Warrior of the Damned

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4

10 years later...

"Happy birthday Princess Adaleen!"

I smiled and waved, gracious people were willing to wish me a happy seventeenth. Festivities were planned for this evening and the whole kingdom was invited. It was what the people needed, according to my King.

I patted Marek's head. From that day, 10 years ago, when my father allowed him to stay with me, Marek never left my side. He was well behaved, with little training... he just understood somehow.

He was my closest companion. My only companion. He was all I needed really. Though he never conversed with me physically, he was always aware of my emotions. Placing a comforting paw on me when I was inconsolable, licking my nose when he wanted to cuddle, perking his ears and tilting his head when I needed to talk to somone, growling and on guard when I was scared. He was my soulmate. If there was such a thing.

"Morning Adaleen!" I heard a raspy voice call to me from across the marketplace. I sighed. Just what I needed this morning, I thought as I rolled my eyes. I didnt have to look, I knew that voice. Marek's hackles stood high and he let out a low growl, "Hello Aiden," I called back through gritted teeth.

Aiden was tall, blonde and built. A handsome man with deep brown eyes, 5 years my senior, his messy hair bounced over his view as he jogged toward me.

He was apprentice to my father's advisor. Another person in this village I was wary of.

Dermont, a weasel like man, with a tiny stature, taught Aiden well in the art of negotiation and manipulation. When I became ruler, I would fire them both. I refuse to be advised by such men. A woman can think for herself, she didnt need the likes of spiteful, greedy demons in her ear.

Marek left my side, crossing infront of me. His growls were louder now, more urgent, as he was in protection mode. He never took fondly to Aiden, which I didnt mind. I assumed he was able to feel the deceit emanating off Aiden as I did. There was something fake behind that dashing smile. While all the other ladies swooned over him, I found him to be repulsive and... fake?

I caressed Marek's face, he calmed and looked up to me, "Its ok," I whispered softly to him. He snorted and his head snapped back to Aiden. He remained on edge, but quietly.

"Marek," Aiden nodded to acknowledge him. Marek sighed and sat at my feet, appearing bored. Aiden disregarded him and returned his focus to me, "I wanted to be the first in line for a dance this evening, ma'lady." He took my hand and kissed it, bowing in front of me. Marek grumbled and let his head fall between his paws, now laying down at my feet.

"That's very sweet, Aiden," I carefully replied. I didnt want to give him any false hope he could cling to. I wasnt interested. "However, I will not be participating in mindless frolicking tonight. The noblemen and King Estes will be attending and I need to be available for any and all political discussions," I stated, very diplomatically.

Aiden's face turned dark, then disappeared as swiftly as it had come. He flashed me a devilish smile and turned to walk away, "We shall see." He called from over his shoulder.

A slight chill crept up my spine. Marek was now standing and rubbed his head on my dress. I gave him a reassuring smile but he whined at me.

It was amazing how big he had grown. I wasnt tall, about 5 foot 6 or so but his head came right to my waist. He was muscular and daunting. His coat was shiny, silky jet black and bounced when he walked. Time had been good to him as he had no gray around his snout as a dog his age should. He showed no signs of weakness, never slowing down and always quick on his feet. His mind was still sharp, not a hint of senility. Again, amazing.

The only one that never commented or seemed the least bit surprised was Beval. He regarded Marek cautiously, watching him from the background. Always keeping this accusing stare on him. Oddly, Marek wasnt bother by the aura Beval gave off. He didnt show any emotion actually. When Beval was around he sat, straight and proper by my side, never whining, never growling, never doing anything. This was out of character as Marek was a very animated dog, more so than the average canine.

"...I will end him..."

I never forget those words from Beval. My nervousness soon disappeared as Marek was always a gentleman around him. Maybe he knew Beval was scrutinizing his every move, waiting for the chance to strike him down. It seemed impossible for an animal to sense such things. And yet...

I walked through the courtyard, around the gardeners preparing for tonight. Some bowed, some wished me happiness, some even acknowledged Marek. I could tell it made him happy. He was fond of attention. Probably because he didnt get very much, outside of me. He was a huge, merciless looking thing, and I couldn't blame people who felt uncomfortable in his presence.

I enter through the side door of the castle, my mother buzzing around, directing staff on decorations. She was always obliged to impress guests. Everything needed to be "perfect."

Marek and I climbed the stairs and walked to my room. I stopped before opening the door. Looking down at him, his attention on me, I warned him, "its going to be a long night." He responded to me with a quick nod of his head. I was always in awe that he seemed to understand anything and everything I said.

************

The maids were furiously styling my long blonde hair and applying black crap to my eyes, "You have lovely eyes, we need to accent that!" They would all squeal and giggle. Ugh, this was my life.

My mother picked out a deep blue, velvet dress, with a bodice laced by gold. The servants gasped at its beauty, staring at me and taking in their handy work. I'm glad they liked it but I couldn't breathe. They had strapped my waist tight to lift my bosom, mumbling something about how I was at an appropriate age to start looking toward marriage and I needed to play the part.

Marriage was a confusing word. People claimed to marry for love but the many marriages I saw throughout my life were for contractual purposes. Forced agreements to bring in more money and land. I would not fall prey to that. I was determined to rule as Queen. There was never a King pictured at my side.

My ladies walked out of my room, probably to prepare themselves for the eligiable bachelors that would certainly be attending the festivities of the evening. I looked to Marek, who was staring at me, head tilted to the right. He sat there, eyeing my dress, "Well... what do you think?" I asked, arms out, turning full circle for him.

He gave me a loud excited bark.

I'm glad he approved.

I took in a deep breath, trying to stretch the bodice to accompany room for my lungs. And then I walked out of my room toward the great hall, and my inevitable destiny.

Marek stayed glued to my side.

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