Rosebud’s morning was as bleak as her night. The dungeon was cold and there was no sun in the morning sky. She couldn’t hear any birds chirping and nor was there any breeze carrying the scent of lilies and lotuses. She was truly in Hell.
But these circumstances didn’t matter to her. The broken sleep didn’t matter her.
Rosebud’s mind was transfixed on her Soul Mate. Her mind’s eyes trailed across his magnificent bronze skin glistening with scars and sweat. Alpha King Valdus Magnar wasn’t a beautiful man. He looked like a beast with his furious eyes, crooked nose and disfigured skin but there was a part of her that was attracted to him. She was intrigued and she wanted more. Rosebud never knew herself to be lucky enough to find a Soul Mate. Finding your other half was rare and Rosebud couldn’t believe she found hers.
“Thank you, Moon Goddess,” Rosebud whispered, “I am grateful for finding my Soul Mate. Thank you for bestowing me with this blessing. I am eternally indebted to you.”
The moment Rosebud completed her prayer, the King’s words came to the forefront.
“I don’t know what you have been taught but I know Evanora enough, ‘always listen to your King, always listen to your Mate and always be for your Kingdom’. Those were the words she grilled in my mother’s head and I am sure she must have done the same to you. You like it or not but I am your Mate, I am your King and as the Queen of this realm you will have to act like it. Anything less than that is treason.”
Valdus’ words were absolutely right. Those were the lessons that Mother Evanora had imparted to her. Rosebud, dutybound, had to listen to Alpha Valdus Magnar. She had to adopt the customs suited to a queen.
A moment later there was a knock on the door before Beta Valerio entered. He knelt down in front of Rosebud, his gaze was fixed on the ground. Rosebud blushed furiously; she couldn’t imagine her face getting exposed to so many people. The only person who had ever see her was Mother Evanora.
“Princess Rosebud, you are expected to be at the court in two hours. A team of maids will help you get ready. Due to the war and the state of the palace we couldn’t find you appropriate clothes, the seamstress stitched whatever she could in a limited time. Please forgive us, we will be better equipped tomorrow,” Valerio apologised profusely.
Rosebud didn’t know what to say. She just blinked her eyes. Valerio, slowly raised his head. Their eyes met and Valerio almost fell. He quickly got up and ran out of the room. Rosebud was confused and scared. What was she to do in this dungeon? She looked down at her hands. They were shackled with iron cuffs, even her feet were in the same state.
Rosebud had no time to think when a few ladies walked inside the dungeon. Two of them held a large basin filled with steaming water. One carried a trolley full of scrubs, creams and lotions and other beautifying ingredients and another carried a soft gown in her hand.
“Princess Rosebud,” the maid said, “please disrobe. We have to be in court soon. The King has explicitly stated to be on time.”
Rosebud’s eyes widened. She had to get naked. She had never got naked in front of anyone, how could she even do that in front of strangers. Rosebud bit her lip and shook her head, she pushed herself into the dungeon wall, bringing her legs to her chest.
“Princess Rosebud, please, it is late already,” the maid fretted, “King Valdus Magnar promised to punish us severely if we were to be late in bringing you to the court.”
“P-Punish?” Rosebud gasped.
“Yes,” another maid said, “I cannot even think what the King is capable of doing. Some say he burns people alive and laughs.”
Rosebud sobbed and instantly got up. She couldn’t let them get tortured. Mother Evanora had explained the fabled tortures of King Valdus. With trembling feet, she walked to them, the shackles were making it difficult for her to walk, they were heavy and cold. A maid stepped forward and uncuffed her legs and hands with a large key. Her gown slipped down to her feet and she covered her privates with her hands.
“Princess, which essential oil would you like in your bath. We have pink grapefruit, peppermint, red mandarin, sandalwood and cypress.”
“Pink grapefruit,” Rosebud whispered.
The maid took a small glass bottle and mixed a few drops of the essential oil with jojoba oil before pouring it into the water. Rosebud was then gently asked to step into the water which she did without any hassles. The warm water and the delicate scents engulfed her and a soft mewl escaped her lips. The maids surrounded her, gently bringing wholesome scrubs to her skin. Her body was exfoliated and hair shampooed and conditioned.
Rosebud stepped out of the tub and immediately a dry towel was wrapped around her body. Her hair was delicately dried with a towel too and she was made to sit in front of a large mirror which the maids had brought along. One gently started to comb her hair and another started to slather buttery moisturiser on her body.
A crushed paste of hibiscus and roses were applied to her cheeks before wiping them away, leaving a gentle pink tint behind.
“Princess doesn’t even need a blush,” the maid remarked, “her cheeks are already so red and flushed.”
The blush on her cheeks intensified and the maids giggled around her. A similar paste was applied to her lips and a scented oil was rubbed behind her ears, on her neck and on the wrists. Her hair was left open, they fell in thick waves down to the back of her knees in beautiful ringlets. The maid brought a beautiful tiara and put it on her head. Rosebud stood up and a lavender coloured sheer gown was brought. The texture of the cloth was almost watery and billowy.
