‘It feels hot,’ was the first thought that Choice had when she woke up and it really was very hot. She blinked the sleep out of her eyes and sat up. As she did, a circular thing wrapped in a towel fell down from her forehead. She looked at it for a second and touched it. So that’s why it was hot. She picked it up and set it to the side of her bed. Wait bed. The last thing she remember was green eyes. Choice looked around and recognised her room in the palace.
Choice wasn’t able to be confused for long. An attendant came into the room and look at her for a few seconds before she actually realised that the princess was up and about.
“She’s awake,” the maid shouted to someone behind her. As she said so, the sound of running feet could be heard and in came her mother and her five year old younger brother Cero.
Her mother looked extremely tired and still had many marks from her fight with the assassin. Someday she’d get the full story of how she won her fight but it wouldn’t be that day.
“My darling, are you alright,” Sera said lovingly embracing her. Her younger brother didn’t really understand what was going on but he held her hand.
“Sis, the pain is going away. Shoo.”
“I’m fine Cero.” Even though she said this, her eyes began to well up and tears fell from her eyes. “Mama, I was so scared. I ran and ran but I still got caught.”
“It’s okay my darling. It’s okay. You’re safe now. And I’ll make sure it remains that way.” Sera comforted her daughter as she cried and made a note to herself to confront this issue later on. But for now, she’d be with her daughter on.
Later on, when Choice stopped crying, she asked her mother, “Mama who was that masked woman with green eyes who helped me?”
“What masked woman,” her mother replied smiling a strained smile, “I didn’t see any masked person when I came to you.”
“My dear Choice. I know you’re shocked but you really shouldn’t say things that aren’t true. You definitely shouldn’t speak about them. People don’t like little girls that talk too much.”
Ah there was her mother. She would be very nice and then she would be very off with her and sometimes even annoyed with her for nothing. Choice knew that she remembered correctly. There was no way she would forget green eyes and olive skin. But she knew that her mother wanted her to stop talking about it.
“Sorry Mama, I must have mixed things up.” She bent her head and lifted her eyes to look pleadingly at her mother.
“It’s alright my dear, you are just recovering. I know this won’t happen when you are better.” Saying this she held Choice to her bosom and stroked her hair.
“Take Cero back to his nanny,” the Queen said to one of the attendants behind her. The attendant took Cero away.
“Bye Cero. See you later.”
“Now Choice, are you hungry. I’ve brought breakfast from the kitchen. You need to get your strength up.”
Later on after Choice had gone back to sleep tired from the interaction with her mother, Sera got up from the bed and smoothed the bed covering over Choice.
“Sleep tight my dear. Mummy’s going to take care of everything.”
She had to find her husband and ask him why the hell her only daughter – their only daughter – got attacked in the capital of the kingdom a few metres from the palace and there was no extra support apart from the guards, although they were many, who came with them on their trip to the Kariot.
Finding Frank was tricky, he was never where he needed to be which was his chamber areas. Instead, he was always outside the palace fucking someone sometimes in disguise and sometimes not. She knew being in the palace was a drain and a bore but she beared with it why couldn’t Frank do the same.
However, this time she had an inkling that he would be in the council chambers. He was always there every time a huge event happened. And though he might not favour her daughter as much as many people thought, she was still his only daughter. Apart from that, this had happened in the capital. Even if he hadn’t cared about what happened with Choice, he had to consider an attack on the capital as a serious incident.
When Sera entered the council areas, she saw her conversation with someone else. As she beelined to them, she heard snippets of their conversation. Something about prophecy and catastrophe. Now what could this be about. Sera slowed down her footsteps and approached quietly to hear what they were talking about without alerting them.
However, it seemed that the man conversing with her ‘husband’ was very aware because almost as soon as she tried to approach them, he stopped talking and turned to look at her. He smiled sheepishly and turned back to the king.
“Looks like you have important business. May I come back later?”
