Chapter 6 - Mother Knows Best
Back in her room once again Lillian was sitting at her large white desk, sketching a picture of a rose purely from memory using charcoal and parchment paper; one of the many talents which she preferred to keep a secret from her parents. Her shading was perfect and the realism of this one sketch had her quite proud as she smiled at it with delight. A small amount of black residue from the charcoal was smeared across her cheek as she worked happily on her sketch, completely unaware of everything else taking place outside of her chambers. Servants were busily working on setting up for the wedding ceremony and the people of Rykiss had started to gather below for the important announcement to be made.
Glancing up from her work, Lillian could hear footsteps and then voices from behind her chamber door. Quickly standing, she hid the piece of charcoal inside of a small wooden box, then pushed the parchment papers underneath the desk and out of sight just in time for the door to suddenly open.
“Father,” she greeted the King with a smile as he walked over to give him a warm hug. “To what do I owe this delightful surprise?”
As he stood staring into her glistening green eyes he forced a smile and then kissed her on top of her forehead, before taking her by the hand and leading her across to her bed.
“Come my child, sit here with me.”
Obeying his wish, Lillian sat next to her father as he continued to hold her hand in his.
“I so rarely get the chance to talk with you, I thought it would be nice to do so.” he began their conversation. “How have you been?”
Lillian, although unsure of why he was paying so much attention to her, chose to ignore those concerns and continue their conversation; it was true that he was normally far too busy to speak with her on their own and she was enjoying their privacy for a change.
“Uh, I’m fine father.”
“Good... that’s good.” his forced smile now obvious as he patted her hand with his and took a deep breath in to calm himself.
Lillian’s eyes narrowed with suspicion.
“Is something the matter?” she enquired softly. “You know you can talk to me.”
Greggory smiled at her kind heart, this time for real.
“Oh my dear, you’ve grown up so much.” he reached out his free hand to dust the smear of charcoal away from her cheek as he added, “You’re not my little girl anymore. You are now a woman.”
“I’ll take your word for it, father.” she replied sarcastically, smiling.
But he did not smile back and this worried her.
“Lillian, as you’re aware being a ruler comes with certain duties. Some of these you may like, others perhaps not. What I’m trying to say is... our Kingdom needs you, now more than ever.”
“Of course, father anything I can do to help.” she nodded her head, sensing his desperation.
“As you may be aware, a very powerful King has come to visit us this morning.”
“Yes, I saw the escort arriving not that long ago. Uh, King Draxus I believe they called him...” she agreed. “But father, what does this have to do with me?”
“Go on Greggory...” came a sudden voice from the chamber doorway. It was Queen Katherine. “Tell her!”
Lillian frowned at her mother’s expression.
“Tell me what?”
Greggory glared up at his wife, he hated how she was siding against him on this matter, even when it hurt him just as much to do this to their only daughter.
“Father, what’s going on?” Lillian asked.
His mouth opened, but he could not find the words to speak aloud and Katherine decided to do it for him as she walked across the room to where the two sat on the edge of the bed.
“You father has promised your hand to King Draxus.”
“You are to marry him at sunset, here in the castle.”
Unsure she had in fact heard what she thought she had, Lillian looked to her father for clarification, but when he could not meet her eyes she knew instantly that her mother’s words were true.
“Father... tell me it’s not true.” she spoke, clear pain in her voice as she pulled her hand away from his.
Greggory finally met her gaze as she stood up from the bed and took a step back from him.
“I’m so sorry, my child.” he spoke softly, shaking his head as tears filled his eyes. “There was no other way.”
“You promised me to him? To that monster?” she shook her head, this time in anger. “Why?”
“As King, I had little choice.”
“You had a choice!” she snapped angrily.
“Lillian my child, you don’t understand...”
“Don’t understand? Father, are you serious? If you think for one second I’ll agree to this sham marriage you’ve concocted then you’re a fool!”
“Lillian!” Katherine chimed in sternly. “Watch your tongue!”
“No, I won’t mother!” Lillian turned and began marching toward the doorway in an angry huff. “I refuse to marry that monster and you can’t make me!”
“Lillian! You’ve not yet been excused... Come back here this instant!”
