Chapter 11 - A Love That Transcends All
March 26, 1645
Escrow Lands, East of Ivaris
“I’ll go get us more refreshments.” I told the King of Ivaris and then made my way towards the refreshment table. My head was reeling from my last conversation with the King.
“If I couldn’t find Almira in a year from now, I swear I’d marry you...”
“Princess Almira of Amaranth...”
“Her parents and my parents arranged for us to be married since she was born...”
“My army? Invade Amaranth? Why would I do such a thing when I am betrothed to its princess?”
I clutched the edge of the refreshment table as the memory of the King’s words cascaded over me. Lies. That’s what they all are. They can’t be true. I know for a fact that the Princess of Amaranth knows nothing of the betrothal. And there’s no way the King and Queen of Amaranth could give her over to someone like King Seth of Ivaris.
And I also know for a fact that Ivaris invaded Amaranth. I saw their banners when they came to Durnham. I saw Ivaris’ colors on the soldiers that took us away. They even spoke of their King. Why would he lie about this?
I breathed in deep and then got some punch from the table. The taste invigorated me and stopped the world from spinning. I looked across the room and saw that the King of Ivaris was engaged in a conversation with some of the nobles. He looked busy enough so I looked for a quiet spot in the ballroom and leant against the wall.
“How come I find the most beautiful lady in all of the room alone again?” King James said as he stepped out of the shadows. Again, I felt as if I wanted to run away. I felt as if I wasn’t safe when he was near.
“Your highness.” I greeted but he held up his hand. “Call me James.” He insisted.
“James.” I nodded.
“I should be going... I don’t want to start another confrontation between you and my King...”
“Ah... Seth... He’s always been so evil-tempered.” He shook his head and then laughed. “You on the other hand, milady... Such a diplomat.”
“Thank you.” I said with a little bow and then sipped my drink again. I was surprised when he took it from me and then set it down. His hand clamped down on my wrist and with a tug, he pulled me towards the dance floor.
“Come on, milady. Please honor me with this dance. I don’t want to pass this night without dancing with the most beautiful girl in the whole room.”
I rolled my eyes at him jokingly. “Flattery will get you nowhere milord.” He laughed and then replied. “Well it got me to the dance floor.” He said and then took my hand and placed his other hand at my waist.
We danced for a few seconds before I felt a searing heat down my neck. James twirled me and I was able to see the King of Ivaris’ scorching gaze directed towards me. James must’ve seen it too for his smile widened.
“Is he in love with you?” he asked. “No... Nothing like that. I’m his guest for tonight.” I replied and then pursed my lips hoping that he gets the signal that I do not want the conversation to continue further. He made no further comment about it and it made me glad.
“I’m serious you know.” He said.
“That if Seth even makes a little mistake, you could go to me and I’d crown you queen.” He replied.
I laughed, thinking it was a joke. “Again, you flatter me with an offer like that.” I said and saw his eyes soften. “No... It’s true.”
“Why do I feel as if I’ve seen you before? Have we known each other?” he asked.
“If we knew each other, I’m sure you would’ve left an impression. So... No... I don’t think we’ve met before.” I said and then realized how flirtatious that sounded and I instantly wanted to smack myself for I was sure that the King of Ivaris was still looking.
I looked at him and his face was set in a fierce scowl. When I looked back towards James, he was studying my face intently.
“I really feel as if I’ve known you before.” He said and I concentrated and looked at his eyes. This would be a good time for my ability to show itself. I waited for the familiar feeling of either warmth or cold; the feeling that would tell me whether the person was saying the truth or lying to my face.
I waited but the feeling did not come. Just like when I was with the King of Ivaris.
“I promise you... We’ve not met before.” I said with a smile.
“I must be losing my mind. One look at you would do that to any man. That face could make any king fall to his knees and it seems as if you’ve already got two Kings dangling in your sleeve.” He remarked.
It was a good thing that the music stopped at that moment, saving me from replying. I did a curtsy and then said. “I have to return to my King. Good diplomat, remember?” I said and then bowed once more and returned to the King of Ivaris’ side.
The moment I was near him, he tugged on my hand and I was plastered to his chest. Then he turned around and pinned me in between his body and one of the large pillars on the room. “What are you doing?” he hissed in my ear.
“What?” I said, feigning innocence.
“I told you not to go near James! You clearly disobeyed me!” he bellowed. Heads turned towards us but he waved his hand and dragged me towards a corner. “I had no choice, your highness. The King pulled me towards the dance floor and I would insult him by refusing.” I replied.
“I don’t care if he’s insulted!” he hissed and then grabbed my nape and pulled me to his lips in a crushing kiss. “You are mine, Adrienne! It’s only me who can touch you! I don’t care if he’s a King or a lowly peasant. No one but me touches you!”
He took a few ragged breaths and then resumed speaking. “I bought you. You’re mine. You’re my slave. Don’t forget that.” My heart twisted at his words and I wanted to run away again and never look back. He was right. I was nothing but a slave. He bought me therefore I belonged to him just like any possession would: his to use and discard whenever he wanted.
