A Tale from the North: Part Three

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Henrik found the queen in a small room in the very depths of the castle. She had been laid upon a bed with layers of soft quilts covering her, and on one side of the room, there was a bright fire flickering in the hearth. But even with all of those efforts, the queen’s lips were a blue-violet color.

Voices could be heard from an adjoining room – Henrik could pick out both his father’s and the head doctor’s. Trying to be as quiet as he possibly could and knowing all the while that he probably shouldn’t be there, the boy prince crept over to his mother’s bed. Her left hand stuck out from underneath one of the quilts, pale as the snow on the mountains surrounding the castle, and with the same hint of blue. Tentatively, the prince reached out to take her hand. “Mummy?”

There was a bang as a door by the opposite side of the bed swung open and slammed into the wall. Henrik’s father flounced into the room, red hair untidy and ruffled, eyes shining furiously. “What do you mean, you don’t know what to do for her? You’re a doctor, for Odin’s sake!”

The head doctor trailed in after him, a meek presence compared to the fiery temper of the king. “Yes, sire, but there are some ailments that don’t have any cures or treatments . . . rather, they don’t have many effective treatments, and the queen, unfortunately, is afflicted with one of these. I’ve never actually seen such a severe case of hypothermia – ”

“Oh, leave me. And find someone who might be useful,” the king snapped, tousling his hair further as he ran a hand through it. The doctor scurried past him and out a door into a back hallway.

Henrik was almost afraid to draw attention to himself – he had never seen his father like this, or even anywhere close to being like this. But, being a young, terrified boy, he sought reassurance. “Father,” he almost whispered, still clutching his mother’s hand. “Is Mummy going to be okay?”

The king’s head snapped in the direction of his son, only just realizing that the boy was there. “Henrik, why aren’t you with your nurse? I can’t deal with you right now.”

It wasn’t so much the words themselves as the tone with which they were spoken that set something off in the prince. However, though he was a mere six years in age, he knew better than to quarrel with his father. “Can you at least tell me why she’s sick?”

The king gave a long drawn out sigh, sagging against the wall. He seemed to gain an extra ten years, his eyes growing dark with weary age. “Your mother, she – well, we were in one of the longboats. I thought it would be romantic to see the beauty of the land around us, the sun and the snow and the sea. We were having such a wonderful time . . . but then your mother and I were leaning over the edge of the boat to try and see those whales that she loves so much. And she -” The king’s voice broke and he swiped at his eyes with a hand. “She fell into the water. And that water was freezing, Henrik, so now your mother . . . she’s cold, and she can’t get warm.”

Henrik’s blue eyes were large with fear. “Will she get bet-”

He was cut off by a sudden rush of people through the door that he had come in. Four palace guards escorted a dark hooded figure into the room, the head doctor and a few maids bringing up the end of the party. The maids carried more blankets, as well as various herbs and colorful liquids in glass vials.

When Henrik turned back to his father, the king was closed off once again, stern anger lining his face. “Would someone please escort my son out?” he asked curtly.

“But -” Henrik protested, confused by the sudden changes in his father’s mood.

“Come along . . .” The doctor put a hand on Henrik’s shoulder, ushering him none too gently out of the room. Once in the hallway, Henrik shrugged the hand off, turning to glare at the man before stomping away.

 

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