Author’s note: finally, an update! >o< lol, sorry for the late updates. Pretty busy typing and finishing this story before classes start for me on monday. Yes Monday! *groans* but it’s fine though, since all the chaps are finished and all I need to do is edit the chaps, and voila! This story will end in no time :3
Alenaire withdrew the carriage curtains to look at the towering castle in the distance. This Kingdom of Rhiannon was nothing like she imagined. She had been given the image that this kingdom was prosperous and as beautiful as Alastriona, yet, as she looked at the muddy roads, the beggars on the streets, the slaves walking barefoot in the market, and that dreary looking castle, she was driven to speechlessness.
She stuck her head out of the carriage window to call her coachman. “Mister Sid, are you sure we’re in the right kingdom…or even continent?!”
“Indeed we are in the Kingdom of Rhiannon, princess. I was certain this kingdom wasn’t so dismal a few years back,” the coachman shouted over the clomping of the horses hooves.
Alenaire sat back against the seat, trying not to bite her nails in agitation.
Once the carriage stopped, arriving at its destination in the inner ward of the castle, Alenaire opened the door immediately before the doorman could even move towards the carriage.
“Princess Alenaire!” Someone called out as he descended the stone steps of the keep. The wind brushed his muddy brown hair against his face, his mantle flying behind him. He pushed his glasses back up his nose as he grinned enormously, pausing just a step in front of her to pick up her hand and kiss it.
“It has been awhile! I have not seen you in three years, yet I hope you still remember me?” The man pushed his glasses again as he looked at her expectantly.
Alenaire assessed the man before her. He was not as tall as Luce, but he had a good lean body which boasted of everyday exercise. His hair was cut short at the back, yet long strands still framed his face, as if someone got too tired in the middle of barbering. She looked back at his grey eyes. No, she did not remember this man.
The man looked crestfallen after he realized Alenaire did not remember him at all. His lower lip jutted out. “I am your fiancée, Zephyr. We met in the gardens of the castle.”
…who was that again?
Alenaire smiled and laughed, pretending to remember. “Oh it’s you!”
“Yes, it’s me!” Zephyr calmed himself down as he felt the unending excitement rush through his veins. “I even fixed my stammer, so I could impress you, princess! Or shall I call you Alenaire now, as you will soon be my wife?”
The laughter died on her face at once, and the corners of her lips struggled to keep a smile. To avoid the awkwardness, she turned to her entourage, the men and women who had accompanied her on her journey. She acted surprised, as if she had just remembered they were there.
“Oh!” Zephyr said as he turned his head in their direction. “Pardon me for my lack of manners. You may bring the princess’ belongings up the keep. There is a separate room prepared for her, as we have not wedded yet.”
The Royal maids and porters looked at Alenaire for confirmation.
“Yes, please do so,” Alenaire said, keeping a smile floating on her face while her heart was banging against her chest. Did that mean they would stay in one room after the wedding? She had not thought about what else marriage entailed, and the mere thought of spending one night with this man was simply intolerable. Simply, simply, intolerable.
“Alenaire, will your staff stay in the castle or will they return at once?” Zephyr inquired.
Her name seemed so foreign on his lips, and she tried her best to repel negative emotions. “They will return at once. I only brought with me one personal hand maid, as my father said you will take care of the rest for me.”
“That’s good, that’s good. I want you to rely on me.” Zephyr looked satisfied by her words.
“Have you had dinner yet?” Zephyr asked as he held her hand up the stairs. “The castle cook makes excellent pheasant pie. I know our countries are right next to each other, but I’m sure the three day travel triggered your hunger, am I right?” He turned his head to a passing castle servant. “Fred, after the princess’ entourage finishes with unpacking and unloading her belongings, usher them to the mess hall for dinner and pack food worth three days for them as well.”
Alenaire forced the side of her mouth to tilt upwards. “I’m grateful for your thoughtfulness, but my men have already packed six days worth of food.”
“It’s really no problem!” Zephyr said. “There’s nothing wrong with extra food, the more the better, right?”
“Not if it spoils in the middle of the journey,” Alenaire added. Then she remembered the destitute people back at the city’s center. “If you have so much food in the castle, why are you not giving it to your people to share?”
Zephyr twisted his mouth into a frown. “But they’re fine, right? I don’t really know much about the kingdom’s affairs. I’ve just been training in the castle ever since I met you and Luce three years ago. You can say I was inspired!”
Alenaire clenched her fists. “What has your father been doing all this while? Can’t he see what’s wrong with his people?”
