“Must it be done, my King?” the King’s advisor asked.
“I’ve no way around it,” the King said wearily.
His face sunken and head bowed slightly. The posture of a defeated man. “The Kingdom of Aowhea insists on this contract, refusing any other stipulation. Furthermore, we need the commodities that that Kingdom can provide lest we suffer through another hungry winter.”
“His Highness would be unwilling to accommodate, I had thought.”
“Roman is another sort, he wishes for more flights of fancy and is not as grounded in reality as much as I wish,” the King sighed. “However, he does know his duty to the crown; I have spoken to him and he understood the necessities that he must go through for the people.”
“And the Kingdom of Aowhea?” the advisor asked. “We haven’t dealt with such- and I’m sorry to say, your Majesty- such an insidious group in years.”
“Virgil, you, more than most, understand that appearances can be deceiving.”
Virgil dipped his head, black curly hair falling in front of his eyes, but did not agree. “I was another problem altogether, your Majesty.”
“Be that as it may, I’ve written the letter, agreeing to his terms. The Prince is not a bad man, Virgil, this union will aid our kingdom. What with their army and all. It is a give and take. We have our navy and they have their army. We’ll be powerful allies in times of war.”
Virgil scowled, but nodded his head, able to see the justification, “If you think it necessary, then I shall agree, my King. However, should there be signs of malcontent, I advise a stipulation that the contract be null and void.”
“Of course,” the King smirked, “Years of your nagging has gotten to me, I have added our own sort of contingencies.”
Virgil nodded, a small quirk of a smile on his lips. He bowed, “I shall inform the Prince of your decision, Majesty. When shall we expect His Royal Highness of Aowhea to arrive?”
“In three days’ time, it shall be enough for the Prince to get his bearings,” the King announced, standing up. He waved the advisor away, “Tell Roman that I thank him, and I shall see him at dinner tonight.”
“According to your will, your Majesty,” Virgil bowed low, striding out of the office room.
The King glanced down at the parchment, rereading the words that he had signed with a sick sort of dread.
He closed his eyes, breathing in once, twice, three times deeply, and set his pen to ink before signing it with quick and clever strokes.
“Please, Lady above, may this arrangement be one of happiness and unity,” he whispered to the heavens above. His eyes glanced out the window, seeing his son parry and attack with a wide grin.
The King felt a sad smile spread across his face, “May my son find love even in this cruel union, I ask this in Your most Holy name. Amen.”
“Is this necessary, Father?”
“My son,” the King’s deep rasp echoed throughout the empty throne room. His rigid stance and empty eyes bore into the Prince’s, who shivered.
His hands twitched with the need to fix his glasses, but he kept that clasped firmly behind his back.
The golden and black robes the King wore was simple, yet elegant enough that it made the Prince’s simple blue tunic feel inferior. His heterochromia was piercing, one golden and one brown, and seemed to stare into the depths of his soul.
The burn mark on his left side of his face was a stain that seemed to be darker as he stared down at Logan. His Father shared so many of the same features, from their dark skin tone down to their broad shoulders. If it wasn’t for Logan’s smaller height and his eyes, the two could have been mistaken for brothers.
But Logan felt no pride in that distinction. The only feature of himself that he loved were his blue eyes. He had his mother’s eyes.
“Do you not want our kingdom to be successful?”
“Father, that is not what I-”
“Do you wish to see our kingdom crumble?”
The Prince stammered, hands clenched at his side, nails digging into the palm of his hands. His heart clenched at the insinuation. “Father, I would never-”
“Then why is it that you hesitate, Logan?” The King's glare made Logan crumble, his will shriveling up as if it had never existed in the first place.
He nodded in defeat, eyes downcast and hands clasped behind his back again, twisting and tightening in a nervous tic. “As you command, Father, and so I shall obey.”
“Good,” the King's voice was seeped with satisfaction and victory. Logan didn't look up, knowing that he would only see his Father's steely, cruel glare.
