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Monday, September 30, 2013

Rohana - Part 2

Part 2

Rohana paced her room impatiently. They had been stuck here on this diplomatic mission for over a month now, and if they didn't hurry, they'd miss her wedding! She had gotten surprisingly used to wearing elaborate and beautiful dresses at all times, and even stopped flinching when servants served her. However, her heart ached to be back home on her farm watching the fruit on the trees grow ripe and the animals grow fat as they happily grazed.
I just want to get married! Is that too much to ask?!” She shouted to no one since she was alone in her room.
There was a soft knock on the door before Chyllen poked his head in. He was chuckling and his eyes twinkled with merriment. “Did I hear that right?”
Rohana giggled at her childish behavior, but didn't apologize for it. She lifted her chin almost defiantly. “I believe you did.”
Chyllen swung the door open all the way so that he could claim a kiss from his fiancée without anyone accusing them of doing anything inappropriate. The kiss was soft and tender and lingered a few moments longer than strictly allowed by propriety. He followed it up by stroking her long silky copper hair.
Cheer up, Lord Arturos says that we should be able to leave any day now,” Chyllen informed her.
Really?” Rohanna asked, her voice soft and hopeful.
Yes,” Chyllen confirmed. “The council is meeting to resolve the conflict at this very moment, and then we can be on our merry way.”
Rohana sighed in frustration. “This has nothing to do with us. Yes it's tragic that Uridian is on the brink of a civil war, but there is nothing that I can say to stop it! Prince Henry and Princess Eve have value because they come from a Kingdom that has been to war and knows how to prevent it. Not even Prince Orion has any idea what to say on the subject!”
Rohana pulled free from Chyllen's embrace so that she could resume her pacing. “The only thing I can do is talk about farming techniques and hold out the Chalice of Divine Abundance when someone asks for a blessing! I'm useless!”
You're not useless! The Gods sent you here for a reason. They want you to spread their joy to as many people as possible. Why do you think that the Chalice of Divine Abundance only fills when you are holding it?” Chyllen asked without expecting an answer. “It's because you are the chosen one!”
Rohana groaned. “I know... but why did I have to be the chosen one?”
Because you are the most wonderful... beautiful... kind...” Failing to come up with more adjectives that weren't repetitive or insulting in their over-exaggeration, Chyllen decided to simply finish his sentence. “Woman I have ever known. No one can compare to you. Of course you were chosen by the Gods!”
Rohana wanted to be pacified by his answer, but she honestly couldn't find a single thing that made her different from any other woman in the Valley Kingdom. Well, aside from the Queen and Princess, since they carried royal blood and she didn't. She twisted her lips to the side and crinkled her nose.
Prince Orion laughed unexpectedly, startling them. “You know what? You're ironically cute when you do that!”
Chyllen chuckled in agreement. “Yes she is!”
Rohana realized that this meant she had made the same expression enough times for them to notice it and form and opinion on it. She forced her face to become smooth as she suppressed a sigh of frustration.
I've come with good news,” Orion announced with a smile. “The council meeting is over and a decision has been reached. We've been asked to join the council as they announce their decision to the King and his court.”
And then we can go home?!” Rohana demanded excitedly.
And then we can go home,” Prince Orion confirmed with a smile.
Rohana squealed and threw her arms around Chyllen. He twirled her around and then set her back on her feet so that he could kiss her. In her exuberance, Rohana kissed Orion on the cheek before dancing around the room.
Prince Orion blushed, but then hastily plastered a sardonically amused expression on his face and gestured to the entrance to the large suite which they had been staying in. “The sooner we join them, the sooner this will all be over.”
You're right!” Rohana agreed, and then offered her hand to the Prince. This was solely because he was so used to escorting his sister and the other ladies of the Palace around that he felt uncomfortable walking next to her unless her hand was tucked in the crook of his arm. Of course, Rohana felt silly being escorted by someone younger than her, especially since she wasn't a lady by birthright or marriage, but she indulged him.
Throwing a look over her shoulder at her fiancé, she mentally giggled when he winked at her. She simply could not wait to get home, get married, and finally have her wedding night! The thought made her grin like an utter fool.
The delegation soon took their places at a table in the throne room. It was tilted at an angle that allowed them to see the throne and the table opposite them, as well as the courtiers who had anxiously gathered to hear the fate of their Kingdom. Would their country be forced into a civil war as those who thought Felix made a poor King tried replace him with someone more suitable, or would their Kingdom set aside its fears and focus on moving forward from here?
When everyone was assembled – Prince Henry and Princess Eve arriving last and therefore sitting next to Rohana (which made her nervous) at their table – the chief councilman stood to give his speech.
For many months, the heads of the most important noble families have been gravely concerned that King Felix – as admirable as he is – is not suited to governing our Kingdom. He has made several bad decisions and our country has deteriorated from its former glory in the two short years he has sat on the throne.”
A pause allowed him to take a small sip of water before continuing.
Nevertheless, he is our rightful King. With no other heirs, and the noble families all containing at least a drop of royal blood, the task of determining who should replace King Felix is insurmountable. Not only would our Kingdom be placed in a state of civil war, but we would also be vulnerable to other Kingdoms who might wish to take advantage of our... chaos...”
He sighed as if relieved to be finally getting to the point. “And so, we have decided that we shall not challenged Felix as our King, but only under one condition...”
Everyone held their breath as they waited for the next sentence. Even King Felix seemed to be frozen in anticipation. The chief councilman rather perversely held his pause until people had to either take a breath or pass out.
