Prophecy Story Index
Floating on These Tears
Her long legs crossed at the ankles as she sat on ground, Rhian leaned against the fountain's low stone wall. Behind her, water trickled quietly on the rocks, cascading in gentle waterfalls into the pool beneath the overhang. Sunlight streamed over the topmost branches of the tree rising to one side of the fountain, landing on her bare feet. She smiled a little and wiggled her toes in the warmth. A few songbirds twittered at each other and in the distance she could hear the quiet laughter of children.
The gentle sounds made a pleasant counterpoint to the cacophony of emotions and feelings and thoughts in Rhian's mind. Her smile faded and she leaned her head back, resting it and staring up at the tree. She could remember the day she and Seyna planted the tree, both of them kneeling in the dirt like young girls, uncaring of the stains they were creating on their clothes and ignoring the protests of Seyna's family. Seyna had been the middle child of five and the oldest daughter. However, she had outlived all her siblings, and currently her nephew, Cedric, ruled. Rhian made a face. Cedric was a stodgy man with fat fingers, who had little imagination and no liking of foreigners, especially ones with strange yellow-green eyes. He only put up with Rhian because Seyna was his aunt and a former queen as well.
Rhian closed her eyes as a slow tear wound its way down her cheek as the still-new pain struck again.
Seyna was gone.
No longer did she have a friend, a confidante, a companion. After nearly forty years of being only a room away, of talking and laughing and crying together, of sharing music and literature, of simply being there for each other in their unique solitudes, it felt...wrong. So very, very wrong.
Two nights earlier...
The music woke her.
Blinking a few times, Rhian rolled onto her back and squinted into the darkness of her room. Outside her partially closed door, she could hear the soft familiar notes of the Hileaén Waltz. One of Helv's first gifts to Seyna upon returning to Bornath was a delicate music box that played the Bornathian tune. The song had been a favorite of the couple's and it was played at least once at every official and unofficial gathering during their time together in Bornath. It was one of the few things Seyna had brought back with her to Rillanda.
Rising from bed, Rhian pulled on her warm robe and slowly opened the door to her room, peering into the sitting room of the large adjoining suite that she and Seyna shared. Two tall fat candles sitting on a low table gave a flickering light to one corner of the room where Seyna, also wrapped in a warm robe, sat curled up in the large window seat, staring out into the dark night. The open music box rested on the seat near her feet. Her long gray hair was loose and tumbled down over her shoulders in soft waves. One of Seyna's hands pressed against the window and Rhian could see the reflected light of the stars glistening off her eyes.
"Seyna?" Rhian asked quietly, unsure if she should break the quiet moment.
Slowly turning her head, Seyna smiled. "Rhian, my apologies. I didn't mean to disturb your rest."
"That's okay." She stepped away from the door. "Is everything all right?"
Seyna returned her gaze to the window. "I woke up and wanted to watch the moon set. Helv and I did that sometimes, especially when we would travel up to the highland country. It's beautiful up there." She stretched out a hand towards Rhian. "Join me?"
Rhian did so, sitting across from Seyna on the padded window seat. Glancing out the window, she could see the top sliver of the moon disappearing beneath the horizon. The night was clear and the stars shone brightly. From their second-floor window, she could see most of the palace courtyard, especially the fountain as the water glimmered with starlight.
Rhian blinked. "What is finished?"
Seyna sighed as the moon finally vanished and then looked over at her. "The painting. I finished it this morning." She gestured to the wall behind her and Rhian abruptly noticed the largish object leaning against the wall in the half-shadows.
"May I see it?" Rhian knew that Seyna had been working on a painting of herself and Helv for the past year or so, but she'd never seen any of the sketches or the painting as Seyna worked on it. Seyna dipped her head in acknowledgment and shifted in her seat to watch as Rhian carefully picked up the portrait, bringing it closer to the dim candelight.
The rich colors and tiny details of the painting spoke of the love that had gone into the work. Rhian could almost feel the moment as she stared at the portrait. A tall, somewhat large man stood in what Rhian recognized as the throne room of the Crystal Palace. A long fur-tipped dark red robe hung from his frame, sweeping across the floor, and a heavy gold crown rested on his brow. His eyes were fixed upon the young woman curtseying in front of him. Wearing a formal silver and green gown of Rillandan royalty, her long blonde hair held back from her face with a silver circlet, it took only moments for Rhian to recognize a young Seyna.
"This was when you first met." Rhian stated, not really asking but wanting to be sure.
