He stared aghast, his mind unable to register that Dekra had died. It then occurred to him that he did not hear the baby cry. In lifeless repose, a baby girl lay smeared in blood. With quivering lips, he clutched the infant to his chest. Sobbing weakly, he pulled Dekra’s body too, into his embrace.
He began to weep aloud like a small child, hugging them, while rocking back and forth.
“I love you,” he whimpered.
In the dream, that was all she wanted; to hear the words.
Why did I not speak them? “I love you.”
Same words; but this time, bore more meaning, as he said them to his daughter too.
“I love you!” he screamed.
He expected the palace staff to come. Mercifully, no one did.
“I love you,” he sobbed over their shoulders.
Everyone within the palace walls would have heard his scream. Sadly, the only ears meant to hear his words would never hear again.
After a time, he lowered the bodies onto the bed and covered them with a sheet. His ears rang within the silent vacuum of his bed chamber. He turned his head and stood, able to see his reflection in his wife’s copper mirror. There stood a man he hated more than any other on this earth. His wife lacked his affection, his child had now died, and he had become estranged from his people. He had lost them all, because of the man in front of him.
An ugly scowl formed on his face. Its very presence mocked him. His right fist struck his jaw, then his left. Blows soon rained about his head. Eventually, his arms spent, and panting, he looked in the mirror again. His nose bled and the start of discolouration on his chin and jaw would later usher in fresh bruises.
The beating was meant to change his appearance. He fumed, still able to recognise himself, then looked around the room for anything to disguise himself. His gaze fell to a stack of bandages left behind by the midwives. Beginning with his face, he neatly covered his head entirely in the wrappings. Continuing the process for his limbs, he covered all exposed areas of his flesh.
Donning his horned helmet, he spotted his axe from where it leaned against the wall. He nodded approvingly at the image in the mirror, now resembling the mummies of Kundra. Only one thing left to do.
Giving the mightiest swing he could muster, the mirror folded upon itself and crashed from the wall, then to the floor.
The door swung open, admitting Kija with his Guardsman’s axe held at the ready.
Kija gaped. “What have you done?”
“I have come to a decision,” the king said softly.
“My king… ”
“I am not king to you or anyone,” the king said angrily.
“But… what is this?”
“That is not important. Let it be known that I am no longer worthy to sit upon the Nusallean throne. Tell Dehoran that he is to rule in my place.”
“Aye. Goodbye, Kija.”
Kija drew his axe across his chest.
“Do not salute me!” the king shouted. “You are ten times a better man than me!”
Gaping, Kija failed to find his voice.
Kija stared back, livid with fear at his king’s anger, yet still slowly shook his head.
The king tried to gauge his expression for defiance. He found none. Kija merely spoke out of loyalty.
Fuming with disgust, the king turned for the door.
“If you are no longer my king, then can we not part as friends?”
“I do not deserve friends,” the king said without stopping.