Everything was as it always had been. Soldiers bowed before her, she was addressed as ‘My Lady’ or ‘Your Ladyship’, she wore fine dresses, ate fine meals, and slept in a fine bed.
In her room, no luxury had been spared, that much was obvious. Guilt crept into her heart at the thought of Keiran lying in his own cold, hard bed. He probably hated her now. She probably wouldn’t blame him if he did. She deserved all the hate she got.
Exhausted, she curled up into a tiny ball, the sheets twisted uncomfortably around her legs. It was the middle of the night. No sound came from any part of the manor save for the distant shouts and songs of the soldiers outside.
Wet tears leaked from her eyes, rolling sideways down her face.
She hadn’t cried in a long time - not since her father died. And now she found herself crying not just over Keiran, but over all those wasted years when she had not allowed herself to be free. She had shackled herself to expectation, bought slavery with her heart and soul. No face, however perfect, is beautiful if there is no light behind the eyes, no flush in the cheeks, no smile in the arch of the eyebrows.
How could she have been so blind?
But Keiran had loved her anyway. He’d seen the light when she’d not even known of its existence. And how did she reward his faith and love? With lies and betrayal. And desertion.
And she knew she’d done the wrong thing. The wrong thing for her, the wrong thing for Keiran. He was right - what would this war achieve other than great bloodshed and sorrow? If the people didn’t care who ruled them, why should she? Why should she sacrifice everything to do something no one even cared about?
That day out riding - the hunger, the desire, the lust that had shone from his eyes.
His accusation of Quigley - the brutality of those soldiers as they destroyed Quigley’s beautiful books.
Annesdale’s family - the two young golden-haired children, laughing and playing asany young ones do, and their mother: quiet, kind and beautiful.
And the wise King Roald - forever quietly advising, forever proud, forever right. And now for ever dead.
It’s too late. Innocents have already been harmed. The best they can hope for is to stop more bloodshed.
Sometimes you have to choose the lesser of two evils. And she truly believed this was it.