The door was closed. Her family was beyond those doors. She could feel it; she could save them. And she wrenched open the door handle.
The first thing she saw was Salar's profile and felt shocked. He wasn't supposed to arrive until this morning. Her heart swooped in her throat as her eyes traveled to the man standing idly beside him and her world suddenly grew very quiet. It felt like all was moving in slow motion. She took in the situation as she came forward. She could see Abid slumped against a table. He was clutching onto his side, the side of his robes drenched with blood, his expression of a man in great pain. The man standing beside Salar turned and Mirage discovered that the man was her own father and for a moment, she felt happy. He was alive. Then she saw why he was slumping forward. King Sarosh's legs were wilted, he was holding onto his heart. The reason was a dagger sticking out of his chest where his heart was. And around that dagger's hilt were Salar's fingers, tightly holding onto her father's fingers. Her father's eyes drooped, the blood oozed out from around the dagger's blade. Salar was looking away from her at Abid.
That room was the only one not lit, and as Mirage took in the scene, she heard a blood-curdling scream from a distance. Salar turned to look at the source of the scream and in shock, let go of the dagger when he saw Mirage. Mirage heard the scream again and in her mind, she felt irritated. Whoever was screaming really must keep it down. Mirage's face contorted as she looked down at her father.
She couldn't accept it though. She saw Salar move towards her, his hands raised in surrender and suddenly, he was pushed away from her by an unknown force. He staggered back and his face went white. All of a sudden, it all came swooping back to her. Her mind wound itself into place and she heard the abrupt cut of noise fill her brain. She looked up again. Her father was on the ground, clutching onto his chest, the dagger still there, blood draining away from him. Abid struggled to stand up in the corner, holding his side. And in front of her was Salar. Dear, sweet Salar who knew he had King Sarosh's blood on his hands, literally.
Mirage realized that the screams she had heard had actually come from her. She was the one who had pushed Salar away from her. Falling down beside him, she looked at her father. Blood was staining his shirt, and he was holding onto the dagger as if his life depended on it.
Mirage looked down at her hands. They were shaking. As she inched near her father, she saw his droopy eyes focus on her. He wasn't going to make it. She knew as much. He couldn't breathe. She could see from the wound that someone had tried to pull the dagger out but her father hadn't let them.
Mirage heard herself call out to him as she saw the light behind his eyes dim. He was leaving her. Her voice didn't make any sense. She blubbered. Tears streamed down her face. She couldn't breathe as she heaved. She heard a crash sound from outside and the yells increased, but reminded her of jubilation. It didn't matter to her though.
She took her father's hand and looked into his eyes. She had heard that when a person was dying, their entire life flashed before their eyes. But at that moment, while she was holding onto her dying father, all she could think of was her entire life with her father. She had been wrong. Everything that she was, it was because of her father. Even if she did hate him, this moment was one that would torture her for the rest of her remaining life.
King Sarosh looked into his young daughter's eyes and squeezed her hand. Even near death, he still wanted to tell his daughter that she was his most beloved child; he was just sorry he never got a chance to tell her that. But all he did was take her hand, and with one last burst of strength, place it on the hilt of the dagger. And with that, as Salar's face swam into his line of vision behind Mirage, King Sarosh breathed out, never to come back.
Mirage squeezed her father's hand and waited for him to respond. She could not trust herself to speak. But he never squeezed her hand back. From her depths, she felt a wail form and suddenly, her breathing stopped as she screamed. King Sarosh was dead. Her father was dead.
Her wails of despair echoed across the room and came back to her, three-fold. Her hand slipped from the dagger. Shaking her father's shoulders, his hand fell from her lap and to the cold ground. Mirage felt a great pain in her gut as if something was being ripped from inside her with a giant hook.
She found her voice. "PAPA! PAPA!" She screamed as she shook him hard. King Sarosh's glassy eyes stayed on Salar who looked back ghostly. The king's chest didn't move. Tears splashed down on King Sarosh's face. Moving closer, Mirage pulled her father's head onto her lap and cradled it, her cries increasing as her hands became coated with his blood as she gently pulled him to her. She could feel the room fill with people. There was shuffling as she howled in grief. Shakily, she reached to the dagger and pulled it out. The feeling in her hand was of pushing a rock out of a muddy patch of sand. She blinked and cleared her eyes. The dagger was common, long and curved with a sharp cutting edge. A cutlass. The penny dropped. She pulled the dagger to a side.
She felt someone come behind her. She heard sobbing. Numerous voices. Women. She felt a person kneel down beside her. It was Queen Nadira. Staring at the dead body of her husband, she felt her soul rip away from her body and she staggered, falling back. Her older daughters supported her as she fell, Alana's sobbing uncontrollable. Aria stared blankly at her father, her own night gown stained with blood. Salar felt someone grab hold of him and let them pull his arms behind him.
