As expected Prince Daneel had no intent of escorting me back to my chambers. He led me to the opposite side of the palace instead. I’d never ventured this way. I couldn’t deny that I was curious. The further we went the fewer Pixies passed us, the less magic I sensed. It was surprising how there was a place with no magic in a Fae palace.
Eventually, my curiosity could no longer be contained. “Prince Daneel, this is not how I usually walk to my quarters.”
“Ah, I must have mistaken in my speech,” he said, a devilish grin spreading across his luscious lips. “I meant to escort you to my room.”
“Slip of the tongue happens to the best of us,” I shrugged, seemingly unaffected. I knew it would bother him more that way. All he wanted was a reaction, a single slip of my tongue was like a victory to him. “But now I am curious, what business would I have in your room, my Prince?”
“I’d like to gift you something, nothing more.” I grinned, wondering what this ‘gift’ was. He was catching on quick, though. I wondered if he ever had to deal with a woman as stubborn as myself before. He might find it amusing now, but it was a hard game to play. It would be easier to give up now.
We stopped before a set of doors, which were beautifully decorated with the most elegant of figures. It told the story of a powerful Fae king, how he rode his horse into battle, fire behind and faithful soldiers ahead. Looking back, I noted how all the doors told another part of the same story. I wondered who the other doors belonged to, and which one shielded my eyes from Lian’s chambers.
“Why isn’t there any magic here?” I said, finally voicing my most pressing question. These carvings were so precise, so neatly done, it had to be magic-made. Even if only magic was used to create something there was always a remainder buzzing around the item. It was impossible to create something with magic without leaving any trace of doing so.
“So it’s true that you can feel it?” Prince Daneel said, raising his brow. His hand rested on the wooden knob of the door. “My father, the King, didn’t want to be surrounded by magic whilst asleep, he said it made his nights more restless. That’s why he built a whole wing by hand. Everything in this wing is handmade, including the doors. Even the Pixies aren’t allowed to pass through here more than twice a day.”
“That’s so fascinating,” I said, letting my fingers follow the carvings that formed the magnificent image. Perhaps that was why the King never looked down on me nor my people. He knew the value in non-magic made items.
“You might sleep better here as well,” the Prince said swiftly before opening his door and leading me inside. I breathed a laugh as I entered, he was even more predictable than I hoped.
“I am not that affected by the buzz while asleep.” Clasping my hands behind my back, I did a quick scan of the room. It was large, that was one way to describe it. A huge chandelier hung in the middle of the room, though so high up one wouldn’t even notice it at first. The walls were painted a deep red with black and gold decorating the corners and where the walls met the floor. A fire was already brightly lit in the fireplace on my left, couches, and stools positioned to catch the heat if sat on. Beside the fireplace was an opening that led to a balcony. The curtains not fully closed, letting some of the moonlight color warm red with a cool blue. There was also an opening in the middle of the right wall, which led to a study.
And finally, my eyes landed on the enormous, too cozy looking bed. The colors of the blankets and pillows matched that of the room. I bit my lip, immediately regretting doing so a second after. Prince Daneel was watching my every move. If I showed any more he might lure me in his bed before midnight. I was no saint, nor was I blind. I had my private thoughts, enough to make my own father blush. Seeing as I was a body painter I couldn’t help but be distracted by a fine male canvas. If Prince Daneel knew how only his looks would be enough to persuade me-if used correctly-then he would have had me a long time ago.
Was I glad he was still too set on charming me as he would with any other girl to notice this.
I turned to him then. “What gift did you want to give me?”
“Impatient,” he said, shaking his head as he invaded my space. I kept my naïvely curious eyes on his, blinking. “I should let you know this gift can only be given after a… task is executed.”
I furrowed my brow. “A task? What kind of task?”
He took my chin between his fingers, lifting my face just a little closer to his. “You’ve already received this gift from Lian, you should know.”
My frown deepened this time in real confusion. “Lian never gave me anything.”
