Why did they follow me? I laid my head on the table, one eye closed so I could see the men that sat around me. I had drank too much. Again. So much easier to cloud my mind with alcohol than face the issues I had to.
My Paladian. Why did he continue to wear that rusted armor? Why when it must be a weight upon his shoulders. I loved him. This man who chose to follow me despite the fact, no, the absolute certainty that I was going to lose here. I cannot even begin to reason why I have the followers that I do. Much better to remain drunk all the time. Way way better.
“Princess? We need to look at these.”
“What are they?” I squinted at the lines that squiggled and moved on the paper.
“It is the map you demanded. The lay out of the King and Queen’s armies.”
“Are they together?”
“The King and Queen?”
This war was madness. I did not even want to be involved. My parents dove into what should have been a private family matter and made it about showing their power? I really cannot tell you. Once I found out that I was faced with this battle, I began to drink. And I have not stopped since.
I drank at supper time mostly. If my Paladian was lucky he would try to catch me just after the hang over left my body and my hand found the wine I demanded be placed at my bedside. Were he to catch me out it was hell. For he moved the carafe just out of my reach and I would have to crawl from my cot to reach it. After the first time when I fell to my knees and had to travel across the floor like a baby, I remained in bed until the shaking stopped.
I looked at my brute of a man. Well I sorta squinted at him but he was a marvel to be seen even through one eye. 6’3″, with a body that was mmmmm the abs on this man were tighter than hospital corners. His long blonde hair was caught back in a pony tail and he shaved nearly every day. Because he thought I hated the gentle scratch of his whiskers. When really I loved it. But I live in a time when women do not voice their preferences.
“Princess you need to look at this.”
He waved the paper at me. I lifted my head and he slid it before me. I looked down and as I did the table began to do the wave lift. You know what I mean, it appears that the table warps and moves like a wave. Usually that is enough to send me sprinting for the nearest latrine but tonight I swallowed my bile back down.
“Princess may I assist?”
My second in command. A Dwarf. Mathais is his name. He is smart. He is cute. He is short. I am sure without me my Paladian and Mathais could have already won this war. And yet they both remain by my side. Fools the two of them. Like really what on earth did these two men see that kept them at my side.
“Ah I see. Your father has loped around and cut off any rear retreat Princess. Your mother is off to the Southeast. That only leaves us with the Northern Passes.”
“Are you shitting me?”
I gaped at Mathais. The Northern Pass? What could possibly make my parents think that this was a good choice. Ah yes, my absolute despisal of cold weather. So they felt that if they punished me as though I was a wayward child, that I would cave. I am guessing that neither one of them truly knew who I was. This attitude was enough to make me dig my heels in and send someone ahead to have sleds and warm clothing waiting when we got to the mountains. Along with a casket or two of brandy. It is brandy that warms you on a cold winter’s night is it not?
“Wait what about the Southwest? I know that we would be passing through the desert but surely we could travel that way?” Thomas called from the corner of my tent.
Dear, sweet Thomas. He who believed that following me was going to make for great tales. He was going to create ballads and poems of wonder based on my deeds. He was going to be the greatest minstrel of all. Riding my coattails to get where he wanted to be. So far, he had seen me puke a lot but no real heroic deeds have I performed.
“The Southwest is dominated by Perius, and I am sure that he has joined with mother and father in plotting my ultimate demise,” I spoke bitterly.
Perius, my childhood playmate. At the time a prisoner ensuring his father’s goodwill towards my own. Neither of us knew this. Neither knew that we were being groomed to marry, a desire that I outgrew when I was sixteen and found Perius kissing my brother in the garden. When his father died, conveniently upon Perius turning eighteen my parents could not even mask their glee. Duke Margion had had appetites and a long standing idea for expanding his fiefdom. It meant annexing parts of my parents land hence Perius becoming my friend.
“Princess no one, least of all your parents want your demise. You know that,” the soft voice from behind me made me grit my teeth.
