Death Accelerates

The Princess was alone now, sitting in her bed. Kobrol had left her, as she requested. She didn’t want anyone around right now. The Princess didn’t want a shoulder to cry on. She didn’t need a shoulder to cry on. She just needed time to think things through.

But she couldn’t.

Her chest felt like it was caving in on itself and flying apart at the same time. Her hands were clawing at her face bit by bit, maybe trying to force out the emotions with a physical pain; maybe just trying to do something with her hands.

As her hands fell from her face, she let out a wail that echoed through the halls of the castle.

* * * * *

The Princess did not appear for dinner for the next several days. When she finally did, no one could have guessed her family had died. As she walked in, the table fell silent and watched her approach. She wore a maroon gown with brilliant gems sewn into it, and though her crown was always well polished, that night it looked especially shiny. Her gait was as refined as ever, with nary a tremor.

She walked to her seat at the head of the table and sat down. She glanced around at the mute table and said, “And what are you all staring at? Certainly food is more interesting than a new dress.”

Each person at the table slowly returned to their food, though murmurs were widespread. Though they had been told the Princess was alive and healthy, some of them hadn’t believed. Others were questioning the apparel choice; maroon was a dark color, yes, but surely black would be more appropriate. Most were just surprised how well put together she appeared.

After dinner, she met with her father’s, or rather, her, advisors. Brellen was the youngest and quietest, acting as the economic advisor. Sigro wasn’t the oldest, but he looked it. He was the skinniest, most illshapened of them all. Despite his appearance, he acted as the political advisor; fortunately, he had others do the public work. Tirro had a limp from the Red Revolts, which had forced him to put away his sword, and now he acted as the military advisor. Grulen was the oldest, with the grey hair to prove it, even if he was otherwise quite young looking. He was the chief advisor, overseeing the other three.

They were sitting around a circular table with a map of the Taranian kingdom and its surroundings in the center. The South-East was home to the Outlanders, to the North were the Northers, and the sea was to the South and West. The Princess had been taught about these peoples since a young age, but in the end, she knew very little about them besides their savagery.

Sigro spoke first. “The people will not accept a Princess Regent for long, your Highness.”

“Do they doubt my ability, or is that just you?”

Grulen held up a hand and said, “No one is questioning your ability, your Highness. It is all in the title. The people want a King or Queen ruling them. With the title of ‘Princess’ comes the impression of a child.”

“And the only way to confer the title of Queen upon you while we still do not know the status of the Prince,” said Sigro, “is for you to marry.”

The Princess locked eyes with Sigro. Had Sigro been anyone else, he would have withered under the gaze, but he was perfectly used to the very same gaze from the Princess’s mother. “My family was just murdered, and you want me to get married?”

“It is for the safety of the kingdom, your Highness,” said Tirro. He was trying to be respectful and not clench his teeth, but it was difficult work. “So soon after the Reds, the Red supporters are still out there looking for any reason to cause trouble.”

“The assassins were likely Reds, your Highness,” said Brellen. “They don’t want anyone in power because it makes it that much easier for them to start a second revolt.”

Sigro stood. “The way the people are behaving without knowledge of what happened here four days ago presents a clear danger. We will need to tell the public of this event soon, and when we do, we had better have good news, too.”

The other advisors and the Princess stood as well, though she only to prevent them from talking down to her.

“Your father already presented you with suitors,” said Grulen. “We advise you choose one within the week.”

“A week,” the Princess repeated slowly.

“The death of your family accelerates many things. Everyone is forced to make decisions they would rather not; royals and peasants alike.”

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