Chapter 53 - The Aftermath
“Quincy, I need to talk to you,” says Lady Celeste. She’s in a peacock blue taffeta dress and her hair is impeccably styled. I’ve got to hand it to her, this woman knows how to dress well...or maybe her stylist does.
I’m on my way back from the stable to our bedchamber with Günter behind me. Caspian should be in bed but my stubborn, injured mate has gone to see his parents instead. I thought they should have some privacy so decided to visit Sabre, the horse that I have taken a liking to. It’s the same horse that I rode to my oath. He’s a little bit wild and a little bit crazy but he sort of reminds me of myself. He certainly loved the sugar cubes and the apples I brought him this morning.
“Quincy,” she calls again.
I don’t feel like talking to Lady Celeste so I ignore her but she catches up and grasps my arm tightly. Günter is immediately standing between us. I stare pointedly at her hand on my arm then I look at her in the eye, silently telling her to let go.
“Your Highness, please,” she amended, letting go of my arm. When I keep staring at her without giving away my emotion she says, “It won’t take long. I promise.”
“Okay then. Talk,” I tell her.
“Can we go somewhere private?” She looks at Günter, then glances around.
I don’t know the Palace well enough to know where is the best place to talk without being overheard except for our private area in the East Wing. I don’t trust her enough to voluntarily bring her to our private sanctuary.
I walk down the enormous hallway, knowing that she’s going to be following me. I head toward the library. Günter slips into the library behind us and he disappears behind the bookcases to scope the area.
The library is quite massive. Thick, cream, red, and gold carpet covers the floor from wall to wall. Rows of bookcases filled with leather-bound books from floor to ceiling. Carved gold-framed portrait paintings of the royal family members are hanging on the rich dark wood paneled walls. There are detailed marble carvings of human forms in the center aisle. Sitting and reading areas with tables and grand wingback leather chairs are all near one wall where the big windows are. The smell of old books and leather fill the air; the best smell in the world, except for the scent of my mate.
Günter reappears not long after and nods his head, signaling that he’s satisfied that it’s safe before he walks out and closes the door behind him.
I walk over to one of the big windows and watch the snowflakes drifting down from the heavens. The vast forest beyond the snow-covered garden looks enchanted. It’s beautiful out there and I can’t wait to go for a run again with my mate and pack mates.
“It starts snowing again,” says Lady Celeste as she comes to stand next to me by the window.
“We’re not here to talk about the weather, Celeste,” I say without taking my eyes off the view.
She sighs as she moves back from the window. I hear the shuffle of her dress as she takes a seat. “I know you’re mad that I claimed Jorden for a mate.”
“So why did you?” I turn my body to look at her. “Jorden’s not your erasthai and he’s way too good for you.”
“Because I love him,” she answers. “And he loves me.”
I stare at her wordlessly for a second. “How can you say that you love him? You just met him. Besides, you claimed to be in love with Caspian not too long ago.”
“I had a crush on Prince Caspian. I had been since I was very young. If you must know, all the women around here did, or a lot of them still do. He’s so cold toward all of us and we dreamt of being the one to win his heart. We all dreamt of getting marked by the prince and become the queen one day.
“When my parents made an agreement with Queen Sophia for us to mate, I was so happy. I thought it was meant to be. He didn’t want anything to do with me but I thought he could grow to love me if we spent more time together or if only he’d give us a chance.
“But then I went to California and saw the way he looked at you and the way that he treated you. I knew then that he’ll never be that way with me or anyone else.
“Then I met Jorden. He’s different from any men I’ve ever met. He treats me with respect but he won’t tolerate my tantrum. He’s kind and generous and talks to me as if I matter. He believes that I can change and be a better person. He makes me want to be a better person. Nobody ever treats me that way.” Her eyes turn dreamy. “He makes my heart beats faster and I think of him constantly,” she says softly. Then she seems to realize what she just said and to whom she’s speaking to. She clears her throat and sits up straight like she has a stick up her butt again.
She thrusts her chin up and says, “That first week, I wanted to back out from the arrangement. I wanted to cancel the whole thing. I was planning to talk to Queen Sophia about it but Æmilius called. He had my father and threatened to kill him if I didn’t get Caspian to agree to mate with me. So that night I was desperate.”
I sigh in frustration and take a seat on a chair next to hers. “Why didn’t you tell somebody about this earlier?”
“I was scared, okay?” She sounds exasperated. “I didn’t know who to trust. If I told a wrong person, I’d be dead as well. I knew Queen Sophia was having an affair with Æmilius but I didn’t know that he was King Alexandros’s bastard son. Besides, Prince Caspian hates me. If I told him about this, he would think that I made things up so I could get close to him or something,” she says.
“And waiting for him in our bedroom, dressed in nothing but tiny lingerie, and begging him to take you was a better option?” This woman! Not even ten minutes in her company and I’m tempted to throw her and her logic out that big window behind us. How could my cousin stand her? I should nominate Jorden for sainthood...is there such a thing?
