Author’s note: grab your pitchfork and torches guys! You’ll need them in this chapter, I think ?
Luce clenched his fist against the front of his vest as he leaned into the cushioned seat of his carriage.
His father did not say anything, as words were not needed right now, so he merely leaned forward to pat his son’s knee. They were the only two in the carriage, following the Alastriona Royal family’s entourage as they returned home.
Luce didn’t know how he had been able to cope with the noise his heart made against his chest during the whole ceremony in the cathedral. It was as if all sounds were drowned out by the hammering, when Alenaire walked down the carpeted path to where her fiancée stood in front of the dais.
His throat was tight, and his eyes were bleeding, yet he didn’t take his eyes away from her. Alenaire herself was resolved to look straight in front, not noticing his piercing stare.
The King and Queen of Alastriona, and the hermit King of Rhiannon sat on gilded thrones on the dais, watching as the High Priest started chanting blessings upon the couple. Queen Aiyana and King Altair felt a sad pang in their chests, and they held each other’s hands for comfort. They had seen the sudden change of this kingdom of Rhiannon, and they could not stop the disappointed expressions from appearing on their faces. They couldn’t very well retract their alliance now just because of this, and although they felt a bitterness in their throats, they hoped their daughter would rectify the current kingdom’s situation through her own willpower and intelligence.
The proceedings went without any trouble, and once the new king and queen were crowned, anointed with oil, they too sat on the foremost high thrones of the dais, where they could see their subjects around the cathedral, pressing against each other to take a better look at their new sovereigns. Both sovereigns held a scepter and rod in their hands as they sat still, waiting for the priests to guide them in their oath taking and their wedding vows.
Once the whole ceremony was over, and the people filed out of the cathedral in multitudes, Luce remained rooted to the ground, his chest burdened with a tremendous amount of pressure that he almost couldn’t breathe. His princess was finally married, and her stoic face throughout the whole event made his heart clench.
A party was held in the castle after the ceremony, and Luce had to wait in line amongst the people who were tripping over themselves to congratulate the royal couple. His palms were sweaty, and his stomach queasy, so he conditioned his mind, saying it was okay. He had already promised Alenaire that they were going to be strong together. Still, however strong a person seemed on the outside, what people did not see was the demons they had to overcome for it.
King Altair, Queen Aiyana, The Crown Prince Alaric, The Second Prince Alasdair and their wives, were busy hugging the new couple and congratulating them, which took a lot of time as they laughed and exchanged pleasantries, making some of the nobles of Rhiannon look impatient, as they wanted to enjoy the banquet already, and it was rude if they did not greet their King and Queen first. The previous King Xanthas looked like a withered leaf, as he sat on his old throne on the dais, staring absentmindedly at the goblet of wine in his hand. Many of the nobles did not look his way, as he was now a person who held no power at all in court.
When it was finally Luce’s turn, he bowed low before the Royal couple who stood in front of the dais in full state regalia.
“Your Majesties, I congratulate you both,” he said, steadying his voice. He knew how tremulous his heart strings were, and he would be shamed if it manifested itself in his voice.
“It’s Luce!” Zephyr said, smiling broadly. “Do you remember me? We met in the back gardens of the castle of Alastriona three years ago.”
Luce tilted his head to look at Alenaire with a questioning gaze. She looked back at him, looking like she was going to laugh. Obviously, Luce did not remember such a person three years ago.
“S-Sure…” Luce replied vaguely. He then coughed. “Your Majesties, I wish the both of you happiness from the bottom of my heart.”
“We wish for yours as well,” Alenaire said, her sad eyes betraying the smile on her face.
“My happiness is your happiness, Your Majesty.” Luce placed a fist over his heart as he nodded towards her. Alenaire chewed on her lip, as Luce already looked and sounded so distant. Despite knowing one had to be formal upon this occasion, it still jabbed at her side.
“Well then, how about my sadness?” Alenaire blurted out, saying whatever came to mind, as long as her conversation with Luce lasted longer.
Luce looked at her, the corner of his mouth tilting upward into a mischievous grin, “You can keep that to yourself, Your Majesty.”
Alenaire placed her gloved hand over her mouth to stop from laughing out loud. The twinkle in his eyes, and the dimples that accompanied such a roguish grin, those were the features she loved and have known so well. They stood there, smiling at each other as if no one else was in the room. Zephyr looked at them both, feeling slightly awkward and off center (weren’t he and his wife the main characters here?), so he cleared his throat loudly.
“I’m sorry but, we still have a lot more people who wish to meet us,” Zephyr said, tilting his head towards the long line across the throne room.
“Ah, forgive me Your Majesties. Then, I shall be off.” Luce bowed, his eyes maintaining contact with Alenaire’s, and the light of resolve and strength could be seen in both amethyst and emerald. This was not a last goodbye for them. This was merely a trial that proved how even if the fates contrived to tear them apart, the fates still held no hold over their hearts.
“Master, you don’t have to sell your purity.” Seiran held Alenaire’s arm tightly, blocking her way out of her room. Alenaire knew what wedding nights entailed, and felt obligated. She was about to go to the new King Zephyr’s chamber in order to fulfill it. It was a Queen’s duty to birth heirs, wasn’t that right? She thought so straightforwardly.
