Chapter 11: The Prince, A Prince, and that Prince
It had been difficult, walking down the long corridor like that day before I met Ayden. The only difference was my mother wasn’t present and the corset they tightened around my waist made it hard to breathe.
The dress they put me in was very elegant, except it was straining my torso and compressing my breasts to pop out. The maids chose a sapphire color to match the necklace Tristan let me keep. The sleeves were short, puffy, and hanging off my shoulder. The rest of the dress flared out swaying heavily back and forth as I slowly step closer to damnation.
My fingers nervously twiddled together while my eyes watch my feet cross the pearl white marble flooring. There was no telling what would happen. The Peacekeepers could decide my fate in a blink of an eye. They were cruel curious beings.
I lift my chin up, eyes directly gazing at the two men waiting silently at the doors. Tristan’s hazel eyes found mine, giving me a comforting smile. He was standing tall, wearing clothing that I would never imagine him in. He looked noble, like royalty.
As for Clyde, he was far from the nobility, but the fierce look he portrayed was one like a leader. Their black attire however did suit them both well, complimenting the smoothness of their combed hair.
Clyde studied me, examining me from the freshly washed long length of my hair to the newly polished footwear that peeked out from under my dress. I witnessed his eyes dancing in amazement for a moment, but he dropped his lingering eyes to the ground.
He clears his throat as I approach, a smirk forming as he raises his head. He leans over, extending his arm out, offering me to take it. Hesitantly, I reach out to place my hand in his.
“What do you know, she actually is not flat chested.” Clyde mentions with a chuckle causing me to freeze in place. His insolent comment urged me to reel my hand back, rejecting his once kind gesture to walk with me.
I let out an annoying ‘hmph’ while quickly drawing my hand away from his. Clyde’s reflex was quick, snatching my hand and pulling me gently closer to him.
“Don’t be so hasty,” he says wrapping his other arm around my waist. A warmth in my cheeks tingle in nervousness from his muscled chest pressing onto mine.
“Listen,” He whispers lowly, “I have many things to explain to you, but I have very little time. On the other side of these doors the truth will be told about me. Before we go in, I want to let you know that I am very sorry about what you will learn. However, please take note that I would never do anything to physically or mentally hurt you. I promised to protect you, Princess.”
Clyde releases his hold to look down at me with what I saw as adoration in his green eyes. It was something I have yet to see in his mysterious self. All that was about to be revealed to me though. Who exactly he was, even though I already knew he was related to Prince Ayden.
The doors opened with a creaking sound, alerting us to be ready and face what will come. Everything that came in view was what I had not expected though. The crystal chandeliers above were glimmering from the soft glow of the lit candelabrums decorating the large room.
A beautiful traditional dance between men and women dressed in their finest astounded me. The elegant maneuvering of their joint hands, bodies, and footwork was absolutely intriguing. The way the heavy silk dresses twirled around as they were spun in unison was captivating to watch. The men gently extended their partner out dipping them backwards lovingly looking in the eyes of the women they dance with.
The scenery is gorgeous, the flowers, the lace ribbons hanging from the grand pillars, and the extraordinary color of the dresses. The smiles and laughter filled the air with a relaxing aura. Servants wandered around offering alcohol to the guests.
Clyde looped my arm around his as he held me close steering me through the crowd of bystanders. Tristan followed behind us as we trailed against the back wall unnoticed. That was until the fast pace of the violinists music died down. The guests finished their dance, all eyes suddenly on us.
“Why are they looking at us?” I question, my heart racing in a panic state.
“They are curious about you,” Tristan explains stepping closer to me to block the prolonging stares.
At first, it didn’t even cross my mind that they would be curious about me. It was unmistakably obvious that I would be though due to the events that occurred this morning. They were most likely present during my cruelest hour of my near death experience.
Perhaps, it doesn’t make any sense to them how I would also be here. The trial of the Peacekeepers had determined me as a criminal who deserved a shameful death by wolves. Yet, here I am dressed in the finest attending a ball that I did not even know was in the process of.
In my understanding, the maids mentioned I would be meeting with the Peacekeepers to undergo my consequences. This must be another way to have me walk in shame. For people to witness my mistakes and learn to not mess with the Peacekeepers.
Clyde and Tristan acted as my bodyguards to keep away the approaching party guests to get a better look of me. A few were yelling my way with brusque comments. Others looking at me like I were a peculiar creature on display.
Clyde pulled me closer, not allowing our bodies to be an inch apart. As much as I wanted to close my eyes it was as if they were sewn open. A chill ran down my spine while the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was what I saw ahead of me that made my heart sink and my body run in cold sweats.
My knees become weak causing me to stumble backwards preventing me from wanting to turn around and run. I wish my eyes deceived me, however I knew it was him. Ayden pushed through the crowd coming for me.
