I breathed slowly and tried to look at my bleeding hands more closely. I smelled blood all over myself. Everything was too confusing and hard to process. A lot has happened in the last few hours.
I tore some fabric from my sleeves using my mouth. I slowly staggered across the cold, snowy ground towards the little fire I had made. My body was aching a lot, and I knew my feet were not good enough to walk. After inspecting my hand in the light, I cleaned the wounds on my forearm. I fetched the canteen hanging from my waist and spilled open the rum on the blood oozing cracks of my skin. Some of the cuts were pretty deep.
I bit the insides of my mouth as I tried not to scream in pain. As far as I know, the soldiers would be looking for me everywhere.
I tied up the fabric around my wounds and tried to warm myself with the fire. I took a sip of what was left of the rum. The burning taste hit me immediately.
I couldn’t help but think about my father. He had a vision for me. He was my greatest supporter.
The first queen of Kasiira, he would say.
Was it something I dreamed of?
It was the only dream I ever had. I closed my eyes tightly and laid on the ground. Maybe I will freeze to death. I smiled a little thinking about it.
Most people think that death is something scary and unspeakable. But I never understood why. Life has no meaning without death. We would never have the drive to accomplish so many things if we didn’t know we were on a deadline.
Death is so beautiful. Death makes life more interesting.
Death makes us live more and thrive more.
I chuckled to myself as I thought about my impending death. There must be a bounty on my head by now.
I would rather die all alone in the middle of the forest with no one by my side.
I want you to know this. Being the queen is not something easy, my father said looking inside my eyes deeply. I was just twelve years old. I tried to look tough and stern.
You have to put the greater good before your personal wants and needs. You belong to the kingdom just as much as the kingdom belongs to you, he said.
My lips parted as the realization dawned upon me. It was true.
Don’t limit your options like a mere citizen. For the kingdom, you shall go beyond the limit!
His words echoed in my head.
I did go beyond the limit.
I slowly opened my eyes as I saw the pine tree leaves trying to cover the night sky. But it was a failed attempt. Seeing the twinkle of the stars made me feel at home. I grew up all alone in the palace. My maid used to tell me everything was temporary. The kingdom, the people, the values, and the customs. But the earth, the sky, the moon, and the stars will always be there with us.
That’s when I started to look up at the night sky for comfort. Those little twinkling stars were all that mattered.
The rum and the pain made me drowsy and I didn’t know if I will ever wake up if I sleep.
I slowly opened my eyes. The fire was still burning just a little.
I couldn’t immediately recognize the voice.
I tried to lift my body up by balancing my right hand on the floor. It was the one that was least hurting. I sat up after a moment and turned around to see who it was.
“Who is it?”, I called out loud.
Why did you do it?
I slowly recognized the voice. It was him, my husband.
I gulped slowly and tried to blink my eyes as fast as I could.
There was a rustling noise and I tried to find out the source of the sound.
I know I was not scared but was I ashamed? Yes.
The rustling noise increased slowly and my heart was pounding with anxiety. But it was just a hare hopping around. Or so I thought for a moment. Because then I saw him. A man.
He was at a great distance. I could see his dark shadow figure at a distance and he did look as tall as my husband. He was wearing a hat and his jacket fell to his ankle. It appeared like he was just standing there in silence.
I couldn’t help but cry.
I couldn’t see his face. But I knew it was him.
Maybe god took pity on me by hiding his face in the darkness. Because I knew it would break my heart if I saw his innocent face. What did I do to deserve someone like him?
I started to whimper and cry.
Why did you do it?
I looked at him and shook my head slowly.
“I had to.”
“I HAD TO!”
“I HAD TO!”
“I HAD TO!”
I buried my face in my palms and cried.
You are a coward.
I stopped crying slowly and looked at the man standing.
“I am no coward.” I hissed.
You know you are!
“You are not my husband at all. He would never call me a coward. Who are you? “I asked.
That’s when his face became visible. It was my father. I could barely breathe.
I woke up immediately and looked around and it was already bright midday. I was still laying on the ground and the fire was long burned out. It looked like, I had slept through the night and most of the morning. The sunlight was not too bright thanks to the tall trees and the cold weather. I was so hungry and tired. The dry mouth made it painful for me to grunt as I tried to sit up.
I know I must have had frostbite here and there. I tried to grab my water canteen- only to fail miserably. My hand was stiff and I couldn’t reach it.
I cried. I couldn’t stop my tears. The tears flowing down my chin burning my skin here and there made me realize I had wounds on my face as well.
Why didn’t I die in my sleep?
It would have been better.
I remembered my father’s face from the dream.
I stifled a cry as I didn’t want to scream out loud.
I did what I had to do.
It was like my father said. For my kingdom, my people, I would always go beyond the limit.
My husband was just a general when I first met him. But then we fell in love over the time we spent during the Battle of Rockfort. My father blessed us and we got married. I thought everything was perfect.
I had an amazing father who was the greatest light of the kingdom. I had a loving husband who was brave and kind. But then my father passed away owing to illness and I was crowned. I became the Queen of Kasiira. As my first act as the Queen, I formed new commissions. These commissions were to improve the livelihood of laborers, education of women, and most importantly for improving our medicines.
