Matteo and Anton stood either side of the double-doors, both bored out of their minds. They had been standing there for several hours, and were to stand there for several hours more. They were used to these great lengths of standing, but it was still difficult and tedious for mind and body. From where they stood, they could both see the palace garden just outside the open window, more specifically, the tops of the fruit trees.
The capital was built in a warm climate, though was not too hot. It was a place that rained often but never too heavily, and there were very rarely any droughts. The forests around the capital were healthy, green, beautiful, and thriving with wildlife. Just like within the palace gardens.
‘Oh look’ Matteo whispered, craning his head. ‘Did you see that butterfly?’
‘No, I missed it’ Anton whispered back. ‘What was it?’
‘It was a Poplar Admiral’ Matteo replied.
‘Ah’ Anton nodded. ‘They are lovely. Lovely blue…and the orange border…very pretty.’
Another hour of silence passed.
‘How’s your aunt? Anton spoke quietly.
‘She’s doing alright’ Matteo said, ‘I can’t say anything to my wife but…’ he fell silent for a few moments, Anton said nothing, waiting for him to continue. ‘She still hasn’t shut up.’
‘Who? Your wife or aunt?’
‘Well.’ Matteo chuckled quietly, ‘they’re both giving me grief.’
‘Good thing I moved away’ Anton said. ‘I don’t have to deal with such grief.’
‘You miss your family?’ Matteo turned his head towards Anton, keeping his body completely still.
‘Of course I do’ Anton replied, staring at the leaves of the trees through the window, hoping for a glimpse of another butterfly. ‘It’s just nice to get some freedom. Maybe this is sort of like having a glimpse of what its like to be um…you know…an only child.’
‘Oh yeah. I forgot you had a thousand siblings.’
‘I have seven’ Anton replied patiently. ‘All sisters’ he sighed painfully.
‘Your eldest sister is getting married isn’t she-?’
There was an abrupt sound from the room behind them, muffled through the wooden door.
Anton and Matteo became suddenly tense, eyes wide.
They both glanced to each other, then glanced to the door between them.
‘What was that?’ Anton whispered.
‘How should I know?’ Matteo hissed back.
They both looked back to the door between them, waiting, listening silently. But no more sounds came.
‘It…’ Anton spoke slowly, ‘sounded like glass…breaking’
Matteo said nothing, but continued to glare at the door.
‘Should we go in?’ Anton asked quietly.
‘Are you insane?’ Matteo snapped, though continued to keep his voice quiet.
‘I’m sorry I…’
‘Just hush’ Matteo interrupted, facing ahead again. ‘Say nothing.’
They both faced ahead again, falling back into the silent statures.
The day grew late, night came, and went, and the guards switched several times. As their shifts came to an end, different men would come to replace the ones before, and the incident with sound of breaking glass was forgotten.
However, come morning when the maid arrived to give breakfast to the queen, a shocking discovery was made.
The queen was dead. The sound of breaking glass had been her knocking over several cut-glass decanters when she collapsed, suffering from a stroke.
Her body was cold by the time it was discovered.
The news spread quickly; calls rang down the corridors of the palace.
‘The queen is dead! The queen is dead! Free the prince from the tower!’
Born to a poor family in a small town, Brunhilde grew up as an only child, her father a shoemaker, her mother a laundress. She excelled in school and grew interested in politics.
As she matured in age, she organised strikes and protests for revolutionary movements, joining political parties, and running several newspapers. A civil war followed, and she used her role to manipulate her way into a position of power, eventually becoming queen, removing, and exiling her opponents.
In her youth she wanted to make her country a better place for the working poor, eventually however she became a dictator who ruled with absolute and unwavering control, working people to death and seizing land. Millions died through starvation, not even her closest supporters were safe. She became more paranoid over the years, creating a cult of obedience around her.
She executed her enemies using The Red Army, sending others to working camps. After an assassination attempt, she became suspicious of even her own doctors. Eventually dying of a stroke, unable to receive any help as everyone was too scared to enter her room.
She was found the next morning by the maid who entered to give the queen her breakfast.
Had she received help immediately, she may have been saved. Her early death was brought on by years of an unhealthy lifestyle, but doctors were too scared to treat her for fear of being accused of trying to harm her, and so they all told her for the longest time, that her symptoms were nothing to be worried of.
Despite the atrocities she had committed in her shortened life, she was revered by many as a great ally to an even more formidable and evil force elsewhere in the world.
War was a complicated thing, and life was not so black and white.
She was a hard worker, working up to fifteen hours a day. When she drew deeply from her pipe, it meant she was in a good mood.
Brunhilde rarely slept, suffering from insomnia. She would spend many nights instead staying awake, caring for the sick animals that were bought to her. She had an animal sanctuary within her palace home, and would care for animals of all kinds. From small rodents to horses, and was unwaveringly patient towards them. She refused to eat any animal product, and loved her dog very much. Moreso it seemed, than her own children, of which she had one left.
At the end of the day, she read books on poetry, and nature, and the stars.
Brunhilde was given a grand funeral once it was all over. Her body preserved and put on display.
She looked truly magnificent, beautiful, angelic even.
As for her son, her last remaining child, he was nowhere to be found.
[END OF PROLOGUE]