Fierce Betrothed
Fierce Betrothed
Author: Elizabeth Ukeh

Chapter 1. The Decision

The Decision

Year of the Lilies

Torrid Season

The throne room


King Tus III

I SIT COMFORTABLY on my throne made of polished gold and adorned with precious stones but my heart is disturbed. I haven't slept well in the past few nights and I haven't eaten properly either. How can I be happy when something threatens the very stability of my household?

I dismount from the throne and pace to the balcony of the stone throne room. Looking down, I'm faced with the marvelous sight of the orchard, the stream that flows across it and the bridge that looms over it. I catch a glimpse of the horses race past under the supervision of the stable attendants and grooms.

Why can't I be as carefree as the mares and ponies and stallions that populate my stable? Why can't I be free of worry and the burden of over thinking?

I'm distracted by the soft sounds of footsteps against the stone floors. Whirling, I catch sight of Queen Elunia — my graceful wife. I bow slightly and return my gaze to the horses.

"Beautiful creatures aren't they?" She sings out. The scent of myrrh from her tickles my nose.

"Indeed," I say. She glances at me with a worried look on her flawless face.

"What's wrong, my Lord?" She moves closer and lays a dainty hand on my shoulder. "Is it still about our son?"

It is unfortunate but I don't want to admit this, I shake my head not taking my eyes of the orchard. Why would the heir to the powerful throne of Altsas refuse to take a bride? He has reached maturity and most of his mates are already fathers. I don't understand his reluctance, he'll get married before the end of the year whether he wants it or not.

"It's about Kyan, isn't it?" My Queen asks with her melodious sing-song voice, her words are laced with worry and I don't want to upset her the more.

I take her hand from my shoulder, facing her and looking into her hazel eyes that hold me captive even after all these years. I kiss her slender hand. "Yes, you know I only want what is best for him."

"My lord, if our son refuses to be wedded, why insist? Maybe he has good reasons for refusing."

"And what reasons would that be?" I ask.

She sighs. "I don't know. But I know we shouldn't force him, maybe we should give him more time—"

"More time?" I drop her hand and struggle to keep the anger out of my voice. "Surely you are joking, my Queen. He turned sixteen a year and a half ago! I've given him that long."

"Please, listen to me; if we force him into marrying he might do something outrageous. Believe me, I've heard stories."

"Nothing outrageous will happen in my castle, my Queen. I sincerely hope not." I turn and stare at the orchard again. "Everything should be in unity, in pairs. Don't you think so?"

"Yes, my lord." I can hear the humility in her voice.

"Our children, my Queen, are unpaired. What do you think the subjects are thinking? I will not be a subject of mockery," I spit out.

My Queen remains silent and together, we stare out to the orchard and watch the stream of roaring water flow past. I can almost hear it, almost smell it.

"What do you suggest we do, then?" Her voice wakes me from my brief reverie.

"We must find him a bride." I take my time to reply.

She remains silent, considering my answer then says, "What if he does not like her?" She whispers, her voice like a breeze.

"He will. He'll grow to love her." turning, I face my beloved wife. "It is sad he can't find love like we did." 

"I do wish it for him." She looks away.

"Hopefully," I reach out and touch her arm, "our daughter will be lucky."

"Hopefully." my Queen echoes.

Just then, sharp thuds of boots echo across the vast room. My wife and I turn to the direction of the interruption.

"Kyan," my wife gasps. "You're back!" She flutters across the room like a dove and throws herself into the arms of the defiant son of mine.

Kyan leaves the walls of the kingdom frequently for his hikes which can last weeks. Personally, I can't care less but my softhearted wife doesn't stop worrying whenever he's gone.

Kyan hugs his mother back and kisses her both cheeks before sinking onto one knee with his head bowed. "Mother," he says. "Father." 

My Queen wastes no time in touching his head and muttering the words of greeting. I stare at him, then meet the soulful eyes of my wife. She frowns back. "Greet him," she mouths.

I nod. I cross the distance with three strides and rest my big hand on his head of flaxen locks. "Alihim safir mi."

My wife gives me a warm smile and taps Kyan on the shoulder — an indication that he may rise.

"I've missed you," my Queen says. "How was your hike?"

"Beautiful," he breathes. "I left the borders of Altsas completely. I climbed mountains and lived in caves"

"You know you can still do all that as a married Prince." I can't help cutting his gushing over his aimless hikes.

My wife sends me a displeased look. "Have pity on our son, he must be exhausted from all that hiking!" 

And truly, he looks exhausted; bruises, cuts — some bleeding, some healed, eye bags, scrapes on his skin and tattered clothing.

"It's alright, mother,'' Kyan says. He turns to me, "Father, I will respect your wishes and get married."

My wife shrieks in happiness and throws her hands around him. They beam at each other and I do all I can not to roll my eyes at the excessive display.

"I'm glad," I say to him.

"But under one condition." His eyes don't leave mine.

"What are you talking about, Kyan?" My wife asks him with pinched brows.

He gives her a fleeting glance. "I have a simple condition. I want to marry a woman whose thoughts move the Earth."

"What does that mean?" My Queen asks. She grabs him and turns him to face her. "Why?"

He stares at her but gives her no response. 

I have no idea of what that means. Moves the Earth? Like magic? I shake my head, I'll have to consult my sages. I'm happy he has finally agreed to marrying. Whatever his condition means is left for my sages to decipher.

"But how do we find such a woman?" I wonder out loud.

"I don't know," Kyan replies. 

"We have to find her, my lord," my wife tells me with desperation in her voice.

I nod. "Indeed."

"You may go." I nod to Kyan who bows lowly to us before leaving.

"How are we going to find such a woman for our son?" My Queen grabs my wrists and stares right at me.

"I don't know," I say truthfully. Then, an idea creeps into my head. I consider it, viewing it from all angles weighing the advantages and disadvantages, if any.

"I've gotten an idea, my Queen." I say to her with a grin. "We'll hunt down this woman for our son even if it means conquering every other Kingdom."

I've made my decision.

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