I descended down the steps after I finished dressing. The cool breeze washed over my back from the backless dress I was forced to wear. Sebastian was waiting for me in the throne room. For once he didn’t look devious or spiteful, which made my stomach churn. My brother was a vial human being, but I couldn’t understand why he looked so peaceful. I sat in the throne next to him, knowing that he wanted to make me look important, even though I didn't have any real power. "You look wonderful, sister." He complimented quietly.
"Thank you, brother." I murmured, feeling a pit form in my stomach. I don't want to go. I want to stay here, and live out my days as an old maid or at least marry for love. "Please let me stay." I whispered, finally beginning to beg him.
"I have a job for you to do. If it turns out they are traitors, I will let you come home, and you can't stay of your own free will. I will not remarry you if you wish it." He kept his eyes forward, but I could tell he was being genuine, which is something I rarely saw from him.
"Thank you." I breathed a sigh of relief. "Do you really think that they are traitors?" I asked, hoping that he thought they were.
"Yes." He nodded. "I just don't have proof, which is where you come in." He looked over at me, locking his eyes with mine. "I know we don't always get along, but you are my sister and I do love you. I'm entrusting this task to you. Please don't fail me."
"I will try not to." I responded slightly shocked at his words. He has never been this nice to me for this long before. It's unsettling. The throne room door opened, and in walked two men. One was a servant. The other was obviously my father-in-law. He was in leather pants and vest, leaving his thick arms bare. I gulped visibly, immediately feeling intimidated by the man in front of us. I got to my feet, draping my hair over one shoulder. His hair was a deep honey color that was grown to curl around his ears, and his eyes were a bright hazel.
"Jonathan." He paused in front of the steps, as I slowly steps down. "Clarissa correct?" He turned his attention to me. I nodded silently, bowing in front of him. "There is no need for formalities little one. We will be family soon enough." He rested his hand on my shoulder, looking over at my brother. "She's even more lovely than you described." He smiled kindly between the two of us. "You two look nothing alike." He chuckled, squinting his eyes at us.
"We look like each of our parents." I explained, smiling slightly.
"I can tell." He grinned kindly.
"Will you be staying for dinner?" Jonathan asked kindly. It is considered rude to not to invite people to stay longer. Who knows how long he had to travel to get here.
"I would like to get some distance before the sun goes down." Stephen announced, not wanting to linger around here any longer. Maybe that was better, and then I wouldn’t have time to get upset. I swallowed, looking over at Jonathan, who gestured me out the door. I strode out of the throne room, following Stephen out of the castle. When I stepped outside, I realized we weren't going in a carriage. Savages don’t use carriages. There were two horses outside. Mine was a beautiful painted horse with black and brown spots. I stroked it’s mane tenderly, admiring the beautiful beast before me. The horse nuzzled into me, making me smile faintly. My maid came out with my cloak, draping it over my shoulders to keep the chill of night away from me.
"Bye." I hugged her tightly.
"Goodbye, milady." She released me, rubbing my arms. "Be happy." She squeezed my hands once, before letting me go. I turned to Stephen, and he helped me up on my horse. I adjusted myself into a comfortable position, as he slung himself on his horse. My heart clinched in my chest when I realized this could be the last time I ever see this place.
"This way." He gestured, trotting off along a road. I snapped the reigns, quickly following him. "So, Clarissa, who's idea was it for you to marry my son?" He asked bluntly, not cutting any corners.
"It was my dear brother’s.” I smiled falsely, keeping my eyes on the road. Suck up to the father rang through my mind.
"I assumed as much. Most royal women wouldn't willingly marry one of my men, even if it is my son." He glanced over at me with soft eyes. "It's not as bad as most people think." He assured me, and for some reason I believed him.
"How so?" I questioned, trying to feel better about this arrangement.
"You will have more freedom. We don't lock people away in a castle. Sure we don't dress the way you do, but our clothes are comfortable and functional. We dance, we drink, we hunt. I think you will like that. I know your father and brother were very strict people. I will give you a kind of freedom you have never experienced, and after you taste it you will never want to go back." He explained, laughing softly.
"They were strict." I agreed, nodding slightly. "How long is the ride there?" I turned my face to see him, dreading the idea of being on a horse for too long.
"Two days." He sighed.
We arrived at his camp the next day. The sun was beginning to set over the vast crowd of tents. This place was huge. Everyone's eyes were on me, as we rode through the village. I sat up proudly, even though I probably looked awful. Two days riding will do that to you. I have bugs in my hair, dirt on my hands, and wrinkles in my skirt. I took in the surroundings, seeing women in scandalous outfits. Their stomachs, arms, and legs were all out for the word to see, which is incredibly improper. I blushed when I saw some woman's breast flapping about. How is that acceptable?
