“Ahh my son,” the king of Arbithran greeted his son.
“Father,” the Prince answered. “What is it that you called me for?”
“To discuss your future,” the King said as he sat back in his chair inthe council rooms. “And by extension the future of our kingdom.”
The Prince, Jared, stiffened as he understood what his father was talking about. “Marriage,” he says flatly. “Or am I wrong?”
The king smiled. “Not at all.” He eyed his son and laughed softly. “Come now. Don’t be angry. You’ve known this day would come.”
“And you’ve always known I would have prefered to marry for love,” Jared said clenching his jaw.
“Well we can’t all be as fortunate as I. My own father did not get the chance and while I would have prefered you have that chance my son, it cannot be so.”
“How can you say that? Especially when you know what it’s like to marry someone you love. You loved mom.”
“I did,” said his father gravely. “But for the sake of this kingdom I cannot allow you that luxury. Your duty comes before your heart.”
Jared clenched his fists but then said, “As you say, father. So who are your candidates for a strategic marriage to me?”
“Candidate,” said his father. “There is sadly only one who is suitable. And I am sorry for that. I would have prefered you get some manner of choice.”
“But I shan’t,” said Jared, “So let’s not harp on what I can’t have. Who is it?”
“The Prince of Meryn,” said his father.
Jared choked on air. “Uh, what?” he managed to say when he was able to talk again. “Have you lost your mind? I’m pretty sure an heir is needed somewhere in there.”
The king waved his hand. “The prince isn’t a man,” he said. “The Merynans have a custom that allows their daughters to shed their status as female in order to take male roles in society. The current king of Meryn doesn’t have any sons so his eldest daughter shed her status as female and assumed the role of crown Prince. She or he, I have no idea how they address the prince, honestly, has all the power and privileges of a natural prince. The kingdom will be inherited by her..him...when the current king dies.”
“But a match like that..” Jared said, “Father that will merge our kingdoms into one.”
“No,” said his father. “Oh I agree, that would be the normal course of action but, as per a preliminary agreement, both kingdoms will be jointly ruled under you two but succession for them will pass to separately to your children. Sucesion for our life will pass through the first child of course. Succession for Meryn will pass onto the second child. This is because the Price has younger cousins to whom the line can pass while the same cannot be said for you.” All Jared’s male cousins were dead save for one who was disowned, one who was missing for fives years and presumed dead and the other who was very ill. A nasty disease had passed through the castle when he was younger and had taken quite a few of the nobility before they has discovered the cure for it.
Jared decided it was about time to sit. He pulled out a chair and collapsed into it and stared at his father. “How badly do we need this alliance if you’re going to such lengths?”
His father sighed. “The Broken war is edging up to our gates boy. Supplies will soon run low. Out kingdom is of a fair size but not large enough to withstand the war on our own. The same goes for Meryn. Together though, our kingdoms may have a chance.”
“And Meryn is larger and can pick up the slack for us when it comes to food,” Jared said.
“And we have medicines that they need desperately. War brings disease and they are already feeling the effects of it. We may not have much good farmable land for crops but we do have land that grows herbs very well.”
“Shit,” Jared said, running his hands through his hair. “So in order to force a lasting alliance to withstand a war, I have to marry their crown Prince?”
“Yes,” said his father. Jared closed his eyes and then sighed.
“Fine. Send the official proposals.”
The king looked at him with pity and said gently, “I will.”
“You look stiff,” the Princess of Meryn said, eyeing her older brother. The Crown Prince of Meryn, formerly Princess Calista, gritted his teeth and said:
Princess Carina laughed, a high pitched titter that made her sibling wince. “Nervous? But why ever my dear brother?”
“If you failed to notice, I am going to be married to a man I’ve never met,” Calista said scathingly. “I think that’s a good enough reason for nerves.”
“I didn’t know you got nervous anymore,” Carina said. “Afterall you are the fearsome general of the armies. The beloved Crown Prince of Meryn. How many dules have you won again? Surely you can handle marriage. Or is that something only true women can handle?”
“Are you done?” Calista, irritably.
“Not quite,” said Carina, amiably.
“Shut up, Carina,” said Calista. “And get the hell out of my sight. Go sharpen your tongue on someone else.”
“But there’s no one better, brother dear,” Carina said, fake pouting. Calista huffed and stormed out. His guards fall into circuit around him as he left the room. The prince walked towards his father’s council rooms.
“Come in,” his father called in response to his knock. He walked in to find his father pouring over treaties.
“Is that the proposed treaties with the marriage?” he asked.
“Yes,” said the king.
“When will they be here?” Cal asked.
“In a month,” said the king still absorbed in the treaties. He looked up after a moment. “I expect you to do your duty Cal.”
“I haven’t protested,” Cal pointed out. “I know we need the alliance. But honestly, why did you have to give me a little sister? If Carina opens her mouth one more time you may lose your only daughter.”
The king threw back his head and laughed. “Digging her little claws into you is she? Well you should have enough practice in dealing with her by now!” Cal sighed.
“I really wish but she’s improving in her jabs.”
“Good girl,” said his father approvingly and Cal rolled his eyes.
“You say that now, wait until she’s opposing you.”
“Oh no,” said his father, “I’ll be long dead by the time Carina matures enough to have a say in the council. You’ll have to deal with her.”
“I will marry her off,” Cal flatly and his father laughed.
“As you wish,” the king said, “But she’ll never stop being you sister. But enough of her. Shouldn’t you be worried about your new husband?”
“I was trying not to be,” Cal pointed out. “But I’m confident you wouldn’t have chosen a veritable monster for me. Everything else I can handle, if only for the sake of the kingdom.”
The king looked at him approvingly. “Good. You’ll rule this kingdom well yet.”
“I am your son,” Cal pointed out. “Now is there anything you would have me look over in those treaties?”
The king laughed and pushed over the stack. “Help yourself.”