"Darling we dont need to do this please" the queens voice filtered through penetrating unto the outside of the kings study where I stood outside waiting to gain audience with the king.
"How many times do I have to tell you that we have customs and traditions in the land that must be strictly followed. I understand where you're coming from but we cant just bend the rule to favour us. No! It will make our subjects loose trust in us" The kings voice echoed a bit loud.
"So what do we do now? I'm so confused and scared" She admitted rather softly.
"Why?.... you feel Eridian may select another maiden?"
" Exactly" she concurred.
"Then do what you always do, talk to him and express our concerns and our choice on this issue. Honestly, Eridian and Gemma has grown quite fond of each other".
"And she's a very pretty woman naturally endowed. I've also seen the way Eridian looks at her" she blushed.
"Talk to him then and do it real quick" The king instructed his wife.
Getting tired of waiting to get my fathers audience and not wanting to barge into their discussion, I decided to return back to my chambers having eavesdropped on almost ninety five percent of their conversation.
One might be wondering who the hell is Eridian they're seriously talking about? Well that's me - Troy Eridian Vernadoz, the crowned prince.
I went back to my chambers feeling very uncomfortable and uneasy about the whole information I just heard. What made them think I was physically and sexually attracted to Gemma? Yes she has grown into a very beautiful woman all round but to me she will always remain a friend and nothing more.
As I tried to distract my thoughts from the whole selection ceremony that was coming up because that has clearly been the only subject of discussion within the palace of late and i was getting bored and tired of it all.
Right now, the world was waiting and watching to see who the prince will pick as a bride and I must confess, it was really getting me nervous just thinking about it. Unsure of what to expect but yet I must make a choice when the day comes.
Confined in the palace most of the time apart from when I make royal trips, I had not really seen much women nor interacted with them apart from Gemma and Cleo who were my childhood friends and ofcourse Pincess Katherine my overly annoying younger sister. Aside this trio, I hardly interacted with any of the maidens in the kingdom.
But then here I was about to make the greatest decision of my life from amongst strangers. Fuck custom! Fuck traditions! The world could be a more better place without them.
Three hours later I was woken up from my forced sleep by the guard who stood outside my door. "Your highness, her royal majesty, the queen is here to see you!"
What! At the sound of that voice, I quickly stood up from the bed and put on a shirt that was lying beside me, brushing my hair lightly with my hands, I stood up ready to receive the queen.
"I'm coming in son" she echoed and the door was opened for her.
Bowing respectfully, I greeted her "mother" while she opened her hands to me for a warm embrace after which I kissed her both cheeks and offered her a seat after she had taken a critical analysis of my room.
"What brings you to the east side of the palace mother?" I asked her like I was ignorant of her reasons of being here.
She smiled and answered "when has it become a crime to visit ones son?"
I chuckled lightly "Never said it was a crime. It's just that you hardly visit except something is disturbing you which I feel I'm right" i spoke bluntly.
"Eridian" she called out my name softly. "You know these few months have been very hectic and busy for the council. You should know that because you just got back from Scotland where as envoy for your father"
"Yea I know" I nodded in tandem adjusting myself properly on the seat "Drinks" I offered her.
"No" she waived her hands turning down my offer. "Uhmm......" she cleared her throat smiling sheepishly at me and getting me confused. "How is Gemma doing? I haven't seen her around for sometime now?" She asked me.
Giving her a serious look because this was the first time she was paying close attention to Gemma's absence.
"Mother, Gemma was here with me yesterday and she is fine. She just got back from the Wales" I responded still giving her my innocent look.
"Okay, that is good to know. Uhmmm, Eridian I want to talk to you about something very important" she stared at me waiting for a response.
"Oh... okay" I responded nodding my head and taking a more comfortable position. My hand raised high and my chin resting on them as I paid keen attention to what she had to say.
Then she breathed lightly. "The selection ceremony is in two weeks time and I and your father are very worried on what your decision on that day will be"
Using my fingers, to gently massage my thin I spoke. "And why would that be? Why would my decision cause you both sleepless nights?"
"Because whatever choice you make that day will determine the progress of this kingdom and also the outcome of your reign as king. That is why we are this concerned"
I exhaled deeply and sat forward on the chair with my hands resting on my thighs wanting to make the discussion more serious. "So what do you want mother?"
