Luzena the Mercenary

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Chapter 8 - Thorn in my Side

“How did Shalena react?” Jazer said. “I presume you gave her the box?”

“No, it didn’t feel right,” I said. “It’s not mine to give. I offered her my dagger. But she didn’t take it. She’s very fixated on whatever’s in that box of yours. She said there’s a document she wants.”

“I see,” he said.

“We’re married,” I said. “Why would you feel the need to hide something from me? I’m your bodyguard. If I’m to use my strategic skills to protect you, I need to know all the details.”

Jazer stood up and went over to the bookcase. He rummaged through one shelf and pulled out that box he’d been hiding all this time. He brought it over and sat down by me.

“Here,” he said. “Let’s open it together.”

“All right,” I said. Jazer took out a key and opened the lid of the box. We found two official documents. One was a document establishing Jazer as the crown prince. The second document was addressed to Shalena.

Dear Shalena,

I turn over my kingdom to you upon my death. You are my heir and this certificate is my will. Your inheritance is listed below. Just present this certificate and you will receive your reward. My plan for you is to marry Prince Jazer, the son of Queen Celestria and King Ranulf. Celestria was my older sister, and I ruled the throne after her death.

Sincerely,

Queen Madison

“This letter belongs to Shalena,” I said. “Why did King Jordan have it?”

“I don’t know,” said Jazer.

“Okay,” I said. “So this is what your uncle meant when he said it would change your life. There are two rightful heirs to the throne. Shalena has a claim to the throne, but you have a claim as well.”

“This really messes up any future coronation plans,” Jazer said. “I’m really confused now because my aunt and uncle didn’t have any children. Why would the queen name Shalena as her heir?”

“This really changes things,” I sighed.

“What’s going through your head right now?” Jazer asked.

“I...uh...I feel just like a piece on a Chess board,” I said. “Like a pawn trying to navigate a complex maze.”

*

We met with Shalena in the parlor of the castle.

“I was dismayed to hear that you weren’t going to give me the box,” Shalena said.

“This letter is for you,” Jazer handed it to her. Shalena studied it and smiled.

“I’ve been looking for this for ages,” she said. “Thank you!”

“I don’t know why my uncle had it,” Jazer said.

“Because the queen took this letter to her deathbed. She gave it to your uncle but he thought you should rule instead of me. He didn’t want us to share the inheritance.”

“What was Queen Madison’s plan?” I asked.

“Her plan was for me and Jazer to get married and share the throne,” Shalena said. “I was furious when I found out about your marriage, because it ruined the plan she had for me.”

“Why didn’t you speak out about this earlier?” Jazer asked.

“Because I needed proof first,” she said. “I couldn’t just barge in and propose to you. I’d have been arrested and thrown in the dungeon probably.”

“So what do we do?” I asked. “Jazer is already married...to me.”

“I was angry at first, but then I met you, Luzena, and I liked you,” Shalena continued. “Once I got to know you I realized I didn’t have to fear. We could talk and come to an agreement.”

“You know, it was your threats that led to our marriage,” Jazer said. “This is why Luzena and I got married in the first place.”

“I see it was meant to be,” Shalena said solemnly.

“I heard you’re wealthy. Can’t you buy part of the kingdom?” Jazer asked.

“Why should I pay for something that belongs to me?” Shalena said. She had a point.

“Can’t you both rule the throne?” I asked. “As a team?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” said Jazer. “I don’t know if it can be done.”

“There is another way,” Shalena said. “I understand that you two had a hasty marriage, which probably neither of you wanted. Perhaps you two can break off your marriage. Then Jazer and I can get married and that will solve all our problems.”

My mouth dropped open. I turned to glance at Jazer, then looked at the floor.

“I suppose we need time to think about this,” Jazer glanced at me and then looked down. I was fuming inside. I thought he liked me, but perhaps he’d rather have Shalena. She was a noble, after all. And Jazer didn’t need my protection anymore.

“Shalena, I’ll have the servants prepare a room for you, if you’d prefer to stay in the castle,” Jazer said.

“That’s very kind of you,” Shalena said. “I accept. I’ll need to confront my stepfather sooner or later anyway.” She got up and left the room.

Jazer and I looked at each other, feeling awkward.

“That was a lot to take in. If you’d prefer to sleep in different rooms tonight, I understand,” Jazer said solemnly. “I’ll have the servants prepare another room for you.”

I glared at him. Was he kicking me out already? So eager to marry Shalena, wasn’t he? I went over to him, my jaw clenched, until our faces were a few inches apart.

“What is wrong with you?” I snapped at him.

“I was being courteous,” he said, his eyes wide. I stared at him, shocked. He hadn’t even realized how he had offended me.

“It’s late and we have a lot to think about,” I said, my voice shaking. What was I going to do if he divorced me? I’d be out on the streets. “Let’s talk tomorrow.”

I hurried out of there. I paused just outside the doors and the tears began to flow. I leaned against the wall, trying to gain my composure. A weeping mercenary? That’s unheard of.

Moments later, Jazer stepped out and saw me. I hurriedly wiped my tears away and stared down at my hands.

“We don’t have to talk later, let’s talk now,” Jazer said gently. “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings. I guess I’m new to this whole relationship thing. I should have asked you first. Do you want to stay in our room or do you prefer your own?”

“I want you to stop pushing me away,” my voice shook. “Let’s talk somewhere private.” I was embarrassed to be crying in the hall. What if someone else saw me?

After entering our suite, I sat at the desk and Jazer took the chair nearby.

I looked over at him, my eyes narrowed. Did he want me still? Though I found Shalena to be a favorable character, her suggestions had driven a wedge between us.

“Are you going to marry Shalena?” I was beyond tears now, and my voice was just a whisper.

“That depends,” he said. “What do you prefer?”

There was fury in my eyes as I stood up. “I won’t let you marry Shalena,” I said, drawing my sword out in one, quick motion. Jazer stared with his mouth open, too shocked to say anything, perhaps wondering if his own bodyguard was going to do him in. I would have thought he’d know me better by now.

“That was just for dramatic effect,” I calmly sheathed my sword again, then walked over to the window, looking out into the darkness. “Why did you remain quiet when she mentioned you marrying her?”

“Because I didn’t know what you wanted,” he slowly stood up. “Luzena, do you want this?” he motioned around the suite. “Do you want this castle? I guess what I mean to ask is: do you want me?” He lowered his head and stared at the costly carpet. I walked over to him and put a hand on his shoulder. He looked up slowly and met my eyes, sadness reflected in his face. My rage began to ebb away and I realized that hope had sprung inside me again.

“I don’t want you for your castle, your title, or your inheritance,” I said. “I want you for the kindness you showed to me and that poor girl at the market. This is why I married you in the first place. Because I saw that you were kind to those who were beneath you.”

“You’re not beneath me,” he said, taking my hand and leaning closer. “Nobody is. In fact, you’re going to be queen.”

We kissed each other.

“What will we do about Shalena?” I asked. “It’s her inheritance too.”

“We could rule as joint heirs, as you said,” he said. “All three of us. It’s never been done before, so we’ll be the first.”

“We first have to convince Shalena,” I said. “She seemed very intent on marrying you.”

“I’m taken,” Jazer said with a laugh. “She has to understand that.”

“I’ve got an idea,” I said. “I’ll see you later.” I headed to the door.

“Where are you going?” Jazer asked.

“To take care of the thorn in my side,” I said.

#

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