The next day was a busy day for us. Most days were. It would start with Zlodey speaking to his people. The day seemed to be starting off just fine- Zlodey had had an early morning briefing, we had shared a nice breakfast- but my husband seemed to be spending quite unusually long time in the bathroom. I was worried he might be having difficulty, so I went to check on him. I found him staring at the mirror playing with his hair, which was strange since he had someone to style his hair. “What’s the problem, dear?”
“Nothing,” he replied. “It’s just this stupid horn.”
I looked at the center of his forehead. A yellow horn was poking out just under his hairline. “I’d think you’d be used to it by now. I mean, you’ve always had to deal with it…” I paused as I tried to recall either of us ever having to deal with that horn before, “…haven’t you?”
Zlodey glared at me. I thought I had accidentally set him off again. He did have a quick temper. But instead of screaming or throwing things, he began to chuckle. “Of course, I have, my dear. Ever since I was a child. It is the mark of my sovereignty.”
“Right,” I said, suddenly recalling the stories he had told me when we were dating. “The ancient Ramstovian kings used to all have horns. Why did I forget that? That’s so strange.”
“Your mind has been on other things.”
“That reminds me. I must go check on our children.”
I was surprised to find both children already dressed. Mayhew was always an angel, but after last night Lina had had me worried. She usually behaved as well, as far as I could recall. But last night had been different and had me expecting that it might be a permanent change. However, when I went to check on her, she was ready in her gown. Obviously, whatever had set her off last night was already forgotten. And if she was willing to move past it, so was I.
Hera came to fetch us all. “The General is ready for his speech. Come along and remember when we come out to the balcony big smiles. Your subjects are happy to see you, you should show them that you are also happy to see them.”
Zlodey was waiting for us in his dress uniform. We all walked out onto the balcony together, the happy royal family. The crowd cheered as soon as they saw us. We all smiled and waved. I was happy to see them. They were so many. It was such a large crowd. The entire city had shown. People had traveled from all around the Empire to see us, to see the General. When he stepped up to the microphone, everyone went silent. It was as if they had prepared for it, like some had pressed an off switch. There was such a sudden and complete silence that made the sound of the gunshot even louder.
Hera reacted like a flash of lightning, jumping in front of Zlodey. I watched her appear in front of him, stunned, unable to move. Then I was being pulled down. It was not a guard, but my own daughter, Lina, pulling me to the ground. The whole thing had me in shock. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, that this was real. I am appalled that it took me so long to realize that my son was left standing, unprotected.
“Get down!” I yelled at him, as I pulled on his pant leg. Clearly, he too was stunned by what was happening around him. But he was only a child. I was his mother. I shouldn’t have taken so long to act to save him. I should have been rushing to pull him to the ground, not having my own daughter doing it to me.
Now that we were all on the ground, the guards came rushing out to the balcony. Such quick response, I sarcastically thought to myself. I would have to talk to my husband about their mediocre response time. I watched them scan the crowd with their rifle scopes for the shooter. Hera shielded my husband as he rushed back inside. She waved at us to follow. As soon as we were safe inside, I began frantically checking my children for injury. “Are you ok? Are you ok? Mayhew? Lina? Are you hurt?” I turned to my husband. “Zlodey?”
He glared angrily at me. “Am I ok? I am far from ok! How dare someone interrupt my speech! I didn’t even get to the beginning! I want whoever took that shot found and killed!
“Imre!” I admonished. “Our children! Think about our children for once!”
He sneered at me. “Hera, take them away. And…make sure they’re unhurt.”
After Hera took the children away, I took my husband’s hand. “Darling, you need to take a breath. You’re getting too worked up. We’re all a little frightened…”
“I’m not frightened,” he said, pushing me away. “I am furious! I will show these fools that I am not to be trifled with! Anyone who dares threaten me, dares take a shot at me will be put to death!”
“Or your wife, or your children,” I added.
He glared at me. “Yes. Them as well. No one will dare harm anything that is mine! In fact, wife, we shall send them away. Somewhere safe. My children shall not be harmed while I try to find the fool who dared to threaten me.”
“Send them away?” I did not like the sound of that.
“You wanted me to take care of them, did you not? This is me taking care of them.”
“But they’re our children…”
“And they’ll be safe,” he interrupted, “away from here. No one will harm them. Now, leave me be!” He marched away before I could say anything else.
to be continued…