Clyde’s grip tighten, Tristan moves his feet instantly in a fighting stance as Ayden angrily broke through the people. Ignatius had told the truth of Ayden coming to reunite with me. There was no way out of this now.
“Hello, brother,” Ayden’s usual ice-like voice spat. “I’ve come to take back what belongs to me.”
Brother? I quizzically look to Clyde.
He doesn’t meet my gaze, instead his cold hard eyes are staring daggers at Ayden. A circle of people formed creating all attention to be on us. That didn’t stop Ayden from attempting to slip past Tristan.
“You are disgrace in this family, Tristan. You are always taking his side!” Ayden growled shoving Tristan away with a brute force. Ayden came straight towards us angrier than ever. Clyde swung me out of the way into Tristan’s arms this time.
“You ruined everything, Clyde! You will be responsible for what happens—” Clyde landed a heavy punch on Ayden’s face.
Everyone gasps, even myself from seeing Clyde nonchalantly hitting Ayden. Clyde’s face held fury, his chest heaving up and down with rage. Ayden holds his bloody nose slowly bringing his posture to stand fully upwards.
“You ruined everything for me when you were born,” Clyde retorted. Ayden grabbed Clyde by his coat landing a punch or two back on him. They broke out into a full fist fight. Blood being drawn and bruises given. Clyde then knocked Ayden to the ground.
“You don’t deserve her,” Clyde grumbled out between heavy breaths watching his brother pick himself off the ground.
“And you think you do?” Ayden laughed in disbelief as he stumbled up with blood dripping down his chin.
The room suddenly felt warm, the air becoming so thick it was hard to breathe. A flicker of what look like a spark lit on the ground between Clyde and Ayden. Then flames out of nowhere sprung upwards separating the two men.
The frighten gasps of men and women echoed in the ballroom as Ignatius approaches the scene. Tristan pulls us backwards away from the wave of heat that rolled over us. He shielded my body as I watch in terror of what the Peacekeeper looked like in action. He was encased in flames like a fire demon from the depths of hell.
The embers from the flames fell like flurries of snow falling from the sky. The bright glow of the fire burned at my face. It only became worse as Ignatius came closer with each daunting step. Clyde stepped back from the Peacekeeper bowing in respect.
Ignatius was outraged, looking like an unstoppable warrior who walks through fire to bring death. I have only known the gods to be able to use such abilities according to books. Yet, Ignatius was certainly there surrounded and unhurt by the fire.
With wide eyes I watch him as he walks straight towards Tristan and I. His tall figure darkened with a wrath far more intimidating than Cloud. He reached his flame covered hand out and pulled me out of Tristan’s grip. A loud shriek sounded as I was terrified of the fire that could burn me alive.
Slamming my eyes shut, I waited for the pain to come, but it never did. Slowly I peeled my eyelids open to see that the fire had faded from his body. He was leading me away from the crowds of people leaving Clyde, Tristan, and Ayden behind.
Confusingly, I peer up at him as he stares straight ahead, his orange eyes not looking back once. He tightens his large hand around my wrist and yanks me ahead of him. I wail out from the stinging pain.
“Quiet, I do not wish to hear your cries,” he snaps his skin becoming hot like an iron rod resting in a pit of hot coals.
I wince quietly in pain as my skin burns from him touching me. Hot tears fall from my eyes for the hundredth time today. Ignatius pulls open a door and aggressively pushes me through it. I stumble into the dimly lit room running into a brown couch.
It breaks my fall as I snap my head back shooting Ignatius an evil glare. He scoffs walking past me around the couch. He plops down onto it as I now examine my arm. A singed hand print was scorched into my skin turning into a bright red color. The wound stung itching me to put it under some cold water.
Unfortunately, I had no such luxury at the moment. Ignatius was resting his head back onto the dark leather cushion. His eyes were closed as he breathed in holding it for a couple seconds and letting it out.
“What is the matter with you?!” I suddenly snap, anger spreading through my veins like wildfire.
“Come again?” Ignatius’s eyes opened glinting at me with annoyance like I were a fly buzzing in his ear.
“You burned my arm!” I yell lifting my trembling arm to show him what he had done.
Ignatius looked over the wound, his eyes flickering with some kind of remorse until he clenched his jaw. “There’s more where that came from,” He simply says closing his eyes again.
Just as I was about to thrash out again in anger the door opens to Cloud accompanying us in the small study. His dark aura quickly fills the room making it quite uncomfortable. My legs subconsciously backed away until my back hits the bookcase that was directly behind me.
Clyde follows in behind him as well as Tristan and Ayden. My heart practically soars at the sight of Clyde and Tristan. Ayden rushes to my aid though as he sees the burn mark decorating my arm. He traces my arm with his finger causing me to flinch back away from his touch. His eyes held concern, but just the sight of him makes my stomach churn.
“Don’t touch her again,” Clyde says grabbing Ayden’s hand from me. Ayden worriedly looked from me to Ignatius. Anger flashed in his eyes, but he kept his mouth closed stepping away.
