Rhea had barely registered what had woken her before she was already up out of her bed, blade gleaming in one hand. As the grogginess washed away she remembered the faint sound of broken ceramic that came from the Sovereign's chambers. Another false alarm, she decided, but she quickly hurried out the door and into the corridor.
Glancing to her right she gave a start when she saw a black-haired man disappear hurriedly around a corner. Her heart sank and her body tensed. Where is Rahim off to?
The wide doors to the Sovereign's quarters lay directly across the hall, one left slightly ajar. Gingerly, Rhea pushed it open the rest of the way and stepped inside. The antechamber was dark and silent, but from further inside Rhea could make out the sound of soft sobbing.
Rhea ran, making her way swiftly into The Sovereign's bedchamber. "Adonia?" The Sovereign sat on the floor with her torso collapsed over the end of her bed, her shoulders shaking. Rhea's breath caught when she saw the blood that stained the Sovereign's gown. She turned on her heel and dashed back out into the hall and shouted for the guards.
The first guard to appear was a lanky man, blue eyes wide and startled. "Fetch The Sovereign's physician," Rhea ordered him before he could speak. She turned back without another glance- it was as if a gravitational pull was urging Rhea back to Adonia- and returned to the Sovereign's bedchamber. She kneeled next to Adonia and laid a hand on her shoulder. '
"Adonia, what happened?:" Adonia shook her head, refusing to answer. She kept her eyes squeezed shut.
With a growl Rhea remembered Rahim darting away. She rose just as the physician came running in, a servant trailing behind her with a tray of bandages and whatever else may be needed. She moved past them without a word. She was met by more guards when she came out into the hall, each giving Rhea worried or questioning looks. "Find Rahim. He is to be brought back here at all costs," she said. They were quick to comply, heading off toward the palace entrance on hasty feet.
When they were out of sight Rhea fell back tiredly against the wall. Why would he do this? she had always trusted Rahim to keep Adonia safe in the night when Rhea could not be there to watch over her. It had never crossed her mind that he could be the one to hurt her. But why? She clenched her fists until her fingernails dug into her palms. She wanted to throw her knuckles into the wall. He will have to answer to me when he is returned here, and then he will wish a pack of wild dogs had gotten him instead.
Once she was calm again she let out a deep breath and walked back to Adonia's bedchamber. The physician was finishing stitching the gash in Adonia's side as Rhea came in. "How is she?" she asked in a cool voice, hiding the worry that wanted to form a lump in her throat.
"Some days' rest will do her well," the plump woman said as she took a roll of white bandages from her attendant.
Adonia's eyes were closed now and sleep made her face serene again, but tears still clung to her skin. But for how long will those stay? Rhea wondered.
The woman followed Rhea's gaze with a brief glance and seemed to read her mind. "I don't know what I can do about that," she said as she began to wrap the wound in bandages. "It was her husband wasn't it? I'm sure. I don't know what sleep can do to heal that pain, but it can ease her for now." She finished with the bandages and looked at Rhea with a sort sigh. "But the physical damage will heal without much hassle so long as it is kept clean."
Rhea nodded solemnly. "Thank you, Adda."
"My honor." The physician pressed her palm to her heart with a small tilt of her head. "I will return in a few hours to check on her, but for now sleep is the surest medicine." She strode from the room, golden braid swinging behind her as her assistant snatched up their supplies and hurried out after her.
Rhea stood for a moment shifting from one foot to the other. She was not sure what to do now, after all of this. She decided she would wait at the entrance of the palace for the guards to bring Rahim to her, but just as she turned to leave, Adonia stirred. "Rhea?"
She hesitated, keeping her exterior cool. "You should be asleep."
"I know that," Adonia sighed, but her eyes said that sleep would not return so soon.
Rhea let her exterior break and kneeled down at Adonia's bedside. "I'm sorry," she said, her blue eyes softening with sadness. "I didn't protect you. I failed you. You should have chosen another as you body guard."
"Nonsense." There was a brief sharpness in Adonia's eyes. "I did not choose you only because you are my friend, Rhea. There was nothing you or any other could have done to prevent that." Her voice grew softer as she spoke and tears began to form in the corners of her eyes.
"I'll make him pay for doing this to you." Rhea's shoulders sagged, but there was an edge to her voice. "The guards should be returning with him at any moment."
"No." Adonia shifted slightly where she lay, and the tears spilled over, but her voice was firm and even. "Let him go wherever he wishes."
Rhea bristled. "Let him go? How can you say that?"
"Call off any search for him that you have sent out."
Rhea's shoulders shook with silent rage. "I cannot let him-"
"You will do as I say." The sharpness was back in Adonia's eyes.
Rhea gaped at her for a moment. Even after becoming Sovereign, Adonia had never commanded anything of her. After a moment she lowered her eyes. "As you wish."