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The throne room’s doors closed with a loud groan and a shudder. All was silent again but just for a moment. Shuffling footsteps accompanied by the clinking of chains soon pervaded the chamber, drawing everyone’s eyes to the solitary figure slowly making its way down the aisle and toward the raised dais upon which sat the ruler of Ethren.
Some eyes were filled with accusation and hatred, some with pity and fear. A few were filled with confusion and frustration beneath wrinkled brows.
The figure kept plodding onward, head bowed, manacled hands clutched to its chest. Shame and apprehension was evident in the sunken shoulders and waist-long dreadlocks shielded most of its face.
The figure stopped at the foot of the dais and fell to its knees, head still bowed, body tense.
“Keela N’jeri Taluith”, a clear, cool voice rang out. “Rise up and face your king…and your sins”.
The figure rose up swiftly, gracefully even. Shoulders squared as they were disciplined to, chin sharp but not arrogant. The curtain of hair parted to reveal a dark brown, heart-shaped face, smooth and impassive but for a wicked scar that cleaved the left side of it and top-lip. Darker brown eyes focused on the person on the throne – King Yllwyn, the person who had her fate in his hands.
She warily studied that familiar face to determine what that fate could be, but there were no hints in his inscrutable features. His left cheek was propped up in the palm of his hand and those brilliant, violet eyes scanned a sheaf of papers being held in his right. There were ballads written about his beauty; the porcelain sheen of his skin, the petal-like curls of his lips, down to the elegance of his fingers, but they could never fully do him justice. He was utterly exquisite and at first glance seemed as gorgeous but no stronger than a delicate confection – appealing to the eyes but easily melted away.
How untrue that was as his enemies could attest.
After the space of a few heartbeats, he lowered the papers in his lap and stared fixedly at the prisoner before him. No malice or kindness in his gaze.
“Why did you do it?”
Keela’s eyes widened as her heart sank.
“My King…I would never…”
“If you would never then how was the relic found in your bedchamber?”
“I…I do not know”
“Were you drunk Keela? Celebrated too much that night?”
The last two words were punctuated by him slapping the arm of his throne. The first bit of emotion he finally showed contorted his features. Anger.
Keela swallowed and wet her lips. Of all the life threatening situations she had ever found herself in, this was the most dire. How could she answer him? Even she was unsure of how one of Ethren’s most sacred relics ended up amongst her linens.
Sure she had indulged that night…she was celebrating! After over two decades of faithful service to Ethren, she was able to step down as a knight and pursue her dream of breeding and rearing war-dogs. This was mostly due to a surprisingly large gift from one of the Princes of Trente whose life she recently saved. The king had agreed to release her and her colleagues had thrown a tremendous party. She spent a night of laughter and merriment drinking and reminiscing with those who bled, wept and sweated shoulder to shoulder with her and went to her room a little woozy but with a song in her heart.
The next morning she woke up with a pounding skull and pounding at her door.
“There’s been a theft,’ was the brief explanation. Nothing to hide she stepped out of her room into the corridor while two soldiers swiftly entered. Most of her mates were gathered there as their own rooms were searched.
A questioning glance to the closest person got her an answer.
“It’s the Circlet of Succession.”
“The Circlet of Succession?” she parrotted, then blew out a long, low whistle.
The Circlet of Succession was one Ethren’s holy relics. Apart from the skilful ruling of her kings, it was widely accepted that the kingdom’s continued good fortune was due to the rites surrounding these relics. The Circlet of Succession was especially sensitive as it pointed toward the co-ruler of Ethren. The female whose hands touched the Circlet would become the next Queen. Because of this it was kept under the tightest of guards; if stolen it could spell potential disaster for the kingdom, depending on whose hands it ended up in.
Keela was in the midst of a good yawn and stretch when she heard an exclamation from her room. She paused and was about to rush in when one of the soldiers poked his head out and called for a priest. The soldier then turned to her, eyes full of disdain.
“What on earth…”, she muttered and stepped forward again, only to be brushed aside by a bustling priest who swept into her room in a flurry of robes. Everyone’s attention was now on her, before she could say anything else the soldiers who were searching her room walked out her door, expressions grim followed by the priest, head lowered, gaze fixed on the beautifully güvenilir bahis wrought item in his gloved hands. He raised his eyes to Keela whose stomach was quickly filling with dread and panic.