“Of course Tomas. We will resume this discussion later today.” Tomas. She made sure to remember that name for future research. Who knows. Maybe he would be important in the future after all, he was able to notice her approach which while not rare was not common either. She noted his facial features. Black hair, brown eyes. Square face. Not very handsome. Not Frank’s type then. Though to be frank (hilarious), she wasn’t very certain about Frank’s type (very very hilarious joke) after she find out about his affair with a woman two decades older.
Sera watched Tomas as he walked past her and turned back to look at Frank. She didn’t feel guilty about trying to eavesdrop on his conversation and did not pretend to be. She did not apologise. She just stood there watching for his reaction. Marriage to Frank was fucking exhausting sometimes. Everything seemed to be part of a game they were playing of who could make the other more miserable. She would never say it to him even though they both knew but she was losing. Not because of him or feelings for him. Whatever was there burnt out years ago. But because of the fact that her freedom was constrained. That she had to watch what she did because of her reputation and image as the ‘Queen’. She missed being the Undying liked a spear to the heart.
Frank looked at her standing silently and then chuckled. Sera breathed in in relief. Things seemed to be going well. How rare. He walked to the side of his assigned seat. Sera wrinkled her nose. Tobacco. This was what marriage to Frank provided both countries. An exchange of tobacco with vegetation.
“You know that’s bad for your health,” Sera said calmly.
“My darling Sera. In times of crisis we all have our preferences.” Leaning against a wall, he expertly inserted some tobacco into a pipe and effortlessly blew out a smoke ring. Sera was slightly envious. She couldn’t do that. “Are you too afraid to have a taste, my darling.”
Sera took the offered pipe from him. By the heavens, this was still as good as she remembered. She stopped smoking though after becoming queen. Apparently, it was ‘unbecoming’ for the Queen to have such a dirty habit but it seemed to not be unbecoming for Kings. After a few puffs, she returned the pipe at Frank who smirked at her knowingly.
Sera took in a deep breath. Then…
“I want to talk.”
“Did you know?”
“About what,” replied the King blowing out another smoke ring. This annoyed Sera. She was certain that he was aware of what she spoke and was irritated that he would pretend to be unaware of what she was talking about.
“If you mean about the ambush of you Kariot,” he continued looking amusedly at her, “Then yes, I knew.”
“Beforehand?” She wanted him to say no. That he hadn’t sent her and her daughter out knowing that they would be attacked but he didn’t respond. They both knew that was the case. Not for the first time, Sera nee Seychelles was reminded of how much she despised Frank Legume.
“I must say that I underestimated how bold they would be to attack you a few metres from the palace as well as they amount of firepower they would bring.” He refilled the tobacco in his pipe.
“Hah,” the Queen replied exasperated, her calmness rapidly evaporating. “You underestimated! My, one would think you were a regular modern day seer. Did you see them attack me, attack my daughter in an abandoned desert with limited weapons?”
A pause. Frank raised an eyebrow and deliberately tapped his finger against the pipe.
“You should have told me.” Sera breathed in. Forcing herself to calm down. Angry gets shit done. But not all the time. Frank was always dismissive of angry people. Did he think that just because his anger and rage was better hidden that he was better than her. Ugh, she hated this game. She missed the forwardness of her life before her marriage. “I would have been better prepared.”
“It’s because you would have been better prepared that I didn’t tell you. Wanted to know exactly who dared to plot against me.”
“Yes,” he breathed. He straightened up from the wall and walked up to her. Looking into her eyes and cupping her cheek, he continued, “Against me. Everyone knows that you and my daughter belong to me.” But by the stars, Frank was gorgeous and he knew it. Those lips, the shorn red hair and smooth skin. The quiet confidence cloaking him made him more enticing. Made you want to see what lay underneath that. To want to be in his confidence and know his vulnerabilities. That had been what had attracted her. But then you got to know him and then you realised that underneath all of that was nothing. There was a gaping void where a human should be.
It didn’t used to be like that. He used to be vibrant and funny but for most of their sixteen years of marriage, he had been the person she saw before her. To the extent that she felt that the person she thought she used to be was a mirage. But this situation was okay. She too had changed.
Sera stepped back. “I’m not yours.”
