A Thousand Lives

Lady Ysmay Payne was best friend to the murdered Queen. Now that there is no one else, she has had to step up and take the position. The only way that she will make it to her coronation however, is if she can survive the attacks that come beforehand.

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2. Haunted

I never thought that I'd be a queen, not even by law. When I married, I gave up my inherited title of lady to become a commoner. That was what had been agreed upon when my hand was given to Letholdus, a long time sweetheart, and we were both happy for it. Neither of us would have to deal with any problems that could have come up by having to look after a fief or play the power games with the other nobles. We were just able to enjoy the life we had and when we were invited to the all of the balls because I was the murdered Queen’s best friend I told them all that I was Lady Ysmay married to Lord Letholdus Payne.

 

That was until the murdered Queen told me that I had earned the title of duchess after I had prevented attempts on her life a few times through the spy network i was in charge of. I tried to argue to her that it wasn't actually me doing all of the hard work, and that I just did the boring paperwork. Eventually though, we came to an agreement. We didn't have any land grants, which was fine with us considering most of our time was to be spent at the main castle along with the jobs that both my husband and I held there would be no time for us to devote to managing it. So instead we wandered around with an almost useless title grant under our belts. Although I have to admit, it did help with impressing the nobles who thought that they were more important than us. It was, however, the first clue and I really should have listened to it.

 

From there I was told that I was to be her stand in for whenever she was unable to make the meetings, which, I admit, wasn’t often. It filled in time that I never knew I had and along with other things nearly bored me half to death. Some people, only a few really, were impressed with my actions, but a lot could tell that I was only a stand in, one that hadn't been trained to hold the position and waited until the murdered queen had a space in her hectic time table. I had less freedom than before but I had my husband, love and my daughter Maerwynn. Everything else was what just tagged along with life. The consequence of that though, was that I had essentially become heiress to the throne.

 

Right before the murdered Queen was assassinated, I had been ill. I was placed on bed rest and occasionally I had to be tied to the bed from all of the constant fits my fever gave me. Most days I was just been too ill and exhausted to do anything thing. Those had been the days that worried Letholdus the most.

 

Rumours flew around the court that I had suffered a miscarriage or something similar, but the truth had been that I had been poisoned. It left my system quickly but left a long trail of other diseases that had been hiding until that moment. A few of them would have killed me in a couple of years so in a way I was glad to be poisoned to discover them.

 

But as it turns out one of my knees that had been playing up before the poisoning was taking its chance and getting worse. It caused me immense amounts of pain until I had fainted one day as I was walking around the murdered Queen’s quarters and had slid sideways, hitting my head on a table and causing me to lose consciousness. That was the only time when I had been forced to be tied to the bed.

 

We had not been able to find out who the poisoning was by, but only knew that this wasn't the only strike in their attack. I had spent the better part of two months trying to get over whatever poison they had used and the after effects. It hadn’t helped that all of the healers in the palace didn’t know what type it had been, and because of my training I somehow had. After many days of being knocked back, and told to get more rest to get better, I managed to communicate, using one of the scrolls on poisons I had, which one it was. When I achieved this, the healer had thankfully known what the antidote was. It was an extremely rare one that only one in five healers stored all of the time. A call had flown through my spy network that it was needed and before too long, someone came up with it. As a reward, the murdered Queen gave them enough money to live on for the rest of their lives and I started on the rather slow road to recovery.

 

I had been lucky to have been found at all when the poisoning had occurred, because if Letholdus hadn't returned early from the mission he had been completing, I would have died with no one knowing the better.

One day, he had walked into the room and called out my name to see if I was there. I didn't answer so he had assumed that I wasn't in the room and he continued to put all of his things away and all of the other chores that are associated with returning from a long hard trip. Upon entering the bedroom, he had found me looking like I had already been claimed by death and he panicked. Letholdus had run out of the room asking people for a healer and ran straight into the murdered Queen who had managed to get him to calm down enough to understand what was going on

Letholdus knew, to the best of his understanding, that I was dead. The murdered Queen, as soon as she had heard this, called for a healer and raced back to our quarters.