It is our decree that King Felix shall marry our Divine Guest, Rohana Mendara.”
He waited just one second for a collective gasp to ring out, and then continued on. “In just the short time that she has been here, she has proven herself to be wise and pure of heart. We fully understand why she was chosen by her Gods to be their living representation, and feel that with her to guide our King – under the tutelage of her King and Queen – our Kingdom will flourish once again.”
Rohana's first reaction was to look at Princess Eve, certain that it was the Princess that had been chosen as a bride. Then the words sunk fully into her brain and she gaped at the chief councilman in complete and utter shock. One hand pressed against her neck, which was now sore from moving so fast.
Wait! What?!” Rohana demanded, her heart thundering in her chest. She wanted nothing more than to run and keep on running until she was safely back in her parents arms. “But... I'm not of royal blood! I can't marry a King!”
The councilman shook his head. “That does not matter in this instance. A marriage to you would cement a bond between our Kingdoms.”
Rohana was baffled. “How?”
Lord Arturos stood. He gave Rohana a brief look of sympathy before addressing the assembly. “That is true. The Valley Kingdom values each and every one of its citizens. It would not matter which woman married your King, our Kingdom would honor the alliance and welcome your Kingdom as kin.”
But... but...” Rohana felt her heart breaking into tiny pieces.
Then what say you, Prince Orion? Do you – as the official representative of your Kingdom – agree to this proposed alliance that will save our Kingdom from a civil war?” The councilman asked formally.
Prince Orion could not look Rohana in the eyes and unconsciously took one step away from her. “Yes, I hereby dissolve any obligations that she may have had to anyone in our Kingdom and agree to a marriage alliance... Provided that she agrees.”
All eyes were on Rohana as she looked around the room, trying to find someone, anyone to help her out of this mess she'd been unceremoniously thrust into. In each eye, there was hope. It seemed like every single person in the room was begging her to save them. Her gaze finally found Chyllen where he stood along the wall behind her with the other Royal Guards. He looked ready to cry, but he closed his eyes and gave her a small nod.
No longer able to hold back her tears, she turned to face the chief councilman. Small streams silently ran down her face, but she ignored them. It took her a couple of tries, but she finally managed to speak.
Yes... if King Felix wishes it, I will marry him...”
She couldn't bring herself to look at the King because she didn't want him to see how desperately she was praying that he would object. Felix sighed with an emotion that she couldn't quite decipher.
I lay awake for many nights praying that there would be a peaceful solution to our problems, but never in my wildest dreams would I ever have guessed the solution would be so simple and... wonderful. It seems we have a doubly joyous reason to celebrate!” King Felix announced.
Long live the King and his future bride!” The council members all wished in unison.
Long live the King and his bride!” The courtiers chorused.
Rohana stood alone, stiff and numb in shock and disbelief. She felt like she didn't have anyone she could turn to. She felt like she had been utterly abandoned by everyone she'd trusted. As people cheered and loudly discussed their relief, she heard almost nothing.
Suddenly, King Felix took her hand in his and used his other hand to guide her face until she was looking up at him. In a very soft voice so that no one else could hear him, he tried to reassure her.
Hey... I know this seems like a tragedy now, but I promise that I will be the very best husband to you that I can be.” The emotion shining in his eyes wasn't just relief that such an easy solution to all his problems had presented itself, it was so much more than that. It was genuine hope that they would be good together, and... love...
Rohana's head was spinning again. She couldn't understand how someone she hadn't really gotten a chance to know could possibly love her. It had taken her years to truly understand how she felt about Chyllen! She wanted to reject him and his tentative emotions, but...
Her heart skipped a beat. Somewhere deep inside her, she had developed the beginnings of love for him too. She had been fighting it, trying hard to keep her eyes off him. She had reminded herself over and over that she loved Chyllen, and that this King was nothing more that a beautiful person to look at.
Even so, she had lain awake at night thinking about him. She prayed for him to be a good King. She prayed for him to lead his people back to prosperity. She prayed that there would be a way that she could truly help him. A way more useful than holding a sacred cup!
Maybe, just maybe, this was why the Gods had chosen her for this mission. A small sparkle returned to her eyes as she cautiously decided to make the best of the situation.
Thank you,” she murmured, grateful that he at least planned to attempt to be kind to her.
He gently wiped the mostly dried tears from her cheeks. “You inspire me to be a better King. I have watched you since you arrived and I truly believe that you have the wisdom I lack. I think we will be good rulers...”
What am I supposed to say to that???
Uh... thank you. I promise to try my best...” Rohana informed him sincerely.
He bestowed on her the most brilliant smile anyone had ever seen on his face. “Good! Now I'm sure that you probably want to confer with your delegation while I start on wedding preparations.”
She nodded and watched him walk away until a thought occurred to her. “Wait!” She blurted out across the throne room, causing him to stop in his tracks and look at her. “How long do I have? Before the wedding, I mean? Do I have time to return home and explain things to my parents?”
King Felix opened his mouth to answer, but nothing came out when he realized that he wanted to say: about five minutes.
The chief councilman naturally heard this as everyone had fallen silent at her outburst. He smiled at her warmly, a mischievous spark in his eye.
Three days,” he stated firmly.
Three!” Only three?!
He nodded succinctly. “Yes. We decided that three days was the longest we wanted to wait for peace to return to our Kingdom.”
I see...” Rohana murmured. Silently, she turned to leave the throne room. Once more, tears poured from her as she ignored them.

