Roses and Fangs

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[FOUR]

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It felt good to be sitting on a throne again. This was his rightful place. Not the muddy grounds of the dark jungles that lay outside the boundaries of the Royal Pack. It felt good to be back. Valdus had almost forgotten how it felt. A rare smile appeared on his face. Everything was perfect. The Gods were gracious. He even had his beautiful Soul Mate now. Valdus never imagined the other half of him to be so different. They were absolute opposites in every aspect.

The Royal Court was beautiful. The beautiful chandeliers scattering their luminescence, the candles flickering and the scent of wood and musk. Valdus stared at the murals on the walls, frowning. They didn’t depict the history of his times. They depicted a time of pussies and pansies. There was one mural showcasing Mother Evanora. She glowed with that serene smile that grated on Valdus’ nerves.

Evanora was a coward. She left her pupils and fellow witches at his mercy. Valdus’ hands itched to wrap them around her neck and choke her to death. Evanora had no business staying alive. Valdus was yet to decipher the damage done by her. The torture would only increase, Valdus was sure.

The Royal Beta Valerio entered the court along with Carmichael.

“Alpha,” Beta Valerio bowed, and Carmichael did the same.

“We don’t have a session today. For a session, one needs advisors, ministers and generals. We have none,” Valdus started, “but this is not a reason for us to be disheartened. Remember, the reason why we were able to attack King Edward’s Werewolf Realm because of the cracks. Those cracks were formed by those who didn’t believe in his ideologies. They craved my rule, my way of governance and those are the ones that we need to be looking for.”

Carmichael nodded.

“To understand the mood of this realm, I must reach out to everyone. We will have two major functions, both celebrating my marriage to Princess Rosebud and our coronation as the King and Queen of the realm,” Valdus commanded, “the first function will include Alphas, Betas and Gammas of all the realms including any important official that their pack might have. The second event will much grander, we will call the Rulers of all realms and important delegates and ambassadors.”

“Alpha King, what is the intention behind the first function?” Beta Valerio asked.

“I need to understand my people. And they are represented by their Alphas. I need to see which Alpha can potentially be on my side. We have to choose our Ministers. And these Ministers have always been Alphas or in rare cases, Betas. I need to see who can be on my side,”

“I agree wholeheartedly,” Carmichael said, “it is best to start forming a strong and unified core. We must not forget that Evanora has a powerful influence on most realms. Most of them have even given her an amnesty. It is of utmost importance that we strengthen our alliances.”

“Foreign alliances, internal alliances and then an alliance with our Queen as well,” Beta Valerio whispered.

“What do you mean?” Carmichael asked.

“Alpha, we need our Queen to be on our side. We have to make sure that she is standing for the kingdom and not with its enemies. Our Queen is flawless, but she is too sweet, as per my findings, Mother Evanora has been the only maternal figure in her life. Our Queen was abandoned on the steps of the temple when she was only three months only,” Beta Valerio admitted.

Valdus was taken aback by this piece of information.

“Are you absolutely sure?” Valdus asked.

“Absolutely, Alpha. I was going through the temple record when I found this entry in one of the logbooks. I was deeply saddened upon reading it. I also verified the log-book information with Princess’ birth documents.”

“My Soul,” Valdus lamented, “I wish I found her. I would’ve kept her like a Princess.”

“Alpha, one must not question the workings of the universe. The Jungles outside the Royal Pack are very dangerous. They are not meant for our Queen, she is like a little rose petal that needs gentle tending. The Moon Goddess’ temple provided her with it,” Carmichael said.

“And while Mother Evanora is our enemy but our Queen doesn’t see the woman in the same light. I don’t want to say this and excuse my bold statement, my King but the Queen may be persuaded to leak our internal matters to our enemies.”

Valdus gritted his teeth, at this moment he wanted to rip Valerio’s head off his body. But there was an ounce of truth in his statement. There was a chance that his beautiful Soul Mate might just leak every fact of the kingdom to Mother Evanora.

“I will have a word with the Queen,” Valdus said, “did you find her prayer beads?”

“I did, Alpha,” Valerio whispered and procured a string of beads from his pocket and placed it in Valdus’ palm.

Valdus could feel the pure energy radiating through the beads. It was made of opals, quartz and moonstones. There was calming energy in the beads, and Valdus felt his fury melt. These beads had been activated by years and years of prayers by his beloved Rosebud. She had filled them up with so much purity that it now held those same energies.

Valdus walked upstairs to Rosebud. She would be so happy to see them.

But when Valdus finally came on the stair landing, he found her sleeping. Soft snores escaped her lips. A smile came on his lips. He sat down beside her sleeping body and gently held her hand in his. Her pale pink nails were well-manicured, and her dainty little hand looked so fragile and breakable in his. What did the Gods think when they paired the two?

“My Soul,” Valdus whispered.

He didn’t want to wake her up. He wanted her to sleep to her heart’s satisfaction. But Valdus was excited, he wanted to give her the prayer beads.

“My sweet Rosebud, wake up,” Valdus gently coaxed her.

“Is she sleeping, Alpha?” Valerio called out from the floor below.

“She is,” Valdus muttered.

