Evan left Fae in the threshold of the servant’s entrance and threw over his shoulder that the family was to take a carriage ride around their kingdom, to celebrate the new marriage.

“You’re free to join,” he said, arms open. Something in his tone said otherwise.

“You go on now,” Fae said, trying to smile. It's my father's kingdom, not yours. "I'll join you all for dinner."

Evan didn't try to hide his proud smile as he sauntered up the stairs. Fae did the same after she was sure he was gone -- and locked her room's door for good measure. When she heard the surrounding gates open, she immediately went to the window and watched as her father's carriage, pulled by six great horses, made its way out of the gate and down the road, toward town. Perhaps this was Louise's idea -- parading her new, sick husband around town when he should be resting, despite any sort of protest. Her cries would fall on deaf ears anyways; Evan and Louise didn’t care to hear her out, and Benjamin was far too sick to even speak to. When she tried to converse with him before he fell asleep, his attendants would shoo her away. And even so, she felt as if she’d cried and begged enough in last few months. Nothing would soothe the ache. Her father’s life was being brutally cut short, all in the name of a greedy want of wealth and throne, and no one would listen.

Hours later, after the sun went down and the temperature plummeted, Fae emerged from the safety of the room, stepping out from her prison on nimble toes, scuttling along the halls and corridors, dodging windows that framed the grey evening fog and old delicate portraits of long dead kings, till she found her father’s great office. The oak-laden double doors were – thank Gods – unguarded. There were no voices emitting from within. He was alone.

As quietly but as firmly as she could, Fae tapped on the door, frightened that the sound might alert a wandering guard. From behind the door, she heard a gravelly voice reply, “Come in.”

She entered quickly and shut the door behind her. When she turned to face her father, her heart stuttered in her chest. In the hours that she had not seen him since the morning’s wedding, it seemed like Benjamin fought a thousand wars, lived a thousand lives. His blue-eyed gaze met hers from behind his desk, but his mind was somewhere far off. There were horrid black bags under his eyes and his formerly chiseled face was sunken. Fae felt her throat thicken with tears.

The edges of Benjamin’s mouth upturned into a small smile. “Gemma. My love, you’re here.”

Gemma. That was her mother’s name, not her own. The woman named Gemma was not like Louise; Gemma was lovely and fair-haired and had a beautiful smile and a kind heart and never did any wrong. Gemma was a wonderful Queen and the people of the land loved her greatly. But she’d been dead and gone for half of Fae’s seventeen years. Surely, nobody remembered good Queen Gemma anymore. The citizens had better things to do than to remember a dead woman, and Louise had all of Gemma’s artifacts – her scrapbooks, baby photos, albums, clothes – thrown out. She wanted no trace of the former Queen in her halls, in her corridors, in her castle. Fae often wondered how long it would be until Louise threw her out.

Fae felt her hands and voice begin to tremble. “Mother is dead, Father. She’s been dead for nearly nine years, you know that.”

Benjamin laughed; though it was weak, it was the most beautiful sound Fae had heard. It’s been so long since her father had shown any sort of jovial mood. A moment later, she saw him rise from his seat to stand in front of her. Another smile came to his face as he put his once-strong hands – now weak and tired -- on his daughter’s shoulders.

“You look like her, you know,” he said. His words prompted Fae to suddenly wrap her arms and around his waist. He froze for a moment, then his hands found her back and squeezed. It was comforting to know that, despite the months of sickness and loneliness, her father was still there, somehow. Maybe she had a chance to save him.

“Father, don’t leave me,” Fae sobbed into her father’s chest. “Please don’t leave me.”

“I’ll never leave you, Fae,” he said, pressing a kiss to the top of her fair-head. The gesture felt cold. “I won’t.” She knew it was a lie. He’d leave her in many ways – forget about her, listen to Louise and have her thrown into a convent or somewhere cold and horrid, die. It pained her to think of it.

“Father?” she said as he left her and went to sit in his favorite chair. He looked up at her and she froze, wondering if it’s a good idea to tell him her suspicions, be them true or not. She pursed her parched mouth and began, speaking softly, “I think Louise means to kill you.”

His brow furrowed in confusion.

"Father," Fae said again. "Your condition --"

"Oh," he groaned.

"-- is of no organic means!" Fae said, throwing a look at the door, which remained closed. "This isn't a sickness that medicine can cure!"

Benjamin laughed weakly. “Just a all...”

“Father, you must believe me,” Fae said. “Such onset is unheard of! No one could be in such condition as you in such short a time.”

"I've had worse," Benjamin protested.


He shook his head, and suddenly looked tired. “Oh, Fae—” But before he can continue, a violent coughing spree overtook him. He put a hand to his mouth and coughed some more, his pale face suddenly red, veins in his forehead bulging. When he pulled his fingers from his mouth, the digits were red. He raised his bloodshot eyes to look at his daughter for a moment before collapsing on the carpeted floors.

Fae screamed.