"Gemma! Everybody knows you like her and I've even seen the way you look at her"
"What! I stood up to my feet confused trying to control my emotions. "Gemma! You want me to take her as my bride? No! No! There is no way I will do that" I shook my head. "We are not even attracted to each other that way. I mean Gemma is my friend and no more than that" I stressed resisting the urge to raise my voice at the queen.
"This was not a request Eridian, you're forgetting that. It is an order. So get your acts together. Gemma has lived all her life within the palace walls and is the most suitable maiden for a bride. You will choose her as your bride. That's the king's order. Understood?" She demanded a response from me rising to her feet.
I stood there staring at her dumbfounded not knowing what to say. I didnt want to cause a heated argument between us and be later summoned by the king for my action.
"Understood......?" She stressed again still expecting a reply from me.
"Yes your majesty" I muttered under my breath.
"Good" and she walked out.
Once she was gone, I punched viciously into my pillows releasing whatever anger had built up as a result of our conversation.
These were one of those moments when my sister would call me weak and easily controlled by my mother. That was why they never got along - always at loggerheads with each other.
But I wasnt weak, I just had so much respect for my parents even though it jeopardized my happiness. Right now, I had to start considering their wish even though I knew how hard and awkward it will be for I and Gemma.
This meant that I will have to start looking at her differently which may be impossible. The fact that i didnt even know if she felt that way about me was more of a concern as I can do anything to please my parents.
After much brainstorming and thinking, I felt the need to inform the my best friends Adrien and Charles on this matter so I sent for them.
Apparently we were all childhood friends that grew up together in the palace. Their parents were ministers and so members of the council but Gemma's parents were Duke and duchess Arygis who were in charge of Wayfort province.
"Troy, this is proprustrous and impossible. How could the king and queen think of something like this? Of all the fair maidens in this kingdom, Gemma. Hell No!!" Charles bluntly disagreed.
"Language! Watch it man, you're talking about your rulers" Adrian warned Charles flatly. "However, I dont see any impossibility in this situation. It's an order remember and besides Gemma loves Troy and I've seen the way Troy looks at her too"
"What! Sorry....."I questioned stuttered for words as I turned to Adrian for clarification. "She loves me! How? And for heaven's sake how do I look at her?"
"Ofcourse she does fancy you and I mean sometimes your stares at her look lustful" he said with a serious tone chuckling at the end of his sentence.
"No she doesnt love him and Troy has o feelings for her either" Charles disagreed vehemently.
"Yes she does" Adrian repeated fighting for dominance.
"No she doesnt" Charles replied not wanting to give up and they both went back and forth until a heated argument broke out between them.
Imagine the humans I called for suggestions bickering like old ladies, then I yelled at the both of them.
"Enough! Enough please! Maybe I should invite her and get her opinion about me- "
"Or better still, I ask her how she feels about you and get her response" Charles added shooting a fiery look at Adrian.
They always disagree at the slightest opportunity they get and then turn it into an argument.
"There's no need for that! The reason is because Gemma has told me this before" Adrian commented sounding very convincing.
"Oh really? What exactly did she say then?" I asked surprised finally taking a seat eager to hear before he continued.
"Well, you see Gemma told me this in confidence that she's had a crush on you since you were sixteen and then recently she began having this feeling of attraction toward you that she couldn't fathom"
Stunned at the revelation Adrian just made, I felt weak to my bones. Gemma has had a crush on me for ten years without me noticing it? I cast my mind back on the very few occasions when we've been incessantly close maybe playing and if my hands mistakenly brushes any part of her exposed body she quiver at my touch. Were those the signals?
I never saw it that way yet even though her likeness for me would make the whole thing easier for me, I still felt trapped because my feelings for her were purely platonic.
Over the next few days, as preparations were ongoing for the big event, I tried to get closer to Gemma in a certain kind of way many times to feed my curiosity but I kept failing. So today, was another day for me to try again.
She came around as usual with Cleo and they were both sitting in the living room of my chambers while I was caught up with work in the office. Yea, I do work actually.
The king handed over the 'feed and fund' project to the crowned prince office which literally means me.
Usually when she comes around this way, and when we were still little we did stuffs together, all five of us like play games such as hide and seek, catch me if you can and then mostly we were being tutored on palace etiquette and royal life.
No wonder the queen said she's been groomed for this. Well that's true and would have been applicable if I was going to choose her.
Every year, the office of the prince carried out a community project in any of the choicest provinces within the kingdom.
There were about forty- seven counties spread across the six provinces that made up the Doxa kingdom.