He still wore his priestly frock though he was a disgrace. The church had cast him out for he spoke still of the gentler Mother that we use to worship. She who provided the bounty of our fields and our wombs. She who bore the warrior sons that had helped to build our kingdom. This theme of one male god was unimaginable. No man brought forth life, he lusted and desired only to conquer and seed the world with his spawn.
I sighed. My team, small and worthless. What did I fight for? Love? It was not for my people that is for sure. I did not even know my people. What I knew were the stupid ideas of a girl child who as Princess was kept ignorant of the ideas and mores of the people she saw only as shadows.
The unthinkable was about to happen in my family. My parents had two children. Myself and my slightly older brother. He was exactly nine months older than me. Now that I am older and understand the anatomy and childbirth I find this hard to reconcile but my parents insist it is a truth. Older brother Kayia was meant to rule the kingdom. I was meant to make a marriage that enveloped more land, making Kayia a greater King than even my father had been.
My marriage to Perius had it gone through would have brought another quarter of the continent under my family’s reign. But well there was the small problem of Perius liking men, mostly my brother, and the smaller fact that I knew about it. That was a family meeting I wish I had been drunk for.
Kayia threatened to denounce the throne as ill gotten if my parents forced either him or Perius to marry. I had waved weakly from the bottom of the table where I and my Paladian (or rather another childhood prisoner, this one having become a lover) sat but we were ignored. It was quite the incredible argument I can tell you that. I do believe that that was the night my desire to become drunk and stay drunk may have begun.
My parents scoffed at Kayia’s threats. I groaned. You think that I am stubborn for deciding to trek over the mountains, into territory so new that no one knew what lay on the other side, ha, Kayia has me beat. Has. Had. My usage of present and past will switch around as each piece of the story becomes relevant.
Kyia. My brilliant beloved brother. I know that he is birthed of my mother, for we share similar features, but who my father is is a mystery. Kayia with the subtle influence of my mother’s looks, appears to be the exact version of my father. Only not so stern, not so angry, not so needy.
Kayia. Long and lean. A sturdy 6’2″. His caramel hair flows over his shoulders. Deep amber eyes that glittered golden when he joked and teased. That flared with love and desire as he glanced at Perius. Kayia, the stupid ass who helped me to start this war.
“Princess? Would you like another glass of wine?”
I lifted my head slightly from the table and gave the smallest of nods. The room did a spin-a-roo on me but once I had more alcohol in me I was going to be fine. Just fine. I knew that I needed to come up with a plan. I needed to have something firmer than just a direction to travel in. There were a lot of people depending on me. Again, I am not sure why. I do not offer them anything. I have made them no promises but it turns out that my parents might be crazy?
I live in a land where there are a vast array of cultures and characters. We do not turn any away but we do insist that they are kept in their place. Or rather my idiot parents insist that those they feel are beneath them are kept to their place. So essentially everyone who exists at this point and time. My parents believe they are so superior they want to be worshiped as gods.
I am so sorry for bouncing all over. Introducing you to people. Giving you brief biographies. Will this story have a happy ending? I am not sure. Am I scared shitless? Damn rights I am. I lead an army of folk, people who no longer want to feel inferior. Who no longer want to worship my parents as gods. How they have settled on me to be their savior I have no idea.
I watch as my Princess raises her goblet to her lips. I know that the sour swill she drinks will cause her to black out. Cause her to forget for a short while the problems that she is facing. None of this should be her burden. Damn Kayia for doing this to her. He is not nearly as perfect as some thought of him.
Perius. He loved Kayia. Why he is angry with my Princess I do not know. This is not a subject that she will discuss with me. There is a secret burden that they share. There is a secret that eats at their souls and that is why my Princess is always drunk and Perius seeks to end her life.
Kayia. The golden Prince. His birth had been preordained. The stars aligned. Gypsies had told tales of his coming. Only one with the true sight saw the damage he would wrought. She was killed, racked before Kayia was born. No one wrote down what she foretold.
The King and Queen. Entities who had appeared. Who gathered their people together, welcoming everyone and all. They reigned in peace and no one encroached on their kingdom. Until they did. Like small gnats you cannot see but feel biting you in the middle of the night.
