Keeping Count

The brush ran smoothly through her hair, stroke after stroke from top to tip. Her maid was diligent in her duty. One hundred brushes, every morning. Sunlight streamed in through the bay windows into the royal bedroom, not yet reaching the full length mirror in front of where the Queen sat. Once possessing an unmarred beauty, her face was now careworn and her wealth of raven black hair streaked through with grey.

“Eighty-one, eighty-two-” She heard her maid counting just under her breath as the paddle slid down, drawing the bristles through her locks.

Waiting for the Queen once she left the room would be stacks of paperwork, reports from the front lines, and the list of casualties. The last one was never a surprise, though.

“How many today?” The Queen inquired as her maid finished brushing. She could see the the young woman’s lips moving as she picked her way through the bristles with delicate fingers.

“Thirteen, your Majesty.” Came the delayed reply in a timid little voice, carefully presenting thirteen strands of grey hair, draped over her palm.

She took them carefully, running her fingertips along the length. “You may go for now.”  She only let her jaw tremble for a moment once the maid was out of the room before steeling her expression into one of regal calm.

Thirteen grey hairs for thirteen fallen knights.

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