Rosebud was quickly made to wear the gown. She looked at herself in the mirror. The gown was so beautiful. The gown was sleeveless and gave a delicate hint at her cleavage. If one looked closely then the swell of her breasts could be seen and her beautiful derriere as well. The gown covered yet left her feeling naked at the same time. Rosebud didn’t have any piercing and opted to wear a simple diamond and pearl choker. An embroidered shawl was placed on her shoulder and Rosebud welcomed the warmth.
Rosebud was finally ready; the maid locked the cuffs around her feet and her hand. They slowly walked out; every step made the sound of shackles dragging on the floor. They constantly reminded Rosebud that she was a prisoner. Her heart was heavy and depressed. Rosebud was choosing to go against her King and Soulmate. She was rebelling against the realm in doing so.
But Rosebud didn’t have a choice. She loved Mother Evanora very much. Mother Evanora had taken care of her. She had offered Rosebud a shelter when left on the steps of the temple to die. How could Rosebud just reveal Mother Evanora’s location? How could Rosebud betray her?
No, Rosebud would rather stay in the dungeon for the rest of her life.
They stepped into a large corridor. The ceilings were more than twenty feet tall and entirely made of marble. The walls held beautiful murals and so did the ceilings. Rosebud was enamoured by the opulence of it all. But it was all destroyed. All the paintings were destroyed, the pillars were cracked. It was as if the entire palace had been pillaged.
And then it dawned upon Rosebud.
There had been a war. King Edward was dead. The ruler of this Kingdom, this beautiful realm was now a savage who enforced feral rituals upon its subjects. A chill ran down Rosebud’s back, fully realising the power of her mate. She was the biggest devotee of the Moon Goddess and King Valdus was the biggest devotee of Lupus Magus.
How could two so opposite beings possibly be mates?
The Moon Goddess worked in mysterious ways. The words of the prophecy echoed in her mind.
When the Evil threatens the realm of wolves and lycanthropes. A soul-mate to the Evil will be born. She would be a bane for his anger and his violence. She will be pure as the lilies and sweet as its nectar. Her beauty will be the subject of many poems. Her heart will be big and made of gold. She would be dewy-eyed, guileless and unworldly. She would turn the Evil into good. But it will be a journey of pain and violence. Every Rose has Thorns, and every Wolf has Fangs. The Innocent will be blessed by the Moon herself, and the Evil will be blessed by the powers of the devil, the Lupus Magus.
According to Mother Evanora, the Evil was King Valdus Magnar. And that made him his soulmate. Did that mean she was blessed by the Moon Goddess? How could this honour be bestowed upon her unworthy self? There had to be something wrong, surely Mother Evanora had read the wrong prophecy. How could she be The Innocent?
Rosebud’s palms itched. She suddenly craved the feel of her prayer beads made of opals and moonstones. Whenever Rosebud found herself tensed, she would either go to the Mother Evanora or clutch her prayer beads. It calmed her down. A sob escaped her lips.
“Princess Rosebud, is something wrong?” a Maid fretted.
Rosebud quickly shook her head.
They now stood in a large room. The maids surrounded her, constantly asking her questions and adjusting her gown. The concern on their faces was real. Another sob escaped her; Rosebud was acting like a brat. She was a big girl; she could stay without her prayer beads for a few days.
“Why is the Princess crying?”
Rosebud looked up and saw the dark witch, Carmichael.
“Leave us,” Carmichael ordered.
The maids dispersed. Carmichael’s eyes fell on the cuffs.
“I don’t approve of that, Princess,” Carmichael said, “you are to be the Queen of this realm and no Queen should be in shackles. And given that you are a Pure Witch, to put you in shackles is the greatest sin.”
Rosebud took a step away from Carmichael. Another sob escaped her lips.
“Princess, I will call the King. Maybe you will feel better in his presence,” Carmichael said and walked out of the room.
Rosebud stood, silently sobbing to herself.
The doors opened and she felt that intense dark energy engulf her. She peaked through her eyelashes and saw that the King had entered.
“My Soul,” Valdus whispered. His voice was tense.
Rosebud took numerous steps back.
“My Soul, don’t step away from me.” Rosebud could feel the pain in his voice.
Valdus walked to her and wrapped one arm under her buttocks and picked her up. Rosebud looked straight into his eyes. They looked so concerned.
“Rosebud, what is it?” Valdus gently asked.
Rosebud didn’t say anything. She kept staring at the crisp shirt he was wearing.
“My Soul, you are allowed to speak,” Valdus coaxed.
Rosebud bit her lip. Contemplating.
“C’ mon, my beautiful girl,” Valdus whispered.
A fresh layer of blush appeared on her cheeks at his complement. A wolfish grin appeared on Valdus’ lips.
“Does my girl like compliments?” Valdus teased.
Rosebud tried to look away from him but Valdus cupped her cheek.
