I dreaded this day to come.
Looking back now, I realize my attempts to prevent it, or possibly, delay it were futile. His Majesty Aldric is not an easy person to fool, and a lady with knowledge such as mine should have noticed that from the beginning.
His golden, reptilian eyes bore into my chest and my breathing became ragged. My eyes widened slowly, and I realized how ugly I must look compared to other women of the court. Yet...why me? What did I have that Aldric wanted to bady to possess?
Maybe he just needed pleasure? Certainly he would know not to come to a lady such as myself for such chivalrous acts. Besides, I am half his age! I would not dare to inflict myself on a King, much less a very old king.
Actually, I take it back. Aldric is not very old. He is only forty, but has been married a total of five times! Each ending after the wife or mistress was impacted with his child. To this day, I wonder exactly how many children King Aldric has.
I shuffled anxiously on my feet, praying that someone, anyone, would walk through those ugly, cage like brown doors and save me from a fate I do not want to accept. If not, I may have no choice, and I do not want to be forced to play my rook when I want to play my bishop.
But who would want to visit a theif’s daughter locked in her cell? For a crime she did not commit, might I add.
“Well”? Aldric growled. His golden tooth sparkled threateningly in the dark cell and I flinched. I did not like the dark. Quite the contrary. I despise it!
“Well what”? I breathed softly, afraid to let him hear to squeak in my voice, the slight tremble in my body as he moved closer. In the light, he reminded me of my father.
Or, what was left of my father.
Aldric had the same murky brown hair like my father. He had the same chocolate brown skin and vibrant golden eyes. He wasn’t as slim as my father, however. He was a bit more on the chub side, though that didn’t seem to bother him. He had a missing tooth from the last time he tried this stunt with me, and soon after he got the ugliest replacement tooth I had ever seen. He tried for a smile again, but I could see the danger lurking behind it. My breathing became shallow and I gulped.
“You can keep denying it Princess, but one day you will say yes, and that day will be today” he said again. I tried for a brave face, but I knew he could see though me.
“I’m not your Princess” I snapped “And I never will be”. I pushed myself deeper into the cell, hoping that the wall behind me would swallow me whole, away from this evil man’s gaze.
Aldric sneered and kept his position of kneeling in front of me. The box resting between the cave of his palms remained open and I refused the meet the eye of the sparkling jewel.
“Do you know what exactly you are refusing girl? This is an opportunity many women in my kingdom crave to receive. And you have done nothing to me except be a pain in my side, yet I still fall on my knees for you, begging for you. I crave you”. He said in such an animalistic manner that my stomach churned and I turned away again, rubbing the back of my head against the dirt wall.
“You have done nothing to prove yourself worthy of my hand” I whispered harshly. I grit my teeth and glared at him, some of my old courage returning to me. Years of being held in this cell caused me to become tempermatic, yet it also caused me to retreat into my shell more than once. Aldric raised an eyebrow.
“What worth do you wish to witness? What is it that you desire to see in me, in any man”? He asked, his voice as soft as honey. I knew this voice too well. His sweet, tantalizing voice that he thought could woo any woman.
“I desire to see a tad bit of regret for previous actions” I bit out. Aldric’s smile faltered slightly and I saw a flash of anger before he masked it again, his golden eyes continuing to bore into my skin. It was like he was undressing me with his eyes, cloth by cloth until I was left bare before him.
“Regret? Is that all you...desire for a man”? Aldric leaned closer, his sour, wine breath splaying on my face. I didn’t try to hide the disdain at his smell.
“Well, a good smelling one would be nice too” I mumbled. Aldric glanced sharply at me.
“Nothing”! I raised my hands up in defense and he narrowed his eyes.
“What...else”? I asked. Aldric sighed.
“I’m starting to wonder why I keep chasing after you” he snarled “What else do you wish to see in a man? Wealth? Fame? Power”?
“Love” I whispered, hoping Aldric had ear wax in his ears. He had always voiced his obvious distaste of love, or anything romantic for the matter. From what I’ve heard, even making love with him is all roughness and no romance.
I still wonder why women agree to sleep with him. Then, after they are left with their “burden”, they accuse him of forcing them to sleep with him!
“Love”? Aldric’s voice grew soft, but I could hear the danger behind it. I shrunk away and watched as he took the ring out of the box, rolling it gently between his fingers.
