Princess Aurelia stared out the carriage window. It was a perfect day for doing nothing. A day to sit and daydream about being immortal and endlessly thirsty. A day to imagine running through the forest during a full moon in pursuit of prey. She knew her dream would never become a reality. Today would be another senseless waste of everyone's time.
Some ancient royals decided a kingdom is better ruled by two people instead of one. Any heir to the throne must perform the soul call to find a mate. Aurelia does not want to do this.
Her mother rolled her eyes, "Aurelia, you look like death."
"It's how I feel inside," Aurelia's melodramatic tone sounded tired and hopeless.Sophie played with her daughter's midnight hair, "Third time's a charm."
Black lace gloves pulled tight against slender hands before they brushed away the Queen's manicured mitts, "Mother, nobody else had any trouble with the spell as far as I know. I am damaged goods. The gods have seen fit that I am alone."
"Stop being melodramatic. If this doesn't work, then we'll move onto arranged marriages. You may find happiness there. Honestly, Aurelia, sometimes I think you want to be alone."
Aurelia clenched her fists and scowled. Her wavy black hair fell around her eyes, "Oh yes, Mother, when I woke up on my eighteenth birthday, I wished to embarrass myself and my family in front of the whole kingdom by intentionally letting the spell fail."
Queen Sophie sighed, "I hate what it did to you. Once upon a time, you had gorgeous blond hair and wore bright, vibrant colors, and nothing seemed to wipe the smile off your face. I miss my morning glory," the Queen said, "I worry about your future."
The carriage stopped in front of the temple of Amouria, goddess of love and fertility. The massive Bronze statue of a woman holding a man and child in her palm greeted them.
Aurelia put the red lipstick on her lips and put a ruby choker around her neck. "Can't we do the arranged marriage thing this year?" Aurelia stared at the heavy iron doors with disgust.
"No, we will give the gods another chance to make things right. It is not our place to question their plans and motivations. The whole kingdom came out to see you try again. If anything, they will respect your tenacity."
The footman opened the door and held out his hand for Sophie. She floated to the ground with perfect posture and clasped her hands in front of her beautiful purple gown. Aurelia wobbled out of the carriage and almost fell on her face. Twice. "Stupid steps, not all of us walk with the
grace of an angel."
The first time she walked through the doors, the people of Shadowfen cheered and encouraged her. The second time they whispered and wondered if she preferred the presence of women over men. This year, a few rude and unseemly peasants dared to bet money on whether she would succeed or not.
Aurelia glowered at the crowd and raised her middle finger to the gamblers. She waved to the little girls who only cared about meeting a princess. The high priestess waited by the door. She greeted the Queen warmly and gestured her in.
The priestess saw Aurelia and embraced her. The smell of vanilla and strawberry overtook her senses, and she sighed, "Do I have to do this?"
The priestess giggled, "I'm afraid so, your majesty. I think the laws should change. Too bad nobody else agrees with me. We are going to try something a little different this time. I've altered the ritual to include any suitable match for you. Let us hope there is a prince among the frogs."
"I am encouraged by your words," Aurelia knelt and embraced some little girls who had stars in their eyes. "Like I told my mother, the gods planned to see me alone." She straightened the black and crimson satin dress and continued to stroll towards the temple. "What's with the pink petals?"
"I was hoping they would make you feel more romantic before you performed the ritual," the priestess blushed.
"Is there a man at the end of this petal trail?"
"Not romantic," Aurelia said in a gloomy tone.
"I have a good feeling about this one. Do you even know what you want in a man?"Aurelia stopped dead in her tracks, "I'd prefer him to be alive with a heartbeat and the relevant equipment downstairs," She cracked a smile.
"That goes without saying, my dear, but what do you need?" The priestess asked.
A pair of guards opened the door to the temple, and the women bowed and carried on their way to the altar, "You know, I never thought about that. I was always busy learning how to run the kingdom. Have you met the noblemen my age, yuck? Lewd jerks who think I am a trophy to be put on display."
"Ahh, you require to be equals with a potential mate."
Aurelia nodded, "I am going to be running a kingdom, not playing mother to some uneducated slob."
"Keep going. You are on the right track," The priestess encouraged.
Pale white skin turned red with little provocation, "Thanks, I am starting to feel a little better."
"It is my sworn duty to ease suffering where I find it, child," The priestess pointed to the end of the long black carpet with red hearts leading to the altar that looked like two people kissing from afar. She took a deep breath, "Let us proceed," rows and rows of young men of all sizes sat in the pews with bored expressions except for one.
His wild blond hair fell around his handsome face like a mane, and his eye glowed a deep predator yellow. He watched her, and Aurelia suddenly felt naked and exposed in his gaze. Her heart started to beat faster, and her palms sweat.
"I see something that caught your attention. Which one?"
"I'm not telling you," Aurelia refused to jinx the spell by pointing out anyone.
"It's the wild-looking one, isn't it?" If I were ten years younger and not a priestess, I'd…What?
I'm a priestess. Nobody, said I wasn't allowed to look."
Aurelia kept a gaze made of stone on the priestess, "Can we please get on with the ritual. It probably won't pick him anyway. She turned back, and the wild-haired boy still watched her."
The priestess nodded and held her hands up in silence, "We gathered here today to perform the Hearts Call so this kingdom may continue to grow and prosper. Princess Aurelia, is there room in your heart for another?"
"Yes, there is."
"And you do this for the betterment of yourself and the kingdom?"
"Yes, I swear on the words of Amouria. My intentions are honest and pure."
The priestess pulled a scroll out from the folds of her robes, "then proceed, and may love sustain you into your golden years."
Aurelia stared out into the crowd. Yellow eyes still watched her with an intensity she'd never seen before. She took a deep breath and prepared to cast the spell.