“As I said, I was desperate.” She pouts as she studies at her beautifully manicured fingers as if she's bored.
Penny was right, it’s hard to like this woman but she has changed quite a lot since the first time I met her. She’s like a work in progress. I guess Rome wasn’t built in one day and comparing Lady Celeste to Rome is being generous. “Look,” I say. “I’m sorry about your father.”
She shrugs her shoulders and lifts her chin up proudly. “I wouldn’t mourn him too much. He was a cruel man. I only tried to stop him from being killed for my mother. For some reason, she loved him.
“Jorden and I have that in common. We both hated our fathers,” she says flippantly. I’m surprised Jorden confided in her about his father. Jorden is kind to everybody but he’s pretty tight-lipped about himself, especially about his father.
I know his father hit him constantly when we were growing up. In our pack, kindness was often mistaken for weakness. My uncle’s definition of tough is being cruel and a bully. He hated that Jorden wasn’t “tough” like him. I knew he got the lashing every time he openly helped me when I got bullied, that’s why I never held it against him when he didn’t get involved. I actually preferred it. Once I cried when I saw his back the day after he stopped particularly cruel bullying. I didn’t shed a tear during the bullying. That was a month after Jonah left the pack. I was twelve and Jorden was thirteen.
“Don’t you want to wait for your erasthai?” I ask her.
“Your Highness, do you know how many lycans ended up with their erasthais? Not all of us are as lucky as you are. Some waited hundreds of years to meet their one true love. Many died without ever meeting their erasthais.
“So, no. I knew all my life that I’d never end up with my erasthai. I don’t travel, I hate to fly. I stay here all the time and I came from a long line of lycans with arranged mating. The reason that I’m not marked and mated yet is that they were planning for me to be mated to Prince Caspian and become Queen one day. Now that it’s not going to happen, I know I will be forced to mate with one of those men from rich aristocratic families soon. But I’d rather mate with someone I love and who loves me.
“What about Jorden? What about his mate?” I ask her.
“I don’t know. All I know is that I need him in my life. I know I’m being selfish and he’s too good for me but he makes me happy and I intend to make him very happy. I’d do anything for him.”
I study her for a little while until she starts to shift uncomfortably in her seat. I hear her heartbeat going faster and something close to fear flashes in her eyes though she’s fighting to keep her tough exterior. “Can you please stop doing that to me?” she asks me finally.
I raise an eyebrow in wonder. “Stop doing what?”
“Are you really not aware of the powerful aura that you carry around you? Or the weight of energy you just gave out to dominate me just now?”
Actually, no. I’m new in all this and the fact that I’m quite blind to the energy and the power of others make me unaware of my own. However, I prefer not to admit it to her.
“Listen, you are both adults and I can’t stop Jorden from doing what he wants.” I take her beautifully manicured fingers in mine so that she won't be looking at them anymore and give them a squeeze. We’re going to be related soon after all. “But I need to warn you, I love my cousin and my powerful aura is the least of your worry if you ever hurt him.” I release her hand and get comfortable. “I will hunt you down and personally make your life hell until you wish you were dead. Then I will pull out your vocal cords so that I won’t have to hear you scream from what I’m going to do to you. Next, I’m going to break your ribcage one bone at a time before I rip your still-beating heart out of your chest and feed it to you. I will claw out your....” I proceed to go into very graphic details of what I plan to do to her if she ever breaks Jorden’s heart. I think she’s got the message by the time I’m done. After all that, I smile super sweetly and welcome her to the family.
I stay back in the library after Lady Celeste has left. I love books. I’m glad that my mate loves books as well. He downplays his abilities but he can read and speak in so many languages. He remembers history and facts with frightening accuracy. He can recite the content just after a quick scan of a book. He comprehends more from a simple written text than most people could. His sharp mind can dissect events and conflicts in the world, the cause, and arguments from both sides. He reads people like he reads a book. I’m in awe of his intelligence.
My finger absently traces the spine of books as I stroll along an older section of the library.
I keep walking until I reach a special section and my finger touches the spine of a book with strange symbols written in gold. Underneath the symbols are smaller writing: The Record of the Lycan Monarchy. The book is thick and massive. Ooohh...that sounds interesting! I pull it out and carry it to the nearest table near a window.
The dark brown leather cover is worn with age. The cursive handwriting is elegant and the paper is yellow with time. There are maps of territories and sketches of the monarchs.
The history of the Royal family and the Monarchy is as old as time. It is bloody and violent. It wasn’t always in Russia, either.
More than the first half of the record is written in some strange symbols and writing that I don’t understand. The part that I start to understand or perhaps with some English translation is of King Decebel Augustus who lived in a country that is now known as Romania. He was violent and had a hard time controlling his lycan. He marked his own cousin, Lady Livia before taking the crown and his reign was filled with debauchery and cruelty. He and his men pillaged werewolf packs for pleasure. They killed the males and took their females for their entertainment. A bloody rebellion led by another cousin, Cyprian Romanov who was third in line ended his reign in 841.
