Their voices laced the draft of air wafting beneath the throne room door. She stood in the hall, hand against the cold wood, well aware of the silent guards nearby flanking the double doors.
"See the evidence, my son,"
By the time her Mother-In-Law's words drifted to Audrey's ears, it came as a faded echo. Still, she heard. And listened.
"Your children gone; your heirs, my grandchildren. Destroyed by that witch who has you under her spell, as well! Why else would you be blind? I saw the moment I laid eyes on her; she says not a word because the fairies have cursed her lips and she sends away her own children three times now to whatever dark depths she came from herself."
The accusations burned in Audrey's chest. The old woman had trampled her before with words thornier than the thistles she wove with her bare fingers in the dead of night. Not a word could she say in defense; a single utterance, and in that moment, her brothers would die.
Audrey strained to hear Edwyn's voice, his firm tones reproving his step-mother's poisonous views. For three years she had longed to tell him of her plight. But his kind eyes and gentle touch spoke of a love that knew no words, and though she knew he couldn't understand, it didn't seem to matter to him.
She had never needed words to love him, nor he her.
That's what she thought.
Now his voice didn't come. All she heard was silence surrounded by the winding of Lady Rosalind's thorns.
Why, Edwyn? Her heart trembled. Her hands, her arms, her lips. It was not betrayal she felt, nor anger, but sorrow. How she longed to speak! To call his name and reveal the real witch to him, the woman who wasn't even his mother that manipulated his good heart towards evil. It had been so long since she'd uttered a word that she wasn't even sure if she still had a voice. Would he even hear her?
Audrey knew what would happen next. After three years of blind faith, the lies and deceit and weight of responsibility to his first promise -- the promise to his kingdom -- finally forced the bond of wordless devotion to fade. Somehow she could already feel the flames licking her toes as she ran down the hallways.
This was the end. She would go if she had to, but not without completing her task.
Bursting into her chambers, she raced to the bed and dropped to her knees, reaching underneath and dragging out the locked box. The key hidden in her bodice opened it, and without a thought for the stinging pain, Audrey grasped all six thistle shirts and clutched them to her breast.
Today was the last day. She prayed with all the heart she had left that God would guide her brothers to her before it was too late.
The guards arrived.