Chapter 2 - The Arrival
My thumb traced the side of my middle finger as I entered the banquet hall. Hundreds of people filled the elegant wooden tables. The curved designs of the guests’ clothing matched the gold that intertwined with the wood’s dark surface. Soldiers and nobles alike joined each other in conversation, but no one came up to me.
Not that I expected them to, but I definitely felt out of my comfort zone. My subconscious begged me to turn around and leave, though I knew that wasn’t an option. I knew I had to carry forth with Vale’s plans because the fate of this kingdom rested on my shoulders.
Words of gossip filled my ears as I brushed past the guests. I spotted a group of hunters, and debated sitting next to them, but they wouldn’t recognize me. Especially in this dress. My attention turned to a raised section of the hall, one that housed the royal table. A table in which only the king, his family, and his top advisors were allowed to sit. Only Vale, Villis, and some other members of his council sat at the table, observing the crowd.
With Vale’s disguise as Arte he looked powerful, a description I knew would displease him.
Vale spotted me in the crowd, and beckoned me to join. A wave of relief flowed through my body as I squeezed past some drunken guests.
“You look stunning, Sage. Doesn’t she Villis?” Vale paused, pride swelling in his eyes.
Villis smiled, an occurrence she rarely participated in, “She does.” Her eyes shimmered with the same emotion as Vale’s.
“It’s a nice color.” I admitted, running my hand down the soft fabric, “Did you choose it?”
Back when Vale was “alive”, the color of his armor resembled the gold and pink on my body. He wore it with pride and in his spare time when he wasn’t disguised as Arte he still wore the colors of his youth.
In Rospria, this color pattern symbolized Vale’s revolutionary presence during the War Among Realms, as well as the compassion he passed to his fellow soldiers and citizens. Before he disappeared the kingdom of Rospria wished to have him be their king. And they eventually got what they wanted, without even knowing.
“I wear these colors in Vale’s honor.” I bowed, speaking Vale’s name in case one of the nearby council members heard me.
“My son would have been honored.” Vale played the bit. “Come and sit.” He pointed at the open seat beside him.
Trying my best not to trip in my heels, I made my way around the table to his side. Servants brought us an array of dishes to taste and sample. Vale, Villis, and I discussed simple matters of the kingdom, pointing out advisors and representatives that I needed to be aware of. My stomach dropped when Vale informed me that representatives from the neighboring realms of Nedyre, Leflary, and Snara were here to meet me after the announcement. I saw their winged and snake like figures converging at a nearby table.
“You don’t think Ivor is here, is he?” I gulped nervously watching the naiad’s indulge over their seafood.
“No. He isn’t a representative of their queen.” Villis commented on the naiads. “If he was I’d imagine he would have made a statement.”
“Villis is right. I don’t expect to see him here tonight, don’t get your hopes up.” Vale’s attitude turned sour as his face hardened.
“Even if he did arrive, you would be forbidden to reveal yourself to him.” Villis added.
“Says me.” Vale snapped, clenching his fists, “You are forbidden to speak to him, do I make myself clear?” His brows pointed inward at his fake wrinkles.
Vale’s sudden change in mood sent me over the edge. I failed to comprehend his irrationalness. Why was he being so defensive over the matter? I lifted my chin, sternly watching his eyes shift as I waited for a response that never came.
My jaw tightened; “Why not?”
“He would ensure your doom.” He remarked, eyes narrowing at the crowd.
“How do you know that? You haven’t seen him in years. Maybe he’s changed. Maybe he’s-” - “What are you trying to accomplish here, Sage?” He faced me with a cold expression that sent chills down my spine.
“Nothing, I guess.”
I wish Vale could understand the importance an interaction with Ivor would bring. Yes he left me, but, family is family. I hoped Vale would accept that, but he refused to. And I never knew why. Whenever I asked Villis she would go quiet and dismiss the manner, telling me the same old stories that Vale did, which infuriated me.
