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Chapter Six

Sleep did not come fast or easy after Levi left. His words kept echoing in the back of my mind coupled with a nightmare and a strange woman's raspy voice calling for me within the dark forest outside the castle walls. When Yuki came to wake me, I was already up and staring out the window. She had laid out my clothing on the bed as she waited for the bath to fill before working at my hair and back. Only once I was fully washed and dressed did I start coming to my senses.

Around the head of the table, we ate in silence. Sage's cheek was slightly discoloured but he still seemed content in sitting next to Klaus and did not flinch when the man lifted his fork to his mouth. I guessed that their emotional bond and talk last night must have fixed the cracks for the time being.

When it was time for them to leave, Sage gave me a tight hug, making me promise to write to him once I had managed to settle into the rhythm of being a queen. Klaus had only nodded, the only gesture he most likely was willing to give before both disappeared through the giant, carved wooden doors we had yet to venture through ourselves. After that, I took it onto myself to adventure my castle walls, not bothering to go down the wing we slept in or the one that housed the library.

Instead, I took random choices at high-ceilinged hallways and noted every door. I found the servant quarters, which was part of its own wing with hints of sunlight coming through the closed curtains. Tapestries of light colour hung from the ceiling while the opposite hallway was where all the laundry was washed and hung. The scents of cinnamon and chai wafted from the large open doors.

Walking to the opposite wing, I found the guard quarters. Again they had the whole wing to themselves, tapestries decorated with the emblem of Heros and Casteus hung on the walls between the curtains and the sound of tired chatter came from ajar doors with a sharp clatter of steel.

Then came the grand staircase leading to the royal floor we had yet to move up to. There were only three doors, one at the end being large and dark, gold delicate carvings done in the wood that I could barely make out. Turning my back on it, I took in the rest of the floor which was mainly open plan. There was an area to read, the benches cushioned with dark purple and a small table topped with skeletal flowers. The other door closest to this area led into a lavish study similar to the one below. At the very end was the last door leading into a sort of menagerie. Exotic plants grew abundantly from the carpeted ground and walls while birds of colourful variety roosted in the rafters. A cold breeze came through the open windows.

Breathing in deeply, I took off my slippers, padding my way to the windows as to not disturb the birds. From here, I could see Wylan, my kingdom, in all its dark beauty. Wild forest spanned most of the east and the mountains had hovering coal-coloured clouds edging their way over the mining territory, Mirk. To the south was Lorcan, smoke just visible coming from the protective fires. West would be Alderreach with its expanse of farmland and hunting grounds. And far beyond that would be Themis and Gryffindale, our allies, and our enemies Talay and Arryn. Between all that was land, territory preventing anyone from making rash decisions.

I did not know how long I was up there, my leg dangling against the castle wall and the wind blowing through my once styled hair, but when I finally came down to the banquet hall, I was met with worried faces and a long lecturing from Kit. Once I had sat down next to Yuki, I took a swig of spiced wine from my goblet. It tasted similar to Gluhwein.

"I just lost track of time, Kit. I was up in the bird tower." My words were met with grumbling and cusses, but Kit eventually took their seat at the table, muffling more curses in their goblet.

"You missed out on the armoury," Levi stated, causing even more muffled curses. He snorted, continuing. "Shimmer gave me a tour and I got a sneak-peak at our armour. So far, if we had to go to war with what's there, we would look pretty scary."

"And dead," Blaze scoffed, gnawing on a drumstick much to Kit's disgust. Yuki chuckled, slowly chewing on cut-up fruit. Levi licked his lips as he glanced at Blaze before picking at apple pieces.

"On that matter, you two will be getting defence training soon. Mercenaries and assassins will be rife with the wedding coming up," Kit stated, peeling an orange.

"About that," I began, feeling all eyes on me. "C-can't we just do that now? Get it over and done with because I know you are waiting for the wedding before giving us total control."

Everyone was silent, more so Levi who had stopped his sulking and stared at me with a blank face. His eyes were the only giveaway to his emotions as they shifted while studying me, the question there, but I was unwilling to answer. Two full days was not enough time for love, maybe like, but I knew we clicked as a team and this wait for an evident marriage was useless. We were already considered king and queen, why not already bonded by marriage?