 

They both burst inside just as I had regained consciousness and managed to gather enough energy to sit up to try and get some help. The two had rushed over and helped me out of the chair I had been sitting in and over to the bed. Letholdus arranged pillows around me and the murdered Queen had gone to tell the guards on the door to run for a healer. Letholdus started brushing the hair from my face and I coughed loud and long, before trying to get my breath back. The healer soon came and I was asleep for the next two weeks.

The guards that followed me around everywhere had gone from none to four suddenly and sharply when the death threats had spiked up again, but due to the rumours, Letholdus and I had people giving us consolidation gifts everywhere we went, which was nice but they weren’t for what had actually happened and we had to be careful because each one could have killed us.

 

It had been a hard time and Letholdus had been forced to watch over me always. Three times during the two months I had been close to dying, causing everyone that knew me and quite a few that didn't, to watch me carefully to make sure that I didn't have any more relapses as they would kill me. As soon as they started however I grew frustrated and sought freedom. I would sneak out to the city but when I came back I would be yelled at.

 

The first relapse had come at a time when no one expected it. I had recently been allowed to start walking again around my quarters and food had stopped being brought to me in soup form. I was sitting on the lounge when I lost consciousness. It wasn’t a slow decent, and I had done nothing strenuous to provoke it, but it happened all the same. Then when they managed to keep me alive there were more complications that only prolonged my recovery time.

 

The second time was when I slid sideways from the pain in my knees and hit my head on a table. At least I understood why this relapse had occurred. I knew that I hadn’t been keeping myself as healthy as possible and it was my fault. After apologising continuously to Letholdus once I woke up again, he made sure that I was always as well as I could possibly be.

 

By the time the third relapse rolled around no one was expecting it. I had been lined up to go back to work again the next week. Even though it was nowhere near as bad as the first two, I was still watched constantly and it put me out of action for a decent amount of time was well.

Not only did I have the whole of the spy group watching me to make sure that I lived, I had my daughter crying nearly every time she saw me as I looked "like death warmed up" as Letholdus would phrase it. Maerwynn tried to play with me often, but every time I would have to tell her that I couldn't play with her back from exhaustion, soreness or that I simply just wasn’t well enough. Constantly doing this nearly broke both of our hearts and whenever it would occur in the day, I would cry myself to sleep later on, which didn't help my physical and mental heath.

 

Her tears encouraged me to get better however and I pushed myself as hard as I could without prolonging the recovery time to be able to play with her. I wanted to avoid dying just so that I could play with her again. Before death took me, I was determined to make her happy one more time.

 

The day before the queen was assassinated, I had finally been well enough to go back to work. I was annoyed at how long it had taken me to recover and because of this, along with snapping at everyone who tried to disturb me, I had insisted on reading a report of everything my spy network had found out in the two months just to make sure that they didn't miss anything spectacular. Slowly I started to see a pattern occurring within the findings, meaning that something major was going to occur, but every time I tried to tell anyone who was better equipped to deal with it, I was told that I had been working too hard and that I was meant to be taking it easy. And I had been right, the murdered Queen had died because of it. It was the next afternoon when they started blaming me for something I had tried my best to solve.

 

But I was meant to be her spymaster! I was meant to hear about the assassination beforehand and stop them before they got close. I had failed, not only my spy network but my best friend as well. I should have tried harder at convincing them. I should have shown them the proof! That at least had been in my power! It had been within my ability!

 

I should have...

 

That’s all I can say now. I failed and for it I was elevated to the highest position in the country. But who was I to complain, that would have been seen as ungraceful of me.

 

I had to be given many lessons on how to be the perfect queen. I was told not to cause anymore fuss than I had too and taught how to not take any sides in political disagreements. Never mind that I had already known the basics of how to act because of the way I was brought up. The higher members of court had seen my marriage to Letholdus as something that eliminated all I knew. And so the lessons continued. I found them tedious and unnecessary, and I made sure that my instructor was equipped with this knowledge.