“I am a man of many things” he began slowly and I resisted the urge to groan. Is he seriously going to start monologuing, again?
“A man of greed”? I huffed quietly. Aldric frowned, then leaned in and pinched my cheek roughly.
“Ow”! I yanked away from his grasp and glared at him. “Do you think that’s gonna make me want to marry you”?
“I could pinch you elsewhere if you’d led me” Aldric said, a devilish, almost evil, smirk crossing his features. I scoffed.
“Don’t get too excited”. I felt some of my old sarcastic behavior coming to life inside of me, but Aldric shut me down with a stern glare and a slap on the cheek.
“Don’t get smart with me Princess. I could punish you in a much harsher way than I have planned” he threatened. I gulped and nodded.
“Yes...your Majesty” I said, my teeth biting my tongue as I spoke. Aldric smiled, though it wasn’t a warm smile. It was hostile and full of warning: Mess up, and my innocence won’t be the only thing he takes.
“Good” Aldric stood from the musty cobblestone floor and brushed his silk pants. He leaned down and tapped me on the cheek. “Be ready. Our wedding is tonight”. I gaped at him and it seemed that he expected that reaction.
“W-What”? I asked, my voice shaking. I retched away from him as if he’d just burned me and scrambled to the farthest corner of my cell. Aldric laughed coldly.
“Should I get you a new set of ears as my wedding gift? We’re being married! Tonight”! He licked his bottom lip and raved his eyes over me “I expect my wives to be very obedient”. I flinched and he cackled.
“Just like that” he mused. He curled his fingers in front of his face and I clenched my jaw, handing him my left hand. He smiled and slipped the ridiculously oversized jewel on my finger. I could feel my hand drop heavily when he let go. The jewels on the band of the ring rubbed me in all th wrong ways. Like this was his mark of possession, of territory.
“Do you like it”? Aldric asked. I studied the ring. There wasn’t too much about it, but nothing made it very special. I felt like I was just a rebound, or maybe even a temporary replacement for the true owner of the ring.
The diamond stuck in the middle was too large. It was practically the size of my thumb! It sparkled in the heavy sunlight dripping from my cell window and I blinked. I was still trying to comprehend all of this, and the ring Aldric had forced on my hand was no different.
Little specs of other jewels such as rubies or emeralds circled the band of the ring, looking so disgustingly childish I wanted to smash it against the wall right behind me. This ring just wasn’t...me!
“Do you want a truthful answer or the fake one”? I asked, twisting the itchy band around my finger, seeing if once he left I could throw it away.
Aldric placed a hand on mine, stopping my movements and causing my eyes to look up at him. In truth, I was terrified of Aldric. Of his every movement, of his every word. But I couldn’t let him know that. As my Mother always said, fear is second worst to hesitation.
“Before you answer” he drawled “Perhaps I should tell you a story? No”? I glared at him.
“If you’re going to repeat my mother’s story, then I’d rather you not” I snapped. Aldric nodded and smiled again, tipping my chin up and forcing his nail into the plush skin at my chin.
“Ah”! I cried, trying to free myself from his wicked grasp. Aldric cackled and shoved me back against the wall. I gasped and slid to the ground. I felt hot liquid gush on my hair and trickle down my neck and I winced. Aldric clicked his tongue.
“Now look” he said “you’ve hurt yourself”. He grabbed my hands and pinned them above my head, forcing my face to look nowhere but to him. His eyes scoureged me uncomfortably and I squirmed under his gaze.
“What”? I asked. “Aren’t you done? Have you not have your fill of me”? My voice came out in a silent plea and Aldric scoffed.
“I am wondering the same thing myself” he admitted “how is it-what is it that makes me want to make you mine? You are nothing but a pirate’s daughter”!
“Something that I’m proud of. At least my father was loyal and had brains. Until you killed him”! I spat. Aldric patted my cheek a few times...then slapped me. Hard.
“Ow”! I reeled away from him and he cackled again.
“I’ll see you tonight. A groom is never allowed to see his bride before the wedding” he said. I rolled my eyes.
̈Oh, so now you’re being nice”, I hissed. Aldric leveled me with a sharp glare and I scowled at him.
̈ ̈That doesn’t work with me, no matter how much you wish it did¨, I snapped. H spit in my face and sneered as he left the cell.
“Stupid pirate.” I heard him grumble under his breath. The cell doors slammed with a deafening crack and I flinched.