"Harper, are you sure about this?" Yuki asked, touching my arm. "The wedding is where the queen is unveiled to her kingdom for the first time, where her full rule begins. You would be breaking it, taking away that show."

"We could have a festival," Levi offered softly. "It could be here at the palace. During the day, we would meet and walk amongst our people, celebrate and get to know who we are ruling over. At night we could have a ball, invite the other royals and show them who they should fear and respect."

"I don't know. This has not been done before and it might-"

"We can do a demonstration with the soldiers from Lorcan. The villagers won't know that we are bringing in armed forces, only see it as entertainment," Blaze suggested, cutting Kit off. They glanced at him before nodding in agreement. "Then we have guards dispersed amongst the crowd for when you two walk around."

"Kit, we aren't exactly the normal Wylan royalty, you should know that when both of us come from Earth," I joked before becoming serious. "Breaking traditions is what we are meant for."

"Fair point. When do you plan on having this festival?" Kit seemed to hate the word, spitting it out before covering up the grimace behind their goblet.

"This Saturday. That's two days to prepare and will allow for all farmers to partake in a market," I said. Everyone nodded, considering everything said before Kit uttered words I did not want to hear just yet.

"You do realize, my Queen, that once this event has passed, everyone within this castle will expect you and the King to be sharing the same quarters?"

"Y-yes, I do realize this will...happen."
"Good, because if not, rumours will hurt your reputation."

The day had gone by fast after that and I found myself back in the tower with the birds. From the cold window, my leg once again dangling outside, I could make out the distant lights of Lorcan and Mirk, spots of it breaking through the dark forest. The two moons were brighter than ever even as the storm clouds briskly worked to cover them from view. Down below along the outer castle walls, I could hear the faint murmur of guards, bits of English grasping at my ears amongst the Lizard Folk tongue.

"No wonder you're back up here, it's soothing." Levi's voice made me jump, feeling my weight hook back on my other leg still inside the room. Glaring at his dark appearance in the torchless tower, I wanted to punch him.

"Yeah, well after lunch I wanted to be alone." Still wanted to be alone.

"Understandable after you moved our wed-Joining festival to this Saturday," Levi said, coming to stand on the other side of the window. He leaned his elbows on the ledge as he glanced down before quickly turning so his back was towards Lorcan's lights.

"Big tough guy scared of heights?" Smiling, I tapped his thigh with my foot. He shook his head before side-glancing me.

"I know I gave you a fright when I spoke, so naturally I wanted to see the damage if you fell and if you would survive... Not the best image you want in your head before bed," Levi admitted, folding his arms over his chest. We were silent again. The birds above cooed sleepily, the flapping of wings a gentle sound as they got comfortable for the night. "So, you still keen on marrying me. I have not pissed you off enough to drop my ass, have I?"

"You really don't like silence, do you?" Sighing, I hoped down so I could stand in front of him. "You haven't done much to set me off, besides the whole misunderstanding thing, but we covered that. What else can you throw my way, jailbird?"

"Jailbird?" Levi growled, glaring down at me, hair slightly moving forward. "Don't call me that ever again or-"

"Or?" Smirking, I stepped up close to him, making sure to get into his personal space. He became flustered, hesitatingly placing a hand on my exposed shoulder and pushing me gently back. "You won't hurt me, you said that last night. Plus, I know you're hot under the collar right now, I don't need a light to see it."

His hand came back to his chest as he glanced away, flexing his sharp jawline. If Addy was here, she would have been like a shark on a trail of blood, pushing her breasts against him and grabbing at his face to pull it down to her. At the thought, I chuckled aloud. I patted Levi's arm when he gave me a questioning gaze.

"I'll give it to you, your restraint impresses me. Maybe... Maybe we could be more than just married faces. Though your handsome face and body aren't the things to win me over," I said, smirking and clasping my hands behind me. "Goodnight, Levi, see you in the morning."

Chuckling, I left the tower, giving the royal bedroom door a glance before descending the stairs. I wondered if I read too much into it and said the right things as I made my way to my room. Time would tell eventually, though a happy, desired union was better than a forced, ugly one and that's all I wanted at the moment.
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