The family surrounded Moront's bed with joy in their eyes. Apheditie, Athaena and Aethur held each other's hands in prayer. However not everyone prayed for the king's health, Sigille stood in the far corner in the room like a dark shadow looking upon her healed husband with her slim arms folded.
Sigille knew perfectly well that her husband's healing did not come from the Shrinks, which made her think for the slightest moment that Azra Pex was involved.
I thought he was done for… She said to herself beneath her breath.
Apheditie turned to look at her mother, who seemed to be completely disregarding her husband however Sigille did what she always did, analyzing the situation.
Sigille could see her daughter looking at her from the corner of her eyes yet continued to look straight ahead.
She thought of the last time she heard Moront speak, his deep and attractive voice that she loved to hear every morning. She thought of the last time she actually touched him and felt his skin against hers and a longing sensation vibrated through her body. The thought that her husband was now healed and back to his normal state made Sigille smile, and she didn't have a smile on her face ever since Moront's tragic sickness.
She unfolded her arms and felt the heat of her body escape, slowly walking towards her husband, she saw him. Laying down looking at her and breathing softly. He let out his hand and smiled, she went to him and held his hand, feeling his warmth and squeezed it tight.
"My queen" He said to her, with longing in his voice.
Sigille smiled, exhaling all the pain and stress leaving nothing but happiness and hope in her body.
"My king." She whispered.
Moront nodded and pulled her hand towards him. He looked across his daughters and Aethur, indicating he wants to be alone with her.
"Leave us." She said sharply, looking straight into his bright blue eyes.
The doors were closed moments after, and the room was silent.
"I've missed you." She told him, still smiling.
"I can see." He let out a silent laugh and held both her hands.
"Sigille, darling, I need your help."
"Is everything alright?"
Moront looked at her, making sure she was fully paying attention to him.
"Yeas, dear. I'm very well. I just cannot bear the idea of my parchments lying around in the open…"
"Parchments? What parchments?" She looked confused.
"Go to my study, collect all the parchments, look for them in every cabinet, every drawer every corner if you must. Please Sigille." He let out a cough.
She was taken aback, not expecting that parchments were the first things that popped into his mind after a long battle with illness.
"Moront, don't you think you ought to keep them… you never know when you might need them…"
"Dear, please… You know some matters I cannot speak of, even to you. But it is with utmost importance that those letters are destroyed." He said, looking into her.
She exhaled, "Are you certain?"
"I do not want any evidence of the war anymore, its gone. There's no need to hold on to these dark times."
She looked at him, watching his smile fade away, turning his face sterner.
"Very well, I'll ask one of my handmaidens to help me with the parchments."
"No, Sigille. Just you. Please." He said, squeezing her hands.
Sigille could see the fear in his pale blue eyes, but couldn't understand why.
They both paused, each waiting for the other to speak, Sigille felt the sweat from his hands transfer to hers, and there she knew that he truly wanted this task done in the utmost secrecy.
"Alright, I'll do it tonight."
Moront exhaled in relief.
He let go of her, and Sigille stood from the ground.
"Where's Tirus?" He asked, and soon coughed.
"He was out hunting last night, all night actually. I assume he's still abed."
"He' always been that way, a rebellious boy, much like his father." Moront added.
Sigille refused to speak of the dead and just nodded.
She headed to the fireplace, wiping off the accumulated dust with her finger, after weeks of not being cleaned.
The slow and setting sun released a hew of orange across the sky, and Moront turned to look at the open view,
"Dear, open the balcony doors, I'd like to see my city."
"Are you able to get up?"
"Yes, I have come to dread this bed." He slowly pulled himself up from the pillows, and Sigille came up to help him leave the bed.
His white linens were creased with signs of blood across his chest; he stood with a slight hunch in his back, still holding onto her arms.
They both walked towards the glass balcony doors and Sigille opened them, allowing a drift of cool air to blow across their faces. Moront inhaled the air and closed his eyes, taking in the feeling of being able to feel like a normal man again. Sigille could see those feelings painted across his face clearly, it gave Sigille relief that her husband was finally doing better.
Moront stood among his city, breathing in their air, feeling their atmosphere, and feeling like the king, strong and standing.
"I've never felt lower than I have in the past few weeks. In those times of despair, I was thinking. Thinking of what I've done throughout my lifetime, the good deeds and the bad deeds." He said while closing his eyes to reimagine his life in a split second.
"Everything happens for a reason, Moront. We think differently when times are tough, you did your part in those times and what is done is done."
