Roses and Fangs

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[SIX]

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Alpha King Magnar opened his eyes. The dungeon’s stony ceiling stared back at him. He heard whispers and murmurs of women, and he sat up. His eyes went to the corner of the cell and landed on the large basin of water. The maids were helping his Queen take a bath. He could only see the Princess’s back. The water was gently poured over her head.

Rosebud’s beautiful hair was washed with a nourishing concoction aimed at strengthening and glowing. The entire dungeon now smelled of delicious oils and fragrances. It was heavenly.

Suddenly the maids surrounded the basin, obstructing Valdus’ view of Princess Rosebud. A small growl left his lips. They helped Rosebud out of the basin and quickly dried her body and wrapped her up in a silk robe. She was led to the vanity chair and made to sit down. The maids then dispersed, and Rosebud turned to him.

Rosebud’s eyes were slightly swollen, and her cheeks carried her signature blush. Valdus was hit with a spear of guilt, directly plunging his heart. He gulped. The maids dried her hair and applied scented oils before styling it. A beautiful tiara was picked up for her, Valdus remembered it belonging to his mother before she got married. Rosebud looked so beautiful in it. The servants then clipped fresh flowers to her hair and let the rest of the length flow on her back like a waterfall. Valdus was indeed the luckiest man. The wait of over a hundred year was indeed justified, the Gods needed time to create this perfection. A lip stain was applied, giving her bee-stung lips the colour of berries, some blush on her cheeks and her lashes were curled.

One of the older maids turned to him, giving Valdus a motherly smile.

“My King, would you like to choose the Princess’ gown today? The seamstresses of the fairyland have especially created an entire collection for our future Queen.”

Valdus knew this was a gesture of goodwill. The realm of the fairies wanted to be an ally to Valdus. The maid pulled in the dresses and Valdus ran his eyes across them. A baby blue gown with a flowing bodice seemed appropriate. It was encrusted with the most expensive jewels. The maid nodded and pulled it out. They surrounded Rosebud, again obstructing his view and helped her into it. Silver sandals adorned her feet, and finally, the shackles were put back on. The maids moved away, and Valdus stared at her.

“My Soul, you look like the Queen of fairies,” Valdus whispered.

Rosebud looked breathtaking. The maids helped her on her feet and took her to the King. Valdus helped her climb the bed. The maids quickly scurried out of the room, and Valdus pulled Rosebud close to him. He just stared at her.

Rosebud looked divine, perched on a bed in the gorgeous satin gown with a sweetheart neckline giving a hint of her cleavage.

“My Princess,” Valdus whispered to her.

A hiccup left Princess’s lips and a big pearl-like tear trickled down her cheek. Valdus was quick to gather her in his arms and pull her on his lap. He gently wiped away her tear with his callous hands. Rosebud delicately sniffed.

“What is the matter, Princess?”

“I am s-sorry,” Rosebud hiccupped, “I am truly sorry.”

“What for?”

“I didn’t mean to say those hurtful things to you, my King,” Rosebud sobbed, “I am fortunate to have you a-as my soulmate.”

“My silly little Princess, is that why you have swollen eyes? Don’t tell me you were crying because of this.”

“I was,” Rosebud admitted, “I couldn’t sleep at night, after realising the awful things I spouted. I didn’t mean any of them, please forgive me.”

Valdus pressed a gentle kiss on her forehead and looked into her eyes.

“My Princess, you can never upset me. I am not going to forgive you because there is nothing to forgive. You are my soul, Princess. I have the deepest affection and love for you. Now, I don’t want to see you cry.”

But Rosebud didn’t listen. She placed her head on his chest and started to cry. Valdus wrapped his thick and muscular arms around her body. Rosebud was indeed sad, he could feel her energy drop.

Valdus didn’t like that one bit.

“My Soul, where is Tiger?”

“Beta Valerio t-took him for his breakfast,” Rosebud sniffed.

“Now, Rosebud. I want you to stop crying. All is forgiven,”

Rosebud took her sweet time. Soon the sobs turned to distant sniffles and then Rosebud looked up at him. He wiped away the remnants of the tears on her cheek and placed a kiss on her nose. He got off the bed, with Rosebud in his arms and walked out of the dungeon.

“You don’t have to come for the execution today,” Valdus said, “but Rosebud, this is the last time. The moment you become a Queen, you will be asked to partake in all the activities. Is that understood?”

Princess Rosebud nodded, reluctantly. Valdus wiped her face and placed a kiss on her cheek. He wanted to smash his lips against hers, but sweet Rosebud wasn’t ready for it yet.

“What is on your agenda today?” Valdus asked instead.

“Beta Valerio said that I will be interviewing candidates for the post of my advisor and assistant. After which I have an appointment with the seamstresses,”

“I will be there at the interviews. If you wish, I will help you with the process,”

“I will be eternally grateful, my King,”

“I will be there with you as soon as I am done with the execution. There are many things we need to go over, Princess. A lot of work cut out for you.”

