In a land and time much different than our own, there lived a young maiden whose life was about to change, forever, but first, let start from the beginning...
The land of Banford is ruled by King William Redding and in the province of Bainbridge, sits his home, Bainbridge Palace. Bainbridge Palace has immense beauty in all its chateau like qualities, it’s the envy of many nations and has been home to the Redding’s for two centuries. King William has hopes to continue that strong bloodline and on this very day his newly wedded wife, Queen Isabella is expecting their first child. Naturally, whether the child is male or female they were going to be heir to the Banford throne.
It was a cool, October day, but the palace was bustling with warmth, since todays the day the heir was to be born. The entire court was anxious to see the newest member of the royal family, but no one was as anxious as King William. King William, who is a handsome man, with his dark hair and sparkling blue eyes paced back and forth in a large, dark wood walled sitting room; sounds of exhaustion could be heard ringing out from behind a set of ornate double doors. Each time this sounds rang, the king’s heart would constrict.
“Your majesty, please relax, she is in good hands.” Said a calm voice of an older gray-haired woman.
At her serene words the king turned to the gray-haired woman and sighed. This old woman reminded him so much of his wife that her words calmed him. “You’re right, Genevieve, if you, her own mother can be so calm, then I guess I should relax as well.” He said, a warm smile coming over his distressed face.
The smile quickly dissipated when a bloodcurdling scream rang throughout the room. The King rushed toward the double doors and just as he was going to barge in, a middle aged, portly midwife came out; she was exhausted and covered in blood. This sight sent an instant pain to King William’s heart. “My family?” The king asked, a tingling sensation began to rise behind his nose.
The midwife exhaled deeply, staring at the king earnestly. “Your majesty, you have a daughter.” She replied, but there was a solemnness in her tone and it irked him.
“Then why the solemn tone?” He asked suspiciously. The moment the king spoke, the midwife stared at the floor.
“It is the queen, your majesty.” She replied, still hanging her head, but giving him a polite curtsy.
The king’s eyes widened, he felt nauseated by her words and not waiting for her reply, he barged into the queen’s private bedchamber.
Inside, the stylish Victorian styled room, a young nurse was placing a baby into a bassinet. King William glanced at his newborn daughter, but quickly turned his gaze onto his wife. The queen, Isabella, was a beautiful woman, despite her current disheveled look. She was lying limply in a large four poster bed and the king stared at her nervously.
“Bella.” He said softly, kneeling next to her and grabbing her small, clammy hand. “How are you feeling?” He asked, his heart beating rapidly.
Queen Isabella stared up at King William, with her emerald eyes, trying hard to muster the strength to talk. “Tired.” She finally said, panting.
“You just need to rest, I’m sure you’ll be fine.” King William said confidently, but the midwife grimaced. Noticing her expression, the king turned to her crossly. “She will, won’t she?!” He asked and the midwife sighed, looking down.
“Your majesty, may I please have a word with you in private?” She asked, but she still wasn’t looking King William in the eye, this only further infuriated him.
Reluctantly, he released his grasp on Isabella’s hand and followed the midwife out to the corridor, but not before glancing back once more at his pale wife.
“What is wrong with her?” The king asked in a harsh whisper, his heart was cringing in agony.
“She lost a lot of blood, the child was breached inside, but thankfully we got her out and the princess is healthy.” She explained, the king stared at the midwife bewildered, he didn’t understand, if they got the child out, everything had to be fine.
“And my wife, is she healthy?” He asked, recalling the paleness of the queen, again the midwife sighed.
“I do not know, only time will tell. I’m sorry, your majesty.” She replied and the king had to fight back the urge to cry, he felt hopeless and wanted to collapse.
“Is there anything I can do?” He asked, desperately, and midwife shook her head.
“I’m sorry your majesty, but this is something we will have to leave to god.” She replied and the king scoffed in disgust, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“No! That can’t be all, isn’t there something we can give her, potions, elixirs, anything!” He shouted and the midwife stared at him silently, before speaking again.
“There is another option.” The midwife began and hearing her speak brought relief to King William’s heart.
“What is it?! Tell me!” He begged.
“In the province of Elwen, to our west, there is an apothecary and the young alchemist’s new bride is a witch.” She explained and the king stared at her wonderingly, rubbing his chin.
“A witch?” He questioned and the midwife nodded.
“Yes, a good one, a white witch, she is known for having extraordinary healing powers.” She said and the king sighed, quickly shaking his head.
“No! I cannot bring a witch to the kingdom, what would the people think?” He replied and the midwife nodded, felling embarrassed to have brought up something so ridiculous.
“Of course, your majesty, I’m sorry, it was only a thought.” She informed curtsying and the king nodded.
“I will pray for my wife to get better, god wouldn’t take her from me.” He explained and that is just what the king did, he went straight to the priest.
For the next two days the kingdom prayed for their queen and the king and Princess Anne never left her side. On the third day, sadly, the queen took a turn for the worse and the king was beyond distraught.
Sitting in the queen’s bedchamber, he was in deep thought, he couldn’t lose Isabella, he let his first love go, he had to save this one. He glanced at a royal guard, who stood nearby, desperation in his eye. “Fetch me the Elwen witch.” He said and the guard nodded.
