Note: I hate the title, so pleaseeeee give me ideas if you have them. Check my comment for a longer note!
I glanced at my father as he talked to someone in the doorway of the dining hall. It was day 13 and I was ready for my father to just tell me who to marry. I didn't want to pick and choose in a certain amount of time, made me feel like I was shopping for clothes instead of trying to find love. But that’s not how it works in Esten, they have to make it a long process to bring more publicity. Esten’s favorite thing.
I focused back onto my paper, skimming over the questions as I straightened my shirt.
“Your highness? Princess Evelio Vernirac of Scaip Cla has arrived.”
I nodded to the guard standing next to my father as they both moved away, letting a tall girl walk in front of them. She smiled slightly at me before making her way to the chair across from me.
“Adri will come by tonight to get your feedback, Lionel.” Father told me. There was no need for him to remind me, I knew how it worked.
Evelio seemed very interested in her paper, practically glaring at it.
I cleared my throat, straightening in my chair.
“Shall we do introductions?”
Evelio looked up and nodded, a section of her light brown hair falling in front of one of her eyes as she did so.
“I guess I’ll go first,” I added after she didn't say anything.
“I’m Lionel, first born of Sans, King of Esten.”
“I’m Evelio, second born of Evelip, King of Scaip Cla.”
“Were you named after your father then?”
She nodded, messing with her napkin.
“I prefer Eve, if I’m permitted to say that.”
I smiled and nodded, “Eve it is.”
“Where does your name come from?” She asked, looking around the dining hall.
“Lionel was my father's general when he was fighting in the Esten-Ucrus war. He passed away shortly after I was born.”
Eve nodded, pushing her hair behind her ears to reveal 3 gold stones stacked on top of each other. I had never seen people with stones in their ears- at least not in Esten.
I glanced back down at the prompt paper and sighed, pushing the paper forwards. I was done following these stupid questions.
“Tell me about Scaip Cla.”
Eve stopped fiddling with her napkin and sat up in her chair.
“There’s not really much to tell.”
“Harsh,” I mumbled.
Eve laughed quietly, “not what I meant. Scaip Cla has just turned into a dump. We have no equipment nor medical supplies and our population just seems to be dying off. Some people are saying it’s not such a bad thing our population is decreasing because we used to be overpopulated and always short on supplies.” Eve pursed her lips, and sighed. “If I’m being honest with you my father told me to tell you that it was a wonderful place if you asked. But I didn’t feel like lying. It needs more publicity and attention. Most people don’t even know Scaip Cla exists.”
Eve paused and I didn't need her to finish her thought. I knew what she was hinting.
“Are you saying that you think if you became queen of Esten you could help bring the publics attention to problems in Scaip Cla?”
She nodded, her eyes shining like emeralds from the sun hitting them perfectly to light them up.
I looked down at the table and thought about it before looking back up and meeting her eyes.
“Ok, I hear what you’re saying, but in order for me to call you back for a second meeting I need you to hear me out on my terms.”
“You want to have a deal? We both get something out of it?”
“Yep. Simple enough?”
Eve shrugged, and said, “well go ahead. Tell me what you want.”
“You mentioned Scaip Cla was over populated, yes?”
She nodded and I smiled, the pieces of my plan coming together.
“I need more troops for the Valles-Esten war. It’s gotten worse over the last few months and we’re low on soldiers.”
Eve raised a dark brow and frowned.
“You want me to send my people to die in a stupid war your country has been fighting for years in trade for publicity?”
“We can provide supplies too. Anything Scaip Cla requires, Esten will try their best to deliver.”
Eve crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair.
“Fine. I’m open to discussing further into this deal.”
“Sounds wonderful. Shall we get to our meal then?”
Eve smiled, “We’ve waited long enough.”
I was surprised Prince Lionel said yes. I had gone into that lunch with no plan whatsoever and ended up spitting out the plain old truth. His terms seemed drastic, but the more I considered our other options the more they started to seem like a fair trade. I knew there were plenty of people inside Scaip Cla that would be more than willing to fight. And we’d get a great deal in return, I just didn't know how my father would feel. We rehearsed exactly what I would tell the prince about Scaip Cla. Father told me that the prince didn't need to know that Scaip Cla was running low on basically everything. He told me that Prince Lionel and I would have a better chance of “sparking” the less he knew about Scaip Cla. There was no way Prince Lionel and I were going to have a spark, I just had a hunch. He just seemed so tired of it all anyways, like he would agree to anything that wasn’t someone creepily hitting on him. But father would have to agree eventually, it was better for the country, and that was really what mattered.