***

Valdus stared at the severed head rolling on the ground and the limp body of Elder Waugh. Valdus’ eyes went to the axe in his hand. He didn’t mean to do the execution himself, but the mere sight of the man who betrayed Valdus and his family had the hatred rearing its ugly head. Elder Waugh was a revered part of his kingdom, but the man chose to side with Evanora towards the end. Elder Waugh deserved this gruesome death.

Valdus turned around and closed his eyes. He rolled his shoulders and took the cigarette that Valerio had just offered him. Taking back the responsibilities of a King were proving to be stressful. It was harder than last and time, and with a mate this time it was even more difficult. Valdus’ every living and breathing moment was spent on worrying about Rosebud. She was so fragile. Anyone could pluck her from his palace and have their way. But he was proud of the security. Beta Valerio was personally handling it.

Valdus had rolled his crisp white shirt to his elbows. He wore smart black dress pants with suspenders. Although he looked absolutely terrific, Valdus personally loathed dressing up. But it was one of the things that were necessary. Appearances played a very important role. The treasury even provided the King and the Queen with a significant amount of money for these purposes.

“Is the Princess ready?”

“Princess Rosebud has been patiently waiting for you, Your Highness,” Valerio informed.

“Waiting? God! You should have told me earlier Valerio; I wouldn’t have spent so much time brooding here. Poor Princess. I promised to be with her. I am to advise her to make an appointment for the role of an assistant and advisor.”

“My apologies, your highness,”

“And where is Carmichael?”

“Carmichael is at the solarium. He is studying charts to come up with an auspicious hour for your coronation and marriage.”

“Well, do not disturb him them. I don’t want any calculation mistake; this is a very important matter. Now let us go to the Princess.”

The pup, Tiger, yelped upon seeing Valdus. Valdus crouched down and gave his head a good rub before walking inside. The room was smaller and more intimate than his own office. The Princess sat in her seat, his own beside hers. She was diligently studying the papers before her. Valerio brought Valdus a glass of whisky and pulled a chair out for Valdus.

Rosebud turned to Valdus and offered him her shy smile.

“Did I keep you waiting for too long?” Valdus asked while tucking a stray strand behind Rosebud’s ear.

“No, my King, I was just going through the resumes the candidates forwarded,” Rosebud responded politely.

“And do you have any questions?”

“I d-do,”

“Don’t be shy, my Soul,”

“I didn’t know we had candidates from all the realms.”

“Well, this is a highly prestigious position. And one must choose a candidate that has the best qualities.”

“According to you, who is the perfect candidate?”

“A perfect candidate is one who’ll help you be yourself. Your advisor will not try to change you but simply suggest you the right direction. Your advisor shouldn’t isolate you from the rest of the institute but make you an integral part of it. An advisor and assistant to the Queen will always desire to push forward the betterment of the kingdom.”

“Will advisors indeed try to change me?”

“They will. I know of a few who have, in the past, tried to push forward their own agenda.”

“Who may those be?”

“Mother Evanora.”

Rosebud looked taken aback.

“Mother Evanora was hired as my mother, Queen Yael’s advisor, and we all know what she did. Not only did she corrupt my Mother’s mind, but she also turned my Father’s advisors against the Royal family. Elder Waugh was a good man, once upon a time and the way he died today, that was not how he should have.”

Rosebud looked affronted.

“I think y-you are pushing your hatred for Mother Evanora t-too far. Maybe it was your r-regime that was problematic,” Rosebud quickly whispered.

Valerio held his breath and looked at his King.

“Is that so?” Valdus taunted, “I didn’t know the little witch had it in her to speak with me like that.”

Rosebud blushed furiously but didn’t respond to the taunt. Valdus motioned Valerio to leave. The Beta did so reluctantly, looking at his Queen with worry.

Valdus brought his hand under Rosebud’s chin and turned her face to him. He simply stared at her lowered eyes. His eyes feasted her long and delicate neck and the beautifully shaped collar bones. He intertwined his fingers with hers and pulled her to himself. Valdus buried his face in her neck, inhaling her sweet citrusy scent.

The Lupus Magus had indeed blessed Valdus. He wrapped his thick arms around her dainty waist. He listened to her heart beating wildly against her chest, it was music to his ears.

“My sweet mate,” Valdus whispered in her ear, “don’t you remember reading the reports yesterday? Did it not give you a clear picture of what the regime under your Mother Evanora was like?”

Valdus placed a small kiss on her collar bone, earning him a small, breathy gasp. He looked at her. Rosebud’s eyes were fluttering, and her cheeks were rosy.

“Answer me, Princess,” Valdus egged her on, “don’t let your devotion become blind, my Sweet. Bow down in front of your God and not her false prophet.”

“I h-have always lived a lonely life. I don’t have a f-family to go back to. Mother Evanora is my family. She has taught me everything that I know. How can I hate her?” Rosebud sniffed.

Valdus’ heart broke.

“Mother Evanora to me, is a paragon of virtues. None of her guidance has ever hurt me, she has always protected me like a mother protects a child. She has educated me to be fair and intelligent.”