Prince Daneel hummed, releasing my chin before stepping around me. “First name basis already? I shouldn’t be surprised, he never liked being called a ‘Prince.’ How arrogant.”
I blinked, walking after him as he disappeared into his studies. “Excuse me?”
“Darling,” he said, leaning back against his desk. It was too dark to make out his expression, the moonlight streaming through the window barely enough to illuminate it. Though, his tone was bitter. “Right now you are just a game to us. Those robes my brother gave you, they are a secret message we agreed on, much like the dresses. It means that my brother slept with you, but from your reaction, I gather he didn’t and simply gave them to you to piss me off.”
I stepped back, trying to grasp the situation. Yes, I knew I was being played. I knew this was nothing more than a game for Prince Daneel. But Lian… for some unknown reason, I had truly believed his actions were genuine. I shouldn’t be as hurt by the truth as I was. Still, for Lian to play me like that made my blood boil. How dare he use me like that, making anyone who knew of this little message believe I actually fooled around with him. Perhaps that was the oddness I couldn’t fully figure out about him, the mystery Jelena had been seeing.
“Oh, don’t look at me like that.” Prince Daneel stood up straight again, and I gasped when he pushed me to the wall, the darkness making it impossible for me to calculate his movement. “We are playing your game just as much, there is no need to feel betrayed.”
“The difference in my game is that it is not for my amusement,” I snarled. He chuckled, his eyes suddenly lighting in the darkness. I gritted my teeth, he wouldn’t dare use magic on me.
“Please, aren’t you coming here prove of that? You want to bother me with that naïve look, frustrate me with a fruitless night, I am not that stupid.” His tone got deeper as he went on. “This whole world is built on games, Liliya, it is what we do all day every day. We play each other’s games.”
I took a deep breath, keeping his gaze steady on mine. “Then why did you bring me here? If you had no intent in playing my game, what use would it have to reveal yours?”
He stepped back, snapping his finger to light the candles in the room. The glow in his eyes faded soon after. “I want to play a new one. It’s only day two and I am already bored of this play of Princes and Princesses, I want to raise some commotion, create some drama, and I’d like you to help me with that.”
“Why would I?” I asked, glaring with my arms crossed.
“Perhaps I have something to offer.” Daneel grinned, raising one of his brows. “Or perhaps you simply want to play along out of your own free will. Let me explain what I have in mind.”
I narrowed my eyes but nodded. “I’ll listen.”
“Now, you know of Lian’s library. He is always there, almost lives there, and since he allows you to be there he does seem to have a liking to you, for some odd reason.” My glare intensified, but the Prince only smirked. “I want you to make him fall for you, but in secret. Act normal around him outside of the library, but once inside… Do whatever is needed to get him to his knees. Also, make him jealous by using me, you’ll see how rational he can be once he envies me. Then, once the three weeks end, break him.”
His last words left a foul energy handing in the air. “I still don’t see why I should agree to this.”
Daneel took my hand, guiding me into a dance so smoothly I barely noticed what he was doing at first. “Darling, in exchange I’ll give you anything you’ve ever dreamed of. Saving your dying kingdom, living in the High Lands, a loving husband, I have that kind of power.” He pulled back, bowing down to kiss my knuckles. “All I need is a yes.”
“Do I seem that gullible to you?” I said, pulling my hand from his grasp. “You sicken me.”
“Then what would it take to persuade you?” The sly grin that plastered his face told me he already knew, yet wanted to hear it from my own lips. It was a secret sin I knew he could make come true. “You’re wasting air by denying when we know you will give in eventually.”
Lighting the candles wasn’t the only thing he had done when his eyes had lit up. Magic is never precise, it can be guided but even then it is unpredictable. In other words, I knew he had used it, but he tricked me in thinking it was only for the light. Now, I was certain he took a peek inside my head. I disliked magic because of this exact reason.
