The body was left hanging from a tree just outside the window by Sophie's brother, the sovereign. He left it close enough for her to reach out and touch. It dangled in the pine needles like a Christmas ornament its state of decay, another reminder to Sophie of how long she'd been confined to the convent.
With clockwork precision, Sophie's attendant Maria started pushing open the heavy wooden door to Sophie's room. The elderly Maria moved slowly but with a preserved poise of grace.
"Good morning, archduchess," she greeted Sophie.
Sophie blinked in response.
Sophie stood limp and motionless while Maria undid the ties on her nightgown. Dressing the archduchess had been part of Maria's routine every morning for the last two years. Sophie's mind lost in a haze grabbing at dreams, and memories didn't have the wherewithal to be bashful, and the dutiful Maria shied away from no task as a caregiver.
When Sophie was dressed, her curvaceous body concealed in a drab tunic, and her bouncing ebony curls tied behind a veil, the archduchess shuffled over to the window. She stared at the human-shaped mass at the end of the rope. Putrification had dissolved away all the human features. There were only two empty eye sockets and two rows of clenched teeth that protruded from the rot.
"You know he was once the duke of Mackleberg?" blurted Sophie.
"Yes, my lady," Maria replied cooly.
"You wouldn't know it to look at him now, but he was once very handsome." Sophie lamented.
"So I've heard my lady," answered Maria.
"He was a capable man, and I trusted advisor," Sophie said in a soft sorrow ladened voice.
Maria didn't answer, but Sophie didn't seem to notice.
"I once took him in my bed." Sophie suddenly blurted.
The unshakable Maria felt her blood rushing to her cheeks.
"Perhaps It's time to go into the hall and start our work for the day," suggested Maria.
Sophie turned to her. "I sent armies to war, suppressed rebellions, reformed an entire empire, and now I'm told all I'm good for is quilting."
"You took the vows, answered a higher calling you are a servant of God," Maria gently but firmly reminded her royal charge.
"And when do I stop quilting?" Sophie asked.
Maria sighed. "The vows do pledge nothing less than a lifetime."
"Right," whispered Sophie casting her eyes down on the floor then back out the window.
Maria turned towards the door. "Come, let's-
There was the sound of shattering glass. Maria's heart lept into her throat. She turned to see the window shattered, and Sophie gone.