Galen sat in a chair by the small fireplace in his room. Lexine sat across from him, two books open on her lap. She kept looking at one, searching with her finger scanning the page, and then looked for a moment at the other book, her lips moving silently. Galen watched her for a few minutes; his head almost too full to concentrate on anything. He had a small book open in his lap. He was supposed to be looking through it for translations of any of the ingredients that had been in the king’s drink or moving through Prince Leal’s body. Instead, he watched Lexine and thought over the revelation he had heard of the High Captains relationship with Prince Leal.
They were married, and they had been for some time. He knew he shouldn’t be completely surprised by it. The prince and the High Captain seemed to be very much in love, but to be secretly married seemed so surreal. He couldn’t imagine being married to a woman he loved and not being able to be with her as a husband should be with his wife. It would be hard enough to hide strong love felt between two people, but to know you couldn’t acknowledge your husband or wife in public, must have been torture.
Galen looked at Lexine. He hadn’t known her long, but he already felt strongly for her. Sometimes it was hard not to want to hold her hand in public, or greet her with a kiss before the court. He could see his love for Lexine growing very deep, and to think he would have to continue to hide it would be something he wasn’t sure he was strong enough to do. How had the High Captain and prince kept their secret for so long?
“Is something wrong, Galen?” asked Lexine as she looked up from her book.
“I was just thinking over the High Captain and your brother,” said Galen with a small frown. “It just seems so unbelievable.”
“I hope you will not judge them too harshly. I know them getting married seems a foolish thing, but they love each other very much. Leal wanted to make sure he was always with Dracia, and he thought marrying her would ensure he could be with her in the end.”
“I’m not judging them. I am marveling in their strength. How have the managed to keep this up for so long?”
“It has not been easy for either of them. I believe Dracia tried to push Leal away a few times, to set him free, but he wouldn’t have it. They are able to be together at times, especially recently. They both know it was very risky, but I don’t think they could take being without one another any longer.”
“I can’t imagine hiding love that strong. I have a hard enough time hiding my love for you, and we haven’t even known each other that long.”
Lexine smiled at Galen. “You love me?” she asked.
“Yes, of course, I am sure I have told you before,” said Galen.
“We have talked of love in a vague way, but I am not sure you have ever said you actually love me,” said Lexine as she closed her books.
Galen sighed. “I suppose it is because I still worry if I can actually be with you in the end. I do love you, Lexine. I think I love you more every day, but I still have a hard time seeing how this will work.”
Lexine stood up and walked over to him. He put his book to the side, and held out his arms as she sat down on his lap.
“I already told you, you are mine,” said Lexine as she leaned against him, and Galen wrapped his arms around her. “I don’t lose what is mine; so no matter what happens, we will be together.”
“I don’t want you to have to choose between who you are and being with me,” said Galen as he kissed her forehead.
“Who do you think I am, Galen?” asked Lexine.
“You are a beautiful, intelligent, strong woman who challenges me and surprises me every day. I think I love everything about you from your brilliant mind, to your lovely fingers,” said Galen as he picked up her hand and kissed each of her long, slender fingers.”
Lexine giggled. “And you are the most wonderful man I have ever met. Your mind works in ways I cannot even imagine, and I love watching you think. I love everything about you as well Galen, including your beautiful smile. Just thinking about your smile makes me feel warm all over.”
She moved slightly so she could kiss him. Her hands tangling in his hair as his wrapped around her waist.
“But you are also a princess of Lanoxan,” said Galen as she pulled back. “You are the king’s daughter, and so high above me I shouldn’t even touch you.”
“I am those things, but they are just titles. You don’t love me for my titles or any power that comes with them. You know me, Galen. You know me as well or better than anyone, and you love all of me. That is more important to me than any comfort, power, or riches found in the world.”
“I do love you, Lexine,” said Galen as he moved his hands up to her back, pulling her against him. “I don’t plan on stopping. I don’t think I could even if I tried.”
“Good, because I will have no one else, Galen Ellis. We will figure this out together. Surely, with both of our minds working on it, we will think of something, but for now I just want to spend as much time as I can with you.”
Galen silently agreed as he leaned up and claimed her lips, his hands moving down to her hips as hers moved down to his shoulders. He had just moved to kissing her long, slender neck when there was a knock at the door. He pretended he didn’t hear it for a moment and moved to kissing her jaw when another knock sounded at the door.