Again his lips descended on mine in another bruising kiss. His hands were on either side of me and there was no way for an escape. His hands travelled a path down my side to my waist and then my hips and lower towards my leg. He grabbed my knee and then raised it up and wrapped it around his hips.
Damn this! Why do I feel this way around him? Why am I so wanton? One touch and I melt in his hands! One kiss and he could do anything! He had me in the palm of his hands just like any other lady. One kiss and I forget everything: all the lies about Amaranth, the betrothal, Duncan!
“No...” I whispered softly. I remembered that we were in a crowded ballroom and many people could see us. “No one can see us here.” He replied and then took my lips in another drugging kiss. “No... Not here...” I turned my head to the side and his warm lips landed on my cheek. His lips travelled a path from my cheek down to my neck and I shivered.
The sensations I felt drowned out everything. The noise in the room dimmed to nothing and I forgot all about the people. Suddenly, the king’s body tensed and with a sigh, he stepped away from me.
“It’s the last dance of the ball and everyone is invited to dance.” He said. True enough, all the couples were now moving towards the dance floor. It took another moment for the King to take a hold of himself and then a smile creased his lips.
“Dance with me, my lady.” He said and then did a small bow. I wasn’t able to help the small giggle that escaped my lips. “I would be honoured to.” I replied and took the hand he offered.
The moment our skin touched, warmth spread through my entire body and my vision dimmed until I saw nothing. I closed my eyes and when I opened them again, I was in another place.
The sound of laughter filled my ears and my heart constricted with the sound of the voice. It was my beloved, Aiken, and he was laughing like I’ve never seen him before.
“Stop it this instant!” I said, my cheeks reddening with embarrassment.
“I’m so sorry, my love.” He replied and then gathered me in his arms. The bow and arrows fell from my fingers and down towards the soft grass. “...It’s just that I’ve not seen anyone as lame as you with the bow and arrow.” He said and I huffed in indignation. I wrenched myself away from his arms and sat down on the grass, glaring at him all the while.
He sat down beside me and then lay down and rolled in laughter. “When you aimed for that tree, the rabbits on the other side of the meadow ran for their lives!” he said and then laughed some more.
“Hmph.” I replied and braced my arms across my chest.
“I’m sorry. I promise I won’t laugh anymore.” He pursed his lips tightly to keep from laughing but I saw his shoulders shaking from the effort. I looked away from him and concentrated at the beauty of the meadow.
I felt his hands on my shoulders and he helped me up on my feet. Then he gathered me in his arms once more and kissed me. “I will teach you. And I promise I won’t stop until you’re as good as I am.” He said and his face was now devoid of mirth. Instead he looked very solemn.
I sighed and then hugged him back. “No one could ever be as good as you, Aiken.” He laughed once more and then replied, “True.”
I pushed him away and rolled my eyes at his arrogance. “Come. We must be heading back. Your father might be looking for you already. I don’t want to be in trouble with him any more than I’m already in.” He said and I rolled my eyes again.
“For any father, no one’s ever good enough for his little girl.” I replied and he nodded. Then his hand went towards my belly. “True. If we had a daughter, I’d skewer anyone who ever looked at her with want in their eyes.”
I laughed and removed his hand. “That’s a long time to go, my lord. I’m afraid you’d have to marry me first.” I chided. “I’d marry you right now.”
I sighed. “If only it was that easy.”
“One day, we’ll make it so. And you will become my bride.” He declared and my heart fluttered inside my chest.
He hugged me and kissed my hair once more and then set me down on my feet. “Let’s go. Come, hold my hand.” He said and I reached for his hand and twined my fingers with his.
“No... not like that. Like this.” He said and removed my hand and clasped it around his wrist.
“Why? It looks silly.” I told him.
“This is how a warrior’s lady holds his hand. We’ll never know when danger might spring upon us and I’d have to get my sword or dagger or even summon any magic I could just so I could protect you. Untangling my fingers from yours could cause me precious seconds. I could cast a simple spell within those precious seconds and that would give me time to get my sword.” He replied and my heart melted at the thought.
My fierce protector.
“It still looks silly but I’ll do it to give you peace of mind.” I said and held on to his wrist. I was rewarded with another dazzling smile.
The darkness disappeared and when I opened my eyes we were on the ballroom once more and surrounded with the beauty, wealth and glamour of the nobles.
My fingers were on the King’s outstretched hand and he was escorting me to the dance floor. I slipped my hand away from his and then held his wrist just like how I saw in the vision. He looked at me with confusion at first and then he looked as if he remembered something and then kept on walking.
We went towards the dance floor and all eyes were on us once more. What could they’ve seen for them to stare at us so? Maybe it’s the vision of the fierce King of Ivaris smiling down at a nobody that he decked in diamonds and emeralds.
The lights dimmed as several candles were blown. The room was cast in semi-darkness which made the atmosphere look more captivating. I stared into the King’s face which was softened by the glow of the candlelight. He looked at me and I saw no trace of his grey eyes now for they seemed golden as they reflected the candlelight.