When the royal army returned with the Elwen witch, the king was stunned, he couldn’t believe who was standing before him, it was the woman he thought he lost three years ago. “You are the witch?” He asked and the young, hazel-green eyed, blonde haired woman nodded. “Aurora?” He questioned and she shook her head.
“I’m sorry your majesty, that isn’t my real name, I am Aria.” She replied looking down to the ground.
“You lied to me?!” He said exasperated and the witch sighed.
“I had to, I had been in love with you since I was five and then...” She began but paused shaking her head. “No, we don’t have time for this, your majesty, please take me to your wife.” She begged and the king sighed, he wanted to know more about why she ran away, but he knew she was right, Isabella was more important; she is his queen after all.
Entering the queen’s chambers, the king’s heart sank, he couldn’t believe that two woman he loved deeply were both in the same room; it pained him even more that he had to asked his first love to save his wife. “So, you married Kellan Channing?” He questioned, a jealously coming over him as the witch examined the queen.
“Yes.” She replied and the king’s eyes widened as the queen despite her weakened condition was rather confused.
“The second son of the Baron of Elwen?” He said amazed, he always thought that she ran away because she was afraid of royalty or nobility.
“Yes, it was quite recent.” She replied.
“Have... you two, met...” She began weakly and the king sighed.
“I’m sorry dear, but yes, we knew each other.” He informed and Queen Isabella was perplexed, but nodded understandingly.
While Aria continued to examine the queen, King William watched admiringly, he’d forgotten how young and beautiful she was. The truth was Aria was 10 years younger than he and they met three years ago; right about the time he was going to take the throne. At the time Aria was only 15, but her young age didn’t stop King William from being fascinated by her and seeing her now brought all those feeling surging back.
“Your majesty?” Aria said sweetly to the queen. The witch’s words startled the king, bringing him back to reality. “I am going to give you an elixir, it will give you energy, but this energy will only be temporary.” Aria continued and King William scowled.
“Temporary?!” He questioned and Aria sighed nodding.
“Yes, your majesty.” She began, turning to the king and curtsying. “I don’t want you to take offense to what I have to say.” Aria said still gazing at King William. “If I had been summoned a couple days sooner I may have been able to do more, but this is all I can do.” She explained and the king scoffed.
“Are you blaming me?” He asked crossly, startling Aria.
“No, your majesty. I would never speak ill of you.” She replied and the king stared at her wonderingly, he just didn’t understand this woman, why did she leave him?
“Aria?” The queen said, breaking the gaze between the woman and her husband.
“Yes?” She said, turning her attention back to Queen Isabella.
“If I take this elixir, will I have the strength to hold my daughter?” She asked and Aria nodded.
“You will be able to many things, you will feel normal, but it will only last seven days.” She explained and the queen nodded.
“I understand.” She said smiling halfheartedly. “May I take it?” She asked and Aria nodded handing the queen a green bottle.
“Wait!” King William exclaimed, grabbing the Queen’s hand and turning his gaze to Aria.
“Will she feel any pain?” He asked and Aria shook her head.
“No, she’ll feel completely normal.” She explained and the king nodded.
“This is all my fault, I shouldn’t have been so stubborn.” He said hating himself, for not summoning Aria sooner.
“William.” Queen Isabella said softly and he quickly gazed down at her. “Maybe things were meant to be this way.” She explained, her eyes falling on to Aria and the king’s heart stopped; did she know?
Nothing else was said as the queen uncorked the green bottle and quickly drank its contents. Moments after drinking the elixir, the queen’s color returned. “I feel amazing, I want to go see my daughter.” She said and Aria smiled, nodding.
“Of course, your majesty.” She replied and Queen Isabella turned to the king, she had a solemn look in her eye as she smiled, sadly.
“Will you come with me?” She asked and the king nodded slowly, but then glanced at Aria.
“I will, but first, I must have a moment alone, with her.” He explained motioning to Aria.
“I understand.” The queen replied, solemnly.
King William walked out of the queen’s bedchamber and Aria followed him into a bright corridor, he then led her to an empty room. “Thank you for giving her some time with Anne.” He said, looking her straight in the eye, he could sense she was uncomfortable.
“You don’t need to thank me, I did it for my country.” She explained and the king’s eyes widened as he smirked.
“You haven’t changed much, you still care so deeply for this country. You would have made an amazing queen.” He replied moving closer to Aria, but she quickly took a step back.
“Please your majesty, we are both married.” She said and the king’s heart stopped.
“Yes, but to our second choices.” He stated and Aria stood frozen. “Tell me, why did you run away?” He asked, his eyes searching and she exhaled deeply.
“I was afraid, you were twenty-five and ready to take the throne. What would the people have thought if they learned the truth about me?” She explained and the king sighed.
“I love Isabella and she was there for me when you disappeared, I searched everywhere for you. Why did you give me the wrong name?” He questioned and Aria’s head sunk.
“I loved you, I wanted you to see me as a regular woman, if you learned my truth, I thought you would be disgusted with me.” She replied and King William shook his head.
