Chapter 23 - Blue-Eyed Monster
The Golden Dynasty
The Golden Palace in the Heavens
Ilyia, the Land of the Gods
“WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?!?!?!” my father roared. I wanted to cover my ears for I felt that they would soon burst with all this noise. A string of curses followed my father’s words. I looked at Aiken, the warrior beside me, and he looked as though he wanted to blend in with the golden wall.
I lifted my chin and watched my father again as he continued his endless tirade which composed of curses, lectures, warnings and the list of punishments he has in mind for me. “Selene! You will not repeat this again!” my father shouted.
“Father! You know that Azrael really isn’t a threat to me! How many times have I been kidnapped?” I asked with a huff. My father’s face turned red and the sudden surge in his brilliance made me cover my eyes. “Azrael is learning his ways. One day, he’ll kidnap you and then we won’t be able to rescue you anymore.”
My father leaned back on his throne and rubbed his face with his hand. “Selene... You are everything to me. You are all I have. I cannot lose you.” He said and my heart called out to him. I approached his throne and took his hand. “I’m here always. You won’t lose me, father...” I said and kissed his hand. He pulled me up and embraced me. Then he lifted his fingers and stroked my cheek just like how he always did when I was a little girl...
“Yes. I won’t lose you. Because Aiken will now be following you everywhere you go. He is now your guard.” My father declared.
“WHAT!?!” this time I was the one doing the shouting. “Father, you can’t! Surely not him! He even did me more harm than what my kidnapper did! He threw a stone at me for heaven’s sake!” I shouted.
Aiken flinched at my words when my father’s gaze travelled to him. He spread his hands in an apologetic gesture. “It was an accident, your highness. I have already apologized to the princess but she is mad at me.” He sounded so innocent when he said those words.
“NOOO! Father! Not that. Anything but that punishment, please!” I pleaded. My father shook his head and he had this look in his face. It was his determined look. It said that his word is final and no amount of pleading or shouting will make him change his mind.
I straightened my spine and then walked down the steps to the throne with as much dignity as I could muster. I took one last look at my father and then told him, “I do not like this, father. But your will be done.” I said and then bowed like a common servant and exited the throne room with my new guard in tow.
“You are a spoiled little one, do you know that?” the annoying guard whispered to me. “Little one? I am almost a century old!” I hissed. Aiken just threw back his head and laughed. “See? Little one. I am ancient. I was here since the dawn of time. I was here even before the Nine Realms were created..” He declared. I huffed and turned my back to him. “No one’s asking you your age.”
The warrior laughed once more. “Now where are we off to, princess?” The nerve of that warrior! He just had to rub it in my face by emphasizing the word ‘we.’ I ignored him and continued walking towards the palace gardens.
Ever since I was young, I have tried to design the garden and turn it into how my mother’s meadow looked like. I think I’ve succeeded so far for it certainly looked like Elune’s meadow but there was one addition: golden flowers. Everything here is golden and I guess it was only right that I added my father’s touch to this garden...
I walked and touched the blooms with my fingers. I smiled as I saw that the flowers bloomed in my presence. “This place is beautiful...” Aiken whispered. “Thank you.” I replied. I looked at him and he seemed sincere with his compliments so I smiled at him. He seemed taken aback and he had this funny look in his face.
I continued to tend my flowers and I felt that his eyes were on me the whole time. “Do you really have to stare at me like that? It’s not like I’m going to suddenly vanish.” I said with a shrug. “Your father was most adamant in explaining to me your numerous tricks princess. I’ve memorized them all and as I recall, you did manage to elude your guards by suddenly vanishing.” He replied with that smile of his again.
I felt my stomach flip as he continued smiling at me. I hadn’t realized this before but he actually looked... handsome... When the Cosmos made him, they must’ve paid greater detail and time. His features looked as though they were sculpted out of marble. His forehead was broad and his cheekbones were prominent and so was his jaw. All the angles in his face made him look masculine and they all framed his loveliest feature: his golden eyes.