Sepehr kneeled down beside Mirage as a couple of soldiers helped Abid get up but couldn't. They took Abid away on a make-shift stretcher as Mirage's guards cordoned off the room. Soldiers shifted to the main hall, shocked to their very core at what they were witnessing. Salar stayed still against Rostam and Azin's grip on his shoulders, their glares of pure loathing and hatred. Salar couldn't say anything because he didn't know what to say.
Sepehr gently pulled Mirage away from King Sarosh. She resisted. He didn't bother her again and stood up. Turning, he started consulting with Sam about what to do with Salar when he saw Sam gesture to something behind him. He turned and saw Mirage looking up at him, her expression blank.
"Take him to the dungeons. Make sure no one hears of this." Her voice seemed much calmer in contrast to her current situation.
Salar started struggling as he was being pulled away. "Mirage, No! You have to listen to me; I didn't kill your father. I was framed."
Mirage didn't respond and turned her back to him.
Salar shouted. "MIRAGE, PLEASE. IT WASN'T ME. IT WAS…" his sentence stopped. Mirage; letting go of her father had stood up. In a flash, she was in front of Salar, the muzzle of her gun pointing straight-blank into his face.
She heard a sudden frightened hush around her. She looked into her husband's eyes. They were pleading.
"Never say my name again." She said, her voice rasping. "Never look at me, never speak about me. Don't even think about me. You are no longer my husband." She breathed. "You're dead."
Salar looked into her eyes. She could see it. She could see his side of the story. And she wanted to believe him. She wanted to believe he was innocent. But the evidence spoke for itself.
Salar was pulled away without any protest. He wordlessly let the men shove him out of the room. Mirage felt her tears start anew. She dropped her arm and shut her eyes tightly, willing for it all to go away. So this is what Abid meant about sacrifice.
Mirage felt the pain in her gut increase. It was 100 times worse than when she had been tortured. The future seemed bleak for her.
She looked up. Sepehr was approaching her cautiously. She didn't realize she still had her gun held tightly in her hand. Immediately, she released it. It swung on her finger and Sepehr swiped away from her. She felt miserable.
Someone gently took hold of Mirage's hands and dimly, she turned to see Tatiana's face loom near her. Tatiana pulled Mirage away as the doctors swarmed into the room. Nothing they could do now.
She felt Tatiana pull her into her arms and she allowed it. She just didn't feel anything in her heart anymore. Tatiana let go of Mirage and she stood to a side, feeling numb. Her mother and sisters shuffled up to her.
Unexpectedly, she felt her mother take her hand. Mirage's own bloodied hand slipped into her mother's clean one as a stretcher arrived for the once great King Sarosh. The body was placed onto the stretcher and taken away. The floor seemed undisturbed but for a large stain of blood where her father's body once was. With a squeeze, Queen Nadira let go of Mirage's hand and lurched away, held by her two daughters.
Mirage looked around vaguely. She needed to get away from here. Far away. Mirage pulled on Tatiana's hand when she suddenly stopped. She suddenly didn't feel so good, which was a big thing. She felt faint. Like the wind had been knocked out of her. Tatiana supported Mirage as she swayed. That was when she heard a sharp gasp and saw Tatiana look down in horror. Her mother stopped in her tracks by the door and turned to look back, her face awash with fear. Mirage raised her eyebrows at them. Had someone else been killed behind her? Had Tatiana just spotted the body?
But no. Tatiana overcame her fear and shook Mirage.
"Mirage! Look at your legs." She yelped and Mirage looked down.
She seemed to be bleeding profusely. Funny, she didn't remember the cut being so deep. It hadn't affected her so. She didn't even remember getting it. The men backed away as a lady doctor came sprinting back to see what the commotion was and stopped in her tracks. Her eyes went from the young queen to the large puddle of blood on the floor where the queen had collapsed. Then back to the blood seeping down from Mirage's legs onto the stone floor.
The doctor stepped forward. "Your Majesty, are you hurt anywhere? I mean physically?" She added awkwardly.
Mirage thought. Revelation flooded her. So that's what it was. She had read quite a bit about it but had never thought she'd experience it. Flashes and memories came to her. The constant bitterness, her bad moods, her over-bearing tiredness, her constant need for food, her vomiting, and her bloated body all started showing up from the moment her and Salar and consummated the marriage.
And now, she couldn't do anything about it. She had drunk alcohol like a sailor, worked and stayed up late as much as she wanted, taking more stress then she could handle, and she had been quite vigorous in her visits to the various locations, climbing hundreds of steps and participating in racing horses. She had dismissed the pain in her stomach which had started some weeks ago as simple indigestion. Never mind that she hadn't thought that her time of the month hadn't come in three months, she had just stored this thought away for later reviewing and forgotten about it. Now, she had to face the facts.
Her tears hadn't stopped flowing, and yet, her voice was strong. It needed to be. She needed to be. Turning to the female doctor, she took a sharp breath.
"Well, doctor. I think I'm losing the child I didn't know I had."