Aside

A long time ago I was betrothed to a girl with raven hair and dark blue eyes.  They said we were well suited to each other.  My grandparents arranged it, my parents approved it, and she was to be my queen.

 

It’s funny how the vagaries of time erase such things that were once so important.  I haven’t thought of her in so long that her name escapes me.  It started with a B...

 

We looked the part of exemplary young lovers, but our smiles for each other never touched more than our lips.  Her eyes would meet her smiles when she gazed upon my brother, but he was not to be king.  He was never supposed to be king.  I was more powerful, more circumspect.  I was more commanding.

 

I was older.

 

And that girl, the one who smiled with her whole face for him, but was to be mine...that girl was born to be a queen.

 

Shelvin never returned her feelings, or this story would probably have a much different, and perhaps much happier, ending.  He enjoyed her company, but there was something about him, even in the beginning, that was waiting for the one he was fated to love forever, and the one he would love the most.  If they had a tryst behind my back I would not be surprised, but no issue came of it if that were the case, so the plans proceeded apace.

 

Until the day she disappeared.

 

I was heartbroken, naturally.  Though we did not feel for each other what a husband and wife should share, or what even an engaged couple should feel, we were happy enough with each other and her company was pleasant enough.  We were friends, in much the same way my parents had become friends, and I spared no expense or effort in finding her.

 

We never found a trace of her, but my brother at last found love.  He returned with his radiant bride and thus began the events that would unravel the entirety of our expected futures.  Obsendria laughed like chimes upon the wind, and sang like birds in the morning, and loved with an intensity, and variety, that shocked my grandmother to the core of her being and may have hastened her eventual demise.  If so, I can only thank my brother’s wife, for she encouraged a revolution that threw off many ideas of what should be, and what duty must be, and what little role joy should play in such things.

 

It was Obsendria, though, who encouraged me to find love.

 

The girl who caught my favor was not of our kingdom, and I knew my mother, and my grandmother, would never approve.  A Sevour married for duty, for love of the kingdom, and to serve the people.  We did not marry for love.  That alone was a strike against this girl, but the greatest strike against her was that she not only lacked royal breeding, but that she lacked any trace of sylph heritage whatsoever.

 

“Are you a goddess as well?”

 

Those were the first words from my mouth, to the girl Kalalin.

 

She laughed, coy, and reluctantly denied it.  “You must be seeking one worthy of you,” said she, and I was so flattered that all thought flew from my mind.

 

The love I found for her was like a hurricane, forever altering the very shape of my soul, my mind, and my bearing.  I went to her in secret at nights, sneaking away to gaze upon her beauty when my family would not know.  We talked, we kissed, we held hands and planned a future where I convinced my family that this strange outsider should be our queen...though even then I began to think that I would give it all up, just to be held within her arms and most intimate embrace.

 

The flaw in my plan was Desejo, first among the royal guard, our beloved and legendary Chaos Knights, and loyal above all to the king and his heir.  He followed closely, always, and the cover of night was no deterrent to his ability to find us.  He waited a month, following me without my knowledge each night, before he said a word.

 

“Prince Morrow,” he began sternly, before I’d had a chance to slip away.

 

I smiled up at him and shook my head, too confident.  “What is it, Desejo?  I am so very sleepy.”  The lies came so easily.

 

“Then perhaps you should sleep for a change, instead of slipping away.”

 

I froze, staring at him.  “How dare you accuse me of such a thing!” I demanded.

 

“Yes, how dare I accuse you of the truth?” he answered with a wry grin.  “You’ve done it so often I’ve lost track of it.  It is my duty to see that you are safe.  Did you think I would not find you?  Your father and your aunt gave me too much practice at that to let you ever slip away so easily.”

 

“I wasn’t hiding,” I said, perhaps somewhat peevishly.  “I was following my heart.”

 

“Your fiancé has been missing less than a Turn, and now you go chasing after a girl you know nothing about?”

 

“It’s not as if I loved her,” I said, and he came a hair’s width from striking me across the face.

 

I reeled, angry and for a moment afraid, before he apologized for his lack of control and for his breech of decorum, asking my forgiveness with words while condemning me with his eyes.  He was right to do so, but I was in love.

 

I knew that he was right.  I thought he should have hit me for what I’d said.  Perhaps I could have lived with myself if he had punished me for my callousness.

 

I ran away that night, in earnest, and I took my beloved Kalalin with me.  She kept asking me where we would go, trying to talk me into returning the whole time, but I said I’d done something unforgivable and would not tell her what.  I would not say a word.  I was so ashamed of what I’d said, that I’d driven Desejo nearly to violence, so much that I could not bring myself to return.  He hunted me down and nearly caught me several times, but I used every resource at hand to distract him or send a false trail.  I think I would have made my father proud, if circumstances had been anything but what they were.

 

It was months before I wore myself so thin that I fell asleep for days.  Desejo caught up with us and brought us home, where I finally awoke again.  In that time my brother’s wife had born a son, and I saw in Laurelan’s eyes a truth that stabbed through my heart and stilled it.  That tiny baby was born to be a king, and a better one than I could be.  He was born to save our people from things I would never be able to face, and to make sacrifices I could never make.  I trembled and Obsendria laughed with joy and delight.  Of course she knew these things.

 

Of course.