Aiken coughed and I suddenly realized I was staring. The golden rose I was holding fell to the ground. Before I could stoop to pick it up, Aiken was already there. He straightened but instead of handing me the rose, he tucked it in my ear.
“Mira a’ Sheska.” He whispered.
It was as if everything stopped. I gazed into his golden eyes and everything else was cancelled. He lifted his fingers and touched my lips. His eyes darkened and his breaths became heavier. I stepped closer to him and he looked as if he wrestled for control...
“Princess...” his word was a half-whisper and half-plea. “Forgive me.” He said as he took another step closer. It was a long time before I answered for I felt his breath against my skin and smelled his unique scent and it turned my brain to mush. “F-for what?” I stuttered.
“This.” He answered and bent his head. His lips captured mine in a tentative kiss. His lips were surprisingly soft and gentle as they teased mine. I felt his fingers touch my chin and tilt my head upwards. He was so tall that I had to stand on the tips of my toes just so I could reach him. I placed my hands on his chest as he deepened the kiss.
Then suddenly, it was over. He pulled away from me with a groan and ran his hands through his hair. He opened and closed his lips as if he didn’t know what to say. “I forgive you.” I told him with a smile. “I have no regrets.” He replied.
The vision faded and was replaced by blinding white light. I covered my eyes with my hand for the light was too bright. When I removed my hands, I was back in the meadow with Selene sitting in front of me.
“I’ve had all these dreams before... I know that you and Aiken were lovers but what has this got to do with me?” I asked.
“Patience.” Selene replied. She had this dreamy look in her eyes as she stared off into the distance. “To cut the long story short, Aiken and I fell in love... Yes, he was exasperating at first. He was like my shadow. He was everywhere I went. I admit that I was a spoiled princess—” I laughed as she said the word spoiled.
Her eyes narrowed at me. “Well. It’s all in the past now.” She said with that arrogant chin tilt of hers. “Right. You were saying?”
“I admit that I am a spoiled princess and everyone tolerated me. Even my father tolerated me. Aiken didn’t. He shouted at me when I threw tantrums. He ignored me when I became too overbearing. He... changed me.”
I suddenly recalled all the dreams I’ve had of Aiken and Selene. Those dreams must’ve happened after they fell in love for all of them showed happy memories. I smiled as I recalled some of the dreams... Theirs were truly the kind of love which transcends everything.
“You’re right.” She replied with a smile on her face as she heard my thoughts.
“I think I can show you more of the highlights of our time together since you like it so much.” Selene said and waved her hand again.
“Let’s go to the mortal world.” I begged Aiken. “Why?” he asked in a lazy drawl. We were at my most favourite place in the world: Elune’s meadow. He leaned on a large tree trunk with his hands behind his head. I sat beside him with my head resting on his shoulder. “I just want to go there. But I was always scared to do that alone. Come with me?” I said and reached out my hand to him.
He looked reluctant while he pondered on whether we should go. “Please, li’eras. It will only be two days before you leave again. Come with me and we’ll make memories that will last me through the entire time you’re gone.” I pleaded.
Aiken looked straight ahead. Then he sighed and adjusted the straps that held his battle axe and sword at his back. He reached for my hand and then gazed deep into my eyes. “Fine. We’ll go. But one sign of trouble and we go back to Ilyia.” He said in a tone filled with warning.
“Promise.” I replied. I took his hand and started concentrating on gathering my power to transport us there. His voice suddenly cut through my concentration. “Oh no! We are not doing this your way.” He said. “I still remember what you did when you transported us back to the Golden Palace! I am not doing that again!” he shouted.
“Sorry! I didn’t mean it! I was mad with you then and I wanted to punish you! I won’t do it again!” I promised and then leaned on him as I laughed my heart out. He gave me a look that said he didn’t believe me one bit. Then he grabbed my hand and I felt his power envelope me. Blue light danced around us as he concentrated.