After some time, Vale stood and approached the crowd as the dead king. His rising sent a hush over the crowd, drawing the attention to him. “Greetings all. From our noblemen and townspeople, as well as our honored guests from the realms of Nedyre, Leflary, and Snara. Rospria is truly honored to have a room filled with such grace and strength....”
Vale was meant to be a king. He knew how to coax a crowd, he knew how to lead. When he told me he faked his own death to relief himself of the burden of kingship, I never understood. He was brilliant at it.
“The rumors of a new leader are true. Her name is Sage, and she bears the title of Rosprian royalty. She is here today to announce her presence to the universe and start her journey as queen.”
Hushed murmurs rose among the crowd. My chest began to strain, unable to tell what they were saying. Some pointed at the table, noticing my appearance. Villis warned me to straighten my posture, noting the same eyes as I.
Vale turned, and beckoned me to join his side. I stood, hesitant on my feet as I walked around the table. My legs began to shake under my dress, the burdens of reality closing in with each step. The hushed mumbles turned into cheers as the crowd erupted. The subjects of Rospria waved enthusiastically to focus my attention. The representatives from the neighboring realms nodded their heads in recognition. I encouraged a nervous smile on my lips as my sweaty palms balled my dress for a bow. My vision hazed in the horrifying certainty that I will become the queen of these people. I could only hope to live up to the legacy of Arte and Vale.
No longer was I a foolish child. I’m a woman now, who is about to rule the most prosperous nation within the realms.
BOOM! The thunder of a warning cracker screeched from outside of the palace. The crowd screamed, throwing the banquet hall in chaos as they scrambled to an exit. Chairs were flipped and food scattered across the glossy floors. A hollow swelled inside my chest. This warning is only sounded in an event of a threat. It must be meant to stop my succession as queen.
Villis rushed with her soldiers to face the threat while the members of Val’s council were evacuated. Vale rushed out a back entrance, I stumbled behind him.
Vale turned a corner to the throne room, “What’s going on?” I asked, confused by our destination.
“You act as if I know.” Vale’s eyes narrowed down the hall, striding with intent.
“Well we’re heading towards the throne room, why?”
“Must you ask so many questions?” Vale dismissed, pulling in front of me.
“Oh Rospria! Your majesties!” Amber cried and she appeared from a hall, rushing over to us, “You must seek a safe place to hide! There’s a dangerous man outside! Grand General Villis told me herself!”
“Thank you for the insight, Amber. But I don’t need assistance.”
“Well at least let me take the princess back! Come on princess Sage, you must return to your chambers..” She grabbed my hand, yanking me away.
“We’ll be fine, Amber. Please,” I pulled her arm away from mine, “Get yourself to cover.”
“I really think you should go, I don’t want you being a part of this.” Vale stated, his expression tightened.
“No. Our kingdom is under attack and I’m about to be queen! I have every right to be involved.” I whipped around, looking to Vale.
“This isn’t a request.” He stood tall.
“And I wasn’t asking.”
“Fine.” He turned away from me, storming off.
I knew he was angry, but I had to stand my ground and prove that I could handle whatever threatened the safety of the kingdom. As I entered the throne room, Vale had already seated himself. A stiff pain clawed my chest the longer time past. Vale completely ignored me, eyes set on the ivory doors before him. I stood vigilantly beside him, awaiting action.
The throne doors suddenly creaked open. The hanging flames that lit the hall provided a thin path for the intruder. The intruder’s shadow loomed at the frame of the doors.
“Enter.” Vale spoke cooly.
The man entered. His silver armour reflecting off the flickering flames. His stature tall, and bulky. The silhouette of two large swords crossed his back. His black hair held within large braids trailing below his shoulders…
My heart dropped. No.. It couldn’t be. I shook my head. This couldn’t be real. He came…
After years of yearning, my father Ivor, stood before me.
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