Eternal(The Queen's Alpha Series Book 1)By: W.J. May
The Queen's Alpha Series, Volume 1
THE GIRL STOOD AT THE window, staring bleakly into the world beyond. There was nothing but darkness as far as the eye could see. A land blanketed in shadow, a night without stars.
Only a single light penetrated the endless gloom. A flaming beacon shining on a distant hill.
Even from miles away, she could see its brightness. The wild flames stretched up into the heavens, lighting the countryside around them and flickering in her eyes. Even so far away it was impossible to miss, and even without anyone saying a word the girl knew exactly what it meant.
My father’s dead. The king is dead.
The flames whipped even higher in the midnight breeze, and she took a sudden step away from the window. Her crimson hair spilled in rivulets down her chest, and despite the shadows all around her eyes shone bright in the darkness. Shimmering with the weight of a thousand tears. Gazing out the frosty pane of glass with a sadness that knew no words.
He was a hard man, her father. But he was her father nonetheless. And over the years, time had softened him. His children had softened him. He wasn’t as hard as he once was. There was a lightness beneath the weight of the crown. At times, he seemed almost ready to smile.
“We’ve got to go, milady!” A sharp whisper cut through the silence, breaking the girl out of her spell. “We can’t stay here anymore!”
The girl blinked several times, forcing herself back to the present, then turned to look at the cluster of frightened women standing at the foot of her bed. Despite the late hour, they were all fully dressed. It was an ingrained instinct, one that had travelled to even the highest levels of the land. If you wake up to a scream in the night, the first thing you do is put on your shoes.
“You’re right...” She swept through the center of them, moving strangely, as if she was in some sort of dream. “I need to pay my respects to my father...”
The women exchanged a frantic, helpless look as she groped around in the darkness, reaching for her coat. Less than a second later an ominous rumbling shook the very ground they were standing on, followed by a series of distant screams.
“Milady, you don’t understand.” The bravest of the women stepped forward, reaching tentatively to catch her hand. “There isn’t time—”
At that moment the door burst open, and the women fell back with a shriek. The girl looked up in a daze as a tall man strode into her bedchamber. A man who had weathered a hundred battles and had lived to see nights like this before. A man she had known all her life.
“The king is dead,” he announced with no preamble.
Although the beacon had told them as much, the women gasped and clustered together. The girl merely glanced at the beacon outside. Her thoughts were jumbled and made no sense. A chaotic parade of random memories, nonsensical and ill-timed. Each one hurrying to replace the last.
This is the man who taught my brother and me to ride when we were just children. My father is dead. I wonder what kind of magic sets the beacon on fire. My father’s dead. I must remember to tell the groom to have my horse saddled in the morning. My father is dead.
When he received no response, the man glanced nervously at the women gathered behind her. They shook their heads, at a similar loss, and he tried again.
“Your Highness...your father is dead.”
Her eyes flickered up to his rain-soaked hair, wondering vaguely at the smear of blood on his face, before she nodded robotically, pointing back to the window. “Yes, I saw the beacon. I was just gathering my things to go pay my respects—”
“You don’t understand!” A wave of panic tightened his voice, as if they were running out of time. “He didn’t just die, milady, he was killed. Killed by a dagger to the heart. This dagger.”
He reached inside his coat and pulled out a shining blade, pressing it firmly into her hands. A tiny jewel was missing from the left hilt, and a steady stream of crimson was dripping onto the floor.
For a moment, she simply stared. Then a jolt of delayed shock rocketed through her body.
“No.” She held the blade away from her body, as if proximity alone could fight back the dark truth that was settling upon her. “No, this isn’t... it isn’t true. I know what you all must be thinking, but it isn’t true. It can’t be.”
The man bowed his head, staring down at her with unspeakable sympathy.
“It’s the prince’s blade, milady. And he used it himself. I was there.”
She shook her head back and forth, letting the knife fall from her hands as she backed all the way to the window. “There has to be some kind of mistake. Kailas...Kailas wouldn’t do this. He would never hurt our father—”