On and on he droned. Crimson bougainvillea vines blew in the breeze and she stilled her fingers to keep them from drumming the table with impatience. She stared at her china plate, with no appetite for the pastries and fruit that lay arranged on it for her.
Minutes stretched on while Theldry waited for an opportune moment to interject but the subject of Naval holdings in Banker’s Bay was just not affording it. Finally, she sat forward.
“Don’t interrupt your father, Theldry,” her mother chided mildly.
Her brother snickered and threw a grape from his morning breakfast bowl at her.
She threw it back with force so that it hit him between the eyes.
Immediately, Bronn pointed, and, regardless that his mouth was full, complained, “Mother! Did you see that?” Theldry rolled her eyes at him. His excelled at that victim act – she could think of no one who annoyed her more!
Ugh. Her mother was so – so perfect! “Mother – he started it! How can you not see that!”
Since neither parent was looking at him, Bronn smiled wickedly at Theldry, with grapes in front of each tooth and his eyes rolled up into his head.
“Theldry, you must act more like a princess.” The Queen of Tortoreen looked at Theldry with a quiet grace and told her, “Now. Sit up, and –”
“Oh, and that was him acting like a Prince!” Theldry protested. She slammed herself back into her cushioned chair.
“Theldry, Bronn is nine. You are fifteen.”
“Exactly! Why can I not leave yet! Father! Please!”
“Theldry, I have had this discussion with you. Twice now. I’ll not have it again.”
She stared miserably out across Kelving Bay. “All of my friends are –”
“Yes, my child. All of your friends are married or betrothed. I am aware. But they are not you, and you are a princess. When I find you the right match, then off you shall go.” Her father brushed his fingers out across the breakfast table to animate the idea of sending her away.
“But. Can I not at least – visit at court? Some of my friends, perhaps?” Theldry wheedled, hoping to win him over. The breeze blew the veiled curtains behind them gently.
He turned a stern glance down his nose. “What, so some baseborn squire can get you with child in a back hallway somewhere? I think not. You’ll not be some lady-in-waiting to a misplaced duchess simply because you tarnished your reputation. You will be a duchess, or perhaps even a princess in your own right – if we find you the right match. But you must be patient. And of that trait, I know you have precious little.”
Theldry did not say more, for she did not want to anger her father. She glanced away sullenly.
Her father turned in his seat and looked at her square on. “Theldry, you may yet come to understand this some day. Your friends are of noble blood, yes, and they have found good matches, I am sure, the best their families can make. You, however, are different. You are a princess. I have alliances to uphold, contracts to support, and a country to protect. Royalty does not have the option of marrying for love, nor for pleasure. We must abide by our duty at all times. Royalty is a duty. Duty before love, always, Theldry. Duty before love.”
“And that’s all I am then, a bargaining chip, a tool, a – a stamp on a contract to you, Father?” Theldry inquired of her father.
He looked down at her. “If it must be so, then yes.”