I stride with confidence, Swyddogh just behind me, into the throne room, which is also used as the reception room on days such as these. Already petitioners form a line to see my parents, waiting their turn to plead their case in one form or another. Clemency, leniency, munificence—everyone wants something from the King and Queen, that’s just a given. There is an order to the process, one that prevents chaos from ensuing. Nothing worse than chaos on an empty stomach. But these have nothing to do with me, I’ve a mission all my own. I fix my smile upon my face, fix my arguments firmly in my mind, and make my way toward….
Oh great slithering bandicoots, there is something worse, and it stands before me now. Oily, greasy, and obsequious—in other words, Orm Schlangeleben, fucking vizier. I should’ve expected it, where’s my head? Oh yes, with Reno.
Never mind. I don’t intend to let him get to me. Not today. I’m feeling too good, my heart is full of Fellaxxian love songs, and Reno’s image fills my brain. I’ve a purpose in my life, a reason for being. Outside of my usual one, that is, which is simply because I’m me. But that’s beside the point.
Luci has yet to arrive; that’s a good thing. I think we can accomplish more without her bratty presence. She has this annoying habit of sticking in her opinion when it’s least wanted. Like ever. Seriously, women just need to shut the hell up most of the time, and… and do womanly things. Whatever. No, I don’t mean my mother. She’d wallop me good if she ever heard me say that. I’m not that dumb. Do I look that dumb? Forget I asked.
I approach my parents upon their royal thrones, make my usual filial bow of obeisance—no sense in pissing them off by being rebellious when I haven’t even gotten what I want yet. I can play the game with the best of them. Don’t forget who you’re dealing with here—Crown Prince Cailean, and none other.
“Good morning Mother, Father,” I greet them. Most kings and queens, at least in my experience, are content to hold their offspring at arm’s length, eyeball them now and then, pat them on the back, fund their higher education, and their extravagant lifestyles, and generally keep themselves aloof from most parental contact.
Not my parents.
Queen Kærlighed and King Liefde have these strange ideas about raising their children, one that favors interaction. I suppose I should be grateful; it’s probably made me the spoiled little princeling that I am today. No, that’s not my opinion, but I’ve heard it said about me, when people think I’m not paying attention. Some people are actually under the delusion that I’m some sort of an idiot. I’m sure they really mean idiot savant. I’m not sure if I like that word much better. Words. I know it’s two words, don’t tell me.
Alright, I’ll admit it, I do love my parents. There, I said it. Maybe Liusaidh too. When she’s not being incredibly bratty. Sometimes their hands-on methods are very beneficial to me. When they aren’t suffocating. Let’s hope today is one of those times.
As I was saying, my parents belong to the hug a child every day organization. No, it’s not a real group, that’s sarcasm on my part. As I reach their dais, they stand to meet me. My mother hugs me, then my father hugs me. Then we have a group hug. I glare at Swy, as if daring him to step closer, but he’s smart enough to maintain just the proper distance between himself and us, thus avoiding the dreaded hug.
When I manage to separate myself from them, I smooth down my skirt, and announce, “I would like a private audience if I may. Now.” Just in case they think I’m wanting to be put on the schedule somewhere, let there be no mistake that I mean at this very moment. I don’t intend to wait.
As if to illustrate the gravity of my intentions, I signal to Swy. “Tell the people to come back in an hour or so. And close the hall.” He nods gravely. I half hold my breath, but I hear no objections from my parents, so all must be well.
Unfortunately, Orm hasn’t taken the hint, and he’s giving me the evil vizier eye. I don’t press the point, for now. Perhaps I can think of some way to turn his presence to my advantage. We’ll see.
Of course I have a throne too. I’m the Prince, aren’t I? Luci has one too. I take my seat beside my parents, feeling a bit of one-upmanship because I know that Orm cannot sit in our presence. Score one for my side.
“Is there something you wished to discuss with us?” Father asks.
“Does it have to do with your university studies?” That from my mother.
“Yes. And no,” I answer them both. “Actually, it’s about Luci’s courtship by the… native….” I try to put my usual disdain into that one word, although I don’t actually feel it any more. Not after meeting Reno. My attitude seems to have turned itself inside out. Where once I wouldn’t deign to touch the hem of one of their garments, now I dream of touching a whole lot more than that. Well, of one native in particular. Reno.
Of course I don’t want them to know that, it’d spoil everything.
“What do you mean—”
“The arrangements have been made, permission has been given for Princess Liusaidh to be courted by Renophoatien Sameeleon—“
Two voices speaking at one time. My father. And him. The greasy odious one. I turn my attention to my father, ignoring the oily vizier.
“I understand that permission has been given, Father, and I’ve a proposal to make regarding that very thing. I wish to see that everything is done properly, and Luci is properly chaperoned during her courtship with… what was his name? Reno something? With him.” There, I think I’ve covered myself pretty well, and given no indication of just how familiar I really am with Reno’s name. Or how familiar I wish to become with his body.