“Arrest her!” The priest’s voice was heavy with authority.
Before she could respond, chains were clasped upon her wrists and ankles and surrounded by a half-dozen soldiers she was whisked away.
After a morning in the dungeons she was brought to the king’s chamber to receive her judgement.
A million unanswered questions ricocheted through her frazzled mind.
Someone put the Circlet in her room, but who?
It was one of the most highly guarded items in the kingdom, then how?
Someone was out to frame her, but why?
And would her king believe her?
She swallowed audibly and stared at the livid regent whose scornful gaze was locked on her.
She inhaled deeply, settling herself, just like before a fight. Just this time, she would use words.
“My king”, she began slowly, carefully, her husky voice ringing through the chamber. “I have served Ethren with my sword, shield and body longer than you have reigned on her throne. I have bled for her, almost died for her and am proud of being born, bred and tempered in her bosom. Never in my life would I ever place Ethren in danger, would I blaspheme her relics, would I spit upon her tradition. I would damn my soul before I harm Ethren or you in any way. Believe me, my King, I do not know who wishes me harm or has a grudge against me, but there is another hand in this that is not my own.”
“Then whose hand is it?” the king questioned coolly, a perfectly arched eyebrow raised.
“I…I do not know my lord”.
“And how were they able to steal the Circlet?”
“That I am unaware of my lord”
“And why out of all that they could do with it, would they place it in your chamber?”
“I do not know my lord”
The King sighed loudly and leaned back on his throne.
“It was taken out through the Hidden Path Keela. The person did not even try to hide it. Apart from the senior priests, myself and my Higher Knights, of whom you were most recently a part of, no one knew of its existence. So which of your colleagues or one of the clergy, do you suspect of setting you up?”
The Hidden Path. An ever changing network of secret corridors and chambers that riddled the castle. For the King’s safety, a select group of persons were aware of the different routes and mechanisms used to access the Path. As part of the King’s Higher Knights, she and her colleagues were privy to the details – she trusted each man and woman of this team with her life, they saved each other countless times. Plus she was on especially good terms with the clergy, accompanied many of them on their missions and helped with their charity work on her time off.
To accuse either of the parties, how could she? Where would she begin?
Hopelessness swallowed her up and she hung her head in defeat.
So this…this is how it ends?
“I am unable to answer you my lord”.
She could hear the scorn in his voice and it made her flinch when he retorted, “Indeed”.
After a minute of silence she heard the King sigh heavily.
“So Keela, do you know what will have to happen now?”
She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, her heart constricted painfully and her mouth felt dry.
So close to her sun-filled days of happiness and peace… so close.
She raised her head once again, the trepidation she felt not displayed in her eyes. The sadness and confusion lost in the firm line of her lips.
“I will trust in your judgement, your majesty”. Though her heart was in pain, her voice did not waver.
“Good, you will be my wife.”
Her heart squeezed and seemed to have stopped for a moment.
“Wh…what?” she gaped, mouth opened incredulously.
“Did you know that the last time the Circlet was…misappropriated was 1400 years ago? All parties involved, including the Princess who ended up with the relic in her hands were executed despite warnings of the priests at the time. Ethren was almost brought to ruin by a plague, a drought and war. I will not make that same mistake!”
“But…your ma…But your majesty, , we…cannot…I did not touch it…I…I cannot…I am not royalty…I…”
“I have spoken.” He murmured coldly, eyes narrowing as he rose from his seat to his full height. “You said you love Ethren, now you will serve her as my Queen. Your death will condemn her, else I would have your head.The wedding will be in three days and I will have no dissent. Am I absolutely clear?”
She shut her eyes briefly just to steel herself a bit before she answered.
“Yes my lord”
“Good,”he nodded curtly. His eyes rose to two elderly priests to the left of his throne. “I will leave her to you”.
Both bowed as the king strode out of the chamber. The sparse crowd behind her broke into pockets of whispered discussions. She felt sick and dizzy and all alone.
Why türkçe bahis is this happening? She closed her eyes against tears that threatened to spill.
