Chapter 4 - Regret
At first King Greggory wasn’t certain he had heard his guest correctly as he frowned with a polite smile hiding his true feelings. Had this man just demanded he trade his own daughter?
“I’m sorry, gift you?” Greggory enquired. “My daughter is no mere gift to be handed out to some random-”
Once again, Draxus’ voice cut off his gracious host.
“-Your second option, of course, is that you refuse my offer. In that case you and your entire Kingdom would then become my enemy and my next target for a full-scale war.”
Greggory could feel his hands trembling as he sat down and looked down at the table, deep in thought.
Draxus continued, his voice remaining somewhat calm considering he was discussing such things as war.
“My army would wipe out every single man, woman and child that resides here. Your Kingdom would burn to the ground, becoming nothing but cinders and ash. And then I will take your daughter from you...” he paused for affect, grinning before adding, “Before making an example of you and your lovely wife.”
King Greggory and all of his advisors seated around the table were dumbfounded, with their eyes and mouths wide open in complete disbelief at what their apparent guest had announced before them. He clearly knew he was more powerful and therefore at an advantage, but it appeared that the rumours of the Warlord King’s lack of mercy may in fact ring true after all!
After what felt like a minute of complete silence, King Greggory focused to steady his breathing, licking his cracked lips and forcing himself to speak the unthinkable in response.
“Well... supposing I were to consider such an arrangement...” he looked directly at Draxus now, adding “I must ask, what exactly are your intentions with her?”
“She will be well cared for, you have nothing to be concerned about. The Princess will have everything she so desires for the rest of her life...” he leaned forward suddenly, adding “... I intend to make her my Queen.”
The sounds of gasps filled the room, even General Shasharan turning to Zaar; a surprised expression painted on both of their faces. This was news to them!
“I... see...” Greggory replied softly, looking down for a second to gather his thoughts. “And the wedding? Where are you planning-?”
“-It will take place once we arrive back home.” Draxus cut in, seemingly having no sense of manners. “Up until then she will remain by my side and under my protection at all times.”
Greggory was stunned. The discussion had veered off in an entirely different direction than the one he had mapped out and he needed to take some time to consider his options, not that he had many of them.
Firstly, his daughter knew nothing of this sudden arrangement, nor that she was being negotiated over at this very moment in exchange for their Kingdom’s security. And he would need to inform her of this decision as soon as possible which would be extremely difficult. Finally, he knew this would not go down well with Lillian; she had always been such a high-spirited woman and never obeyed an order she didn’t agree with. He knew that there was no way she would go along willingly with this arrangement!
Lifting his crowned head, he swallowed hard before announcing loudly, “I will need to speak with my wife on the matter.”
“Does your Queen make all of your choices for you, my lord?” General Shasharan taunted with a grin.
Draxus’ men all chuckled to themselves at his comment.
Greggory looked from the General back at King Draxus. He knew he needed to make a decision and fast, in order to save his people from certain death. The truth was he had no choice; it was either he agree to hand over his daughter to become the tyrant’s Queen, or they all die! And it was now clear that Draxus expected an answer immediately, which meant there was no time to discuss this with Katherine or Lillian herself.
This was one of the many times where he as King had to step up and make the tough decision in order to protect his people. With a heavy heart King Greggory nodded his head, signalling for his scribe to come and stand beside him to draw up the contract they would both need to sign to legitimize the arrangement.
“I have decided...” Greggory paused for a moment, then continued, “... to accept your proposal, King Draxus. You may have my daughter’s hand in marriage.”
As he spoke Greggory was still unable to make eye contact with the man across from him.
“I’ll have the contract drawn up immediately for both of us to sign.” he said in a huff.
A small smirk curved the corner of Draxus’ mouth upwards as he realised he had what he wanted, yet again. This was all too easy!
This time it was King Greggory who cut in on Draxus, mid-sentence.
“-However, I have one stipulation in order for this to go ahead...”
Draxus’ amber eyes narrowed beneath his helmet as he sat waiting for it.
King Greggory continued, his tone more serious now.
“All I ask King Draxus, is that you marry my daughter here at Castle Woodsend, with her parents in attendance and before her people. Let them witness this important event first-hand; the union of our two great Kingdoms by marriage.”
King Draxus stared at Greggory in silence for a moment, then seeming to think it over for a bit before turning and leaning in to whisper with his General. The two exchanged conversation silently for around a minute or two, leaving everyone else in the room in wonder, waiting to hear what his response would be. The fate of every single person living in Rykiss depended upon this single decision.
Sweat had begun to pool upon his forehead as King Greggory stood nervously waiting for the answer to his sole demand; that the wedding to his daughter take place here, at Castle Woodsend. It was a last minute idea but at least he and his wife would be able to take part in the wedding and be there for their only child in this difficult time. But it was ultimately up to King Draxus and the mere thought of that terrified him.
After what felt like an eternity, Draxus and his General moved apart and both faced their host.
General Shasharan spoke on behalf of his King, once more.
“My master has decided to allow the wedding ceremony to take place here as requested...”
Greggory could not help but smile as he felt somewhat relieved to hear it.
“...as well as their first night together as man and wife.” Shasharan added. “I assume you will organise accommodation for them both?”
Greggory did not like that part one little bit, though he hid his feelings from plain sight. With pursed lips, he gave a nod to show his reply.
“King Greggory, how soon can you arrange the ceremony?” the General continued to question.
“As soon as you wish.”
“Tonight then...” General Shasharan announced, beginning to stand from his seat. “It’s arranged.”
King Greggory looked up in shock.
“Of course, my master has a very tight schedule I’m afraid, and cannot be delayed from our current course any further. You understand.”
“Of course. I will make the arrangements for the ceremony to be held this evening, as requested.”
“At sunset.” King Draxus suddenly chimed in, standing from his seat. “Ensure she is prompt.”
His King’s Guard following his lead and doing the same as they stood surrounding their King.
“As you wish, your highness.” Greggory bowed his head, forcing his hatred aside for the moment. “The wedding will take place at sunset. I will ensure she is prepared, you have my word.”
“Excellent. Have the contract drawn up and brought to me once it is done.” King Draxus commanded, then turning and making his way toward the exit.
King Greggory watched in a stunned form of shock as his apparent guest and King’s Guard exited the room and the doors closed behind them. Both of his hands were balled up into fists which sat on the oak table below him as he stood over it. He was trying to understand what he had just unintentionally done, yet had trouble wrapping his mind around it.
The only people remaining in the room with him was the scribe standing beside him and his King’s Guards, who still stood surrounding him.
“Um... sire? What are your orders?” the scribe asked hesitantly; he could sense the anger building up within the elderly man standing at the table.
“Prepare the contract for signing. Have it sent to King Draxus once it is done, then returned to me for the final signature.” Greggory’s words were laced with hatred as he spoke them through gritted teeth.
“Yes my lord.”
With that the scout bowed his head and left the room, leaving the King alone to simmer in fury.
Falling back into his chair hopelessly, Greggory raised his hand up to his head. As his fingers massaged his temple gently, he wondered how he would possibly go about breaking this unfortunate news to his beloved daughter.
“Oh my god... what have I done?” he whispered quietly to himself. “What the hell have I done?”