Mother Knows Best
“Clear the way!” Dawn hollered, running ahead of Lord Felmont and the floating body of Sir Yldris. The chill of the outside air still clung to her through her soggy clothes as she made her way across the castle threshold.
“What’s all this?” Sir Emery shouted as the Princess went barreling past. “Is that…?”
“I need to see the Chief Medical Examiner, immediately!” Dawn shouted to two young soldiers, who ran off toward the laboratory, quickly obeying the Princess’ order. Then she rounded on Sir Emery. “Emery! Find my mother and under no circumstances are you to come anywhere near the lab, are we clear?”
“Of course, Your Highness!” Sir Emery saluted and marched off toward the throne room.
Dawn turned to Lord Felmont.
“Can you get him to the lab?”
“He is quite heavy, Your Highness…” Lord Felmont replied, wincing slightly.
Dawn took a steadying breath and cast her own Levitation Arte to help support the knight who was floating in the air, trapped by the sleeping sickness. As some of his weight shifted upon her she bent and Lord Felmont straightened.
“Thank-you, Your Highness. This is much easier.”
Lord Felmont and Princess Dawn made their way down the hall slowly, careful not to shift their focus from their combined Arte. Dawn felt torn between moving quickly and moving safely, ultimately choosing safety over swiftness. They arrived at the lab within a few minutes, but nothing could have felt farther from the truth. The Princess and the sorcerer set the knight upon an empty cot just as the Queen and Malera entered the room, wide eyed and breathless.
“Mom!” Dawn exclaimed, but the Queen made no indication she heard her.
“Candor, get her out of here! Now!” The Queen roared, pointing at the Princess. Lord Felmont obeyed, grabbing Dawn’s arm and pulling her toward the door.
“Wait! Mom, I can help!”
Lord Felmont gave another pull but Dawn yanked herself free. She reached out to grab her mother, but the Queen sidestepped her, turning to face her daughter, hand raised and eyes blazing. There was an enormous surge of magic, more than Dawn had ever felt in her life. Her arms snapped to her sides and her body lifted from the ground, soaring out the door.
She did not stop there, however.
Door after door opened and shut and her body flew through halls and up the spiraling stairs. She stopped only when she was placed, firmly upon her feet, in an all too familiar candle lit room with an enormous four poster bed. The last door she had flown through slammed shut and she heard a bolt slide into place.
Her mother had sent her to her room.
Dawn screamed a long stream of curses that would have made a sailor blush. Her thoughts turned vicious as she railed aloud against the Queen and what had just happened. How could her mother do this after everything she had done to make sure Sir Yldris was safe? She remembered the kindly old knight’s words to her in the village bakery infirmary and screamed another rant toward the sky. Was this motherly love, using magic against your own daughter if she did not listen straight away? And because of what, that she was a child? She was far too tired of hearing that excuse. Her anger burned so hot she was sure she would explode.
Eryn’s terrified face appeared from within the Princess’ private bathroom. Dawn could not gain control of her emotions before a jumble of words came tumbling out of her mouth.
“Um, uh…” Eryn struggled to understand the unintelligible words passing the Princess’ lips. “What?”
“We…are…stuck…” Dawn breathed, slowly regaining control of her still reeling fury. “Mom…door…locked…”
Eryn’s face fell even further and fear was replaced by sheer panic.
“Oh no!” Eryn squeaked. “But I didn’t get to clean the Queen’s bathroom yet! If I don’t my mother will kill-”
“THE QUEEN CAN CLEAN IT HER BLOODY SELF!” Dawn screeched.
There was a moment of tense silence, alleviated only when Dawn’s heavy foot falls echoed out as she paced the room. Eryn, not wanting to set off the powder keg Princess again, returned to the bathroom and made a second go at a stubborn stain by the door. After a few minutes Dawn crossed to the bathroom and began to speak aloud once more.
“What I don’t get is this. The sickness only affects boys, right? And I already helped Mel once, right? Well, what reason could she actually have for not letting me do anything? We need as much help as we can get, if we want to stop this thing before it gets serious! And with Sir Yldris down now, it has got to be getting pretty bad.”
