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"Father?" the word caught in Jacqualine's throat and she wasn't even sure she said it aloud, but the King's eyes snapped open and for a minute they held more life, more energy than she had ever seen.
"Jacqualine," he breathed softly and held out one hand. "My child. My daughter. I love you so much." He was exhausted from talking and had to stop to rest. "There are so many things I wish to tell you, things I should have taught you from the beginning. I always knew that I would pass the Hold to you, but to talk about, to prepare for it? it seemed like we had so much time for that."
Jacqualine remained silent but squeezed the weak hand.
"You will learn, though. It will be hard at first, but I know you will learn. You are the only one I trust, and you must trust no one. There are plots afoot, I fear. I tried to handle them myself, to keep you out of the mess, to make sure there would still be a kingdom for you to rule." He shrugged and paused to rest again.
"You did wonderfully, Father. I love you. I need you to know that. I will do my best to be half the Maker you were."
Alfonse smiled grimly.
"That is nice to hear, but you will be much more than I ever was." A cough burst through his mouth and shook his entire body. "We must do it now."
He reachedout his other hand and Jacqualine grabbed it. Immediately she felt her mind, her entire body, fill with a continuous pulse of intense burning. The beat grew faster and faster, and her heart struggled to keep up, until it was a near constant stream. It was agonizing and beautiful, powerful and draining.
She was every droplet of a waterfall, pounding painfully onto the rocky riverbed. Her mouth was filled with the nectar of a rose in full bloom as she buzzed over the plummeting water. She was the air, tossed aside as the bee flew through her and she drifted to the rich brown soil and welcomed herself into the dust.
She was pulled heavily toward the center of the earth yet transcended higher than the gauzy clouds. At once her awareness zeroed in on her father's hands and she realized how hard she was gripping them. Her fingers sprung open in response, but she was barely aware of the lifeless body in the bed. She was heady, spinning rapidly even though she knew her feet were completely grounded.
Jacqualine felt herself lowering slowly to the ground, but she wasn't sure if she was sitting or seeping into the earth.