Monday, August 26, 2013

Prompt: The queen lost her heavy golden crown

Thanks to Shawn Mullins for his magnificent “All Fall Down” from 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor!
Cyenne sat riveted to the stage, transported by the power of the voice that filled her head, carried her away from this madness. As the final notes faded to silence, the audience sat patiently waiting. Cyenne forgot herself and leaped to her feet, clapping madly. The woman on stage swept into a deep curtsy, then looked up and faltered. Cyenne glanced around and saw everyone staring.

Her husband climbed heavily to his feet and patted her arm. He leaned over and kissed her cheek, his lips like dry paper. “So glad you enjoyed it, my dear. I must rest now.” He gave a faint wave to the people below, turned and tapped his cane up the steps to their private chambers.

Cyenne leaned over the balcony, “The king gives his thanks for such a marvelous performance.” The crowd erupted into cheers and thunderous applause. Cyenne bowed her head and followed the king.

Richard the Fool sprang from his seat as she approached the study. He somersaulted and rose in a bow before her. She gave him a tired smile and nodded to Nagul to open the heavy double doors. They followed her into the study, pulling the doors shut behind them.

Your Majesty,” Richard began, “I laid out all the reports from today’s court hearings. The king heard thirty cases today—”

“Thirty!” Cyenne snapped. “What were you thinking? He should not have been—”

“Do you think I do not know that?” Richard snapped back, then took a step back and made a deep bow. “My apologies, your majesty. The king was in rare form today and insisted we continue, despite our efforts to direct his attention elsewhere.”

Cyenne held up a hand. “No apologies. I know how he can be. We’ll pay for it tomorrow, no doubt. Leave me, now, my dear Fool. What would I do without your clever counsel?”

Richard bowed over her hand and kissed it, pressing it to his cheek. His smile reflected all the love and sorrow in her heart. “Sleep, majesty. This will all be here on the morrow.”

“Exactly, dear Fool. And more to follow. Never fear. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Till then, I’ll ensure the king’s rule is strong and just, until he can no longer sit on the throne.”

Richard bowed again and left, nodding goodnight to Nagul, who stood guard before the doors, opening and closing them with ease.

Nagul moved silently to stand behind the queen, her head bent over the sheaf of papers from the king’s day in court.  She rifled through them, then threw them across the table, her hand trembling. Nagul rested a heavy hand on her shoulder. “You should rest.”

“You know I can’t sleep—”

“I didn’t say sleep. I said rest. Twenty minutes in front of the fire. Come,” his deep tone brooked no argument. She nodded without looking up, taking his hand and allowing him to lead her to the plush rugs by the fire. She sat in front of him, and he kneaded her shoulders, which trembled beneath his touch.

“It’s not fair, Nagul,” she whispered. “I miss him so. I miss my husband. His mind and his body race to the end, so fast. No one can stop it, save him.” Tremors swept her body, as she mourned. “How long can we hide from everyone? Rewrite the king’s commands every night? Hope he doesn’t start babbling nonsense rhymes? Excuse him from every court event?”

Nagul reached up and rubbed her neck, his long fingers pulling the pins from her tightly coiled, braided hair. The thick ropes tumbled down, and he began to pull the braids apart one by one, as he had done since they were children, rubbing the tension away as she voiced her carefully hidden despair. Finally, she leaned against him, and he wrapped his arms around her.

“I don’t know, my sister. All I know is we’ll do what we must – each of us – for our king and our kingdom. You, most of all. But you know I will never leave your side, no matter what the future brings.”

“But that’s not fair to you, dear brother!” She twisted to look up at him. “This curse wasn’t meant for you!”

Nagul shrugged his acceptance. “Meant or not, what is, is, and what will be, will be. And I will never desert you, sister mine, any more than you deserted me.”

Cyenne shook her head and leaned into his comforting embrace, the only family she had left in the world. The only one who knew the whole truth, and loved her still. She stared into the yellow flames and gave herself permission to close her eyes, only for a moment. Not to sleep, not to dream, not to …

Nagul sat quietly, holding her, while she slept in the safety of his arms.

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle
Time writing:
30 minutes
August word count:

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