I sighed in my arm chair, staring into the fire. This was all still a hypothetical. Prince Lionel hadn’t proposed or anything, I was just coming back for a second meal. I prayed that the food was just as good as the first meal.
“Ms? A letter from your father has arrived.”
I smiled and thanked the maid as she passed the envelope to me and hurried away. Ripping through the seal, I skimmed over the letter to see seeing a scribbled symbols from the Ancient Scaip Cla language. I laughed to myself at father's paranoia over letter writing. I walked over to my bag and stuffed the letter inside, deciding I would write back later.
I pulled my dress out of my closet knowing the meal was drawing closer, as I looked it up and down. It wasn't like I had a choice to not wear it, but I didn't hate it. The small lace flowers over the gray base of the dress had a simplicity to them that spoke to me. I slipped the dress over my head, pulling the skinny straps over my arms to rest on my shoulders. I checked my makeup in the mirror and brought my hair over my shoulders before looking toward two of my maids. They gave me thumbs up and opened the door as I walked out. I smiled at the guard as he hooked his arm around my mine and lead me to the dining room. The hem of my dress swayed around my ankles as we walked, going faster than usual.
“Are we running late?”
“Not at all, probably a few minutes early, Ms.”
I nodded, frowning.
“Why are we moving so quickly then?”
A group of 6 guards ran past us, their armor clanking together as they reached for their swords.
“What’s going on?” I pressed.
“Something you have no need to worry about, Ms.”
I rolled my eyes, but pushed it away and told myself I would ask Lionel later. We reached the gold doors leading to the dining room and the guard stepped away whispering something to another guard.
“You can go in, Ms.” He said after he noticed me listening.
The two guards posted outside the door pushed it open for me to reveal Lionel waiting at the same table from last time. I hurried over, plopping myself in the chair across him and smiled.
“Should I ask why you’re out of breath, yet two minutes early?”
“The guard taking me had us basically running and he wouldn't tell me why.”
Lionel bit at one of his nails, staring past me.
“Strange,” he said quietly.
“Any guesses as to why?”
Lionel shrugged, “beats me. I’m never told much anyways, but it seems to be bothering you, so I’ll ask around and send word if I find anything out.
A small smile crept across my face as I thanked him and a server came in with drinks and set a large green bottle on the table.
“Can I get you anything else your highness?”
Lionel shook his head and the server turned to me, getting another no. He smiled and nodded, turning back around and hurried away.
Lionel reached for the bottle and popped the cork top off.
“What is it?”
“Sparkling aya juice, it’s not local to Esten so I haven't had it in years.”
My mouth watered at the mention of aya and I held in a squeal when he said it. Aya had to be one of the best fruits grown in Scaip Cla, tied with slendu, the fruit on the sour end of the spectrum while aya stayed at sweet.
Lionel poured the juice into both of our glasses before I greedily gulped down the entire thing.
“Care for some more?” He asked, amused at how fast I had finished.
I didn't have to answer as he poured me another glass.
“So let’s further investigate our plan, shall we? I’m supposed to marry out of love not advantages, at least that’s what I’m told.”
“Shouldn't be too hard to fake it?” I rushed, trying to cover up any doubts he may have.
“Alright, we can discuss our back story and necessary details later. Why should I choose to marry you and not someone else whom I might actually spark with?”
I held in a laugh, pursing my lips. “Am I supposed to believe you sparked with one of those lovely ladies in this castle?”
“I take it you’ve met them?”
“Bumped into a few walking through the halls. Aren't they just wonderful?”
“Moving on,” Lionel said, louder than he was talking before. “Going along with the hypothetical that I did, what will come out of fake marriage vs true love?”
I grinned, having a hunch that he had sparked a little from one of the girls from the other night. I went along with his hypothetical nonetheless, anything to get Scaip Cla help.
“You say you want this war in Esten to be over. You need more soldiers and less publicity. How is the seventeen year old heir of Esten finding his true love going to help your war?” I took a sip of my juice before shrugging. “For all I care you’re welcome to drop me once we’ve sorted out all ends of the deal and you can run off to marry the girl you sparked with the other day.”
“That was a hypothetical,” he snapped.
I laughed, nodding, “definitely a hypothetical.”
He rolled his eyes, the gleam of the moon illuminating the gold flecks in his eyes.
I reached for the bottle of aya juice in the middle of the table but Lionel snatched it away before I could grab it.
I scowled, “what was that for? Give it back!”
He grinned, taunting me with the bottle, holding it just out of reach.
“Use your manners Eve, didn't your family teach you not to speak to royalty that way?”