“The moment I laid eyes on you, I knew I had to have you, nothing would have changed that.” He explained, raising her chin, gently; gazing lovingly into her eyes.
“Please, don’t look at me like that, your wife and the queen of our fair country is sick.” She said and the king sighed.
“I know, but this all feels like fate to me.” He replied and Aria was speechless, she couldn’t believe after all these years, he still had feelings for her.
“But don’t you hate me for leaving?” She asked and he shook his head.
“I could never hate you.” He replied. “So, let me at lease give you something for what you did for Bella.” He added and Aria shook her head.
“No, I can’t accept anything, just seeing that you could love again is enough for me.” She explained and the king tilted his head, gazing at her wonderingly.
“Do you love him?” He asked and she quickly gazed at the floor.
“I married him, didn’t I.” She said softly, but the king felt something wasn’t right about her answer. “Now please, go be with you wife. Her time is precious.” She added quickly looking back up and staring earnestly into his eyes.
The king walked out of the room, feeling like she didn’t truly answer his question, thinking this, he wondered if maybe she was still in love with him.
“There you are, your majesty.” Said the voice of one of the queen’s maid.
“Is everything okay?” He asked and the maid nodded, smiling brightly.
“Yes, her majesty is in the nursery with the princess, she is asking for you.” She explained and the king nodded.
“Thank you, I shall go to her.” He replied, smiling, even though deep down he was feeling sick because all he wanted to do was go back to Aria and hold her in his arms. “I’m a horrible husband.” He said under his breath as he walked away from the maid.
Standing outside the nursery, he slowly opened the door and what he seen inside, made his heart ache. Queen Isabella was rocking their daughter and the sight of them made him feel guilty. “Are you coming in?” The queen asked softly and the king sighed walking into the room.
“How are you feeling?” He asked and she stopped rocking, only to look up at him, with that same solemn look on her face.
“Fine, what about you?” She replied and King William frowned.
“Why would you ask that?” He asked and the queen sighed.
“William, I’m not blind, I remember when we met you were heartbroken and it was her, the witch wasn’t it?” She said and his eyes widened, Isabella really was perceptive.
“Yes.” He replied quietly, hating himself. “I’m sorry.” He added and the queen shook her head as she gazed down at Princess Anne.
“No, don’t apologize, just tell me, did you love me the way you loved her?” She asked and the king gasped.
“Bella, I do love you and yes, seeing her again brought all those feeling back to me, but you are my wife.” He explained and the queen nodded.
“And what happens after seven days?” She asked and the king’s heart stopped, why would she bring that up?
“What do you mean?” He asked bewildered.
“When I’m gone, I know you aren’t going to stop living, your still young, only 28.” She explained and the king sighed, he didn’t know what to say. The truth was, love was abandoned him twice now, he didn’t know if he had the strength to find another.
“I have Anne, that is enough.” He said matter of fact and the queen stifled.
“Are you sure, I feel like maybe god brought Aria back to you for a reason.” She informed and hearing her talk like this befuddled the king.
“How can you say something like that, she is a married woman.” He replied and the queen sighed.
“But it doesn’t stop you from dreaming about her every night.” She explained and the king stared at her blankly.
“What?” He asked stunned and the queen chuckled.
“I’ve heard you for the last three years, say her name over and over in your sleep, even though it wasn’t her real name. So, it is time that you are honest with yourself and for her to come here to help me, only tells me that she cares deeply about you.” She informed and the king bit his lip, he knew Isabella was right; he had never truly stopped loving Aria.
One week later, just as the Aria said the queen passed in her sleep and no one other than some of the king’s closest men and maids knew what Aria had done. A month past after her death and King William found himself thinking about Aria, he wanted to summon her back to court, but instead he decided to devote himself to Anne instead.
Three years later, King William still found himself thinking about Aria and it pained him, because every time he looked at Anne, he would remember Isabella; it only made him hate himself more. At the same time a plague came to the province of Bainbridge, this plague was strong and many people fell ill. The king did everything he could to try and cure this plague but it was so strong and unusual that no medicine would work. When the plague affected Princess Anne, the king instantly summoned for Aria, he knew he couldn’t make the same mistake with her.
“Thank you for coming.” King William said gazing at Aria and she nodded.
“Of course.” She replied as she examined Princess Anne in the nursery. “This isn’t a normal plague.” Aria explained and the king’s eyes widened.
“What do you mean?” He asked bewildered, they weren’t alone in the nursery, the captain of the guard and Princess Anne’s nurse was also there.
“It is dark magic.” She explained.
“Magic?” The captain said and Aria nodded.
“Who would use such magic?” The king asked and Aria sighed.
“Valdemar.” Aria replied knowingly and the king and captain frowned.
“If that is true it is an act of war.” The captain informed.
The country of Valdemar sits to the north of Banford and it has always been interested in the ore that sits so close to the border of their countries. They are ruled by a dark king who the people of Banford refer to as the king of terror, he robs from his people and gives them very little in return.
“Should we send out a diplomatic team, your majesty?” The captain asked and the king nodded.
“Yes, immediately.” He replied as he turned from the captain back to the Aria. “How long does she have?” He asked her.