My father seems to be smirking at me now. What does he find so amusing? I huff a bit, turning to Swy, who immediately pulls out my mirror so that I may admire myself. Every hair in place, beautiful as ever. I nod to him and he quickly stashes it away once more.
“And how do you propose to do that?” Father asks. My mother’s wearing the same sappy smile he is, what’s with them? I’m beginning to think they’ve hit the happy juice a little early today. Very early.
“I’ve decided I shall offer myself as a chaperone. In fact, I’ll go farther than that. I’ll actually go to the native’s home and make all the arrangements. And I shall make sure that Luci is well looked after.”
“Oh you will, will you?”
“Yes, Mother, I will.” Why is this so hard to understand? Is no one else as concerned for my sister’s honor as I am? So maybe my concerns are a little lower, and are all aimed toward Reno. Minor difference.
Are they going to give me trouble? I feel a slight tremor of panic threaten to overtake me at the idea that I might fail, that they will approve of my idea of chaperonage but disapprove of me, appoint someone else in my place. And then we’ll be sunk indeed. And I’ll simply die….
“I think that’s an excellent idea, Kay.” My father again. Oh praise the stars, he approves. I begin to breathe again. Of course I show no indication that I was ever perturbed or disturbed in any way. I’m a prince, after all. And a damned good one at that.
My stomach is rumbling again. Normally, I’d listen to its less than dulcet tones and make some attempt to appease it, but I’m in a hurry. I want to see Reno. Very badly. I shall simply have him feed me there, once I arrive. I can’t believe that I’ve actually chosen to forego food. Who am I today?
I’ll tell you who I am—I’m a young prince in love.
Just thinking about Reno gives me pause, and I feel the same sappy smile my parents are wearing creep over my face. That means it’s time to go, before I give myself away in some manner.
I make my bows, and prepare to gracefully exit the room, and instruct Swy to see about transport to Reno’s house as quickly as humanly possible. Then the worst thing I can possibly imagine occurs—my sister walks into the room. She’s obviously not aware of the meaning of a closed door. Oh oh, she’s got that look in her eyes, the one that generally spells trouble for me. What is she up to now?
I’ve my back turned toward my parents, facing Luci, as I frantically try to signal to her to turn back, to stay away, and to generally get the hell out of here before she does something to spoil what I’ve just done. Without giving away the game, which took a great deal of finesse on my part.
She’s either blind, or oblivious, or both, barreling toward us with all the grace of a three-footed jintjant in heat. What do I have to do to get that damn girl’s attention?
Oh no, she’s opening her mouth, what is she doing?
“I have something to say,” she proclaims, as she gets too close for comfort—in other words, within earshot of our parents. “About this courtship thing, I want to….”
How very badly I wish to strangle my sister at this moment!
How, how could I have… Of all the men at the reception, why’d I have to attract the most pompous of them all? His Highness Prince Cailean. I’ve gone and done it now, stirred the interest of the wrong royal and gotten my brother in as deeply as I am in the bargain. We’ve disobeyed our Mother, and our tribal leader, the First Mother. Which idea disturbs me the most—that I’ve attracted Kay, or that I’m attracted to Kay?
I’m lying, as I have all night long, staring blankly up at the ceiling. I try to sleep, but every time I close my eyes I see him—I can still feel him in my arms. Damn, he fits so nicely within my embrace. I shake my head and sigh. The Guardian has risen above the horizon. It’s early yet, but I need to talk to Jaou. We’ve plans to make. If we’re to continue with this betrayal of our people, we need to be united before our parents, and especially our Mother.
I drag myself from my sleeping pallet, the soft rich soil having done nothing to ease my rest or my mood. I chose to sleep in my soil pallet instead of on a human mattress, which seems to be the current trend among our people. I’d hoped that the Earth Mother would grant me the respite that the mattress did not, but it mattered little where I lay my head as I still got no actual sleep.
I desire only Kay. My thoughts are filled with nothing but him. How beautifully annoying.
Jaou and I need to talk. We need to come up with a plan to fix things before our carefully built house of cards tumbles down around us. I step into my private bathing area and rinse my body in the shower. The cool water runs in trickles down my body; they feel refreshing against my fevered skin as visions of the handsome Kay float through my memory. I reach down and stroke my erection; my tender petals are tightly wrapped about my cock and haven’t opened. They won’t, of course, until I’m actually able to claim him—my chosen, my princeling, my Kay. How those very words tingle in my brain. My desire hardens and the need I have for him is almost painful, in an exquisite sort of way. I stroke my shaft and its sensitive petals, giving the three glans of the head a little twist as visions of my soon-to-be-lover dance through my mind. I can still smell him on my body; the cool water enhances his scent slightly before it rinses it away. My movements become more frantic, as I pant—the thought of his beautiful eyes, those long legs wrapped about my waist, and the wonder of his wood within my grasp… I moan as my seed splashes across the cool tiles. I lean forward, resting my forehead on my arm. The desire is no less, but the urgency presses less significantly against my libido, enough so I can safely seek out my brother and not be a cause for embarrassment, if I’m seen. It wouldn’t do to walk around my family home in human dress, just to hide my enflamed state from them.
