It was another torturous process of primping and pampering Timena's body; from the moment she was forcefully awoken she was being fitted, prodded and prepped for the ball. She'd only gotten the opportunity to escape when she ran out to get something to eat, but even that had been short lived.
"Alright, I need you to a take another deep breath and suck in again." The haughty, middle aged dressmaker directed her, holding onto the corset strings.
Timena's eyes widened. "I cannot suck in anymore." She yelled.
When the strings were tied and diminishing most of her air supply, she walked away angrily to survey her appearance. Timena was astonished at the sight of the woman in front of her. The top portion along with the shoulders of the material, tightly held up her cleavage and were sleekly patterned in gold and silver, and even a few emeralds tones and beadings— the lower half was a deep shade of red with gold floral designs running down the length of all sides of the dress. Her hair had been brought into a bun at the middle section of her head with a few braids, twists and gold accents. Timena's cheeks were dusted in pink and her lips, deeply red with lip paints and she allowed nothing more on her face after that. She wore the emerald earrings that belonged to her mother and left her neck bare. Taking a long look at herself, her gaze lingered. Timena hadn't known that in all these years she possessed the capability of looking this way, she fought to hide her smile.
"You look beautiful." Delacroix stood with a hopeful smile at the entrance to the room.
"Doesn't she, to think you've been wearing baggy men's clothing and armor your whole life." Adelia giggled, tinkering with the dress a bit.
Rolling her eyes, Timena shrugged her mother's hands away as she tried to focus, repeating the words to herself, she took a few deep breaths.
It's time. She shook her head at the thought.
Leaving the spacious dressing room with the assistance of at least four other women, Timena walked out of the room, ignoring both her mother and sister. She patiently awaited her name to be called, it was only a matter of time.
Panting somewhat heavily, Timena heard her island's anthem begin to play again, by that time Delacroix and Adelia had been long gone.
"You look beautiful princess, just don't fall." A young servant girl offered her a bit of encouragement with a warm smile. Timena shook her head in agreement before they all eventually walked towards the long corridor leading to the ballroom.
Looking back, she could now see the women smiling and shooing her forward to continue.
This is it Timena, I just have to do it... and not fall flat on my face. The doors began to open slowly, and she could feel her breath hitch in her throat.
The room was filled with the entire neighboring kingdoms and more, or so it seemed. Every eye was locked on her and she felt as though her chest was tighter than the corset strings around her waist. Blinking a few times, Timena straightened up before visibly masking her nervousness.
"Presenting Timena Sybil Mororcin, Princess of Mororcin." At the words of the young man, she began to walk inside, the crowd immediately parted. The sounds of cheers and whistles could be heard the entire way up to her family. Just don't fall and we'll be okay.
King Vassar's face came into view first as he held his arms open to give her a hug, she paused slightly before awkwardly embracing him. Barely acknowledging her mother and Delacroix, she was met with another face. Silas stood tall in all black as he looked down at an annoyed Timena, she gave him a tight-lipped smile before sitting down. As he sat next to her, she felt his arm rest at her side and she stiffened somewhat.
"My fellow people, I thank you all for joining our family today to celebrate the engagement of my eldest daughter Timena and the King of Calyx, Silas Stokrev. It is with great joy that Adelia and me give away our daughter to such a fine comrade and leader. I trust that he will guard her life better than his own and that they live a life filled with love and happiness. Now, a few words from the man himself." Vassar chuckled before being seated and turning his attention to Silas.
Silas stood, adjusting his doublet. His face grew cold, and devoid of any emotion. "I thank you, Vassar and Adelia for welcoming me into your home and giving us your blessing. Let it be known that I do intend to guard your daughter's life better than I do my own, but I also intend to cherish it and worship it for the rest of our days. Timena may not know it yet, but the happiest she'll ever be is with me... well besides when she's sparring or shooting arrows." The crowd laughed. "I'll make sure of it." He looked down at her, a promise in his lingering gaze. Timena looked away as she felt her cheeks become a bit warm.
Looking into the crowd, she could see faces of envy, jealousy and even genuine happiness, but mostly jealousy and envy. She would gladly trade places with them, she thought. Her thoughts were suddenly paused as she saw more food being placed on the banquet table, her eyes lit up eagerly.