“Stupid king, I think he means,” I mumbled. I struggled to move my hands with my chains and I growled in frustration.
I never really understood where Aldric got his infatuation for me from. It happened so suddenly. After Dad was killed and I was thrown into the prisons, Aldric just came to visit me one day. I thought he would set me free, since I technically didn’t do anything wrong. Sure, my Dad was a pirate, but I didn’t have anything to do with his piracy. I was just his daughter!
Aldric didn’t visit me until about a week after we’d met. A week after I’d been thrown into the cells and sentenced to life in prison. I was wary of him. Hell, I was wary about all men. But something about Aldric just made him seem more...animalistic. He immediately proclaimed that I was to be his bride. Me?! A twenty year old girl! Marry a forty year old man? In his dreams!
Ever since that day, Aldric’s always made sure to visit me. He’s tried to rape me a couple of times, but I always manage to kick him. Anywhere. It doesn’t matter. Then he’ll either mock me or slap me. My days are literally rinse and repeat when it comes to Aldric.
A small rattle brought my head up. I searched the room violently, fear brewing in my stomach. Chained to the ground, I couldn’t really do much, so I hoped whoever was coming had no intention to hurt me. I blew my ratty black hair out of my face, hoping to catch a glimpse of the person.
A dark shadow filled the expanse of my cell window. I couldn’t get a good look at the face, but I did see a large hat with what seemed to be a feather above it.
A pirate I thought. I prayed for him or her to notice me, but just as quickly as they came, they left with a slight huff. I couldn’t help but pout. I had hoped whoever it was would help me, since my Dad knew many pirates and had many allies.
Soon after the pirate had left, two of King Aldric’s concubines, Allie and Morgana came into my cell. They carried a silk wedding dress that was so thin I’d bet Aldric was making this a private wedding. They held the jewelry I was to wear the the chalky powder I was supposed to decorate my face with. I didn’t struggle as they fitted me into the dress. They were just as much prisoners here as they were in Aldric’s bedroom. Everything was done in his way, or no way. That’s just the way Aldric was. It was his game, and we were his pawns.
Morgana eyed me with pity. She fixed the hem on the bottom of my dress and sighed heavily. I squirmed on my toes, anxious to find a way to escape. The dress was too long, too thick. My feet were hidden under the layers of drapes and petticoats that were a blinding white and gold. The heavy, expensive jewelry was hanged delicately along my neck and arms. My head and waist. My legs and feet. Any skin for Aldric to claim. I shivered at the thought. I’d put up a fight if it meant I was to be Aldric’s, but from my years of wasting away in the cell, my energy had drained.
Now, when I first met Aldric, my attitude was completely different. I was stubborn, headstrong, and maybe a bit arrogant. Perhaps I still am. A trait from my Dad, really.
To me, Aldric was nothing but a thorn in my side, especially after accusing me of treason so many years ago. He’d taken everything away from me by this point! My family! My friends! What more could he want? What more did he want?
“Are you ready?” Somberly, Allie and Morgana stood, surveying their artwork from afar. I grimaced. I knew they could sense that I was upset, and the last time I got upset in Allie and Morgana’s presence...let’s just say it didn’t go well.
“Do you think I’m ready?” I snapped. Allie flinched and I regretted it immediately. Allie and Morgana were the only two women in the palace who weren’t flocking to be the next woman the king slept with, so they got along with me just fine. We had a ton in common, our distaste for the King being a topic of many discussions.
“Sorry Allie!” I apologized quickly. “I’m just...angry! Upset! Nervous! I don’t want to do this! I-I don’t want to be useless!” My voice broke in a hoarse whisper. Morgana licked her lips, a gesture I’d come to understand she’d done whenever she was nervous. Her eyes flickered to Allie’s and Allie nodded, as if some mutual understanding had passed between them. They both gently placed a delicate, bruised hand on my arm, helping me rise from the floor.
“Look here!” Morgana scolded lightly. “Any more moping on the ground child and your dress will soil!” She brushed the dirt and soot hastily from my gown and I had a sudden wish that the fabric had ripped with it. The dreaded dress that would be tucked away in Aldric’s closet for his next bride. I wondered how many women had danced around their rooms in this dress, eager to marry the King of Altellyds.
“Listen Kumari,” Allie began slowly, testing the waters cautiously. Out of the two of them, Allie was definitely the mother I never had. She always tried to understand both sides of the party before coming to a decision. “I know you’re upset, angry even. I understand. He did, after all, murder your father...”
