Bathalzar glared down at the crying nurse maids. They all wept and wined loudly, hurting his ears. How dare they? After all, none hurt so badly as the king and queen. After all, though he would never admit it, none hurt so badly as himself.
Bathalzar made a face as another nurse joined the others, the news of the triplets’ deaths just now reaching her. He left the room and went in search of June, who seemed to have dropped off the face of the castle. Who he found, was Queen Hesti.
“Hesti....” he said. Hesti jumped, as if stung by a bee. She whipped around, and then sighed when she spotted Bathalzar.
“Bathalzar... you’re back...” she said, looking all sorts of anxious.
“I heard... Piter told me... a message was sent... plants...” the usually calm and collected Bathalzar Ulric Theodore Ugry couldn’t find his words, “the... the triplets....”
Hesti put a hand on his shoulder, “Yes....”
Bathalzar made a face, “If... If I hadn’t been away... If I had been with them....”
“There was nothing you could have done,” Hesti said, secretly not believing her own words. She’d be saying a lot of things she secretly did not mean today. The triplets are dead.... I don’t know where June is.... All of these lies were necessary. Every lie that escaped her lips was for the good of the people... for her three-year-old children....
All the same, she felt bad for lying to Bathalzar. She knew his true feelings. Though he pretended to not care, she knew he loved her babies like they were his own. If she didn’t know better (and she did know better) she would have thought that he was their real father. Bathalzar’s stone face may fool the others, but Hesti could see the pain and desire to cry behind the stony mask. Though not by magic, Hesti still considered this her gift.
Bathalzar hung his head in shame, though his eyes remained defiant. That was the way Bathalzar was. Hesti wrapped her arms around him and held the man close.
“You want to cry?” she asked, knowing the answer she would get, and the true answer.
“No.” Which meant ‘yes’. Hesti gave him a squeeze. He pulled away from her.
“Where is June?” The question Hesti was dreading from him. Anyone else could ask it, and she wouldn’t even bat an eyelash to tell them that she disappeared.
“I...” she paused, thinking of the woman who ran out of the castle, crying, and holding Hesti’s son and daughter to her chest... not to mention the third child. Pi had come to her asking where his sister and brother were. Hesti’s shock had been obvious. When his parents were killed, he, his sister, and his brother had been saved. Hesti knew where the boy was... but the girl? What had become of Bethany Cleary?
“I say... where is June?”
Hesti snapped out of her daydream... or nightmare.
“I don’t know,” she said, a sharp pain wrapping itself around her heart, “I don’t know....” Bathalzar’s face fell.
“Why does everyone say that? First the triplets and now... what if... what if...?” his words died at the tip of his tongue. It was clear by the look on his face that he feared... nearly knew... the worst. The look of a husband who had lost his wife to a quick, unforeseen dagger crossed his face. Hesti wanted to take back her words, to tell him that June was fine, to tell him that Erec and...
But she couldn’t. She couldn’t tell him anything. She held back her words of comfort, and walked passed him.
“I’m sure she will turn up,” Hesti told him, avoiding his gaze, and not meaning what she said. If all went well... he would not see June or any of the triplets for a very long time... perhaps for twenty years... of thirty.... But now, Hesti had to prepare for a little disappearing act of her own.... She would fake her own death.
Bathalzar stood stalk still. June was the triplets’ nursemaid. She took care of them.... Did that mean.... What happened to the triplets? What happened to June? Was June... also... dead?
Bathalzar wanted to puke. He couldn’t loose June, too. He felt like he’d been stabbed in the back... or the heart.
Piter watched his best friend from the sidelines, not daring to go any closer. What could he say? Hesti was confident that June could protect his boy and girl... but what of the other boy? And what if June failed? Piter trusted her, but he also could not shake the feeling of dread. He’d made a mistake. A terrible mistake. And his son would pay for it. He wanted to literally rip out his own heart, but what would happen then? Alypium would fall into chaos. His heart ached with guilt, and the desire to hold his babies in his arms once more. Piter vowed that Baskiana would not get away with this. He would have his children back, and if Baskiana hurt a hair on any of their heads, he would kill him with his bare hands.
“Piter?” choked a teary voice behind him. Piter turned to see Posey sniffling behind him. Bathalzar looked up, too. He walked over to Piter and Posey. Posey wrapped her arms around her brother, and Bathalzar put his hand on Piter’s back.
“Th-the babies...” Posey cried, “I-I c-c-can’t believe it.... Th-they’re g-gone.... B-but... b-but....” Piter caressed her back. Posey cried into his shoulder blade. With her niece dead... who would take her throne when her time came? She was oh-so-very-fond of the curly headed blonde. She had rocked the baby to sleep, taken her swimming (with water wings, of course), and treated her like one of her own children. She’d loved the little girl... and now she was gone. So where her darling brothers. She’d loved them as well. She had expected great things from Erec most of all. She supposed now any hope of any great things from him were gone.... Dead children can’t do anything.
All of this was unknown to a small baby boy sleeping in the apartment of a friend of June’s, all the way in Upper Earth. What happened to his sister and the other child remained a mystery to him. June cried nearby. Her life wasn’t going the way she planned at all. Her friend tried to comfort her, but she didn’t have a clue what was wrong. June’s life had become a mess within the span of one seemingly innocent night. The baby boy, Erec, dreamt... or rather “nightmare-d”... about a memory that was not his. He made fussy noises and cried in his sleep, but his nightmare was nothing compared to what truly happened to him. June wondered... weather he’d see anyone connected to his real identity again. She wondered the same... for herself.
Chaos began... on a starry, clear night.