The Vanishing (Reign: Part 3)
Part Three: The Vanishing
You’re a prince, Brehnan, and—more importantly—you’re a Guardian. You cannot panic; you must think. Reason. Research. React.
I repeated the mantra every Guardian was taught—to analyze the situation, learn more about it, and then, only then, do something—but it was useless. My heart slammed against my ribs with enough force to knock me down, whilst the overwhelming urgency to do something now, before all the thought and effort could be put into a plan, blurred my vision.
Where was Ambrosia?
There were a million different questions that sought precedence in my mind—all related to what I’d heard outside the study. More than anything, I had wanted to throw open the door and demand to know what was afoot. I had the right to, after all. Not only was I one of the two remaining royals, I was also Ambrosia’s Guardian, and any decision or discussion concerning her had to be put to me first.
But when the Regent’s words had struck my ears, I couldn’t. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. Even the violent urge to strangle the man had itself been suffocated by complete and utter terror.
He knew. He had to know. Why else would he now come up with some threadbare excuse to overthrow the royal family? Why would he dare betray the memory of King Galen, his best friend? Why would he seek to murder a child?
There was only one explanation, and what bothered me most was not that the Regent knew—it was that he was right.
Ambrosia couldn’t rule. She should, but she couldn’t. The Regent was honestly better suited.
Now that stung.
I charged through the sun-streaked corridor, sharply rounded the corner and nearly knocked a maid off balance, then bounded down the stairs. My breathing was as jagged and labored as if I had spent the day in battle. In truth, my experience outside the study was as close to battle as ever I had been.
And that was only the beginning.
Ambrosia had finished her supper, only picking at her food as she had the last several months since the king’s death, and retreated to her room, where the dim lighting and cavernous hollows allowed her to sulk like a depressed old hermit.
Likely only Pascal would be with her, ever the faithful friend he was. He was also quiet, which no doubt pleased Ambrosia more than the fox’s playful smile or steadfast companionship.
I would find her there. But what to tell her? What story to give the servants? How were we to escape? Worse yet, if we were to encounter the Regent…
So this was why one was to reason, research, and then react.
But I had time for nothing but action, so I’d better not screw this up.
I slunk past the servants darting to and fro, carting towels and fresh coal and brooms, averting my eyes as I weaved through them. They had been trained to ignore me, avoid me. I was as a shadow, hiding in the background, the watchful protector few knew was truly there. It suited me. Like Ambrosia, I’d retreated to darkness and loneliness as a child—with good reason. The life of a prince was anything but enjoyable, let alone the life of a child queen.
Particularly one that was hanging in the balance.
My status as Ambrosia’s Guardian came with many advantages—and disadvantages, as well, but I’d long ago ceased to think upon those—and one of them was being granted unquestioned access to the queen at any given time.
However, I couldn’t use that as leverage. Once the queen was noted missing, I would be the first suspect. Therefore, I had to divert attention from myself and Ambrosia.
We needed to simply vanish.
When you put it in those terms, it didn’t sound quite as difficult.
I reached Ambrosia’s chamber, eased the door open as soundlessly as I could—both for my benefit and hers. Since Galen’s death, her sensitive nature had heightened, and any little sound or movement set her off. My steps were even and measured, but my muscles strained to hold myself in check. I wanted to run to her…
She was perched on the window sill, thick, floor-length drapes shuttering her from the world. Her head was tipped back, supported by the wall, smooth waves of hair cascading down her shoulders. To an outsider, she was the portrait of tranquility and innocence, from the delicate bone structure passed down from her mother to the graceful curve of her little body. She was perfect in every way, as well-bred a child as could ever be reared, a beautiful girl destined to become as gorgeous as her mother.
But what no one saw, what no one acknowledged, what none but I knew to look for resided in her eyes.
A haunting darkness that consumed like a flame, though it was cold, hollow, lifeless.
She flicked those eyes up to me, widened them in an act of surprise. “I thought you were busy, Brehn.”
Only seven, but she commanded me like the queen she was. Or should be. “I was.”
“A meeting?” She threw her legs over the side of the sill, touched her feet to the ground.
“You sound disappointed.” She crossed her arms, cocked her head...but the crease of her brows and the tilt of her mouth she couldn’t control, couldn’t temper. Some emotions escaped the careful training she’d put them through. For which I was glad. I would not have this child corrupted by her position—or worse, by the Regent.
“I am.” I sighed, struggling against the urge to scoop her up in my arms, to tell her everything, to dash out of the donjon and onto the streets without care for who caught us.
But I couldn’t. Dash out into the streets, I mean. Because when she leapt into my arms and squeezed my neck, I held her close and whispered to her, “We have to leave.”
She didn’t question me. She knew better than that, for although she might hold the title of queen, I held power over her no one—not even the Regent—could take away.
Besides, I had a feeling she wouldn’t mind taking a little trip.
Missed Part 2? Read it here!