“It has to be the dungeon. God, even I felt chilly when I went there today,” Valerio commented, “our Queen doesn’t have a werewolf’s ability to stay warm even in colder climates. I don’t think she slept properly.”

Valerio was right again. Valdus observed Rosebud. There were shadows under her eyes. They were definitely from the emotionally and physically draining day she had yesterday. While it was a day of happiness and joy for Valdus, Rosebud’s life had been snatched away from her hands. She was pushed into a world where a brutal king ruled. The king was mated too. An ugly and cruel king.

“Rosebud,” Valdus’ voice was stern.

Rosebud’s eyes fluttered open, she immediately sat up. Valdus realised it was because of him. The fear wafted from her body in huge waves. Valdus squeezed her hand in a comforting motion. Her cheeks were flaming red.

“I didn’t mean to sleep,” Rosebud whispered, “I am so sorry, Your Highness.”

“That’s alright,”

Rosebud still looked apologetic. Valdus gently cupped her cheeks, she looked up at him.

“Rosebud, it is alright. You don’t have to apologise. A Queen never apologises.”

“I a-am not a Queen yet,” Rosebud mumbled.

“Very soon, my Soul,” Valdus whispered.

Rosebud gave Valdus a hesitant smile.

“Would you like to visit the palace gardens? We have beautiful rabbits, doves, little puppies and squirrels. I am sure you will feel better, the fresh air will definitely revitalise you,” Valdus offered.

“I would really like that,” Rosebud said.

“I will ask the maids to get your coat, and then we’ll be off.”

***

Valdus sat on the marble bench and stared at his Soul Mate. Rosebud looked so beautiful. She stood standing by herself, examining a bush of flowers. It was as if she were having a conversation with the flowers, the buds and the leaves. Valdus didn’t know if it was because of his Mate, but the garden seemed to be blooming with full strength. All the animals had stepped out of their hiding, not afraid of the big bad wolf amongst them. They were, instead, attracted to the energy of the alluring and enchanting nymph amongst them.

A little puppy took a hesitant step towards Rosebud, Valdus could sense its apprehension. The little dog’s eyes were wide with fear yet alive with the idea of exploration. The puppy wanted to bask in Rosebud’s pure energy. Rosebud looked up from the bushes and turned to the puppy.

Their expressions mirrored one another.

Rosebud too looked frightened. But Valdus could see that her hands itched to play with the dog. She took a small step towards him, her lip between her teeth.

“You can pick the pup, Queen,” Valdus gently encouraged her, “he is very innocent.”

“Oh… I….” Rosebud trailed off. She looked even more apprehensive than before.

Valdus grinned and shook his head. He got up from his bench and walked to the frightened pup. The little dog, obviously petrified of the Alpha Wolf, tried to flee but Valdus picked him by its scruff. The dog now dangled in the air, whining. Valdus turned to Rosebud.

“I told you, he wouldn’t do anything,” Valdus grinned.

But Valdus’ grin dropped when he saw Rosebud’s expression. Her face was flushed with great worry and fright. She fought to stop her tears from rolling down the cheeks. The little pup continued to whine.

“What happened?” Valdus asked.

“P-Please don’t hold him like that,” Rosebud hiccupped, “he is hurting.”

The worry ebbed away, and Valdus took the pup to Rosebud who gathered him in her arms. She placed a small kiss on the pup’s head and caressed its fur. The two looked one with each other.

“Queen, this breed of dog is called a Rottweiler. They are exceptionally loyal to their owners and aggressive in the same amounts to strangers and enemies. The pup has taken an obvious liking towards you, I want you to keep him with you at all times. We are wolves, much powerful than a dog. But we need loyal members around you. Someone who will die protecting you.”

Rosebud gasped.

“Don’t be shocked, my Soul. Every person in this realm is loyal to you. I am loyal to you. I will die protecting you.”

“I don’t d-deserve this,” Rosebud whispered, “I don’t deserve any of this.”

“You do, my Queen. You deserve this and so much more.”

Rosebud wiped a rogue tear.

“My Queen, where do your loyalties lie?” Valdus asked.

“With the kingdom,” Rosebud whispered.

“Do you know what that means?”

Rosebud didn’t say anything.

“My Queen, any matter of the state should be kept to you and only you. Anyone who doesn’t belong to this realm or is an enemy of the realm, you will not tell them anything. You are keeping the location of Mother Evanora to yourself, and I don’t like that. But I understand and respect your reasons. However, I need you to promise me something,”

Rosebud looked up at him, eyes shy and hesitant.

“Promise me that you will never tell any information to anyone without my permission. Especially a witch. Promise me, my Queen.”

Rosebud gasped.

“You have certain loyalties as a Mate and a Queen. This is one of them. I want you to promise me this, my Queen.”

Rosebud stepped forward. Valdus extended his palm towards her. He trusted Rosebud. He knew that being a pure witch, it was in her character to be loyal and righteous. She would never break her word. She placed her palm on top of his, the pup rested in the crook of her arm.