This was that time of the year where I got to execute such projects and I was yet to come up with something worthy of plastering happiness on people's face for a very long time.
Feeling somewhat frustrated and bored, I rested my head on the table infront of me jam packed with papers of unworthy ideas.
"Is she still around Troy?" Charles asked me lifting his head gradually from the table full of files.
"Who?" I asked.
"O yeah, she is probably with Cleo" I answered then paused staring at Charles. "I dont know man but I feel I should give it a trial again today. What do you think?"
"Cool! Considering the number of times you've tried and failed. One last trial would not hurt. Besides you've got no time on your hands"
"Exactly. I have to see if there is anything there within the next four days. Thanks man" I said and quickly finished with the first phase of the project which involved reading through the piles of ideas staring at my face.
After I was done, I hurried back to the Eastern side of the palace where my chambers was prominently situated, followed closely by my guards.
Once the door was opened for me and I stepped in, I did something stupid that I may regret later.
"Finished with your project Troy?" She asked me revealing those beautiful set of teeth I'd always admired.
"Not an inch, still have a long way to go" Hopefully whoever gets to become my chosen bride would help me in on it" I said walking over to where she sat and hugged her.
It felt really awkward because it seemed I was trying. But I always huggef Gemma and never feel awkward about it. She felt it too I presumed because i felt the way her heart beat raced so fast.
So after freshening up, lucnch was served and we decided to eat together as we've always done. Charles later joinined us at the table. I was really trying hard to read Gemma's expression hoping that Adrian's revelation was wrong. I kept stealing stares at her from time to time.
"We should play a game after lunch" Cleo suggested beaming with smiles.
Giving her a fiery look "That's if the game involves helping Troy with this project" Charles countered her.
"Do you really need help?" Gemma asked me with a concerned look "Because other times, you've always gotten things figured out on your own".
"Well that's because this is different" Charles answered cutting through my statement.
"Then if so, we will help" She offered.
"No! It's okay I got this" I said shyly turning down their offer.
"Your highness!" Charles voiced out harshly. He always called me that whenever he meant seriousness.
Over time though, Adrian had always warned him that that was outright disrespect. But I for one knew that he wouldn't do that outside just within us.
Finally agreeing to the ladies helping out a little but not before I release all of the stress that has being built up in me. We decided to play the Guessing game before bulging our brains.
There was an outright cheat from team B which included Charles and Cleo. In an attempt to force them to admit, a playful argument ensued bringing Gemma in close contact with me. She missteps and was almost falling when I caught her in my arms.
For a minute, we stared at each other with Gemma still trapped in my arms in a manner that has never happened before.
Upon realizing ourselves and being distracted by Charles's incessant coughing, I lifted her up abruptly, turned away from the eyes and rubbing my chin nervously.
"What was that about?" Cleopatra's voice filled the room. I couldn't say anything neither could Gemma who I I obviously peeped at was sitted on the couch with her head buried down.
"I'm sorry Gem" I muttered under deep breaths. Later on I decided to have a talk with her in deep privacy.
Sitting with her face slightly looking away from me was Gemma who was feeling too shy and embarrassed to look at me.
"Gemma" I called, her name slowly leaving my mouth. "I dont know what happened back there, trust me"
"I know" she said abruptly and lifted her head to look at me."I have feelings for you Troy. Deep ones" she confessed.
"When did this start?" I asked her casually.
"Ten years ago. When we attended that ball at Islandes. Remember you asked me to be your date and when you kissed me after the game. It all went and triggered something I never could imagine"
Scanning through my memory as she kept talking, trying to picture the exact day all these happend with my lips slightly parted.
"That kiss meant nothing Gemma. It was a game and besides we were still kids!" I exhaled unbelievably.
"Kids! You were fifteen Troy...... Maybe it was nothing to you but to me it meant something"
Deep confusion filled my head. I didnt even remember that day after the day. Its surprising how Gemma could still picture it clearly after ten years like it just happend.
"So that was it? You started nursing your feelings for me.....?" I asked her. "Then why didnt you say anything all these years?"
"I did..... but not you though?" She eyed me.
"Really! To who then?"
"The duchess and Adrian" she replied.
"Your mother knows about your feelings?"
"Yes she does"
What the hell! This makes perfect sense now. If the duchess knew then she communicate it to the queen who happens to be her best friend and they've been planning this for long. They are literally matchmaking us together.
Lost in thoughts, still analysing the whole situation that was before me when Gemma interrupted me.
