May – 1004 YD
A young Princess Régan pulled open her door and poked a head into the hallway. Clear!
__She slipped through the crack, careful not to open it past the creaking point, and leapt forward on the balls of her feet, silent as a cat.
__Lanterns lit the way and she soon reached her parents’ chamber. A small servant door was concealed nearby, which she entered, feeling along the dark passage and coming through a tapestry into the chamber itself.
The Custodin and Consort slept soundly in their bed. Régan held her breath, searching—where would he put it?—searching—did Mother just move? There!
__The golden circlet, Màtac’s crown, rested on a shelf by the bed. She crouched to the floor and crawled toward it, keeping well below the bed line. Her father turned in his sleep, away from her; Régan’s heart pounded; she seized the moment to take the crown, crawling to the safety of the tapestry, and hastened down the hall.
__She approached the mammoth doors of the Great Hall. Quickly checking behind her, and taking a breath of strength, she grasped one of the large brass handles and pushed with all her seven-year-old might.
__The door gave way, its hinges cracking loudly in protest. She froze, releasing the door; the noise had ricochetted along the hall. Perhaps she should return to bed. Right now, in case he woke up.
__But the Golden Throne shone in the moonlight, resplendent upon its dais. She squeezed through the gap in the door, unable to resist its allure, gliding along the great carpets. She came to the platform and pulled herself up. The golden frame of the throne was cold. Its cushion was hard, and cold also. Checking behind her again, she butted a knee on the edge, and bounced onto the seat.
__The Great Hall seemed all the more impressive from the throne, its windows facing it directly. Two stained-glass arches lit the space, their images of Lenyol’s emergence and a coronation unclear at this late hour. Anyone standing before the throne would be dwarfed slightly, elevated by several feet as it was. She examined the crown, tingling with excitement. It was as smooth as air, though far too large for her; and yet she placed it on her head. Beaming.
__She imagined people coming to seek her advice in their troubles, including the proud nobles and their ilk; the downtrodden arriving to beg of her generosity; all kinds coming with special requests; and countless others bringing myriad pieces of their lives, hopes, and grievances to lay before the Throne. They would all begin by telling her she was wise, and fair, and beautiful…
__‘You scheming little reprobate!’
__Without warning, a hand locked onto her wrist and tore her from the throne, crown tumbling to the platform. She saw her father, face darkened with rage, and flailed against his grip while he wrenched her into the air; she barely knew what was happening before his hand bore down on her hip, thighs, back, and lower abdomen, while she twisted in space, trying to break free. Each blow stung like a plume of pinpricks. Her elbow and underarm burnt terribly. She tried to whimper, protest, or beg, but was too stretched and pained to conjure proper sounds.
__Having taken the edge from his anger, he dropped her to the ground, where she curled into a weeping ball.
__‘Pick it up.’
__She couldn’t think, doused in stinging and heat.
__Màtac commanded: ‘Pick it up, and return it to me.’
__The circlet—she looked to see it a few feet away. She crawled over, collecting it with her good arm, and lifted herself to her knees.
__‘Your crown, Your Majesty. I simply wished to—’ she clamped her teeth along her inner cheeks and lip to restrain the burgeoning sob. ‘I simply wished to borrow it.’
__Màtac took it from her. ‘You desire it for yourself.’
__‘No, Father. Your Majesty.’
__‘I know your mother sings your praises, but there is darkness in you. A conniving selfishness, and avarice. I will cling to life to keep it from you.’
__Régan began to cry in earnest.
__‘Stop your keening and get back to your chamber. Now!’
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