Tomorrow came, even though Irrylath wished it would not. It always did, although he could find nothing to look forward to. He had lost what mattered most to him, and he was trapped in the web of his own honor.
Every morning when he opened his eyes, he would be disappointed he was still breathing. The heart that beat within his chest was too determined to give in, and Irrylath reminded himself that he had to honor his promise to the Avarclon.
Irrylath always awoke before his wife – and how strange it was to apply that term to Sabr, and not to the memory of Aeriel. But he knew his duty to Avaric, and he knew his people expected an heir. He never waited for Sabr to wake, shedding the bedclothes and moving to dress to greet his duties.
Once he might have been excited to be king. A long, long time ago he'd been a child who'd dreamed of ruling a happy country, but his childhood was two lifetimes past. Now he knew that ruling was a job, and often unpleasant. A good king thought of his people first and always, and never of himself. It was tedious work, and he never had enough time in the day to do all that needed a ruler's hand. Sabr found it a full-time job trying to take care of him, making sure he ate and slept.
The daymonths passed, and Irrylath started to see the gradual changes in the land. The people who had become refugees in other lands were returning, and the city seemed fuller. The crops the farmers brought to Tour-of-King's market were enough to feed the population, and the buildings were once again rising against the sky.
There was a kind of satisfaction in seeing his work pay off. And a definite satisfaction in the rounding of Sabr's belly, full with his heir. He would never love Sabr, but maybe her love would be enough to create this family.
Then one day, he awoke and found himself thinking of what he wanted to do that day. Sabr stirred beside him, and he caressed the bones of her back gently, urging her to remain asleep. The child she carried was due any day, and she needed her rest. Irrylath was eager to meet the heir she carried, but didn't want to risk her health.
His hand froze as he realized he wanted to see that child, that he wanted something for himself. When Aeriel had left, he'd thought he would never know happiness again.
And he was right, he told himself. He was not happy. He didn't deserve to be, not with all the sins he bore. But if this was not happiness, maybe it was contentment. And while he could never admit it, he started to look forward to waking up in the morning.