 

The turmoil had only begun.

 

My mother was overly polite to Kalalin, and not a bit of her expression showed warmth.  “We have heard how you have met with our son in secret,” said she, and I knew there would be no approval from the tone.

 

“I love him,” Kalalin stated outright.

 

“That’s very nice,” my mother said, with just a hint of condescension.

 

“And he loves me,” Kalalin smiled triumphantly.

 

My mother's eyebrows rose in shock, but she was quick with a response.  “Morrow has a duty to the kingdom, and his love must be for his people.”

 

“We love each other,” Kalalin sneered, and I was surprised at her fearless persistence.  “And there’s nothing you can do about it.”

 

“Of course not,” my father laughed.  “We wouldn’t dream of stopping any of our children from loving whomever they love.”

 

I was never so proud to be his son, as at that moment, until my mother found her voice once again.

 

“He cannot marry you, though.”

 

Kalalin stormed out of their presence, without being dismissed, which caused no end of anxious murmurs and whispers.

 

Smugly, I followed.  Giddy, I chased after her.  I did not care if my parents were enraged, or if anyone else was shocked.  I loved who I loved.

 

Kalalin tried.  For a Turn and more she tried.  She played my parents against each other, convincing my father that love should always prevail, gaining his support somehow, and increasing the rift between my parents daily.  The bickering was endless, but Kalalin grew ever more confident that she would win in the end.

 

And then my cousin Rose was born.

 

It was as if our world had been turned on end.  Aunt Radvi had been anxious from the moment she’d found herself with child.  Her eyes had grown sunken and her skin had grown sickly pale, and when the baby was born there was no mistake as to why.  Worry had driven her to neglect herself, and the poor baby girl had been born with no magic at all. 

 

“You’re so powerful!  How could this happen?”

 

Aunt Radvi refused to answer, the many times the question was asked.  It hurt her every time she did not answer, and I couldn’t believe no one else noticed what they did to her with these questions.  I wished for a moment I could be king already so I could tell everyone to leave her alone.  I wondered at my father’s refusal to get involved, and even confronted him about it, until I saw the guilt gnawing at him.  I knew in a flash of insight and empathy that the child was his.

I didn't know what to think, how to feel.

 

“Follow your heart,” was all I could bring myself to say to him.

 

Turns passed as the chaos and turmoil devoured our lives once they defiantly admitted the truth; until my father and Aunt Radvi disappeared together one night, and I prayed to the gods for their happiness.

 

I prayed for their happiness as I could not pray for my own.

 

It left us without a king.

 

It was another Turn before Desejo gave up looking for them, by order of my grandparents.

 

And one night, as Kalalin and I held hands beneath the stars, I told her what would be done.  “A council will be held.”  I gave her every detail that no one else would know.  “And I will then ask for your hand.”

 

Her eyes shone with excitement.  “And that means I shall become a queen!”

 

I shook my head, but she would not listen.  In her mind she had already won, but it was my grandmother who finally got through to her, stripping her delusions.

 

“Obsendria will be queen, not you,” she said cruelly, with a mocking twist to her lips.  “Of the two of you, I like you less.  You reek of evil.”

 

I gasped, offended, jumping to Kalalin’s defense, but to no avail.

 

“She can’t be queen if she’s dead,” Kalalin shrieked, storming from my grandmother’s presence.

 

“I’m so sorry,” I said to my grandmother.  “I’ll calm her down.  She is just distraught.”  I hurried away to calm Kalalin down, finding her crying and complacent once it was the two of us.  She was my lovely girl, beautiful and caring and sweet, once again.  And, once again, I found myself unable to think beyond what might please her and make her smile.

 

Finally, finally, after many more days, I bent my knee, so obsessed with Kalalin that I said we would elope, and I would give up everything for her.  “I’ve arranged it already,” I said, bowing my head.  “I am giving up my throne for you, because true love—“

 

Her screams of rage ended everything else I thought to say.  “No!  I’ve done this so I could be queen!  Not some ornament on your pathetic arm!”  She lunged at me, sword materializing in her hand, and all that saved me from certain death was the swiftness of a guard’s blade, and the ever watchful eye of another.

 

“I had a feeling about you,” Cyprus, our second guard, sneered at her, toying with her while Desejo guided me out of the way to safety.

 

Kalalin refused to be stayed.  She rushed Cyprus, taking a slash to her left arm so that she could make another attempt at me.  I will never forget how she ran upon Desejo’s blade as if it weren’t there, ignoring it as it stabbed through her heart, staring at me with her own sword just an inch from my throat when the life finally left her body.

 

And I finally recognized who she was, and knew what had been done.

 

The body quickly cooling upon the floor before us had once been my betrothed, the girl who should have been my queen.  She’d allowed herself to be possessed by some evil spirit that devoured the love she’d had for Shelvin in exchange for forcing that feeling upon me.  Her soul was long gone by this point, and all that remained was what she’d forced me to feel, until the moment of her death.

 

Shelvin tried to force me to retract my abdication, but my heart...

 

I still had to follow my heart.

 

Every time I look in Laurelan’s eyes, I know that my heart, my real heart and not the spell that had clouded it, guided me true.  I was never meant to be a king.  But he was, from the moment he was conceived.

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© 2018-19 by Tam Chronin