Milos watched the entrance of the woman said to be his wife. Her face and body were the same but that was where all the similarities ended. The gait was wrong and her air was cautious and subdued. Something was different.
“Aliana it is good that you have finally arrived.” said his mother.
“I apologize Your Majesty,” she said bowing slightly. She then turned to look at him. “You look well.”
He flashed her a wide smile. Automatically his mind reset as he tried to feel for something, a connection that they were supposed to share. He felt nothing. His smile dimmed as a wave of disappointment fell over him. It was odd that he thought that there was more. His only purpose here was to pretend to love this woman. He had to pretend that he wasn’t going to kill her and everyone else in this room.
“And you as well. Wife.” he said taking her hand in his while he looked at her in the eyes. He noted a flicker of fear but she pushed it back as she smiled. So maybe she did know what was to happen then. He brushed a slight kiss on the back of her hand. She actually blushed and seemed flustered as she pulled her hand away.
“I heard what you did in Evan.” she turned away gathering steel in her nerves before turning back to him.
“Yes, I was about to tell everyone about it.” he said turning to face his parents. “Everything went as we’d discussed father.”
“Except that I got no report of you ever going to the Block Isle.” replied King Theo. I had to send search parties out to look for you and when none of them came back with good news, we thought the worst had happened.”
“I apologise but I had to make a detour. The river wraiths told me that it wouldn’t be safe if I went to the isle and I believed them. As it turned out it was just a ploy to put me in the path of the Earl of Chrisoncor.
“I was ambushed and subdued by the river wraiths and brought before the earl and king. I think his intention was to poison the king and then blame it on me as from what I had gathered he has his eyes set on the throne. Especially since Aliana is here with us and all of her people thinks her a traitor now, this was his best chance to take power for himself. The king’s constitution was weaker than we suspected and his heart failed during the quake.”
“His Maj... My father was as strong as an ox when I left Arnay. One quake would not kill him unless something fell on him, which from our reports didn’t happen.”
“You and your father were hardly close, so I doubt that he would tell you what ailed him Aliana. Or was your strained relationship just a show?” said Milos as he dug into her. Why wouldn’t she just confess what she did and let this drama end here? But this woman was always difficult so anything she didn’t want to say would have to pulled out of her.
“But how did they catch you in the first place, you are much more powerful than them?” said his wife as she had a suspicious look there.
“They had a special pendant that stopped me from accessing the earth magic around me.”
“So how did you get away?” asked Queen Minerva.
“Ana-Moriah helped me.” he said flatly.
“No that is not possible.” she said. “She would never...why would she...”
His father sat up uneasily in is chair. “Why would she help you Milos? You have often told me that you think that she is the reason Genos is dead.”
“I was wrong about her. Arro-Bar had forced her to become his wife and used her powers as a witch to control the grim and do his bidding.”
“That cannot be right.” muttered Aliana.
“Why, because he also forced you to take me here. He let me fall in love with you, only that I would be blind to what your true intentions were. Father told me about the fires on Turion that started as soon as I was gone Aliana. I know that you are behind them.”
“Milos, what are you saying?” said Queen Minerva.
“I am saying that she was sent here to destroy the city from the inside and she used me and my affection to do it.” he fired.
His father placed a steadying hand on his shoulder. “Milos you do know that your words are condemning your wife to death. You are basing all of this on what Moriah told you. We do not know if she can be trusted.”
“You might not trust her father, but you can trust me. I was there. I was nearly killed because of her.” He remembered every moment of torture he had suffered under the hands of Arro-Bar and every bit of pain he felt was because of her. “I think it is time you started to believe me father. I have earned that much at least.”
“That is not true!” said Aliana. “I didn’t....” she said shaking her head vigorously.
His father took in a slow breath and let it out. “I believe you son and you are right, you have earned my trust. It is already late. I will give you the night to think about what you are about this Milos, if your decision is still the same in the morning then she will be executed as ordered.”
“There is no need to wait, but it is indeed late. It is best to do it in full light where everyone can see how we deal with traitors.” he said turning around and walking out of the room.