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
By the soft glow of the candlelight, Adrienne looked more beautiful. She looked surreal, ethereal... It was as if I’ve been blessed with the company of a beautiful faery. The emeralds and diamonds in her neck and the pearls and diamonds in her hair sparkled as she moved. Every inch a faery.
I took her hand and enveloped it in mine while I placed the other one at her waist. She looked up and then searched my eyes. Then something like recognition flashed in those beautiful eyes of hers.
I looked at her again and now she was looking at me with tenderness. Also, her eyes looked golden and her skin looked as if it was shining. The band started playing and they played a soft, slow tune.
I recognized it as the Lover’s Sonata. It was usually played during the last dance in a ball for it was the most beautiful of all songs. I gathered Adrienne closer and wrapped my arm around her. She sighed and then her body relaxed.
“Do you know how long I’ve waited for this, Aiken?” she whispered and my grip tightened on her for a moment because of shock. Her voice sounded different and when we turned and the shadows were on us, her eyes still looked golden.
I felt as if I was suddenly chained. It felt as if every inch of me was bound
“Selene...” the word spilled from my lips without me realizing it. I moved closer to her and then nuzzled her hair and inhaled deeply. The smell of lavender permeated my senses. But it’s not me who did this. It was as if my body had a will of its own. It was like I was trapped inside my own body and forced to watch as another controlled me.
“I’ve missed you...” Adrienne said and she stood on the tips of her toes for a moment and then reached up and kissed me. My hands tightened on her and I twirled her around. “You are so beautiful tonight.” My lips moved but again it was not me.
“And you are as handsome as ever.” She replied.
“You look good in these diamonds and emeralds, Selene... I would have given you more than these, you know. I would’ve given you the biggest pearls on the sea and the rarest colored diamonds. Hell, I would’ve given you an entire country... But I would give all those up if that meant I could’ve spent more time with you...” I said and I saw her golden eyes fill with tears.
She kissed my cheek and I felt something tug on my chest. “Don’t think about the past. We’ve got this now... Haven’t we? We’ll make it through... We always do.” She replied.
“I don’t want to lose you again.”
“You will not... Now stop reminiscing and kiss me.” She ordered. I bent my head and then captured those lovely lips. How we continued to move to the music, I did not know. All I knew is that my lips were on hers and even if I was trapped inside this body, I felt everything. And there’s no greater feeling than Adrienne in my arms. When I’m close to her, everything felt right. It was as if this was how things were meant to be.
I wrapped my arms more tightly around her and continued to kiss her. We broke apart and I tucked her head to my chest and swayed to the music for a little while. Then I kissed her hair once more.
“You still smell like lavender.” I said and she laughed. I kissed her ear and felt her body shiver. Then I felt the skin of my entire body tingle and something about it felt very familiar. “You’re doing it again, Selene.” I said to her and I saw her smile.
“I can’t help it when I’m with you... Besides... They would be thankful.” She replied with a wink and inclined her head to indicate the other people in the room. I just smiled and continued to hold her in my arms.
I tried to move my arms but I was still a prisoner inside my own body. I tried to speak but no words came out.
The tingle in my skin enveloped me and it seemed as if it reached inside my very core. I closed my eyes and savoured the feeling and when I opened them again a red mist surrounded Adrienne. If I had control of my body, I would’ve reeled in shock but none of the others seemed to notice.
Adrienne’s skin was glowing and as she danced with me, the mist surrounding her increased and then moved around the room and settled on the other dancers. Adrienne’s eyes were closed as her body swayed. The mist now encompassed the entire room and it seemed to have an effect on the dancers.
The men held the women closer and I saw many bodies pressed intimately to one another. The women’s lips parted in a gasp and their eyes were glazed with passion. The men were equally smitten. A few moments later, couples were disappearing towards the shadows and those left on the dance floor were locked in a passionate embrace.
“Selene.” I whispered in a husky voice and her eyes opened. Without warning, she lifted her arms and placed it around my neck and this time she was the one kissing me. Her kiss was like a drug. It permeated my senses and clouded my brain.
When we broke apart for air, I saw that couples were now running towards their rooms while the others who were still dancing were now slipping their hands under each other’s clothes.
“Selene, not here...” I replied and then fought the haze of desire and dragged her outside the ballroom and towards our room. I kicked the door open and then carried her inside and placed her on the bed. She let out a whoop of delight which sent the maids scattering.
“How I’ve missed you so... I love you... Always... Remember that.” She told me and I felt another tug inside my chest.
“I love you too... Selene...” I replied. She closed her eyes... Then she abruptly sat up from the bed and her eyes were filled with panic. “No... No...” she sounded as if she was pleading. “We’ll have more opportunities like this, my love.” I soothed her and then hugged her for what felt like the last time.
Her eyes closed and her body fell on the bed. I, on the other hand, felt as if the chains inside me were suddenly released. I tried moving my arms and my body obeyed me this time. I moved my other limbs and they too, obeyed but I felt like I was suddenly so tired.
Adrienne’s eyes opened once more and they weren’t golden anymore. She sat up and looked around the room in confusion. “What happened?” she asked
“I... I don’t know either.” I replied.
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