Agatha sat in a large chair in her daughter’s room smiling at her. Her daughter twirled her skirt in front of a long mirror.
“Do you think this was the right choice of dress?” asked Malin turning to look at her back.
“I do. You look lovely, my dear,” replied Agatha standing up.
Malin turned and hugged her mother. “I am so happy.”
“I am very glad for you.”
“You do like Jacob, don’t you mother?”
“Of course, I like Jacob. Who could not like him? He his kind, caring, and quite funny. Not to mention he is extremely handsome. The real question is, do you like him?” asked Agatha, taking her daughter’s hands.
“I love him. I love him more than I thought possible. He loves me, too. I know he does. He is even willing to take my name and live here with me,” said Malin.
“How does Jacob’s father feel about him taking your name?” asked Agatha.
“He is very accepting of it. Jacob is the third son. His older brothers are already married with children.”
“Well, your father is over the moon about the decision. I know he said it didn’t matter, but I think he is disappointed I never gave him any children to carry on his name. You will secure his legacy.”
“Father could never be disappointed in you, mother. He loves you,” said Malin looking at her mother with concern.
“I know he does. I have no doubt in his love, but his family is an old one. It would be hard to see the name disappear forever and not just for your father. It would be a loss for our people. You are carrying on two important lines, Malin. You are the future of the blood of Adalwen and your father’s family.”
“In fact, a couple of months after the wedding, I would like you to accompany me to Ring meetings.”
“Why?” asked Malin looking confused.
“I am thinking of stepping down soon. I would like to spend time with your father. He is talking of building a second home in the Valley. I would like to be able to see Von more often. You will need to start learning how to lead the Ring.”
“Me? You want me to lead the Ring?” asked Malin with wide eyes.
“Yes, who else do you think would follow me as leader? You are my daughter.”
“I thought maybe Von might come to Abscon and lead. He would have been your heir for the throne.”
Agatha chuckled slightly. “Your brother is firmly settled at the Valley for now. He does not have a desire to lead or rule anything. I love him, and he is a good man, but he is unsettled and is not one who would enjoy such a task as leading the Ring. He would not do well with much responsibility.”
“And you think I will? I am not like you. You are wise and commanding. I am silly and spoiled. How can I lead?”
Agatha took Malin to the bed and sat down. She pulled Malin down to sit beside her. She looked at her daughter. “You are a little spoiled, but you are not silly. You are lighthearted like both of your fathers. I have been lucky in that both Alastair and Brien could make me laugh. I needed it. I am too serious at times. You are wise in your own way, Malin. You will not lead like me. You will lead like you; you are your own person. I believe you can do this. You will have to do it.”
“I know. I understand the responsibility I have. I will not let you down,” said Malin solemnly.
Agatha smiled and squeezed Malin’s hand. “Now, no more of this. It is you wedding day. We shouldn’t be talking of such serious things. Today is a day of celebration.”
There was a knock at the door.
“Yes?” asked Malin looking at the door.
“Can your poor father finally see his beloved daughter?” asked Brien through the door.
“Yes, come in, papa,” said Malin. She and Agatha both stood as Brien walked into the room.
He stopped and smiled sadly. “You look absolutely beautiful, my darling. I can’t believe you are all grown up and getting married.”
Malin walked over to him and took his hand. “I am, but I am not going anywhere. Jacob and I will live here at the manor.”
“I know, but things will be different,” said Brien patting her hand. “Don’t mind your sentimental father. I am very happy for you. I actually have a present for you.”
Malin smiled as Brien took something out of his pocket. It was a long chain with a locket on it.
“I had this made for you,” said Brien placing the locket in her hand.
Malin looked at it and saw that locket was an oval. On one side was the sigil of the line of Adalwen, a sun. She flipped it over. On the other side was a large falcon with its wings spread.
Malin opened the locket to find two very small portraits painted inside. On one side was her mother with her father, Alistair. They looked very young. Malin had seen a few portraits of her father before. Portraits families had saved as they fled Aurumist. On the other side was a portrait of Brien. Malin looked up at Brien, smiling as he took the locket, closed it, and slipped the chain over her head.
“I wanted you to have something that represents who you are. You are the daughter of Queen Agatha and her consort King Alastair. You have the blood of Adalwen running through your veins, but you are also my daughter. You may not have my blood, but I have loved and raised you. You are truly my daughter and a Keene. The legacy of both of these great families lives in you, Malin. I am very proud of you.”
Malin threw her arms around Brien. “I love you, papa. I am sorry I never knew my father, but I will never regret being raised by you. I am your daughter, and I shall always be proud to be a Keene.”
Agatha came over and looked at Malin’s locket. She opened it and stared at the portraits for a moment. She turned to Brien and took his hands, kissing him on his cheek.
“You truly are one of the best men I have ever met. You have kept us safe and loved us. I do miss Alastair, but I love you, Brien. I am very happy to be your wife, and a Keene.”
“I know, my love,” said Brien. He kissed Agatha gently on her lips. “Now, we need to go. You can’t be late to your own wedding.”
“Why not?” asked Malin smiling. “They can’t start without me.”