 

After a couple of days of ruthless teasing and annoyance, I stopped snapping back at my verbal attacker and tucked that area of my nature and accepted my fate. Eventually, I learnt what nature and attitude it took to make a queen and I rose quickly to the standards everyone expected of me and became one of those people I couldn't stand.

 

But my own personality didn’t matter anymore. I was to be anonymous. It was now expected for me to give up my life for the rest of the country and I was willing to do so. The country that now hated me because I had replaced the ruler that they had fought so hard to have on the throne. The ruler that so many had given their life for.

 

The whole of the kingdom went in to something that could have been described as shock once the knowledge that the queen had been murdered was leaked. The official mourning colour, black, was worn by everyone and had turned into the current fashion. Many visitors arrived and were confused by the lack of colour when we were well known for the brightness. Black flags were flown at half mast with the symbol of the recent revolution to place the murdered Queen on the throne taking pride of place in the middle.

 

 

The chatter one would normally expect in the peak of the day in the capital of a kingdom had turned into a silent whisper. And I knew that it was all directed at me.

Inside, the castle was quiet as well. During my spy meetings I received many looks that accused me of something terrible. I didn’t want to think of the thoughts that tied in with them and I never did ask what they were. I was never told as well because of my new position and the power that went along with it. It wasn’t that hard to ignore the looks anyway once I started to get used to them.

 

Even my own husband didn't talk to me as he used to. I found out later that night of the murdered Queen's assassination, when he didn't come back to our quarters at the end of the day, that that he had decided to move to another set of rooms. He took Mae with him and left without a note. That night was long and I spent most of it desperately trying to fall asleep, but unable to because of the tears that fell from my face for the many things lost. I woke up the next morning and no more tears fell to join the others. I had gone through enough already to know how to hide what I was really feeling inside. It had only taken a day for my heart to harden to the actions of the rest of the world.

 

I stood and donned a floor length gown. It was pure deep black, as was expected but had tiny peregrines in grey along the bottom. It fell simply and draped, not emphasising any feature but not completely unflattering as well. Because of my illness, it hung more off my frame than it was originally designed to but as I had just came back to work, there was nothing to be done about it.

My hair was platted back and weaved into a bun that was only able to stay up because of the twenty pins holding it. The style was an old more traditional one, rather than leading the fashion design, instead being simple and reserved. A fake black flower adorned one side on my hair giving it some decoration to make sure that the Baroness wouldn’t complain with my lack of style.

 

I then cleared everything on my desk, ignoring my maids protests that it was beneath my new status as queen. My response was that I enjoyed the menial task. What I didn't tell them was that it helped me to get away from the world for a small minute.

 

With a hesitation that would not have held a place within the old me and was not allowed in the new one, I walked over to the door of my quarters and stood there watching it. The door wasn't breathing, or talking of random things, it was merely convenient to look at whilst thinking. Being the last barrier before I faced the rest of my new life, my heart wasn’t truly into opening it to see what was on offer for today. My two maids, misinterpreting what I had meant by stopping, rushed to open the door for me. They pulled the wooden thing open and curtsied deeply waiting for me to go past. I winced at my own hesitation and thanked them.

 

"I didn't mean for you to do that, I was just thinking about what I have to do today," I said to them, with a smile. If I would get my own maids to be on my side, then at least I wouldn’t have to deal with the glares inside my safe haven. It was a quest unlikely to succeed and they remained indifferent.

 

"But it is polite for us to, your majesty," the woman with muddy brown hair responded. I sighed, gave up on that small challenge and walked out to face the new day a head.

Not that I wanted to.

 

Letholdus apparently hated me, (not that he had actually told me this to my face) everyone else still hated me, hell, even I hated myself. And it wasn't as though it was something that appeared on occasion! No! The grief I felt from not being able to stop my best friend from being murdered on a peaceful ride out into the forest drowned me until I lost myself amongst it all.