Cloud took a seat next to Ignatius while gesturing us to sit. “Sit, we have much to discuss.”
They all moved to find a seat, while I found one safely away from the rest of them. I carefully sit in the cushioned seat holding my arm that felt like it was still burning. This was definitely going to leave a scar for the rest of my life. It was pitiful, seeing the hand print branding me, never to let me forget this horrendous day.
“The council has decided that you will be joining the Uniting of the Seven Kingdoms,” Cloud looked at all three of the men sitting there silently. “As for Princess Artemis, she will be going under our supervision. For her consequences, since she survived her first one, she will be aiding Ignatius during the nights.”
Ignatius was nodding his head in agreement until it seem to finally registered to him what Cloud said. Simultaneously, Clyde, Ayden, and Ignatius shot up from their seats. “What?!”
Defeated once again, I slowly start slumping miserably in my seat. My heart sinks deeply as I knew there will be no way out of this hell. Who knows what would have been worse, marrying Ayden or aiding Ignatius during the nights?
What did that even mean?!
“Aiding him in the nights?” Clyde questions while I hoped to get a answer to know as well.
“This is not happening! Artemis is my betrothed! She will be returning to Aridor with me!” Ayden shouted while Ignatius looked down at Cloud rage fuming in his eyes.
“She wouldn’t survive a night with me!” Ignatius declares.
“Silence!!” Cloud yelled above them all before he turned to look at Ignatius. “She will be serving you, since you keep killing your maids. This is also punishment for you allowing her to live. You will be responsible for her.”
“Just until Atlas returns, after that he will have to find something to do with her,” Ignatius barks back angrily.
“When will Atlas return? I wish to speak with him! If he finds out that you’ve tried to kill my betrothal he will—” Ayden started but was cut off by Cloud.
“He will not find out,” Cloud spoke softly completely composed compared to the rest. “You three will join the uniting, fight in the games to win over a Princess. I may even suggest that Clyde will have the opportunity to regain his position to be the next King of Aridor.”
A smirk grew on Cloud’s face while confusion was on mine. Clyde’s eyes widened and Ayden’s frustration heightened. Tristan seemed to not be interested in the whole ordeal as he gazed at me from the other side of the room.
Silence remained after Cloud’s announcement, the mood turning into an unspoken violent, uncontrollable anger. As for me, I was lacking uncertainty, bewildered by the fact that Clyde could become the next King of Aridor. The unclearness in my mind was beginning to irritate me.
“Since you will be joining, the rules will be explained,” Cloud started by standing walking around the room with his hands neatly behind his back, “One, you will room with the opposite sex, but you will not be allowed to be intimate. It’s primarily for getting to know one another and learning about the other Kingdoms. There will be room changes every two days.”
“Two, fighting outside of the ring is prohibited. If either of you pull a stunt like you did tonight, you will be exiled not only from your kingdom, but the others as well.”
“And three, leaving the Gates of Eimbridge during the Uniting is also prohibited. Leaving early will result in an instant death. It is an act of defiance against the Peacekeepers and could possibly wage a war. I would advise you not to do such a thing if you care about your Kingdom.” Cloud paused for a moment seeming very pleased with the outcome of everyone’s silence.
“Very well, I will assign a servant to aid you. They will be responsible to escorting you to your rooms.” Cloud walks to exit the study and turns around before he leaves. “The Gates of Eimbridge gives you a warm welcoming to the Uniting of the Seven Kingdoms blah blah blah, enjoy your stay my Princes.” Cloud sarcastically bows with displeasure then steps out closing the door roughly behind him.
“Be on your best behavior, you brothers are a pain in the ass to have here,” Ignatius says as he grabs my injured arm pulling me from the chair with unnecessary force.
“However, you are the greatest pain. I’m not going to be your babysitter, so you better figure out how to care for yourself.” Ignatius’s face was close to mine. I could feel the heat radiating from him. His anger fed the flames in his heart. It was clear as day looking into those sinister eyes of his.
“You better keep your hands off her,” Clyde growled at Ignatius warning him.
“Oh sweetheart, have you noticed you started a brother’s quarrel between the three of them?” Ignatius amusingly asks while lifting my chin with the tip of his finger.
“You were betrothed to Ayden, who admires you greatly. Clyde who gets jealous and attempts to whisk you away because he was the one who was supposed to be betrothed to you. And Tristan, who acts like a loving brother, but gives his mother’s necklace away to the one he loves.” A chuckle escapes from Ignatius as I jerk my chin away.
Was this all true?
“You see Princess,” Ignatius grabs my face roughly this time, pinching my cheeks in his hand. He turned my face to the three men standing there shamefully. “They say nothing, because I speak the truth. The Prince, a Prince, and that Prince. They are nothing, but failures and bastards to the Kingdom of Aridor.”
Next time I’ll dream sweeter🌹
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