"Most women dress like this to keep from getting overheated throughout the day. We are not as modest as your kingdom. You don't have to be dress like the other woman if you please." Stephen murmured to me. He clarified, leading us through the crowd.
"Thank you." I couldn't help but feel like I was on display, even though I had more clothes on then the rest their female population. Some were covered others weren't. It is barbaric. "When do I finally get to meet my husband to be?" I shifted my focus from the savages to why I was actually here.
"All in due time." He chuckled, turning down another path. "He's probably training right now. Why I take you to your tent? You can freshen up a bit." He suggested.
"If you think that is best." My eyes skimmed the people, and my discomfort continued. I guess I would get used to it sooner or later, but right now I was disgusted.
"This way." He gestured, leading me to more lavish tents. They were the obviously the leaders tents. There were four no five tents surrounding one big one. These tents were made with some of the finest fabrics I have seen, which made me gape a little. How could they waste this cloth on shelter? "Jonathan will be staying on the floor in my tent tonight, so you will be in his." He explained sympathetically, jumping down from his horse. He walked over to me, helping me off mine. I landed unsteadily on my feet, feeling off balance from riding all day. I walked silently behind him, as I entered the tent. It was surprisingly clean, which I was thankful for. I wonder if Jonathan cleaned it because I was coming, or if he was a clean freak.
"I'll send in one of my ladies with some of our more modest clothes and water to freshen up." He stepped out of the room, and I began removing my cloak. I draped it along the corner of the bed, as I unfastened the strap from my neck, holding my gown to my chest. I cracked my stiff neck, stretching my back the best I could. A young lady came in with a bowl and clothes.
"Milady." She fell to her knee in front of me, holding out the things.
"What are you doing? Rise." I furrowed my brow at her, wondering why I was receiving such praise. She timidly stood up, keeping her eyes cast down.
"Would you like me rinse you?" She squeaked quietly.
"I can do it. Thank you." I dismissed her, feeling uncomfortable with her presence. I don't like being worshiped by my handmaidens, and she is too broken to understand that.
"But milady-" I put my hand up to stop her.
"I can wash myself. Thank you for bring me these things." I shooed her out of the tent. I ran a hand through my hair, feeling like anyone could walk in at any moment. I dipped the rag into the water, still holding my gown to my chest, as I gently washed my back. I moved my hair to my side, moving to another section. I moved it under my gown to clean my torso, beginning to feel less dirty. I don't really need to be clean myself; these people obviously don't care about cleanliness. I stood up, finally slipping out of my gown, and it pooled around my ankles. I stepped out of it, pulling on the tribal leather. It laced up in the front, adjusting the skirt to at least cover my belly button. There was about an inch gap, and the skirt went right below my knees. I felt so exposed like this, but I took a deep breath, pacing back and forward. I'm ok with this. I rested my hand on my stomach, feeling nervous about stepping out. I went outside, striding over Stephen, who was speaking to a few of his men. My cheeks felt hot, as the others leered at me. He snapped his fingers at them to leave, turning his attentions to me.
"You will make a wonderful queen for our people." He complemented, running his thumb down my cheek. I blushed even more, glancing away from him.
"I feel like I have quite a lot to adapt to before I'm anywhere near a good queen for your people." I responded respectfully, fighting off my red cheeks.
"You will be fine." He assured me. "My boy is still training, but you can watch if you like." He rested his hand on my upper back, leading me through the dirt paths to a more open area. A few people were gathered around an arena, waiting the men spar.
"Which one is he?" I glanced around the area, seeing four men surrounding one in a blindfold.
"The one with the blindfold." Stephen scoffed, shaking his head.
"Why in the world is he blindfolded?!" I exclaimed, widening my eyes.
"He's testing his other senses to fight. If he is blinded in battle, he should still be able to fight to survive." He explained. I watched intently, as the men started to swing their staffs at him. He quickly deflected them with his own stick, whipping one man in the face. The other three circled around him carefully, glancing between each other to decide what to do. One of the men stuck him in the side, and he quickly retaliated, smacking one in the groan. He hit another one in the leg, sending him to his knees. The other man yielded, as Jace took the blind fold off. He smiled victoriously, glancing around at his people who were cheering at him. He circled around, locking his eyes with me.
His smile faded.
He knew who I was. He was handsome. I kept my gaze attached to his, looking over his body. He had rippling muscles, shining blonde hair, and amber eyes that were staring deeply into mine.
He nodded slightly at me before he helped up his injured sparing mates. I released a breath I didn't realize I had been holding.
"Well this is going to be an interesting pairing." Stephen mumbled into my ear, taking my attention away from his son.