Crucible Vows

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Chapter 29

He loved me. He loved me. My heart was soaring at those words, and I still felt his kiss on my lips. My head was in the clouds and I couldn’t remember returning to the room I was staying in. Two of my Knights stood guard outside the door while Arlen was in the room with me. I sat in a chair next to the window while he paced around.

“I can’t believe you let him do that.” His voice was filled with anger. “You’re a Princess that is meant to rule a nation! He is an enemy to our Kingdom.”

“What does that matter?” My head cleared out of its daydream and I looked to my friend. “He protected me during my time in Obrenor. He even went against orders from his King to make sure that I would get here.”

“Your Highness.” He bowed his head. “I feel that your time away from your title has clouded your mind. You need to prepare to lead a country to strengthen itself again after such a brutal attack. I have an idea that would benefit our country immensely.”

My eyes narrowed at him. “What are you talking about?”

“We need to build up our army again.” He began. “And I have some ideas that would make us a powerful Kingdom that no other Kingdom would dare to attack us.”

My eyes widened. “Army? What? Arlen, this doesn’t make sense.”

He clenched his jaw. “It makes perfect sense, Meira!”

I jumped at his outburst.

“I know the flaws that have cost us our Kingdom. I know how to fix them, and how to make Nythstaesi the strongest army available.” He explained with a sickening smile. “Every family will provide one child to be trained into a soldier. Their lives will be devoted to protecting the crown and the country. With that many soldiers, we will have an army larger than even the one of Alovia.”

The way he was talking sounded like he was wanting more than just to be in charge of the military forces of my home. I stared at him in shock as he walked over and took a knee in front of me. He grabbed my hand. Though he wanted it to be a kind gesture, his grip was harsh and painful.

“Give me that permission, Meira.” He stared into my eyes with an emotion I didn’t like. “Let me guide our people to a strong and safe future.”

That’s what he wanted. I took in a sharp breath. “You want to be King?”

“Yes!” He jumped to his feet with his hands in the air.. “I know that I can bring greatness to our Kingdom. You just have to marry me, and I can make it happen.”

“This doesn’t sound like you, Arlen. You’ve never shown interest in leadership positions, or the mass of the army, or the flaws of how things were setup.” I argued.

His arms dropped, and he looked at me with a look of distaste. “People change, Princess. Your entire time in Obrenor, you lived in comfort with an enemy that managed to gain feelings for you. I commend you for that. Tricking him into helping you like that. But I was still in Nythstaesi. Protecting our people who were dying and being killed by that same Kingdom you enjoyed. My friends and family died in my arms while you slept in a warm bed. I knew that if I could bring you back, I had to take the opportunity to make the changes necessary for our Kingdom to not only survive but thrive.”

Rage filled my being, and I stood to my feet. “You have so many inaccuracies in your story, Arlen. Don’t forget you were the one who told me to run away to Alovia. The only way I could go was through Obrenor. And I did not live a life of luxury like you thought. I was constantly exhausted being on my guard and trying to survive. There were so many people that attacked me and tried to have me murdered because my ears were pointed. I only received real kindness from three people there. A kind elderly couple whose business was burned to the ground by people who wanted me dead. And Luna. Any other kindness I got was because I hid I was an elf.”

“Don’t talk about that human!” Arlen countered.

“He has done nothing to you!” I replied. “In fact, you should feel grateful that he was willing to help me get here. I owe him my life, countless times over.”

“The virtues of one human does not wash away all the acts of tyranny on our people that millions of others have inflicted on us.” He towered over me with a harsh glare I had never received from him.

He’s acting just like King Rory. Generalizing all humans to be the cause of the actions of a few. I thought to myself.

“Let me making this clear, Your Highness.” He emphasized my title as a form of sarcasm. “We are leaving before daybreak. Your precious Knight will not know about us leaving. And I will promise you this. If he comes after us and follows us. I will see to it that he arrives to Sobin’s realm before you even have a chance to speak to him.”

The breath in my lungs froze. “You can’t do that. I won’t allow you to.”

“I am what is best for our Kingdom. You best accept it.” Arlen argued. “I will treat you well if you do your duties as my Queen.”

He began to make his way out of the room and I remained where I stood. He grabbed the door handle and paused for only a moment before glancing back at me. The man I was looking at was no longer the friend I knew and cherished during my youth. The man who was standing before me was someone changed by grief. And the only way he saw relief was to repeat the actions of the man who first condemned us.

“Stay in your room.” He demanded. “And don’t speak to that Obrenor human again. If I learn that you two met, I can promise he will be dead come sunrise.”

He left the room, and I was alone. During my entire time in Obrenor, I had a constant feeling of fear in my chest. But it did not compare to the fear that I experienced in that room. I couldn’t speak to Luna. I couldn’t do anything to protect him other than do what Arlen had asked. I wanted to fight. I wanted to run. But I remembered the words Luna had once said to me. I had a responsibility to my people, and I had to do my duty. I was determined to do one thing though. I would follow what Arlen wanted, to a point. When I had the opportunity, I would fight back and make sure that my Kingdom would remain the peaceful beacon it had always been.

I slumped back into my chair as I thought about Luna. A feeling of loneliness filled my chest. I couldn’t tell him anything for the moment. I couldn’t leave a message. In order for him to be safe, for the time being, I had to leave him behind. And I hoped that in the future, I’d be able to explain things to him and share the feelings I had for him as well.

And so, like Arlen wanted. We left early in the morning several hours before sunrise. As we made our way to the docks, I had to look back to the castle where Luna remained. Thinking back to all the moments we had together that built our bond. After all that had happened, he was home to me. I felt safe with him. I felt welcomed and wanted. And I had to leave for his protection. But I prayed that I would see him again. And strangely enough, that prayer was directed to Romos.

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