SEVEN CROWNS | The Black Stone

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Chapter XVII

The Great Hall is a grand space, to say the least. It’s surrounded by large windows overlooking the blue gardens. The ceiling is even bigger. Paintings of women and flowers are carved on each angle. The Hall itself looks like a draw which came to life. Ashryn walks slowly and carefully, afraid to touch anything. There’s a large white couch, inlaid with fancy blue silk, flowers embroidered so perfectly that it looks like a garden miniature.

Servants bow to her as they pass, she looks at them astonished. Men and women are dressed in fine silks and velvet. On their heads are wigs of different colors, matching their uniforms. If not for the aprons and the handkerchiefs around their arms, she’ll think they’re members of the Royal Court. They greet her with a smile and guide her to their King. The man in question is sitting comfortably on his throne, surrounded by a pair of women wearing light blue sleeveless corset dresses, who are busy whispering things that keep making him smile, unlike his wife who’s sitting on the throne next to his. She’s trying very hard to mask her frown, but it’s obvious that she’s disliking his mistresses.

“I couldn’t believe it at first.” the man speaks with a deep voice. The metal crown surrounded by sapphire stones shines under the effect of the sun rays passing through the thin curtains of the Great Hall. The King looks at Ashryn with cold eyes as she approaches the thrones. They blue orbs are like his shield and sword, defending him against the newcomer. His hard looks makes her understand that she’s also an enemy, despite the times changing. The young Queen draws in a deep breath, his burning stare will certainly last for as long as she’s in his presence. She gulps and decides to show him that she can be as tough as him. Ashryn stands confidently in front of him, her hands behind her back and her eyes looking straight at his. “King Eldwin, thank you for welcoming me here.”

“I cannot say you’re really welcome here.” he raises an eyebrow and looks at one of his mistresses who’s massaging his shoulders. “You’re perhaps coming from another world, but I’m sure your servants told you about my relationship with your Kingdom.”

“I do know.” she nods. “But I think it’s time for this to change. Our situation is not favorable at the moment, it’s better to be in good terms in order to defeat the enemy together.”

The King rubs his silver beard, pretending to think for a moment before letting out a loud scoff, making Ashryn frown. “I think you’re misunderstand the situation here, Queen Ashryn. Your Kingdom is in a unfavorable position, not mine.” he shakes his head. “Unlike you, I have not abandoned my people during the war. We might have lost but we gained the enemy’s friendship. I have made an agreement with Mávros, they are leaving us in peace in exchange of our stones.”

“An agreement? Friendship?” Ashryn looks at him with distaste. “How can you be in good terms with the enemy? Mávros destroyed the Kingdom back then, yours and the others. His soldiers killed your people!” she exclaims, making the mistresses stop whatever they’re doing to send her a death glare. Poor Queen Eliyen can’t even say a word, she’s sitting there like a doll, praying for her nightmare to come to an end.

“Yes, they did kill my people.” the silver haired King leaves his throne to walk to his unwelcome guest. He adjusts the large crown on his head and fix the buttons of his velvet jacket. “They killed many of them but I have saved thousands later. Our agreement stopped Mávros from from ending their lives. My people can now eat and drink and grown their children.” he stops in front of Ashryn and adds, “How about you? What have your parents done to save their people? I heard you’ve lost a high number of them from starving and cold.” he scoffs. “While you were living peacefully in that dull of a world created by the warlocks, your people died every day and night, waiting for their queen, having hopeless thoughts.”

Ashryn clenched her fists, her breaths slowing and hardening, her diamond blood boiling inside her body. She’s angry, not because of the King’s harsh words but because everything he said is true. The first thing she saw when she first arrived to her Kingdom was the destroyed village and the Mávros soldiers walking freely as if the lands belong to them. She saw the few survivors living in the castle, escaping from danger, far from the life they deserve.

But before the Queen answers Eldwin, someone joins them in the Great Hall. She hears slow footsteps then a silhouette appears close to her. The young woman watches the tall man’s back as he walks elegantly to the Queen’s throne to take her hand and place a gentle kiss on it.

Glossy black hair against white skin, making the man look more mysterious, more haunting.

“Well, I must introduce you to my son.” the King speaks with a bored tone. He looks at the newcomer and gives him a smile so fake it makes Ashryn frown again. “This is Prince Erdan.”

When the young Prince turns to look his eyes are dazzling like sapphires under the sunlight. The color of his eyes is breathtaking, so bright, so sparkling. Long lashes and perfect dark eyebrows, Ashryn can’t believe a face can be so handsome, so perfect.

The said man bows gently to her, “You are welcome to Sapphire, your Majesty.”

Ashryn smiles slightly, eyeing the King from the corner of her eyes, internally laughing at him. He has just told her that she’s not welcome in Kingdom but his son thinks otherwise. “Thank you.” she says, her eyes resting on the young man. Prince Erdan is handsome from the depth of his eyes to the gentleness of his manners and the softness of his voice.

Seconds later, the Queen looks away and clears her throat. She needs no distractions, her arrival in this foreign Kingdom has a reason and an objective and she’s eager to fulfill it before leaving.