“I can buy some time, but I can’t guarantee anything, this is strong magic.” She informed and the king nodded.
“Then we mustn’t waste any time.” The captain said quickly leaving the nursery.
The king of Valdemar, King Bryon, informed the diplomatic team that he would never be involved in such magic and that he knew of no such witch that would enacted such a serious plague.
“THAT’S NONSENSE!” King William shouted, he was in his study along with his royal advisor James Crawford and Aria, his royal guard were also present.
Everyone jumped at the king’s harsh tone. “You may be right, your majesty.” James Crawford said. He was a tall man with light brown hair that was tied back into a low ponytail. When he spoke, everyone turned to him.
“You are aware that Queen Merida comes from a family of magic.” He explained and the king’s eyes boggled.
“What are you saying James, that you think the Queen did this?” King William asked crossly.
“No, she couldn’t have!” Aria said abruptly, shaking her head in disbelief. The king quickly turned to her, squinting his eyes.
“Aria, do you know Queen Merida?” He asked, his tone much softer than before and he knelt down in front of her, gently placing his hand in hers.
The room was stunned by the king’s kind action’s, they had never seen him act this way towards another woman, outside of their late queen. “Yes, your majesty. She is a powerful witch, but a kind witch, I couldn’t see her doing something like this.” She explained and King William sighed.
“You don’t believe this witch, do you? She is probably covering for her!” Snapped one of the knights, but the king didn’t say anything he continued to gaze into Aria’s eyes.
“Why do you believe this?” He asked Aria, ignoring his knight.
“I just sense it, your majesty.” She explained and the king nodded, standing up and turning back to the knight who spoke earlier.
“Sir George. Would you mind not referring to Aria in such a manner, especially when she is trying to save your princess’s life.” He said bluntly and the knight stared at him aghast.
“Oh, yes, I’m sorry your majesty.” He replied stammering and the king chuckled.
“I’m not the one you should be apologizing too.” He said matter of fact and Sir George was too shocked to speak, as was the rest of room, it was Aria who broke the silence.
“Sir George, you don’t have to apologize to me, I understand.” She said smiling.
“Aria, could be right though.” James said as if trying to break the tension in the room.
“And what is your theory, James?” The king asked.
“Queen Merida, is a kind lady, no one in Valdemar understood how she ended up with the king of terror, so what I’m saying is that she may have be cornered.” He explained and King William stared at him wonderingly, but then his gaze fell back to Aria.
“How much time does Anne have?” He asked her and Aria sighed.
“I don’t know, I’m doing everything in my power, but this magic is strong.” She replied, remorsefully.
“I see, then we have no choice.” The king began. “I want to invade Valdemar, force them to hand over whomever is responsible.” He explained and the knights murmured in agreement.
“Your majesty.” Aria said. “I understand seeking out who is responsible is important to save the princess, but the truth is, half of your royal army are my patients. Do you really think you could win a war; without sacrificing the non-sick?” She asked and the king’s eyes widened and James smirked.
The king’s expression began to falter, it was like he was about to breakdown at any moment. “Captain, James, take the knights and leave.” He said turning his back to the room and gazing out the window.
“Yes, your majesty.” The captain and James said in unison.
When the room was empty, Aria felt like maybe she should leave as well, but as she rose, the king fell to his knees; sobbing profusely. Aria’s heart sank and she rushed to his side. “Your majesty?” She said lovingly, placing her hand on his shoulder, to which he instantly clung to like a small child.
“Please, say my name like you use to.” He begged and Aria’s eyes widened.
“I can’t, it would be informal.” She explained as he nestled his face into her hand.
“I thought... I loved Isabella, but the truth is, I lied to myself so I could get over the pain of losing you and now my daughter is laying there clinging to her life. If I lose her what do I have?” He rambled flabbergasted and Aria’s heart cringed, she hated seeing such a strong man break.
She sighed, peering down at him. “I’m sorry, I was 15 and frightened of the real me.” She explained placing her hand on the king’s soft cheek.
He kissed her hand as he rose to his feet, he continued to stare deeply into her eyes. “I need you.” He said.
“What?” She asked aghast pulling away from him, but he quickly pulled her into a rough embrace.
“I want to make love to you.” He said in a yearning whisper, his hot breath on her neck.
“Please, we can’t. I’m married.” She said pleading and the king grabbed her left hand, glancing bitterly at the ring on her finger.
“Just for today.” He began as his fingers moved to her wedding band and began taking it off. “Can we forget about that?” He asked, placing the ring on his desk and Aria sighed. She couldn’t help it, she loved this man so much, before she could stop herself she wrapped her arms around his back.
Feeling her tight embrace, the king kissed her vigorously, their kiss became deeper and deeper; so deep that Aria began feeling weak in the knees. She clung to him tightly just to keep herself from fainting, for a moment their lips parted and they stared at one another fervently.
“I want to take you to the bed but I don’t think I can hold out that long.” He said kissing her neck, Aria moaned.
He lifted her up and placed her gently on a chaise. Climbing on top of her, he gazed down at her lustfully. “I have dreamed of doing this again for the last six years.” He explained, panting, then his hands began fondling her body. The next moment the two of them became one, in body and soul.
