Amadhay wasn’t doing so well by the time she got to Tierdom.
The ride had been long at nearly eight zoots, not counting the four times Grits had stopped to graze, drink, and rest. She was uncomfortable, which made plenty of sense, considering she had just ridden a pegasus for over eight zoots, only getting off of him when she had fallen asleep and the pegasus had somehow managed to get her off of him. It was a given that she wasn’t doing so well mentally. She had, ten zoots previous, killed one of her best friends—her lover—learned that her…whatever Atlas was, was planning to kill two of her other best friends, foiled a plot against her family and job, and been forced to ride, alone, one of the few creatures in the world that she could honestly say terrified her regardless of the good face she put up.
Physically, she wasn’t doing much better. Her neck still burned and she was positive that Ribbon’s blood had somehow dripped into the wound, which was why even though she attempted healing spells, the cut around her throat stayed. She was covered in Ribbon’s blood, even though it was dry and she barely noticed it any more. Her braid had come loose sometime during the flight and her curls were completely unmanageable as the winds battered at them. She was bruised and tired, and her legs were incredibly sore from riding Grits. Her leg was still partially burned where Ribbon had caught her and she was pretty positive that she probably had at one least black eye, considering they were both swelling so badly she could barely open them.
She knew that she should probably have tried to find a Phoegani safe house in Tierdom, but she didn’t. She was tired, scared, and sad and for once, she just wanted to be comforted. She didn’t know where Monkey or Benjy were, or even if they were still alive or would come for her. Atlas and Ribbon were obviously no longer the comforts that they had been not even a full day previous. With all of her normal options out, Amadhay did something she had sworn not only to herself, but to the Phoegani and Arne Riff, that she would never do.
She went to Nolando.
Or rather, she went to the Tierdom kingdom and hoped that he would be there, with his knot. By this point, Grits was doing most of the work to keep her on his back, keeping his wings up so that she wouldn’t slide off even though he was walking in the palace garden. A handful of horrified shrieks made her try to open her eyes, but she couldn’t get them much more than a crack.
“Is she alive?” a quivering female voice asked.
“I don’t know. What is she?”
“Did someone call the queen?”
“She’s coming. Should we try to help her?” the last voice gave another shriek after Grits gave a threatening squeal, stomping his feet. Amadhay clutched his mane, forcing herself to sit up.
“Princess Anne?” Amadhay asked hoarsely. Grits gave a soft blow before shaking his head experimentally. When Amadhay held on and didn’t fall back or down, he lowered his wings.
“Did she say something?”
“I don’t know.”
“We should do something.”
Amadhay took a deep breath and tried again, making her voice louder. “Anne?”
“I’m here,” finally a familiar voice said. There was the sound of shifting feet, and then Grits neighed in alarm, dancing to the side. “Amaya?” the woman asked.
Amadhay thought that she should correct the woman, but instead focused on calming Grits “It’s okay boy. She’s a friend,” she whispered into his ear. Grits moved in a semi-circle before blowing again. This time Amadhay knew he was blowing at Anne, because she heard the woman give a nervous laugh.
“I can tell you’re not alright, so I’m going to have someone come to get you off of the pegasus. Do you hear me?”
Amadhay nodded, but patted Grits’ head. “Let me down,” she ordered the horse, who was slow to do as she asked, but did eventually kneel forward so that she could slide down. She fell right into someone’s arms.
“Hey, I’ve got you,” Anne said softly, “You could’ve waited, but that’s fine. I’ve got you.” Grits pressed his head against Amadhay and the girl felt Anne shift her weight so that she was leaning more against the horse than her.
“Has someone found Nolando yet?” she asked softly of someone beside her.
“Yes, your majesty. His majesty is on his way,” one of the other female voices answered.
“Well someone might want to tell him that this isn’t Amaya,” she said in a low voice.
Amadhay forced her eyes open as far as they would go to see Anne looking at her with a mixture of fear, curiosity, worry, and confusion on her face. The blonde woman looked just the same as always, a golden tan color with dark blonde hair and round brown eyes, but the crown on her head was different from when Amadhay had last seen her. She had forgotten that Anne’s father had died, that she was the queen now.
“There you are!” Anne exclaimed, looking past Amadhay and Grits, to someone who seemed to be approaching quickly. “You need to get her on the lift and take her to the medical wing. She is to have immediate attention,” she ordered as a pair of healers in white garb came into Amadhay’s vision. She closed her eyes again, choosing to rest for the moment.
Grits made a soft nicker at Amadhay, which she responded to by weakly patting his flank. “Thank you, Grits.” The next thing she knew, she was being gently laid onto a stretcher.
Heavy, running footsteps approached and Amadhay forced her eyes open one last time to see her eldest cousin. Like his knot, he had dark blond hair and his light olive skin really offset his dark blue eyes, which went straight to her face. He was sweating and out of breath, making her wonder what he had been doing when the information of her arrival had reached him.
He gave a soft curse, and then as she was being lifted into the air, she felt a hand brush her hair from her face. “Amadhay,” he whispered.
“In the flesh,” she responded before the healers started moving.
“We have to get her to the medical wing as soon as possible, your majesty. I’m sorry,” one of them said, making Nolando back up. As she was closing her eyes, she saw Nolando begin to follow, Anne at his side.
“I thought she was dead,” she heard her cousin say.
“That’s definitely what I last heard,” Anne responded. “I think I might remember a funeral,” she added drily.
“But that’s Amadhay, isn’t it? It has to be.”
“It definitely looked like her,” Anne admitted.
“I’m Amadhay,” she added to their conversation, her voice scratchy. “I pretended to be dead but I’m not. But don’t tell anyone except Monkey. He already knows.”
“Why would you pretend to be dead?” Nolando wanted to know, his voice breaking for a moment. “Who did this to you?”
“Doesn’t matter. She’s dead.”
“You majesties, we really need her to stop talking,” one of the healers said. “The damage to her throat needs to be looked at right now.”
“Of course,” Anne offered, “We’ll talk after,” she promised both Amadhay and Nolando.
“I want to talk now,” Amadhay argued even though she really didn’t.
“But you can’t,” Anne stated matter-of-factly. “When you’re all fixed, we’ll talk. All four of us.”
“Four?” she asked, but neither the king nor queen answered her. Instead, one of the healers shushed her and began to work on her throat. She figured she probably should have told them it was useless, but figured they’d come to that realization on their own. Besides, she wanted to rest. For some reason, Anne taking control of the situation as well as she had was incredibly comforting and helped Amadhay relax.