Chapter 41 - You Killed My Father, Except I Don't Actually Know That So Here We Are
Carter took a deep breath.
On a small plot of land, still within the walls of the city, but just at the edges, they had cleared away space for Blackfield's grave. They'd taken a few days to make arrangements. Blackfield had already had many things arranged for his inevitable death, but it still ended up taking most people by surprise.
They'd waited a few days before announcing it to the city, and before sending out news to the rest of the kingdom. They needed time to put things in order and Eliza needed time to grieve before the eyes of the world were on her.
Now, the city knew. And soon, the rest of the kingdom would know too. There would be a time for grieving, but a new king was to be crowned soon. Their kingdom had the most power and influence in the world, and that had to be secured. The longer they stayed without someone on the throne the longer they would be vulnerable.
The king had made his wishes clear, in the last few words he'd written down in his will.
The snow was falling again, coming down in tiny little snowflakes, light, and non-threatening. There was a large stone tablet that Blackfield's stone coffin sat upon, heavy and grey, with his face engraved on the front, as a depiction of his youth - when he once appeared strong, regal, and intimidating. When his beard was full and his skin was free of sunspots and sagging.
Around his face there were carvings of his wife, who passed long ago, and Eliza. There were horses, riding off into the sunset, and armies depicted as victorious, glorious conquerors. The artist who had been commissioned to create the piece had artfully, and poetically, tried to tell Blackfield's life story.
Which, of course, meant looking over all of the failures, and all of the sufferings he caused.
Carter stood in front of the monument of stone, where Blackfield had been laid to rest. Eliza was beside him, dressed in all black. Dark, thick fur lined her hat, her mittens, and the collar of her cloak, which hung over her shoulders and just barely hovered over the snow. Carter had exchanged his armor for a dark winter coat, but nothing quite as glamorous. Until tomorrow, he was still a soldier.
Eliza set a bouquet of red roses atop the coffin, leaving the offering of red as a harsh contrast to the grey and white around them. The tips of the petals were already beginning to frost as they sat against the cold stone.
Eliza let out a deep breath.
"I read his will a dozen times," she said.
And every time, she was denied her inheritance.
"I always knew he favored you over me," she continued. "But I guess now I know for sure. Even as his only child I was never his favorite. It was always someone else."
Carter reached out to her shoulder.
"I'm so sorry it happened this way," he said softly.
Eliza glanced at him and looked away. He could hear her sniff, quietly, before she stood up straight and faced him.
"No. This is better," she said, sounding both sad, and a little bitter. "Everyone trusts you. All the soldiers. All the guilds. They'd follow you anywhere. I would have to fight just to gain respect. Over, and over, and over. It would be exhausting..."
She looked down at the coffin and sighed.
"Besides. This is what he wanted."
Carter took in a deep breath and looked out at the snowy expanse around them. At the hedge of trees circling them, and the group of officials and guild leaders behind them, standing a respectful distance away as the princess and the king-to-be had a quiet moment with the former King Blackfield.
He could see his parents in the crowd, exchanging solemn and quiet words out of polite obligation with others around them. All of this was to keep up appearances.
Blackfield had been a charismatic and influential leader in his prime, and even in his later years, was able to rally people around his cause and inspire loyalty and conviction in his followers. In his kingdom. In his people.
But it had all been for selfish reasons.
Eliza only knew the versions of the stories that Blackfield told her, and those were the only stories anyone heard these days. The story the mages told, the side that lost the war, and the side that was in hiding, was one that no one knew yet.
And yet, despite Blackfield being painted like a hero, Eliza had still been a victim of his bias, and Carter knew that though she loved him, she didn't romanticize his history of violence and hatred.
Carter pulled his hand away from her shoulder and looked her in the eyes.
"You deserve to have a say in what happens with your people. I would like you by my side, Eliza. Will you trust me?"
He held out his hand for her to take.
Eliza met his eyes, and then she looked down at his hand thoughtfully. Slowly, she reached out to take it, and they shook hands firmly.
"I trust you," she said.
Carter smiled sadly - no more than was appropriate at a funeral, but just enough for Eliza to know he was there to support her.
He was glad to have her on his side. For tomorrow, he would be crowned king.
The End (For Now)
Awaiting Book 2