Just as Ezra was pulling the sleek, shiny-bladed dagger from his cloak pocket, he swore he saw..Lucia move. He did a double take and saw that he wasn’t mistaken.
“My love!” He pressed his hand to the glass and let out a nervous chuckle as an expression of confusion laced her face, which quickly turned to fear. He watched as his beloved weakly pushed her hands against the glass barrier she was confined in.
“I know..it must be..perplexing as to why you’re in there, but you mustn’t try to get out,” He explained. “The magic barrier that surrounds it was protecting you from..dying.”
Lucia turned her head to face him, completely stricken with fear. Her golden eyes were wide with utter mortification. Her hair lay strewn in dirty, chestnut brown waves across her face.
“Don’t worry, my blossom. I promise, I’ll send for Orion and-“
“You called, my liege?” A condescending, snarky tone rang out from behind Ezra, starting him so greatly, he lost his balance and fell on his bottom. Standing before the prince was Nedréa’s royal sorcerer, Orion Springswan. He was tall and slight, with a pasty pale complexion, and auburn hair that was slicked back into a ponytail with only a piece of twine.
“Y-yes..” Ezra said softly as he struggled to his feet and brushed the dust from his vermillion cloak, which he realized upon getting close to it was that it needed washing. “I have news..about the Princess’s state..”
Orion only smirked and peered over Ezra’s shoulder. “Ah, yes, my liege..you seem to forget I have eyes.” He flicked his emerald green orbs over to Lucia, and knelt by her side. “Don’t worry, your Highness, I will have you out of there faster than a newt can regrow its tail.” With a little chuckle and a lick of his thin lips, Orion pulled a thick, gnarled thing that looked like..a tree branch from the deep pocket of his velvet robe. He muttered a few unintelligible words under his breath and tapped the tip of the branch to the coffin. A bright swath of light swallowed it up, only to have it crumble to dust. With her glass prison having been destroyed, Lucia was elated..but still very confused. She weakly reached up a shaking hand, wanting help. It was all she could think to do.
Jumping into action, Ezra gently lifted his weakened bride into his arms. In turn she sagged in his grasp, shaking.
“You..you smell awful..” She croaked, wincing as she spoke. It had been a long time since she had last used her voice.
Ezra felt as if his cheeks were set ablaze. “Well..my love, I was waiting for you to wake up. I would have waited until I was a pile of bones and rotting flesh if it took that long for you to come to your senses.”
Lucia nodded solemnly. The couple wasn’t alone for long; the high court was soon filled with maidens, ladies in waiting, and even guards who wanted to catch a glimpse at the princess. In the heat of it all, the two of them were dragged to the royal physician’s apothecary laboratory, where the crippled old man fed Lucia elixir after elixir, claiming that each one would benefit her in a different way.
“This one,” He held out a wooden bowl with a bubbling yellow mixture. “Helps with fertility.”
Lucia’s cheeks went pink. She reluctantly drank the elixir, her face scrunched up in utter disgust. Ezra tried to keep back his laughter and held his new wife’s hand, kissing her knuckles every so often, like he had the first time they met. After deciding she had had enough medicine for one day, Lucia fell asleep on a cot, curled up into a ball. Her still unwashed locks of hair lay like frizzy serpents upon her pillow. Her expression was calm, free of any worry lines. That was enough to tell Ezra that she would be safe, and so he retired to his chambers for the night—and for a thorough bathing.
To his surprise, his chamber door was slightly ajar. He reached for the dagger yet again, feeling his fingers curl around the heavy handle. He felt his pulse quicken. He had never had to use it before. Should he dare to spill the blood of a possible intruder, or have mercy on their soul like any good person, royal or not, would? With a sharp breath, he kicked open the door and drew the dagger..
..only to find Orion sitting upon his ginormous mahogany canopy bed, one leg crossed over the other. “I never noticed what nice sheets you have compared to mine. God, there must be silk in these!”
“Orion!” Ezra exhaled and snapped. “You know you aren’t allowed in my quarters!” He hissed as he stormed over to the sorcerer, who only clucked his tongue. “Tsk, tsk, Ezra. Acting bold is not really your..forte, I suppose.”
