Galen walked down the High Academy tower’s stairs to head back to the Sentinel for lunch and afternoon sessions, the princess at his side.
“Galen, could I walk with you towards the Fortress. I want to speak with you about something,” said Princess Lexine, looking back and smiling at Martin who was walking behind them.
“What do you wish to speak of?” asked Galen.
“Just a couple of friends of ours that we have had some interesting conversations about,” said Lexine raising one eyebrow.
“Oh,” said Galen, realizing who she was meaning. “Yes, of course, we can walk through the trees together.”
Galen looked back to see Martin giving him a small significant smile. Galen shook his head and rolled his eyes as they came to the entryway of the Academy. The princess and Galen said goodbye to Martin and walked towards the trees together. They talked idly about what they had learned in healing class today.
“Do you think you could do some actual healing, Galen?” asked Princess Lexine as they walked by the palace to the trees.
“I think I could do some basic things at this point. What about you?” asked Galen.
“Probably the same. I think I would enjoy being a healer,” said the princess.
“You would?” asked Galen.
“Yes, I long to do something useful in my life besides being married off to some foreign ally. I think helping others who are sick and injured would be a worthy calling. I’d like to make a difference in the kingdom.”
“Perhaps some foreign ally could come here, marry you, and stay. Then maybe he could let you be a healer in Winsdell,” said Galen.
“I don’t know if I can find a husband who would let me be a healer. Most lords and foreign princes I have meet expect me to be a wife and mother and that is all.”
“That is moronic. There is no reason you couldn’t be an excellent wife and mother and be a healer. Your mind is too brilliant to waste,” said Galen as they entered the forest.
Princess Lexine grabbed Galen’s arm and stopped him. He looked down at her. “You are serious, aren’t you?” asked Lexine.
“What, me saying you are brilliant or the other part?” asked Galen.
“All of it, Galen. You think I could be more than just a wife and mother,” said Lexine smiling.
“Of course, princess, you must know how smart you are. I am still trying to figure out how you used Mystics to bind them with the divination runes. When you bind the elements with them, it makes even me think there might be something to foretelling. I don’t think I’ve known anyone I can talk to of such subjects as I can with you.”
Lexine stood up on her tiptoes and kissed Galen on his lips. It was a simple, sweet kiss that lasted only a moment.
“You are wonderful, Galen,” said Lexine.
Galen felt his cheeks go red and his mouth went very dry. He looked down at Lexine, who just seem to realize what she had done. They stared at each other for a few moments, Galen realizing the warmth from his cheeks had spread through his whole body.
No, you halfwit, you cannot feel this way about her. She is a princess. She is so far above you, it could never be, thought Galen to himself, but it didn’t help.
He realized it was too late. He was already starting to love her. It was new, but it was real. How could he not love her? She was so intelligent, fascinating, kind, and very pretty. He wondered what she would do if he leaned down and kissed her. He really wanted to kiss her.
“I think you said you had something to talk to me about?” asked Galen trying to break the tension in the air.
Princess Lexine looked down for a moment and then started walking, Galen walking by her side.
“Yes, I wanted to ask where you heard about the High Captain’s interesting relationship.”
“Darron actually taunted me with it during my weapons sessions one day. He does not seem to like Roderick, and he takes it out on me,” said Galen.
“How does Darron know about it?” asked Lexine with a worried frown on her face.
“He said they used to get caught in compromising positions during the Disciplines. He said he is often in her rooms, attending to her.”
“I don’t know about Disciplines, though it wouldn’t surprise me. He has always had a hard time staying away from her, but I do know he is often in her rooms. I think he would go to her every night if she would let him.”
“Every night?” asked Galen.
“He loves her very much. He likes to be with her whenever he can. He can’t spend his days with her as he would like, so he only has the nights,” said Lexine.
“But they are together so much during the day as well,” said Galen.
“I suppose they are together in the same space many times, but they cannot act as they would like. They cannot hold hands, or talk openly, kiss, or anything else young lovers do. It is very hard on them.”
Galen was quiet for a moment, trying to imagine his brother acting as a young lover towards the High Captain. Would he really like to hold her hand? It was hard for Galen to picture, but he supposed love did strange things to people.
“I guess I’ll have to tell Dracia that Darron knows her secret. This isn’t good. They will have to hide their feelings better. They might even have to stay apart more often. Leal isn’t going to want to hear it. She will have a hard time convincing him,” said Lexine with a sigh.
“Leal? You mean your brother, Prince Leal?” asked Galen with confusion. “Why would he care?”
“He obviously doesn’t want to be away from the woman he loves. It’s terrible for both of them. She should already be living as his wife by now, but you know my father won’t allow it,” said Lexine.
