EPILOGUE

            It was a lively morning.  The sun was shining in its full glory, and the birds were singing as if enjoying the lively feelings.  The whole kingdom of Vatalis was preparing a huge festival.  There were banners everywhere around the city, and the whole city was decorated – buildings were painted anew, and the huge bronze statue of a horsed warrior at the center of the city was neatly polished.  The people of the kingdom helped in the preparation of the celebration.  The castle was decorated in its grandeur.  The crops that turned out well that year were ready to be harvested.  It was the celebration of the coronation of Princess Erin, following the death of the late king several months back.  The royal court had urged her to take the throne a few weeks after her father's death, but she was in grief that she handed the ruling to an assigned steward until she felt that she was ready.  Erin rejoiced when the king told her that her marriage with Lord Byron was called off because he suddenly died, and had asked her to find another for her husband.  She was glad; however, she didn't find it in her heart to find another man.  Because of that, she stayed single after her father's death.  She didn't want anyone else to take over the throne; therefore, Erin had decided that on her twenty-first birthday she would become the first crowned queen to rule the kingdom in its history.

            Kate, her lady-in-waiting was on her bedchamber that morning.  She was helping Erin to make final preparations for the coronation, and had decided to do her best so that Erin would look marvelous during the ceremony.  Everything was done, and Kate only had to tie Erin's hair to a braid.  Erin was on a lively mood that day; her face was bright and she chatted a lot about the changes she was going to make after she became queen.  Kate tried to join the conversation, but most of the time she was quiet.  Kate tried to make a cheery face, but failed as her face quickly turned to sorrow.  Somehow, her heart broke when she saw Erin's cheery expression.  The kingdom should have a king, she thought, not a queen.

            "Why so gloomy all of a sudden?" Erin asked when she saw that Kate wasn't smiling as usual.

            Kate startled when she heard that.  "Ah, nothing, princess, I mean your Majesty…I mean…"

            "Just Erin would do," Erin suddenly said.

            "Are you sure, your majesty, I mean, ah…Erin?" Kate looked back at Erin, worried that she would take it as an offense.  Erin let out a small chuckle.

            "Of course I'm sure.  But call me that only when we're alone.  You had helped me a lot after father's death, and had listened to all my woes and problems all these times.  I had grown respect for you as a friend."

            Kate blushed when she heard Erin said that, because she didn't know that Erin valued her that high.  Holding the hairbrush with both her hands she replied, "I'm honored…Erin."

            "Now," Erin said, "tell me what your problem is."

            "Um…I was just thinking.  Why don't you find someone?"

            "Oh, that's what's bugging you.  I don't know…no one had ever been able to unlock my heart just yet.  I felt that someone holds the key, but I don't remember if I ever loved anyone."

            Kate fell quiet when she heard that.  The gloom on her face became darker, and there were small tears forming at her eyes.  She avoided Erin's gaze who was looking at her reflection from the mirror of the dressing table, and continued her work on tying up Erin's hair to a braid.  She doesn't remember…Erin thought.

            "You know…" Erin began.

            "Yes?" Kate answered, and tried to put up a cheery voice.

            "I really wish father didn't seal the Forbidden Garden at that time.  If he doesn't then I could visit mother's grave so that she could give her blessings.  I guess the memory of her was too much all these years that he resolved to that decision."

            Kate silently sighed.  "There," she said after she finished with the braid, and tried her best to throw a smile even as her eyes reddened with tears.  Fortunately, Erin didn't notice it.  "All prepared for the coronation."

            "Thank you, Kate," Erin said without looking back at Kate.  "Now can you bring me that book on my bed?  I need something to read to calm myself before going through the rituals.  Oh, could you leave me alone right now?"

            Kate brought her the book, and then after that she went out from the bedchamber.  After she closed the door behind her, she leant on it and sighed.  It was sadly true, she thought.  Erin had totally forgotten everything about Mark.  The knock on her head had wiped the entire memories of him.  Still leaning at the door, Kate tried to remember that fateful night.  Everyone panicked when Erin fell unconscious, and Kate was ordered by the king to call several other soldiers to arrest Lord Byron and the soldiers that betrayed the king and to help carry Erin back to the castle.  Erin's condition was critical, and she had a high fever when she was still in a state of coma.  The castle wizard had devised a potion for her, and so a week later her fever cooled down and later woke up from her coma.  Her wound was nursed back to health and Kate was ordered by the king to keep watch over her.

            It was obvious when she woke up that she had forgotten everything about the incident, so the king had ordered everyone to keep quiet about it.  The crystal dagger was cleansed of blood and was put beside her bed, and when she asked Kate about it she said that a hunter had found the dagger and returned it to the king.  Lord Byron died a few hours after he was taken into custody, and all the soldiers under his orders at that time were imprisoned for life.  While Erin was still unconscious Mark was buried inside the Forbidden Garden.  The funeral, however, was attended only by the king and several priests, and because he didn't want Erin to wander around the Forbidden Garden and found Mark's grave he had given the order to magically seal the entrance of the garden.  He didn't want her to grief, but was saddened when he saw that Erin wasn't even affected by it.  It was too much for the king that a few months after the incident he fell sick, and left the world not long after that.

            Sighing again, Kate slowly made her way to the kitchen.  She knew that she was now the only person in the castle who knew the truth about everything.

~ * ~

            Erin held the book given by Kate, and sat in front of the dressing table for a while after Kate closed the door of her room.  The balcony door was opened, and the sun was shining through it.  There was a slight wind, and looking out she saw a falcon flying outside the balcony and landed at one of the windowsills.  The falcon had golden feathers, and was looking at Erin.  Erin saw it several times after she woke up from her coma, but she never minded it much.  Sometimes, during the evenings, she could saw it soaring around the Forbidden Garden and she wondered sometimes why, but since it was now sealed she never had the chance to find out.  Slowly, Erin stood up and walked toward the window where the falcon landed, but as she did that, it flapped its wings and flew away.  Erin was startled, but she then shrugged and sat back at the dressing table.  She arranged her hair a little, and after that, she opened the book she was holding.  She flipped through the pages to calm her nerves a little.  As she did so a piece of paper came out from the pages of the book, and it slowly fell to the floor.

            "What is this?" she mused, and picked the paper up.  It was an ordinary paper, and there were writings at one side of it.  Curious, Erin began to read it.

            It was a note – no, a phrase – written in the most graceful way she had never seen before.  It read:

Do You Remember Me?

            And for a reason she couldn't understand, she cried.