Reina’s thoughts were with her daughters. Her fear for Eirian’s safety had only escalated after being away from the castle, unlike she’d hoped. She had wanted to join the men searching, but her age would hinder them as much as it hindered her day to day. Despite her worrisome thoughts, Reina could tell something was troubling her old friend.
“What is it, Milena?” She asked.
They sat by the warmth, as they used to, back before they had children and households to run.
Milena looked shameful, “My daughters, dear me, who am I to complain after the things you are facing with yours!”
Reina felt herself smile, as queen she had faced many woes that not just any woman could endure. “Surely you can speak to me, why are your daughters troubling you?”
Her auburn haired friend smiled a little, shaking her head. “I always worried about the generic things, good health, finding them husbands of well enough standards, but of late my fears have worsened greatly.” She sighed deeply, “The king visited last winter, Nolia was quite taken by him, I’m ashamed to say I left them alone many times and I fear the worst.”
Reina fought back the stab of jealous pain in her gut, and chose her words carefully. “What cause do you have to fear?”
“Nolia has asked to go to court, as I did, after winter.”
Reina was not sure how to respond. The King was a scoundrel when it came to women, but he was still her husband. It had been difficult to watch him take so many other women after her, not just physically but emotionally – to bring them into his house and call their children his. Yet somehow, Reina had battled through it, she had learned to love all his children, even the ones that were not her own. She could not blame those women, he was their king after all, so how by any means could she blame the daughter of her closest and oldest friend?
“Have you tried reasoning with her, maybe finding her a suitable husband in these parts?”
Melina was already shaking her head, “It’s no use. There’s no one that still practices lawful marriage.”
“I’m afraid I can’t offer much help.” Reina folded her aged hands before her on the table. “I’ve learned that once Conri has his sight set, there is no changing it.”
“That is not the only thing,” a flush appeared on her friend’s face as she struggled to continue her words. “Rionna – Rian’s twin, she – she –”
Reina reached out, taking the shaky hand of Melina, their eyes met. Twin sets of brown eyes. They’d always pretended they were sisters separated at birth, of course their other physical aspects denied this, but it was a kind dream.
“What is it?”
Melina seemed to be fighting back tears brought on by several emotions all at once, “I don’t know how it’s possible. I kept her safe, away from men, always in my sight.”
Reina nodded as if it all made sense, but the truth that dawned on her was not pleasant. “She bleeds?”
“No,” Melina shook her head again. “She’s seventeen next autumn, and she hasn’t bled for such a long time, her breasts have grown – she won’t talk to me.”
“Has she been into the forest of late? At any time, if they caught sight of her, followed her?”
“No, no, no. I made sure she was safe, home with me or her sisters.” The first tear escaped to glide easily down her cheek, “I haven’t told anyone of my suspicions. I don’t know how her father will react, he will need someone to blame.”
“Listen,” Reina said slowly. “We can sort this. Surely there’s someone. Iridia! Iridia is full of unwed knights and noble born sons, but it is imperative that we act quickly.”
Melina sniffled a little, her mind calculating the suggestion. “Janoah. Janoah Draki is my friend – she would help.”
“Draki!” Reina smiled, “They are the most esteemed family in Iridia, and I, the queen; surely no one would turn down a wealthy, high born daughter escorted by such nobility.”
Her friend was nodding, “Yes, yes, but when?”
Reina slumped back in her chair, giving in to her tired bones. “At dawn, tomorrow.”