Galen was very confused. What did she mean Leal wouldn’t want to be away from the woman he loves? What did that have to do with Roderick and The High Captain. Before he could respond, there were footsteps up ahead to the right of them. Lexine looked at Galen and took his hand, pulling him into a small grouping of trees.
“I am sorry to have to give you the news about your father, Leal,” said The High Captain walking by with the prince.
“It isn’t your fault. I have known there was something wrong with him for a while. I should have investigated the matter more,” said Prince Leal as he stopped and turned to the High Captain.
“What will you do?” asked the High Captain. Galen watched as Prince Leal took the High Captain’s hand. He brought it to his lips and kissed it gently.
“I will go to my father and speak with him. He must see that what he is doing is insane. I must convince him to change his course,” said the prince.
“And what of the Cassendar curse. Have you heard of it before?” asked The High Captain.
“No, but I will get him to tell me all about it. If this is the reason he will not let us be together, then I need to hear it.”
The High Captain nodded.
“It will work out, Dracia. It will. No matter what, you and I will be together,” said the prince taking her other hand, and pulling her close to him.
“What if he won’t listen, Leal? What if he won’t change his course. What will you do?”
“I think I might need to go to the high lords of Lanoxan, starting with your father. You said there was an uprising forming. I will see if I can calm tensions in the kingdom while finding a peaceful way to have my father step down.”
“Unseating a king is rarely peaceful. You must know this could go very badly, very quickly,” said the High Captain.
“I do,” said Leal. “I hope it won’t come to it. Let me speak with him first, and we will go from there.”
The High Captain nodded as the prince pulled her even closer. “I know you are sworn to my family, especially to the king, but Dracia, you also serve the kingdom. You and the Sentinel will have to do what is best for the kingdom in the end.”
“You are right, Leal. I want you to know my first loyalty is to you. It might be a break in the vows I have taken, but it doesn’t feel like one. You are where my heart and my loyalty lies. If I have to break from the Sentinel due to it, then so be it.”
“My first priority should be my kingdom, but I can put nothing before you, my love. We will get through this together, even if we have to run away in the end,” said the prince. He leaned down and kissed the High Captain.
The princess pulled Galen further into the trees. She leaned against a tree and seemed to be trying to catch her breath. Galen couldn’t believe what he just saw, but now it all made sense. This is why the king didn’t approve. This is why Lexine knew so much. The High Captain wasn’t in love with Roderick; she was in love with Prince Leal. Then there was the matter with the king.
“Princess, are you well?” asked Galen standing close to her.
“I knew my father had been acting strangely for a while, but to hear Leal and Dracia talk of having him step aside. It is very shocking.”
“I know,” said Galen. “But hopefully, your brother can reach him by talking to him. All hope is not lost, princess.”
The princess looked up at Galen with tears in her eyes. She was shaking. Without thinking, Galen reached over and pulled her into his arms. She leaned against his chest as she started to cry.
“It will be fine, princess,” said Galen quietly. “Your brother will figure it out.”
“I don’t know if I want him to, Galen,” said the princess as she cried. “I think I might rather Leal be on the throne. He could be with Dracia, and they could rule the kingdom. Am I awful for thinking such a thing?”
“No, not at all. You love them both, and it sounds like you have had a rough time with your father.”
“He is still my father. I do not want him to come to harm, even with the pain he has caused.”
“I know,” said Galen, not knowing what else to say. He rubbed her back gently as she stood still, her head laying on his chest. They stayed like that for several minutes before the princess pushed back gently.
“I need to get back to the palace and speak with my brother, and you need to get to the Fortress.”
“Please do not speak of anything you heard or saw. I know you haven’t said anything about Dracia and Leal, but keep the information about my father secret until we know more.”
“I will not say a word about anything I have seen or heard. I would never do anything to hurt the High Captain, your family, or especially you, princess.”
The princess smiled sadly as she put her hand on Galen’s cheek. “You really are wonderful, Galen,” said Lexine. She took her hand off of Galen’s cheek and he started to turn to walk back to the Fortress.
“Galen,” said the princess as she held on to one of his hands. Galen turned back to look at her. “I probably won’t be in classes this afternoon, but I will see you soon, and I will miss our time together.”
“I understand, and I will miss you as well, princess,” said Galen.
“I wish you would call me Lexine or even Lex,” said the princess as she held his hand.
“I am still the youngest son of a low lord, and you are still the daughter of the king,” said Galen.
“I don’t care,” said the princess. “I want you to know it. I don’t care who our fathers are. They don’t define who we are.”
Galen brought her hand to his lips and kissed it softly. “If only that were true,” he whispered.
She looked at him with a sad smile. “I will see you soon,” she said as she turned and walked away.
Galen watched her go for a moment before he turned and walked towards the Fortress. His head was full of worry, and his heart was full of Princess Lexine.