Greggory’s words fell on deaf ears as his furious daughter pushed her way out of her chambers and began marching down the hallway.
“Oh Greggory, that’s enough!” Katherine’s voice suddenly silenced him, her demeanor showing her obvious anger at the entire situation. “Leave her be.”
Greggory let out a gigantic huff, expelling all of his anger and fury at once, yet no matter how hard he tried, he could not expel any of the guilt that remained. He had failed his only daughter; the light of his life hated him and soon he would probably never get to see her again. The very thought of it began to break his heart from within. Still sitting on the edge of the bed, Greggory shook his head as his wife spoke again.
“She needs time to process all of this, we all do.”
“Yes...” his single word was spoken in a soft and somewhat insecure way.
“I’ll go find her then.” she said, turning and making her way towards the chamber door. She stopped as she heard her husband’s voice speak one last sentence.
“She means the world to me... You both do... and I would do anything within my power to protect you.”
Katherine, still standing in the doorway rested a hand on the wooden door as she replied loud enough for him to hear her words, though still with her back facing him.
With those words she disappeared around the corner, leaving a heart-broken King sitting alone in his daughter’s chambers.
After a quick search Queen Katherine found her daughter hiding high up in a large oak tree; one of many grown from a seed in the Castle’s main garden. Lillian had often climbed this very tree when she was a child and it was one of her well-known hiding spots when she was in trouble or simply angry about something. Her mother knew her daughter well, it would seem. As the Queen came to stand next to the large tree trunk, she did not face her daughter as he spoke, she did not need to; Lillian knew she had been found.
“I thought I’d find you here.” Katherine announced softly as she casually placed her hand onto the prickly bark of the widened tree trunk standing before her.
“Please, just leave me be.” Lillian said, still frowning as she leaned with her back resting against the trunk of the tree. “I’m not in the mood to talk right now.”
“Well, perhaps you’re in the mood to listen...” Katherine countered. “You know your father adores you Lillian.”
“Huh, he has a funny way of showing his love.” she snapped quickly.
“Be that as it may, he would do anything to protect you.” Katherine continued.
Lillian sat forward, looking down at her mother as she spoke.
“Then why is he doing this? Why would he promise my hand to such a monster? Doesn’t he know what this man is capable of? If he truly cared about me, why would he even consider handing me over to such a blood-thirsty tyrant?”
“Because he had to, Lillian.” Katherine’s words were blunt now.
“Had to? What do you mean?”
“King Draxus threatened to wage war against Rykiss if he did not agree to the marriage.”
Lillian’s heart stopped for a mere second, her emerald eyes wide in shock upon hearing this information. She couldn’t believe it!
“If your father had simply refused your hand, Draxus would have given the orders to have every man, woman and child in Rykiss massacred; no doubt his dragons would have wiped out our Kingdom entirely from the pages of history itself.”
Lillian’s voice was but a whisper now. “I... I didn’t know...”
“Of course you didn’t. It’s not your place to know of such things, my child.”
Lillian frowned; something was still troubling her.
“But he could have any woman, anyone in the entire world... and he’s not even met me before! Why must he marry me?” she questioned desperately.
Katherine rolled her eyes.
“Daughter, do you recall what it was that you did this morning?”
It took a moment for Lillian to think, her guilty expression showing the moment she had remembered sneaking out of her room to go and visit the flower garden. But how did that have anything to do with this?
“Well, your little trip to the gardens was by far a costly one I’m afraid. Instead of being somewhere safe like we planned, far away from prying eyes, you were right there as our guests arrived for their meeting this morning.”
Katherine was looking up at her daughter now. “Yes, he saw you my child.”
Lillian didn’t know what to say in response; her words were stuck deep within her throat as she chose to instead climb down from the tree and stand by her mother who was obviously there to smooth things over between her and her father. As it turned out, her father was not entirely at fault after all!
Lillian stood before her mother, who shared many of her traits; long golden blonde hair, emerald green eyes, smooth olive skin and a dazzling smile. She could think of only one thing to say upon hearing her father’s side of the story and as she leapt forwards, wrapping both arms around her mother for a desperate hug, she whispered them into her chest as a tear rolled down her cheek.
“I’m so sorry mother. I’m so sorry...”
“So am I, my dearest... So am I.”