"Well, you may be right, but we both know, what I've done still lives on today, burning all evidence of the war is essential." He said looking at her, deep into her eyes.
She nodded, showing that she understands the importance of diminishing all evidence of the war.
"It's beautiful isn't it?" He told her, pointing at the city.
"Oh yes, very." Sigille agreed and placed her head onto his shoulder.
"Tonight, Sigille. Make sure no one sees you." He mentioned once again, but this time, his voice more serious.
"Consider it done." Sigille assured him once again.
The doors from the far end of the room opened and a Shrink walked towards the balcony doors.
"My King, your medicine." He said while bowing his head.
Moront looked at his wife, and pulled out his hand.
"My King, this medicine causes sleep, you might want to stay in bed once you've taken it." The Shrink explained.
Moront exhaled, and kissed Sigille's hand and headed back to his bed.
Sigille watched as the shrink gave the remedy to Moront, and slowly watching his face turn pale and his eyes twitch.
She walked towards the Shrink, "What's this?"
"Rose Seeds, my Queen. Its absolutely normal for this to happen." He assured her.
She nodded in relief, yet still not convinced that their remedies are what they claim to be. This made her think once again, that Azra Pex could have been the true shrink.
"It's best if you leave him, my Queen. Any slight noises could wake him." He whispered in her ear.
"Very well, she headed to close the balcony doors and walked outside her chambers.
Sigille thought she might go to her husband's study just to take a look at the amount of parchments he spoke of. As she made her way down the stairs, she saw Apheditie rushing whilst stuffing something within her gowns.
She stopped suddenly and watched her mother come down,
"Mother, what brings you here?" She asked, hiding the parchment from sight.
"Must I explain my every step in this castle? I'm here to plant roses, why on earth do you think I'm here? " She teased. "And did you spend all this time within the library?"
"I was reading on Alexander Misdaer, you know, the author of The Thousand Ships of Chessalyn. Athaena was reading it a fortnight ago and I thought it most interesting."
Sigille watched her for a moment, trying to analyze her features.
"Very well, and did you get what you wanted?"
"Yes, I was making my way upstairs to tell her all about it." Apheditie lied.
Sigille nodded and looked away, giving indication that Apheditie may leave her presence.
Sigille walked inside the study, and closed the doors behind her. Slowly looking around, she thought of the last time she stepped into this room, perhaps when it was first furnished decades ago. Sigille never had any interest in neither books nor politics and preferred to stay away from these affairs.
She remembered a black cabinet that Moront used to store all the important letters, and she went to the far left of the room, and there she saw it. The cabinet stood above all the furnishings in the room, as it was the darkest of all, black with scrapes across the opening, showing its age. A large lock concealed the dark secrets of the war, and Sigille immediately felt fearful of unlocking it. She knelt down to inspect, and noticed it was already unlocked. Holding it and pulling it off slowly, she saw the war's secrets, all piled up in a large mess.
"That is exactly how I remember this war, a mess." She whispered to herself.
The doors behind her opened and she shut the cabinet doors, turning quickly as if committing a crime.
There stood Pippy, shy and timid, she cleared her throat, and looked at the black cabinet for a slight second.
"My Queen, Prince Aethur says the message has been sent to Qerxia."
Sigille stood up and exhaled, "That's good. Would that be all?"
"Yes, My Queen." Pippy bowed.
Sigille waved her away and her handmaiden was out of sight.
At exactly midnight, Sigille awoke from her temporary chambers, pulled her grey hair up and her grey robes.
She looked outside the window, and saw the blue moonlight shine through her room.
Grabbing her lit candle, and began to make her way outside her chambers.
The hallways were completely silent, with no noise other than Sigille's slow footsteps. She could feel her breathe, as she went down the stairs, turning every few steps, making sure she was alone. Never did Sigille leave her chambers this late, she never saw the strange atmosphere of the castle in such a late hour.
Throughout the night, Sigille couldn't bear to sleep; she woke thinking of how and where she'd burn the letters without being noticed. Her final decision came moments before midnight, where she would collect every parchment and burn them in the dungeons, and then she would push them down the drains where no one could possibly come across them again.
She went inside his study, where it was dark except for the hole at the top of the dome where the crescent was exposed.
The emerald floors and walls reflected finely with the soft touch of the moonlight. Sigille stood for a moment, regretting not spending more time in her husband's study, where she found out only recently that she enjoyed its warmth.
