The old king lay dying in his bedchamber. The walls were rich with tapestries and the ornaments glittered gold. He was surrounded by courtiers and attendants, physicians and servants, relatives and friends. But neither wealth nor love could save him now, no more than music and laughter could comfort a heart in despair.
His fading vision alighted on his son. The prince’s face was dark with sorrow, but no tears brightened his eyes. The king understood. Some losses were too bitter to find relief in weeping, just as some wounds struck too deep to ever truly heal.
“May you find peace,” the king whispered, knowing as he spoke that those would be his last words. With the last of his strength, he reached out a shaking hand to lay it upon his son’s head.
A woman’s slim fingers caught his hand in hers. Startled, the king looked up.
Her golden hair cascaded down her back and across her shoulders in a wild mass of curls. He could see the pearly curves of her breasts as she bent over him. She was so young. The king couldn’t believe that he had ever been so young.
Her fingers curled tight around his, her grip warm and strong. She pulled, and he rose from his bed and followed her across his chamber. Their feet made no sound.
A chorus rose up behind them, some voices high as flutes, some deep as drums: “The king is dead!”
She tugged him through the tapestry, and then into the wall. As gray stone closed over his ears, the chorus was silenced.
They stepped out into sunlight. He blinked, dazzled. It had been months since he had risen from his bed, and months more since he had left the castle. When he had last felt the sun on his head, it had been a crisp winter day. The light had been pale, the air chill. It was summer now, and the breeze carried with it a haunting fragrance.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
For the first time, his sister spoke. “Where else?”
He had thought he could never bear to hear music again, but her voice, soft and low, was sweeter than any instrument. She lifted a slender hand and pointed to a wind-rippled field of gold as bright and pure as her hair. “To the broom.”