I held my son, Gabriel, close to me in my arms, whilst the ceremony took place. His fluctuating Lycanthrope form was causing him much distress. He was only nine months old, but could easily pass for a two-year-old.
I learned that Lycan children grew rapidly. They tended to age as normal, once they reached the age of five. Many a time, I'd observed Rhett's youngest brother, Kenyan, partially shift into his Lycan form, and now Gabriel was doing the same. Carina said this was normal, and that it would settle down after the first year.
"Shh, Shh! There, there, Gabriel." I whispered, soothingly.
"Here, let me take him for a while." Carina offered.
She lifted him into her arms and showered him with kisses. Gabriel immediately stopped crying, mesmerised by the sound of her voice. It wasn't long before he was snoring peacefully, as she rocked him gently in her arms.
The throne room was filled with Lycan warriors, all eager for the coronation to start. I sat at Carina's side in my throne, looking out at the sea of faces, and spotted Petr amongst the crowd. His hair had grown long, reaching past his shoulders, and his body had become broad and muscular. Across his chest, he wore a blue sash, that had two silver medals, that he had won for his combat skills.
When King Liekos stood to his feet, each Lycan got down on one knee and bowed their heads. He then addressed the warriors as one, asking that they all rise.
"My brothers, the time has come for my reign to come to an end. I name my son, Diego, as my successor," he announced, causing the crowd to erupt with cheers.
I winced at the noise and quickly checked on Gabriel, who was thankfully still snoring sound asleep in his grandmother's arms.
Diego took his place on the throne, to where his father presented him with a golden sash. Carina looked on proudly at her husband, as he was pronounced King of Azkalar Zar. The Lycan Warriors turned to her and bowed, acknowledging her as their Queen.
"King Diego will now give the name of his future successor," his father informed the crowd.
"I name my eldest son, Rhett, to succeed me, once my reign comes to an end," he spoke to the crowd, resulting in more cheering from the warriors.
Diego's mother, the former Queen, Alia, brought out a burgundy sash and handed it to her son.
Diego's face filled with pride as he called Konrad to kneel before him.
"You passed the Goddess's final test, and she has now deemed you worthy to enter the labyrinth this summer's end. Always remain honest and true, my son." Konrad removed his blue sash and accepted the burgundy one from his father.
Konrad bowed his head, as a mark of respect, and returned to sit alongside Rhett and Juan. Kenyan, who was only a year old, but looked more like a child aged three, was hiding behind my throne, playfully peering around at me, and hiding again, as soon as I glanced at him. His hand reached out to feel Gabriel's hair, obsessed with how soft it was.
Once the coronation was over, we went into the grand hall for a celebratory feast. The sight brought back a wave of nostalgia but in the most unpleasant way. I was always hesitant, especially after my ordeal with the deadly banquet, in the labyrinth.
"Are you alright, Amara?" Rhett asked, with concern.
"I'm fine. It's just this brings back bad memories, that's all." I confessed.
Rhett placed Gabriel onto his knee, whilst he fed him from his own plate. He alternated between feeding himself and giving Gabriel small mouthfuls. Gabriel looked so adorable when he opened his mouth, waiting for food.
"Konrad, are you feeling nervous about running the labyrinth?" I asked, curious.
"I used to be when I was younger, but now I feel ready. I have been having dreams of my bride. It's strange. I can recall every detail of her face," he replied.
"That happened to me, too. Father told me that the same thing happened to him before he met Mother. That's why I asked you to tell me what Amara looked like. I wanted to see if it was true, about the Goddess choosing our mates, I mean," Rhett answered.
"You had dreams about me? You never told me that," I teased, playfully, feeling rather flattered that Rhett admitted to something so sweet.
"I still do." He responded with a wink. His eyes sparkled with desire, causing me to blush.
"Did you hear? The soldiers pulled a female out of the ocean. The cargo ship she was on, had capsized, and she was lucky that she hadn't drowned." Fabian whispered to us, as we were standing in wait, at the entrance of the labyrinth.
"Father mentioned it. He also said that he sensed that she was destined to be royal." Rhett replied, eyeing the twelve terrified women, who were standing there, trembling in their white silk gowns. "It was Petr who rescued her. You know what that means?" He spared me a side glance. "He will become worthy, after this."
"Who do you think she is?" I asked, my eyes scanning over each of them with wonder.
"Wait and see," Rhett whispered. "Konrad has been dreaming of her, each night for a week. He will instantly recognize her, you'll see," he explained.
We waited with anticipation as the twelve Lycan warriors came to stand alongside Diego. I realized straight away, that each Lycan seemed to be fascinated by one of the twelve women.
I gasped with excitement, and shook Rhett's arm, pointing to a beautiful female, with long, curly, blonde hair.
I watched Konrad intensely, observing the way he drank in every minor detail. I wished I had paid more attention to how Rhett looked at me, the night we entered the labyrinth.
That look alone was worth more than all the riches in the world.
"That's her." I breathed, certain of it.
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