The second chapter of my working novel. Ideally this will end in a series of 5 books.
The Queen worried. It had been four nights now that her husband came to their joint chamber after having drunk himself foolish. Letitzia knew men liked to drink, but Maurice was different. Though he drank daily, he’d only ever drink himself silly at feasts, or when something troubled him. And even then only a few times in their marriage had something trouble him enough to drink.
The first time had been a few months after they were married. They tried several times for an heir, but nothing came. Letitzia worried that, since she had married her sister’s intended, The God had cursed their marriage. Maurice was so insistent that he wanted her instead of her sister, Lady Ferienne Giolinata. She knew her father only agreed to the change in marriage because Maurice was the crown prince of Arizia. Leti knew her sister had never forgiven her. She did not like betraying her, for Letitzia family was the most important thing, after The God of course. But she was told that marring Maurice was her duty, and as a lady from the holy city of Sargoza she did her duty and married the future king. Letitzia did not like him at first. It wasn’t until after their five years of courting that she came to love him. To the world he was a brave and ruthless king, but through the countless letters they exchanged she came to know him as a kind and loving man.
It was not until a year after their marriage that she was finally with child. Maurice had been so miserable, but the child brought life back to him, and brought him back to her. That had been the first time Letitzia felt like their marriage had not been cursed by The God. Their first-born son, Darien, brought so much joy to them and their families. Thanks to her family he was even blessed by the Patressimex of Sargoza, the holiest man in all the lands. Though recently it seemed that her king husband had returned to his misery.
“I do not know Mau,” said the Queen as she slid her naked legs under the turquoise covers. The bed sat in the northern wall, covering nearly the entire bedchamber. Her blonde waves fell loosely on the pillow beneath her. She could feel the perspiration on her neck as she sat bare-breasted on the bed, her eyes admiring her husband. The King stood in his black night pants, his bare chest and face glistering under the moon’s light with perspiration. His hand rested calmly on the stone railing of the chamber’s balcony, which overlooked the small courtyard. How has he managed to remain so handsome after all these years? Her King stood tall and proud under the night sky. His light brown hair rested on his shoulders as his dark eyes focused on her exposed breasts. His shape had suffered slightly, particularly his stomach, but it was still impressive for a man his age.
They had not made love in weeks. She felt his urgency tonight, which she took as a sign that he was once again returning to her. But he then spoke with her about the colonial city and she felt the distance between them once again. Leti just did not understand why such a troublesome city had to be rebuilt. “Why is Tolus so insistent on this city? How many times has he advised you against continuing support for cities such as Maeir and Tullin? What is different now?”
She saw her husband’s drunken smile turn into a flat line as the skin between his eyes scrunched up in thought. He turned away from her, looking onto the courtyard with his palms resting on heavily on the stone. She knew he was lost in thought. He always turned away from her when he had no answer, and she knew not to press him when he did so. Leti saw him take a small sip out of the silver chalice in his hand, and again she worried. She had taken their lovemaking as a sign that he had returned to her, but soon as they finished he reached for the jug and poured himself a cup. He offered one to Letitzia, but she refused, “You know I only drink at feasts, my love,” the Queen had told him. Maybe Lucien could speak to him and try to put his mind at ease. After all, her brother was not only a man of The Faith, but also the First Patre of Arizia, one of the highest clerical offices below the Patressimex. Patres of The Faith were sworn to secrecy, surely Maurice could confide in him. Though she imagined that if Tolus could not calm his mind, perhaps no one could.
“I do not know what he sees in the city Leti,” Maurice said, interrupting her thoughts. Her King was still turned away from her, but she could see the side of his face. He had a strong squared jaw with prickly hairs, which seemed to cut through the darkness as he spoke. “However I do know that his advice has seldom been wrong. And he has certainly given this plan a lot of thought…” The King trailed off, turning his face back to the darkness of the courtyard, looking down into his chalice before tilting it up to his mouth.
Maurice was not wrong. Tolus has been a great advisor thus far and she knew he always had Maurice’s best interest at heart. The two had been friends since they were boys. Maurice had told her a story of the time Tolus took the blame when Maurice had broken his father’s ink bowl with his wooden toy sword. Tolus had warned him about playing with it inside his father’s office, but Maurice did not listen. Poor Tolus was locked in his father’s tower for three days. Even now not much has changed, The King still does as he pleases and Tolus handles the consequences. The man was only three years older than the King, but he was more of an older brother to him than his late blood brother, Darien III, had ever been. “I suppose you are right,” Leti responded. “The Solientells have always given your family masterly advice.” That much she knew. Maurice’s father, King Enas I, had been wise enough to trust Tolus’ grandfather when he suggested an invasion of northern Bryon. The Arizian Kingdom nearly doubled in size because of that advice. Perhaps Tolus was right. A prosperous colonial city like the vision of Zaphirose would certainly bring great honor to Arizia. And Leti knew how important that was for Maurice. He worried so much about not being a great King like his father and grandfather were before him. She knew he loved her deeply, but she often doubted whether he loved his kingdom more. Although Leti supposed that was his duty as the King, to love and serve his realm above all else.
