Once Upon a Time, a noble stood before the gathered court, his face pinched with grief and duty. Carrey spoke the words, tripping over them like gnarled, obstructive roots in a forest path. Each glance around the court sent fresh waves of distaste over him until he could not stand to address them any longer.
Mirabelle had succumbed to her wounds, but she dispatched her assassin before dying. Carrey confirmed the identity of the assassin but kept the notion of the arrow from general knowledge, an exercise in statecraft which caused him tremendous pain to apply to the situation. An experienced apothecary driven insane by his studies, and the guards sworn to dutiful silence made things simple. Carrey served as Regent until an heir appeared. He stood and looked around the court, repeated words which could not express the tremendous depth of loss. One tragedy was enough to lay a man low, a second was a death blow to the hopes and dreams of the kingdom.
Carrey stepped down from the throne and waved off the good intentions, smiling and nodding as he left. He held himself apart until he walked down the corridor, wreathed in shadow. He wiped his perspiring face with his hand, leaned against the wall and sighed.
Statecraft was a hard burden to bear. Carrey knew this was service, albeit raised to a higher standard, but what he had not accounted for was the ambient pressure of expectation, the pleading stares of everyone who looked to him for solace or vengeance. He allowed himself the moment of weakness, then stood up, shoulders back and chest out before continuing down the corridor.
He entered the meeting room, looking at the diminished privy council. Henry was dead, Peter was dead and now Mirabelle.
Carrey sighed at the turn of events. He walked around, stopping at his usual seat before realising his mistake and sitting at the head of the table.
Wilson, the Captain of the Guard came in, his face pensive and manner subdued.
‘My regent, the messenger has returned.’ He said.
Carrey raised his eyebrow and poured a cup of wine from the flagon on the table.
‘Send them to my chambers, ensure they are undisturbed.’ He said.
Wilson nodded and stepped out of the room. Carrey sat in the cool silence and sipped his wine. He recalled Ernst’s opinion and shuddered at its truth. Once the cup was empty, he waited for the privy meeting to begin.
After an hour of treasury reports, grain and feed store accounts, hospitality bills for the Golden Apple Tourney and petitions, Carrey came to know the tense discomfort of leadership as a tight band sinking into his temples. His own lands were being stewarded by his wife and children, but his responsibility to them pulled at his insides. He listened and nodded in the right places then allowed the council their leave. He would read petitions for a new apothecary, having sent word to the Grand Library for a replacement..
He enjoyed the cool silence of the room before proceeding to his chamber to receive the messenger.
She sat on the couch, dishevelled and exhausted from a hard ride.
‘How’s ruling going?’ Mirabelle said.
Carrey grimaced and shook his head.
‘You tell me, your highness.’ He said.
Her auburn hair hung from the right side of her head in a loose braid, there were smears of dust on the bridge of her nose and across her chin and she had bound her chest with bandages to diminish her build. The clothes she wore were a man’s tunic and leggings and a battered cap sat on the floor next to her.
‘I delivered the message.’ She said.
Her eyes shone with tears as she stroked the braid for blind reassurance.
‘Did you see him?’ Carrey said.
Mirabelle placed her hand over her heart and raised her chin to look at Carrey with a wounded pride.
‘Every day in here, but no, I did not.’ She said.
Carrey sighed and sat down. His desire to protect their conceit had meant he had to get his own wine.
‘I trust the funeral plans are in hand.’ He said.
She grimaced and nodded in dull agreement.
‘Is it a funeral if the deceased, isn’t?’ she said.
Carrey frowned and shook his head.
‘I understand what we hope to gain from this, but have you considered Eilhu’s feelings?’ he said.
Mirabelle pursed her lips, unable to meet his gaze.
‘All the time, but I want him back safe, without fear or guilt dogging his steps, Carrey.’ She said.
Carrey trembled with concern. Eilhu had been an odd addition to the life of the court, a stray seed blown from afar to set roots, but endeared himself through deed over word. If Mirabelle had cause to wound him, then it was for the greater good.
‘Enough to let your people believe you dead?’ Carrey said.
Mirabelle sat up and wiped her face.
‘We don’t know who haunts our steps, Carrey.’ She said.
Carrey sighed and clenched his fists.
‘We know what, though. We learned it when Henry came and tried to murder you.’ He said.
The Dust. Carrey’s need for an apothecary was immediate and genuine but he had asked the Great Library for more lore on them as she had requested.
‘I’ve tortured him with this action, I know, but what else am I to do? There’s no blade which can swipe at the unseen.’ She said.
There is, Carrey thought, and you wielded it against him.. He knew the burdens she carried, having begun the pretence of ruling in her eternal absence.
‘I will serve, and rule in your stead, but I reserve the right to challenge you.’ He said.
Mirabelle picked up her hat, turned it in her hands for reassurance and sighed beneath the weight of her burden.
‘I wouldn’t have it any other way.’ She said.
She winced as she got to her feet. The wounds were superficial but their sting remained despite the poultices and potions.
‘Keep me close, Carrey. I want to explain to him why I have done this.’ She said.
She looked regal in her rough travelling clothes but her sadness, common and deep as bone, bore upon her like a sickness.
They embraced and Mirabelle left the chamber, taking the corridor through to the chambers set aside for her, guarded by Carrey’s men.
Carrey stood there, head throbbing with the details of their plan, each stage capable of inflicting great ruin upon them all, and called for a servant to bring him wine.
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