The predator yellow eyes of the man she saw on the way to the altar watched Aurelia with hunger. She drank in every second and allowed her face to redden under its intensity. Who was he, and what nation birthed his beautiful form? His attire suggested he came from a distant land to Shadowfen. He towered above all the other men by at least six inches. Unfortunately for Aurelia, embarrassment would still find her on this day either. The priestess tapped her on the shoulder, “Forgive me, your majesty, but the public awaits your words. Perhaps you would like to cast the spell?”A wicked smile played across the face of yellow eyes, and Aurelia felt hot and bothered, “Could I get a cold glass of water, please? The heat in here is unbearable,” she whispered while she waved a silver fan she carried with her at all times. The priestess nodded and returned with a crystal class. Ice clinked against the side of the cup. The liquid vanished down Aurelia’s throat in the mos
Aurelia squirmed in the lion's grip, “Put me down, Zinjo. We have to go out and face the public. I hardly think a seven-foot lion man is going to inspire confidence.” You are the future queen, yes?” Zinjo gently set her back on the hard stone without injuring her. Aurelia noted he smelled like fresh grass, sweat, and leather. The scent tore at her pleasure center. “Yes, I am," Aurelia’s face grew hot under the yellow eyes. Something about his gaze caused a deep longing in her. Zinjo knelt, “Then you must step outside with me like this.” "Why?” The lion's smile unsettled Aurelia a little, but all the same, it had a certain charm to it. “The people will respect your bravery,” He said. Aurelia thought it might encourage the townsfolk to bring their torches and pitchforks to her front door. However, Zinjo had no plans to change back into a human any time soon, “Okay, just remember your
Aurelia secretly envied other girls. Some she envied for their way with men, others for their skill in matters of statecraft, and those who had been gifted in the chest area. Today, the tables had turned, thanks to Zinjo, the werelion. Aurelia walked tall next to him and carried herself regally, and pretended not to hear the petty comments coming from those who ridiculed her. “It won’t last, the princess in black is jinxed.” “He can do better than her. She messed up the heart’s call twice…” Each comment became a small arrow piercing the stoic visage of Zinjo, who probably heard everything thanks to his enhanced hearing. He turned to face those who would insult Aurelia. Aurelia didn’t know much, but turning into the werelion wouldn’t solve anything. She gripped his hand and pulled him back, “They are entitled to their opinion. I am in a position of
The gothic style suit did wonders for Zinjo’s appearance. Mr. Silke clapped his hands as the young werelion emerged from his cocoon, a stunning butterfly. “A finishing touch,” he placed a pair of glasses with red lenses on his face. Zinjo didn’t care what the human tailor had to say in the least. He responded with, “Hmmm.” He faced Aurelia in his finery, “Does this please you?” he asked. Aurelia swore she heard a hint of worry in his voice. Words could not describe how Aurelia felt at that particular moment. In her mind, she had already torn the suit from his body and took what was rightfully hers. A second thought reminded her, they still had dinner with Sophie. An overprotective queen for a mother complicated matters a bit. Aurelia found her voice, “You are easily the most handsome m
Aurelia laughed at the way people hurriedly ate in the presence of Zinjo. Everyone left and Zinjo, The Queen, and Aurelia remained. The werelion was dangerously close to stealing her heart. Since they’d met, Zinjo had done nothing but lift her and made her feel like a person again. It bothered her that people hoped to see her miserable. It bothered her that everyone waited to laugh at her next mistake. The queen kept watching her with a strange look on her face. “Something wrong mother?” Aurelia asked. Zinjo sniffed the air and kept the raptor yellow eyes on the wall, “Hmmm.” his ears twitched. “No,” she put her hands down and folded her hands on the table. “Tonight was not what I expected...is he okay?” Sophie pointed to Zinjo who now walked along the wall, his nose in t
The queen urged Zinjo to bathe before they spoke again. Aurelia led her future husband to the tub area where a fresh bath awaited him. He began to strip in front of Aurelia who closed her eyes tight and put up her hand. "Zinjo, you could've waited for me to leave." She fumbled around and almost fell in the tub. Zinjos' strong hands guided her to the chair in the corner, "You smell embarrassed," He commented as he sat her down. "I'm not embarrassed, I've never seen a man naked before," Aurelia stroked the muscular chest and felt dizzy with excitement. Apart of her wanted to join him in the tub. A part of her said to savor the first steps i
Aurelia found it odd to have any man sleep in her room. Even if that same man was technically her future husband. Zinjo did not try to force his way into her bed, even though a part of Aurelia desperately wanted him to. To fill the long awkward silences she asked the gorgeous man about his life. “Why do you think the Hyena man attacked my mother?” she asked. Aurelia spent much of her time trying to divine their purpose but lack of information saw her come up empty. Zinjo laid out a bedroll for himself next to the fire, “It will depend greatly on how many more remain. If this is indeed an isolated incident, we can close the book on it.” “And if not?” “The hyenas are like the lions, if it serves the whole tribe, then it is an action worth taking.” “You think there is more?” “I smelled many different hyenas on t
Before they left the market in search of the Hyena's origin, Zinjo armed himself. The polished bone and Ivory shoulder guards highlighted the silk tan face and hair. Interlocking plates made up the chest guard and shin protectors. Zinjo turned to Aurelia who was dressed in her usual black and red silk gown, and hair in a tight elegant bun. “How do I look?” he asked while he gingerly cradled a rolled-up blanket. Aurelia's whole body reacted to the werelion's appearance. Her hands shook with excitement, and then a thought crossed her mind: What if she removed the armor and they stayed in versus going to the market. “I am more than proud to walk beside you,” She gripped his hair and pulled him down for a kiss, the image of the last one was fresh in her mind, and her loins begged her to take another. “What's in the blanke