|QUOTE (The decision for Astraea to go to the monastery)|
|"She is hardly seven years of age, Lefteris," she heard her mother sigh beyond the door which had been opened just a sliver. |
"Precisely," her father responded, his voice deep and full of certainty as it always was. "If we send her now, she will likely be able to take the title of priestess when she becomes a woman, and this is a time-sensitive matter."
"Why not see her married? She'd not be lacking in a dowry. Surely two marriageable daughters is preferable for a duke," her mother argued in her cautious way. Astraea could see the way the duchess of Fyrrn lowered her gaze as she offered this suggestion.
"A marriage would do nothing for the issue of solidifying my relationship with the temple," was her father's response, stronger than his last statements. The finality in them was obvious. "Perhaps she will manage monastic lands at some point. She could be powerful in her own right, brilliant as she is. The life of a priestess is not below her."
As the silence grew between the duke and duchess, Astraea cautiously closed the door to their bedchamber and hurried away.
|QUOTE (Astraea's departure from her father's land at Fyrrn)|
|"Your younger daughter, Astraea," the bearded king of the Island Nation asked, shifting in his seat at the duke's table, "What of her?" |
The duke looked at King Fenrys somewhat oddly, Astraea noticed as she viewed both men from the corner of her eye, pausing in her movement across the room. She straightened her dress before pushing her hair over her shoulder.
"Astraea," her father called, motioning her forward. "Come." As she approached the men seated at the table in the center of the room, he explained, "She has recently returned home after spending eight years at the monastery at Blackship Cove. She is three years younger than Karaesa."
As she came to stand at her father's side, she nodded her acknowledgment to the king of the nation across the sea then lowered her gaze to the floor. Her hands came together before her, her fingers lacing together tightly, turning her knuckles a few shades whiter than her already fair skin. Her cheeks began to blush just enough to embarrass her further.
A week later, she took her sister's place on the king's ship back to Escova, sealing the trade agreement between Fyrrn and the Island Nation.
|QUOTE (The death of Queen Darielle)|
|It had only been three years since the death of the king's only son. As Astraea placed the black seabird's feather over the eyes of the shrouded queen who was to join her son, she wondered what that meant for her. She had only been in Escova for two winters, and during that time she had served as the late queen's handmaiden. Now that illness had finally claimed Queen Darielle, she didn't know her place at Maristheum. |
As if he would somehow answer her unspoken questions in that moment, Astraea looked to the king as she took a step back and away from the funeral boat, overflowing with flowers that reddened her eyes. Their eyes met immediately, but she found no answers. He just looked at her. . .
|QUOTE (King Fenrys' proposal)|
|"Will you be my queen?"|
Astraea's eyes widened but she said nothing.
"Will you or will you not? I need an answer."
"I'm the daughter of a duke," she said quietly, as though this was somehow unknown by the man.
"And you could be a queen."
"Your wife was sent out to sea not a day ago . . ."
Firmly, the king stated, "I'll not debate this with you. What is your answer?"
Without another word and ignoring the man's orders, Astraea left the room. She became a Winterborn Queen of Escova two months later.
|QUOTE (The death of Astraea's first child)|
|It was a year after taking the name of the crown of Escova and becoming Queen Astraea Winterborn that she produced her first child, a son. . .|
"Why do they tell me nothing? Where is our child?" she asked with a tired smile, her eyes darting back and forth, tracing the shallow creases in her husband's face. In truth, she knew the answers.
His voice was a rumble in his chest, quiet and deep, as he answered, "The child is dead. I have no son."
When he was gone, she curled her fingers into her dampened hair and screamed.
|QUOTE (The death of Astraea's second child)|
|"What was her name?" Karaesa asked, wringing her hands as politely as she could.|
"She did not live to see the end of her first year. Her name is of no consequence," was Astraea's reply through a black veil.
Karaesa frowned. She had been doing that a lot in the last seven years, if the lines between her brows were any indication. "I would know the name of my niece, Astraea."
As Astraea walked away, she muttered, "Her name was Bridgetta, and you will call me Your Majesty or nothing at all."
|QUOTE (The funeral of King Fenrys)|
|"And you are certain that Sven will make no claim?" Astraea asked under her breath, her eyes remaining fixed on the king's boat as it was pushed out into the water.|
"He has expressed no interest in being king. In fact, he seems . . . averse to the possibility," the steward quietly responded, his gaze also fixed on the boat.
"Then I remain queen and control the nation."
"Yes. The Islands are yours."
As soon as the archers' arrows sent flame down upon the distant boat and the monarch within it, Astraea turned away and returned to the castle.
|The Old Seer sat crossed-legged, his palms resting in his lap. Blind eyes looked at her, saw her. When he spoke, his mouth was twisted in a wry smile. "They say it is men who forge the world. But you, my Queen, will by the woman who forged the coming era..."|