“Close your eyes, li’eras.” He commanded and I obeyed. I felt a shift and then the feeling of weightlessness. Then I opened my eyes and we were already in the mortal world. “Now, see? Isn’t that better than shooting across the sky?” he asked in a teasing tone.
“I quite like it.” I replied with a shrug. “Your method of travel is too... tame." I remarked and he glared at me.
I looked around my surroundings and saw that we were in a dense forest. “Where did you bring us?” I asked him. “We’re in a kingdom called Ivaris. This kingdom has my blessings.” He replied. “How? You never really did tell me what you do, you know.” I asked him. He raised his eyebrows and crossed his arms over his chest. “I thought it would be obvious. I am the head of Rashad’s army. He has proclaimed me as the Guardian of Warriors.” He replied with pride.
We came across a clearing and I was able to see a majestic castle rising up in the distance. Aiken pointed to it and explained its history to me. “Is this why you favour them?” I asked him. He shook his head. “They are the country with the most extensive military training. Their warriors are the best and their king is an unstoppable entity when it comes to battle and strategies.” He explained.
Aiken pointed towards a group of warriors on the far side of the castle. They were training and sparring with each other. They each moved with a kind of grace I’ve only seen from Aiken. “See? They’re quite good. And they have this tradition they call a Hakor where people fight in my honor.”
Actually, I did not like the idea of that but it brought Aiken joy so I chose not to comment about it. “Bring me to your festival?” I asked. He seemed surprised at my request. “You sure you want to see that? There’s a lot of fighting going around. There are sports wherein a lot of blood is spilled. Some warriors even die.” He told me. I cringed inwardly but I saw excitement in his eyes. “It’s important to you. Of course, I’ll come.” I replied and his face split into a wide grin.
“How about me? Am I invited to your festival?” he asked me. My eyes widened and I felt myself going red from head to the tips of my toes. He frowned. “What’s wrong?” he asked me. “My festival is no place for a man...” I answered through tightly clenched teeth.
“Women dance! I dance! And it’s nothing a man should see.” I was so embarrassed right now. Aiken threw back his head and laughed. “That’s why I want to see it all the more. Please, Selene.” He said as he looked at me. His golden eyes melted away all my resistance and I found myself nodding before I could think of the implications.
“That’s settled then.” He said. I took his hand in mine and looked up into his handsome face. “How about we go to my favourite place?” I said to him. He looked really alarmed as I gathered my power again. “Please don’t.” He whispered.
“Get used to it, warrior.” I replied and then smiled. Warmth and brightness enveloped us as our essence faded and turned into a small ball of fire. I added another burst of power and then we were sailing across the sky once more. When we arrived at our destination, I steered us and we hurtled towards the ground at the fastest speed possible. To any mortal looking, we’d look like a meteor or a ball of fire falling from the sky.
Dust and rocks flew as we landed on the ground. We made a large indent in the spot where we landed. I stood up and looked as regal as ever with my golden robes billowing in the wind and my head held up high. Aiken, on the other hand, was sprawled on the ground and he was clutching his chest.
His eyes were closed and he was breathing heavily. ”I. Will. Never. Ever. Do. That. Again." He said in between deep breaths. I just couldn’t help it. My whole body shook with my laughter and I fell beside him on the ground.
He glared at me and I was almost sure that the vein throbbing in his temple would burst. I laughed and laughed while he tried to calm himself down. After a few moments, he stood up and I saw that his legs were shaking. I offered him my hand to help him but he slapped it away. “You’ll be the death of me. I swear it.” Aiken declared. He took another moment to compose himself.
I started to walk towards our destination but he quickly caught up to me and hauled me to his chest. “I think the spoiled princess needs to be punished.” He said in a husky drawl. His eyes bore into me and I felt the desire emanating from him in waves.
“Aiken...” I whispered as his desire seeped into my skin. It melted me like snow in spring. Then his head descended and his lips captured mine. His kiss was fierce and spoke of passion and need. His warmth seared into me and I kissed him back with everything I’ve got. I melted completely into his arms. Suddenly, he pulled back.
