Katherine looked exhaustedly at the door which had just shut in front of her. She knew better than to go back in there and consul Terrya, but she rested her hand at the door, her heart feeling miserable for saying such things to her.
Sighing, Katherine turned and began heading downstairs but stopped when one of the attendants turned into the corridor, carrying an envelope.
“Oh, good morning Your Majesty,” the young boy bowed courteously. “How are you this morning?”
“I will admit I’ve been better,” Katherine replied tiredly, gesturing for the boy to stop bowing before her eyes caught the letter again. “Who is that for?”
“Oh,” the attendant looked down to it as if it was nothing. “It’s a letter for Queen Terrya. It’s come all the way from the south coast. It’s marked private.”
Katherine nodded. “Very well, just slide it under her door for now. Terrya’s not in the best mood.”
“Oh,” the boy’s voice deflated. “I see. Well, have a good day, Your Majesty.”
Katherine nodded with a smile as they went their separate ways. Something scratched at the back of Katherine’s brain about that boy. She wasn’t sure what is was, but something seemed familiar. Well he was a member of the Palace attendants.
After strolling through the halls, Katherine came to enter the royal lounge; a wide, open room with high ceilings held up by great marble pillars.
Further in, part of the large wall was removed to offer a view of the private garden. Only members of the royal family were permitted to enter the lounge, and so the same applied to the garden. A large tree shaded the room from the majority of the sun’s rays, but a few pinpricks of sunlight were still able to enter through the branches.
On the tiled floors in the centre of the room were three long lounge sofas that surrounded the fireplace, accompanied by Shards’ favourite armchair. Meanwhile, the opposite side of the room from the garden was home to a miniature kitchen; Strawberries – pride and joy – along with a doorway to the wine cellar.
Three others were already in the lounge; Strawberries sat at the kitchen bench, reading the city’s leading newspaper, while Abigail and Angel sat on the lounges discussing most likely the wedding.
“Good morning Katherine,” Angel said with a smile, her eyes shining through her black-rimmed glasses. Katherine replied with a smile as she hugged Angel while the others looked on.
“Morning Angel,” Katherine replied, the events of earlier evident in her voice. “Straw, could you get me something for this headache?”
“I’ll make you some tea,” Strawberries said, nodding before getting off her stool and heading for the cupboard.
“What’s the matter,” Abigail asked from the lounge, the concern on her face matching Angel’s.
“It’s nothing,” Katherine waved it off while taking a seat at the bench. “I just tried to talk Terrya out of this ‘phase’ she’s in.”
Understanding played over everyone’s faces. “And I take it you lost your temper with her,” Straw responded, handing Katherine her coffee mug.
“No,” Katherine shook her head before taking a long sip of tea. “Quite the opposite; I tried to talk her out of it and instead of avoiding the point like she does in a group, she exploded at me.” The other three looked at the Queen with surprise written on their faces.
“Seriously,” Strawberries asked.
“Yeah, she yelled at me as I would at anyone else.”
“Well, did you yell back,” Angel asked, leaning against the bench.
“I would have, but this was Terrya we are talking about, Terrya, the quietest out of us three queens. I was shocked beyond words.”
“Well it is a painful wound you opened up Katherine,” Abigail spoke up, taking Terrya’s side.
“I know,” Katherine replied, turning to face the Princess. “And I didn’t do it to spite her. I’m just saddened that she won’t open up to anyone about this, even among us, her own family.”
Angel rested her hand on Katherine’s shoulder. “We would do the same if we were in your position, Katherine. But we need to let Terrya heal by herself for now. The best thing for us to do is be there for her when she needs us.”
A quiet stillness filled the lounge before a burning smell wafted through. Starwberries’ eyes went wide in alarm at the scent.
“My scones,” she nearly yelled as she rushed over to the oven. Abigail now joined Katherine and Angel at the bench as Straw brought a tray out of the oven, the scones now a darkened shade of brown.
“Oh Straw,” Angel said, a sympathetic look on her face. “We must have distracted you. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry too Straw,” Katherine chimed in. “I’ll help you make new ones if you want.”
“Yeah,” Abigail added. “Let’s make it up to you.”
The convoy slowed to a trot after a twenty minute gallop. Riku looked back behind him to find the outskirts of the capital were barely visible, the Palace long since passing out of sight. The shadows cast by the setting sun grew long over the grassy plains, the trees providing temporary relief from the glare.
Seeing a hand waving from the carriage, Riku rolled his eyes as he pulled on the reins of his horse, letting the carriage catch up. Grinning through the window was Nikz, while Midnight looked on with uncertainty on her face.
“Hey Riku,” Nikz said cheerfully. “I was just wondering-” Riku interrupted her by holding his hand up.
“Nikz, princess or not, if you ask are we there yet once more I will turn this convoy around.” And before Nikz could release one more witty comment, Riku galloped back towards the front of the procession.
“Don’t you think you’re annoying him a little too much,” Midnight asked.
“Don’t be such a worry wart Midnight,” Nikz replied with her grin still intact. “Riku needs to learn how to relax anyway.” Midnight nodded before letting the concern wash away from her face.
“So,” Midnight went on. “Which Royal is in charge of Authos again?”
Nikz looked back out of her window, her hand coming to rest on her chin while in thought.
“I think its Duchess Stone, with Sir Cassie helping her manage the garrison.”
“Oh, that’s good,” Midnight said with a smile. “We haven’t seen Stone for ages, not since the last Grand festival.”
Niks recalled the day well; the confetti fluttering down through the sky, the happy faces of the commoners, and all members of the Royal family there to celebrate the founding of the capital city of Astraea.
But the smile quickly diminished when Nikz remembered the one family member who ran away from it all, and hasn’t been heard from since.