The day everything went from good to bad, Henry had, had enough on his plate.
"My prince, you seem distracted are you well?" The woman with a plain white dress who was sat across Henry asked, dark eyes focused as she moved a chess piece.
"No, nothing that's important really," Henry slowly shook his head, pushing away the chess board from his side of the table. "Just recalling a strange conversation with someone who I met a few weeks ago."
The woman and Henry were in the study hall, obsidian walls with open square stone windows letting in the sunlight in the room that wafted used scrolls and old books. A lone bookshelf stood on the corner, empty like the hollow trees. The high desk on the center was littered with splotched parchment and a quill with ink that was placed in its dip.
"A strange conversation?" She dropped the game, settling with storing away the pieces and checkered board. "What was it about, Your Highness?"
"Dahlias?" She parroted.
"Yes. And a strange encounter that I won't forget. It's... Haunted me a lot, Alya."
Alya nodded and kept the chessboard on the shelf that was pressed at the southeast side of the obsidian walls. Perhaps it was best that she didn't comment least Henry brought down his already downtrodden mood.
They talked some more about casual things, moving on from the depressing topic to more simpler ones until Henry stood up and excused himself, leaving an order for Alya to put away the haphazardly stacked scrolls and books.
Alya bowed with a hand on her chest. "Of course, My Prince."
Henry gently closed the door and walked along the empty black halls. No painting decorated the space, except the windows that were lining against the walls to let in the warm and cooling rays of the sun. Opening the gritty metal door, he was welcomed by the world outside.
A foot path carved in between the shrubbery, leafy green trees, and the distant town that sang with loud pounding of hammers and bricks; all of this served to ground Henry's mind that he was here. Solid, alive, and real.
Henry walked away from the obsidian walled mansion to the stables to get his horse, freezing when someone screamed for his attention.
He abruptly turned, frown on his face and a furrow on his brow as a messenger came running along, halting in his tracks to catch his breath. "Is something the matter?"
The messenger gasped in air before handing Henry a pearl colored shell necklace and a scroll that had the family seal on it. A blue diamond shaped wax seal that had an oblique face of a rose.
Henry's hand twitched. He took the scroll after the long pause and thanked the messenger, getting on his Andulusian horse.
"You're not going to read it, your highness?" The messenger asked.
"I'll read it when I arrive at the camp," Henry said, putting the scroll on his waist bag. "It's best that you go inside the mansion though, you need the rest."
"I— okay. As you wish, Your Highness." The messenger bowed and disappeared inside the governor's abode. The one where Henry was currently housed at.
Urging the horse on, they went into a small troth through the parted bush path. Henry took in the crisp smell of summer winds and stared at the fine pearl-luminiscent shell, lump forming on his throat that he tried to swallow.
He went through the town, watching all the dark wood houses and stalls rising up again, commoners looking at the workers with interest and awe. Some looked fearful, others desperate, but it wasn't like before where everyone tried to rip them to shreds just for a piece of bread.
Compared to the castle town he lived in— the Capital—Henry felt this village was much too small for him to roam around. Dirt pathways, hut styled houses, and wood stalls with cloth roofs colored black and white—something he'd more likely than not, completely explore in a day or two.
The town looked like a decent country side now rather than a village filled with ragged peasants and hungry children.
He arrived at training camp and got down from his horse, tying it in the stables. Walking in with his usual confident step, knights and mages bowed to him, their eyes lingering and then returning to whatever they were doing.
Though he couldn't shake off the feeling that wolves we're watching him amongst the sea of sheeps.
Henry didn't comment on it, replacing the shell with the scroll he had stored away as he sat down on the chair that was the same as always. In the side of the camp where campaign tents had been set up.
Just as he was about to break the seal, someone approached him and Henry looked up, seeing the faces of the messengers that he'd sent.
"Have you got news for me?"
The two messengers looked at each other then bowed to the prince. One of them spoke up. "We do, Your Highness. Some of the commoners haven't been given their due share of the gold. And there have been a few complaints about not getting enough raise for the job they're doing."
"Didn't we have enough gold for that one? What happened?" Henry's eyebrows furrowed. Strange. What had gone wrong?
"We're not sure, Your Highness," the other messenger said, scratching her head. "Just the day before yonder, some of the citizen's woke up and the gold that they kept were gone. As if it didn't exist. Some of them are already calling us 'tricksters' and 'liars' for such things even if we are no bandits here to enslave them."
Henry hid one hand underneath the table, knuckles turning white as he gripped the fabric of his pants tightly. Great gods, help him. Was ruling always this problematic?
He let out a deep sigh and placed the scroll firmly on the table before getting up and accompanying the messengers to their coin supply along with a few trusted knights that were summoned over.
After they'd gotten what they needed, Henry sent them off to deposit the gold to those that had asked for it.
"Now then what else do we—" Henry was unfortunately, cut off by another knight running in, face red and smelling of dirt and sweat.
"Your highness! Trouble with the ranking officers! There's a fight breaking out!"
Henry wanted to bang his head on the wall or perhaps the table. Anything would suffice because this day was just not for him. He grit his teeth and took in a deep breath, rushing out of the tent and following the crowding knights where spells and invocations were fired.
Trouble seemed to follow him everywhere after that. Not that he wasn't always followed by that one but today was just on a whole other level.