Galen gave out a groan of frustration as Lexine whispered, “I think you better answer it.”
Lexine gave him a quick kiss on his lips before hopping up off his lap and adjusting her gown. Galen stood up and walked over to the door, answering it to find his brother looking at him.
“You are needed in the High Captain’s room,” said Roderick as Lexine walked up to join Galen by the door.
“Is everything alright?” asked Lexine with concern. “Has my brother grown worse?”
“No,” said Roderick. “Dracia has acquired some new information, and she would like Galen to look over it. She thought you might be with him, your highness, and asked that you come as well.”
Lexine and Galen followed Roderick up the stairs and into the High Captain’s room. Galen walked in to find the High Captain sitting on the sofa in front of the fire drinking a glass of wine. Prince Leal sat next to her, looking at her with much worry. Lord Ethen and Lady Maia sat in chairs next to the sofa. On the low table in front of them, were two sheets of paper, one very wrinkled with the writing smudged.
“Galen, Lexine,” said the High Captain as she sat her wine glass down. “Please come pull up some chairs and join us, you too, Roderick.”
Galen nodded to the High Captain and walked over to grab a chair close to the bed in the room. He brought it over and sat it by Lady Maia for Lexine to sit in.
“Dracia, are you unwell?” asked Lexine anxiously as Galen grabbed another chair.
“I am just tired. It has been an eventful morning,” said the High Captain as Galen brought his chair next to Lord Ethen.
Galen looked over at the High Captain. He could see she was leaning back against the sofa as though sitting up took too much effort. She looked as if she was having problems keeping her eyes open.
“We can do this at another time,” said Prince Leal. “You need to rest.”
“I have napped long enough. We need to talk now so I can have time to prepare for supper tonight,” said the High Captain.
“You cannot go down to supper,” said Prince Leal with a touch of irritation. “You can barely sit up, let alone stay on your feet.”
“I will have to go down. You cannot, and it will seem suspicious if we are both missing from the meal. I will make it through supper fine. I have been through worse,” said the High Captain as she sat up a little on the sofa. “We need to talk about what we learned after our trip to the north tower where Lady Belleth has her rooms.”
“You went into Lady Belleth’s rooms?” asked Lexine. “What were you hoping to find?”
“Evidence that she is the one behind trying to control your father and brother, and other things,” said Dracia.
“Were you successful?” asked Galen as he looked down at the papers on the table. One contained writings in the usual language. The other were a mix of strange letters and words that looked like it could belong in the books Galen and Lexine had been reading all morning.
“I believe so,” said the High Captain. “I should have thought to bring you with us, Galen. You could identify the different things she had in vials around her room, but it looked like she had been at work making some kind of elixirs and such. She had a book opened by a collection of vials. I could not bring the book, but I have sketched out what I could remember on a piece of paper before you came in. Does it look familiar to you?”
Galen picked it up and looked over it before handing it across the table to Lexine. He watched her eyes go up and down the paper before she looked up at Galen and nodded at him.
“This looks like it could come from the books Sarin gave Galen on ancient magic,” said Lexine as her eyes went back to the paper.
“I know it isn’t a perfect rendering of the page. I had to memorize it quickly and come back here and sketch out what I could,” said the High Captain.
“If this is just from your memory, I would say you did rather well, Dracia,” said Lexine. “It looks much like the markings in the other books. Galen and I will take it if you don’t mind and see what we can make of it.”
“I was hoping you would do so,” said the High Captain. “From what I could tell from it, I do believe it contains some sort of spell or elixir.”
Galen looked at the High Captain, wondering how she could tell anything from the writings on the page. He was about to ask her when he was interrupted by Roderick.
“What of these, Galen?” asked Roderick pointing to the crumbled and smudged paper. “Have you ever seen these paragraphs in any of your readings?”
Galen picked up the paper and read it through. He frowned as read over them, strange little riddles like those he had seen in stories growing up.
“No, I don’t believe I have. Do you have any idea of what they are?” asked Galen.
“The first one is what my father told me is the Cassendar Curse,” said Prince Leal. “He said the Cassendars were cursed by the gods hundreds of years ago for failing to see to their duty. This curse was actually provided to them to punish them and provide them mercy, whatever that means.”
“The second one is an old prophecy having to do with my family,” said Lord Ethen. “We never have given it much thought, I don’t think. There is a copy of it in my father’s study, but I always thought that was just for some silly tradition.”
“What of the third?” asked Galen.