Later that same night, when the king was alone James approached him. “Your majesty, can I ask you something?” He said and the king sighed peering up at him.
“What is it James?” He asked.
“Is Aria the woman who got away?” He questioned, even though he knew the answer and the king slowly nodded. “I thought her name was Aurora?” He said and the king sighed.
“She told me that, because she was afraid.” He explained and James scowled.
“Afraid of what?” He asked bewildered.
“Of me learning that she is a witch.” The king replied and James nodded.
“But she is much younger than you.” He pointed out and the king stifled.
“Yes, she was 15 when I met her, but I didn’t care, she was the most beautiful woman I seen and she had this amazing voice. That voice drew me in.” He explained passionately and James’s eyes widened.
“You still really love her, don’t you?” He asked and the king smirked, nodding.
“I never stopped, even Bella knew that my heart truly didn’t belong to her.” The king said, thinking and James sighed.
“She did the right thing.” James explained and the king stared at him perplexed.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“Do you have any idea what the aristocracy would say, if they learned your wife to be was a witch.” He explained and king chuckled.
“I wouldn’t have cared, Aria is a good woman, a pure witch, you should see her in the forest. The animals are attracted to her, everyone that meets her loves her.” He said and James stifled.
“Well, your majesty, she must really love you to be here trying to save your daughter, a daughter that was born from your late wife.” He said and King William nodded.
“Aria, is loyal to the royal family, that was one of the first things I learned about her.” The king explained and James smiled.
“Maybe you convince her to stay?” He asked and the king frowned.
“How can I do that? She is married.” The king replied and James sighed.
“Your Banford’s King, nothing is off limits to you.” He explained matter of fact.
King William knew James was right, but he couldn’t force Aria to do anything she didn’t want to do, despite how much he yearned for her.
A few days past and the princess wasn’t improving, but she was getting any worse. Valdemar still refused to help and the king was nearing his wits end.
“Aria.” The king said breathlessly as the two of them were alone in the nursery.
“Yes, your majesty.” She replied and he sighed, gazing at her longingly.
“Please, just say my name.” He pleaded and hearing him beg, sucked the life out of Aria.
“William.” She said and the king’s heart leaped.
“You have no idea, how much I enjoy hearing you speak my name. I think it is the only time I enjoy hearing it.” He explained and Aria smiled. “And that smile, really makes me feel like everything will be okay.” He added.
Aria sighed and walked over to King William, kneeling in front of him. “All I want is for you to be happy, which is why I will do everything possible to save Princess Anne.” She said diligently and the king smiled halfheartedly as he stroked her cheek.
“I know you will, but I am prepared for the worst. Valdemar will never give us the cure and I don’t think I can stand watch my poor daughter suffer anymore.” He replied and Aria was stunned.
“William?” She said, fearing that the king was giving up on his daughter.
“I know what you’re thinking, my love.” He said gazing deeply into her eyes. “But please, stop her pain. I can’t bear the thought of her crying anymore, besides, she’ll be with Bella.” He explained and tears formed in the corner of his eyes, his actions made a tear roll down Aria’s cheek.
“You truly are a selfless man.” She replied and the king exhaled deeply, wiping Aria’s tears.
“I’m not that selfless, the truth is, I want you stay with me forever.” He said and her eyes widened.
“What?!” She asked stunned as she quickly stood, putting distance between them.
Instantly the king rose and embraced her, gently. Being wrapped in his strong arms, made Aria swoon.
“Please, you know I can’t stay with you. You have no idea, what Kellan went through so we could marry.” She said and the king frown, pulling away from Aria.
“Do you love him?” He asked jealously and Aria stared down at the floor, she wanted to tell him yes, but she couldn’t.
“I don’t know, but I vowed myself to him and I already betrayed him and it is killing me inside.” She explained and the king scoffed.
“Then stay here, be my wife.” He begged and Aria shook her head.
“Do you know what the people would say, they wouldn’t believe that our love is real, they would think I bewitched you somehow.” She replied and the king’s heart stopped, he knew she spoke the truth, no one would accept Aria as the new queen, but he was willing to fight.
“I can’t lose you again.” He said as he glanced at Princess Anne asleep in her crib. “Especially with the state my daughter is in.” He added and Aria sighed, staring at him sympathetically, without another word she rushed into his arms.
King William held her tightly and they kissed ardently. “Come with me to my room.” He whispered lustfully and Aria nodded.
The next day, Princess Anne had a severe fever and she was writhing in pain. Seeing his daughter like this angered the king. “This is all my fault!” He exclaimed. “God is punishing me.” He said feeling disgusted with himself.
“He is not punishing you.” Aria informed, trying her best to comfort him.
“No, he is, I never truly loved her mother, my heart belonged to you.” He explained and Aria sighed.
“Stop!” She shouted. “If that is the truth, then I am no better than you, where is my punishment?” She said and King William’s eyes widened and his shoulders slumped.
“Just make her pain stop, if god won’t, then will you?” He asked and Aria nodded slowly.
“But are you sure?” She questioned and he nodded.