"Dont think so deep Troy?"
Was she being serious right now. I needed to find out if she knew about the whole selection issue.
"Do you know about the......?"
"Selection" she completed my statement for me and I nodded affirmatively. "Yes I do, although i thought over the years, you would grow to like me but....."
"Ofcourse I like you..... like alot. Not just romantically. " I shook my head.
"Even after all these years of closeness?"
"Yes" I nodded lightly.
"Then what happened few moments ago. I saw the way you stared deep into my eyes, Troy. I felt it" She stressed getting so emotional.
Closing my eyes tight with my hands massaging my temples I spoke opening them again. "You still dont get it Gem. I'm not attracted to you that way. What happened there was just me trying and forcing myself to see if I had feelings for you and nothing more".
"What?" She whispered breaking down in tears sobbing profusely. I tried to apologise but she kept pushing me away from her. "Dont touch me! Go away from me! I can't believe you Troy, I thought I was important to you"
"Ofcourse you are" I answered feeling bad and guilty for causing her pains for the very first time. Etching closer to her again, I held her
arms and pulled her crying face into my shoulders while gently patting her back with my hands. "I'm so sorry Gem. You are important to me. So What do you want me to do?"
"Choose me as your bride" she muttered between tears and hiccups.
"But I don't love you" I stressed the enormity of what she was asking for.
"You would grow to love me just as any other woman you choose"
How does she expect that to happen what couldnt happen in ten years?
"I'm your best fit, Troy" she added again pulling away from me, she took my hands in hers and looked into my eyes "Please Troy! Please. The ceremony is in four days time" She pleaded.
It was discomforting seeing her shed those precious tears of hers.
"Things will get awkward between us."
"No they wont!" She let out raising her voice obviously getting irritated by my continous resistance. "Its already been settled and four days is all you have" Then she stood up and walked out angrily.
At that moment, I was torn between emotions but I felt i will end up doing what I always do.
One of the biggest ceremony of all time in the kingdom of Doxa finally came to being. The whole kingdom was watching and eager to know who their future queen will be.
As expected, dignitaries and special envoys had started to arrive. Ministers and councillors of the royal concils too. Some alone, others with their spouse.
The ceremony was usually organised in the banquet hall beginning with a ball which is later preceded by a banquet after the crowned prince had made his choice. It was in a similar ceremony, my mother was selected by my father and here they were influencing my choice.
The king and queen were seated on the throne with two royal knights standing behind them. Beside the king seated was his royal majesty King Constantine 2 and his beautiful Queen Anne-Marie Achileas-Andreas of the Morgantina kingdom - My maternal grand parents, though old but still very energetic and full of life.
Slightly below them were seats meant for the council members. Some of which were aleeady seated followed by the royal and special envoys sent to grace the event from other neighbouring nations.
Adjacent the kings and queens was me seated accompanied by my two best friends Lord Adrian Xylon and Lord Charles Glezos whose parents were both members of the royal council.
We sat as soft music played with some royals on the dance floor while the butler kept introducing the guests as they made their way into the large banquet hall and after the other.
The ceremony was yet to begin as everyone who was ushered in first came to pay their respects to the royal family bowing or curtseying respectfully.
I reciprocated their greetings by nodding my head with smiles beaming from mouth. Just as I was flashing a smile to Lord Drakos, the kings special adviser on State affairs. Adrian poked my arms softly, then I turned toward him giving him my attention.
"Did you talk to her?" He asked with half of his eyes still roaming around the room like he was searching for something.
"Who are you talking about?" I inquired.
"Yes I did but unfortunately I dont feel the same way about her" I confessed yet again. "But be that as it may, I'm going to choose her because that's what everybody wants" I expressed sadly.
"Then why choose her?" Charles voice intercepted our discussion.
"Because like I said, thatz what everybody wants" I reiterated.
"This about your happiness and not about others" Charles stressed yet again.
"Actually it's the crown first before your personal desires" Adrain corrected Charles which is obviously how we royals live our lives. We put the crown' first before our happiness. This was just a summary of why I always please the king and queen and sometimes looking weak and naive in some others eyes.
"Guys! Guys! Please stop. I've made up my mind in this and its Lady Gemma Argyros. See the faces of my parents and grandparents, how happy they are "I nudged toward them as theirs turned with me to their direction. After which, Charles just rolled his eyes at me whilst shaking his head at my lack of ignorance while Adrian patted my shoulder softly drawing my attention back to the growing crowd.
