Drama Suspense Romance

I smoothed out the wrinkles on my silk dress slowly and carefully, the dress felt soft and cool against my skin. Silk was much more luxurious than the leathers and armor I was used to wearing. This event was a long time coming and I was nervous as there had been celebrations like this before but never had I been permitted to be a part of it. My father would never allow it, it would be too embarrassing for him, for the world to see me and maybe even interact with me. I know he was just secretly hoping to marry me off tonight, maybe even scare me a little with the normalcy I had been denied my whole life. He had never spoilt me in such a way as he had leading up to this weekend; every jewel, dress, and fragrance was suddenly available to me, the best of the best, whatever I wanted, there was no concern for price. Me, the wayward child, the bastard child, the mistake, the unwanted, the never should have happened, the half-blood. I chose a unique scent combination of jasmine and amber to go with the elegant, emerald silk dress along with a few gold bracelets and a matching necklace that caught the light every which way I turned. I stared at myself in the mirror deep in thought, reflecting on my life up until this point, as I admired my shiny onyx hair that had been beautifully curled for the first time, my sun-kissed skin seemed to shimmer and glow in the candlelight, for once, I looked like I belonged.

The battle leading up to this party dubbed The Battle of Dusk, had been a long one. It all started when our neighboring province of Dusk began accusing the whole country of treason for their beloved prince and the King's favorite son, Prince Cain, had been found with his head next to his body in the basement of one of their towers. The provinces had lived in harmony for years, nothing this scandalous had happened since The War, the one that I was inconveniently conceived in.

My mother had tried to raise me for only a minute of my life, being the wanderer that she was, she had no prior intentions of caring for or raising a child. She was beautiful and was part of a group that traveled and sang for high society. She valued her freedom, her beauty, her work, and herself and herself alone leading to my father meeting her at an event during the pits of The War that was meant to be a celebration party for a victory over a minor fight and one thing led to another. War makes people do crazy things, things that they normally wouldn’t do. After I had been born and The War was over, she took me to the manor where my father and his sons lived, mothered by his now-deceased wife, and dropped me off there as a yearling. He had not been home for longer than a week from The War when I was thrust into his arms in front of his wife and two boys. My mother was only biding her time and waiting for her perfect moment to leave me with him.

My father was a decorated general and he had led victory after victory when it came to his military career causing him to climb the ranks into higher society and was given a permanent seat amongst them for all he had done for the province and the others of this country. We were not a province to be messed with because of him. He was ruthless and he raised his children the same way. All of us were rigorously trained from the moment we could lift a sword for fighting, battle, hunting, and cutthroat situations. So, for a wandering woman to show up on his doorstep with the results of his moment of weakness was a strike to his reputation and me being seen, breathing, existing, and being his one and only mistake in life was just some salt in that wound.

The knock at the door shook me out of my thoughts.

“You're expected Shamra, don’t be late,” my father's voice ordered through the door. I listened to his boots march down the hall towards the noise of busyness that had already been humming all evening. It was now nighttime and I hadn’t left my room yet, I was so nervous. What was I supposed to do at one of these things? What if someone asks me to dance? I had only just learned, simply because my father didn’t want his children, me, to make him look foolish. All my life I had deeply desired to be a part of the dances, the celebrations, the garden parties, and the upper circle, now that it was here, I was paralyzed. I would rather run through a field of arrows right now than do this right now. I didn’t even feel this nervous before some of the battles I had been a part of, the beatings I endured through my brothers, or the suicidal missions that my father sent me on. This must be what normal people feel like before a battle or a mission. I adjusted the necklace around my neck noticing the muscles flexing on my shoulders and arms, there was nothing ladylike, elegant, or soft about me. I smoothed my emerald silk dress once again taking in its sensations across my hands and my body, took a deep breath, and made my leave from my room.

I slowly wandered down the long hall towards the pulse of the party lost in my thoughts once again.

Prince Cain’s head being lobbed off had triggered this last battle. Accusations had been flung around afterwards but there was no real evidence of who or what could have caused such a fate. I rubbed the scars on my wrist thinking of said prince, he was awful, sadistic, and in my opinion, deserved what he got. The lack of action from all the other provinces after the death also fueled the family's suspicion of a setup but his habits and flavors were well known throughout the lands. The only ones that seemed to be blind to it, were his parents but there was no way they didn’t know. The others who were also in the tower with me during that time said the king did make appearances during his tortures but never participated, rather he hushed the prince and his choice of the night.