I could keep on telling myself my kingdom could be saved, that all we needed were allies and space to grow. However, deep down I knew the lie was too big to keep up. Even I was getting tired of myself. Morana must have seen right through the day I came here, maybe Daneel did so as well.
“I want my kingdom dead, The Low Creedite Lands aren’t worth saving,” I said, each word like poison on my tongue, but now finally out in the open, I was relieved.
Prince Daneel looked more than satisfied with this answer, almost gleeful. “But what of your people?”
I clenched my fists. “They would be better off practicing their crafts in other kingdoms, they can find their own way eventually.”
“To kill a kingdom one must kill the King.” I swallowed, knowing his words spoke truth, one I thought of many times before.
“That is correct,” I said through gritted teeth. “But my father will not be on the throne when the kingdom will fall.”
“Planning your own murder already,” Daneel grinned, starting to pace. “Clever girl, almost clever enough that I would call it a waste. Now, what do you need from me?”
“I need your word that you will keep my people safe once I am assassinated.” I took a deep, shaky breath, only now realizing how heavy this topic actually was. I had never thought saying it made that much of a difference. “I need you to come to my kingdom once the news breaks out, to lead my people to the other kingdoms. Let my land be overgrown and become part of nature once more. I can arrange the rest.”
Daneel extended his hand. “You have my word, sealed by my crest.”
His eyes lit again as he rolled up the sleeve of his extended arm. The veins glowed the same color as his iris, leading down to Daneel’s crest formed in his palm. It was shaped like the head of a fox with horns growing from his head, curing around its delicate face and up again to form an ‘x’ just above the head of the fox.
I closed my eyes, having to focus to actually evoke the tiniest bit of magic I possessed. I had my grandmother to thank for this as she was the one who brought magic into the bloodline. Though, it was far too easy to dull it with human blood. The bit I had could hardly to never be used for anything. It still was like I had none at all. But for a Crest Sealing it was strengthened by the other party. They say even the ones with absolutely no magic could make a Crest Sealing.
A green-golden glow faintly illuminated my skin, snaking across to my palm. In it was the tail of a water creature, the ends of the fins pointed and right in the middle a small, rounding intake. The tail itself and the outline of the fins were glowing with golden green. However, instead of water surrounding the beast thorns grew around it, a single withering rose losing its pedals right above it.
I wasn’t fond of how my crest had changed over the years, sometimes even ashamed.
“You have my word, sealed with my crest,” I repeated, taking his hand. He gripped mine tightly, pulling me closer to him whilst I glared up at him.
“My word,” he started, his hot breath fanning across my face, “is to ensure the safety of The People of The Low Creedite Lands, to offer shelter and comfort once Queen Liliya of The Low Creedite Lands has passed, and to let her lands overgrow with wildlife.”
“My word,” I followed, keeping my stare unblinking, “is to make Prince Lian of The High Crystal Lands fall in love with myself and break his heart once my time here is done, which I will be executed in private and away from prying eyes, but to those who are able to see I am at Prince Daneel of The High Crystal Lands’ feet, playing his game.”
“Excellent.” A pleased growl escaped with the word as his eyes flashed and returned to their normal state. He squeezed my hand almost painfully before letting go, stepping away completely. “You may leave, you know what to tell the others if asked.”
Shooting him one last glare I turned, already getting nauseous. A Crest Sealing wasn’t something that was taken lightly. If broken it could lead to the death of both parties, meaning they were at equal risk. I hoped I had chosen my words carefully enough. My mother always warned me about the dangers of a Crest Sealing and how one must put a loophole ahead of time instead of searching for one afterward.
As I closed the Prince’s chamber door behind me, I stared at my palm, his crest slowly fading into my skin. I still remembered the self-made rules she stressed me to know. For the first time, I was glad she did.
Never name a time limit which includes numbers.
Never involve more people than needed.
Never promise anything you cannot physically achieve nor anything that is beyond your power.
Never gamble over another’s life.
Never make an ‘after death’ promise unless it is after your own.
Never keep the Crest Sealing a secret.