Letitzia watched as her King turned his aging, muscular body around to look at her, resting his palms on the stone, and wrapping his fingers under it. He lifted his right hand to pick up his chalice, but stopped himself just as the silver touched his lips. The King lifted his gaze toward her, and for a moment she swears she saw a slight smile curving up behind the cup. Maurice might have been staring at the Queen, but she knew his mind was elsewhere. Letitzia knew her husband better than she knew herself, and she knew Maurice was thinking about the glory and pride this city could bring for Arizia. She prayed to The God that her husband would achieve everything he wanted and more.
Maurice put his chalice down on the stone railing, leaving it to shine under the moon’s light. He lifted his hand and ran it through his hair, like had done ever many times before. By The God, she loved that man. “What runs through your mind my love?”
His eyes shot up to hers; she knew she had startled him. “Tolus is perhaps the wisest man I know,” Maurice began. “I could charge him with the development of the city. He’d have to find investors, architects, and the such.” The King said, clearly thinking out loud. So lost in thought was her husband that he had not even noticed the winter chill coming in from the open balcony. Or perhaps it was the wine making him warm. Either way, Leti had already covered herself entirely with the Turquoise cloth. One of the colors of her husband’s house. “Think about it Leti,” The King continued. “I wouldn’t have to be disturbed by negative news from the city any longer, but I could claim any reward for the kingdom,” Finished the King, finally with a smile on his face.
His smile was not beautiful by any means, but it brought Leti so much joy regardless. As long as her King was happy, she could support this city. Tolus could certainly keep the royal interests, and her King would finally return to her. “My love,” Leti began. “I am just a woman from a foreign land, but it is my opinion that should it prove successful, the city would do marvelous things for the realm. And Tolus could certainly handle such a task.” She did not care about the practicalities. She knew her saying this would make her husband happy, and what more is a woman’s duty than to make her husband happy?
Then, much to her grief, Maurice picked the chalice back up, and tilted it to his mouth. He took a long drink, and when he was done he set the cup back down on the stone, his expression grim once more. “There is… one more thing Leti…” Maurice said as he walked towards the bed, closing the balcony doors behind him. The room became instantly warmer, but something about the way Maurice spoke sent chills down her body.
The King lifted the golden rose patterned cover, setting his long legs on the bed, resting his back on the wooden board behind him. Leti was growing nervous. She sat up on the bed, resting her back on the board as well. She looked at her husband. “What is it my love?” She said softly.
Nothing. His gaze locked on the large, beautifully carved wooden door that lead to the outer hallway, as the right side of his mouth raised in discomfort. “Tolus recommends that in order to better serve our interests and show support we should send one of our children to the colony,” Maurice said in a voice barely louder than a whisper as he turned his head to see her reaction.
This must be some sort of trick, was the only thing that came to her mind. She could do nothing but look at her husband in disbelief. Their eye locked on each other. If Letitzia didn’t know any better she’d think her husband was afraid of her. The way he held her gaze like a scared little boy, a look she had only seen on him once before, when he held little Darien for the first time. “That’s absurd,” she heard herself say in a tone that should never be used against a King. Perhaps the most disrespectful she had ever been with him. Once Enas, their second son, had suggested he might like to travel to Sargoza and join The Faith, much to her delight. But this was another thing entirely. Her family ruled over Sargoza as protectors of The Faith, she knew Enas would be safe under her Lord Father; and the clergy is one of the noblest orders a man can join. But sending their royal children half a world a way would bring no honor. “Our children are royalty, Maurice. They belong here, not across the Palarie Ocean.” She managed to say, an unusual anger in her otherwise calm voice. Letitzia seldom became angry, but at this moment she was filled with rage.
Maurice looked at her thoughtfully. He knew how upset this would make her, yet he asked anyway. “I thought so too at first,” the King began, clearly testing her reaction. But she remained still, her expression neutral. She refused to give anything away that would make him think, even just for a second, that this was something she might consider. “But I am not so sure anymore,” Maurice continued carefully. “Tolus made some good arguments, and besides he loves the children. He would never suggest sending them away if he didn’t think they’d be safe.” Her husband finished confidently.
How could he truly consider this? Was the only thought that came to her mind. The Queen was not a foolish woman. She could understand the benefits of sending a noble to the colony, but her own children? They were so young, Darien was only a boy of thirteen, and little Addie, her youngest only a girl of ten. Everyone one of them had a role to play here, in Borris, not in some far off land. She would never agree to this.
“I see why it would be beneficial Mau,” the Queen said in a calm voice. “But I do not think it necessary.”
“Oh come on Leti,” began Maurice, clearly agitated. “They are not babes anymore. There comes a point in life when a royal must do his or her duty. And that duty sometimes includes making sacrifices for the good of the realm,” the King finished, looking deep into her eyes. Clearly his patience was at its end.