 

I walked into the mess hall, sat down and started eating after giving a simple nod to everyone in the hall. Letholdus sat on my left, as far away as he was able to drag his chair and the murdered Queen's advisors in their normal spots around me. They had the decency at least to not move their chairs away from me. Instead they leant away from the centre position I sat in. There was some talking in the hall but the main echo was the sound of knives and forks hitting plates. The chatter around me had stopped as soon as politely possibly and curious looks thrown my way. The whole congregation wanted to know how I was coping with the loss of my best friend and the sudden undertaking of queen. It was also obvious that they didn't trust me more than they had to; that they saw me as an incompetent queen.

 

Eventually, after a time that felt longer than it truly was, breakfast was over and I was able to go and hide until I needed to do something else. I thought over my schedule in my head through for that day and nearly groaned out loud. I had the spy meeting first. They hated me the most out of everyone because they knew the position I had held before now, and that I had the power to prevent it. They didn't just hate me because somehow their queen died and I was forced to take her place. They knew all of the facts just as well as I did, maybe more even I didn't think that it was possible for them to hate me even more than I hated myself, but they managed it just fine. I slowly started to walk back to my quarters. It wasn’t long but considering there was an hour until the meeting and the hall was just down the corridor from my quarters, I was determined to make it last as long as possible.

 

As soon as I reached my rooms, the door was pushed open by a guard who did nothing more to acknowledge my existence. I walked into my rooms thanking them but stopped half way through the words and gasped out loud at the state of my quarters. Everything had been up turned and certain things smashed.

 

The guards who had been at my door came rushing in whilst I grabbed at the closest sword. They quickly and quietly searched the room for anyone with ill intent and then came back out to report to me. With one small, precise shake of the head, the guards told me that no one was left in the room. I nodded to them and sat down on the closest, least destroyed chair.

 

"Please, your majesty, demote me!" one of the guards suddenly cried and knelt on the floor at me feet.

 

"Why would I do that?" I asked him, rather confused.

 

"I have failed you in your protection. If this had occurred whilst you were in here-" he started.

"Well, I wasn't in here and nothing more happened. You have learnt your lesson and I, mine. That is all there is to it and we will never make the same mistake again," I said.

 

The guard looked up from his position on the floor, face filled with disbelieving glee.

 

"Check the place for any clues of who was in here and if possible, rearrange the furniture so that it is possible to walk properly around this place," I said and walked over to my desk. I had been writing a speech, to address the people with when I was crowned. On top of the writing was a note. The guards around me saw what it was and bent to read it over my shoulder. I decided that they had earned the right for me to read it out to them, if they moved away from me and gave me personal space.

 

I gave them my best "royal look" and they moved away silently and respectively. "The day after your coronation, you will die," I read out. Not only did I have a threatener, I had an unoriginal, uncreative one as well, Lovely, I thought and then sighed. The guards frowned and as one tried to grab the note from my hands. I snapped the letter away from them before they could grab it.

 

"I have to go now," I said and walked out with the note in my hand still, much to my guard’s astonishment. But with my position, they never questioned it.

 

Ever since the murdered Queen had been assassinated I had gone to the meeting at the exact tine it would start. As I wasn’t the head of the spies anymore, I assumed that I wasn’t welcome, and nobody did anything to contradict this thought. I left as soon as politely possible and the less amount of time I spent in there, the less amount of accusing glares I would have to suffer. By leaving my room only minutes after I had arrived, I was going to turn up to the meeting early.

 

When I walked in, I wasn't surprised to see all of the people there already; in fact, some of them weren’t even invited to the meeting I attended.

 

I sat down and gave them a level look.

 

"What are you doing here?" a new member, Azalea, asked. She had hair that was the colour of tree trunks. A washed out face and eyes nearly the same colour as her hair completed the look that wasn’t spectacular and helped her to blend in with crowds. It was what made her so good at disappearing.