Kayia came first. And than my Princess. She was beautiful at birth. Or so the stories have told me. As a child her lips were a rosy red and pursed like a furled rose bud about to bloom. As she aged, they became less pronounced as she grew into her face. Beautiful auburn hair capped head. Long and with a lusty cry. She announced herself to the world and her brother’s howls could be heard to entwine with hers.
Telain was docile in the crib. She was intrigued by the shadows that danced across the ceiling. She grew quicker than most children are suppose to. At six months she was standing in her crib, bouncing on her toys, squealing to play with her brother. At seven she discovered her feet and how to move them. Her governess was forever on the run after that.
All knew. How could they not. No woman has ever fallen pregnant the same day that she gives birth to one child. The King bore it well. But the stress as the queen grew ever larger caused his hair to grey. He took to leaving the castle and riding in the woods. Trying to out ride his problems most said.
The Mad King
Oh they all laughed at me. As my Queen’s belly grew. I could see them snickering in the corners. See how they waited until I was around the corner before they began to mock the cuckolded king. I began to feel how I was losing my grasp, that my kingdom may soon fall. They told me of a boy King who would save us all. They told of a girl child who was going to destroy it all. What am I to do.
I love my wife more than any can imagine. I would never cause her heart ache. But within her belly she carries a monster. A child who is going to tear apart my kingdom, wreck havoc to all I have built.
I knew what I was going to have to do. I knew that this very act was going to destroy the relationship that the Queen and I shared. My sweet Queen. She who bore me the son who would carry on my crown. I could not allow the girl child to live. I would be there at the birth and smother the child. Failing that I will put her upon the rocks, upon the shores of the lake and something will take her. I would pray that something would take her.
The rage I felt lead me to leave the castle grounds on a daily basis. I fled to the forest, searching for vagabonds and derelicts. Anyone I could take my fury out on for my sweet Queen would not tell me what had happened to her. I bloodied my sword a lot that summer. And there were a lot of storms.
Most of the time I was able to chive and harry my steed homeward. But not that one night. I knew that there was something magical about this night. The air as I rode through the forest was hot, cloying, a wetness that hung over your body, your face, clung to your hair. My armor was heavy, pulling me downward until I slumped over the horn of my saddle.
My stallion’s head dragged close to the ground. I could hear his wheeze as the humid air began to suck the life from both of us. There was a reason this was happening. A stray thought straggling through my mind. I felt as though I was drugged. My stallion stumbled, falling to his front knees and I tumbled off. I laid in the grass, the stars glinting through the thick forest top. Was this my final day?
When the hag appeared, grizzled and rotten, I was resigned to my fate. I knew this witch. She had foretold the birth of the girl the same day my son was born. I had watched as her body stretched and ripped on the rack. The stench of the grave clung to her and I gagged as she stood watching me crawl forward.
“What? Have you come to watch me die?”
“You are not dying. Only detained.”
“Tonight she will be born. Tomorrow they will have bonded and nothing you do can tear them asunder.”
“Who will have bonded?”
Despite the fact her head lolled at a particular angle due to the enthusiasm of my jailer, I could in fact feel her disdain. As my steed neighed next to me, nudging me, I stared at her. She was dead and still was making me feel like a child.
“Idiot.” she scoffed. “Your wife, the babe and the boy.”
“Oh no, that is not allowed.” as I stammered out the word I realized how stupid I sounded.
“Ohhhhhh so the king is going to stop the bonding as he lays on the grass. Defeated by humidity and heat. I don’t know what else defeated you,” she snapped angrily.
“How are you even here? Have I gone a little crazy?” I asked. “And are you responsible for all my grey hair?”
“I had nothing to do with your grey hair. Dummy all your worrying and stressing over the new baby. Do not understand why you could not just accept it.” she actually turned her back on me.
“Alright I want the grey hair explained to me. I had beautiful caramel hair just like Kayia and now it is grey, white whatever color you call it!”
The witch glared at me. Pointed at her neck as though making a point. I nearly laughed but only she could give me answers. I took a deep breath and calmed myself. Finally despite the armor I was able to sit up.