Complaints piled up high on him, knights snarled at each other everytime they clashed swords, and mages seemed to be in disarray with their synchronization in firing spells. The healers even seemed to be a bit sluggish today, to which the people had complained. Henry didn't understand any of it, tried to fix the mess that was going on until well into the afternoon.
"Finally," Henry said with a sigh, collapsing on the polished wooden chair that was provided on the camp table. "That was one bloody hell of a day. What a mess."
His arm guarded hand reached out for the rose scented scroll, finally, finally breaking the thin and brittle blue seal that was placed firmly on its lip.
The scroll unfolded in Henry's fingers, words flooding him in a jumble of haphazard and sloppy writing that wasn't of elegant penmanship. His body ran cold and his fingers crinkled the edge of smooth parchment scroll as he read through the words with harsh and unbelieving eyes.
What? Is this some kind of joke?
I apologize for the penmanship that is like of a toddler. However, I bring you unfortunate news and one you might not like. You see, earlier this morning at eight in the 2nd bloom of the Daisy, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth Tudor, our mother, was found lying on her bed without showing any signs of life; a letter in her hand. And as much as we wish to bring you home, we unfortunately cannot go against her last will.
We are sorry to inform you this, Henry, but mother has requested that you remain in there and return only when everything is cleared. Of that we aren't sure what she is talking about. Brother, stay strong and don't come back until you're told to do so. Not until I'm crowned king.
Henry read it again hoping that all of this wasn't real, that he was just hallucinating. He looked up at the sky, vision fogging over and breath shallow as paper crumpled underneath his knuckle-tight grip. Looking down again, the contents of the letter didn't change and a crystal drop landed on the writing.
"She's gone," he said out loud, no one hearing him but the gazes seemed to intensify as Henry's nails dug holes through the paper, hot waves going through his whole body and making his skin sizzle. "She's gone. Gone."
And then hell broke loose as the ground shook, splitting open as Henry continued boring holes on the scroll, hearing muffled as the letter's content etched entirely in his brain in pure blood. The screams of whoever was near was a dull echo in his ears.
The sweet face of his mother, the one expression she wore when he departed filled with crystalline tears and quivering lips, was the only memory now that would remain. Of childhood memories spent with songs and being called with fond nicknames. All of it he would never hear and experience again.
A queen, gone from the kingdom, replaced with emptiness of the throne and agony in his heart that was as worse as a bee sting when left unattended.
When Henry dropped the scroll, he was greeted by the sight of a shaking ground. Tendrils filled with thorns and poison ivy wrecking havoc on the camp, knights and mages screaming at each other, and people's cries rising up like ghastly wails of the dead.
"What is this?" A terrorised mage screamed, looking at Henry and pointing accusingly at him with wild eyes. "What pact have you made to come here repair and then destroy this village?!"
"What—" Henry looked down at himself, a warm green glow radiating through his form which made his heart stop. No. No. It couldn't. He didn't—
"This is a work of a demon! No magic like this can explain it! He is a demon who's taken over our prince! Call the healers or the priests! He needs to be exorcised!" Another knight accused.
Shit. No. Bloody hell. He was not going to stay here and make them blame him any further. This is a shame in its own rights. It was too much. All of it was too much. He had been humiliated enough, had taken everything thrown at him with violence and gracelessness. Henry wished at this moment that he wasn't alive.
Before Henry knew it, he was already jumping through the destroyed walls of the camp and into the stables. shouts going after him, hot blood running through his veins and heart pounding in his chest while tears prickled his vision in a haze.
"Seize him! We must not let this sorcery permit!"
"This is treason!"
Another shout, a sword cutting through the horse's reigns. Henry quickly jumped on his Andulusian horse and let out a cracked shout. "GO!"
The horse in its rattled state, let out a distressed whinny, bucking up and running fast as it could, trying to get away from the thorned stems enveloping the stables. The sound of galloping footsteps made known that the people he trusted were hell-bent on following him.
With every shout, arrows firing left and right, Henry tried to stir his horse away from danger, energy draining as every second of the magic that thrummed within him, ate away at his essence. His vision was swimming and an ache, sharp and blinding, shot through his head which made him hunch over.
Then he was rolling on the ground, pain recoiling around his whole body like sharp spindles, soft grass not cushioning his harsh fall. A heavy neigh and thud echoed through wherever Henry was as he laid like a ragdoll who had been carelessly thrown, exhausted, worn, and pride wounded.
Is this the end? Am I going to die? Will I be joining mother in her demise?
Henry's foggy vision trailed up, figures getting off of horses in white and silver made his tears pour even harder. The voices were like that of someone above waters while he was under, drowning in the waves.
Maybe.. it's not so bad to meet her on the other side. I'd finally get the freedom I wanted, right? It's a fair exchange isn't it? I can hug mother and we can call each other fond nicknames again.
Something akin to a dark flame shot through, distorted screams echoing as a person knelt down next to him— picked him up? Their face was blurry but the sun making their hair glow made him think of lavenders in an open field.
They were speaking. What were they talking about? Henry's vision faded with pain and illusions, darkness embracing him in its solemn shell.
A bad end? A harsh world? Perhaps a cruel joke? Henry didn't want to become a prince any longer. He just wanted to run.