“Hillary, Hillary...can you hear me?”
Hillary stirred from her unconsciousness as she felt a pair of strong, gentle arms envelope her. She looked around and found herself looking at the high ceiling of the empty secret passage, which led to outside the castle. There was nobody else around them. She snuggled closer to the warm body, drawing comfort from the man that she had loved and known so well. Hillary smiled discreetly. She had always known that he would be right there to greet her when she opened her eyes.
“You came for me,” she murmured, closing her eyes and smelling his familiar scent.
“I did” she heard William say, feeling the touch of his fingers on her face. “I will always be by your side. You’ll never be alone, that I promise. I will always love you, my Queen”.
In the midst of her weakened state, she felt her heart burst. She was all over the moon. She hadn’t heard him whisper his devotion to her for years. After she wiped their shared past from his memory, she thought that his feelings for her were gone too. But she was proven wrong when he woke up from her kiss. She was proven wrong when she woke up from his kiss.
She was proven wrong when he was there to cradle her on his arms.
Her powers could tamper his memories, but not his heart.
And she was incredibly touched.
For the first time since she regained her consciousness, she opened her eyes and the first thing she saw was William’s beautiful face, smiling at her. She felt safe in his arms. Hillary reached for his face just to see if he was real, and this was not just a dream. When her fingers felt his strong jaw, his soft cheek and his salt-and-pepper hair, she felt relief rush all over her. William was there. Vladimir was gone.
Everything would be alright.
Hillary tried to pull herself up, but she was too weak to do so. William gently pushed her into a sitting position. She still felt a little nauseous. Her battle with Vladimir really took a toll on her.
As a matter of fact, the battle took so much toll that Hillary noticed a dramatic change in her body.
When she looked down, she saw her hips were wider than she remembered. Her hands too were different. Her fingers were thicker and her palms were lined with more wrinkles. She touched her face, and she felt her cheeks fuller than usual, but more wrinkled too. She pulled a stand of her hair. It was not as shiny and sleek as before. It had a duller color but was thicker too. Hillary started to panic. What had happened to her?
William sensed her distress. “What is it, my love?”
Hillary’s breath shallowed. “What happened to me, William? What’s wrong with my body? Why is everything different than I remembered?”
William, of course, knew that her body had changed dramatically, but he was more concerned with her safety. Now that Hillary had noticed it, he had no choice but to tell the truth.
“Hillary, your body seemed to have aged. You were like that when I found you,” William replied.
Hillary felt ashamed. She looked horrible, and she had no way to fix this. After fighting with Vladimir, she was sure that she had expended all her powers. She could not reverse this unpleasant side effect.
She gently pushed William away, hoping he would not look at her. She thought he might just be withholding his thoughts so he would not hurt her feelings.
“Don’t look at me,” Hillary covered her face with her tiny hands. “I look like a hag. I do not have my powers anymore and I’ll be like this forever.” She reached for her cloak and wrapped herself all over with it.
William chuckled. He found her distress oddly adorable. He pulled the cloak out of her body and removed her hands from her face. When there was nothing covering her now, she closed her eyes, as if that would prevent William from seeing her aged face.
William knew Hillary. He knew her mind. He knew her heart. And he knew what would erase her doubts on herself. While her eyes were still closed, he turned her face towards him. He leaned down and gently pressed his lips against hers.
At first, Hillary did not respond. She was tense. Too many things running on her mind. But William knew how to penetrate her defenses. He rubbed her back, easing her of all the tension in her body. His hands gently ran from her upper back, all the way to her hips. Oh those hips. They felt perfect against his hands. He loved them more than he did before. His fingers traced her curvy body up to her breasts, which were fuller than he remembered.
Slowly, Hillary started to melt at his touch. The wall she had built against William started to topple. Soon, she was responding to his kiss. She nipped his lips and sucked them, urging him to move forward. Encouraged by her reaction, William gently pushed his tongue on her mouth, begging for an entrance. Hillary welcomed him on her mouth, talking in all the words that William wanted to say through that passionate kiss.
When the need for air came up to them, the two mutually broke apart. Hillary smiled against his lips, relieved that he was still enamored with her.
“You’re more beautiful than I have ever seen you before,” William declared without hesitation. “Is my kiss enough proof for you?”
Hillary nodded. “Yes. I have no doubts now.”
William hugged her tighter, not wanting to let her go. Ever.
