***Love at Last***
195: “I loved it.”
The next day, the sun was high in the morning sky before Kru’Nah swept aside the curtains. He blinked against the brightness, a yawn escaping his lips. His arms and back ached. He stretched and then made his way to the door, pulling the bolt.
New soldiers stood at either side.
“I need clothes and a rub,” Kru’Nah commanded.
“Sire,” one said and strode away.
The other turned, revealing Tra’Khil. Kru’Nah smiled in spite of himself. He stepped back into the room, sweeping his arm. Tra’Khil entered and knelt.
“My king,” he said. “I serve you with my whole life.”
“Rise, man,” Kru’Nah said. Tra’Khil slowly rose.
“You will be an honored king,” Tra’Khil said. “You have saved us all.”
“No,” Kru’Nah said. “You have. By ignoring a direct order, you are entirely responsible for all these happenings. The honor is due to you.” Kru’Nah then knelt into a bow before Tra’Khil. When he rose again, tears lined Tra’Khil’s cheeks.
“I will forever be honored,” he whispered.
“Back to your post, soldier,” Kru’Nah said with a smile.
Tra’Khil snapped a salute and stepped back outside the door.
Warmth radiated from the windows. Kru’Nah rubbed his hands together and approached the window, standing in the sun with his eyes closed. So much time had passed since he had been warm.
A knock at the door interrupted him. He turned as it swung open. Several servants entered and within an hour, he’d been bathed, had some of the soreness rubbed from his muscles, and gotten dressed.
He slung the lightweight, golden cape over his shoulder as he examined the fine gold needlework of his garment.
“Sire,” said one of the servants. “It’s time.”
Kru’Nah turned. “Let us go.”
He followed the servants to the Grand Court, which housed the throne. People were packed into the massive room. He strode up the thin center aisle to the throne. He turned to face everyone. The spot where the High Council should have been standing was empty. He sucked in a sharp breath.
Tra’Khil approached the throne and knelt, followed by Claudius.
Tra’Khil stood. “My soldiers and I have been awake all night, cleaning out the massacre rooms. The entire High Council has been executed – none remains. Therefore, I and Claudius shall administer the rights to the king as we know. Forgive the lack of ceremony.”
Kru’Nah smiled. “Nothing to forgive, Commander.”
Claudius rose and turned to face the people.
“Good people,” Claudius said. “There have been many strange and terrible events in these last few days which have now resulted in your new king upon the throne.”
A polite applause rippled through the room.
“As you may or may not know,” Claudius continued, “the entire High Council has been executed at the command of the former queen. Acting in a decisive and kingly manner, your new king demanded Justice for such actions. Each false priest of the Guardians has been punished, and so has the queen.”
Gasps and murmurs rose then faded away.
“Behold, your new king!” Tra’Khil thundered. He pulled a crown from inside his robe and set it on Kru’Nah’s head.
The room erupted in cheers. As the noise died down, Tra’Khil indicated to the back of the room.
“We have two honored guests to present to you, King.”
The silence deepened during the long, slow walk of the white-clad individual, a hood obscuring the face. The cautious, feeble steps gave the person away as Kru’Dael’Nah. Once he finally had ascended the steps of the throne, the hood was pulled back.
Kru’Nah took in a breath, as did many in the room, peering into the face of his Grandfather again.
“The eminent Kru’Dael’Nah, back from exile in the North,” Tra’Khil announced.
Kru’Dael’Nah slowly lowered himself into a kneel. He struggled rising. Kru’Nah immediately held out his hand and gently pulled the old man to standing.
“Grandfather,” Kru’Nah said, pulling him into an embrace. When he stepped back, he smiled. “You are honored in this place again, as you always should have been.”
Kru’Nah led Kru’Dael’Nah to a chair set to the side.
Tra’Khil indicated to the back of the room again.
Kru’Nah’s heart pounded in his chest and his palms began to sweat. He tried to keep his breath steady as a second white-clad individual was led up the aisle. He struggled to keep his face neutral. As they finally climbed the steps, he held his breath.
The hood was pulled back.
Allyandrah stared back at him. Her hair had grown down to her ears already. So much time.
He released his breath and closed his eyes. Everything was set right. He opened them again, just as she descended into a low bow.
Kru’Nah knelt down in front of her, holding out both hands. She grasped them as they rose together.
“Never again shall you kneel to me,” he said. Kru’Nah released one of her hands and pulled the crown from his head, placing on hers. “My queen.”
A mixture of gasps and cheers came from the people.
Kru’Nah pulled Allyandrah to his side. He bowed to the people and then escorted Allyandrah back down the long aisle. He led her through a winding maze of hallways up to the highest watchtower of the castle.
“I thought I would never see you again,” Kru’Nah said.
“I thought I was going to die out there,” Allyandrah said, grabbing his arms. “Then, Claudius just… showed up.”
Kru’Nah lifted his hand and stroked her hair, a thousand questions swirling around in his head. But none mattered next to the one action he’d been waiting what felt like forever to take. He slid his hand down to her cheek and pulled her close to him.
She rose onto her toes and their lips finally met.