When all the guests had finally come in making themselves comfortable. The royal parrot also known as the master of ceremonies made few speeches before welcoming the king for his address. After addressing the people, the king turned to me and playfully giving me hints on what to do.
Immediately after the address, the MC announced shouting at the top of his voice "Let the ceremony begin" and the doors were once again opened ushering in the beautiful ladies from both within and outside the kingdom.
One after the other, they filed in gorgeously dressed up in different colours, styles and designs of gowns. Each parading themselves like it was a damn runway show and trust me they were so beautiful.
But to choose a queen for the Doxa kingdom, one must look beyond physical beauty. Like my father coached me you can decipher the queenly spirit in them once you close your eyes to the physical and open up the inner eyes but there was no need for all of those lectures since I already had a choice.
Adrian and Charles were blown away by some of the beauties of these young women by the way theirs popped out of their sockets. The crowd clapped and cheered them on as they battled for my attention.
Gaius, my royal attendant who has been waiting on me since the age of two came up and whispered to my ears "You're to make your choice immediately after the last lady makes her exit"
"Okay" I replied looking only to be caught in Gemma's eyes.
Damn! She was looking so perfect and ravishing. She wore a lacy black fitted long gown revealing all of her body curves and contours. Maybe this can work afterall, I thought. I could grow to love her as time goes on. She flashed a soft smile which I reciprocated before she walked out.
"She looks so confident" Charles commented with a little frown in his face and contempt in his voice.
"Yea, that's the queenly spirit and carriage" Adrian replied. I had to hush them before they started another round of argument here which I was gradually getting fed up with.
Suddenly, the room's aura changed. It's like there was an electric charge of the atmosphere and a strong force pulling us toward something, which was not but someone. Everyone's eyes and mouths were wide opened including the king as her name was being announced "Your majesties, your graces, your royal highness, lords and ladies of court, next i present to you Lady Aris Floros of house Beaumont of Islanded"
"Oh my God!" I muttered out only to the hearing of my friends. I was losing myself as she walked majestically with so much poise wearing an emerald green sequin long sleeve flowing gown with a light makeup. Her hair styled like that of a princess with a side tiara on one side.
Her smiles were contagious as everyone she looked at smiled at her. Then when she got to where the royals stood, she curtsied respectfully, one thing other ladies failed to do.
Slowly she began moving, only getting closer to me, she stopped and paid her respects again staring at me in my eyes all through without blinking. We stared at each other for few minutes with my heart beating heavily in my chest.
Honestly, it felt like we were just alone in the room. Her eyes were piercing deep down into my soul and I felt our hearts and spirit connecting to and with each other. A kind of feeling I have never felt before in my life.
Noticing the way, she closed her eyes swallowing hard, i broke the contact inhaling and exhaling to calm my racing heart and nerves. Then she walked out quite hurriedly not like the way she came in as the whole room was turned upside down with talks.
I raised my bent head toward my parents, while my father was all smiles discussing with my granddad obviously about the whole moment, my mother's face was shrieked with anger.
There was no doubt she caught in on the moment I shared with lady Aris which has obviously triggered her emotions.
Though Gemma's parents looked calmly sad but quite confident that their daughter will become the next queen, I couldnt say the same for Duke and Duchess Floros who were all shades of happiness.
A little predicted, my mother sent her adviser, Eusebius to Gaius who in turn whispered again to my ears "The queen said, Dont act stupid!" and immediately I turned to him with a serious face and he apologized for the language used.
As a royal attendant in court, If messages are given to you with abusive languages to deliver, it is important for it to be changed or rephrased without changing the message's intention.
Not wanting to be caught in my mother's web, I refused to look at her but began pondering on what decision to make.
Of course my head was all about Gemma but then my heart was saying something different then I heard my inner voice speak to me loudly "she is the one".
Not that I could remember all their names off hand, so a scroll with their names and titles were given to me and they were also asked to file in again easing my selection. I carefully glanced through the scroll then on the empty paper given to me with an ink, I wrote the name of my bride to be.
The scroll was collected from me and the paper handed over to the royal master of ceremony who standing on all existing protocols announced the name.
"Your highness, Prince Eridian Troy Vernadoz has written on this paper, the name of his bride to be, your future queen to be" he shouted as people began to clap anxiously. "And it's no other than the beautiful Lady Aris Floros" he said looking rather stunned after saying it.