"Yes. Helv had come to Rillanda simply as an ambassadorial visit. He wasn't looking for a queen," Seyna said softly. Rhian looked over at her, seeing her eyes on the painting, but really dwelling in the past. "He told me later that his council was preparing to choose a queen for him upon his return and that he had accepted it as a matter of necessity. But when we met..." She smiled. "Bornathian poets turned our simple meeting into the end of Helv's years-long search for a bride, but it really wasn't like that. It just happened. We just knew. My parents protested, but I was of age and I was in love." Her eyes closed and she relaxed further back into the seat. "We had a good life."
Rhian set the painting down and shifted closer on the seat to Seyna, touching her hand. "Are you sure you're all right?"
Seyna nodded without opening her eyes. "I'm just tired." A few quiet moments passed, interspersed with tinkling notes from the music box as it slowed down. Then Seyna took a deep breath and opened her eyes again. "Play for me?"
"Certainly." She retrieved her small Ysindran harp from its protective case across the room, then resettled on the window seat next to Seyna. "What would you like me to play?"
"Can you play the waltz?" Seyna drew the music box closer to her and rewound it. "With the music box?"
"Of course." Rhian did a quick check on the strings, waited for the waltz to begin again, then joined in, playing a soft harmony and sometimes melody with the quiet tune.
Seyna rested her head carefully against Rhian's shoulder. "Hmm...thank you. You're a good friend."
Rhian continued to play, altering the notes she chose each time to give the song variance but still remain true to the melody. Halfway through a third round of the song, Seyna's head grew heavier against her and Rhian thought she'd fallen asleep. She finished out the waltz, then set aside her harp to give her attention to Seyna and getting her back into her bed. It was only as she touched Seyna's face and realized no breath came from her that Rhian knew she had died, going peacefully into the neverending sleep, surrounded by her friend, the music, the starlight, and the memories of her love.
The music box played on, accompanied only by Rhian's tears.
Blinking away the wetness in her eyes, Rhian scrubbed at her cheeks, pushing away the strands of graying dark auburn hair that clung to her face. She had always known deep down that she would outlive Seyna, but to have it happen so soon, so unexpectedly.... Staring up at the overhanging tree branches, she wondered again what she would do. Staying at the Crystal Palace wasn't an option. She knew she wasn't welcome and she was unsure whether she would stay even if she was. Neither could she return to Ysindra or even to Bornath. She was already prepared to leave. Seyna's Rillandan funeral had been early that morning; her body was to be transported back to Bornath to be buried next to her husband per her request.
Rhian had to chuckle a little at the extensive letters Seyna had left behind. They detailed everything she wished to be done, including the upkeep of the courtyard; the founding of the Ancestor Hall, beginning with her portrait of herself and Helv; and a firm suggestion to the nobility to become more open and accepting of others into Rillanda's somewhat closed world. There was also a letter addressed privately to Rhian, one she'd read and left stained with her tears. Words from that letter now jumped out at her from her memory.
Rhian, my dearest friend, how I know you must be hurting. My one true regret is that I am leaving you alone. I know it has been difficult for you to find acceptance among so many. The children, I know, adore you and your stories, but only until their parents whisper unkindnesses in their ears. Please know that not all of Rillanda is like this.
My wish for you is that you go beyond these palace walls and see my real home, the land I missed during my years in Bornath. Visit the mountain towns and villages, the fishing ports, all the special places that the nobility miss so often. Make friends. Create a new life for yourself. Find joy. Take your harp, your music, and most especially, your words and tales of your dreams with you. They must not be lost. Find a worthy soul whom you can trust. While your prophecy remains hidden within the misleadings of myth and half-truths of history in the royal library under my name, surely there must be someone who can be given the true words and safeguard them until the time comes when all is to fulfilled.
Rhian rested a hand on the traveling bag next to her. In it, among clothes, a second set of shoes, an ample amount of money left to her by Seyna, lay hidden several journals, filled with her foreseeings and dreams and words that she had been given over the years of her life, beginning during her childhood in Ysindra and continuing through her time in Bornath and in Rillanda. She and Seyna had talked many times about what to do with the journals to make sure they were kept safe for the future. A trusted student had seemed to be the only answer.
She stood and carefully strapped her harp case to her back, securing it for travel. Then, gathering her traveling bag and placing it over her shoulder, she stood for a moment longer, eyes closed as she wished Seyna a final goodbye, then left the courtyard for the last time. She took a seldom-used hallway through the palace and wound up at a side entrance. Rhian smiled congenially at the guards and strode through the gates into the bright sunlight, hearing Seyna's final words in her letter as she began her search for a place where she could belong, where she could find a new life, a new home.
Be at peace, Rhian, friend of my heart. Live with joy. Love. And be well.
- The End -
Prophecy Story Index