Mae woke first. Seeing that her mother was still sound asleep, she quietly got up and padded out to the lunchroom, in her bare feet. Without any windows, it was difficult to tell how early or late it was. She found Hector at one of the tables, cradling a coffee cup in his hands, staring into space. He didn’t notice that Mae had come in.
She quietly made a coffee for herself, before going to sit opposite the man. The sound of her spoon stirring her cup, caused him to jump with a start.
“Oh! You’re up.”
She kept stirring. The man looked at her, but almost seemed to be looking through her. Like he was trying to work something out.
“How much do you know about history?”
“History? What do you mean? Just what they taught us in school.Not much.”
“So, none.” He sighed.
“Okay. I know you must have a lot of questions. Your mother really should have told you already, but since she hasn’t….” he moved in his chair so her was looking at her eye to eye.
“Before we get into… specifics, I think it is important for you to have a quick history lesson.”
Mae was still groggy with sleep, but her annoyance with her mother, and now this man, refusing to tell her what was going on was intensifying.
“Is that really necessary? Can’t you just tell me. You said yourself I have a right to know, if this all concerns me.”
“Oh it concerns you alright. But, a little more patience… you need to know the history of this place, or nothing else will make any sense.”
“Pfffftttt…alright! Tell me.”
She slumped in her chair, her arms folded, prepared to be bored.
“Okay. Once upon a time,”
“Wait. Stop. Really? You’re really going start with ‘Once Upon a Time’?”
“Yes, I am, it’s how all good stories start.”
“Stories? It thought you said this was meant to be history.”
“Calm down. I’m getting there. History is just a story that happens to be true. Now, do you want me to tell it or not?”
“Oh alright. Just… get on with it.”
“Once upon a time, this country was one kingdom, ruled by one King. King Theodore Harrington. While far from perfect, as no man is, as far as kings go, he was one of the best. This country experienced peace and prosperity unlike any time before, or since.
His wife, Queen Evelynne came from one of this land’s oldest families. The Langstons. Her family are said to have ruled this place in one way or another since before time itself. It was only when the Harringtons came along a century or so ago, that they lost their place. When Theodore married Evelynne, many said that finally the rightful rulers were in place again.
All superstition, no doubt, except…for the Amethyst Song. The Amethyst Song is an amulet that has been in the possession of the Langstons since anyone can remember. They say that whoever holds the amulet is the true born ruler of this land. It was lost for a time, no one knows for sure what happened, all that is known is that when they lost it, is when the Harringtons took power. Then mysteriously it resurfaced when Evelynne was born.”
Hector paused and took a sip of his coffee. In the silence, a banging could be heard coming from the back entrance. He was immediately on his feet, and alert.
He left the room.
Mae got up. “I wish people would stop telling me what to do.”
She left the room too. She saw Hector moving, slowly and quietly in the shadows toward the entryway. A pistol was in his hands. She hung back, watching to see what he would do, but not wanting to draw attention to herself.
After he had disappeared into the office, she moved next to the door, and stood listening. The banging was louder, and more insistent. There was a pause. Then she heard him gasp, and start unbolting the door. The silence was then filled with the sound of dozens of young voices. Hector was ushering them in.”Come in, come in. What is this all about?”
There was a commotion by the door and then dozens of children came pushing through the door. Some crying, all exhausted. Bringing up the rear was Hilda Ravencour who ran the local school. Hector came behind them motioning them through the door. Mae was pressed with her back to the wall, in the dark shadow, but that didn’t stop him from spotting her. He gave her a look that said he wasn’t surprised, and just shook his head.
“Come on everyone. Now, now. Enough of the tears. You’re all safe now. This way. We’ll see if we can’t put some food in you all. Then maybe you can tell me why you’re all here, and what’s going on.”
“I doubt it.” Mae mumbled under her breath.
It wasn’t long before all the children, plus Hilda, Hector and Mae were in the kitchen. Fortunately there were a several loaves of bread, and tins of tomato soup, so they were all able to be fed. It was clear that they had been walking all night, and most of the day. During the excitement, Beatrice had woken, and come to the kitchen. She was helping the other adults with feeding the children.
While they ate. Hilda filled them in on what had happened in town, after they had fled. As she spoke it was clear that the strain of maintaining calm for the sake of the children was taking its toll. As she spoke, Mae became more subdued. Her mother glanced across at her, a worried and sympathetic expression on her face.
“It’ll be alright, my love. You’ll see.”
Her daughter looked across at her, “This is all because of me. Isn’t it?”
“No love, you mustn’t think that.”
“Stop it!” Mae stood up abruptly, causing her chair to fall to the floor with a crash. “Look at them mama. Look at us. That man came looking for me! Don’t deny it. You need to stop lying to me. I’m a big, girl, whatever it is, I can handle it. But, stop treating me like a child.” Her face had turned red, and her eyes had started to turn silver.
Hector came over and placed a hand gently on her arm.
“You know she’s right Bea. The time for secrets is passed.”
Beatrice just sat, nodding her head defeated. “I know. I know.” She turned to her daughter,a pained expression on her face, “First, though, before we tell you everything, I want you to know I love you, and I always will; and that everything that has happened has been to protect you.”
“Of course mama. I love you too.”
Hector had moved back to his chair, and motioned for Mae to sit beside him.
“Okay then I was just starting to give you a history lesson. I see no reason why all you young folk would benefit from a bit of history. So if everyone will get comfortable, I’ll get started. Once upon a time,”
Mae groaned, while Hector smiled at her, a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and went back to the beginning, “ this country was one kingdom, ruled by one King.”