I shook the image of that torture chamber out of my head. Trying to focus on the hallway that I was walking down. A truce had finally been made, and the fighting was done. That was that. Now is not the time, Shamra. I paused at the final corner of the hallway. Woman's laughter rang loudly in the main hall and the smell of wine filled the air bringing me back to my body and out of my head. It was hot in here and the music was much louder than expected. This was good, the people would be gone or drunk by now. Maybe they won't notice me? I walked against the wall over to a seat that was waiting for me next to my brothers. I did not see my father at the table, he must have been making his rounds, after all, this was his banquet hall to brag about. I sat down next to my youngest brother, my favorite brother and he smiled at me.

“You look really nice tonight, people may not know who you are without your armor,” he joked.

“Good, I would be ok with that,” I replied returning the smile and watching a cup of wine being poured in front of me.

I had been gone for over a month at the time of the prince's demise and when I came home, bloody, bruised, emaciated, and clothes torn, no one batted an eye. I was never asked where I had been or what had happened, though it was normal for me to be gone for a few weeks sometimes but not as in poor shape as I was. I never lose. My father didn’t seem to want to know or the more plausible scenario, he was probably upset that I came home at all. My guess was that he thought he finally was rid of me, that must have been a glorious few weeks for him. When I did grace a family supper for the first time in weeks, there was no hello, no stares, and no questions from anyone.

It would not surprise me one bit if no one noticed me tonight. My heart skipped a beat as I tried to keep my gaze down. Especially to be noticed by him, it was him, Leo. The one person I had hoped to avoid tonight, I hadn’t seen him since the start of the fighting. He was the whole reason I had been over in that territory which led to my encounter with Prince Cain to begin with when this all started. I could feel his gaze on me.

“Please no,” I whispered taking another sip of wine. I could sense him closing up his conversation and looking in my direction. I squeezed my glass as my pulse started to rise, he was going to come over here. I let a deep sigh out as I felt his presence get closer. He was walking in my direction and stopped in front of the table.

“Hello Leo, long time no see!” my brothers all stood up and shook his hand. “Have you become too good for us since becoming heir to the throne?” my oldest brother poked. Leo laughed.

“No, but has come with more responsibilities than I would have liked, do I ever miss the days of patrolling the border and running into the lot of you,” he laughed. Leo was the youngest brother of the deceased prince while the other two brothers had taken vows to the military. Leo had every intention of doing the same, he was training and climbing the ranks when his oldest brother was killed which left him in the position of heir to the throne as he had not taken his vows yet. My father quietly appeared behind Leo placing his rough hand on his shoulder.

“Leo, good to see you,” he said.

“And to you sir, thank you for holding this staggering get-together, we haven’t had a time of laughter, wine, and dance in what seems like ages,” Leo replied.

“It was my pleasure, if there is one thing I have learned from my time in war is that a party is always necessary afterward, especially in the name of peace and victory," my father stated smiling.

“Certainly,” Leo agreed. “I was wondering sir, if you would all be ok if I asked your beautiful daughter and sister,” he gestured to my brothers. “To dance with me tonight?” My father looked at me with his usual fatherly blank, disappointing, gaze that I only knew him by. My brothers also looked at me and looked at each other as an awkward pause took over, I returned the gaze to my father.

“Of course,” my father choked up finally patting Leo on the back and leaving the circle. Leo smiled in my direction and put his hand out in front of me.

“Well?” he said. I looked up at him, his eyes were sparkling with intoxication. “It's getting late, the band will be done soon,” I reluctantly took his hand and followed him out onto the dancefloor. We started to dance and I thanked the Gods for the slow tune being played, it was one I could keep up with. His hand was so warm on my lower back, it felt good being there so leaned into it ever so slightly. For a minute I melted. He did not wreak of wine and his steps were flawless. Maybe he wasn’t as drunk as his eyes told. “Where have you been?” he asked breaking the awkward silence. “I haven’t seen you since Cain...,” 

“I’ve been busy,” I replied quickly. I did not want to have this conversation, not here.

“Busy with what?”

