War and Despair

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Chapter 11

Princess Marisindin strode down the hall towards Councilman Braster. “Where is the king?” She demanded coldly.

“Ahh. The king is asleep in his chambers. He was, ah, drinking again last night. The man is terribly stressed over this war. His heart could fail any day, princess. We have got to keep him in good spirits, now haven’t we?” The fat councilman oozed.

“Father is to be kept away from wine, you know this.” Marisindin said, shooting Braster a disgusted look. Ignoring the look, Braster continued.

“And as the dear prince will not come of age for many years, and the queen’s health is failing, we will need a good regent, my dear princess. I suppose that it will be you. And of course, women are too weak in the head to carry out the duties of regent, you shall need a good husband. And seeing as how my third wife has recently died, I am available. And your dear father is on the verge of agreeing.”

Marisindin slapped him. “You will not speak to me like that, councilman.” She growled, her voice dripping with hatred.

Councilman Braster swore and hit her across the face. Behind her, Marisindin heard the zing of steel as a sword was unsheathed. The young lord Peterrin held his short sword in one hand and punched Braster in the face with the other.

“How dare you lay hands on the princess?” He shouted punching the odious councilman again.

“You dare hit me, boy?” Braster seethed, massaging his cheek.

“I dare hit anyone attempts to harm the princess.” Peterrin growled, punching the fat man a third time.

Peterrin led Marisindin away, leaving Braster howling threats behind them.

“What happened this time?” Peterrin asked gently, offering her his arm.

Marisindin took it. “Thank you, for helping me out back there. He’s been trying to lead father into an early grave again. And then he started talking about how I’m going to end up marrying him. I slapped him.”

“What can I do?” Peterrin asked.

“I need it to be made very clear to the guards that Braster not be allowed near father. Or mother, for that matter.”

“I will do as you ask, your majesty.” Peterrin said with a bow.

“Where is mother?” Marisindin asked Peterrin. “I need her to go talk some sense into father about this plan of his to marry me to Braster. You might be able to do more good than us, Peterrin.”

“The queen? The queen is in her parlor. In fact, I just left her.” Peterrin said

“And what were you doing talking to the queen?” Marisindin said, giving him a teasing smile.

“I was… Ah… asking her blessing about something.” Peterrin said, flushing a deep crimson.

Marisindin smiled at him and walked away towards her mother’s parlor. Her mother was sitting there staring off into space, wearing a wrinkled gown that she’d worn the day before. Her greying hair was a mess, large strands escaping from her hairnet. Her eyes snapped into focus when Marisindin shut the door.

“Hello, dear.” She whispered.

“Mother! Even if we are in the middle of a war, you can’t just sit in here looking a mess!”

“Why ever not?” The queen asked, genuinely confused.

“It’s bad for the peoples’ morale! Anyway, we have bigger things to deal with, father has been thinking about marrying me off to Councilman Braster!” Marisindin exclaimed.

“What?” the queen asked sharply. “Councilman Braster? Why, Lord Peterrin was just here to ask your hand in marriage! Come child, we must speak to your father about this! Tell the guards to fetch Lord Peterrin.”

While her mother changed and tidied her hair, Marisindin sent the guards to bring Peterrin. Then the three of them walked swiftly to the king’s chamber.

Her father was sitting in bed slack jawed. He hadn’t even bothered to change into night clothes, he was still wearing the rumpled and newly stained tunic that he’d worn the evening before. He massaged his forehead as they opened the door. Her mother marched over and slapped him.

“Hey!” he grunted.

“You dare even suggest marrying our only daughter to that hog that masquerades as a man?” the queen snapped.

“What else would you have me do, woman?” Her father snapped back. “She’s our only hope for uniting our lords, and Braster is the most powerful.”

“There’s another option, your majesty.” Peterrin said.

The king turned to him. “What is it?”

“Marry her to me. I am the eldest son of Lord Terence Carreg and Lady Elsanna Mynydd, house Mynydd and house Carreg command two of the largest battalions. Those battalions will fight be pledged to your war if you allow me to marry Marisindin. Your people hate Braster, my family is well liked by the common folk. Not only that, but I believe Braster intends to harm Marisindin.”

“What?” The king asked sharply.

“I caught him hitting the princess in the hall earlier.” Peterrin said seriously.

“He’ll pay for that later!” the queen spat. “Foul piece of goat dung!”

“We’ll announce your engagement at a banquet tonight.” The king said finally.

The banquet passed in a blur. The only memorable thing was the look on Councilman Braster’s face when the king had announced that she was engaged to Peterrin.

The whole situation was very overwhelming. Tomorrow, she would take her last chance at a normal life, even if she were only pretending. It was risky, but if she disguised herself properly she wouldn't be in any danger. She promised herself that it would be the last time she engaged in foolish behavior like that. Soon it would be too dangerous for sneaking out.

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