“You are dismissed,” the King said haughtily.
Logan nodded once, turning on his heel and exiting the throne room. He held his head high as he strode toward the doors.
Typically he could ignore the stares of the guards stationed by the doors, but as the rays of the sun bore on him through the thin awnings, he felt as if even more critical eyes were on him.
The giant, open windows contrasted greatly with the frigid atmosphere. Logan put a hand on the handle, pushing slightly on the wooden door.
He walked out of the throne room, breathing out a heavy sigh of relief. The overbearing atmosphere had suffocated him, and he was glad to be out of it.
His feet automatically set forth toward his room, the familiar path bringing unwanted thoughts to the forefront of his mind.
The door opened with the help of a guard, and Logan was almost distracted enough to not nod his gratitude to him, fortunately catching himself and nodded stiffly. He slammed the door shut, bracing his forearms against the wooden door.
His eyes clenched tightly shut, breath rattling his lungs. His forehead rested on his arms, a steady pressure to focus upon.
Clenching his jaw, he counted backwards from ten, reaching two until his heart stopped aching and his thoughts settled.
“Highness?” Patton’s soft concern enveloped him, and he felt like sagging against the door.
He straightened, fixing his tunic and ascot. “Apologies, Patton,” his voice was hoarse, “I had not realized you were there.”
Patton made a sympathetic humming sound, feet padding toward Logan whose back was still toward him.
He laid a gentle hand on Logan's shoulder, warm and reassuring, “What happened, my Prince?”
“Nothing of importance, Patton,” Logan evaded. He twisted away from Patton’s grip, heading toward his desk.
Shuffling papers together, he produced a fresh sheet of parchment, taking out his pen and ink canister.
He dipped the pen into the canister, hand shaking as the tip touched parchment. Inhaling deeply, he inscribed the words he needed to send to the Kingdom of Eiehde.
The room was suffocating as he wrote, Patton’s concerned stare boring into his back. His hand ached as he penned the words to paper, sending his transcript away.
“Your Highness,” Patton’s voice was stern, and Logan's pen stilled. “You needn't be afraid of telling me your dilemmas. After all, what better than a personal guard to guard all your secrets?”
Logan sighed and set his pen in the inkwell. He cast his head downward, eyes closed, “Father wishes to send me as an envoy to the Kingdom of Eiehde.”
“Why is your face such a sight, Highness?” Patton asked. “There is no need to be such a seed against that bloom of opportunity. Did you not wish for a chance outside these palace walls?”
“Not when it is obvious that Father just wishes to send me away,” Logan spat harshly. He sat down heavily at his desk chair, shoulders drooping in weariness.
Patton’s feet padded lightly over to him, putting his hands on Logan’s shoulders and rubbing tense muscles away. Logan relaxed slightly, the anger simmering less in his chest with only the memory lingering still.
“Think of it as this, Highness,” Patton murmured lowly in his ear, “this is your chance for your Father to be proud of you. Should you do a good job upon your return then he shall send you again, trusting your judgement on bigger and better matters.”
Logan hummed, a soft buzz tingling his body. His body felt heavy from the day’s trysts, and he wanted to hide away in the cover of his bed as protection. He knew it was illogical, to want such solace, but he yearned for even an ounce of comfort from his Father.
“Perhaps,” he sighed, pulling away from Patton’s grip. He bent down, looking at the foreboding parchment in front of him.
He shook his head, folding the paper in three crisp folds and sealing it away with a wax seal. “Send this to the nearest messenger, if you please.”
“Of course, Highness,” Patton bowed his head, sending for a page.
Logan looked longingly out the window at the school children, laughing and smiling as they ran through the town square. Shaking his head away from those thoughts, he turned away and went back to the other stacks of papers.
“Perhaps I shall learn of our relationship with Eiehde,” he murmured quietly and picked up another paper.
“My King, do you think it wise to do this to your son?”