Leti knew this must be hard for Maurice as well, though he seldom shows it, he really does love the children. Particularly Maritzio, a truth that has always pained Darien terribly. But Maurice and Maritzio were so similar, wild and brave. And after the accident Darien had become a careful boy, much to his mother’s happiness. Maurice had been so worried for Darien, and so furious with Enas who he blamed for the fall. They were just children playing, but Maurice did not understand, he only cared that the crown prince remain safe from then on. Poor Enas was never the same after that day. Though he now seemed to have left the sword playing to Maritizio and taken a different path himself. Reading all afternoon, and visiting the church each morning. Nothing would please Letitzia more than Enas following in her family’s tradition of the second-born sons to join The Faith. When Enas expressed his religious interests on his last name day it took everyone by surprise, especially Maurice. The King was always hard on their children, but she knew he loved them.
She found that her anger had passed. Her children had that effect on her. And she knew that in the end, this matter was for Maurice to decide, as bestows a king to be the final authority on any important matters. All she could do was share her thoughts with him, as any wife and husband would do at the end of their days. “Do you truly believe any of them could do more good for the realm in some far off colony than they could in the mainland?” The Queen said calmly, hoping to make her husband think thoroughly about his decision.
“I do not know for sure,” The King admitted as he turned his gaze from hers and back to the wooden door. She felt him relax into the bed, his anger leaving him. “But then again, few things in life are ever guarantees. For all we know some terrible plague could strike our walls, and sending our children away could end up saving their lives,” Maurice reflected humorously.
Letitzia felt a soft laughter leave her throat. “I suppose so,” she responded. “Though if a plague were to strike our walls you’d have larger problems than dealing with some far off city,” she said laughing.
“Yes, I suppose you are right,” laughed the King. “I don’t even know whom I would send,” the King said as he slid his legs under the covers and lightly placed a hand on her thigh. She welcomed his touch by resting her head on his shoulder, her eyes now focused on the far side windows. These were some of her favorite moments. When her King and her laid together, talking and laughing. Some of the few instances they got to be alone. Today’s conversation displeased them both, but that is what marriage is meant to be, a partnership of sorts, where one partner need not always agree with the other, but should be supportive no matter the outcome. “Clearly Darien must stay here,” the King continued.
“Well of course, the heir to Arizia has no business on the other side of the world,” the Queen agreed.
“And Enas may just be a boy of twelve, but he has already shown great interest in joining The Faith. I fear that sending him away might lead him astray of his devotion to The God,” the King reflected. That was one of the things Letitzia admired most about her husband. He understood the importance of The God, something that is difficult for powerful men. They could seldom admit there might be someone out there more powerful than them.
“I agree my love. Enas would be much more beneficial for the colony later on, though not politically. Perhaps as a missionary once he completes his studies,” the Queen proposed. “Perhaps Maritizio?” She volunteered, surprising Maurice as well as herself. The King’s eyes locked intently on hers. “I do not wish to encourage this, but if it must be done I think Maritizio is the best choice. He might be slightly younger than Enas but his bravery and strong character could serve your interests well while also keeping him safe.” Proposed the Queen.
“I do not think so Leti,” her husband said, a hint of a smile curved up on his lips. “Maritzio is a military man, not a politician. As good as the kid is as a marksman he is equally bad a ruler. Plus I fear that his temper could end up harming our interests more that aiding them. Not to mention he is way on his way to becoming the youngest man ever named to the Kingsmen.”
“Well obviously we could never send Addie.” Letitzia declared. She knew she had to be firm; she had to let Maurice know how much this meant to her. “She is far too young and not to mention our only daughter.” Leti stated with demand in her voice.
“She is the same age as Maritzio Leti,” the King responded.
He was right, but Addie was different. She may have been born only a few minutes after Maritzio, but she was her baby girl, her only daughter. How could Maurice contemplate sending their baby girl to the other end of the world? Leti knew that eventually Addie would be forced to leave her home and be married, just as she had done, but not now. It was far too soon.
“And Tolus said our child would not have to sail away for at least two more years. She would be twelve then. More than old enough to leave home if a proper match could be arranged for her,” said the King thoughtfully. “But I fear she might be more valuable for us here. She is our best chance for an alliance with Dalis, and we are going to need them if the is ever another war with Bryon,” Maurice said, almost with sadness in his voice. She knew how bad he wanted this, but she thanked The God for how reasonable he was behaving.
“Please, Mau,” she pleaded. “Please don’t take my only daughter from me so soon.” That was the only thing she could think to say. The thought nearly brought her to tears.
“Alright, alright. I will have word with Tolus and the roundtable on the morrow,” He said with a deep sigh. “I am certain we can find another way,” Maurice assured her before placing a light kiss on her forehead.
She loved that man. He was the King of the Roses, and he belonged to her.