 

"It is better for my health," I said along with a non-committed shrug.

 

"Why?" she sharply replied.

 

"Just the normal death threats," I said.

 

"You have been getting death threats?" Peronell, the mother of the murdered queen, asked me. Her voice was gentle and curious. As I watched her eyes, I could see her already working out the possibilities without even knowing the answer I was going to give.

 

"Every day," I said with a shrug.

 

"Why didn't you tell us?" asked the person who replaced me as the leader of the spy network, Fendrel. "I am in charge of your health and well-being and you expect me to keep you alive when you don't tell me the death threats you have been receiving?"

 

"They weren't serious," I snapped back, starting to get annoyed at them.

 

"You aren't able to tell the difference!" he yelled. I stood up before I could remember who I was and what was now acceptable.

 

"You believed that I am incompetent?" I yelled back.       

 

"Yes!" he yelled back before his mouth was covered by Hawise’s hand. Suddenly his eyes widened and he froze up and bowed stiffly.

 

"Forgive me your highness. I have had a hard time trying to find all of the culprits of your death threats and assassination attempts. It has left me with next to no sleep."

 

His apology seemed sincere according to the tone, but his eyes were offering me a challenge. He was saying that he could keep me alive for longer than I did the murdered Queen. The only reason the apology came out in the first place was because Hawise had her hand on his arm warning him of the dangerous territory he was entering.

 

I let out a frustrated noise and then sat back down. "I give up. Here I found this on my desk," I told him and gave him the note.

 

"Any other clues as to who it was?" he asked me.

 

"I have the guards going through my room now. By the way, I need another place to sleep tonight as all my things and possessions that I own have been destroyed." I added the last part as a side note.

 

"A real threat then," Fendrel muttered. He started to pass the note to the others in the room. "Hawise, I want another 200 swords and Tannin, I want a guard following the queen around everywhere and the night shifts doubled." I sighed because I knew that I had no choice but to go along with it, even though I really wanted to tell him that I want gets people nowhere.

 

"Before you complain, your highness," Fendrel started but I cut him off before he could continue.

 

"I never said I would," I said and closed my eyes for a couple of seconds to let any anger I was holding flow away from me before it could escalate to what it was again.

 

"I could see it coming," he replied and I opened them again. It was impossible for me to not let a frown drift across my face and although it disappeared faster than it appeared.

 

"Well you were wrong. I am now arguing with you about another thing only slightly related,' I said. I knew that I shouldn't be arguing but I couldn't help it, I had so much pent up frustration, it was going to explode and it was better here in front of people who knew me and had a proper reason to hate me, rather than in front of people who saw me as the woman who replaced their beloved queen and nothing else.

 

To my intense surprise and annoyance, Hawise just slapped Fendrel on the arm before he could reply. As soon as it looked like he wasn't going to continue, Tannin gave the guard’s reports and the meeting progressed quieter from there.

 

I soon drifted off into a day dream and a loud bang brought me out of it. I started paying attention again and saw Fendrel and Tannin trying to hit each other. Fendrel was being held back by none other than Hawise and Tannin was being held back by Azalea. I growled threateningly at the men and they stopped struggling. They both flinched under my unwavering glare as I looked at them calculating. Fendrel recognised my gaze and stood up straight. Tannin didn't and treated me to his own best glare. I ignored him and turned to Fendrel again.

 

"And you chose him to replace you?" I asked him.

 

"He was the best option at the time," he replied and it almost seemed as through everything was back to normal again.

 

"A stupid one," I said.

 

"Just like the one where you killed the queen?" he snapped back. Nope, it was still the same as before. I stared at him for a second before I stood up. With one last blank look, I left the room.

 

It was another short walk to the murdered Queen's old rooms, but longer when you stomp your way there and take the extra-long way around. The sight of another person waiting at the door caused me to start and then frown when I saw who it was.

 

Letholdus.