The King gave his advisor a cold glare, but she held a steady gaze with him. Her short, dirty blonde hair was pinned with blue clips next to her eyes, and her stance was firm. The King made an effort to stare her down, but after so many years together it proved fruitless.
“Emile, there is no other way. The rebels have already sent their threat, and Logan is not as beloved by the people as Valerie. If he dies, it is the fault of mine. The people will see his possible death as a weakening of the throne. Logan knows only theory, he needs experience.”
“Sire, I fault you not for that but of the rebels,” Emile pointed out, her green eyes glaring at him. “You spoiled him, allowing him to read to his heart’s content rather than tutoring him on court matters.”
She paused, eyes watching him carefully over the rim of her glasses. “He shall think you are sending him away again.”
“Am I not?” He chuckled hollowly, “My son would rather spend his time reading books or whiling away in the libraries, I accept that. I will not accept, however, that he does not know how to rule. Perhaps this union will prove learning for him.”
“Your Majesty, understand that your son already seems to think ill will against you with your constant isolation away from him.”
“Enough,” the King’s cold voice echoed darkly in the small study. He stood up, walking past Emile and grabbing a sealed letter.
“This,” he brandished the paper in front of himself, “is a copy of the agreement that the King of Eiehde and I signed. We have agreed that my son must first adjust to the new palace before the wedding.”
Her eyes narrowed, darkening green eyes flashing, “You have gone behind my back, Sire, and did this without my knowledge?”
“Can a king not rule without an advisor breathing down his neck?”
“Not when it comes to the future of your kingdom,” Emile said, eyes blazing in outrage. She took a deep breath, asking in a strained but calmer voice, “What of your son, what does he have to say to this- this situation?”
“Logan knows his duties, he knows that this must be done,” the King waved away her concerns. “He accepted my demands.”
“Does he even know that you are marrying him off? Or does he think otherwise?” She asked, knowing tone and eyes boring into the King.
The King turned his back to her, looking out the window and silently answering her question.
She let out a harsh breath, “So that’s it? Your only son is going to be shipped off with a ribbon tied around him while his sister gets the throne?”
“The wedding will be in a month and a half’s time,” the King said evenly, not turning to face her. “From there, relations between Aowhea and Eiehde will strengthen and allyship will be beneficial for the both of us.”
“While I agree that this would benefit relationships between our two kingdoms-”
“Then we reach an accord.”
She continued as if he hadn’t spoken, “I just wish that you had gone about it in a different way.”
The King’s back tensed before it sagged out of him, he sighed heavily, “As do I, Emile, as do I.”
“My King,” her voice was gentle, but the King didn’t want to face her pitying face.
“There was no other way around it, Emile,” the King spoke up suddenly, turning to face her. “Logan was a laughing stock amongst my council.”
His face contorted into a sneer, “They think that being educated means less than gaining power, the ability to manipulate politics and people being better than gaining knowledge.”
She scoffed an incredulous laugh, and the King nodded wearily, “As if they did not go through schooling themselves. They find it odd that a ‘distinguished’ man such as Logan would continue learning and not immediately learn a craft, in his case ruling. They think it wrong for a man to not want to hunt or fight, but to only read.”
“Why are you unable to replace your council again?”
“They’ve much power within the ranks,” he said. “I can do no more than I have now. Sending Logan away where he will not be ridiculed is the best I can do.”
“The council will not like this,” Emile said. “They believe a marriage between two men unsightly. They will object.”
“Let them,” the King said. “I’ve already signed the treaty. My way of helping my boy and getting back at the council.”
Emile gave a wry smile. “He shall still think that you love him not,” she added. “All his life, he has been striving for some sort of your affection, and yet you refuse to show him any.”
“So be it,” the King said, unconcerned. “He is grown, and his own man. He needs not my approval to do well in life. This is for the sake of the kingdom.”
“Majesty, that isn’t any way to raise your child.”