“What’s wrong with them?” Zephyr lifted an eyebrow, then adjusted his glasses up his nose. “Well, ever since my mother died two years ago, he has not been the same. He would often just lock himself in his chambers and only comes out to approve the papers written by The Council.”
Alenaire’s eyes hardened. “Is that so?”
“Yeah. My father and I used to be so close, but now he’s filled with apathy. I can’t change that.” Zephyr shook his head solemnly.
She was disappointed in this prince who lacked involvement and compassion towards his people, but she was even more thoroughly disappointed in the King who left his work to The Council. She could sympathize with the King’s aching heart as she too felt like someone carved out her chest, yet she knew what position she held in society. She knew how her power could change many people’s lives. It was her responsibility, as someone who would govern a kingdom. However, why couldn’t the King see that? See how his behavior affected his people? Even she had given up the one she loved in order to be here, even if she could’ve ran away with Luce to another continent (though that was still an appealing idea, she thought).
“I feel rather tired.” Alenaire placed a hand to her brow, looking faint. “I wish to retire early, Zephyr.”
“Are you alright?” Zephyr looked concerned. “Do you want me to bring soup to your chambers? Where does it hurt?”
“My heart,” Alenaire wanted to add, but she stopped herself because it was too sappy. “I’m not hurt anywhere. Just tired.”
Zephyr led her to her room, which was located in one of the greater towers of the castle. They went up a few flights of stone steps and Zephyr held the door open for her.
“It seems your maids have done an excellent job.” Zephyr looked around the room and saw the incredible alteration. Gone were the simple wooden chairs, bed, desk and cloth designs. What entered his vision was a room made ideally for a princess: plump mattresses beneath thick comforters, drapes that surrounded the four corners of the bed, with carpets and curtains of silk. The room was filled with so much color, that Zephyr had to rub his eyes from the sudden ache. The furnishings were a big contrast to the grey stone walls of the castle, and he couldn’t help but be amazed.
“I seem to have forgotten how wealthy your Kingdom is,” Zephyr muttered.
“It only takes sagaciousness in a political and business setting,” Alenaire said, trying to strike a sore spot. However, Zephyr was too dense to sense the attack on his person.
“My country is not that wealthy now, although it used to be a long time ago.” Zephyr shrugged.
Alenaire went to one of her trunks to inspect what was inside, and Zephyr sat on a small plump chaise. He leaned over, his elbows propped against his knees, as he said, “Are you afraid, Alenaire?”
“Of what?” Alenaire closed the trunk and went to another. She found what she was looking for. One whole trunk contained all the sculptures Luce had made for her over the years, and she had to pinch herself so she could focus on the physical pain instead.
“Of marrying me in three months? Of becoming Queen?” He asked, clasping his hands together as he looked at her.
“I’m not,” she replied, referring to the latter. She was definitely afraid of marrying this man she barely knew, but she had to overcome it.
“I am afraid,” Zephyr confessed, tightening his hands. “Truth be told, if I were not the only prince and heir to the throne, I would rather be a Knight like Luce.”
Alenaire couldn’t help but wish they switched places instead.
“I’m not really good with presiding over large scale matters. I can’t seem to understand any of it. Even if I had tutors in the past, they would always be fed up with me, as I would suddenly be absentminded. I stopped my lessons when I was fourteen because my mother and father said it was useless. I wouldn’t listen. I found joy instead in playing with animals and riding horses.”
Alenaire didn’t say anything, and continued to be busy transferring a few sculptures from her trunk to a mahogany table by her bed.
Zephyr looked at her with a wry smile. “I’m sorry for ranting. I just want to tell you a condensed version of myself because I can tell you don’t really like me…or perhaps you’re disappointed in me…”
Alenaire felt a sharp jab at her heart, as she didn’t think this prince would be actually quite perceptive. But before she could reply with an unintelligible response, Zephyr stood up.
“I’ll leave you to sleep now, Alenaire. Perhaps I can persuade my father to get out of his room and meet you tomorrow.” Zephyr stopped by the door and smiled dolefully. “Have a good night.”
“…good night, Zephyr.”
As the door closed behind him, Alenaire immediately slammed her butt against the settee and decided that she would just sleep right there without changing into her night clothes.
She needed even this small reprieve.
Reality was an onerous entity she wished she would not be dealing with. Ever.
In her sleep-disoriented state, she felt someone take her shoes off and carry her to bed, tucking her gently in between the sheets.
“Luce?” She whispered involuntarily when she felt the strong arms that had encased her body.
“No, Master. It is I,” a deep, smooth voice said beside her ear.