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[personal profile] bronzechimera
King Aidan lay in wanting for many nights, wishing that his wife’s death was nothing more than an illusion. He clawed at the empty side of the bed, searching for her gentle lavender scent, but was met with nothing. Emptiness. Images of her grotesquely burned face haunted his dreams, and Aidan found that he woke several times during the night feverish with a mixture of fear, revulsion, and longing.

Ríonach’s death taxed her husband’s good fortune. He lay in his chamber for several days without rising, refusing to eat and only drinking when he felt he would burn from being parched.

Occasionally a messenger would come by to deliver documents to the King from Parliament, but he was not very interested in new roads or reforms, so he tossed these aside until his advisors came back demanding the bills be signed.

The future of Brigden was very dismal, and Ríonach had been a good Queen. She was a champion for the rights of Brigden’s women, oppressed under the rule of previous Kings. Queen Ríonach had liberated the people, valiantly ruling and governing them. She set up the Parliament system in Brigden, to mirror Tyran’s Parliament, and her husband King Aidan of Tyran and Brigden was a voice of the people. He traveled around the countryside talking to the peasants and assisting his wife so that they could make the best lives possible for their subjects.

But now the great King was bedridden from heartbreak, and the noble Queen lay dead under the oak outside their chamber’s window. The flowers were still there, but Aidan had ordered the mourners to leave the tree in peace. A hefty fine would be charged to those who disturbed the Queen’s grave without express permission from the King. It was a harsh rule but given the present circumstances of Aidan’s behavior, he would not eat or drink if this one thing was not observed.

Some weeks after the death of his wife, King Aidan rose from bed and took a ride across the palace grounds.

Cair Llannerch was situated on one of many rolling hills surrounded by crisp forests and pristine lochs, and King Aidan took much pleasure in riding across the landscape with Queen Ríonach. Although it was painful to return to the site of his wife’s death, where the newly-rebuilt stable stood, the King took small pleasure in the smell of fresh lumber and thatch; of the freshly-groomed horses neighing in their stalls, and he was proud to be a King in the land of Brigden.

Aidan’s horse was dapple grey and called Northern Pride. She had been very good to her King and the King to her. Northern Pride had witnessed Ríonach’s death, and comforted the King in the way that beasts comfort men. And the King comforted Northern Pride, who had been fond of Ríonach, in the way that men comfort beasts.

A particular type of wildflower grew in Aidan’s favorite field. The flowers were called astora, and were dark purple flecked with patches of white and snowy blue. Of all the things that grew in Brigden these were the most beautiful, Aidan thought. The wild astora flowers were named for one of Tyran’s Queens, Astora Woodrose, who was quite popular amongst the Brigdans for her beauty and fashion.

Where Aidan passed there was a small village tucked into the forest. He was now some hour’s ride away from the palace at Cair Llannerch. Aidan had been to this village many times before. It was called Craobh, and its citizens were friendly. The King Aidan stopped at Craobh’s Tavern for a drink.

When the King entered Craobh Tavern and lowered his hood, the entire establishment hushed and watched intently as he strode across the room and to the counter. It was not uncommon to see the King in Craobh, for the town was one of his havens and he owned a manor house on the hill that overlooked town. Usually the Queen came in tow with her husband for a round of drinks. The royalty of Brigden tried to maintain familiarity with its people. If the subjects of Brigden were not familiar with their royal family, Ríonach argued, any semblance of respect for the House of Bride would be hollow flattery and idolatry.

“Let them love us for being good,” the Queen posed, “Or hate us because they know we are truly wicked.”

When Aidan reached the bar and it became clear that he had no statement to make or anything of any importance to say, the men and women in Craobh’s Tavern began to speak once again, first in hushed tones and then more loudly until they had reached their former volume.

Aidan ordered a honey mead and settled at a table in the corner of the room.

“Excuse me,” a woman said. She wore a long cloak with several herb and spice pouches hanging from cords around her neck; she had very long black hair, which was neatly brushed and hung loose around her face.

“Yes?” the King responded. He looked up from his honey mead to study the woman in front of him.

“I do not hope to seem forward,” the woman urged, “but I would like to speak to you on private matters.”

The King raised his brow slightly.

“What kind of matters?”

“It would be best if we did not discuss them here. I am not from this region but I have heard about the Queen’s death, as all Brigdans have, so I traveled to these parts hoping to speak to you. I have heard you are a very amiable King.”

The King stood. He joined the mysterious woman and they exited the Tavern together. Soon, they strolled out into the open meadows a quarter mile from the Tavern and the center of Craobh, where the astora flowers grew.

“You must forgive me for the mysteriousness. I am the witch Seosaimhín.”

“Do you go by any other name? Are you a Druid?

“Nay, I have not known my father and my mother died when I was small. I was born in the North and have studied their magick extensively, though I am somewhat well versed in Druidic practice, I do not have the honor of being able to call myself a Druid. Are you familiar with Druidic practice?”

“I am somewhat,” the King said.

“I cast runes, amongst performing other types of divination, and feel it is my duty to warn you of the imminent collapse of Brigdan society as we know it.”

King Aidan stood very still, watching a slight breeze rock the astora gently from side-to-side. Seosaimhín was a witch, but not a fully-initiated Druid, and her word meant very little in his eyes. But he humored her, because he was the amiable King, although the importance of her prophecy was lost on him.

“Do you have the authority to stand by such a claim?”

“I have seen it, the images reoccur in my practice constantly. I see them in my dream and rune-castings. King Aidan I assure you that soon three citizens of Brigden and one citizen of Tyran will be manipulated by an organization called the Opposition to destroy their countries. One of these people will be your daughter Mairéad.”

“It is impossible,” the King insisted, growing impatient.

“I foretold your wife’s death,” Seosaimhín whispered softly.

“That means nothing to me. She is dead, and all citizens of every country from here to Saldra know of her death. You cannot tell me in hindsight that you knew my wife would die and expect me to believe you.”

“Then I shall tell you this: you will die on the sixteenth of December from a single stab wound to the heart.”

“I am not inclined to believe it,” Aidan once again insisted.

“You are by no means inclined to believe me,” Seosaimhín laughed, “But I am never wrong.”
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