A soft hand clutched her arm and she gazed down at the tiny, wizened woman next to her, a face wreathed with wrinkles and a warm smile.
“Come little one, it has been quite a day for you, yes? Let’s get something warm in your stomach and a bit of a rest and we will tackle what’s next, yes?”
She led Keela through another exit, chattering all the while. The other, much taller priest was as wrinkled but less warm and walked in silence next to the mismatched pair. She was led to a relatively lavish bedchamber with guards posted at the door, her manacles were removed and she was provided with a thin broth. She tried to drink a little to appease the talkative priest but could not take in much atop the knots and anxiety that filled her stomach.
When she was finally left alone she lay curled up on a too soft bed, staring into nothingness.
She thought of her squashed dreams. That little cottage with a big garden including a pond ringed with lilies. A kennel filled with happy dogs to breed and train and love. Her remaining days filled with peace and who knows, eventually a warm, familiar smile to share those days with.
Instead to be trapped in a sham of a marriage with someone who hates her and would never trust her and to be scorned by the people she loved.
What kind of life would that be?
The enormity of it finally overwhelmed her and she wept soundlessly, biting her lips, her shoulders shaking.
What have I done to deserve this?
A pain-filled, low moan rumbled in her throat.
What could I have done?
Three days sped by in a blur of activity. Her every waking moment was spent preparing for the dreaded wedding; learning the rites, being fitted for the most convoluted garments, being groomed as much as she could be groomed from a hardened knight into a genteel lady.
By the Gods, Saints and Goddess it was hard!
At the end of it all was the wedding; a cheerless affair that she soldiered through. The King was a beautiful, cold automaton that went through the motions of being reluctantly bound to a common thief. She hid her hurt, shame and uncertainty behind an even colder mask as she fulfilled her duty. Keela’s nerves were tighter than a new bowstring by the time the wedding feast was over. When she was led to her room she exhaled loudly, shoulders sagging. Her lips quirked slightly upward in a bitter smile. Thank the Gods it’s over.
She was undressed swiftly by a few chambermaids and thanked them, stating she would be able to care for herself from thereon out.
“My Queen,” the eldest one interjected, “you’ll need us to help you into your wedding night garb. The King is expecting you in his chamber.”
She choked back a curse. “Are you sure? I mean…wouldn’t his majesty prefer to spend his time with one of his Soft Pillow Women?”
“Oh!” she exclaimed, then giggled cheerily. “His Majesty dismissed them all, in his words, why should I have a mistress when I now have a wife? Isn’t that wonderful?”
Keela gaped stupidly…no, this was not wonderful. She did not think that she would have to lay with him! At least not now, when her ‘betrayal’ was so fresh in his mind. Her stomach started roiling, this was too much.
“Leave it to us my Queen.”
In 20 minutes she was outside of the King’s bedchamber, dressed in the gauziest fluff held together by delicate ribbons and of all things her hands were bound again, in front of her. But instead of manacles, the contraption took the form of a flexible metal band; fashioned to look like a thorned, flower vine. Tiny metal flowers and buds studded with precious stones were dispersed along the silvery vine which looped several times around both wrists, ending in a very large (but mysteriously light) bloom which was cupped in her hands. She stared at it, taking note of the tiny keyhole in its depths. There was a key attached to a fine chain around her neck.
So this is what it’s for.
She sighed heavily, looking up at the double doors. Feeling sick, sad and anxious.
“Ready?” The elder maid looked at her with a soft smile, a warm palm on her shoulder.
Her concern seemed to soothe something in Keela, and she nodded gently, not trusting her voice. Focusing all her energy on remaining calm and getting through this.
Ok, just an hour or two and she will be sent back.
Yes, she could do this.
The maid rapped on the doors twice. The dispassionate voice of the king ordered them to come in. The two other maids opened the doors and the third led Keela with her arm on her elbow into the room. Her heart was pounding in her ears and she had not felt as shaky since her first battle.When the king dismissed the maid who curtsied and bustled off she almost grabbed onto her before she left.
The doors slammed shut and she jumped.
The King stood in front of her, staring. His hair was unbound, a thick güvenilir bahis siteleri dark curtain falling to his slender waist. His body was clothed in a black robe which made his pale skin appear even paler.