“Your Majesty.” she takes a short breath and looks back at the King. “My parents died protecting their people, they fought from the beginning till the end. They gave their all, offered their power and stood beside their soldiers till their last breath. You can’t say that they left their people to die, you can’t.” she shakes her head. “Yes, I wasn’t with them, I was still a child. They sent me to that world because they wanted to protect me, because they knew that one day I would come back to stand for our people and defeat the enemy.”

King Eldwin shakes his head and goes back to his throne. He runs his fingers through his silver hair and lets out a loud sigh. His son looks at the young Queen, admiring the way her eyes don’t let go of his father, not until she’s satisfied with a decent answer. “Now, Queen Ashryn, tell me what’s the reason why you are here.” the King speaks with a disinterested tone.

“I’m here because I know of your powers, your weapons and your army. Mávros has been occupying different lands around the kingdoms more fifteen years, we can’t let them have more. If we came back from that world right now, at this moment, it’s only for a reason. We need to gather all of our powers and destroy our common enemy.”

Prince Erdan looks at his father, hoping he would agree with the Queen’s words. He has been trying to convince him for many years and the King always refused, he says that the last thing he wants is another war. Of course it’s not for the sake of his people, but more from fear of losing his crown and his comfortable life.

“You say it like it’s easy.” Eldwin scoffs. “If we failed then, we can fail again.”

“You know it’s not the same thing.” says Ashryn, raising an eyebrow. “Years ago, every Kingdom fought on its own. It was easier for Mávros to defeat them, one by one. But what I’m saying now is that we join our forces and fight toget-”

“There is no way I’m joining forces with them!” King Eldwin shouts, surprising everyone. “Nothing will make me an ally of those kingdoms, including yours.”

“Not even victory? Not even revenge?” asks Ashryn with a bewildered tone.

Eldwin shakes his head, “I said nothing.”

Ashryn can’t take it anymore. Her anger is consuming her, her body starts betraying her. She thinks it’s better to continue the talk later or else she’ll have to say things which will only make the situation worse. Without a word, she walks toward the door and her guards soon follow here.

“It is getting dark, Queen Ashryn. You can stay the night, it is the only thing I can offer you.” she hears the King say. The young woman looks at Reptar who simply nods to her. Eldwin is right, it’s dark and it’s not a good idea for them to go back to Diamond when the Mávros soldiers are everywhere. “Thank you, King Eldwin.” she mumbles coldly and leaves the Great Hall.

Later after resting for a moment in the guest chambers, Ashryn walks in the hallways, followed by Viessa and Reptar, who daren’t say a word knowing how displeased she is. The young female closes her eyes when a gentle breeze caresses her skin and follows it until she arrives to a large balcony overlooking the humongous garden surrounding the Palace. Her eyes widen as she watches the flowers dance along with the evening wind, their petals shining, showing off their beauty. Ashryn shakes her head, wondering how such a magnificent place would be ruled by someone so harsh and selfish. The guards are standing far from her, leaving her some privacy which she’s grateful for. The gorgeous scenery in front of her eyes is enough to make her feel better and relaxed, she wishes she could be a flower so that she can join their waltz and dance for the whole night.

Ashryn gets lost in the garden spectacle until a heavenly scent embraces her senses. She looks around and realizes the handsome Prince is standing right next to her, holding a piece of cake in his hand. “I hope you like sweets, your Majesty.” he smiles and offers her the pastry which she accepts gladly. “I do, thank you.” she smiles back and eats the cake. The young man chuckles when she widens her eyes after taking the first bite. “Delicious, isn’t it? It’s our main traditional dessert.”

“I have never tried something as tasty!” the woman exclaims and takes another bite.

The Prince grins and looks around, letting her finish the cake. He silently watches the flower ball which is the only thing that helps him sleep every night after a long day of training and hearing his father’s distasteful words.

Ashryn looks around to make sure there’s no one watching them. “I heard you’ve been helping my people.” she speaks quietly, interrupting his thoughts. Erdan simply nods.

The Queen turns to face him, “I don’t know how to thank you.” she shakes her head.

“You don’t have to, your Majesty.” a gentle smile appears on Erdan’s face. “I could not let them starve and die. It is the least I could do for them, it is my duty.”

“Your duty is with your people.” says Ashryn.

Erdan shakes his head, “It is my duty not only as a Prince, but as a person.” he smiles again. Ashryn looks at him and her heart beats quicken. The young man has that kind of face that stops you in your tracks. His smiles are so gentle, so sincere that it makes her suddenly feel at ease with him. His modesty surprises her, him, a Prince of a powerful Kingdom. Erdan is a handsome man, but his inside looks even more beautiful.

Ashryn laughs, “I don’t understand. You’re so different from your father.”

Erdan chuckle, “Strange, isn’t it?” his eyes gets smaller when he laughs which makes Ashryn look at him with surprise. As she watches the dazzling color of his orbs, she feels something special about them, a certain familiarity.

“My mother would like you to join us for dinner.” he says, waking her up from her reverie. “I know you must not want to see my father now but she insists.”

The white haired woman nods, “Of course I’ll join you.”

Erdan nods with a smile and steps inside, in the hallway.

“She’s beautiful.” he hears Ashryn say. “Your mother.”

The Prince looks down, “She is indeed, but my father does not see it.” he gives her a sad smile and leaves.

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