“My prayer beads,” Rosebud whispered. She was so shy in front of Valdus. He had a domineering and menacing personality and being witch, she could also feel how strong of an Alpha, Valdus was. But somehow, she didn’t seem to be drowning in his authoritative aura.
“Your prayer beads?”
“I always have them w-with me,” Rosebud hiccupped, “and I l-left them in the temple.”
“Is that why you cry?” Valdus asked.
“I will send someone to retrieve it for you,” Valdus promised, “now let’s go to the court.”
Valdus didn’t put her on the ground and continued holding her. Rosebud felt immensely shy when the palace staff looked at them. She was not used to being gawked at, and that’s what everyone was doing.
“The palace will be back to its former glory in a few days. I am telling them to prepare our chambers first,” Valdus informed her, “the moment you tell me Evanora’s location, we will move there.”
Rosebud tensed. She wasn’t telling him Evanora’s location, come what may. Rosebud would never betray Evanora like that. She would stay in a dungeon for the rest of her life if she had to. Rosebud didn’t tell that to Valdus. A question loomed in her mind; she wanted an answer to it.
“My Soul, I can see that you want to ask me something, don’t be shy,” Valdus coaxed.
“Your Majesty, w-what is the punishment for a t-traitor?”
“Death,” Valdus answered, unflinchingly.
“So, will you kill me?”
Valdus stopped in his tracks and looked at her.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because I am not telling y-you Mother Evanora’s location and i-in a way supporting your enemy.”
“You can do anything and I will still not kill you, you have no idea how long I have waited to have you in my arms like this. I have searched every realm. How can you even think that?” There was a genuine pain in Valdus’ voice and Rosebud felt guilty. She didn’t want to hurt her Mate in any way.
“I am sorry,” Rosebud fretted, “I didn’t mean to h-hurt your feelings.”
Valdus just gave her a kiss on her cheek. Rosebud’s eyes widened and she looked away from him, her heart started to beat against her chest. There was a slight tremble in her body and her face was red and ripe like a tomato. She had never been kissed before by a man.
Valdus grinned and tried to get her to look at him. rosebud buried her face in his neck.
“My Soul, you have no idea what your blushing face does to me,”
Rosebud didn’t answer but she did have a small smile on her face.
They entered the court and Rosebud raised her head to look at the opulent room. There was a row of five seats on both sides of the court and couple of stairs right in the centre with the throne residing on their first landing. But there was another flight of stairs, starting from behind the throne that led to a luxurious settee made of velvet and a golden shade hanging over her. There was an ottoman before the couch to place your feet and a nice little soft blanket made of silks and satin.
Valdus climbed up the stairs, not stopping at the throne and climbing straight to the settee. Upon reaching, he gently placed Rosebud on it. Rosebud brought her feet on the settee and Valdus wrapped the blanket around her legs. Rosebud suddenly felt snug and warm.
“This is the Queen’s throne. It is not like a traditional one because we want our Queen to be comfortable, also, a Queen is above a King which is why you sit above me. And you have to be at the court every single day, you have the opportunity to lend your opinions to each matter. They will be taken into serious consideration.”
Rosebud didn’t meet his eyes and nodded.
“When I was a little boy, I would sit on this settee with my mother. She had a big heart. My father would often say how forgiving she was,” Valdus reminisced, “I hope, Rosebud. That you use this position for the betterment of our Kingdom. It is as much yours as it is mine.”
Rosebud dutifully nodded.
“During Mother Evanora’s time in this Kingdom, since the past hundred years that I was not here. This tradition of a Queen above a King was removed. Your Mother didn’t see anyone above the King. I find it derogatory. For us Werewolves, every Queen is a physical rendition of the Moon Goddess. When you sit above us all, looking over the matters of the realm, we feel blessed. We know that we are doing the right thing.”
Rosebud was shocked. She was in awe of this tradition. Why did Mother Evanora not believe in this tradition? Why did she remove this tradition? Rosebud, for a moment, felt disillusioned by her. But she quickly shook her head. Mother Evanora would have a perfect explanation for this.
“Will I sit a-alone over here?”
“Yes, My Soul,”
Rosebud could feel the power in this throne and it scared her. There was a responsibility and she could feel the weight of it on her delicate shoulders. She brought the blanket closer to her.
“Are you alright, My Soul?”
“I don’t think I a-am the right person for this,” Rosebud found herself sharing her fears and insecurities.’
“Why do you think that?”
“I don’t k-know anything about governing and I don’t k-know how to be a Queen,” Rosebud sobbed, “what if I say something wrong?”
“Then I am here to correct you, to teach you and prepare you. Now, don’t be scared,” Valdus kissed her on the forehead and climbed down to his throne.
Rosebud buried herself into the settee, mulling over Valdus’ words. The exhaustion of spending the night in the dungeon was getting to her. It was so cold there but so warm and cosy here. Rosebud brought the blanket to her chin and looked over the court. A maid even brought her a cup of tea. Rosebud gulped it down hungrily, enjoying the flavours.
Rosebud was feeling so groggy and exhausted and warm. With a small smile she laid down on the couch, letting herself fall asleep.