“I can’t stand watching her suffer, make it stop, please.” He pleaded and again Aria nodded.
“Okay.” She replied softly.
“Will she feel anything?” He asked and Aria shook her head.
“No.” She replied and the king sighed, tears rolling down his cheeks.
The king decided it was for the best that no one knew that Aria took Princess Anne’s pain away, instead he informed the people that Princess Anne died from a high fever. The people were saddened, their heir was dead and the king unmarried. The aristocracy didn’t waste any time in telling the king that he had to remarry and birth another heir, the king didn’t have the heart. He didn’t want to lay with another woman, other than Aria.
After Princess Anne was laid to rest, the king took Aria alone into his study. “They want me to remarry.” He informed solemnly and Aria nodded.
“Of course, this country needs an heir.” She replied understandingly.
“I can’t though, I refuse to marry anyone, unless it’s you.” He said and Aria sighed.
“You know that is impossible, I have Kellan.” She explained and the king clicked his tongue.
“Are you okay going back to him, despite all we have done together?” He asked and Aria could sense an irritation in his voice.
“Of course not, but I have to.” She replied.
“Even though you two haven’t seen each other in over two months and he hasn’t even bothered writing you back.” He said and Aria was flabbergasted.
“How did you know, I had written him?” She asked and the king smiled wryly.
“I know everything that goes on here. Did you tell him?” He said and Aria shook her head.
“I tried, but I couldn’t. I fear that if I speak the truth, the Channing’s will want me killed.” She replied and the king shook his head as he wrapped his arms around her waist.
“I would never allow it.” He said lovingly.
“Why do you love me so much?” She asked, burying her face into his broad chest.
“I don’t know, I just don’t want to give you back to him. The thought of him touching you, it infuriates me.” He replied, squeezing her tightly and then someone cleared their throats loudly.
“Your majesty.” Said the familiar voice of James, quickly hearing him speak the two of them separated.
“What is it James?” The king asked, annoyed.
“I’ve been looking into your situation.” He explained and the king stared at him curiously.
“My situation?” He asked.
“Yes, I know you don’t want to get remarried, you have suffered two terrible loses and the people will understand your broken heart.” James explained and the king scowled. “So, I read about a law that states if no heir is born, one can be elected by you through a process. A young girl will be chosen by you from one of are provinces, if she passes the required tests.” He continued, hearing this the king stroked his chin, he was intrigued.
“Interesting, you think the aristocracy would go for it?” The king asked and James smiled.
“Yes, when the people sympathize with you, you will be free to do as you choose, without the public knowing.” He explained and the king glanced at Aria.
“You still are going to return to Kellan, aren’t you?” He asked and Aria nodded.
“I have too.” She explained and the king nodded.
“I understand, can I still see you?” He pleaded and Aria shook her head.
“We can’t it will be too painful.” She explained and James who was observing them closely, quickly exited the room; knowing him being there was awkward.
“Then can I have you one more time before we say good bye?” He asked, nearing tears and Aria nodded.
22 years later
A young maiden gathered herbs next to a spring, she was breathtaking girl, with her wavy golden locks, bright blue eyes and soft pink cheeks. She placed the herbs into a basket and took a drink from the cold spring, while she drank she heard the sound of hooves. Quickly the young maiden gathered her basket and began to walk in the opposite direction.
“No need to be frightened my dear lady.” A dark haired, dark eyed man said.
The young maiden peered up at him, nervously, despite how handsome he was sitting atop his white steed; she also knew by his attire that this man was a nobleman.
“I’m sorry, sir, but one can never be so sure.” She explained and he smile at her wryly.
“What is your name my lady?” He asked as he climbed off his horse walking closer, the young maiden took a step back.
“Aurora.” She replied and the dark-haired man nodded.
“A name befitting a beautiful maiden, such as you.” He said, Aurora knew this man was flirting with her and his smile made her heart beat rapidly. "My name is Benjamin, but you can call me Ben.” He added playfully and Aurora blushed.
“Is it possible that your cheeks could be a deeper shade of red?” Ben asked coquettishly and Aurora bit her bottom lip, embarrassed. Trying to hid her embarrassment she quickly turned to the sun, which was beginning to set.
“I should really be going; the sun is setting.” She said and Ben nodded.
“Of course, but you must let me accompany you home, the forest can be a dangerous place.” He said and Aurora smiled.
“Thank you, Ben, but I know this place like the back of my hand.” She replied.
“Either way a gentleman never lets a lady walk home unescorted.” He said and Aurora chuckled, she couldn’t help but find this strange man rather charming.
The two of them walked along the dirt road, while Ben led his horse by the reigns. “You’re not from Elwen are you?” Aurora asked and Ben shook his head.
“I am traveling through, on my way to Bainbridge, there is an urgent matter regarding the crown.” He informed and Aurora gasped.
“Our king, is he okay?” She asked and Ben nodded.
“Oh yes, as fine as anyone can be at his age.” He explained and Aurora giggled as they walked up to a story book type cottage.
“Well, this is it, I do thank you. It was very honorable of you to walk with me.” She said and Ben smirked.
“The pleasure was all mine, Lady Aurora.” He said bowing as he grabbed her hand, kissing the top and she blushed.