Her scowl broke for a split second before she straightened up and nodded.
“You’re absolutely right. My sincerest apologies for disrespecting you, your highness. I will do my best to move forward and address you with respect.”
A loud laugh escaped from my chest before she grabbed the bottle from my hand and threw the top off, drinking the last bit of it.
“I wanted some of that!”
A grin grew across Eve’s face and I knew what was coming.
“Manners your highness. Didn't your family teach you how to respectfully speak to royalty?”
“Oh my apologies princess, I’ll be careful to not do it again.”
Eve laughed, setting the bottle on the table.
“And for the record,” I said, bringing my voice down, “you owe me a bottle of aya juice.”
She raised her brows, “My apologies your highness, but I’m unable to grant your wishes for I will never give up my aya juice to someone else.”
“What a shame.”
A smug smile crept across her face and she knew she had won the fight. I started to say something else when I glanced up and saw Thadeus tapping his wrist in the window.
“I’m afraid we’re running low on time, but if you’d like to meet again and talk about something other than aya juice I’m happy to schedule another meeting.”
“I’d love to meet again, but I’d suggest to have the meeting away from a meal your highness. There’s a low possibility that I will stay away from the topic of aya juice if we eat dinner together again.”
“Then it’s settled. I will send word to your room of a time and place when it’s final. Thank you for joining me this evening.”
“It was a pleasure, your highness.”
Eve got up and curtsied before tripping on the leg of her chair and falling forwards, catching the table and almost taking it down with her. I held in a laugh, grabbing her arm and pulling her back onto her feet.
“I’ll work on that,” she whispered, winking quickly before running towards her guard who was standing in the door frame.
I smiled to myself, grabbing the empty bottle of aya juice and used the back door out of the dining hall.
It was nice to end the day being with Eve. After meeting with a bunch of people it was refreshing to have someone who didn't have an end goal of true marriage. That was what the women were here for, but Eve didn't mind moving off of the topic questions we were given and it was easy to joke around with her. There was a knock on the door and I sat up, rolling off my bed.
“Come in Adri,” I said.
Adri opened the door slowly, scratching his head.
“You always seem to know when it’s me your highness.”
“No one else comes to my room every night at eleven O'clock on the dot, so I usually have a good hunch of who it is.”
Adri smiled, “Do you have time to answer some questions about your day, your highness?”
“I always do.”
I sat back on my bed and gestured for Adri to take my desk chair. He nodded his thanks and went back to his clipboard.
“You had three meetings today correct?”
“Only two, one ended up sick.”
“How unfortunate,” he mumbled while penning it in.
“The first meeting was with princess Astrid and second with princess Evelio, correct?”
I nodded, picking at a loose string in one of my blankets.
The questions went on as usual and by the end of it most of my answers were one or two words as I grew more and more tired.
“Those are all of my questions for tonight you’re highness, I will see you at the same time tomorrow.”
“Sounds great Adri. Have a good night,” I said, standing up.
“Same goes to you your highness,” and with that, he was gone.
A sigh escaped me as I grabbed my night clothes and threw off my dinner clothes, barely able to keep my eyes open.
I opened my eyes just enough to see who it was.
“Go away Bea,” I said groggily. My throat dry from talking as I rolled onto my side.
“Daddy needs you Nel. He says it’s very important.”
I sat up a little, leaning against my headboard as my eyes focused on Bea.
“Did he say what he needed?”
Bea shook her head, tucking a few of her curls behind her ear.
“But he said it was urgent.”
I rubbed my eyes, swinging my legs off the bed as I made my way toward my closet.
“She’s still sleeping.”
“How early is it Bea?”
“I don't know, the sun is still down though.”
I groaned, knowing I was gonna crash off of lack of sleep later.
I grabbed some random clothes out of my closet hoping they matched, and I started to send Bea out.
“Thanks Bea,” I said, squeezing her shoulder as she closed the door behind her with a toothy grin.
I slipped into my clothes and ran some water through my hair before starting towards father's office.
I made it to father's office in only a few minutes, greeting his guards before rushing inside and plopping myself down in the chair in front of his desk.
Father looked up from his papers and met my eyes. He set the papers down and folded his hands, leaning back in his chair. This was going to be a bad conversation, it was one of my hunches.
“How has your search for a queen been going?”
“Well surprisingly. I hope to be nearing a decision soon.”
“Good, you best choose very quickly. I would advise meeting with all of the women who you think would make a good queen in the next few days.”
I cocked my head, confused on what he was implying.
“Is there a reason for the rush?”
“The public wants to hear your decision by the day after tomorrow.”