After a few moments of gaining her strength, Sigille went towards the cabinet, and as she opened it, the cabinet was emptied. Sigille was taken aback, her eyes wide open.
"What on earth…" She exclaimed.
She stood up, opening up all the other cabinets, only seeing half-torn parchments.
"They were here when I last—
Sigille couldn't think of who would possibly walk inside his study when Moront specifically ordered everyone to stay clear, let alone move his letters.
She looked for the parchments in every inch of his study, even in places where it would seem absurd to hide letters.
For a moment, Sigille thought of asking for Pippy to look for them, and then remembered Moront making it very clear that she would tell no one.
Sigille leaned across the table, thinking of what she would tell him, 'Moront, I went to look for them and they weren't there, 'I looked for them in the exact place you asked of me, I couldn't find them, 'someone must've gotten a hold of them Moront.' She just didn't know. She worried that they would be in the wrong hands. In that moment, Sigille knew she would be having a rough night's sleep.
"Mother." A voice echoed in Sigille's ear as she slept.
"Mother!" The Voice called again, now clearer.
Sigille moaned and groaned as she turned in her sleep.
"Mother, It's father…"
Now, Sigille heard it clear, it was Apheditie and everything went dark in her head. She opened her eyes, not able to see clearly. She froze.
"Mother…?" Apheditie called as she looked over her.
Sigille needn't hear more of the news, her husband was dead and that was the end of it.
The city bells rang throughout the day. The flag of Chessalyn was pulled down, which consisted of a half black and half white background with a chess knight in deep black standing in the middle. The people mourned as they stood outside the castle with candles in their hands and tears in their eyes.
The Arkwite's had no time for mourning, as it is tradition for the entire family of the king to attend to the funeral. This meant great planning was required on Sigille's part.
Moront's death was caused by a sudden kidney failure, Sigille was told by the Shrinks after she saw the body for the last time. She did not cry. She stood tall and strong, the way her husband always told her. After she kissed Moront's forehead goodbye, she proceeded to the throne hall and began to think. "He lived strong and long, we will celebrate his life and not mourn his death" Sigille said to her husbands council.
Although Sigille's mind was occupied, she thought of the events of last night. Who would've moved the parchments? Sigille was left clueless, yet an investigation was out of the question as her husband had warned her on the secrecy of the mission.
The council meeting took place; Sigille sat at her husbands seat at the head of the table whilst the lords made their ways forth.
Lord Tarland, Master of Law, Lord Kuentin, Head Treasurer, Lord Barrie, Master of Army, Lord Vyncent, Master of Trade. As they all descended through the council room, they bowed and took their seats.
"My deepest condolences, the king lived a great life, he will be missed amongst the kingdom." Lord Kuentin Began.
Sigille nodded and gave a hint of a smile.
"Indeed he was, Your Grace." Lord Tarland added.
The rest nodded and began to unwrap their parchments.
"My lords, your kind words are appreciated, but the king never wanted to be mourned, but celebrated, that I shall grant him. Now, We are here to discuss the matters of the ceremony. Lord Kuentin, how much can we afford?"
Kuentin looked through his parchments and began reading the numbers.
"As the crown has a few debts, the numbers are restricting, however, a ceremony in the throne hall would be affordable."
Sigille looked displeased, "My Lord, my husband is by no question the greatest king to ever live. For centuries the kings' ceremonies were held in the throne hall, my husband deserves bigger and better."
Kuentin and the rest of the lords looked at one another in query.
"Bigger, Your Grace?" Kuentin asked.
Sigille paused for a moment and looked at the others, to see if they were all as confused as the Head Treasurer.
"Yes, Lord Kuentin, a bigger ceremony than any other king. I plan on having my husband's ceremony in the Stoneberg Hill. He will be buried within a tall grave, made of white and black, the colors of House Arkwite."
Kuentin was in shock, for he knew the debts that the crown owed made her plans farther from reality.
"It's without a shadow of a doubt that King Moront's reign was magnificent and unparalleled, Your Grace, but the debts do restrict—
"The debts restrict nothing, Lord Kuentin, as money goes, money comes, I'm sure Lord Vyncent can tend to that matter. I want the arrangements made, a large tent placed upon the hill for our guests and a full service, cupbearers and handmaidens, the whole lot. I want the Master Shrink to be present and give eulogy for the king. The construction of the grave shall begin as soon as the guests depart. For the time being the king will be placed in a stoned tomb and I expect the construction to be completed in no more than a week. As for the guests, I want every Arkwite alive to attend as it is for my family." Sigille commanded.