I knew I would never once think about anything before my kingdom. But things turned around after a while. I heard rumors which made me question the reality. Nevertheless, I chose to ignore them. My ministers were telling me that, my husband’s popularity was on the rise for all the good deeds I did. They looked up to him as their King when I was their rightful Queen.
I didn’t believe it at first. But then came the Annual fest of summer where the King or Queen is honored and asked to light the lamp to start the fest. Both my husband and I went to the fest in the royal chariot. We were both welcomed with people cheering and throwing flowers and garlands at us.
Everything was going well.
But the priest of the high temple chose to give the candle to my husband to light the lamp. He walked right past me. That moment stirred something inside me. The inexplainable hate and anger spewed inside me. But in a moment my husband turned to me and gave the candle.
‘The Queen!’ he said out loud as he raised his fist. I fell in love with him all over again.
I didn’t see anyone else. I didn’t care.
I walked confidently towards the lamp and lit it.
Maybe if I had somehow died at that moment, I would have died happily.
The hunger was unbearable. I grabbed the water canteen after so many failed attempts. I quickly opened the lid and tried to take a gulp. But to add to my misery, it was empty.
My mouth was so dry and my lips were aching. My throat hurt as I swallowed my saliva. I decided there was no use sitting around in the middle of the forest. There was nowhere I could seek refuge. I know I had to leave the country in order to stay alive. But I wasn’t up for it.
But not going anywhere is no help either. So I slowly tried to get up and walk out of there. To my surprise, I did get up after a minute or two. But then I heard loud footsteps. It was the soldiers and they were running towards me. I could see some of them. I know there was no use trying to outrun them.
So I stood there, as they surrounded me.
I was waiting in the underground cell. It smelled like piss and crap. I had already vomited once. But I still felt a gag reflex once a few minutes.
Even after the Annual fest of summer, my spies reported to me how the people still looked up to my husband as their leader and not me. But this time I also found out they were heavily influenced by some of the priests and traders. These priests and traders simply didn’t want to answer to a woman. They didn’t want to bow down to one. My husband was an innocent pawn in their game. I know he had no intention of overthrowing me. I know he was not the one after power. But for some reason, I did feel angry at him as well.
He was just a general. He had no birthright. He was not guided by someone like my father to be the better ruler.
I had everything. But they still want someone else because I was a woman.
With the passing of time, my anger towards my husband and the kingdom was becoming obvious. The worry in his face every time I snapped at him was painful. But I couldn’t control myself.
Then came the Gratitude day- the auspicious day where the ministers, priests, traders are respected for their service to the country. That day everything went downhill. It was a week ago. I had a bad feeling about it and I knew something was up.
All the ministers, priests, and traders decided to form a commission. It was a special power they had on Gratitude day. They can form a commission and discuss a particular topic. That day they decided to evaluate their Queen and her ruling. I wanted to stop the commission from even happening. But I know it won’t stop them. They will use it to spread hatred towards me and my reign.
At the end of the commission, they decided I was incompetent and called my husband a better ruler. They had no power to replace me. I was their Queen. But this decision of theirs was enough to cause all chaos in our kingdom. There was unrest everywhere. I wanted to stop it and address the people on my own. Calling the commission a joke was my first line. But the loyal henchmen of the priests and traders decided to attack me with stones and clubs. Though most of them were controlled by my soldiers some of them got through.
I was hurt and bleeding. But that was not painful. At least not as painful as the betrayal was. I came back to the palace in fury. My husband was waiting for me. I knew what was the problem. They had an option. That made people restless. What if they had no option?
I looked at my husband in pain. A tear escaped my eyes. I loved him. But for my Kasirra, there is no limit I won’t cross.
“Hey, it will be okay soon. I believe in you” he said.
He caressed my face as he tried to hug me. I hugged him one last time. As he released me from the hug, he smiled. I didn’t hesitate. I stabbed him deep with my sword. He gasped as he looked down at the sword.
I whimpered and said, “I love you, but I have to do this for Kasiira!”
I expected something like this in return.
HOW COULD YOU?
But he was awfully calm and he said nothing. As he descended down, I knelt down by his side embracing him.
I cried my heart out and shook my head.
He smiled at me and wiped my tears.
I was out of my reverie by the sound of the soldiers thrashing the thieves in the next cell. I still couldn’t understand why he smiled.
If he had cussed at me or showed some form of anger, it would have been easier. But he did nothing but smile.
I was standing in front of the crowd ready to be executed. The people seemed ferocious and they kept throwing their half-eaten fruits, and other disgusting things at me. All kinds of garbage came at me. All I could think of was my father and my husband. I have failed them both.
There was a commotion and someone rushed to the judge after dashing through the soldiers. It was my husband’s right-hand man Matthias.
He had a few scrolls and letters in his hand. I don’t remember exactly what happened after that. Because it was a lot to process.
All I can say is my husband knew the solution to my problem. He made himself the villain so I would be the savior of the Kasiira. He became the traitor of the kingdom and my act of killing him became heroism.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that everything was solved immediately. But it was a start. My husband knew something would happen. So he made arrangements to make me the hero in the eyes of my people. He was not afraid of sacrificing his life for me.
I will forever regret what I did. It wasn’t right. It will be my burden for life.
Every story needs a villain. When the misogynistic priests and traders wanted to make me the villain, my husband decided to step in. And for that, I am eternally grateful. I will ensure his sacrifice doesn’t go in vain.
Because he was never the villain in my story.