“And yet, at first sight of danger, your Mother left you and all her loyal followers,” Valdus shot back. He understood her loyalty, but it angered him too. The vicious Evanora was no one but a smart businesswoman and theocrat, forwarding her orthodox and congested agenda.

“I asked her to leave,” Rosebud whispered, “Mother didn’t want to go. But I knew she w-was in danger.”

Valdus’ anger turned to horror, and he looked at Rosebud with utter shock. His eyes were wide, all his previous affections forgotten. His hand untangled itself from hers, and her citrusy scent didn’t seem to enrapture his senses anymore. He met Rosebud’s innocent eyes.

“Oh, you sweet little fool,” Valdus said.

Rosebud flinched.

“How you’ve been brainwashed, Evanora has made a model devotee out of you. You urged her to run away, and you are the one who suggested her a location, didn’t you?”

Rosebud nodded.

“I will prove it to you, I will prove that she had nothing but nefarious intentions towards you. You have no idea what she has done. Do you know, in the court of law, if we contest against Evanora, she can very easily turn all the blame on you? After all, it is you who planned her escape.”

“Mother will never do that, she will protect me. Like I protected her.”

Rosebud’s slight form was shivering, pearly tears glided down her cheeks. Valdus could see how she was lying to herself. The bubble was close to bursting, his beautiful soulmate would be devastated. Evanora was smart. She had used her staunch devotee as a weapon.

“My Rosebud,” Valdus sighed, “I don’t know what to say to that.”

No reassurance from him.

Rosebud wrapped her trembling hand around his bicep and looked at him with eyes full of fear and panic. Valdus cupped her cheek.

“Will you punish me?” Rosebud sobbed, “behead m-me like you beheaded Elder Waugh. I felt i-it, you know, and I was so s-scared. Will you do the same with me?”

“Rosebud, don’t say that!” Valdus said, “you are the Queen.”

“Not yet, and you have to punish me. I have betrayed your Kingdom.”

“Rosebud, I am not the King yet. I still don’t have that authority, we also need to set up a judiciary. Don’t fret, I will find a solution to this predicament.”

Valdus’ words did little to soothe his Princess.

“I did it out of love,” Rosebud sniffed, “I just wanted to protect her. I didn’t do it out of malice.”

“My sweet mate,” Valdus cooed, “I know. You don’t have one malicious bone in your body. I am just angry, your pure love was exploited.”

Valdus placed a soft kiss on her distressed forehead and wiped away her tears. Valdus never knew he was even capable of these soft emotions. He was an angry child and grew up to be an angry young man. Valdus knew fury and rage, those were the emotions he knew and experienced most of the times. Valdus was known to be intimidating and ruthless for a reason.

What would people think if they saw him like this? So soft and sweet. But Valdus just couldn’t get angry in front of Rosebud. She brought out a different side of him. It was all love and tranquillity around Rosebud.

“My Soul, should we start with the interviews?”

Rosebud picked up her notebook and opened it on a fresh page and nodded.

Valdus opened the file and looked at the list of candidates.

“We have four candidates,” Valdus stated, “Is there anyone you are leaning towards?”

“I like Isabella Martin’s candidature,” Rosebud explained, “she was educated at the prestigious University of Supernatural. I know how hard it is to get in. She also has a triple honour in economics, political science and sociology and a Master’s in Public Policy. She had previously worked in the realm of the dragons and very successfully created a budget along with chairing the committee on peace between dragons and pixies. I think she would really help me with all the diplomatic trips that will be planned along with others.”

“I think Isabella is a strong contender, but what do you think of Ramona? She too went to the University of Supernatural. She has a doctorate in psychology and has chaired numerous committees ranging from infant care to rehabilitation. I think with her work with people, she will be in a much better position to truly understand the public. You must have a good rapport with the subjects, Rosebud.”

“I agree, my King,” Rosebud whispered, “why don’t we leave it on the interviews? Let that be a test.”

“Absolutely. But before we start, you said you know how hard it is to get into the University of Supernatural? Did you study there?”

“My Lord,” Rosebud blushed, “you are always listening to my every word.”

“Each word out of your lips is like a drop of honey, how can I ignore that? But answer my question.”

“I was always a studious child, my Lord. I always scored the best and won so many poetry competitions and essay writing competitions. I loved to teach as well and wanted to pursue my interests. Philosophy and Latin literature always called out to me, and I wanted to study them in great detail from the best. I applied to the University of Supernatural, I was very sure of my candidature, I even fasted for a fortnight. Through my standpoint, there wasn’t one reason why I could get rejected, but I did. Mother Evanora personally brought in my rejection letter to me. It was the worst day, all my dreams broken.”

Valdus maintained his compassionate expression, but on the inside, he was seething. His sweet little mate had been fooled once again. The Witch had toyed with Rosebud’s dreams. He had himself studied warfare, economics and business management at the University and held an MKA [Master’s of Kingdom Administration]. He was a top student there and very well connected with its alumnus and teaching staff. In all the years he studied there, and with the knowledge, he had of the place:

The University never sent out rejection letters.

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