Ezra rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest, dagger still in hand. “Whatever do you mean by that?”
“I saw you brooding when Lucia was still in her coffin, day after day. You looked so..intimidating. I really did think you were going to go after that wisp.” Orion shook his head and twirled his fingers about the end of his ponytail.
“And you think my..failing to go after the wisp is..a shame,” Ezra added, noticing the dirt that had accumulated under his fingernails.
“Yes. But I would also advise you to be wary around each and every corner. You know that old saying.” Orion pushed a stray lock of hair from the prince’s eyes. “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. But in this case, you don’t seem to have any friends so..family. Be wary of them. Yes, that’s right.” And with those cryptic, yet humiliating parting words, the sorcerer disappeared in a flash of smoke. Ezra thought nothing of them. Orion was only trying to scramble his brain and make him worry about..well, nothing. He took a bath until the water he sat in turned brown.
As the weeks passed, Lucia grew to be more of herself again..but the twinkle in her eye, the mischievous one that Ezra had grown to love was significantly dimmer. She seemed nervous at public outings, and would cling to him when they would weave through the streets of Nedréa, eyes flicking back and forth nervously with each step. He suspected she was still haunted by her encounter with the wisp, but didn’t pry to know her answer.
One winter’s night, Queen Solea absently suggested that the two of them go on a lover’s journey together during supper. Ezra was surprised at this; usually his mother wasn’t vocal in very many cases, unless it was concerning her own personal gain—then she turned into what his father had told him once, a harpie with a gnarled beak.
“A..few days in the countryside could do Lucia some good, dear Mother.” Ezra forced himself to smile, but that quickly faded when he looked over at his wife, who looked out the glass-paned windows forlornly, eyes lackluster and dull. What could he do to spark life within her again?
Yes, yes, a trip would do her good. So the next day, they left by carriage to the countryside. Lucia seemed indifferent still as she looked on at the blurred scenery.
“My dear, I promise you will be so impressed by what the countryside has to offer. I’ve heard legends that there are fields full of moonbeam blossoms that all bloom simultaneously when the moon is in between-“
“Waxing and waning.” Lucia recited without taking her gaze away from her window. “I know, my darling.”
Still, Ezra was determined to make this trip worthy of going on. He swept Lucia off her feet quite literally as she was making her way down the carriage steps, expecting her tinkly laugh to ring in his ears. Instead she went stiff and demanded to be put down. He did as told, and watched as she stormed down the cobblestone path to their cottage.
All afternoon, she sat in the drawing room, enchanted by the snow..Ezra caught that glint in her eye, the one that he missed so much. But still, he saw fear.
Fear that needed to be conquered. He grabbed a woolen cloak from one of the many closets and threw it into her lap. Before she could even protest, he had her by the hand and dragged her into the chilling night air.
“Ezra, please,” Lucia begged as she tugged on his hand, willing him to go back inside. “It’s much too cold for a walk..especially at this hour..”
He smirked and made his way to the densely wooded forest that encircled the cottage. “We’ll miss it,” He said simply.
“Miss what?” She raised an arched brow in question, but wasn’t offered an answer..until she was brought to a patch of moonbeam blossoms, all waiting to burst at once.
“You weren’t lying..” She breathed and looked up at her husband. “Oh, Ezra..”
“Watch.” He said. And together, as a fresh coat of snow fell upon the emerald floor, they watched as each and every flower bloomed to life. Like they did on the day they met, they kissed, the numb tips of their noses touching. Ezra had to lean down to accommodate for Lucia’s petite stature. But it was worth it, watching her bloom to life with the buds.
After a bit more walking, they both decided it was too cold to go on much longer. Lucia could feel her toes getting numb, and thus, they went home, and reveled in the privacy they had. They awoke the next morning, tangled in each other’s arms, sweat glistening on their skin.
It was no surprise then, that when arriving home, Lucia’s belly had grown significantly. It was a cause for celebration for the Prince, a father-to-be, he was..but for others, it was the catalyst for their true colors to start to show.