"Your diagnosis, Hemmings?" prodded the King with bored impatience.
The elderly man jumped at the stern apprehension of the ruler's tone. He fumbled with the equipment at hand as he hurried to gather a cohesive answer."This is all so very odd. It seems as if she has relapsed into severe fever at this time, but I fear I am not sure of much else. We will have to wait for her reaction to my treatments to see the true nature and severity of whatever illness she has contracted." He looked about to the royal family members, the three prominent men in the chamber. "If I may be allowed to inquire, Your Highnesses...may I?"
"Go on, go on."
"Oh, good. Thank you much, Your Majesty," Hemmings bobbed his head in quick, anxious nods. He peered from beneath the thin prisms of his glasses."Has any one of you noticed strange behavior from her? Possible symptoms of her impending illness? Surely this seems out of nowhere to me."
Alezander looked to his sister thoughtfully. She sweat fitfully, and yet her cheeks were deathly colorless. She slept silently, as if no longer living.
As the family remained unanswering, a young maid stepped from the backround. The girl held her head modestly low and remained hidden behind a mask of fallen hair. "Pardon me," she said in a whisper. "I have witnessed unusal behavior from Her Grace that has given me suspect."
"And you are?" said the King accusingly.
She clearly appeared as if she wanted to disappear right then. "Pardon me, Your Majesty. I am Emerly, a handmaid of Princess Nara."
"And what have you seen, dear girl?" prodded the doctor a little more gently.
She squirmed anxiously, turning a worried eye at her slumbering mistress. "She would certainly not like me to tell you, Sir."
"It is for her betterment. Please understand this, Emerly," Hemmings pressed.
"Her vision," answered the girl in a rush of admission. "She saw less and less with each passing day. She told this to no one, but we all could tell. She was not her usual herself. She eats very little. She did not touch her breakfast this morning. She feels routinely sick. Her skin was cold when I dressed her today and she grows thinner and thinner. She has always refused the doctors because she did not want to think herself ill." Distressed, she involuntarily held herself. "She was a very private person."
Alezander frowned. His father promptly excused himself as he suddenly decided on an untimely departure. He grumbled roughly something about useless women and their fragility. The doctor sighed with relief, murmuring a gracious thanks to young Emerly.
Daniel pulled a chair at Nara's beside and quietly took her hand in a show of brotherly affection. Approaching, Alezander put his own hand on his shoulder in support.
"She'll come out of this. She is very strong," murmured the older.
He shrugged off Alezander's hand and turned in his seat. The anger on Daniel's face surprised him. "How can you say any of that? How can you so easily pretent to care? You and father care nothing about this family. No one cared when Mother died. You don't miss her. You won't miss Nara when she's gone, and you won't miss me either." His eyes squinted like a poison snake. "What about Raena? We both know how you used her. All your life you have only cared about yourself. It has always been about you. Poor you. Loathing your perfect life as the center of everything."
Daniel then stood up abruptly and stormed from the room, carelessly slamming the door behind him. Alezander was stunned blank. His hand dropped listlessly at his side. He did not notice the doctor, the handmaids backed in the corners of the room standing awestricken by the prince's sudden argument.
Alezander collapsed in his brother's chair, miserable. He looked helplessly to Nara, who remained unmoving.
Is Daniel right?