“Public execution,” I grumbled. “The cheapest, most tackiest way to get fame and publicity when it comes to royalty.”
“And fear.” From her spot on the ground, Morgana piped up to correct my sentence. I forced a smile.
“Yes...and fear.” My shoulders sagged again and Allie forced the straight. She tipped my head up and pushed my sloppy bangs out of my light brown skin. I bit my lip.
“But you must try and understand from His Majesty’s point of view. He needs an heir-!′
“And he’s had many!” I clipped harshly. “Many Allie! I know how many wives-how many lovers- Aldric has had! I know how many illegitimate children he conceived! I’m not stupid!” I wiped furiously at my eyes and Morgana nudged Allie, the action forcing her to shut her mouth. Morgana moved closer to me and wiped my eyes gently.
“Shh.” She cooed. “Be strong Kumari! You’ll win this battle! God is always with you, remember that.” I scoffed, sniffling and wiping my nose with my sleeve. I’m sure I saw Morgana’s eye tick.
“If he was with me, then where has he been this whole time? Huh? When my Dad suffered a public execution? Where was he? When my Mom left us-left me! Where was he? And even now! When I’m about to be sold into slavery-!”
“Marriage.” Allie corrected quietly.
“What?” I asked, pausing momentarily in my rant to look in confusion at Allie. She flushed under my gaze and Morgana gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. The gesture drew my eyes to their intertwined hands, but when Allie squeaked again, I brushed any ideas of them together aside.
“You said slavery. I-It’s marriage Kumari. Not slavery,” She explained softly. I snorted and rolled my eyes. My hands flew to my hips and I cocked them to the side in the utmost state of sassiness.
“It’s slavery.” I confirmed “And maybe God was once with me, but maybe the path I took angered him or something. Whatever happened, my fate is for me to decide. Not some random man lounging on a cloud stroking his beard as he contemplates life!” Morgana remained silent, and I grunted in satisfaction. Allie averted her emerald eyes, her gaze sweeping Morgana’s buff frame, then as soon as she caught my hazel gaze, she blushed and looked at the ground.
Silence stood around us for a few moments. I let my heartbeat slow it’s pace down and waited for it to go back to thrumming gently in my chest before I moved again. I stepped carefully off the stone slab I called a bed for so many years and made my way to Morgana and Allie. They stood in the corner of my cell, their body language looking frustrated and tired respectively. Morgana made wild hand gestures and Allie looked like she was going to cry, so I decided it would be a good time to intervene.
“Morgana? Allie?” I lowered my voice to the quiet whisper I had gotten so used to using. Startled, Morgana flinched and spun on her heel to look at me. Allie poked her head from Morgana’s muscled shoulder and worried her lip anxiously. I sighed, not exactly excited about my mushy behavior, but I opened my arms and wrapped them in the best hug I could. I felt Morgana stiffen, probably surprised, but soon, she relaxed and hugged me back. Allie...was much easier to coax into the hug.
“What was the for?” Morgana asked once we broke the hug. I smiled sheepishly.
“An apology for taking my anger out on you,” I joked. My eyes shifted away from their faces and they understood. “And...that I may never see you again-so I just wanted to say you were the best friends I could have ever had in this damned prison and...and I’ll miss you.” I tried not to get too emotional, but with my body controlling itself, I couldn’t stop the tears that fell off my cheeks. They spat and puddled onto the silk of my dress and cleaned the oily foundations and powders in clean streaks from my cheeks. Morgana sighed and ruffled my hair carefully while Allie caught me in a bone crushing hug again. Damn though! For her petite size she’s certainly strong...though maybe not as strong as Morgana.
“We’ll miss you too Miss. Whiny.” Morgana said gruffly and I knew she was trying not to cry either. Allie was already letting the waterworks flow and I knew Aldric wouldn’t be pleased if his expensive dress got soiled, but honestly, Aldric could go touch himself if he wanted to whine about it.
“I’ll miss you guys too.” I murmured. I wiped my eyes and Morgana quickly fixed my make-up while Allie helped fix the dress again. As soon as they were done, a maid who I was sure Aldric was also sleeping with rushed into the room. Her face was red and there was a burning red hand-print on her cheek, but she caught my eyes frantically and bowed in haste.
“Princess,” She breathed “It’s time.”