“Dawn,” Eryn began, cautiously keeping her eyes on her work, “it already is serious. Earlier today I heard about two more sick inside the castle. If you add that with Sir Yldris and the fourteen other cases, that makes seventeen.”
“See!?” Dawn shouted. “The only possible reason to send me away now is because she thinks I’m ‘too young’!”
Dawn resumed her pacing. Eryn gave up her feeble attempt to clean, and stood. She was shaking slightly when she spoke, but her words came forth clear and strong.
“Dawn, we really don’t know much about the sickness. I mean, you only ever even heard of it yesterday. What if you…” she paused, carefully fighting back the fear that had been present ever since she had overheard the cook speak, “…I mean, you and Mel could be the first girls exposed. Maybe the Queen just hopes if she limits your exposure, you won’t get infected. It’s still really early on…”
Dawn stopped her pacing and turned to face Eryn. She was stuck between her still broiling rage and the wisdom of her best friend’s words. It was so difficult to believe so much could have happened in just two short days, and there was still a half a day left on the second. So much had been discovered and yet so much was still left to discern. Dawn felt, for the first time it seemed, the immenseness of what was unfurling before her. This sickness was no cold, no simple bug that would be gone in a few days with some hot soup and cold medicine. This, whatever it really was, was evil. Some curse out of the pages of a magic book or a terrifying, world destroying monster. But the more she thought on it, stuck to her spot on the floor, the more she realized it was none of these things.
It was more.
More terrifying than some ancient curse, more destructive than some great monster. It crept into you while you breathed and stole the very light from your eyes, sealing you inside its grip until, ultimately-
“It could kill us all…”
The words fell from Dawn’s mouth as hard fact. There was no bartering or pleading in her voice; one way or another, if it could not be stopped, it would lead them all to their end.
“How could I be so stupid!?” Dawn exclaimed, falling to the ground and crossing her legs. Without her anger against her mother burning so hotly within her, Dawn had begun to feel cold and, if truth be told, empty.
“You’re not stupid, Dawn,” Eryn went on, sitting beside the now trembling Princess. “A little selfish, yeah. And maybe you could work on your temper-”
“I think I’d like to stay with ‘stupid’, if it’s all the same.”
“-but it all comes from a good heart! You want to save those sick people more than anyone I’ve seen, you’re never scared of anyone or anything when you feel you’re right, and when you put your mind to doing something…” Eryn paused, remembering with a laugh what the servant boy Wendell had said, “…nothing is going to stand in your way.”
“Eryn,” Dawn said, her voice, for the first time Eryn could ever remember, tainted by fear, “I am afraid. I mean, before now, not as much. But I really, truly, do fear this thing, whatever it really is. But that is why we need to stop it. That is why we need to help, and do whatever we can to make it go away.”
“If the Queen is set on me not being in that lab, and I’m pretty sure she is, it is going to be impossible for me to get inside. But with your help-”
“Oh no, Dawn, I don’t know about this-”
“-Mel and I will be able to keep in touch with one another! Then I can help her however I can and we can see this thing off, once and for all!”
Dawn looked eagerly at her unenthusiastic friend. Eryn wiggled and squirmed under the Princess expectant gaze. Maybe, Eryn thought, just maybe, if she was helping the Princess instead of just getting dragged along by her, she could make sure things did not get too out of hand. She looked up at her breathlessly waiting Princess and nodded, quickly adding-
“But under two conditions!”
“Anything, Eryn! Whatever you say!”
“One. We do not leave the castle grounds.”
Dawn writhed a moment, but eventually consented.
“Two. If it becomes too much or too dangerous, we stop. Got it?”
Dawn considered the deal for a few seconds before extending her hand.
Dawn and Eryn shook hands and rose to their feet. The Princess and the servant crossed to the doors that led out onto the balcony. The sleet had stopped and weak rays of sunlight poked through the dispersing clouds. Dawn opened the doors and they strolled out, heads together in whispered conversation, planning their quiet rebellion against mother and Queen.