Chapter 23 - Out of the Flames, Into the Bonfire
On the same night Cayden, with the help of the feudal lords, was finally established as the king and advanced into the city, a fierce battle broke out.
On that fateful, chaotic day, Cecil dissuaded Edna from joining the fight.
The queen waited for her family to send reinforcements from Beowald. Once they arrived, she would run away to her father’s home and plan for the future. Cecil only hoped that Ducaine III held out until her father’s troops arrived.
The battle raged on for a full month. The rebels completely surrounded the capital city and pressured Ducaine III. After a month of bloodshed, the capital’s power toppled. Ducaine III executed all the lords who sided with him, holding them accountable for his repeated defeats in battle. The ones who remained with him throughout that merciless punishment began to leave the capital one after another. Oblivious to the fact that his life was in danger, the king continuously drowned himself in spirits.
Then Ducaine III suddenly burst into Cecil’s castle at Eden’s 16th birthday party and, instead of offering congratulations, spoke ominous words to Cecil and Eden in front of everyone. “Eden, your remaining days are getting shorter and shorter. You will never live long.”
The incident served as an opportunity to further cement Cecil’s determination to seek refuge in her family’s residence.
During an internal conflict inside the city a month later, rebels advanced further with young Cayden at the lead. The secure line of defense collapsed and Ducaine III was captured.
However, Cecil’s long-awaited reinforcements did not come.
“The castle has fallen, your Majesty. You have to get out of here.”
“That can’t be true. Check again.”
Another close aide rushed in to convey the urgent situation. “The king is being held captive by Cayden. All retreats have already been blocked. You have to at least surrender now.”
Cecil’s face hardened as fear surged through her. She hadn’t thought that the powerful Ducaine royal family would collapse in such a manner. Nevertheless, she tried to mask her emotions and straightened her posture.
“Your Majesty, please surrender. That’s how you can save…”
“Shut it. I’m the queen. They will never let me live even if I surrender,” she replied.
The moment Cecil learned that Ducaine III had been captured, she realized that all was lost. People would never forget nor forgive his tyranny and she, as his queen, would not survive either. But Edna at least…
Disregarding her dignity as a queen, Cecil ran out to the hall in search of her daughter. “Edna, take off your clothes.”
When Cecil called her by her Christian name, Edna cried in dismay, “What are you saying? I’ll take care of this place, so get out of the way. What are you all doing? Take Her Majesty to the secret passage at once!”
Sword in hand, Edna commanded the servants to take her mother to safety, but Cecil grabbed her collar, saying, “Edna, stop. It’s all over now. They want our blood because of the evil your father has committed. Even if I avoid it, where would I go? But you are different.”
“Don’t say that. What are you all doing? I said take her out of here now!” As she heard the sound of people’s footsteps approaching, Edna gave out orders in a frosty voice… until Cecil began to slowly undress her.
“Mother! What the hell is wrong with you?” Edna exclaimed.
“You have to live. Everyone thinks you’re a man, so if you run away, no one will find you. But I can’t keep up with you. If I go with you, you’ll be caught,” she explained patiently.
“No, I’ll stay with you, mother.”
“Edna, you should listen to me. You have to. Sione, take off your clothes and change them with Edna’s. Give me that ring, too.” Ophelia, who always assisted Cecil like a shadow, wasted no time upon receiving her queen’s orders.
The two women quickly stripped Edna and Sione, the poor maid who was shivering beside her. Then they dressed Edna in the maid’s clothes, making sure to put the large ruby ring, the symbol of the prince, on the finger of another servant.
Edna tried to dissuade her mother, but Cecil did not back down. She knew it was her daughter’s last chance. “Everything will end if you die, Edna. You haven’t even lived a decent life yet. I fully blame myself for never having anticipated such a day would come. You have to live on, Edna. You must live your life as a woman now, not a man.”
“I cannot go. I will stay and die here with you, mother.”
“Do you even know what it’s like to die? Think of the horrors we’ve witnessed. Oh, I don’t have time to be arguing with you like this. Edna, hurry and run, hurry. Are you really going to disobey my last wish?”
Cecil gave Edna a good slap on the cheek. Only then did Edna realize that her mother really intended to send her away and tears fell from her eyes.
“You are now reborn as an ordinary woman, just as you wanted. Make sure you survive and watch what comes next with your own eyes. Keep this foolish mother’s words buried deep in your memory and never forget them. No one can ever stay uptight before power; I’m sure it’ll be the same for Cayden. So be sure to watch exactly how the power Cayden acquired through bloodshed consumes him whole. Go, now.”