She followed the procession, her body stiff and erect within the litter. Her blue eyes were of an icy glaze, gazing unseeing out at the thousands of bowed heads lining the road. It was impossible; they had travelled this road only a year before, a merry party taking the crown prince and his bride to their own province. Yet here she was, cloaked within layers of black velvet, her skin as cold and clammy as her dead husband’s. She fingered the ornate gold band on her left hand, trying desperately to recall the heat of his palms as they cupped hers not so long ago. It was useless; the once gleaming band lay dull and cold on her finger, as dull and cold as the bitter Norwyn weather outside.
Rows upon rows of peasants lined the muddy road to watch their beloved prince pass, bowing their heads as his coffin rolled by. It was too soon; this was Frederick the king-to-be who would never get to sit upon the throne. They offered blessings upon the deceased prince, and still many more gave their words to his grieving widow.
“God bless you, Princess,” said one woman, her eyes downcast in respect as the princess’s litter rolled by.
The teenage princess inclined her head gracefully, still not trusting herself to move too much. She was full to the seams of broken glass, of this desolation and the knowledge that her heart would never be whole again. The litter rolled on down the road, travelling slowly towards the cathedral where the young prince would be buried. The weather was as miserable as the procession themselves, with gray clouds overhead and a bone-chilling wind. The princess pulled her fur wrap more tightly around herself, feeling as though she was standing naked on the coldest cliff top even with the many layers around her. She thought she would never be warm again, now that the bright blaze of her love and passion was dead. She felt the very absence of him, of his laughter as he rode out in front of the travelling party, and of his tender words as he inquired after her. She felt the grief as only a young girl could feel: the rawness of the wound her husband left behind and the absolute conviction that her life was over.
Still, she carried on, her head held high like a true queen and her face serene as though a tornado was not raging within her. She would carry on, walking alone if needed be, because she had promise him. She had promised that she will live, not only for herself but for both of them. And she will. For she was Princess Catalina of Wilderose, and she never went back on a promise.