I swayed on my feet for a moment. “Oh, you’re cruel.” I told him with a pout. “Not as cruel as you, princess.” He replied and then kissed my lips once more.
“Now where were we going?” he asked me. “Amaranth. A kingdom which has my blessing.” I told him. “Why?” he asked.
“I love its beauty. I love its culture. I love how the people interact. It’s a kingdom filled with so much beauty. There are hidden meadows, waterfalls and other beautiful sights to see. They worshipped my mother before me, you know.” I replied.
We reached our destination and I saw Aiken’s face turn into one of awe. We were in a mountain and we were now standing in front of a waterfall. It cascaded down the top of the mountain in several layers and fell into a deep pool. Surrounding the waterfalls were different kinds of plants and tall trees. It was as if the trees themselves were hiding this small piece of heaven.
“It rivals even Elune’s Meadow, right?” I told Aiken and he nodded. I walked carefully over the rocks in the river until I reached a large boulder. I sat on it and removed my golden slippers and dipped my feet on the cold water.
I sighed at the wonderful feeling and turned my head up to bask in the warmth of the sun. “You are beautiful...” Aiken said. I opened my eyes and regarded him. “I know. You always keep telling me.” I replied. He snorted and then dipped his hand in the water and splashed me. I splashed back and it became one huge water fight.
I felt his power in the air a split second before a huge wave of water crashed down on me. I slipped from the rock and then landed in the pool in all of my finery. I came up for air and coughed and sputtered, all the while cursing Aiken with words I’ve heard from my father for far too many times.
Aiken was the one laughing now. I frowned at him but he just kept on laughing. “I hate you!” I shouted and then turned my back. I heard a loud splash and then he was suddenly in front of me. The laughter was gone from his face now. His features softened and he gazed at me with a combination of tenderness and longing. He placed his fingers under my chin and tipped my head up to meet his gaze. ”Vel eras mira.” He said solemnly.
I sucked in a huge breath as I heard those words. My throat went dry and my heart started beating faster. I wrapped my arms around him and my body melted into his as we floated on the water. “I love you too, my warrior.” I replied and I felt him expel his breath.
Then, after my declaration, he wrapped his arms securely around me and kissed me until my lungs ached to draw a breath. “Bond with me, Selene.” He said. It sounded like a half a plea and half a command.
I pulled away a bit and looked into his eyes so I was sure that he’d understand every word. “Aiken... A-are... Are you sure you know what you’re asking for?” I asked. Bonding with him would make us inseparable. Our hearts and our essence would always be together. Once bonded, there’s no going back.
“I want no other. Only you, Selene.” He replied in a voice so tender that tears of joy and love fell from my eyes.
“I don’t want anyone else too, Aiken... Yes... I’ll bond with you...” I replied as I hugged him tight.
May 14, 1645
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris.
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
The whole kingdom was thrown into mourning for its queen. False rumours have spread that the queen had already succumbed to the plague. Black banner were hung on every window and all kinds of merriment were banned in the villages.
People wore drab clothing and red and gold banners of Ivaris were taken down. “She’s not dead!” I have roared this so many times over and over again that it has become like a chant to me. I clutched my queen’s cold hand and tried to transfer some of my warmth to her.
The physician told me that she would pass away anytime last night but she held on and that sparked a bigger hope inside of me. “Fight this, Adrienne... Fight it and I’ll give you whatever you want!” I whispered to her and began thinking of the things that brought her joy...
“We’d go practice archery every day... And then I’d go to the kitchens with you and watch you cook those meals I love so much... And then I promise I won’t ever give you jewels again for I know now how you hate them so much. I also won’t tighten the budget with Amaranth’s restoration... Hell, I’d go poor if that would bring you back to me...”
Again, no reply. I ran my fingers through my hair in frustration. I wanted to go punch something or much better kill something just to ease this feeling inside me. I’ve never felt this way before. I’ve never even felt anything close to this when I rode with my men into battle.
This must be what they called fear. They said that great men and even the greatest of warriors trembled with it. And now here I am: filled with fear for my queen. “Adrienne... Please...” I begged.
