Crucible Vows

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Chapter 26

Things made more sense to me when I found out that Elora was actually Meira, the Princess of Nythstaesi. Her urgency to get to Alovia. How she acted refined in practically every situation. Her education and understanding of certain topics. It made sense. That didn’t mean it hurt less when I learned the truth. I understood why she hid the truth. I truly did. But I did feel betrayed in a way. Was the woman I had spent so much time with the same person who was going to be Queen of a country? Did I even know her as well as I thought?

I stood outside her door, ready to escort her to the dining room for supper. I was to be her personal guard during her time in Alovia. I didn’t know what would happen when it was time for her to return to her Kingdom. My emotions were so mixed that I didn’t know if I wanted to stay close to her or watch her go. Taking in a breath, I raised my hand and knocked on the large wooden door.

It took only a moment for a maid to come and open the door. She bowed her head and moved to the side for me to enter. Most of the activity was over by the vanity. I froze in place when I saw the Princess in an elegant gown, having her short hair made up into a style that highlighted her face. I thought she was gorgeous in the gowns my mother provided her. But what she was wearing then made her look heavenly. It was easy to tell she was a Princess. And I was a lowly disgraced Knight.

An ache came to my chest as I saw her. An ache that felt like reality setting in. Any possibility of something between us had been shattered the moment we arrived in Alovia. Truth be told, I had hoped that going to Alovia meant safety for the both of us to have a normal life. And I did hope that it would have been together. But that was no longer a possibility. She needed to return to Nythstaesi, and I wouldn’t be welcomed by her people. And what hope did a disgraced Knight son of a Baron have with a Princess of an entire Kingdom?

“Luna.” Her voice cut through my thoughts as she stood up and looked at me.

“His Majesty has asked that I escort Your Highness to the dining hall.” I spoke formally.

She mouthed an ‘oh’ while nodding her head and looking to the ground. As much as I wanted to provide her with the comfort I had given during our whole journey, I had to remind myself that I had to treat her differently. I knew she was a Princess, and I had to show her the respect that title deserved. I moved to the side of the door and indicated for her to go first. I would follow behind.

Princess Meira walked past me while slightly holding up her full skirts. I bowed as she passed before following behind her a few steps. My duty as a guard meant that I didn’t socialize with her. As much as I missed talking to Elora, that wasn’t who the Elf in front of me was. Elora would never return, only the remnant of her who turned out to be someone highly out of my league.

“Luna,” the Princess suddenly stopped walking and turned towards me. “You have to know that I didn’t want you to find out this way.”

“Your Highness.” I tried to stop her.

“There were so many times I was going to tell you the truth.” She continued. “But we kept getting interrupted, or the time wasn’t right. You have to believe me.”

I clenched my jaw. “I do, Your Highness. I truly do believe you were going to tell me.”

A flash a pain came to her expression when I called her ‘Your Highness.’ Her hands began to tremble, and it took all the strength in my body to hold back and not run over and grab them. She visibly gulped down a hard swallow and stared at the ground between us. Though the gap between us was fairly small, it felt as though it was a vast canyon that separated us. I didn’t hate her for not telling me. I understood why she didn’t. But I was feeling betrayed as well as I became well aware of our differing status’s that prevented me from doing anything that would impugn her honor.

“Is that all I am now?” Her voice sounded hurt, like she was holding back tears. “Am I just a Princess to you now? Will you no longer call me by my name?”

I took in a silent shaky breath. “The name I knew you by is not your true name. I have no right to call you by anything other than your title.”

“You know I don’t care about titles and status, Luna.” She challenged.

I remained motionless. “I do, but there are people around you who do care about titles and status. I must show you the respect your title requires. It is my duty.”

She reached up and grabbed my helmet. Naturally, my arms flinched as I was about to grab her hands and stop her, but I forced myself to keep them down to my sides. The Princess pulled off my helmet and moved it to the side. She stared into my eyes, trying to find something in them that I was trying to hide. Dark eyes met vibrant purple and I tried to keep an emotionless face.

“I don’t like this, Luna.” Princess Meira stated. “I us to go back to how it was before we got to Alovia. I don’t like being this distant with you.”

I stared down at her for a moment. “I do too. But things have changed, and I have my duty to protect the Princess of Nythstaesi.”

“Forget your duty!” She suddenly shouted, causing me to jump. “What do you want, Luna? Truly?”

Her sudden outburst caused me to pause and think for a moment. What did I want? I wanted her. But I couldn’t tell her that. She had a responsibility to her people. And I didn’t deserve her. She deserved all the best in the world. She was a kind, wise, and helpful royal who wanted to make sure that her people were cared for. Though she spent so much time recently focusing on surviving, she also spent much of that time caring for her enemies.

“Your Highness,” I began. “As much as I want things to go back to the way they were, it’s not possible. You have to focus on your future and the needs of your people. I shouldn’t distract you from that. But while you are here, I will always be close by to protect you. But I need some time to think about our situation before I decide to do anything else.”

She didn’t seem satisfied with my answer, but she didn’t push anymore. Holding up my helmet to me, I took it from her hands and placed it back on my head. She turned and began to walk back to the dining hall. Once we arrived, I stopped and remained outside of the room, guarding the doorway while she was greeted by King Darien. I kept an ear on their conversation, but it was mainly small talk. Though it was soothing to hear her voice. Soothing, but I still felt the ache in my chest. All I could do was just enjoy the time I had left with her before she was gone.

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