“Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” were the words that tumbled out of the healer’s mouth when he exited the castle’s infirmary.
Aidan gripped his lance tight enough to make his hands start smoking, but he calmed down enough to say, “Good news.”
“The queen is getting better.” The dark-skinned healer glanced back toward the infirmary and murmured something about how odd it was that the queen was doing so well. “Quite a turnaround, really.”
“That’s excellent,” Aidan said. His grip loosened on his weapon as he tried to peer into the room beyond the healer. “What’s the bad news?”
“Come and see for yourself.” The healer gestured into the infirmary and followed the soldier in. The room was quiet, save for the soft footsteps of the men, as he checked on the women in the beds.
Queen Mystral had a healthy pink color in her cheeks, and her chest moved in a steady rhythm as she peacefully slept. Jars and containers of ointments and medicines were on the bedside table, and Aidan glanced through them, his curiosity demanding to know what the medicines were, how they were made, why the country didn’t put more emphasis on the healing arts instead of focusing on the army.
The princess, spending much of her time between running the country in her mother’s absence and visiting the infirmary, was lying on the bed adjacent to the queen. Princess Anila’s pale face was wrinkled with distress, her breathing coming in ragged breaths, and sweat was upon her brow.
“The bad news,” the healer said slowly, “is that the princess is not getting better.”
“Her Royal Highness wasn’t sick.”
“She is now.” The healer took off his hat and ran a hand through his hair, messing it up even further. “Quite a turnaround, really…”
Aidan raised an eyebrow. “You said that already about the queen.”
“It applies to the princess too,” the healer said. His eyes were downcast and his shoulders shook from his deep sigh. “I’m sorry…”
“You helped the queen,” Aidan said, “and I’m sure you did your best for the princess. Perhaps she’ll have another turnaround, as you say.”
The healer shook his head. “I don’t think so. I don’t believe that the princess will get up again. Princess Anila wasn’t responding to any of the remedies I tried with the queen. In fact…”
Aidan prompted the healer when the other man wasn’t going to elaborate on his own. “In fact what? What is it?”
The healer’s words dropped to a whisper. “I’m not even sure the queen responded to my remedies. It seems the gods have a hand on her shoulder. Her recovery is nothing short of a miracle.”
“You must have done something,” Aidan said. “I’m sure this miracle wouldn’t have had a chance without your help.”
The healer suddenly chuckled. “Are you always this encouraging?” he asked. “Are you the type of soldier that cheers on his opponent in a spar?”
Aidan rolled his eyes. “If you’re done, healer–”
“Doyle.” The healer stuck out his hand to the soldier. “My name is Doyle Lorz.”
“Aidan Basset.” The soldier returned the handshake. “Now, if you’re done here, the soldier at the front gate will give you your payment. I’ll keep an eye on the queen and the princess.”
“I’m sure they’re in good hands with you.” Doyle tipped his hat to Aidan. “Call me if anything changes.”
“Of course.” Aidan watched the healer go. Doyle’s firm footfalls receded from Aidan’s ears only to be replaced by the lumbering steps of Queen Mystral’s closest advisor.
“Her Majesty?” Zion came into the infirmary, his gaze riveted on the queen’s prone form.
“The healer said she’s doing well,” Aidan said. “Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the princess… Hopefully she’ll make a turnaround just as her mother had.”
Zion made a noncommittal grunt and took a seat beside the queen’s bed. Aidan cast one last look at the princess before leaving the care of the women to Zion.
It was a mere two days later that the queen was well enough to personally plan her daughter’s funeral.