“Under the watchful eye of the Moon Goddess above and Lupus Magus below,” Rosebud said in her soft melodic voice, “I promise my Soulmate and King, that I will always be loyal to him as a Mate and as a Queen. I will never reveal or divulge anything that might put our realm in danger. I will always take his counsel before arriving on a decision. Only my Soul Mate, Alpha King Valdus Maynard Magnar can relieve me of this vow and promise.”

Valdus could feel the energy exchange between the two of them. The hair stood raised on his body. He could feel his heart beating louder, his blood pumping faster and then suddenly everything calmed down. A serenity engulfed him.

It was the power of the vow.

Rosebud’s vow was so pure and powerful. It was unadulterated. It was clear. She meant each and every word. Valdus was proud. He gently pulled her to him and walked her to the bench. They sat down. Valdus turned her palm upwards and placed her prayer beads in her hand. Rosebud gasped and looked at him.

“Thank you so much, your Majesty,” Rosebud whispered.

“Now, what name would you give to your new guard?” Valdus asked.

Rosebud bit her lip, lost in thought. Valdus took this opportunity to shift closer to her, he wrapped his strong arm around her tiny waist. Rosebud didn’t seem to notice. A wicked smile spread across his lips, and Valdus took even more liberty and placed a small kiss on her soft skin. She smelled divine.

Rosebud gasped and got up.

“My King….” Rosebud sputtered.

“Yes, My Queen,” Valdus commented.

“W-What were you doing?”

“Kissing you,” Valdus said boldly.

His beautiful Soulmate looked so appalled by the word. She tried to look everywhere except him.

“You like getting kissed, Rosebud?” Valdus asked.

“No,” Rosebud whispered.

“But your blushing face says something else,” Valdus teased.

Rosebud didn’t like getting teased. She ran away. The little pup followed her. Valdus followed her. He had an adoring smile on his face, Rosebud made him happy. There was a warm feeling in his chest, one he hadn’t felt in a very long time.

Valdus followed her into the hallways. The pillars and the walls were in ruins. The past few days flashed in front of his eyes, they were enough to turn his mood dark and brooding.

“Rosebud.” Valdus’ voice reverberated across the hallway. Rosebud stopped and turned around. The little pup turned in Valdus’ direction too. Valdus’ expression had grown stern. “I hope you understand what being the Queen entails. Unlike certain fairy tales, the Queens in our realm actually works and contributes. Being an emperor or an empress isn’t only about going on wars. The realm needs attention too. We have a lot of departments. Agriculture, commerce, finance, industries, exports and imports, homeland security, external affairs, judiciary, and so many more. Each of these departments is important, and there are a lot of meetings.”

“I understand,”

“I hope you do. You will be attending the meetings organised by these departments. An integral part of the decision-making process. Most of the times, I might not be present. You will be in charge then. I will have Valerio find you an assistant, someone who can prepare your schedules and make sure you are up to date.”

Rosebud looked nervous. Valdus sighed. His Queen was capable but unprepared. This was a drastic change for her.

“My Queen, every ruler, faces the same predicament as you. I suggest you go to the library and read books on governance and ruling. Learn about our realm. Read the census reports. Understand the problems. Tonight, during our dinner, I would like to discuss and get to know your views.”

Valdus didn’t want his Queen to work at all. But her position demanded that. He took her hand in his and walked her towards the library.

“The best way to be prepared is to be overprepared. Read and soak up everything. Be observant, look around and understand. Don’t ever be completely dependent on one person’s ideologies, instead, question them. Don’t just follow traditions, understand them, what is their relevance? Do we need them? Keep asking questions and keep answering them.”

When Rosebud didn’t say anything, Valdus wrapped his arm around her thighs and picked her up. Her heart was beating at an abnormal rate. Valdus knew she was fearful. Rosebud was a meek creature. That’s who she was, and Valdus accepted and appreciated that. They were opposites and complemented each other well.

Valdus entered the large library. There was an entire wing given to the library, it stretched across four floors and had every important book stacked in its shelves. Valdus’ father always emphasised on educating oneself. The former King spent hours each day in the library. Somehow, understanding the perspective of various learned men gave him the insight needed for a particular matter.

Valdus, gratefully, picked that habit from his father. He placed Rosebud on a spacious leather couch by the fireplace.

“Have you thought of a name for the dog?” Valdus asked.

“Tiger,” Rosebud whispered, shyly looking down at the embroidery on her gown.

Tiger yelped in delight, finding a snug and comfortable place by Princess Rosebud’s feet. A small smile appeared on her lips.

“My Queen, will I see you prepared when meeting for Dinner?”

Rosebud nodded.

“Can you please use your words?”

“Yes, your Majesty. I will be prepared,” Rosebud said.

“Good. I will leave you to the books. There is a librarian here, he will help you out. I need to be elsewhere.” Valdus got up and placed a small kiss on her forehead and walked out of the library.

Valdus heard the sound of the shackles grazing against the wooden floor of the library. The guilt came rushing to him. Rosebud shouldn’t be in chains, but her loyalty was fierce, and he knew she would never reveal Evanora’s location. Even if it meant living in the dungeon forever.

Valdus had made a grave mistake. How would he no get Rosebud from the dungeon to their chambers? How would he take the shackles off her without going back on his words?

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