Laying on the bed, I just couldn't get comfortable. After sleeping most of my life on the hard atrium ground, the bed felt too soft. I felt like I was suffocating and knew I wasn't going to be able to rest.
Getting to my feet, I heard Selene roll over and ask, "What's going on? Do you need me to go with you?" Walking out of the room, I responded, "I want to be alone," and shut the door behind me before she could answer.
I didn't know where I was going, but I needed some fresh air. I made turn after turn until, eventually, I ended up in an expansive garden. Slowly walking the path, I breathed in heavily and took in all of the fragrances. There were all sorts of flowers, but I was instantly drawn to the bright red rose bushes. I spotted a bench surrounded by them and sat down. I slowly reached out and ran a finger over a thorn and felt nothing.
All of my feelings welled up inside of me at once. I couldn't hold back my emotions anymore. I broke down and began to sob uncontrollably into my hands. I felt so alone, with no one to turn to. Everyone I knew was dead, and I couldn't even feel anymore. The only person I had was Selene, and she was obviously using me for something.
I heard the soft patter of feet through my sobbing and looked up to see a young girl staring at me with a worried expression. Reaching out, she put a small hand on mine and asked, "Are you okay, sir?" Wiping the tears from my eyes, I responded, "I've been better. These flowers remind me of a friend, but she is gone, and I really miss her."
The young girl stared at me for a moment, then reached out and picked a rose. She winced as she handed it to me and noticed a small drop of blood on her finger where she had been pricked by a thorn.
Reaching out, I gently took her hand, saying, "You've hurt yourself."
With a sweet smile, she responded, "It hurts a little, but I wanted to help you." I was caught off guard by the empathy this young girl showed me. She continued, "If you have this rose, then your friend can always be with you."
I gently took the flower from her and turned it over in my hand. I was at a loss for words. I had no idea who this little girl was, but she was trying to help me. All I could stammer out was, "Thank you," before I broke down again.
Eventually, I stopped crying and saw that the little girl was still looking at me worriedly. Giving her a brief smile, I asked, "It's getting late. Are you supposed to be out here alone?" She shook her head "no" and answered, "I am not supposed to be out here, but I heard you crying, and my mother told me that we need to help those in need."
Getting to my feet, I extended my hand to her and said, "Well, I think we should get you back to your mother. Thank you for the gift; it means a lot to me." She happily smiled at me and took my hand, leading me through the garden.
She talked to me the whole time we walked. While I had no idea what she was talking about, I was happy to listen.
As we walked holding hands, I couldn't help but smile at how happy and innocent she was. I don't know how to describe it, but I wanted to make sure that she was always this happy. Suddenly an idea hit me, and I picked up the little girl and sat her on my shoulders. She let out a squeal of delight and yelled, "Look how high I am!"
I paraded around the garden with the child on my shoulders, happy about something other than killing for the first time.
Suddenly, I heard someone running towards us and was surprised to see the Queen, who had a distraught expression on her face. When she noticed the girl on my shoulders, her face instantly changed to relief. The little girl saw the Queen and, still squealing with delight, called out, "Mother, look how high I am!"
I paused, hearing her words. The little girl on my shoulders must be the Princess.
I squatted down, allowing the Queen to pick her daughter up. Staring at her daughter, she asked sternly, "Now what did I tell you about running off on your own? It's extremely dangerous."
The little girl pouted, then replied, "But mother, he was crying, and look how happy he is now. I did just as you taught me." The Queen shifted her gaze to me and shot me a questioning look.
Smiling, I said, "Your daughter is telling the truth." Hearing this, the Queen let out a long sigh and sat down on a bench nearby, pulling her daughter onto her lap. I wasn't sure what to do, but the Queen patted the bench next to her, signaling for me to join her.
I sat next to her as she ran her fingers through her daughter's hair. The Princess smiled from the touch and fell asleep almost immediately. Without looking up from her daughter, the Queen said to me, "She is so sweet, always trying to help others. I worry that someone will take advantage of that one day." I didn't know if she was talking to herself or me, so I stayed quiet, letting her continue.
With a sad smile, she said, "Her father has so many enemies that we have to worry about. When she grows up, he will just marry her off for more power anyway." Speaking quietly to make sure I didn't wake the now sleeping child, I stated, "He doesn't seem like much of a father." Scoffing, she replied, "He isn't much of a father or a man. You saw how he acted today."
Looking at the Queen, I asked, "Why marry him then?" Letting out a long sigh, she said, "People with power get what they want. He captured my parents and had them imprisoned. The only way to free them was to marry him. He wanted a son very badly. When I had my daughter, he was so upset he didn't even acknowledge her. He has all the money, power, and women he wants, so why would he care about his daughter?"
There was so much I wanted to say, but the first thought that came to me was, "So why did you want to meet with Selene and I?" She shot me a questioning glance and said, "I never asked for your audience. It must have been my husband. When you were leaving, I found out that the lady with you was the monster. I sought you two out for help, but that was for my own reason."
I sat in silence for a moment, thinking, why would the King secretly ask to meet us, then let us go? He had to have a reason for this, but what?
I was snapped out of my thoughts by someone else approaching. Looking up, I saw Selene slowly heading our way. The Queen instinctively held her daughter tighter. I got to my feet and stood between them.
With a growl, I said, "I thought I told you to leave me alone." Putting her hands up defensively, she responded, "Easy. I've been watching for a while because something about that meeting with the King was bothering me. I came to let you know that soldiers are surrounding us, and archers will soon be on the roof."
I stared at her for a moment, trying to see if she was lying, but I couldn't figure out why she would make this up. Turning to the Queen, I said, "I assume that they are here for us, but there is a chance that they are here for you, so you had best stay with me. Don't worry, though. I promise to keep your daughter safe."
Turning to Selene, I said, "I take the archers. You get the soldiers. If anyone besides these two with me notices you in your normal form, they are not allowed to live."