the same to my father in case he felt to do the need anything rash.
“You have gone too long unchecked, and that ends now.”
“What do you think you’re doing?” My mother shrieked, playing it off as if she didn’t know what had happened. As if she didn’t know what she’d done. What she’d taken from me.
“Oh, I know exactly what I’m doing, mother. You can not take away my beloved and expect me to stand aside.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” My father shouted, quieting when Matthew pressed the sword to his throat.
“I know exactly what I’m talking about, and I think it’s about time for a change. Until your dying breath, wasn’t that what you always said, father?” His eyes widened with his realization, I locked eyes with Matthew before we both pulled our arms back and swung.
Breathing heavily, I looked to the ground where my parent’s heads lied and looked back to Matthew. There was no going back now.