"Yes, Your Grace." Kuentin nodded as he began making his notes.
"Will that be all, Your Grace?" Kuentin looked up.
"My Queen, the council has been discussing an important matter for quite some time now, and it is bound that the crown should go to Lucifer Arkwite, King Moront's eldest nephew." Tarland said.
"Yes, my husband and I talked about it once or twice, but whatever happened to my daughter, Apheditie, dear lord?" Sigille answered back.
"My Queen, with respects, Apheditie is a woman…"
"And under what law does the crown not permit women upon the throne?"
Tarland took out his parchment and began to read.
"Under the passing of a King—
"Lord Tarland I have no interest in hearing the entire list of laws on how men are more favored upon the throne. I have read the laws of thrones and a woman can take the crown when the passed king puts that into his will." Sigille began to raise her voice.
The lords looked at one another once again.
"Yes, my Queen that is correct, however King Moront did not leave a will…" Tarland explained.
Sigille was taken aback, and looked at all of the lords.
"No will? That cannot be possible…"
"My Queen, we assure you when we came to ask the king upon his illness he made it very clear that he does not have a will nor does he intend on writing one." Lord Vyncent explained.
"No, no, that's not possible. It's not like him to not write one…"
They all gave her time to process the information.
Sigille couldn't quite put her finger on what was bothering her, either it was the fact that the crown would leave her side of the family or that Moront did not tell her of his intentions of not writing a will to give the throne for his daughter.
Rules are rules; my dear and one cannot break them, Moront used to say. Sigille could not bear the idea of having the throne snatched away from her; she knew there had to be a way around it.
"Lord Tarland, you were very much trusted by the king and I, it is your duty to look after our family." She said whilst slightly moving forward from her chair.
"I would give my life for this family, Your Grace, but it is the subject of law that one cannot pick sides on…" Tarland said.
"My daughter is the rightful heir to the throne, I don't care about your book of men. Blood is blood and Lucifer is not the rightful heir." She hissed.
"But Your Grace—
"You will do what is possible to make sure Apheditie sits on the throne for I will not have a stranger whom has no interest with this family come rummaging and taking what's ours!"
"No! I have said what is needed, I will speak of this no more." Sigille commanded. "Are there any more issues to cover that do not require a usurper slithering his way onto the throne?" Just before anyone could speak, Sigille has brought the council meeting to an end. "Right, it's settled then. Good day, gentlemen." She stood up first as did they after and she led the way out of the council room.
Sigille walked quickly to the drawing room where she took her thoughts. Whilst so much was going through her mind, The letters, the passing of her husband, a funeral and now a nephew whom never had a relationship with his uncle or his family is expected to take the crown; this was something she could not tolerate. Athaena was the person she could talk to and would agree with her.
She eyed Pippy walking across the door and she stopped her immediately.
"Pippy, I need Athaena at once!" She called.
"She's not inside her chambers, My Queen…"
Sigille huffed, "Then bloody go fetch her wherever she is!"
It was as if the whole world had turned against Sigille and she was left alone. In some ironic way, she was.
Minutes later, Sigille and Athaena sat in the drawing room whilst the queen knitted harshly.
"I cannot believe after more than two decades serving this family, Tarland so easily is willing to give up the crown to Lucifer." She moaned.
"You have every right to be angry mother—
"Of course I have every right, I am the queen." She snapped.
"Father just passed, maybe once my cousins arrive we could talk—
"You poor, poor, soul. You think Lucifer would give the time to talk with you? You don't know him the way your father and I knew him. He's a heartless man, Athaena. There is no one in this earth I pity more than his wife, such a gentle woman, devoured by the beast of a man…Lucifer."
Athaena looked down completely at a loss of words.
"Don't you think he could've changed?" She tried to bring balance to the argument.
Sigille left her knitting on the side and held her daughters' hands.
"Athaena, you remember going to your uncle Barberous's castle do you?"
"And how many times did you see your cousin, Lucifer whilst you were there?" Sigille paused to allow Athaena to think.
"Once… perhaps." She said, unsure of herself.
Her mother nodded, and let go of her hands.
"Your cousin never set foot in this castle in his life and now he thinks he's getting the throne he'll put on an act and pretend to be concerned. When in reality, the only person he cares for is himself." Sigille snapped.
"Mother, take a breathe. I'm sure Lord Tarland will find something to use on Apheditie's behalf." She assured her mother.