Timena had gathered enough food for a small army, and not even the material crushing her waist could stop her from eating.
"I asked Eurina to make all of your favorites again, and I'm so glad I did." He smirked. Timena rolled her eyes and got up for another helping.
Halfway to the table, she was bombarded by a few of the princesses, specifically Hanleigh and Emandalyn.
"So, I was right, I was so right." Emandalyn's bright red curls bounced along with her as she giggled happily. Timena groaned but nodded.
"You must be proud with yourself then." It was more of a question coming from Hanleigh as she waited, looking more and more aggravated.
"Look, I didn't want any of this. You should talk to Delacroix about why I am here." Timena faked a smile before walking away.
"I'm sorry about Hanleigh, she's just mad the king didn't choose her." Emandalyn nudged Timena's side playfully.
She softened a bit. "I know, it's just quite a lot to handle."
"How do you feel about it though?"
Timena let out a heavy breath. "I'm scared, and angry." She admitted.
"Hmm, I'm sorry. He really fancies you though you know, he never speaks like that. He's usually very, guarded and private with his feelings, and generally any other emotions he might have. I know it's scary, but just be open alright." Looking back, Emandalyn quickly disappeared and Timena could see why now.
"Would you like to dance?" Silas' large palm was outstretched in front of her.
"No, not really." She continued staring back and forth between his face and his hand.
"That's too bad." He replied in a low voice before pulling her away from the banquet table.
They now stood at the center of the crowded room, people began to pay attention, awaiting the first dance of the evening.
"I-I can't dance." Timena whispered.
With a smile, he took one of her hands and placed the other on her waist. "I'll lead."
Timena tried to protest but a melody of instruments began to play and just like that, Silas began to lead her around in circles. He moved slowly, trying to let her adjust to his pace as she focused on her feet. Pulling her in closer, Timena gasped at the closeness of their bodies. The surrounding guests began to pile on in pairs to the middle of the floor and gradually the focus was no longer solely on Silas and her.
"That wasn't as bad as it seemed, now was it?" He whispered near her ear, causing goosebumps to form at the back of her neck.
She stayed silent, trying to to create a bit of space between them but Silas' arm wouldn't budge. His heated gaze was making her anxious and she tried to focus on her breathing.
"You look ravishing tonight, no woman in this room could hold my gaze besides you princess." He smirked.
Timena shivered. "Space Silas, give me a bit of it please." She demanded quietly.
He paused momentarily and then nodded, his jaw twitching with each passing second. His hold began to loosen around her waist and his eyes were now looking above her head, she felt a bit of relief.
Looking down at her again, the softness in features had returned as she felt his thumb soothingly rub back and forth against her knuckles.
After their dance, Silas led Timena over to meet the members of his family. He was smart not to tell her, knowing she might try to run away. As nerve wracking as it was, Timena realized they were far less intimidating than him. They had complimented her continuously and she felt herself begin to relax a bit.
"Silas, you did very well with this one. Her beauty is absolutely astounding." His aunt, Halen said cheerfully. "But she will be able to kick your rear end if need be, and that makes me even happier."
Silas laughed genuinely at her words and Timena smiled as well.
Halen was just one of a few relatives that Timena would meet, the other members of his family were quite unlike him. They were open and warm which she hadn't expected considering they were related to him. They were just the first set of people she would meet that night— her uncles, aunts, cousins and anyone she had ever known in her life had come to speak to them both. Yet again the muscles in her face had begun to twitch from smiling for most of the night.
By the end, Timena was more than ready to strip out the uncomfortable material and get into bed but she knew she could risk the chance of being forced to talk to yet another guest.
"I thought I might find you here. The guests are on their way out now." Silas strode towards her.
She smiled lazily, continuing to lean against the railing.
"Timena, I want you to know that I will give you time, as much as you need. I know you've only met the cold, serious part of me but there is more, if you'll let me show you." His gaze was focused on the balcony door as he finished speaking.
Timena did not know how to respond to that, what was she to say?
He looked to her with those piercing blue eyes and she didn't look away. Nodding once in understanding, she turned to leave the balcony.
As she walked across the black and white marble floor, certain thoughts began to cross Timena's mind. She realized that her opinion of him was beginning to change and she didn't feel comfortable with it.