King Cyprian Romanov wasn’t much better, if not worse. He moved the monarchy to Kievan Rus’ or now known as Russia, where he started his own reign of terror. The violence spilled into the human world, causing thousands of deaths. He ruled for nearly four centuries before his own son, Nikolai slit his throat and severed his spine in the year 1240 while he was sleeping.
King Nikolai, Caspian’s grandfather ruled for 280 years before his son, Alexandros took over. Nikolai and his mate, Azalaïs took off to travel the world after he relinquished his throne. They might still be alive but no one has heard from them for centuries and they were assumed to be dead. King Alexandros has been in power for nearly 500 years now.
None of these kings mated their own erasthais except for King Nikolai.
I guess yesterday marked another violent chapter in the history of the Lycan Monarchy.
A group of criminal rogues attacked a pack in the North yesterday but they were defeated by the Royal Army not too long after they started. No more incidents were reported after that.
I hear the door opening and closing followed by footsteps. I know those footsteps anywhere and recognize the smell. I carefully close the book and look up into his vivid green eyes.
My poor beat up mate. There are some healing scratches on his cheek. The rest of his injuries are hidden underneath his black knitted sweater and black pants. The sun shines just right to hit the top of his head and his hair shines like a halo. He looks like an angel that I know he’s not. He’s so beautiful that at a time like this, it hurts just to look at him. I’m so grateful to still have him today.
“Come here, Moya Printsessa,” he says.
I round the table and instantly I’m in his arms. “I know you missed me and my awesomeness,” he says against my hair. "You can't get enough of all of this amazingness."
I want to smack him but then I remember his injury. “Uhuh,” I say instead. I know he enjoys irritating me as much as I love to annoy him and he’s using his injury as an advantage right now.
“Found anything interesting?” he asks as his eyes fall on the big book on the table.
“Just some skeleton in your family history,” I reply. “How’s the meeting with your mother?”
“Well, we’re both still alive,” he answers, kissing my cheek. Good enough.
“How’s your father doing?”
“Still the same.” His lips are now skimming my jaw.
After the fight yesterday morning, King Alexandros has retreated into himself. He seems to have lost a part of himself yesterday. The only consolation is that his mate, Queen Sophia is still alive. If he was mated to Katya, he would have lost himself completely. He can’t kill his own mate. He can’t even punish her since it was done at the Arena during the fight and Katya had voluntarily entered the fighting ring. Entering the ring means you’re presenting yourself as a new challenger for the crown. You are a fair game to anybody who decided to challenge you back. Anybody can kill you without any consequences in the Arena. Your death is your defeat. It’s all in the game.
“Do you think he will survive this?”
“I honestly don’t know, Moya Printsessa but I’d like to think so,” he replies. “Was Lady Celeste here?" He shifts and sniffs the air before he grimaces like he's smelled something bad. "I can smell her sickly sweet perfume. I wish she’d ease up on that thing, it gives me a headache every time.”
I nudge him in the stomach, careful not to touch where he’s hurt. “Be nice. I just scared her shitless.”
“Oh, how cute,” he says, with a naughty grin. “You scare people shitless every day. Only now you realize this?”
I dig my elbow into his uninjured side again and he laughs before he winces. “So, did scare her shitless has something to do with Jorden?”
I smile and say, “Do you think it’s too much for me to ask them to wait at least a year before they mark each other? That way they can get to know each other better and make a better call whether or not they want to spend the rest of their lives together.”
He seems to weigh what he’s about to say carefully. ”While I think that’s a brilliant idea, we can’t force them to do that. We can suggest it to them. I know you want what’s best for him and you don’t want him to mate with Lady Celeste but they’re both adults.”
“To be completely honest, I want him to mate with Lady Celestia what’shername.” That’s what Penny calls Lady Celeste now. “The selfish part of me wants to keep him in our world and keep him in my life forever,” I say. “What I’m doing now is forcing myself to think of what’s best for him in the long run instead of being selfish. I don’t want him to do something he might regret one day. Mating is irreversible and we’ve seen what it did to your parents.”
“I know, baby, but not all arranged mating ended up like my parents’." His hand moves up and down my back soothingly. "Besides, Jorden and Lady Celeste’s isn’t arranged. I understand your point, though and I will go talk to him if you want me to.”
“Thank you for the offer, my prince. I just want him to be sure, you know. I think I’ll go talk to him first. If that doesn’t work, I’ll send you in. If that still doesn’t work, I’ll send Constantine, then Lazarus, then Genesis, then Penny....”
“Setting Red and Beany Penny on Jorden? Wow, you’re serious about torturing your cousin,” he says.