 

I looked at him simply with one eyebrow raised. He shrugged in reply and looked back at me with a blank face that killed my heart along with any belief I held that he still loved me. His eyes however were still full of emotion and held true sorrow and guilt there, or what I thought.

 

"They said you needed a guard. I have no more role in the meeting than you do and they told me to watch you," he said.

 

LIES! I wanted to scream at him. You volunteered. That’s why you came! But I didn't say anything, instead nodded once and continued into the room. I didn't ask him how he knew where I was going or how he arrived here before I did when last thing I knew, he was still engrossed in the meeting.

 

The walls to the room were a deep green, a rare display of power for her, but suited the place perfectly. All of the furniture was mahogany and made one feel as though they were surrounded by velvet. To my left was a floor to ceiling cabinet that held many little meaningless trinkets. The closest one to me at my eye height was a box that played music. Inside was a small dancing couple and the way that the inventors had made it was truly magnificent. The object drew a smile from my lips. It had been my gift to her on her last birthday. I had bought it for her knowing that she would be fascinated in the way that it worked.

 

I turned around and smiled at Letholdus. Hesitantly, he smiled back, although it looked more like a grimace. It was then when I gave up on being civil to him and turned away again, tears threatening to pour out of my eyes.

I nearly screamed as I was grabbed from behind, an arm going around my neck and another covering my mouth. I bit down on the hand covering my mouth and nose whilst my arms tried to pry off the ones strangling me. I wasn't able to however and my world started spinning and going black around the edges. I managed to let out a quickly cut off, piercing scream before darkness totally intruded on my vision. Just before it did however, the door to the room was slammed open and swords flashed dangerously in the light from the window.

 

~*~

 

It took a while for me to come around again. When I opened my eyes, it was to Fendrel, Hawise, Col who was the head cook, and four guards.

 

"We need to know what happened; your thoughts and everything," Col said. I looked at him for a little while before I decided that it was probably better that I answer.

 

My mouth opened and I managed to croak out a strangled word of water before a coughing fit over took me and I had to sit up to get more oxygen into my system.

 

Hawise passed me a cup of water and I drank slowly, aware that there was probably bad bruising on my neck. The door was thrown open as I was doing this and I flinched away from it, feeling for the knives I usually carried with me. The guards formed a protection circle and the others stood just behind them. The healer who had been the one opening the door, put his hands up in alarm. Fendrel sighed and moved away.

 

"How are you feeling, your majesty?" the healer asked as he inspected the bruising on my neck. As soon as I opened my mouth to talk I was told off. "Don't talk! You aren't meant to be talking," He told me. "I thought the others told you that I had told them to anyway."

 

I turned and allowed my eyes to narrow at them. The healer, seeing this, turned to glare at everyone else who I wasn't able to hit in those moments.

 

"Idiots," he muttered then started speaking out loud.

 

"Don't talk for a week, your majesty. The bruising was fairly bad and he had been strangling you for a decent amount of time before he was stopped." As soon as the healer finished saying this smiling at me, he turned to glare at everyone else again except this time for a different reason. I nodded and resumed my glare at them.

 

Two hours later, when all of the people around me were talking quietly to each other, ignoring me, the door opened again. This time it opened up slowly and showed a worried, pale, sleepless Letholdus. He looked nothing like what I expected after my attack. His cheeks were slightly sunken and there were dark rings all around his eyes. I didn't flinch when looking at him and left it to the other members of the group around me to stop him from reaching me.

 

To my surprise, Hawise grabbed Letholdus by the arm and dragged him out of the room. There was a short, silent, awkward, pregnant, pause until the two came back into the room.

 

Letholdus walked over to me with his hands in the air and to my credit, I didn't try to move away until he sat down next to me. As he got closer however, I was able to see that it looked like he had not eaten for a couple of days and the light of the sun was painful for his eyes.

What has happened to you? My heart asked even as the words were banned from my lips until a better time, if one were to arise.

