by K.L. James
Zallia, the seer, is called to the palace to read the new prince's future.
|Word Count: 1585 Prompt 3
The Seers Trade
Zallia hesitated at the bottom of the stone stairs. She usually slipped through the old wooden door under the cover of night. But in the sunlight, she felt exposed. Looking up at the sky, a wispy cloud moved across the sun momentarily casting a shadow over her face. She shivered and pulled her cloak closer around her belly. Zallia did not need the warning from the spirits, she already dreaded this meeting.
Ever since the vision three months ago, Zallia had feared this summons. But she had learned from her mother that you cannot fight the fates. They always win. She had to continue. Quickly, Zallia ran up the steps before she lost her nerve. They would not kill her, they feared her too much. But they could lock her in the dungeon for the rest of her life.
When she reached the top of the steps, she took a deep breathe before ringing the bell. Zallia tried to be patient and calm, the way her mother had taught her. But she was too anxious so she fiddled with the amethyst amulet around her neck.
Finally, the door opened a crack and a maidservant ushered her in. The moment she crossed the threshold, Zallia dropped her amulet and put on an expression of mysterious disdain. She kept herself two strides behind the serving girl to remind her of her place. Zallia did not serve the royalty, they called upon her.
The bedroom chamber was bright and cheery, sunlight streaming in through the open windows and a look of triumph on the Queen’s young face. Zallia immediately noticed the infant cradled to his mother’s breast. A shudder went down her spine as she removed her hood.
“He’s alive,” the Queen squeaked. “He’s actually here.”
A tear threatened to roll out of Zallia’s eye. She knew the child’s fate without even placing her hands on him. Her vision had been clear. But how could she tell the Queen the awful truth, with so much hope radiating from her. Stepping forward, she noticed the King standing in the shadows beside the bed. Her heart stopped beating for a moment, she had not expected him to be in the room. Three months ago, she had confided part of her vision to him.
“The infant survived the birth,” the King said accusingly as Zallia reached the Queen’s side.
“Yes,” Zallia said with eyes focused on the infant and not on the King.
She reached her hands towards the boy and then stopped, hesitating.
“Go on,” the Queen urged. “The first six died before I held them, he is strong. He will be
Zallia could not help it, a couple of tears fell from her eyes onto the infant’s face. The queen’s pain felt like it was her own. Before anyone noticed, she placed her hands on the child. The world fell away and Zallia screamed into the darkness.
Everything disappeared around her but the baby. His ivory complexion was a stark contrast to the dark red crimson blood covering him. The child was calm as he stared up at the sky and his soul left his body. She could feel his sadness and confusion but no fear.
Zallia felt strong arms grabbing her and pulling her from the child. She shook her head and the grizzly scene disappeared around her. She was once again in the Queen’s chambers and the baby was safely in her arms. But the appearance of everyone had changed drastically. There were no more smiles, only looks of fear and confusion.
“What did you see, sorceress?” the Queen cried. “He’s alive, he must be king.”
Zallia cast her eyes down and shook her head. Then she felt strong arms shaking her again.
“Tell her what you saw,” the King’s commanding voice rang in her head.
Sobbing, Zallia spoke, “Hold him to your breast. Love him while he’s here. It’ll bring him peace at the end.”
“But won’t he be king?” the Queen pleaded.
“No,” Zallia whispered, then with a stronger voice. “He won’t make it a fortnight.”
The King grabbed Zallia and pulled her out of the room. He roughly pushed her into his own chamber and locked the door behind them. Zallia crumpled to the cold stone floor sobbing. She heard his heavy footsteps move towards her and she cowered away from him. Looking up at him through tear laden lashes, she spoke.
“Are you going to throw me in the dungeon for telling the truth? You knew I could not lie.”
“No,” he said casually as he helped her to her feet.
“Then a tower?”
“No, you were wonderful.”
He cupped his hand around her cheek and pulled her close to him. Gently, he lowered his lips to hers and kissed her. She did not resist his touch as he deepened the kiss and pulled her securely into his arms. His hands wandered down her front until they rested on her slightly bloated belly. Finally, he broke the kiss but kept his hands securely around her middle.
Whispering in her ear he said, “Are you sure it’s a boy?”
Zallia nodded, “The vision was very clear. He will be your only heir.”
“And she will accept him?” the King asked now nuzzling her neck.
“The heart is much harder to see. But he will be king.”
“And you, you will be okay?” the King asked once again kissing her as he fondled her breast through her dress.
Sighing, she gently moved his hands away but kissed him back before speaking, “The fates have promised me a daughter.”
“My daughter?” the king asked as he carried her to his bed.
Exactly one year later, Zallia woke up drenched in sweat. Frantically she looked around for her son who was nestled in his blanket only an arm’s length away. Taking a deep breath, Zallia tried to calm herself. But no amount of mediation could calm her racing heart. Today was the day.
All day, Zallia tried to enjoy the last moments with her son. She held him and nursed him as often as she could. But he soon tired of her touch and squawked until she put him down. Each time she tried to memorize how he looked, tears filled her eyes until she could not even see. All too fast, the sun began to sink and Zallia was forced to pack up her tent and few belongings.
She picked up her son and kissed him before tucking him into a carrier near her breast. The night was moonless and dark, easy for her to sneak into the palace through the old wooden door. This time she did not make her way to the king’s or the queen’s chambers. Instead she snuck into the small nursery.
The room was dark except for the one lone candle lighting the empty cradle. Zallia crawled into the shadows of a far corner and waited. When her son stirred, she suckled him back to sleep and fought back the tears. She did not want her last memories to be filled with grief.
Soon the Queen’s screams reached a crescendo and Zallia knew the time was near. She cuddled her son and reminded herself that he would be king. Her sacrifice would give him a better life. When the door opened, she held her breath and watched a nursemaid place an infant in the cradle. Zallia knew they would come back for the baby as soon as the Queen was cleaned up. She only had a few minutes.
The moment the nursemaid shut the door again, Zallia was up running towards the cradle. With a mother’s practiced hand, she switched the infants. Kissing her sleeping son good-bye, she carefully placed the baby girl in the carrier. Then without another glance she left the room. As she entered the secret staircase that led to the stables, she heard the nursemaid’s footsteps in the hallway. There was not much time.
As quietly as she could, she ran down the stone stairs and into the stables. She knew the stable boy would be asleep in a stall but she was quiet nevertheless. Quickly, she picked and older but sturdy mare. She did not waste time with a saddle. Instead she grabbed the reins and used a stool to climb on bare back. The baby shifted but stayed asleep as they rode away.
Zallia did not look back the entire ride to her secret gate in the wall, she was too afraid that someone would be following her. The King would know instantly who had stolen the princess but she was not sure if he would tell anyone. The Queen would not be happy to learn that her husband had been with someone else. Besides the vision had been clear, she would get away with the child.
When she reached her private gate, she dismounted and walked the horse through the wall being careful to lock the gate behind her. Then she quickly tied her tent to the horse and climbed back on. Urging the horse forward she rode through the tall grass leaving her home forever. As she rode, she glanced down at the baby cradled against her. It was a fair trade. The King and Queen would never have a son to become heir and she needed a girl to pass on her knowledge. It was a fair trade but that did keep heart from breaking as she pushed the horse to ride even faster.