“Could it be a Navalian prophecy? If the first two are for Lanoxan and Siccaria, the third would have to be Navalia, wouldn’t it?” asked the High Captain.
Galen read over it again. “It could easily be Navalia with this writing about a winter that does not desist. This is the winter kingdom. Do you notice how both this one and the Cassendar curse mention a spring’s tree?”
“Yes,” said Lord Ethen. “I think we could assume that is talking of the High Nobles of Siccaria. We are the dogwoods, often called spring’s tree.”
“And the bird of gold would be the Cassendars,” said the High Captain.
“These all seem connected in some way,” said Galen reading over the paragraphs again.
“They do to me as well,” said the High Captain as she smiled at Galen. “The Cassendars are referenced in all three.”
“Yes, and also the tree of spring being a resting place for a bird in two of them. Also, the Siccarian ones talks of uniting one of its own with the ‘bird of gold’,” said Galen.
“And do you notice they all refer to the tree or flower as displaced in some way?” asked the High Captain. “A flower foreign and bold, a new root sprung from far away, a flower blooms far from homes soil, that has to mean something doesn’t it?”
“Perhaps we should put these aside and focus on the other piece of information we found, Captain,” said Lord Ethen loudly. “It seems as if it would be the more pressing matter.”
“Of course, Ethen, you are right,” said the High Captain seemingly chagrined a little. “We found a large map that had several lords’ lands in Lanoxan and on the border of Siccaria marked with an X. We also saw where there were places noted throughout Lanoxan and on most of Lanoxan’s borders with other marks. It looked very much like an invasion plan.”
Galen looked at his brother who was staring at the High Captain. Galen was startled to hear this. He knew Navalia probably had some kind of plans, trying to put their princess in the place of future Queen of Lanoxan, but he didn’t know they had gone this far.
“What do you plan to do, High Captain?” asked Roderick.
“I am going to start by going down to supper tonight and spending some time talking with King Arnar. After that meeting, I will decide when to speak with Lady Belleth. I believe we will need to alert the Cassendar court soon and have them leave Navalia as soon as possible, but we will hold off until I know a bit more. I don’t want to startle the Navalians to action,” said the High Captain as she stood up.
“I need to get ready to go down to dinner, and I suggest you all do the same. Lexine, you stay close to our king all night. Do not let Lady Belleth or Lilith get him alone. If anyone ask you about Leal, say he is not feeling well, but he will be down soon. “Roderick, keep an eye on Darron all night, see who he spends his time with. If he seems too chummy with any of our other Elites, let me know. I would like to think I can trust all the ones we brought with us, but I need to be sure. Galen, you can help Lexine watch over the king, or help Roderick as needed. Also observe everyone in the room you can, and let me know what you find.”
“Wear your Siccarian reds tonight, Captain,” said Lord Ethen as he stood up as well. “I want to remind King Arnar and his special friend of how much support you actually have. I am sure you would like to wear your Sentinel uniform to show power, but there are many ways to dress to show your strength.”
The High Captain stared at Lord Ethen for a moment before nodding. “I shall wear my Siccarian dress if you wish.”
“I do, and Maia and I will join you as you talk to King Arnar and anyone else from Navalia you choose to see tonight. There will be no walking off with Fannar or anyone else.”
“I think you should wear this as well, Dracia,” said Lady Maia standing up and taking a large ring off her finger. She grabbed the High Captain’s hand and slid the ring on her finger where it covered her golden Cassendar ring. “There, it is perfect, and it will help keep your secret.”
“Are you sure, Maia, this seems a very precious ring,” said the High Captain looking at her hand.
“It was given to me by Lady Elise, and I am sure she, like me, would trust you to wear it while you are in Navalia. It is clearly from Siccaria, so all will know you have our support no matter what color you are wearing.”
“Thank you,” said the High Captain with a smile. She looked around the room. “Thank you all for your support and loyalty. We will figure out what is going on here, and I will see you all safe out of Navalia. I will not let these people destroy either of our kingdoms.”
Prince Leal laughed slightly and grabbed the High Captain’s hand. “When I do take my place as king eventually, I believe I shall have a very easy reign. It seems my queen will see to all kingdom business, as she will be the one who has the true devotion of my people.” The prince kissed her hand and let it go as she smiled down at him.
Galen looked at the High Captain, thinking he wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t have her own chapter in the history of Lanoxan someday, if not her own book.