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She was in love. In fact she would always love Mikkel, her husband. Not even death had stopped it and soon, very soon, she would be with her love once more.
Queen Ona took another glance at her sleeping twins Aslan and Aurora. It mattered little how they were sired or who raised them. It only mattered that they were hers, a link to the throne that she would never see again after this night. All she could do now was prepare the way for both of her children as best she could.
Aslan would be okay. His birth father would see to that. Her son would one day grow to be King. He had enough of her in him to be a great leader for their people. She bent low peering into his cradle. He was a beautiful boy and she had little doubt he would grow to be a handsome man. She placed her lips to his forehead and just held still for a moment. Then with a sigh she placed her forehead to his and with deep concentration she planted her memory inside her son’s mind.
“When the time is right, my love, you will remember. My knowledge shall be yours.” She glanced into his beautiful baby blue eyes praying that her brother would return soon to guard her son. “May you always feel my love as a warmth that surrounds you. May you see my smile in the stars and know that you are blessed.”
Blinking away the tears that were already forming in her eyes she turned to where his twin sister Aurora lay. Her daughter would not be so protected. Her daughter would be a warrior like her mother and that would be her kiss of death if Ona left her here. The man who sought her death would also see that Aurora never lived to claim her right as defender. The king ruled the kingdom. But it was the queen that ruled the sword, and the sword that truly ruled the people. He wanted to change that, wanted to change the way the king and queen were decided, but it was bound by the blood of the goddess they prayed to and thus unbreakable.
The title of queen was a birthright and would not be bestowed on the woman her son would marry. It would go to her daughter, her blood. She looked at Aurora, named for Ona’s mother and she took a shaky breath as a sob wanted to tear loose. She would never see her grow, never be there for all of a woman’s firsts that her daughter would experience. But she would see that Aurora lived to have all of those firsts. With her last breath she would ensure that Aurora lived.
She looked deep into her daughter’s blue gaze and smiled. “You’ll begin the salvation of us all. Your blood shall start what his shall finish. When the time is right, you shall draw the sword and become the strength as is your birthright. You’ll grow strong and smart. You’ll laugh. And you’ll love. You’ll lose and you’ll find. My heart breaks for all you will face. But rest assured that you will not stand alone. Time will bring you all together. And a common enemy shall bind you tight.” She bent low to place a kiss on her daughter’s brow. “You are my daughter. Know my strength, know my love, and call upon them as you need.”
“Please don’t go,” Lydia begged as she walked into the room.
“I have no choice,” Ona told her friend. Lydia would keep Ona’s secret just as Ona had always kept hers.
“He will kill you,” Lydia stated.
“Yes,” Ona agreed. “He will.”
“Then don’t do this,” Lydia cried. “We need you.”
“If I do not go, he will kill us all,” Ona replied her gaze going back to her children.
“We will fight for you,” Lydia declared.
“It is my choice,” Ona said softly. “And I choose to do what is best for everyone. The death of one to save the many.”
“How can your death be good for anyone?” Lydia cried.
“You will see,” Ona said. “But first I must ask something of you.”
“Anything,” Lydia promised. “I will do anything.”
“I was hoping you would say that,” Ona smiled. “I ask the most important task of you. Take my daughter and flee back to your people. He must not find her until the time is right.”
Lydia held her sobs back admirably as she nodded and Ona was touched by the love her friend felt for her. “And Lydia,” Ona reached out to place her hand on Lydia’s still flat tummy. “He must not know of the child you carry. All of your lives depend on it.”
Lydia gasped and Ona knew that Lydia wondered how she knew about the recently conceived child. But Ona knew all. She knew Serena’s soon to be born daughter had to be protected as well. That was why she had the priestess take the sword and hide it before making her promise to flee to the temple of the goddess. She knew of the woman he kept prisoner, of the things he did to her, and of the child only just beginning to form into life inside her. She knew she must die and in the aftermath of her death the other three women must make their escapes. Two of the escapes were already set in motion. She would see to the last when she began her walk of death.