Reina watched her daughter wearily through squinted eyes. Nyssa had arrived without speaking a word, and taken a seat at Reina’s insistence. She had ordered everyone from the room, including the doting physicians. She wheezed as she lay on her back, occasionally coughing up the thick fluid flooding her lungs. She despised dying. Though many still refused to label it as simply as she did, the king had to her surprise, bluntly refused to imply that she would not recover. He had surprised her so much in those last days, though she had a suspicion he was more reluctant to admit that time had caught up with not only his queen, but himself. She had watched him from afar, in his younger days as he sought the comfort of brewed liquids and long nights of illicit love affairs. His ways had hindered him though he would never admit it. He was a king, but no less a man than any other.
“What happens now?”
Nyssa broke the silence with a dead stare, her gaze halted on the papers before them. The king had signed them to release Nyssa from his ownership, so that she could be married and not sold. It was a pleasant thought to know that at that moment, when he scribbled his name, he had made Nyssa a free woman. And now Reina was here, asking her last living child to sign it away. In Reina’s defence, Nyssa would be saved from a lot of hardships by being married, but Reina knew that there was no love involved in the equation.
“You will be known as Lady Nyssa, wife of Sir Geraint Peredur.” She mumbled, “I know this isn’t what you imagined for yourself.”
“It’s funny you know,” her daughter smiled at her. “I never really imagined anything for myself. My whole life I never thought to live this long, I suppose I just never had any motivation.”
“Don’t say that,” Reina snapped.
She was out of breath already, and she sensed her daughter could tell.
“I’m sorry,” Nyssa said sadly. “I suppose I shouldn’t argue my duty as a princess.”
Reina wanted to cry, but she feared she didn’t have the energy. She didn’t have the heart to say that the release contract Conri signed firmly stated that all rights of paternal heritage were pronounced annulled. She knew that her eldest child had been lucky, holding little doubt about forfeiting her royal title to marry the man she loved. While Nyssa seemed almost indifferent to her selected spouse.
“Geraint is a good man,” she whispered.
Nyssa smiled at her once again, “He is. But I’m afraid he will never see me as anything more than a girl, a child that he is responsible for.”
“You’re so young,” Reina smiled a little. “If there is one piece of wisdom I can leave you with it is the truth that all men, irrelevant of their station and philosophy, are weak in the hands of love.”
Her daughter sat quiet for a moment, before looking to her eagerly. “What does love feel like?”
Reina closed her eyes, letting the question sink in and listening to the thoughts it provoked.
She took a deep breath, “It is the feeling of losing everything,” she said. “And gaining so much more.”