The next morning came early for most at the palace. The grand meeting in the court yard was to take place rather than the usual meeting with the grandchildren in the gardens. The atmosphere was tense as the queens and the few consorts still living at the palace gathered with the sons of the Emperor.
Empress Evelyn walked down the path leading from the Cold Palace with her son on her right, her daughter on her left and her son in law at her back. No guard dared say a word as Clovis and Vella escorted their Mother to the gardens. Truth be told, none of them wanted to. No matter how the Emperor felt, Empress Evelyn would always be the Empress in their eyes.
Queen Kira watched as the four walked into the clearing and she couldn't help but feel uneasy. Her mind went back to the letter… could it not have reached him yet? The protective stance Mordrin held at Evelyn's back made her wonder if it would be more effective when he did read it. A smile curved her lips.
The Emperor watched them approach as well but his unease was different. His Eve had been in the Cold Palace more than a week now. She had shown no signs of repentance or asked to plead her case. He was beginning to fear she would truly never leave that place by her own decision. His heart felt stifled as he watched her take strength from their children and a Prince he had not expected to see.
Alexi bowed as the Empress passed, "Greetings and Good Fortune, My Empress. I hope you are faring well." Alexi greeted his words kind as was his tone. The Empress nodded at him and stopped.
"Greetings, Alexi. It is good to see someone in the court still recognizes me." Eve replied with a gentle smile. It was dazzling with confidence as she spoke her mind. Her eyes passed from Alexi's surprised eyes to her husband's her fire untamed within her. The consorts bowed at this reminder as did Queen Kira who realized the wisdom of the moment.
Fae however stood tall as the Empress began to walk to her place at the Emperor's side. Queen Fae stepped out to block her way, her eyes dancing with hatred. Evelyn sighed internally, having hoped this girl would be intelligent enough to step aside. She couldn't help but wonder how such a stupid girl could be so high in this family.
"Empress, I believe you owe me an apology before you could leave the Cold Palace." Queen Fae reminded her and the tension in the air suddenly tightened more. The stark contrast of Queen Fae's domineering and almost bratty personality and Empress Evelyn's cool and calm like water in a reflective pool was striking.
"Oh? And you speak for the Emperor now? I may have been banished but I am still Empress. I will not apologize for teaching a second queen her place." The Empress replied her head held high, it was obvious she felt no guilt for what she had done. Her words reminding them she was within her rights to correct a queen out of line. In the eyes of the consorts and indeed the Emperor who was the victim suddenly looked less clear. "Furthermore, even a woman cast to the cold palace has a right to attend royal family meetings in which her children take part." she added before brushing past the now red cheeked queen. The four walked past her but the chilling eyes of Vella found Fae's a warning clear in her eyes.
"The Empress is correct. Fae stand aside." the Emperor ordered just a moment too late. The Empress had not waited for his help and raised a surprised eyebrow when he did. That expression stung him like scorpion in the chest.
The Empress curtsied to the Emperor but did not speak. She took her place at the side of the flame drenched tree. The sunlight hit each petal and made the Phoenix blossoms seem to glow like fire in the daylight. It was striking to see. The Emperor felt the chill of her aura even as his mouth opened to speak, and he decided better of it.
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