“And how shall I know the ‘correct’ way in raising children?”
“You’ve raised two,” Emile pointed out dryly, her pink glasses falling to the tip of her nose as she stared at the King, unimpressed. “Besides that, parenting is a learned trait, learning new things every day.”
“Bah!” he waved away her concern again. “Logan is his own man, he knows how to handle himself.”
Emile sighed, raking a hand through her short hair. “As you say, Majesty. When is his Highness leaving?”
“In three days’ time,” the King shifted, walking back to his desk. He picked up a photo, smiling sadly at it. The bright blue eyes of his son staring back up at him, looking so much like his wife. At times like these, he missed his wife.She would know what to do. The burn on his left feeling itchier and heavier than usual. He sighed, setting the photo down and glancing at the bobbing head of a small rooster figure, pecking up and down, “May he find the love he needs.”
“Roman, please,” King Thomas pleaded tiredly. He rubbed his eyes, “You and I both know that this was a possibility. Arranged marriages are not uncommon.”
“But not so soon, Father!” he protested. He threw his arms up, and started pacing back and forth in front of his bed. The King watched as he walked back and forth, half torn between amusement and tiredness.
Roman ran a hand through his red-brown hair, “Father, you promised me that I would get a chance at true love!”
“Perhaps this is your chance at true love, my son,” the King said gently. “You can court the young Prince, and you may even fall in love.”
“Please,” he scoffed, dismissing his Father’s optimism. “The Prince of Aowhea is unfeeling, he knows not kindness nor love, should I court him, he shall rebuff me.”
“And where have you heard such rumours?” the King frowned, he shifted on the bed, his back hitting the headboard.
“The people gossip,” he waved a dismissive hand. “And since our kingdom borders Aowhea, the towns trade with each other. Though the trade routes have become more treacherous since Aowhea’s bandit problems have become more and more troublesome. Our soldiers struggle maintaining the peace.”
“Indeed,” the King nodded with a slight frown. “Hopefully this union will be able to fix that. However, gossip does not mean the truth. Perhaps, there is a misconception about the Prince.”
“Still,” Roman insisted, pausing to stare at his Father. “Rumours lie in truth somewhere.”
“That may be true, Roman, but first get to know the boy before you make any harsh judgements of him. You mustn’t judge a person by his rumours.” The King smiled knowingly at the Prince, “Are there not rumours of your facing of the Dr-?”
“Father!” Roman was bright red and indignant, strands of curly brown-red hair falling in front of his eyes. “We agreed not to speak of that!”
The King let out a hearty laugh, same reddish-brown curls bouncing back as his head bobbed up and down. “I jest, I jest, my son. Regardless, the Prince cannot be as horrible as others make him out to be. Look at Virgil, he seems like a gruff man, when he is in fact the sweetest and most intelligent man I’ve met.”
“Look out there, Father, else I assume that Virgil shall be my new Father,” Roman teased, knowing full well how the King would react.
The King made a disgusted face, wrinkling his nose, and Roman laughed. He sighed, “Virgil is practically your age. I have seen him grow up, that- that is just not right.”
“Of course, Father, I merely jest about that.” Roman said with a laugh. He made a pensive hum, expression shifting to a thoughtful one, “Perhaps… perhaps I shall give his Highness a chance. After all, we gave Virgil one, and now he is the most trusted advisor in the kingdom.”
“I knew you would see my way,” the King beamed. He stood up, crossing over to Roman.
Clapping a hand on his shoulder, the King said, “The Prince shall come three days hence. He shall stay with us for a month, and then the wedding shall commence. Unless something happens and the contract becomes void, of course.”
Roman nodded distantly, murmuring, “Gives me enough time for another hunt.”
The King fixed him with a stern glare, “You must be here to welcome the Prince’s arrival, Roman, there is no way around this. We need this agreement.”
Roman nodded somberly, bowing, “As you will, Father, and I shall obey.”