“William?” Hillary called his name hesitantly.
“I...I...I am sorry that I cannot remove your curse,” Hillary apologized, deep in regret. “I know you have longed for your youthful self, and I’m sorry that I cannot bring that back. And if I...if I...,” her voice shook, “if I will be gone before you, there is no one else to love you. I am so sorry for taking away your chance to love another”.
William shook his head. “No, do not regret this. I want to keep this, you and I. When we grow old, I want both of us to have wrinkles. I want both of us to have white hair. And I want only one woman to fall in love with me until I die, and that’s you. Only you, Hillary. No one else.”
Tears sprang from Hillary’s eyes. William just declared his eternal devotion to her, making her heart soar.
William and Hillary traversed the secret passage until the other end, where they found a group of refugees fleeing the carnage in Nova Iorca. Among the refugees was Hillary’s mother, Queen Dorothea, who led them out of the kingdom to safety.
As soon as mother and daughter locked eyes, the two of them ran towards and each other and cried on each other’s shoulder. Queen Dorothea was thankful that her daughter survived, and Hillary missed her beloved Mother so much. No words could express the happiness that they felt. Everybody, including William, witnessed the heartwarming reunion of a mother and her daughter, both of whom had suffered like no other.
As Hillary was welcomed back by her people, the night had fallen unto them. And for the first time since Hillary was born, the red moon had appeared in the sky, signaling the birth of the new Regent.
“Look,” Hillary said tearily as she pulled William to her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders, her head resting on his chest. “The new Regent is upon us. We’re finally free”.
Hillary felt all the weight of the world come off her shoulders. She was no longer Mystic Hillary. She was not even Queen Hillary.
She was just Hillary, the mother of Chelsea and the love of William’s life.
Hillary could not wait to see her daughter any longer, so that night, she and William left for Pietro Minore. They took two horses from the stables of Nova Iorca and traveled to William’s home. That night, they made love for the first time in six years. Their desires were insatiable. Hillary craved for his touch as much as he craved hers. At first, Hillary was unsure how to proceed, but William was there to guide her, to make her feel loved.
Hillary moaned triumphantly when she mounted William and rode him, feeling his flesh deep inside her. She missed William’s gentleness, his ability to make her feel safe. As she moved, the gentle rhythm of their hips slowly built the pleasure that eluded them for so long.
They did not need to rush. They had all the time in the world.
When William and Hillary reached Pietro Minore, a beaming Chelsea was waiting for them. Hillary could not run faster to be with her daughter. When she caught Chelsea in her arms, she lifted her little girl up and twirled her around for as long as possible, both of them laughing and crying.
"Mama," Chelsea hugged Hillary tightly and gripped her mother's back, her eyes closed, unable to believe that this was real.
"I'm here, my Little Princess," Hillary gently rubbed Chelsea's back, resting her chin on her daughter's shoulder. "I am here for good".
In the background, William watched the two most important women in his life catch up the time that was stolen from them.
That's my family. We're finally complete.
Hillary's return to Aquilon was not entirely marked with rosy moments. There were trying times too. When The Council convened to discuss Hillary's actions when she was still Regent, she was officially stripped of her title and William was dismissed from the Council, especially considering John Forbes returned. In addition to the removal of her titles, Hillary was forbidden to leave Nova Iorca for ten years, unless the Council approved of her departure. She was to be killed the moment she set foot outside the borders of Nova Iorca.
The events leading up to Vladimir's rise prompted the Council to change the laws on the Regency. From then on, the Regent would not have the power to decide on matters regarding the security and well being of Aquilon. The Regent, however, would retain their peacekeeping duties.
William decided to move to Nova Iorca to be with Hillary. Queen Dorothy and the rest of Hillary's grateful family welcomed him with open arms. Being an instrument in bringing the peace back to Nova Iorca, King Hugo II, Hillary's brother, bestowed knighthood to the deposed king. Hillary, despite being punished by the Council for her misdeeds as Regent, was still beloved by her people. As gratitude for her service, Hillary was given the title Queen Emerita, meaning, a former Queen. Her title gave her the same rank and privilege as her mother, Queen Dorothea.
One day, when both William and Hillary were free of their civic duties, they left Chelsea to be cared for by a maid and climbed the hill that bore witness to their love and suffering. When they were finally on top, Hillary felt free. She ran all across the hill, giggling and laughing. She cried her delight to the clear blue skies. She invited William to join her and soon, they were chasing each other. William, being in very playful mood, knocked Hillary over and they found themselves rolling in the fresh green grass. They felt like they were children again.