I emerge from the waters of the shower and I’m drying my skin when I hear the knock on my bedroom door.
“Enter,” I call from the bathing area as I finish my morning routine.
“Reno?” Jaou calls as he comes in and looks around.
“I’ll be right out. Make yourself comfortable. I was just about to come to you.” I chuckle as Jaou sits heavily on the made bed in the middle of the room.
“Couldn’t sleep?” Jaou asks.
“Slept in my earth pallet, not that it mattered… No, I didn’t sleep well. How about you?”
“Not a bit. All I could think of was how sweet she smelled and …” Jaou sighs
“Shhh… You know better than that. It’s not like the walls here are made of stone like the castle,” I fairly snap at Jaou.
“I know but… Reno, what are we going to do?”
“I’ll go to Father one more time and beg him to speak to Mother. I can’t believe they’d force this on us. I’ll tell him that we all got along well enough but that there isn’t any attraction between us and see if it makes any difference.” I step from the bathing area back into my room to see Jaou lying back on the bed, his head in his hands.
“It won’t matter. I’ve already approached him this morning, while he was doing his Guardian salutations in the garden. I told him that the Prince seemed to be attracted to you and although the Princess was cordial, that I wouldn’t expect any declarations to be made.” Jaou’s hands thumped to his sides on the mattress.
“What did he say?” I catch my breath as I sit beside my brother. From the dismal discouraged look on his face, I already know the answer, of course.
“He told me to stay out of it and be a good chaperone, guard the family’s honor and keep you in sight. That you know your place and will do as the First Mother bids and mate with the female.”
“Smatherrats!” My head falls forward into my hands, my hair hiding my eyes as well as the shame of my overwrought emotions from my brother. “Then we go with Kay’s plan and for the time being we play the game. I’ll approach the First Mother and ask what our next step in courtship is expected to be. You’ve been named chaperone so you might as well come with. I apologize now brother, if I seem forward with your chosen, but I may have to touch her to make this game realistic. I’ve no desire for her, I assure you. I only want Kay. Just so you know.”
“I know brother. I know…” Jaou’s voice sounds tired. And our game has barely begun.
We’re both startled from our reveries by the sound of shouting in the hallway. Together we bolt for the door. The commotion comes from the front of the house. Someone has arrived. For a moment I think it might be Kay, but from the distraught screaming of Mother and the keening sound of Father in distress, I know that can’t be the case.
Jaou and I burst through the front door to see two men leading a horse. Behind the horse, upon a litter our brother Dorianianetah lies unconscious, cradled between the poles in a layer of soil. His color’s grey, none of the natural green of our people’s natural pallor can be seen in his skin. If not for the faint rise and fall of his breathing, I’d have thought he was gone from this world.
“What’s going on here!” I ask the two men—they look almost as sickly as my brother. I run forward and take my brother’s hand as Jaou takes the reins of the horse; it’s begun to spook as a direct result of my father’s
“We were in the wastes,” one man replies. “Dorian decided he wanted to try and find out what was at the center, see what was creating the wastes. I told him not to. I tried to convince him it was a bad idea, but he refused to listen to reason,” The telling of this awful tale seems to draw the last of the man’s energy from him. When I look up from my brother to him, I realize the man is my little brother’s best friend, Thom. Only he looks so much older than his few years, that I almost didn’t recognize him.
“My brother can be very stubborn, Thom. You know that,” I try to sooth him as I lace my fingers with my brother’s, sending him as much restorative energy as I can, before Mother shoves me unceremoniously away.
“You will lose your coloring. I’ll do it!” she snaps, lacing her own fingers with her son’s, pouring her energy into him. I bite my tongue, knowing that Dorian’s body would’ve accepted the energy from me—his brother and another male—easier than from the body of a female, even that of his mother. But I can’t disobey her.
“Thom, what happened next?” I ask since Mother’s concentrating on healing Dorian.
“We waited for him for two days, but when he didn’t show last evening, Zeph and I went in after him and found him unconscious on the ground. Everything around him was dead. The very plant life about him sacrificed to keep him alive.” Thom starts to waver on his feet. Zeph, his older brother wraps an arm around him and braces him.
“We put him in a litter and headed home. When we were clear of the wastes we put clean soil around him and bared as much of his skin to the guardian as we could, hoping it would help purify him. We gave him an energy infusion, but we’re almost as contaminated as he is.” Zeph shakes his head, exhaustion flooding him.
I watch Jaou unhitch the horse from the litter and help Zeph put Thom atop the horse, then climb behind him. “I’m going to take them home,” Jaou says. “They need help. I’ll make sure they get to their families.”
“Yes, thank you, Jaou,” Mother offers my brother a grateful smile. “Reno, I’m sorry I snapped at you. Will you assist me and your father to get Dorian to the gardens? We’ll see to his energy infusion, but he’ll do better with you there also. The light of the Guardian will refresh your colors as well.”
“Yes Mother, as you wish.” I scoop my brother up in my arms and run for the garden before she can protest the skin to skin contact and the energy I send to my baby brother, without her permission.
to be continued
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