Chapter Three

What do you mean by that?" The king's voice was steady, not hinting at the tremor growing within. He knew this day would come. when the Athanatoi would come seeking, threatening, calling. but he didn't expect it to be this soon. Dear God, he didn't want to be this soon, when he was so unprepared.

"Her." Hannah stared at him with wide eyes. She'd gone pale from the moment he'd opened his mouth and spoke his words and now she could all but feel herself suffocating, choked up by her own growing fear.

"What- but what could they want with me?" She asked, He didn't say a word, he only stared at her, his expression unreadable.

"That's enough. Hannah, you may leave us." It was the king who spoke, he managed to look steady and strong, but he could feel his fingers begin to shake, he didn't like where all this was going.

"This is about me, I'm not going anywhere. please, Don't make me leave just yet. please, papa." The king turned to her and something passed between them. There was a time when her father was her best friend, they were connected in a way only a father and daughter could be. But then the first whispers of war came five years ago, and little by little, day by day, he'd grown distant. The red-eyed immortals, had taken even that. Their relationship had evaporated.

But in that moment, in that quiet, unspoken moment of fear and vulnerability, something of their past relationship came to life. And that little something gave them both a breath of strength.

"Please papa, please let me hear this. I need to hear this. Please." He simply nodded, a lump in his throat, he ran a hand behind his and tried to swallow past the lump in his throat, before turning to Jasper.

"What do they want with my daughter?" But he felt he already knew,

"They believe she will be the end of them."

"How is a nineteen year old supposed to be the end of a whole batallion of frigging immortal beings?" It was Ànemos who spoke, and his anger was palpable, sizzling through the air, cutting across Hannah's thoughts, bringing to life a small spark of hope.

Jasper shrugged, He didn't understand it himself. But then, who exactly understood the Athànatoi?

He shrugged again, just a light movement of his shoulders. amidst the fear of doom, Hannah thought it was graceful, fluid. And annoying.

"Why have you come jasper? Simply to warn? Or is there more?" He looked at her, and gone was the mischievous princess, with a gleam in her eye, and he wished earnestly for her. The mischief wasn't totally gone, he knew it, but in that moment, he saw a little girl, one that was afraid, and a part of his heart, a part he didn't know was there up until that moment, broke for her, and with that was a growing need to protect her. He didn't get it, he didn't understand it at all and it all but scared the hell out of him.

" I have come to warn, to lay myself down, give my service, to offer my help."

"And how is this to be? How can you help?" He turned his gaze to the Queen and held it.

"I'll fight." He said simply.

"The Athànatoi are not men, jasper of Moline."

"No, but I'm sure they bleed." The queen watched, looking for any sign of fear, or hesitation, she found none, and so she nodded.

"Anastasia?" It was the king to his queen.

"My Lord?"

"Leave us for a moment, we need to talk. Hannah, go with your mother."

"I will come to you." He added, an act of pleading, of cajolement. The Queen looked at her husband with a calm expression, but her eyes held fire. He would regret this, he knew he would, but also knew she would obey. And when she stood and stretched out her hand toward her daughter who got up and took it, when they both walked to the door and out of the throne room, he heaved out a breath of relief.

****

Hannah walked hand in hand with her mother to her parents chambers, neither of them said a word till they got there.

"What now, mama? Why me?" She said alas, when they got to the bedroom. Queen Anastasia wrapped her arms around her daughter and held her close to her breasts.

"Nothing and no one will harm you, my child. Nothing and no one." She said, running her fingers down her hair, and pled with God to make the words true. She walked her to the bed that sat in the middle of the room, her arms still around her daughter, and both mother and daughter clung to each other, as If for dear life. The Queen hadn't wanted to cry, but she couldn't help herself as the tears came hot and steady and she found herself crying as though a dam had been burst open.

"There now, my little girl, there." Her mother's words were soothing, but they also found a way to open the dam of tears. So she stayed there, her mother's arms wrapped around her and cried, cried until she had no more strength for tears, and yet the tears still came unbidden.

"Mama, what will happen to me? If I do not give myself, what will happen to our people?" Her voice broke on each word and Anastasia's heart broke along with it.

"I do not know what will happen to our people, but know this my child, know this, nothing and no one will touch you." Hannah rose her head at her mother's words and stared at her beautiful tear streaked face.

" I wonder if that makes me a bad queen. but it is days like this that makes me not wish to be queen. when I only want to be a mother."

Hannah rose a hand and placed it on her mother's cheek, her expression instantly fierce. " you are both, and you are beautiful at both. I can only hope to be a woman like you someday."

"My child." She said, and held on to her daughter once more, her daughter's head on her breasts, and her cheek resting gently on her daughter's hair. "My precious child." If only you knew, she thought.

****

"I will journey to the island, where the Athànatoi first parted with man. there is a woman, a seer, she waits." The king measured Jasper's words before speaking.

" Why do you bother yourself with this so much? Is this patriotism or is there more?"

Jasper didn't smile, didn't smirk and didn't try to make his motives understandable.

" it is a bit of both," he simply said.

The king nodded, deciding he wouldn't force the man to explain further. Knowing he couldn't.

" I will send guards with you."

"Much appreciated, your majesty, but that won't be necessary, I travel alone." The king looked at him a moment and nodded. Forcing guards upon him would be futile.

" when do you begin your journey?"

"In a week. At Dawn."

"You will stay at the castle till then." It wasn't a question

"Thank you, your majesty."

" Ànemos, please speak to Marietta, she will take care of it."

" yes your majesty."

"You may both leave." They both bowed their heads briefly and turned to leave, leaving the king alone in his throne room, his heart heavier than he'd ever known it.

****

He walked to his bed chamber like one under a deep stupor, and opened the door to find both his wife and daughter asleep. His daughter's head was resting on his wife's breasts and his wife's arms were wrapped around their daughter, and it hit him just then, that he would do all in his power to keep them as they were. Safe.

*****

She watched him as he walked around the room, removing his crown, and then shoes, before sitting down, then running a hand down his face. He was tired, she thought to herself. And not just physically. He was Soul tired.

"What else did he say?" Queen Anastasia asked, her voice just a Little above a whisper.

" I thought you were asleep." He said, looking at her tenderly, an expression she knew so well, but was yet so unfamiliar. She liked it, and she smiled. And yet...

"I was. But don't slide over my question, Asher, what else did he say?"

"He is journeying to the island of the Athànatoi, he leaves a week from now, at Dawn." The queen gasped a bit too loudly, and felt Hannah stir above her.

"Baby?" She rubbed her eyes with her hands before staring up at her mother.

"I fell asleep."

"We both did." She nodded and turned to her father.

"You're back. Perhaps the both of you will need your room to yourselves now." She disentangled herself from her mother, and placed a kiss on her cheek. Getting up, she walked to her father, She placed a hand on his chest, bending so she could place a kiss on his cheek.

"All will be well, papa. God will help us." She said, when he turned to look at her. He squeezed her hand and rested his forehead on hers. "Amen."

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