Sigille took a breath and sat back, closing her aged eyes.
"Tarland is all we have… if he deserts us, I warn you now, you might as well leave the castle and go to Qerxia following Aethur."
Athaena had to rethink about what she just heard for she lived in this castle all her life, and suddenly the idea of leaving was something so foreign to her.
"Maybe Apheditie has an idea on this matter?" She suggested.
Sigille looked at her, laughing beneath her breath.
"Apheditie never understood the laws of thrones, she wasted her time with books and nonsense, as have you. If you girls would've listened…" Sigille snapped once again.
Athaena did not look at her mother in the eye, and she just twisted her fingers.
"I have failed this family, your father, my family…" She said looking down.
"No, mother, don't go to that path. You did everything but fail us."
Sigille disregarded that and continued, "Anything on Veinus? Was she told of her father? When will she come?"
Athaena looked down once again, "I don't know mother, Aethur is keeping up with that."
She nodded and stood up, taking a stroll along the room, looking at the paintings of the old and new.
The next day, Sigille sat upon her husbands throne as the Lords presented her with the news of the ceremony and the funding.
She and Lord Kuentin sat for many hours, discussing her requirements in full detail. She then met with the Master Shrink and went over his eulogy, as she did the same for her grandson, Tirus.
"I need you to speak loud and clear, with confidence and power." She was heard telling him. She concentrated on his posture and walk so that he would be on his best on the day of the ceremony.
In the late afternoon she moved to the council room where she and her long serving advisor, Melyssa, who stood with Sigille all throughout the day, reading the guest list.
The Garthummes, Dasanleds and Myrinias were amongst the many noble houses attending.
"The cousins?" Sigille asked anxiously.
"Yes, My Queen, they sent out a letter just last night." Melyssa replied.
Sigille looked displeased and made sure it was clear that she had no pleasure in seeing Lucifer Arkwite.
"House Qurzur will be sending Aminmal, the king's youngest aunt, for the stead of the presence of King Dustin and Queen Veinus."
Sigille stopped Melyssa before she could continue.
"Excuse me, Aminmal is to the stead of whom?" She said whilst rage was simmering though her blood.
Melyssa was fearful.
"Aminmal will replace the stead of King Dustin and Queen—
Sigille suddenly pushed the table forward and stood up, causing the parchments to fall to the ground, leaving Melyssa in a shocking state.
"How dare she disrespect me and her father?" She shouted.
Almost immediately, Sigille was left in tears and went to the ground amongst the parchments.
"My queen!" Melyssa quickly went down to her aid.
Sigille sobbed into Melyssa's arms.
"You saw me raise those children with all my power, Melyssa. After so many years this is what becomes of me and my family?" She whimpered.
"Yes, Yes, I was there since the beginning Your Grace. You couldn't have been a better mother, that I am sure of."
The two elderly women sat on the floor of the empty council room, with no one else to turn to.
"Would you like me to postpone the ceremony, You Grace?" Melyssa said whilst hugging Sigille.
She took time to recover then let go of her advisor and wiped her tears.
"No, we needn't postpone anything Melyssa. I shall do my duties... as I always have done."
They both got up with the support of each other.
"Trust is something that you cannot find these days, Melyssa. Those men don't care for us, all that matters is their reputation and their titles." Sigille sniffed.
"That I can agree with, Your Grace." Melyssa said while picking up the parchments. "Men are as useful as a fish out of water, these days."
Sigille laughed, as did her friend and advisor.
"You've always been a loyal friend to me, Melyssa." She smiled.
"You saved me from the streets many decades ago, Your Grace, for I am grateful."
In that slight moment, Sigille remembered the first time she laid eyes upon Melyssa. It was a few months after Moront was crowned king, years before The War of All Wars, and she was lifted into the streets of Ussurya when Melyssa tripped upon the steps and fell before the new queen. She spoke clearly, not showing signs of misfortune in her tone. That, Sigille liked. She asked her to stand and present her name and where she came from. Melyssa claimed to have been from the neighboring lands of Aganthe, serving a former merchant as a slave until she escaped a fortnight before. Sigille was sympathetic towards her and asked her to be brought back to the castle of the grey where she will serve as her handmaiden. As the years passed, Melyssa proved to have shared the same beliefs that Sigille had and they fostered a friendship that would last for many years to come. It was during the war, when many servants fled, Melyssa, however, stood by and swore to protect the queen at all times, Sigille named her Queen's Advisor once the war was over.