A young woman sat on a throne with her head in her hands. How did it come to this? Everything was right. Everything was as it should be. The kingdom had existed in its current form for a thousand years. Why had it all gone wrong on her watch? She had done everything she was taught to do. She had done everything asked of her, but it hadn’t been enough. Now she was surrounded by anger, destruction, and utter chaos.
“My queen, I think it’s time,” said a low voice quietly.
The young queen looked up. She had been so distracted, she not even heard or sensed her protector come into the room.
“My son,” she choked out. “Alastair…”
“The young prince is ready to go, and the king is in his chambers. He might take some convincing.”
Queen Agatha still couldn’t wrap her mind around the reality the kingdom was facing. Surely something else could be done. Things couldn’t be as bad as they seemed.
“You are sure, Alicio? There really is no hope?”
Alicio took a deep breath and moved closer to his queen. Taking her hand kindly, he said, “The people are too far gone. They believe these supposed ancient ones are the way. The folk of the kingdom have already been worked up into believing they need to revolt. The followers of the ancient ones will come into the castle to take what they believe is theirs. They cannot be stopped by our forces. Half of our forces are already believing this new way, whatever it is. I cannot protect you by myself. You aren’t safe here. You need to leave.”
Queen Agatha gave out a cry of despair. “Is there any use? Where can we go? Should we not just accept our fate? What good am I if I am not doing what I was born and trained to do? What good am I if I am not the queen to my people?”
“One day this will be made right. One day the world will make sense again. I don’t know when. It could be a long time, but one day it will be as it should. Your family line must go on. You must leave and protect Prince Von. If you can get the king to go with you, do, but if not, you will have to make a hard choice, my queen.”
“Leave Alastair? I can’t, Alicio, you know that.”
“Convince him then, trick him, do what you need to do, but you must leave with the prince. You must get somewhere safe.” Alicio got down on one knee, looking at Queen Agatha in her eyes. “I have watched over you since you were born. You have grown into a strong young woman. The blood of every ruler over the past thousand years runs in your veins. You are strong, and you are brave. You will do what you must do to survive. Not just for yourself, not just for your son, but for the kingdom. Do you understand me?”
The Queen nodded. “I will go to Alastair first. I will convince him there is no hope. If it takes enchantment, then so be it. I vowed I would never do it, but whoever thought it would come to a time like this. We will leave tonight. You will come with us, Alicio, you and Elma.”
“But your majesty, you must go undetected. You must not draw attention to yourself.”
Queen Agatha smiled gently, squeezing Alicio’s hand. “You forget that your line is important as well. How can anything be made right without the Line of Protectors. Our magic can shield us enough to get us out. Your protections will help us get far from the city. We will have to split up eventually, but all of us must leave tonight.”
Queen Agatha stood, and brushed out her skirts.
“Be ready in an hour, Alicio. Meet me at the back door of the kitchens. You and Elma must be dressed discreetly. That is a command, and you will obey me. I will take no arguments. Give whatever orders you need, disband your forces if you must, but you will leave with us.”
Alicio nodded. “Yes, my queen.”
The queen rushed from the room.
No more than an hour later, under the cover of the approaching darkness, four figures holding a small bundle disappeared off the cliff behind the castle. If one of them stopped once to look back, no one saw it.