One: Into the Darkness
Darkness loomed over the churning sea, and the wind-whipped rain, unsure of which way to go, scattered across the sky. The gulls were missing from their playground, chased away by the anger that came from an invisible force, who had all command at its fingertips.
Were the Gods and Goddesses trying to tell her something?
If they were, it was too late. Queen Beza couldn’t call the ship back any sooner than she could stop the imminent storm.
The Peaceful Lady, the ship used to patrol and guard the coast of Beza’s realm, adroitly sailed over the whitecaps, and into the darkness, away from its post, destined for a mission unlike any other.
Vohar had warned her of leaving the coast unprotected, her council had advised against it, and Zec, her level-headed brother, had rejected her decision, but she ignored all of them.
She had to find her. She had to find Peri.
The mist soon enveloped the great vessel, making it disappear from sight altogether.
She turned away from the coast, and began her ascent up the steep stone steps that led any beach-goer back up to the grassy fields, and in turn, the Queen’s city; Sonal.
Trailing close behind were the rest of the royal household who thought to accompany her; her husband, her brother and his wife, Sasha, and their daughter, three-year-old princess Zeah. The rest of the group, made up of Oathers, lady’s maids, and manservants were there out of duty to their queen.
The wind suddenly lashed out again, making it difficult for Beza to continue her climb up the steps. But, her husband, Vohar, newly minted Lord of Sonal and head of her guard of Oathers, was by her side in a second, blocking the unforgiving weather from forcing Beza’s dress in a direction it did not belong.
“Thank you, my Lord,” Beza said, leaning over and kissing him on his scruffy cheek. Just as Vohar did with her when he called her ‘my Queen,’ they used their titles as terms of endearment. They did not need to address each other as such, but did so anyway, out of love and respect.
Another heavy wind spit the ocean’s salty contents onto Beza’s face. She licked her lips, taking in the distinct taste of the ocean, like the aftermath of a seasoned dinner lingering on her mouth.
They reached the top of the stairs, and all of the party breathed in and out heavily, except for Zeah, who sat in her father’s arms, with a smile on her tiny face.
“She’s wants you,” Zec said, and Zeah reached her chubby arms towards Beza. She took the child from her brother, and he said, “I’ll go help prepare for the journey home. I look forward to getting out of this rain.”
“You and me both,” Beza replied.
She looked into his face, a mirror of her own, all masculinity for all of her femininity.
“Do you think I’ve made a mistake?” she asked, before he could leave her side.
“I think you are making a decision only a queen can make. It is not up to me to say if it is right or wrong. I don’t envy you of the choices you have to make and will never judge you for them.”
Rightful heir to her throne, Zec could have killed Beza and taken the realm as his own, if he so desired. He still could. But something in him was so pure and so humble, that he had no desire for power. An anomaly that she could not quite understand, he had come into her life, and made it better in every way.
Sasha called for Zec from the carriage.
“Go,” Beza said, “I’ll keep Zeah until you are ready.”
He nodded before rushing to his wife’s side.
“Queeny, can we beath under water?” Zeah said, her face close enough to Beza that she could smell the child’s sweet breath.
“No, tiny princess.”
“I twied to beath in the tubby and it gave me an owie in my nose!” She squished her tiny, button nose with her small finger and went cross-eyed momentarily. Beza laughed, and felt her love strengthen for the innocent child, her heir, who would become Queen one day.
“But is the sea diffent? Cuz fishes, and kad-uls, and seaqueenys live in the sea.”
“That is true. There are fishes, and kadruls. I’m not so sure about Sea Queens, but if they do exist, they have a special way to breath in the water. They use something called gills.”
“We don’t have gills?”
“No, tiny princess. We don’t.”
“But what if Ciwa falls in? Will she die? She doesn’t have gills!” she said, with exasperation; the kind that only a small child can exude, as if Cira’s death would be the end of this tiny girl’s existence.