Stealing a piece of cake to take with her to bed, Timena made it up the stairway to her chambers and standing by the door was Delacroix, she grunted quietly, annoyed.
"Please move." Timena waited patiently.
"I just want to say that I see it now, it was never me. It would never have worked, the way he looks at you, it makes sense. I know it isn't ideal, but you'll grow to love him Timena, I just know it." She smiled, a genuine but sad smile.
Timena stood before her sister, unsure of how to respond. "Is that all?" She replied, seemingly uninterested.
Delacroix nodded innocently, walking past her and into her room. Timena continued to stand by her door for a while, her defenses were being worn down slowly.
Silas' and Delacroix's words had played on a continuous loop in Timena's mind, causing her to toss and turn restlessly. She'd been prepared to marry him for the sake of her country, but after hearing what he'd said on the balcony the previous night, she wondered if she could possibly marry for more than that.
Don't be foolish. She mentally kicked herself at the thought.
Silas had, as promised given her space. He had not crowded her or even made much of an appearance in her presence so Timena had gone back to her normal duties— figuring it would be best to continue with life as though nothing had changed even though she knew better.
Dropping the last bale of hay on the floor of the stable, Timena huffed loudly.
"They certainly dressed you up last night." Clara's verbal intrusion frightened Timena yet again.
She glared at her, clearly annoyed. "What do you want?" She asked harshly.
Putting up her hands defense, Clara jumped down from the gate and walked over. "I just want to talk to you, because sometimes it just gets lonely. She repeated those same words that she'd hinted to Timena only a few weeks before.
Timena sighed but nodded, letting it be known that she was ready to discuss things.
"I am so sorry for what I did to you, I know that you trusted me... and I betrayed that trust." She paused. "He's my son and I want, I want him to be happy and I know that you could make him happy and it in no way justifies my actions but I couldn't stop myself." She said, admittedly.
"You said before that you couldn't see him until King Jarvis died, why?" Timena questioned.
Clara smiled coldly at the thought. "When he'd taken my baby from me and sent me away, he placed a curse. I couldn't go anywhere near them, physically I was incapable— he'd had help from a witch and the curse kept me away from Jarvis and Silas. I'd spent years trying to undo what the witch had done but it was useless and as time went on, I wandered around alone, hopeless and empty."
Timena felt for her, it couldn't have been easy to deal with that on her own. Remembering now what King Jarvis had done to that poor girl, now aware that it had been Clara, resulting in Silas' birth, it made her skin crawl and her blood boil at the thought.
"I'd been alone for so long and it wasn't until one day, something told me to try to return to the kingdom, like it was now safe to do so, there was this sort of shift in the atmosphere or within my very self I suppose. Jarvis had died and I finally realized that the curse had been binded to his life, and I was finally free of this terrible fate. Or so I thought." She laughed. "The curse had been broken, but it released something else, powers of my very own— they were nearly impossible to control, I slaughtered numerous people who got too close to me because I had no control over it. I couldn't go anywhere near my son." She spoke sadly, her voice cracking.
"How did you stop it?" Timena asked, fully invested in Clara's story.
"I went into hiding, I stayed in Calyx but much like Makar I kept myself secluded. I tried to learn how to control it over time, but it wasn't until I was found by a warlock, that he was kind enough to release me from the curse. But that wasn't until years later, my son had grown into a young man while I hadn't aged since the day he'd been taken away from me. It pained me to only be able to see him from afar."
"It isn't your fault, life has just been a series of unfortunate events for me. So you see, I didn't mean to betray you Timena but when I saw him, knew I could help him in some form after years of not being there for any part of his life... I took it. It was selfish but I did it, but if I am being honest, I do not regret it because I know that you're the one he's been searching for. You are his beginning." Clara looked at her, with hope in her eyes.
Timena was conflicted, no longer angry but confused. "Thank you for telling me the truth, you weren't selfish in your actions, it was for your son— but you betrayed me, your friend in the process." She pointed out.
Clara looked away, feeling remorseful. "I know, I just hope you'll forgive me."
"You should meet him, face to face one day. Don't let any more time slip away." Timena changed the subject before walking out of the stable.