Survival of the Rose

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Chapter 8: King in Disguise

Aeon scratched his chin. Max convinced him to shave and he was starting to regret it. His men had looked at him as if he’d grown a second head that morning as he was reviewing the departing preparations with them. He was a big fearsome man, but without his beard he looked younger, much younger than someone of his station. Now he dressed in fine clothes that he was unused to, making him look almost delicate and it quite displeased him. Max stood beside him in equally fine clothes.

“Ready?” he murmured. He looked exhausted. It couldn’t have been easy for him to spend so much time with the Queen, praising her on her looks and finesse day in and day out, while he got to search about the castle and run into the pretty forgotten princess.

“Very,” Aeon replied, “We are almost home, Max.”

“Wait until Mother sees the present you brought her,” Max chuckled quietly.

“Hush now Max,” Aeon hissed, “The Queen is eyeing you.” And indeed she was eyeing him from her thrown. She looked at Aeon with distaste and Max with suspicion. Max flashed her a dashing smile and her face changed to one of approval. Her disgusting rat of a son, Lamont stood next to her throne. He looked very bored. It was all Aeon could do not to march up the stairs to her throne and punch Lamont’s face in. He could still see how pale and dead inside Deanna had looked when he took her back to her room after what he did. The rest of the room was filled with the visiting royals there to court the Queen, invited nobles, and lords and ladies of the court. They were waiting patiently for the large doors of the ballroom to open. Aeon was anxious. She was late. When the doors finally opened, Deanna’s sister, Helena, eldest daughter to the late king, was the first to be seen. She looked terrified as she looked in at the room of expecting nobles, but the blood drained from her face when she set eyes on her mother. She turned back and took the hand of her sister. Deanna had on a pink dress that looked to be as if it might have once belonged to Helena for it did not quite fit her correctly. The sleeves were too long and the skirts dragged a bit too much on the ground. However, the corseted bodice looked to be cinched up as tight as it could go. Her hair was braid and bound atop her head. A veil obscured her face from view so much that Aeon wasn’t even confident that the woman walking down the aisle to him was Deanna, but the way she moved it had to be her. She walked slow though and seemed to lean against her sister as she walked. Her labored breathing was heard throughout the entire ballroom. Was her damned corset so tight that she could not breath?

Deanna kept her head down until she finally reached Aeon. Helena looked at him desperately before handing her off to him. Aeon nodded to her and took Deanna’s hand, giving it a gentle tug to bring her to stand in front of him. Deanna looked up at him finally and gasped. She pushed aside her veil and squinted at him. Aeon immediately noticed the paleness in her face and the dark circles under her eyes.

“Aeon?” she questioned. The Queen loudly cleared her throat. Deanna went ridged and slowly glanced up at her. The Queen glared daggers at her. Deanna pursed her lips nervously and let her veil drop back into place. Aeon fought his urge to explode in anger. He sighed and placed his hand on Deanna’s lower back to turn her towards the holy man that was to marry them. Suddenly Deanna hissed. She snatched his hand away. A wave a rejection crashed over Aeon, but was quickly replaced with concern as she held a death grip on his hand. She relaxed her grip after a moment. The holy man started the ceremony. Deanna didn’t let go of Aeon’s hand. Instead she squeezed it every few moments, squeezing harder and harder each time. She was shaking by the time the part came to exchange vows.

“Do you, Aeon Michael Angelus Christophe Lancaster of Summoner, swear to take this woman to be your wife? Will you care for her and take full responsibility to her life from here until death?” the holy man asked.

“I, Aeon Michael Angelus Christophe Lancaster, do swear,” Aeon replied.

“Do you, Deanna Sarah Richele Harrell of Albarel, swear to stand by this man? Will you follow his law as your husband and keep his home and show him comfort until death?”

“I, Deanna Sarah Richele Harrell, do swear,” Deanna almost whispered.

“I, holy man of this great kingdom Albarel, pronounce you husband and wife.” A small quiet applause sounded. Deanna let out a deep sigh and sagged her shoulders.

“Deanna, what is wrong,” Aeon asked quietly as they both turned to make their way out of the room.

“You didn’t tell me who you were,” Deanna accused as she finally pushed back her veil, but the action cause her face to twist in pain.

“Deanna?” Aeon said sternly.

“I’m okay,” Deanna said avoiding his eyes.

“But when I touched your back earlier,” Aeon questioned as he placed his hand on the same spot as before. Deanna yelped in pain and tears sprung in her eyes. Aeon stopped them from walking and turned her so she faced away from him. He snatched her veil from her head and threw it away from them. The nobles gasped and started murmuring. Aeon could already see small gashes peaking out of the collar of her dress on her neck and shoulders. He noticed small red spots blooming on the back of her pink dress. Aeon snatched the jeweled dagger from his side and sliced it down the back of her dress. Deanna flinched, but did not move from him. He opened her dress just enough for him to get a full view of her back. He could see awful cuts, gashes, and cracks in her skin covered by bloody bandages. Fury stormed inside of him. How could someone damage her skin this much? No wonder she couldn’t stand his touch and no wonder she leaned on her sister so much. Standing through the long ceremony must have been absolute torture.

“Who did this,” Aeon whispered. Did he really need to ask? He looked up at the Queen who only looked nonchalant.

“She was punished for laying with a man,” the Queen smiled.

“I did not,” Deanna whispered pathetically as if she were afraid that Aeon would actually believe the Queen’s lies.

“You,” Aeon pointed to Helena, “Take her and tend to her.” Helena jumped into action and rushed to Deanna’s side. As they walked away the Queen erupted.

“How dare you order my daughter and the princess of Albarel. She does not answer to you,” she snapped. Regardless to her mother’s words, Helena escorted her sister out the same way they came in. The door shut behind them, which cause everyone in the room to immediately start to murmur to their neighbor in curiosity and excitement.

“I will do as I please,” Aeon snapped back, “You have beaten my wife for the last time, Queen of Albarel.”

“You will not speak to the Queen in such away,” Lamont bellowed, putting his hand to the sword that hung on his hip.

“If you draw your sword I swear I will cut down you where you stand,” Aeon said with such venom in his voice that Lamont immediately faltered and dropped his hand away from his sword.

“Who do you think you are,” the Queen screeched, “I can have you executed for making such threats.”

“I am,” Aeon roared, “the king of Summoner!” The room fell deathly quiet. Blood drained from the Queen’s face. Aeon had to admit it was satisfying to final see her facade crack.

“I could start a war between our countries for beating the new queen of Summoner and trust me you would not win,” Aeon threatened.

“K-king?” the Queen stammered. She shot her glare to Max.

“You told me he was a bastard,” she snapped at him. Aeon raised his eyebrows at Max. He knew that the Queen was unaware that he was a king, but he did not know that she thought he a bastard prince.

“I did not say such a thing,” Max shrugged, “I merely said that he and the princess, Deanna, were alike and would make a great match.”

“Go see that my wife and her sister make it to her room, Prince Maxim,” Aeon ordered.

“Yes, your majesty,” Maxim bowed and left the ballroom.

“You and your brother tricked me,” the Queen fumed.

“I cannot deny this,” Aeon stated, “But I came here to remove Deanna from your possession and I did just that. Our business here is done.” Aeon too turned to leave.

“This is not over King of Summoner,” the Queen called.

“I would not make idle threats,” Aeon said, “You will not win in whatever game you should play. It is over. We are leaving.” With that Aeon left the ballroom with a loud slam of the giant doors.

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