“I do hope you reach Bainbridge safely and don’t travel in the night.” She replied and Ben stifled.
“You’re too kind and you’re right I will take the liberty and check out the Elwen inn.” He said and Aurora nodded, smiling.
“Well, I hope you find it to your liking.” She replied with a quick curtsy and then walked towards the cottage.
Watching her walk away, Ben couldn’t help but be fascinated by this woman, something about her reminded him of someone.
Later that night Ben found his way to the town pub, he sat quietly alone, eating, when a dark blonde-haired man with green eyes approached him. “If it isn’t the Duke of Nottingham.” The man said to Ben.
“Carter.” Ben replied, his voice was shrill.
To an outsider, you could tell that these two didn’t have a very sociable relationship, but Carter was Duke of Elwen, so naturally the two tolerated one another.
“On your way to Bainbridge for the announcement?” He asked and Ben nodded. “No protection? You really like living on the edge.” He added and Ben chuckled.
“My brother isn’t the only swordsman in the family.” He replied coolly.
“Right, well, I’ll leave you to your meal.” Carter replied walking away, but Ben stopped him.
“Elsworth, may I ask you something?” He said and Carter exhaled loudly.
“What is it?” He asked.
“I met one of your townsfolk today, she was a charming woman. Her name was Aurora.” He explained and Carter sighed.
“Aurora?” He asked and Ben smirked gazing up at him, he noticed Carter had a protected look on his face, which only made him smile wider. “Stay away from her, she is not for you.” He added quickly and Ben chortled.
“Ah, I seem to have hit a nerve.” He replied and Carter stared at him coldly.
The truth was Aurora and Carter are very close, naturally Carter has feelings for her, but she isn’t interested, she thinks of Carter more as a brother than a possible mate; but because of his strong feelings for her, he always felt the urge to protect her. They grew up together, despite her only being the daughter to the second son of the late Baron of Elwen.
“Just stay away from her, got it?!” Carter said sternly and Ben nodded, squinting his eyes, wonderingly.
“So, you don’t plan on using her as your ticket to the throne?” He asked prying and Carter scoffed in disgust.
“No, I’ll leave that to you and Lady McCann.” He said walking away and Ben scoffed shaking his head.
The following day the village of Elwen was told there was a town meeting and it is prudent that all ladies of the village aged 18 to 25 had to attend. Naturally Aurora, being 22 attended, her mother came with her as her father and younger brother stay back to mind the family’s apothecary shop.
“Mother” Aurora whispered to a beautiful blonde haired, hazel-green eye, middle aged woman.
“Hmm.” The middle-aged woman said.
“Why do you think it is important that young ladies come here today?” She asked and her mother sighed as Carter walked in front of the eager crowd followed by Baron Douglas Channing, Aurora’s first cousin.
“I don’t know, but I think we are about to find out.” Her mother explained as Baron Douglas cleared his throat.
“Ladies and Gentleman, we have gathered you here today to discuss an urgent matter about the crown.” He explained and Aurora was stunned. Instantly, she recalled what Ben told her yesterday, how he was passing through on his way to Bainbridge to attend an urgent matter, so naturally Aurora wondered if they were one in the same. “Carter. If you will continue please.” He added turning to Carter, and he nodded.
“Thank you, Douglas.” He said. “As the Baron was saying every nobleman was summoned to court this morning and as I am sure everyone is aware the king isn’t getting any younger and because of his refusal to remarry, we the bureaucrats and nobleman of Banford have decided to enact the election law.” Carter explained and there were murmurs throughout the crowd.
Aurora remembered hearing about this law her whole life, the Elsworth’s often brought up, which was one of the reason they told her it was prudent that she learns many things; even though Aurora knew a young woman for Elwen would never get chosen.
“For those of you that may not be current on extremely ancient laws I will let Douglas explain what the election law is.” Carter explained and Douglas nodded.
“I would be honored. The election law was put in place about 100 years ago to protect the crown, in rare cases that an heir was not available. The law states that if the king that is currently holding the crown decides to enact this option then it is up to the Dukes of his fair nation to appoint a female that would represent their province.” He explained.
“Represent for what?” A young girl asked.
“To become the possible princess of our fair nation.” Carter replied and all the young girls gasped.
“How is the girl chosen?” Another female asked.
“She will be chosen by her appeal, intellect, etiquette and grace and the Baron and myself will make the decision by late evening.” Carter informed
“So, I suggest.” Douglas began. “That all the ladies between the ages of 18 and 25 be ready for immediate interview.” He explained.
“Does everyone have too?” Aurora asked and everyone turned to her shocked, at first, she thought she was talking inside her head but when she noticed the stares she realized she hadn’t.
“Yes, every female that is of age is required to participate.” Carter replied, he was chuckling on the inside, he loved Aurora’s enthusiasm.
After the crowd dispersed, the females were giddy with excitement. They couldn’t believe that it was possible they could become the Princess of Banford, Aurora on the other hand wasn’t as giddy as the other ladies; she loved the crown, but she knew that a lady from one of Banford’s richer provinces would more likely be chosen.