 

"Ysmay, love," he whispered so no one else to hear our conversation. "It wasn't me.” I raised my eyebrow and looked at him, hating the fact that I was not allowed to talk.

 

"It was a person made to look like me!" he protested. I shook my head in disbelief. It had been my own husband that attacked me.

 

"Please forgive me!" he begged. I turned away on the bed I was on to face the opposite wall in the room. He had been unwilling to forgive anything I had done, even though it hadn't been my fault, I was unwilling to forgive him.

After two minutes of me looking away whilst Letholdus watched me, it looked like he was going to leave. But before he did, he spoke again.

 

"It wasn't me who took our children away, it was the other man. I never would have left you." As he walked out after he said this I felt the tears finally break through my defences and pour down my face in tiny expressive streams. Peronell walked up to me and allowed me to hide my face from the others as I wondered if I had just shoved my husband away.

 

It took some time, but I soon fell into an uneasy sleep that held me captive until halfway through the next day.

 

~*~

 

A little girl, Mae, my daughter, ran along in the forest clearing and laughed. Letholdus sat there holding something and I wasn't there. I was watching in a spirit form but I wasn't there physically with them. Slowly I walked over to where Letholdus was sitting.

 

His eyes were shadowed in darkness and I noticed that he was wearing pure black. There was a piece of cloth that stood out from all of the others and had a peregrines falcon resting on it. I paused to wonder who had died for him to have become this sad.

 

My eyes were drawn in to look at the child resting in his arms. I smiled upon seeing the little boy asleep but frowned once he started to wake up after couple of seconds.

 

When the child was asleep, I was unable to see any resemblance to Letholdus or me even and I had assumed that he had taken it under his wing, but when the little boy opened his eyes, I could see my mother’s annoyingly unusual ones shine through. I frowned. When was this to happen? I thought.

 

"Don't cry, Jyson," Letholdus cooed. "I don't know what to do when you start to cry."

 

Jyson started to cry.

 

"You want your mother, don't you? I can't help! She's gone. Please like me!" Letholdus cried in despair. It felt like something was stopping me from breathing normally and as if a stone dropped into my gut.

 

I was the reason why he was sad and in mourning. I was the one who had died.

 

In an effort to make the boy, Jyson stop crying, I reached out a hand and gently brushed his hair away from his face. He still continued to cry at me. Then I allowed him to have one of my fingers to have in his tiny hand. He waved it around like a flag whilst I hummed a small lullaby to him.

 

As soon as he heard my voice, he stopped crying and grinned toothlessly. Letholdus looked down in amazement. "You’re smiling!" He exclaimed. "You haven't since..." Letholdus stopped and looked up at me.

 

"Are you there?" he asked softly. I smiled and nodded but Letholdus seemed to have not seen it and he asked again.

"Are you there, Ysmay," he asked again, except this time was with some hysteria lacing his voice. I reached out and ran my hand down his face. I was fairly certain that Jyson was able to see me, but Letholdus wasn't. Why?

He shivered at the contact and muttered something that sounded like feels like a ghost is walking over his grave. My tears started falling and when they landed on him, he flinched. "Are you there?" he asked again, hysteria fully coming out into his voice now.

 

"I am here," I replied and he was able to hear me. A light returned in his eyes and I was able to laugh for the first time in many of the long days.

 

"I can't see you!" he replied looking around. It was almost as if he was blind and looking for something and someone. I slowly reached out and touched his face. He was unable to stop the shiver that ran throughout him but when he looked up as I did, his eyes cleared and he saw me.

 

“You’re here!” he said and started laughing maniacally. “I don’t know how but I don’t care. You’re alive and that’s all that matters!”

 

“Sort of,” I replied with a smile and hugged him. “Who is this?” I nodded towards the little boy.

 

“You don’t know?” he asked. I shook my head no and lifted the boy out of his arms and into mine.

 

“He is our son, born right before you died.”

 

“So it is me who is dead then?”

 

“Yes.”