“Maybe. Not yet.” He chuckled, “But she is. And everyone thinks you two are. Don’t be too angry everything is fine now. Besides didn’t you take care of everything. The Undying is still living. And I got my prisoners. I bet that’s the work of Tosin.”
“The people you have now are foot soldiers, nothing more. The others who would have more information escaped. Also, I have no idea what you are talking about. I haven’t seen Tosin in over sixteen years.” She smiled at him. He wasn’t the only one allowed to have secrets.
“Okay, if you say so. Also, wasn’t it you that told me that all information is important. Foot soldiers or not let me worry about that. You should go back to Choice. She might wake up in the middle of the night scared and looking for her mummy.”
“Aren’t you coming to see her? She’s your daughter. If you want to claim her as yours, you should put in the requisite amount of effort.”
The King put down his pipe. “Choice, huh. She looks very much like you and very much…like me.” Sera looked at him calmly, waiting for him to get to the point. “I’ll see her later tomorrow. By that time, she’d have stopped crying. You know I hate seeing crying women. So chop chop. Get to it and comfort our daughter.”
“Frank,” Sera said very clearly and calmly. She wanted him to remember what she was going to say next. “If you ever use me or my children as bait again, I will make sure that the Legume Kingdom becomes known on an international level. As a cautionary tale.” She smiled devilishly. “Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted, Frank. For Legume to be known. ” Frank’s face slightly paled. He knew Sera was very serious about what she had just said. He held the upper hand in this relationship but he knew not to push Sera too much.
“Enjoy your son’s coronation ceremony. He sure is getting older and you…are doing the same. I’m sure you are looking forward to the day your child sits on the throne.”
Certain now that he had gotten the message, Sera turned around to leave. She knew she wouldn’t get anything else from Frank today. She’d have to do her individual research but that was okay. She was already used to getting information people didn’t want her to know.
“By the way Sera,” Frank called, “I’ve decided to send Choice to the countryside to live with my sister. For her protection, you know. Also, she’s old enough to stop playing childish games and start learning how to be a woman. You know I love you my darling but there is something to be said for a woman growing up the traditional way.”
Sera whirled around in indignation. “Your sister! Your sister is…”
“A very respectable, well bred and proper woman. My daughter would definitely benefit from learning from someone who was brought up in such a genteel and cultured manner. Moon knows, I don’t want her to have difficulty making friends with other women due to a boorish behaviour.” Your sister is a monster and I don’t want her anywhere near my daughter. Sera could however feel the futility of trying to argue with Frank on this. Still she would try.
“But she can get all of that. Here. At the royal court.”
“True. But as you reminded me, my oldest son is having a coronation. I wouldn’t want my daughter to feel isolated here as everyone would be focusing on her coronated brothers.”
“Bullshit, you’re just going to send Cedric to a boarding school anyway and then to the military. Also, Choice wants to have a coronation as well so if she gets one she won’t feel isolated.”
“A coronation! For a woman. Hah. I wonder what you’ve put in her head. There’s never being a woman on the Legume throne. This is why I need to send her to my sister so that she learns the values of her society. I need to separate her from you. To stop her from being spoilt by you. If I leave her here, you’ll raise her the wrong way and she won’t know how to function or be a proper woman.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“You know what I mean. Besides,” saying this, he looked slyly at her, “She’ll be safe there. After all, Legume doesn’t need to be known that quickly. We have time as I get older to get known.” Sera looked at him wide eyed. This was the reason that he was separating her from her daughter? This was it?
“You want to play the game but only when you want to. Whenever you lose, you always remember you are the King and slap me right down to earth don’t you.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about, my lovely wife. But Choice will go to my sister’s. That is final. I’ll leave you now to get used to it and to think about how you will tell her. But know this. In three months, she will be living with my sister, where she will learn courtesy, politeness and how to be a woman at court and in wider society. This is an order and a decree.”
As she trembled, Frank kissed her on the cheek then picked up his pipe. She didn’t move until she heard his footsteps walk past her and then heard the doors to the council chambers slam shut. Only after a few moments, when she was certain that no one else was there with her did she break down in tears. Frank, you bastard. I’ll definitely kill you one day.