The young prince and princess rode together, around ten years old. Prince Arian’s legs hung over either side of his horse, while Princess Euraid sat sidesaddle. Euraid’s horse became irritated with his rider. Arian’s horse flew about, barely allowing him to remain seated on it, but Arian held tight to the reins with a huge grin on his face, his unruly hair whipping about.
Euraid got bored trying to keep up with her brother, and instead sat on an unmoving horse by the grove. Under the shade, she watched her brother laugh and urge his horse to go faster and faster. She wished she could shine like that. She hoped her husband is as handsome as her brother, whenever she gets married.
But Arian couldn’t help but keep looking at his sister. He tried to show off, just a bit. Secretly, he admired her grace, her silent blue eyes, her natural attractiveness, even at this young age.
Secretly, it was the first time they think about kissing, let alone kissing each other.
A smooth white brow was troubled by hard creases, gentle lips turned to a frown. Prince Arian had left the country again, had left his beloved sister behind again, had plunged into danger again.
When he returned, carts heavy with gold and silver, his first destination was wherever Euraid could be found. She awaited him in her bedroom, so it is there that he headed.
He knocked on her door.
“Who is there?” she asked.
“Your dearest and most beloved brother.”
She opened the door and reached her arms around his broad shoulders. He returned the hug. It is a minute later that Prince Arian said, “I love you, too, but when shall you release me?”
Princess Euraid let him out of her embrace, and she tried to dry her eyes. Arian knelt to her, kissed her hand, and asked her, “What is the matter?”
Euraid pulled him from the doorway into her room, and closed the door. “I have missed you dearly, brother.”
“I have missed you, as well, dear sister.”
She became tense, and said icily, “If you missed me, you would have come back sooner. Or, better yet, never have left.”
Something in his heart hurt. “I had to go, though, sister. And I could not have taken you with me. It would be far too dangerous.”
“But what will happen to me if you get hurt? You shouldn’t go, you’re not immortal.” Princess Euraid hugged him, clung to him as her emotions overcame her yet again. “I love you, and I always will. But, you must settle down. Do not go rushing into battle, for one day you will surely lose.”
Prince Arian stood, confused and unaware. His gold hair had grown long since it was last cut, and the curls reached out in every direction. His fingers, wearing plenty of gold rings with a variety of jewels, hovered in the air before returning the hug again. Hanging from a golden chain around his neck was a locket, the same one she had given him before he left.
He was very beautiful, and she had missed him much.
“Brother, please promise me. Say that you will avoid the fight from now on. Death awaits you there.”
Prince Arian hugged her tightly, but he could not promise.
The princess was eighteen years old. Her hair was unbraided for the last time.
She wore all white, from the richly-made dress, which made her look swan-like, to the thin, silvery veil half-concealing her face, to the small, delicate slippers over her feet, that would be worn down to holes if worn by anyone other than a princess.
That day, she traded her tiara for a crown.
Walking was suddenly the hardest thing she had ever done. It was like wading through waist-deep water, as it slowly rose over her face. She could not bear to look in the direction of her brother. He had been entirely supportive of her marriage to Prince James. He knew nothing of her feelings.
The walkway was covered with a deep red carpet, bordered with gold. On the walls were specially-made tapestries of lions with wings, to symbolize her union. The church’s stained glass windows were dark, for she was to be married at eight at night. Dozens of candles filled the room with light, and reflected in her future husband’s ceremonial armor brilliantly. On every pew was a fresh bouquet of white lilies, in between dozens of well-dressed nobles of both kingdoms.
She held tight to the arm of her new husband as she agreed to be his wife, his queen, the bearer of his children.
Three years later, her father died. Queen Euraid’s first thought was her brother. She was allowed to visit, to mourn at the funeral. Dressed all in black, golden hair woven tightly against her head and covered, she entered the church. She sat beside Prince Arian, and tried to be subtle while reaching for his hand.
“Live for your people,” she advised, for his sadness seemed to make the air heavy.
“They are yours as well,” he replied.
Together, they sank into sadness.
“I did not want to leave you. Even now, I do not want to go back.” She wrapped her arms around him, and he patted her back twice, before hugging her back with great strength.
“I would love for you to stay by my side,” he said, “Forever and always! And we could be united against any threat, but we cannot.”
“Why not?” she asked. “I love you.”
Those words smote his heart, and he wished there were more to them, but he knew better.
“You must return to your husband, and I must find a bride. He shall protect you, he shall be your guiding light in darkness, as I shall be hers.”
“I wish I could have married you, instead.”
Prince Arian shook his head, trying to clear it of foul thoughts.
“Do not speak to me of such nonsense. We are in a church. Show respect.”
That night, candles lit her path through the dark castle to her sibling’s bedroom.
“Brother? Prince Arian? Are you there?”
“Yes. You may enter.”
Queen Euraid still wore all black, but her hair had not even her crown.
“Please, Arian, I need to confess,” she says, looking guilty as she closed the door behind her.
“Confess what?” He wore a light gray tunic and black hose, the same he had been wearing earlier, without the heavy, black velvet tunic he had worn over it. He was lying on his bed, with a fireplace alight and several candles as well, relaxing after a heavy day of mourning. There was a jug of water nearby to drink, after all the day’s crying.
“I am not in love with my husband.”
“No? It’s a shame, I thought he was an excellent match for you.”
“There is someone else whom I would prefer.”
“It does no good now, but I’ll ask. Who is it?”
“It is you.”
Prince Arian lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling and making a face like he was trying to work out a difficult math problem, then he laughed. “You said earlier that you wanted to marry me. I remember now. I’m very flattered.”
“I’m serious. I love you, and not in the way of brother and sister, but husband and wife. Please, Arian.”
“Please what? What am I to do?”
“At least kiss me.”
“I can’t. I want to, but I cannot. You may not love me as a brother, but your brother is what I shall always be, and your husband, I shall never be. No matter your status, you could only be opposed by everyone, should anyone learn of your desires.”
Queen Euraid sat by him on his bed. “Do you not love me?”
“Heaven help me, but I do.”
“Then isn’t it right that we should be united?”
Arian tried to control his breathing. “I would love to spend more time with you, and I would even like to kiss you. But we should not be united in the way that you want. Nothing good could possibly come out of anyone else knowing. We can’t ask to be married, we can’t divorce you from King James, no one would give their blessing. Should we become one another’s lover, it shall have to be with complete secrecy.”
“That’s all I want.”
Prince Arian looked at her, with concern and yet a great love, and their faces drew closer and closer until their lips met.
There was a knock at the door, and the two jumped apart.
“Who is it?” called Arian, his heart hammering.
“Tis just me, Mary Anne, Your Highness.”
“Ah, yes, come in, Mary Anne.”
She came in, carrying his nightshirt, which had needed to be altered. “Just the ticket to get you straight to sleep, Your Highness. Queen Euraid, come with me, I’ll take you to your room.”
“Yes, thank you,” she said, blushing. “But, erm, before I leave, can I just ask one little question?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Queen Euraid turned to Arian. “Are we agreed?”
A large smile filled Euraid’s face. She allowed herself to be led down to her own room, deaf to the questions she was being asked.