“Mother I don’t want to; this whole idea seems crazy.” She explained as they returned to the shop. “I mean what happens when someone becomes the princess-elect, they what, leave their family behind and stay locked behind the walls of Bainbridge?” She asked and her mother stifled.
“You know Aurora, I was stuck behind those walls once.” She informed and Aurora sighed nodding, she recalled hearing about her mother’s time at Bainbridge Palace during the country’s plague.
“You were?” Asked a young male voice, it was Damien Channing, Aurora’s 12-year-old brother.
“Yes, I was summoned to court twice to aid in both the healing of Queen Isabella and Princess Anne.” She explained and Damien stared at his mother stunned as Aurora was bewildered she remembered hearing about Princess Anne, but never the queen.
“Queen Isabella?” Aurora questioned.
“Yes.” Said a male voice, this voice belonged to Aurora’s father Kellan Channing. “But no one outside of the king and few people of the court know about how your mother tried to help save the queen.” He added.
“Why not?” Aurora asked, bewildered.
“Because I couldn’t cure her, I was only able to temporally take her pain away and give her a week.” Her mother explained and Aurora sighed.
“Then why did you do it?” She asked perplexed.
“For my love of the crown, it was my duty, plus I had seen how much King William was suffering and I wanted nothing more than for him to be happy and to make sure that he got a chance to say goodbye to his wife.” Her mother replied and Aurora nodded as Kellan glanced at his wife solemnly.
“And the second time, that was because of the plague?” Aurora said knowingly, the story of the plague was one that everyone knew and her mother nodded.
“Yes, three years later the king summoned me again and this time everyone knew who I was, naturally people were curious about me, but hoped that my witchcraft could cure them.” Her mother explained.
“But you couldn’t save the princess.” Damien said knowingly and Aria nodded.
“I tried everything, but the magic was too strong and the country of Valdemar refused to turn over the witch responsible.” She explained.
“How long were you at the castle?” Aurora asked.
“Three months and trust me, it isn’t quite as bad as you’d think, there is plenty of nature to bond with inside the walls. I guess Queen Isabella was a fan of the little things that nature has to offer.” She replied and Aurora sighed.
“Well, I guess I could at least have my interview with Carter and Douglas, it is my duty to Banford after all.” She informed giving into the idea and her mother smiled.
“That’s my girl.” She replied.
Aurora was one of the first girls to be interviewed, mainly because her surname began with a C. The interviews were being conducted at Elwen Gardens, which is home to the Duke of Elwen. Aurora found the place to be beautiful, it has many gardens and ponds, it was just a very peaceful place; she also spent most of her childhood here.
Aurora found herself in Carter’s study a place she had been many times before, she sat on a leather sofa, both Douglas and Carter sat across from her.
“So, Aurora, here’s the thing.” Carter began. “I know that we have only conducted maybe five interviews, but we have already come to a decision.” He informed and Aurora sighed in relief as she stood up.
“Great, then I can go.” She replied and both Carter and Douglas laughed.
“No, we have chosen you.” Carter explained and Aurora stared at them blankly before stifling.
“You have got to be kidding me?” She said as she fell back into the sofa, completely baffled.
“I wish we were.” Douglas replied. “But the truth is you are the best that Elwen has to offer.” He explained and Aurora scoffed.
“Okay, now I know this is a joke.” She informed, but both Carter and Douglas stared at her sincerely.
“Why me?” She asked, realizing they weren’t joking.
“Your grace, your etiquette, your intellect, your knowledge of Banford and its laws, plus I’ve seen you handle the people.” Carter explained and Aurora stared at him bewildered.
“Handle the people?” She questioned and he nodded.
“Yes, I remember this one time, you were ten and I, 12, there were two kids and they were bickering over an apple. One of the kids said they had found the apple first, they continued to bicker for quite a while. These kids were of course Serfs and they lived at Channing Manor, so you, who just so happened to be holding an apple walked over to them and gave them your apple.” Carter recalled and Aurora sighed.
“I just hated seeing them arguing over food, no one should have to go without it.” She explained and Carter nodded.
“Exactly and that is why I think you would be a perfect choice. You care about the people and the people of Elwen respect you.” He said and Aurora nodded, turning to Douglas.
“What about you?” She asked and Douglas sighed.
“I may have taken the Baron title, but you are more noble than I’ll ever be.” He informed. “I have watched you grow, I see you every day with those kids you tutor and I know you have what it takes to be our princess.” He finished and again Aurora nodded.
“So, when would I leave?” She asked.
“First thing tomorrow morning, I will have a carriage for you and I have arranged some expensive dresses for you to take with you, so that when you arrive you look the part.” He replied.
“So, what do I do now?” She asked.
“Go home, talk with your family, say your goodbyes, because it could be quite some time before you see them again.” Carter informed and Aurora nodded.
“But what about the children?” She asked, worried over her students and Carter smiled.
“We’ll find a suitable replacement.” He replied and again Aurora nodded.
Leaving Elsworth Gardens her head was spinning, she couldn’t believe that she was going to bestaying at the palace. Worry crept over her, she feared that she wouldn’t be respected because it would be most likely the other ladies chosen, would come from higher standings.