Once they stopped rolling, the laughter didn't subside. They hadn't laughed this hard since they could remember. William snuck his hand on her waist and tickled it, causing Hillary to giggle uncontrollably. She wasn't going to let him have the last laugh (no pun intended) so she reached for his neck and touched his sensitive spots. William jerked his head and captured her hand between the crook of his neck and shoulder, obviously trying to suppress his laugh. Hillary giggled, knowing that she had him.
Once they had used all their energy up, they simply lay in the grass, watching the clouds above them. Hillary laid her head on his chest as she wrapped her arm around his torso. William pulled her closer to him, her presence being his refuge.
"Mmhmmm?" she said lazily.
"Remember that day almost eleven years ago? When you were scared that I almost died, you brought me back here to offer yourself?"
Hillary snuggled closer. That memory never failed to make her heart clench. "Of course. How could I forget?"
"Well," William secretly prayed that the words would come correctly from his mouth "after you fought Lord Vladimir, I thought I lost you, and I was scared to death".
"And I am here. There's no need to worry," Hillary assured him.
"I know, I know. But after I almost lost you, I too want to offer myself."
Hillary looked up and quirked her eyebrow. "What are you saying?"
William reached deep into his pocket and took out a ring. The band of the ring was engraved with small intricate marks of fire and ice - Hillary was fire and he was ice. Hillary's eyes widened.
"Hillary," William said, "I offer myself to you the way you offered yourself to me years ago. You gave me your innocence, I give you the rest of my life. If you will have me, then allow me to insert this ring on your finger".
Hillary could not believe what she just heard. She remembered that grim night a year ago when she cried on her mothers arms, confessing for the first time her dream of being married to William. Now, that dream was within her reach. In fact, it was resting on William's hand. Hillary intertwined her fingers around his, enclosing the ring in between their palms, as tears blurred her vision of the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.
"William, why do you even need to ask? You know what my response will be," Hillary said cheekily.
William chuckled tearily. He knew his life would never be boring with her. He slowly snuck the ring into her finger and kissed the expanse of her forehead.
"Then I cannot wait to be married to you," he whispered.
"Not yet," Hillary said.
William was confused. "Why?"
Hillary smiled. "I want to be married in your home the day I am free".
Ten years to the day, William and Hillary had aged. More wrinkles lined their faces. William's hair had turned completely white and hers was duller in color. He lost a lot of weight while she had packed more. Nevertheless, they felt as youthful as they day they first met.
Their daughter Chelsea, now a vibrant young woman, paved the aisle for her mother to walk through. Hillary, wearing the crown her mother wore during her own wedding, was clad in all white. Hillary walked the aisle alone, and at the end of it, was the man who crossed the bridge of death just to be with her.
William beamed as he saw his bride approach him from the other end of the aisle. The long walk from the entrance of the castle to the grand hall was very symbolic of their journey. Mo matter how long the journey was, in the end, they would find their way to each other.
When they kissed for the first time as husband and wife, it was as exhilarating as their very first. But this time, there was no longer any guise of secrecy. They were free to kiss, to embrace, to profess.
And their wedding night was like no other. They made love so passionately that it made the gods blush.
A thousand years had passed since the legend of Mystic Hillary, the bravest and most valiant Regent Aquilon ever had, and William, her loving and loyal knight and King. They were already in the realm of the spirits, but their story lived on. Every time an eclipse was to be seen in the skies of Aquilon, it was said that Hillary and William would descend from their dwellings, the sun and moon respectively, and made love in the cleanest, purest river in the Empire.
It was the night of the solar eclipse. Hillary, in her sunny golden gown, waited for William at the river.
"What took you so long?" Hillary greeted her husband. "I almost thought you weren't coming".
"I had to see off our daughter. She was dancing with the northern lights. She dances so beautifully, doesn't she?" William admired their only daughter.
"I know. But she's on her own now. You have to let her go so she can grow," Hillary said.
William nodded. "I know. My duties are all done, except for one".
"And that is?"
"To you," he smiled.
William and Hillary kissed under the light of the eclipse. True to the legend, they made love.
Eclipses have come and gone, but their love was constant, like the rays of the sun and the beams of the moon.
Constant, enduring, everlasting.