He heard her calling his name, but he blocked it all out. How dare she pretend! She wanted to kill him and now she had fallen in her own pit. Anger roiled within him. He was angry at her and even angrier with himself and these stupid tears that were streaking down his face.
Why was he crying over someone he felt nothing for, who felt nothing for him? He wanted to shake the whole palace flat, but that would mean connecting to her and the power he got from it. He wouldn’t do it. He had lived most of his life without being the Green Sapphire and he would do it again.
He wasn’t paying any particular attention to where he was going but found himself standing outside a door in the servants’ quarters. He pushed the door open and closed it behind him. He then pulled up a chair and turned it to face the wall. The other man in the room stood up and folded his arms in front of him.
“Did you know? Is that why you were sent here?” he asked.
“I was not sent here, you brought me here Milos and I have no idea of what you are talking about.”
“I am talking about that traitor upstairs, my bloody wife. I suppose that you were laughing at me all along. Watching me fawn over a doe-eyed harlot, who pretended to love me while she was in love with you. I bet she couldn’t wait for me to be gone so that she could come here and be with you.” he wiped away another stupid tear. Why was he crying? He got up and flung the chair on the other side of the room.
“You more than anyone knows that Aliana is not a whore and I will clobber you next time if you dare suggest otherwise. Prince or not!” he said defending her.
“You don’t have to pretend! I already know the truth.” he said pushing Doranand in the chest. “I heard what she told you when you asked if she loved me. She said no! And it all makes sense now Ana-Moriah was right. I was so stupid not to realise it.”
“Ana-Moriah? Milos what are you talking about? What did that witch say to you?”
“That witch was the one who rescued me from Arro-Bar and she let me know what a traitor Aliana is, how she used me.”
“You cannot believe anything that woman says.” flared Doranand. “Aliana didn’t use you. She wouldn’t do that. Not to someone she loved you stupid prick. Did you know her any at all?”
“What?” I stopped.
“That so-called admission of not loving you speech that you overheard was only part of what she had said. If you had stuck around a bit longer, you would have heard her go on about you being another part of her, how it was going to be hard to be without you. And it all makes sense now.” he stopped and huffed a breath. “That was why you left so suddenly the next day and that stupid speech you came down here to deliver to me.” he placed his hands on his head. “She loved you, you stupid prince and now you will have to live without her the rest of your life.” I could swear tears were about to come down his face. “You are right about one thing though.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked suddenly confused.
“That woman up there is not your wife. The real Aliana is dead Milos. She died the same morning that you left.”
“That is impossible!” he roared. “She is right upstairs.”
“Ana-Moriah is no benevolent being. She is a manipulative witch. That woman up there is Aliana’s handmaid Lania who had been poisoned by the Queen’s potions to look like your wife.”
“That isn’t true.” he whispered as he began to question everything. His thoughts, his memories, and his feelings didn’t match. His mind was not and could not be lying to him. He shook his head trying to shake off the feelings attempting to take hold of him.
“You might not believe it, because you cannot believe it. If Ana-Moriah has indeed spoken to you, you too are under one of her enchantments and nothing I say will convince you otherwise.”
“I am no one’s puppet!” he roared. “And regardless of what you say, that woman up there dies tomorrow!” he said.
“You married Aliana and then abandoned her to the vultures in your court because of your damned insecurities Milos. Brainwashed or not, I won’t allow you to kill another innocent woman. Lania risked her life by not drinking the queen’s potion just so that she can show me the truth about herself.”
“I have heard enough from you lordling!” he spun towards the door.
“Are you going to run again princeling? Run from the truth, run from your family, run from yourself. Go right ahead, but know that very soon you will have nowhere else to run.”
Milos felt the anger boiling over in him. He clenched his fist tightly. It felt even worse because mixed in with the lies, he felt the hammer of truth bearing down on him. Truth about himself, feelings he never wanted to confront and this man, this Arnayan had seen through him so easily. His faith in Ana-Moriah was solid, but he had to be sure. “You have one chance to prove me wrong.”
“Fine. Show me where you are keeping Lania.” he said as his grey eyes stormed with angry energy.