 

I nodded and then started to rock to put the little boy back to sleep again. Unfortunately, sleep was the last thing on his mind and his hand went up and started to pull stands of my hair that had escaped confinement. I gave him my finger again and he waved it around triumphantly like a flag and his dragon green eyes looked around without shame.

 

Mae wandered over and hugged my leg. “You’re home!” she cried and then looked over to Letholdus. He grinned at her as well then came over to me to explain.

 

“I said that you had to go away for a while and now that you are here again, she is so happy,” he said. I nodded in understanding before crouching down and hugging her with my free hand.

 

This perfect setting was ruined by the sound of loud, harsh, brutal yelling. It was a stark contrast of what was before my eyes.

 

As soon as the yelling became audible to Letholdus as well, he tensed up. He looked around for a couple moments to find an escape route. Upon finding none, he started to climb the nearest tree. I looked down at Jyson in my arms and then at Mae beside me.

 

 

"Pass me him!" Letholdus hissed and obediently I passed him up. When Letholdus got him, he started climbing even further. I stood there watching confused. "Help Mae! Lift her up to the first branch and then climb yourself!" He yelled. The shouts became closer and closer, louder and louder and were soon accompanied by the beating of horses hooves.

 

"Why are we hiding?" I asked Letholdus. He hushed me at once.

 

Thud thud.

Thud thud.

The dust from their hooves was now visible.

Thud thud.

Thud thud.

The people were wearing totally black and were laughing loudly and joking.

 

"Dam we lost them," one sad with a scowl.

 

"Do you even know who it was?" another asked and I held my breath.

 

"Wasn't it Fendrel?" Put in yet another person except he had a lisp.

 

"Something like that," said the first. The breath left me sharply and a noise caused me to direct my eye sight to the tree opposite me.  I looked to see a rough looking Fendrel with a finger on his lips in the universal gesture of silence. I nodded and looked over to Letholdus to get his attention.

 

Thud thud.

Thud thud.

No one moved. No one spoke.

Thud thud.

Thud thud.

The guards argued below us and showed no sign of moving.

Thud thud.

Thud thud.

And hour passes, more.

Thud thud.

Thud thud.

Finally the men moved on their way.

 

As the soldiers were moving away, Fendrel's foot slipped and he fell for a few feet before he was able to grab a branch and climb up again. But the damage had been done one of the guards turned around and started searching for the cause of the noise and using the distraction, I slipped down the tree myself. Slowly I crept over to the group and stood behind a man.

 

Just as he started to tell his friends where Fendrel was, I knocked him unconscious.

 

The rest of the men paused and looked at each other and just as they were about to make a comment, I knocked out another.

 

"Poison?" Said one.

 

"Magic?" Said another.

 

"Haunted?" suggested a third and they ran away screaming like very little girls. I grinned and assisted Letholdus in getting down by putting Mae on ground and then taking Jyson.

 

Fendrel swore. He was able to see me as soon as I held Jyson.

 

"Hello to you too," I said to him after hearing his greeting.

 

"How... When... What... Was that you? All of that?" He finally managed to get out after a couple of minutes of an awkward silence accompanied with staring.

 

"Yes," I said short and simply.

 

"This place truly is haunted?" He asked.

 

"Am I truly dead?" I shot back.

 

"This is where you died," Fendrel explained awkwardly.

 

"Lovely," I replied sarcastically and looked around.

 

"Isn't this also where the murdered Queen was assassinated?" I asked.

 

"Yes," Letholdus sharply replied.       

 

"I died in the same place?" I said.

 

"As the same time," continued Fendrel. "Same time of the same day in the same month with the same amount of reign time.” I shivered. There were just a few similar things.

 

"That's a bad coincidence," I said and looked over to Letholdus. It was plain to see for anyone with two eyes and half a talent at reading emotion that he was uncomfortable talking with this topic so I changed it. My choice was bad.

 

"What's happened since I got on the throne?" I asked the two men. They both winced.

 

We were off to a good start.

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