Rei lay in an unsettled sleep, her thoughts creating a dull ache at the back of her skull. She had been processing the same thoughts over and over. The news of her sister’s death had reached her not an hour after Rian had been discovered – fiddling with his young sister Idelisa. At first it seemed that Milena had been unwilling to tell Rei, fearful that she may refuse to marry into a family after such a shameful act. But Maiolaine’s discovery explained a lot in Rei’s eyes. Idelisa was not at all like her sister Viera, who was bright and inquisitive and spoke very freely. Instead, Idelisa was withdrawn and shy, possibly as a result of long term abuse, but then – Rei could not be certain. She had seen that kind of thing before, with her half sister Siara, who even as a babe doted on their otherwise occupied father. Whereas Siara’s twin brother Teithi, struggled noticeably with his speech and had anxiety, that was often triggered by the broody presence of the king. Of course Conri had never abused his children physically, but not all abuse could be identified by bruises or scars.
The angry wind raged outside, and Rei could not help but wake to the sound. Winter had arrived and was announcing its coming without mercy, and the chilly air chomped at the flesh like spider bites. She lay still for several moments, reminiscing of poor Eirian. If she ever had a daughter, Rei told herself, she would name her for her lost sister. Restlessness creeped upon her, and Rei slid out from beneath the warm covers of her bed. Her feet touched the wood floor below, and a wave of relief came over her; there was something safe about solid ground. She missed her mother, but she missed Felyx more. Perhaps she would write to him, and invite him to meet Lucan – though she imagined her suitor would not be too impressed with more ‘competition’. Rei would see him in spring, anyhow. She assumed that like all the previous years, her father would send for her at the beginning of spring. He had made it a custom for his children to return to their birthplace in the spring, even the children who now lived in manors with their mother’s and troops of servants at their call. Although, she would be married by then, and a small part of her wondered if her father would even care for her once she did not carry his name.
Something in the pit of her stomach told her that no matter how her father saw her, she would always be the most favoured princess of the people. Her mother was always reassuring her, despite her multitude of siblings, Rei was the idolized child of the rightful queen. There had once been a time when the people had called her heir to the throne. But that life was behind her now, and in a sense it was a great weight taken off her shoulders. The only part that truly burdened her heart was losing close ties such as Felyx and Geraint – even though they would not be so far away, and she could write to them often, she was sad that Felyx would never again sweep her away into a private meadow and tell her wicked tales. And Geraint would never smile at her while he was on duty, never sneak her treats when her nurse wasn’t looking, never scold her for failing to hold her head high. All her memories of her childhood seemed to revolve around those boys. Men, she corrected herself. One day soon Geraint would inherit his father’s title, and Felyx too would come into his fortune and both would be busy going on with their lives, perhaps not even thinking of her.
Maybe her mother had planned this all, knowing that sending her away would shift her view and ties with her friends. Maybe this was Reina’s way of telling her it was time to stop being a girl, that she was a woman now, and there was pain and regret to be felt. With a heavy sigh, Rei wiped at the single tear gliding over her cheek.