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    THE FINAL CHAPTER – THE QUEEN WITH A SHADOW CROWN – 12

    July 26, 2019

    He made his way through the palace gates slowly, as if fearing that the wind would blow him away like a husk. The eyes of all the nation were burning at his back; eager for an answer, for a smile, he might have thought. But at the moment, the prince was too numb to think at all.

    The crisp morning air set his tear-stained eyes on fire with its icy fingers. From the corner of his eyes, he could make out his father, hale once more, staring at him in shock.

    What, is this not the son you were expecting to see?

    “Drykar-” the king began questioningly, but the prince cut him off.

    “There you go, father. The land you wanted; the state you desired; the river. All yours. I hope two crowns would suffice for your regal head.” He could see the shock and wroth blend over the king’s features. Never had his son been half so insolent. But Drykar continued nevertheless.

    “All I won for you, in the name of your ‘queen with the shadow crown.’” he shouted. His words were followed by a screaming silence. A tear threatened to escape the fetters of his eyes. He swallowed it back.

    Drawing Cedra’s jade dagger from underneath his sash he slashed it slowly across his palm, a red line writ diagonal across his white palm. To his side, Synnefro began to sob at the prince’s plight. The audience drew in collective inhales. Despite the restless, everything was still. And silent. Everyone watched, too shocked and scared to say a word.

    A drop of blood rolled down the prince’s hand and dropped down. At that moment, the rebel tear in his eyes too shattered its shackles and plummeted down the side of his cheek, down his face and caught the drop of blood mid-air. Blood and tear, intertwined, they hit the ground.  

    “There Cedra, I’ve avenged you. Taken the blood of those who took your life,” he screamed. 

    His legs gave way beneath him and he sunk to the floor, sobbing. Weak. For the first time ever, weak. The wind lustily pulled at his hair and clothes, maybe hoping to comfort him in her arms. But the prince’s eyes were only for the ground. A frosty silence lapsed between the palace gates and the people.

    Then he looked up again, gathering himself. “ I loved princess Miraea – Cedra, as her real name was. I wanted to marry her,” his voice boomed over the crowd. “ Wanted to make her your queen.” He paused. A wave of murmur broke out. 

    “Those of you who knew the beautiful cow keeper from Rocksheds would remember how the orphan girl had died mysteriously a year ago. But the truth of it was that it was me that sent her away down south to pretend to be the daughter of distant King Wyman so that father would let me marry her. We convinced the king to take her and she left yonder to learn the ways of a princess. Half a month prior, she returned back to me, to us, as princess Miraea- the woman who had devoted a year to become your queen. Those who knew her would remember how she was always a queen at heart. Kind and sensitive, strong and wise.” He closed his eyes a moment. Then opened them again.

    “But Princess Eira wouldn’t have it, jealous as she was. And neither would father have me wed a queen with a ‘shadow crown.’ He wanted the lands the girl brought, the blood bonds, and not the queen herself. And so he decided that Miraea would leave back to her fabled state in the south. So I had called her to the woods that day to talk to her, to tell her not to leave. That night, after I left, Princess Eira and Prince Daman stole down on her to kill her. All she did was fight back to protect herself and Prince Daman died in the fight that he himself had begun. But he left Cedra mortally wounded. 

    After that, Princess Eira fled to her father with a flock of lies to spread slander about her and to brand the innocent girl a liar. While the state accused her, she lay helpless and dying till a healer took her. But her fight was over. She waited three days… till I found her. One last time she smiled. And then…” his voice broke. “… and then, she was no more.” tears welled up in his eyes once more.

    The wind screamed in agony, mirroring the prince’s heart. Synnefro rushed forth to help him up. The king held onto his minister, guilt, agony, and droplets of tears waging a war over his face. 

    Silence. Silence mourned. Silent tears streamed down the people’s faces in remembrance of their queen Miraea. Sighs of grief escaped into the air. 

    Prince Drykar turned once more to his father. “ Are you happy father? You wanted her gone, didn’t you? She was born a cow keeper, not made to sit a throne, yes. But in her heart, she was the truest of queens. She lived for the common folk and for justice. And love. She forsook everything for love and sailed to a distant land at my behest, even if there was a chance she would never return. 

    She wasn’t born with a crown, father. But unlike other princesses who lived for nothing more than greed for a throne, she sat contended at the throne of her heart. She was a queen. Not queen Miraea with a shadow crown, but a queen of love and virtue. Ask the commons if she was or not.”

    The people broke into a tumult. “Our queen,” they echoed, one by one. “Our queen, Queen Miraea.” sobs and screams rent the air, frightening the sun to awaken. He came out, weak and hazy like a vision clouded by tears. Moments rolled by with the weight of years by the time the echoes of the people died out. And along with that all other sounds. No one said a word. A chasm of silence and sorrow took the state and all its people.

    That’s when a soft feminine voice piped in, “Queen Miraea is dead. But Cedra isn’t”

    The veiled queen walked out from among the crowd, supported by an old crone, her veil missing. Her tan had faded, leaving her paler than she was. Her deep blue eyes were tired, the stars in them twinkling feebly. Strands of dark hair hung loosely around her face. Midnight braided into her hair, the prince remembered.

    All eyes turned to her. The prince gaped in awe, unbelieving. People let out exclamations of astonishments. Synnefro was the first to respond.

    “Cedra!” he gasped, turning to his friend with disbelief. The prince’s jaws dropped by an uncertain inch.

    “Cedra?” he asked, numbness in his voice, a flood of feelings tangled within. The girl smiled.

    Just then, the crone broke the stifling silence.“The heart, dear prince, had stopped but two seconds when we thought her dead. But God was good for he had returned her to us soon after. After you hastened for the war, Mijorc saw that she was alive still and awoke all night wiping the fever off her. Then we both spent the next two days blending pastes for her forehead and wounds. She walks again now.”

    The prince recovered himself, finally comprehending what he was seeing, and jumped to his feet at once. “You’re back,” he cried, rushing out to engulf her in his arms.

    Suddenly the sun broke out in all its golden splendor, washing away the gloom of sorrow. Commons shouted in exhilaration. But the prince had eyes and ears only for the girl who had returned from the dead.

    “Careful now, you would crush her,” the old crone laughed.

    He hoisted her into the air while she wrapped her arms around his neck and buried herself into his shoulder. A great shout of celebration went forth from the commons. “Our queen,” someone declared again. “Our queen” everyone trumpeted.

    When the sounds died away a little, the king cleared his throat and walked up to his son. All eyes turned, anxious, towards him, noticing the old king for the first time in long. The prince put Cedra back on the ground and turned to his father nervously.

    “The priest seems to think…” he started slowly, “ …that the day after is quite suitable for a wedding.”

    His words were followed by a wave of wild screams from the people. “Yes,” they shouted. “Yes.”

    The prince laughed, and taking her face in his hands, kissed her on the forehead. 

    ***


    THE END.

    So that, guys, was my first complete fictional series- one that I binge wrote in a span of 2 weeks. I know the ending is hasty and not great, but I do hope to make stuff better in the future – maybe pace it down a bit.

    However, I do hope you all enjoyed it. Share your thoughts on this with me, down below.

    So that was it. And here, we part for this story. Thank you for walking down these episodes with me.

    .

    © 2019 Sahana Narendran

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