“I’m not selling anything.” Alenaire tried to pull her arm away, but Seiran was too strong. “Unhand me, Seiran. He is my husband now.”
“We can just kill him, so you can marry the one you–” Seiran was cut short as a sharp pak! Flipped his head to the side. He looked back at Alenaire with shock, touching his red cheek.
“Seiran, you should not say such things so freely!” Alenaire held her stinging hand against her chest, her voice quivering. “Zephyr is a man who doesn’t deserve to be murdered because he is not the one I love. I don’t understand your way of thinking!”
“But master, I cannot bear to see you cry anymore.” Seiran’s brows were drawn together, as he held out a hand to cup her small face in his, but stopped midway, as if he felt ashamed.
“When have I ever cried in this castle?” Alenaire retorted.
“Right now…” Seiran said softly as he caught her tears with a thumb, her long eyelashes clumped together from the wetness. He felt his heart was melting just by looking at her, and he could not stop himself from confessing his deepest, darkest secret: “Master, although I may not seem it, but I really…really…” He smiled sadly, wiping off the tears on her cheeks with both thumbs.
“Really…what?” Alenaire croaked out. She immediately cleared her throat, embarrassed.
“I really…” Love you, “…care about your happiness. Which is why I will do anything for you, even if I have to offer my life, as my life was already yours to begin with.” His hands cupped her cheeks as he gazed intently into her amethyst eyes that were already dry. He wanted to kick himself for being so bold, but such urges could not be contained anymore.
“Seiran, your life is your own. I own nothing but myself.” Alenaire gripped his wrists as she pushed his hands away. “Which is why, I hope you will cherish your life more, and not give it away so arbitrarily.”
“Seiran.” Alenaire pressed a hand to his chest as it seemed he was about to come closer than what was deemed proper. “I have resigned myself to my fate. We all have resigned ourselves to our fates, and I ask that you accept this too.”
“I cannot accept anyone defiling you…” Seiran’s face hardened, as he propped an arm on the wall over Alenaire’s head. “Master, you don’t have to do this. We can go back to Heaven–”
“What nonsense are you speaking?” Alenaire demanded, as she pushed him away once again. “Let go of me, Seiran. Do you think you are the only one? I, too, am breaking inside. But I am strong, and I will not let these emotions sway me from doing what I know is necessary. If you cannot accept this, then you must leave me. If you cannot endure the pain, then you have no right to stay by my side.”
“I–” Seiran gritted his teeth, and clenched his fists. He struck the stone wall in frustration, but Alenaire did not even flinch as she gazed up at him unfazed. “Master…” He peeled his arm off the wall, and nodded humorlessly. “I cannot leave you no matter what. I have always, always, been there with you…and so, I cannot even bear of parting…”
Alenaire raised an eyebrow, wondering why he would say such things when they had just met in a course of a few months. Why was he saying he had always been with her?
“Master…although it pains me, I have to abide to your wishes…” Seiran stepped to the side, exposing the stone steps that led down to the main hall of the castle. “Please take care.”
Alenaire’s heart twisted from the broken expression on Seiran’s face. She gripped the sleeve of his tunic as she tiptoed to kiss him on the side of his face. Although this was merely a small thing, she hoped he would feel her gratitude.
“Thank you,” Alenaire whispered.
As she disappeared from his view, he immediately slid down the wall to rest his head in his knees. He banged the wall with his elbow, drowning out the sound of his cries.
Alenaire sat at the edge of Zephyr’s bed, fiddling with her fingers as she studiously assessed his toes that were on the floor. Mmm, he had quite a big toe.
“Alenaire, please look at me,” Zephyr’s tone was humble, and he looked at his wife with a deep sadness in his heart. “Alenaire, please.”
Alenaire raised her head to look at his stormy grey eyes.
“I am sorry,” Zephyr knelt on the ground as he clasped her hands that were on her knees.
Alenaire was stunned. “W-Why?”
“I am sorry that you have to marry me instead of someone else,” Zephyr said as he tightened his hold on her hands. He just recently had an epiphany in the throne room, and realized his wife loved her knight of the past. How could he not feel it? It was an emotion almost palpable to the touch. He felt conceited to even think she would start loving him as he had started loving her. He looked into her eyes, his heart overwhelmed with emotion. “But…I also have to thank you, for being brave enough to accept this.”
He bent down to kiss her hands, his brows knitted together. “I am now the King of Rhiannon, and I can promise you whatever your heart desires. Gold? Jewelry? Riches? I can give them to you all.”
“I don’t need such gewgaws,” Alenaire said as she shook her head. “What I wish for is something I can never have.”
Zephyr swallowed his heart, and did not want to ask, in fear that he would actually hear a certain knight’s name. “I will not force you to love me, as I cannot force feelings, but in due time, I wish for you to accept me. Courtship should have happened before marriage, and yet this time, it is reversed. But it is a blessing, as now, I can and will, court you forever.”
Alenaire’s lips trembled as Zephyr bent his head again to kiss her hands.
“Alenaire, my dear wife, I leave myself in your care.”
That night, as Zephyr drifted off into sleep, he did not know that there were tears sliding across the bridge of Alenaire’s nose, trailing down her cheeks, as he held his wife in his embrace.
He did not know that sometimes, the most powerful of emotions, lie in silent tears.