What was he thinking?
He started towards her not saying a word, eyes flitting all over her body and hands. He was so tall, she was not a short woman but her head came to the middle of his chest. He stopped in front of her, brought a hand up and traced the scar on her cheek and lip.
She squeezed her eyes shut. Not to mention a traitorous thief, what king would want such a badly scarred queen? The regret and disgust he must be feeling.
She felt the hand drift down to her throat, there was a large bow tied there. He pulled it slowly and once it unravelled, the outer coat of her night garb simply fell apart, off of her. The remaining garment was sheer and moulded to her body perfectly. It was composed of a myriad, petal-shaped pieces of lilac fabric held together by deeper lilac ribbons tied in bows. Each time a bow was unraveled, pieces of the garment would fall off.
No reaction from him, he just slowly started walking around her. Eyes still drifting about her body. He ever so often released a bow and in all of five minutes she was naked before his gaze.
She doubted he would be pleased with what he saw.
She had a knight’s body. Yes a woman’s breasts were there, a handful of firm flesh tipped with dark nipples, and her hips flared outwards from a narrow waist. But there was no softness here, just hard muscle and plenteous scars. From knives, arrows, dirks, swords and even a whip. Her dark brown skin was riddled with them.
This body was not meant to warm the bed of the King of a nation.
It was meant to defend his throne.
He was behind her now, unmoving and silent. She tried to not let her nervousness show, instead distracting herself by counting the many candles surrounding the massive bed to the left of the room. It was a lovely bed, she admitted – piled high with pillows and soft looking linens, carved from a dark-red wood and standing high off the ground. There was even a little set of steps to…
She started and almost squeaked when he touched her again; a simple brush of startlingly cool fingers down a scar across her left buttock. She started forward but another hand clamped around her right hip, holding her firm. She chanced a glance backward to see His Majesty frowning at her, violet eyes hard.
She turned away and more or less hunched over into herself, her locks were slipped over both shoulders. His fingers kept skimming across her back, tracing each scar delicately as if imprinting them in his memory. The hand on her hip did not move away but the thumb started moving over and over in a slow circle, gently massaging the flesh there.
Little by little, the tension seemed to slowly ease off her. Her muscles became less taut and her shoulders lowered. After touching each scar he started dragging his knuckles across her skin; up and down, side to side, kneading the flesh tenderly in certain areas, stroking lightly in others. When he started skittering the tips of his nails up and down the length of her spine she felt gooseflesh breaking out all over her body and the faintest of stirrings between her thighs. Before she could make sense of her body’s reactions and her sudden breathlessness, he pushed all of her locks over one shoulder, and then…
Leaned forward and slowly bit the other.
It was not a soft bite, not a hard one either. Just somewhere sweetly in-between that felt so very, very good. She gasped and shivered. Her nipples tingled and tightened.
He pulled away slightly and drew the flat of his tongue leisurely across the bite mark.
A warm, wet trail of heat blazed across her skin.
Both hands were on her hips now, pulling her body flush against his. There was so much warmth at her back and an even more intense heat and hardness pulsing against her waist. He kept nipping and licking her shoulder while she bit back the little noises that threatened to flow from her lips and tried to steady her rapidly quickening breathing.
I shouldn’t act like this…can’t be like this. Not in front of the king. Cannot lose control.
Her body on the other hand, was intent on wantonly responding to his ministrations. Her sex felt slick and sensitive, her breasts full and nipples achy.
She felt so hot.
The thin chain around her neck and the metal around her wrists were the only cool things on her. The bloom was dangling between her hands now which were clutched into fists. He started suckling her neck and she whimpered, one of his hands slid up her stomach to a breast and gently twisted the pointed nipple there.
“Oh no. Oh my king.”
For a few heartbeats, her slightly ragged breaths were the only things she heard in the room. He then moved his mouth to her ear and his deep, rich voice murmured sensually, words she never imagined would come from him to her.
“In the court, I am your king. Before the people, I am your majesty. In the throne room, I am your highness. In my bedroom I am your husband Keela.” He circled her ear with the tip of his tongue and she inhaled sharply. “And you will call me by my name.”
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