“Galen, please! I must consult the mirror.” Eesla stood before him, hands clutched at her waist. “No one will know, the castle sleeps.”
“My Lady, His Lordship has forbidden it. No one may consult the mirror without his approval.” He pulled his cloak around his shoulders, rested a hand on his sword hilt and took a deep breath of musty air. “I dare not disobey. Besides, the mirror shows only what it chooses.”
“Please, Galen...” Light from torches mounted on either side of the wooden door flickered, casting shadows down the empty hall. She looked up, met his gaze. “Lord Darius demands my decision on the morrow. I must know which path to choose.”
“I dare not, My Lady. My life would be required if we were discovered.” He brushed a tear from her cheek. “And the mirror’s images are uncertain, open to many interpretations.”
“My father values your services these many years. You would not be punished.” She fell to her knees and clung to his legs. “I will take any blame. I must know my fate.”
Galen pried her arms from his legs. He could blame her tears if they were caught. She’d used them often enough with her father. “Stand, My Lady, weep no more.” He helped her to her feet, gave her hands a gentle squeeze. “I see no good coming from the mirror, but I’ll not forbid you to try.” And, she’d owe him, he would use that to his advantage.
Eesla wrapped her arms around his neck, kissed his cheek. “Thank you, my friend.”
“Do not thank me yet. We both may regret this decision.” He handed her one of the torches, opened the door and moved aside. “I’ll wait here.” She kissed his cheek again took a step into the darkness. Galen watched her light another torch then closed the door with a soft thunk.
* * *
“Yes, My Lord.” Galen bowed slightly, turned and strode from the great hall. Soon, he would be the one commanding, but until that day... He sighed. Maybe the gardens. Eesla often strolled among the flowers when troubled.
Halfway across the courtyard he saw her atop the watchtower peering over the wall. He changed directions and made his way up the stone stairs. What had she seen in the mirror?
“My Lady, your father and Lord Darius are waiting.” He met her gaze, studied her troubled frown. A strand of golden hair fluttered in the evening breeze. Galen brushed it from her face.
“I should not have consulted the mirror.” She gazed toward the setting sun. “My father was right to forbid it.”
He clenched his jaw, then took a deep breath. “Have you decided upon an answer for Lord Darius?
Eesla nodded her head, continued to stare over wall. “I will marry Lord Darius. He is a wise man and will rule well in my father’s stead.” She rested her arms atop the parapet and sighed. “I may learn to love him one day, but there is no suitable alternative.”
“You could choose me, My Lady.”
She laughed and tossed a pebble off the wall. “You always were able to make me laugh. I could never marry a common-born.” Eesla sighed. “The mirror, though... I wish I had not looked.”
“What did you see, My Lady? Mayhaps together we can understand.” Galen leaned against the wall, gazed down at her.
“I saw myself — my body — broken and bleeding.” She shivered then met his gaze. “I lay on the rocks below. But... how could one fall from the watchtower? The wall is chest-high, the stones are solid.”
Galen reached down, grabbed her about the knees and flipped her over the wall. “Just like this, My Lady.”