Myrsina walks through the forest that lies in the outer realm of her kingdom. Thoughts of the conversation she’s just had with Eric, her right-hand man, consume her.
‘Your intended marriage, Your Majesty…’ his voice had trailed off. ‘May I speak frankly?’
Myrsina nodded. ‘Please.’
‘I predict danger. Riots.’
Myrsina’s eyes widened. ‘You must be joking. Our kingdom needs this marriage. The joining of the two kingdoms will make us stronger.’
‘Her Majesty, King Pedro is a beast.’
Myrsina flushed at the words from Eric. ‘I think you might be taking your liberty to speak freely too far, Eric.’
‘My apologies, Ma’am.’ He bowed his head.
She dismissed him, noting she needed time to think, and before she knew it, she found herself here, in the forest. Myrsina keeps walking, not consciously aware of where she’s going until she arrives.
Her childhood playground.
Here’s the tree with thickly knotted roots spilling up from the ground. The rope—now fraying—that once held the swing still dangles from the tree’s thick branches. Her dad, King Henrick, had built her a treehouse, and he’d deemed the whole area Myrsina’s Sanctuary.
She smiles ruefully. Never has she needed a sanctuary more. Eric’s right. King Pedro is brutal. She’s heard the rumours about his kingdom, the way he rules his subjects. Leaning on the trunk, Myrsina weeps silently. Her kingdom is doomed if she marries Pedro; ruined if she doesn’t.
Wrapping her arms around the trunk, her fingers feel for the hollow section. She moves around, plunges her hand into the dark hole and she grips onto the old metal box, wrenches it from its hiding space. Inside the box, her old chalk and small blackboard are still there, along with hand-written diaries.
She places the diaries aside; no time for reminiscing now. Myrsina sketches on the board. Minutes turn to hours. Before she realises time has passed, dusk has settled over the land. The forest is a mix of darkness and weak light, converging to make ghostly shapes. She’s not fearful. Knows this forest like the back of her hand.
She clutches her board, with roughly drawn plans, and runs back to the castle. The servants are in array; Eric beside himself with worry over her whereabouts.
‘Your Majesty.’ He bows his head. ‘Are you alright? We’ve been worried sick.’
‘Yes, I’m fine. My sincerest apologies. I didn’t mean to cause worry.’ She pulls her blackboard from under her dress. ‘Look. I’ve mapped a way out, so that I don’t have to marry Pedro.’
She interrupts Eric. ‘No. You’re right. It’s a disaster. But tell me what you think of this.’
On her board, in the circle she’s drawn, Myrsina has mapped a rudimentary path out of her kingdom’s current economic downturn. A path that doesn’t include marriage to Pedro, and more importantly, the ensuing loss of her birthright.
‘This could work, Your Majesty.’ Eric nods slowly. ‘You’re brilliant. Just like your dad.’
A frisson flutters over Myrsina’s skin. ‘Thank you, Eric. That’s about the biggest compliment I’ve ever received.’