The door opened and maids entered and tidied the room. I walked over to the window and looked outside as I heard them bustling about the room. I kept stealing glances towards Adrienne to see if she moved and if her chest was still rising and falling.
I heard the door open once more and saw the maids gather their tools and exit the room. Maybe it was Adrienne’s maids who came and they would help me bathe her once more. Soft footsteps echoed across the silence and then I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“My king...” a soft voice whispered. I turned around and saw Brianna’s blue eyes gaze at me. She glanced at Adrienne and then utter sorrow was etched in her face. “It is a sad sight to see our queen like that.” She remarked in a pain-filled voice.
I did not reply and instead looked at the view outside the window once more. “My lord... You’ve not been taking care of yourself. When was the last time you bathed? Shaved? Ate a warm meal?” she asked.
“I don’t want to leave her.” I replied. My voice sounded husky to my own ears.
The doors opened once more and Vivian and Finnie, Adrienne’s maids, along with the butler, Hodge, entered. I heard Vivian gasp before she was able to compose herself and bow before me. “We’ll be bathing her, your highness.” Finnie said. I nodded.
“Come. You can be away from her for a few moments. I have asked the servants to prepare a hot bath and food for you, your highness. Please... Come with me.” Brianna said and squeezed my hand lightly.
“Milord... I worry for you. Please do as the lady asks. Eat and bathe. You can’t take care of the queen when you’re weak with hunger. Also, I’m sure the queen wouldn’t be happy when she wakes up and sees you in such a state.” Hodge said as he eyed me from head to toe. “Fine!” I replied. The idea that Adrienne would wake up and see me filthy and smelling like the sewers galvanized me into action.
Yes... She would wake up... Soon...
“Call me if there is any change in her condition. Call me if she opens her eyes or makes even a tiny move.” I told Adrienne’s maids. I saw something cross Brianna’s face but it was gone instantly that I thought I must’ve just imagined the whole thing.
I let her drag me to a room in the far side of the hall. She opened the door and ushered me in. “What would you like first, my king? Food or bath?” She asked.
“Bath.” I replied and she started pulling at the ties on my clothes. Somehow, this thing felt different. I looked down and remembered Adrienne. It was her face I saw when Brianna removed my clothes. It was her touch I felt and it sent a bolt of electricity through my heart.
I turned around and stepped away from her. “I can do this on my own.” I told her and she reluctantly let go of me. I removed my own clothes and then stepped over to the tub filled with warm water.
I grabbed the soap and started lathering it on my body. Brianna crossed the room and knelt beside the tub. She placed her fingers on my shoulders and began to knead them. I leaned back and closed my eyes at her touch. She reached over and grabbed the soap from me and also the scrub.
She traced her hands over my chest to apply the soap. She also placed some soap on my back and started scrubbing me. I felt her hard nipples come in contact with my skin with every scrub. Her movements were so seductive but they had no effect on me. I felt her reach down and she grabbed my flaccid manhood and started stroking it.
I jerked and stood abruptly that water sloshed all over the sides of the tub. “What do you think you’re doing?” I hissed. “Pleasuring you, my lord.” She said with a combination of an innocent and seductive look which drove me crazy before. “No.” I said harshly.
Somehow, this doesn’t feel right. I only want Adrienne and right now she’s lying in her sick bed. I crave her touch and hers alone. Seeing Brianna in front of me right now disgusted me. Her touch felt as though a hot poker was being branded into my skin.
“Get out.” I ordered. “But my Lord... I only thought to comfort you...” she said and tears filled her eyes. “Now?” I said and then laughed. “My queen is dying and you think to comfort me with your body?!?” I shouted and she flinched.
“I am sorry, your highness...” She said and her lips formed a delicate pout. I rinsed myself and started towelling myself dry. “Allow me to do that.” She pleaded and reached for the towel. I jerked away from her grasp. “Out!” I repeated.