“The fighting, what else? It's all I do,” I said sighing. "You know I can't go anywhere or do anything, except missions, patrol, and train," His eyes softened and he didn’t say anything back.

“That's never stopped you before, you haven’t been yourself lately, what’s been going on? I’ve been worried about you,” his hand moved to a spot on my lower back where a tender scar sat. The memory of a whip and the pain it caused in that spot entered my mind. I pushed it back to its depths.

“I guess it was all hard on me this time, I've been tired,” I replied trying to calm my racing mind. My stomach was starting to turn and we danced silently for what felt like forever as he stewed over what to say next.

“Something happened,” he finally said. “What happened? You can tell me, did someone do something to you?” he whispered. Images of Prince Cain took over my mind. He, that rotten excuse for a human being, standing over me, laughing like a madman with his whip in his hand. I looked at my shining bracelet that was placed on Leo’s shoulder as the scar on my wrist throbbed from the memory. My silence and distance gave me away, I wouldn’t be able to get out of this. I tried to come up with something to say, something to take his attention off of me. “Who?!” Leo demanded. “Who hurt you? I’ll make sure they never walk again,” his breathing was getting heavier as his temper rose, he was a better man, a gentler man than his brother but they all had that temper in them, the one that made them good fighters. I started to tremble slightly. I pushed the burning sensation in my eyes that was starting to take hold out of a combination of fear, anxiety, and hurt. I didn’t know what he was going to say or do by me telling him the truth. I could feel my body tensing up, preparing myself for what could potentially happen, my fight or flight response was starting to take hold.

“It's ok, it's been dealt with,” I tried to say confidently but I had failed.

“How? Who was it? I need to know that they will never hurt you again,” his face was getting closer to mine and my cheeks flushed with the heat of his questions. I couldn’t keep this from him anymore. Maybe being put to death is the best option for me.

“I cut his head off,” I whispered. Leo’s gaze didn’t break, and neither did the distance between our faces.

“Whose head, Shamra?” he said cautiously. He did not blink.

“Cain,” I stated boldly and quietly. “Right after he tied me to his torture board and tried to have his way with me, days after he whipped my back raw and nearly broke both my wrists trying to keep me secure and quiet,” my whole body was throbbing with adrenaline as the words spilled out. I watched his face trying to get a read on what was going through his head and what was going to happen next. “And weeks after he found me in the woods alone coming from our last secret sparring match,” I paused and waited continuing to keep my step with the music playing in the background. “Weeks after not eating and daily abuse... I killed him,” Leo’s expression did not change. The seconds felt like hours as the song came to an end and the people around us began to applaud. I could barely hear them, they sounded like they were in another room with the amount of blood and adrenaline that was pumping through my system. Leo and I also joined in to not raise suspicion as the other couples went their separate ways and the band began their final song. He quickly grabbed my hand the minute to tried to turn away from him and in a graceful twirl he swung me back into him and we started to dance again. He was quiet, I could feel his mind struggling with what to say next, yet his movements were fluid, smooth, and effortless, just like his sword skills. My body was starting to ache with tension. This suspense was more than I could handle. Almost as if he heard my thoughts and felt my pain, he leaned his head closer to my ear and whispered.

“It’s just as well,” our eyes locked. His face was serious, but there was no hurt or anger. His energy was calm, I couldn't feel any tension in him, only grace, as he gently caressed my cheek. “He would have made a terrible king,” his tone was cold but honest. The same paralysis I had experienced earlier in my room, moments before coming down here started to creep into my body again. He leaned down and pressed his lips against mine. My head and face tingled with the warmth of his lips against mine easing some of the tension that was only moments from exploding within me. I pulled away slightly, locking in on his eyes, still in shock with his reaction. His eyes were sparkling at me with that same intoxicating look he had at the table. What could possibly be going on in his head?

"What happens now?" I asked breathlessly, bracing myself.

“And now, you can be my queen,” 

June 09, 2024 00:31

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10:47 Jun 26, 2024

There's a lot of complexity going on here, Kirsten! I particularly liked the brother's response. Just because one family member is evil doesn't mean the others – even his siblings – are. Shamra's acceptance of Leo emphasises this, as she recognises that he's not his brother. Wonderful characters! Well done.


Kirsten Fabish
03:33 Jun 28, 2024

Thanks so much Joshua! I appreciate your feedback and comment!


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