Since The Day You Left II: Comatose Dream
Caislín had indignantly clasped his cloak around his shoulders and sighed. Her chilled fingers clutched the eagle’s wing that connected the golden braided loop on the other edge of his cloak. He may have sensed her hesitation to let him out of her sight, and enveloped her small hands in his weathered ones. He wasn't that much older than her, but his callused hands were those of a man of old age. They were gloved in soft black leather and were warm. She leaned her forehead into his chest and swallowed down her tears. As he kissed the crown of her head he squeezed her hand, and she felt under his left glove the hard silver promise ring.
“Every promise of mine is kept in this covenant,” he had whispered to her when he gave one to her. “Every single promise, Caislín, sings ‘I love you’.”
Now she was crying more than that day, only out of sadness instead of happiness.
He wrapped his arms and royal blue cloak around her. This was their last moment together before he would be gone for a long time. He and the elite soldier faction, the Solitary, had been ordered to march on Destrea’s border, where the enemy the Udaens awaited them. Given the Udaens were known for their highly disciplined and elite army, the Solitary had a fraction of a chance against all of them, where the remaining legions of the Destrean army had none. Caislín hoped against hope that their commander, the man who was presently comforting her, would return.
No one had said anything earlier that morning, when he was invited to dine with the king and herself. Everyone was in a cloud of worry and sadness. To have his face gone from sight for months, without any reassurance he would be safe, would take a toll on them all. Especially Caislín.
Then, neither had anything to say, except for the commander.
“Promise?” he had asked, his voice strained and broken. “Casey, you’ll wait for me?”
Despite herself, she had laughed. “I wouldn’t let that tiara touch my head without you beside me, my handsome commander.”
His smile, however sad and crooked, was enough to make her kiss his cheek.
“I love you,” he had said softly as he mounted his steed.
“I love you too, Finnian O’Glesey.” Caislín had leaned against the stable door to allow enough room for him to walk his horse out of the long building.
Finn had turned just enough to give her a tender look. His mouth opened, as if he wanted to say something, but ultimately, his lips shut and he turned it into a smile. He nodded slightly and ordered his stallion into a gallop through the snow.
Caislín had sighed and traced the grain of the wood in the door. She waited.
It’s petty of me, she had thought with tears filming her eyes, to stand here and catch myself a disease in waiting for him to return.
However long she did wait, he never came back with the rest of the Solitary Legion.
“Casey? Casey, are you all right?”
Caislín’s eyes fluttered open and she first saw her father’s face very close to hers. His hand grasped her upper arm, like he had been shaking her. His expression was one of fatherly worry. His already dreamy and slightly sleepy brown eyes had grown dimmer, from which she could deduce he got little to no sleep. Morning light poured through the open floor-to-ceiling windows of her bedroom, clothing the walls in a proper dressing of warm gold.
“Dadi?” she groaned.
The first thing she noticed after waking up was her queasy stomach. She coughed harshly, followed by successful gagging. A doctor cleaned it up and pressed a hand to her forehead.
“The fever has passed,” the doctor announced with a touch of relief. “Her Highness should feel a little light-headed and maybe nauseated, but otherwise, she is all better from her incident two days ago.” He smiled at Caislín, stood, bowed, and left the bedroom.
The princess’ gazed shifted to her father, and her eyes widened. “Two days ago?” she echoed, feeling sick again. This time she overcame her urge to retch. “How long- Two days?” She was incredulous. The coronation could be postponed at this point? She was in denial and shook her head. “You’re playing a trick on me, you are,” she dared.
Her father shook his head and brushed her hair from her sweaty face. “The doctor said you went in a state of delirium,” he explained. “It brought sickness to you, it did. Thank the Protector you’re alive and well now.”
Caislín sucked in her lips. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered sheepishly.
“How can you apologize for this?”
She closed her eyes and let herself fall into her father’s safety. Arms never felt as loving, words never as soothing, care never as calming as a father’s to his daughter. Not even her future husband could hold her with such tenderness as her father had all the days of her life.
“I… I thought about him, and-”
“They were my words that made you,” he whispered. “I apologize greatly, Casey.”
The princess smiled slightly. “If it weren’t for the memory of his departure, it might’ve been pleasant.”
The king sat on the edge of her bed and gazed into her eyes. “Tell me everything.”
Caislín’s eyes filmed with tears. “I remembered his ring,” she choked. Instinctively, the princess looked down at her left hand.
No royal protocols or tempting jewelry could take off or replace the precious silver band that encircled her ring finger. The insignia of a Solitary, an eagle in flight with its feathers spread out, stamped the top. Her commander had it cast out of the silver arrow he had won at the tournament where he confessed his love. “That arrow doesn’t mean half of what this ring does to me,” he had said as he went to one knee.
The king nodded pensively. “More?” he inquired.
Caislín leaned back onto the soft pillows. She noticed how warm and wet they were. Grimacing, she turned them over so she wouldn’t have to feel her perspiration.
“I remembered his cloak,” she added. “I remembered the feel of the velvet around me when he embraced me for the last time.” She frowned and turned just her head to her father. “I remembered our engagement, the feeling of his kiss… I remembered everything, Dadi.”
He smiled weakly and nodded. “I missed seeing you and him together, either riding, walking, laughing… He was a half of you.”
“He was more,” Caislín said.
No, she thought. No more thinking of the past. You have a coronation to start now.
“Will you help me up, Dadi?”
He smiled and took his daughter’s hand. “Come now, fy merch.”