• Kelly Blanchard

Elleden finally grieves

Elleden couldn’t sleep, so she grabbed her robe and threw it on, climbing out of bed. Part of having her brothers or her best friend as her protectors met she wouldn’t have any truly alone time because she knew her bodyguards were evaluating her actions and decisions and would later offer her their input.

She didn’t always want their input. She didn’t always want them to interfere.

Sometimes she just wanted to be left alone.

Tying her robe around her waist, she pushed open her bedroom door and was unsurprised to find Talion and Hathal keeping guard.

The two men quickly rose to their feet when they saw their queen’s disheveled appearance. “Ellie?” Talion drew near to her. “Are you well?”

She stared at him then hugged her arms close to herself. “I want to go to the crypt.” When she saw Talion look ready to agree, Elleden raised her hand to halt him. “But I don’t want you to come.” She saw the confusion set in her brother’s face, and she took a deep breath. “I just…need time to be alone—away from family to grieve. I need someone, who is detached from it and will not interfere, to accompany me.” She set her gaze upon Hathal. “He may come.”

“Me what?”

“He what?”

Talion and Hathal shared a surprised look with one another and then looked back at the queen.

Elleden just gave them an impatient expression. “If this is not acceptable, then I will merely go on my own, and I know you will find that unacceptable. So, Hathal, come.” Without waiting, Elleden headed down the corridor.

Hathal shot Talion a look. What was he supposed to do? He had only been training as a Thymord for a year or so! All he had done so far was train with Talion and accompany him everywhere. He hadn’t done anything on his own.

“Why are you just standing there?” Talion pushed him down the hall. “Go with her! Don’t let her out of your sight!”

Hathal raced to catch up with Elleden.

Was he supposed to walk a step behind her? Or walk in step with her?

He didn’t remember!

“Just…walk with me,” Elleden instructed him after sensing his struggle. She didn’t have time to remind him of proper protocols.

Instead, she marched through the corridors of her palace at a brisk pace. At this late hour, no other courtiers roamed the halls. Only guards stood at different locations, and they made no indication if they were surprised by their queen’s late night stroll. Elleden gave no mind to them either.

She headed to a narrow passageway where stairs led to a darkened corridor. Elleden did not hesitate but grabbed a torch off the wall and went into the bowels of the castle. Here, in the crypt of the castle lay all members of her family who had been laid to rest.

The light from Elleden’s torch grazed across the tombs of the dead. They bore the names of greatness, and Elleden could only hope that she lived up to their legacy. She saw the names of her father and her mother, and she paused at their tombs, tracing her fingers over their engraved names. “Mama, Papa…”

Then she came to a plaque, which had the names of her brothers, Vindel and Rakran, carved into the stone. Since no body had been found for either of them, they could not give them a tomb and properly lay them to rest. This thought caused pain to stab at Elleden’s heart, and she bowed her head.

“Brothers.” She touched their names. “I’m so sorry we failed you.” She closed her eyes as she felt tears welling up. Still, she tried to maintain her royal control and clenched her fist. “If only we had reached out to you and told you we were coming! Maybe you would have waited and not confronted the kelliphs. Maybe we could have delayed that fate. The dragons came, but they had come just in time to be too late. Maybe…just maybe if you had waited, if you had known to wait, you would still be alive.”

A tear slipped out of the corner of her eye, and Elleden bowed forward over the plaque. Finally, she just let it go and sobbed.

In the shadows behind her, Hathal watched Elleden weep. He wanted to go and comfort her, but then again he wasn’t sure if he should. He was just a lowly Thymord in training, and she was Queen of Colidessa. He didn’t know what to do, so he remained where he stood in the shadows and tried to pretend he wasn’t here.

After a moment, Elleden finally regained her composure, and she pushed away from the plaque and dried her eyes. She played her fingertips on the cool stone of the plaque and whispered once more, “I’m sorry I failed you. I wish there was a better way to honor you. I wish we had been able to give you a proper burial because you deserved that.” She felt sobs coming again, but she forced them down. “I miss you—both of you.” Her voice cracked. “I wish you were here. I could use your steadfastness, Vindel, and the way you always made me laugh, Rakran. Jetelia is doing better too, Rakran. I just wish you two could marry and have that life you’ve always wanted.” Elleden squeezed her eyes shut as she tried not to cry more.

For a long time, she just stood there in silence, letting the waves of grief wash over her. For the first time, she allowed herself to acknowledge that emptiness in her chest and the hurt it caused, knowing two of her brothers would never come home again. She had to accept this. She knew that.

It just hurt.

Finally, after a while, she dried her eyes once more and took a deep breath. “We can go now,” she said then turned toward the door.

Hathal finally decided he couldn’t just let her go. He reached out his arm to bar her way. When she gave him a fiery glare, he hesitated but then asked, “Do you need a hug?”

A bittersweet smile touched Elleden’s face, and she wordlessly nodded as she went to him and wrapped her arms around his waist, burying her face into his chest. There she sobbed.

Hathal said nothing but held on to her as she cried. He squeezed her tightly.

He didn’t let her go until she pulled back, and then he finally released her. He watched her step back, a bit embarrassed as she wiped away her tears, but Hathal gave her a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell your brothers we hugged.” He winked, causing her to laugh. “But…we should probably go back.”

“You’re right.” Elleden took a deep breath and faced the door out of the crypt. “I just…needed time away from my family to…acknowledge and accept what had happened.”

“Trust me, I understand.” Hathal nodded and turned to follow her out. “I know what it’s like to lose everyone and everything you cared about.”

“Right…you lost your home, Adanalom.” Elleden glanced at him, feeling guilty for openly sobbing in front of him just because she lost two of her brothers. Hathal had lost everyone he had known. “Your family? Everyone? Just…gone?”

“Well, my father died when I was quite young, and my mother died before the attack on Adanalom. Really, it was just me, but yes…everyone.” Hathal slowed his steps as he contemplated this, but he stayed in step with Elleden.

“I’m truly sorry for your loss.” Elleden placed her hand on his arm, and she looked at him. “I am grateful not all of Adanalom is lost. Maybe we can revive some of the traditions of Adanalom since you know them.”

Hathal smiled, thinking back to the festivals of Adanalom, and he nodded. “I would like that, Your Majesty.”

As the two of them continued the walk back to the queen’s chambers, they discussed al the different traditions that Adanalom used to do. Maybe, in some way, they revive that so it wouldn’t be forgotten.

© 2019 Kelly Blanchard


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