She still didn’t move. Her face looked innocent but there was fire in her eyes. “Come to think of it... I have no use for any of you anymore. I have my queen now and I won’t need your services anymore. Start packing your things.” I told her.
Her control broke. “Why? Why your highness?! How could you pick that whore over me?” she shouted and wrung her hands in her anger. I grabbed her arm and yanked hard. “Watch your words.” I warned. “What is her difference from me? From us? Is it because you found out she’s a princess? Is that why you married her? Yelena is a princess! You did not marry her!” she accused.
“Shut your mouth slave!” I bellowed and my grip tightened.
“Slave?” she said and laughed. “Yes. I am a slave as are those other women your queen placed in the building away from this castle. Yes we are whores. You are correct that I am a whore. But I am a King’s whore. We are King’s whores! And you know what, your highness? That includes your queen! She is a whore, a slave bought with your gold for your pleasure!!! She is nothing but a King’s whore too...” She retorted sharply with dark malice in her blue eyes.
I looked at her for a long while as her words sunk in.
“This is how she differs from all of you. You are nothing but spoiled little bitches who dug your claws into me because of my power and my riches.” I spat. She gave a hollow laugh. “Do not even compare her to the likes of you. She is pure and she has a kindness and innocence about her that you would only dream about.” I continued.
I placed my fingers on her jaw and forced her to look at me. “You have a face that could send a man to his knees but your heart is as black as the darkest night and your soul as hollow as an empty shell.”
Brianna gave another hollow laugh.
“That bitch is going to die and then you’ll come running back to me, your highness.” She said in a sultry voice.
That was when my control snapped. I dragged her to the door and opened it. Then I pushed her out of it and she stumbled and fell to the floor. Iain, my steward, stood outside the corridor deep in conversation with Hodge. They stopped when they saw Brianna get thrown to the floor.
“Iain! Pack away this woman’s belongings! Clear away the outbuilding! I don’t want to see any of their faces come morning!” I ordered.
Iain smiled sweetly as though he's been waiting for this for a long time. Then, he bowed. “As you wish your highness.” He replied.
Brianna spat into the floor when she heard my order. “Wait!” I shouted and then went to my room and retrieved the chest of jewels. I opened it and then turned it upside down so that it fell onto Brianna in a shower of colors. I remembered how I did that to Adrienne a long time ago and how her eyes had filled with tears and how she looked at me with so much anger and revulsion. No wonder she had an aversion to jewellery.
I looked back at Brianna and her being the greedy creature that she is, she grabbed as much jewels as she could and stuffed it into her gown. The anger and malice faded from her eyes and was replaced with greed and joy at the treasures before her.
The sight of her like that turned my insides.
“Guards! Take this filth away from my sight!” I ordered and guards instantly rushed and dragged away the kicking and screaming Brianna who continued to try and carry as much jewels as she could.
I looked up and Hodge was grinning ear to ear. His eyes glittered with approval.
“Her highness would love to hear this.” I heard Vivian whisper to Finnie as they fixed the sheets on her bed. She was newly bathed and her clothes were changed. The maids bowed when they saw me and they both exited. I also glimpsed approval in both their eyes.
I sat next to Adrienne again and held her hand. “I wanted to be the first one to tell you this... I don’t know why but you are the only woman I want now... Yours is the only touch I want... So... I... I err... I sent away my mistresses...” I took a deep breath and watched for any sign of reaction from her.
There was none.
I leaned back on the chair and reminisced about my father and mother for a long, long while...
“Adrienne... I want what my father and my mother had... I want... I want a marriage like that. From now on, I vow that you’re the only one for me. You. No one else. Wake up and we’ll start again. I’ll woo you like a prince to his beloved princess. I’ll search the kingdom for the most beautiful gifts! I’ll even go on whatever quest you’d like just so I could prove my worth... I’ll make you fall in love with me and make sure that you’ll never leave me again...”
I took another deep breath and inhaled her unique lavender scent. “Wake up my queen... We have an entire lifetime ahead of us...”
Vel eras mira.- I love you