***

I'm sorry,” Prince Orion stated later on that night in the privacy of their suite. “I had no reason – as a member of Royalty in charge of diplomacy and peace – to say no to the proposed alliance. I tried to give you a loophole to get out of it, but...” He spread his hands helplessly and shrugged.
I know,” Rohana murmured with a feeling of depression. “I made the decision on my own... but what else was I supposed to do? You saw how they were all looking at me! They think I am some kind of savior when all I am is nobody!”
She finally allowed herself to feel the anger that was just simmering under the surface. With as much oomph as possible, she tore the delicately lacy veil from her hair and threw it across the room. Then she stamped her foot for emphasis.
I have no idea how to be a Queen! I am not of royal blood! I am not supposed to be a ruler of anyone or anything other than my orchard!”
Orion tried to be sympathetic. “You really think any of us know how to rule a Kingdom? Even raised as the future heir to the throne, I honestly have no idea what I'm supposed to do when it's my turn. It's something that can only be learned as you go...”
His statement didn't help as much as he thought it would. In fact, it rather upset her even more. She roared in frustration as she located a a vase full of flowers to throw in his general direction.
Rohana, stop!” Chyllen commanded as he held her wrist captive. “This solves nothing!”
Rohana looked into his eyes and found that he was just as hurt by the circumstances as she was. The other guards looked away uncomfortably as she threw her arms around him and held him tight. He shook as he tried to decide whether to hold her in return.
It's not fair!” She wailed in anguish. “We only had 2 weeks left! We waited and waited and now...!”
Chyllen finally gave into the urge to hold her too. He felt an insane desire to sweep her off her feet and run away with her until no one could find them ever again. However, he had paid close attention to the situation in Uridian and his heart ached for them. It would eat away at him until he died if he took away their one chance for a peaceful resolution.
I... I always knew that the Gods had plans for you,” Chyllen whispered, stroking her hair.
Rohana was crying by this point. “But what about my plans?!”
Chyllen stiffened in disapproval. “You can't go against the Gods, Rohana. To do so would only bring misery...”
Rohana pulled free from his arms. “I know...” She said this not because she believed that the Gods would punish her, but because she knew that going back on her word now would plunge an entire Kingdom into war, and possibly drag hers down into it as well. Sadly, she disappeared into her room to mourn the future she had been planning her entire life.

***

Rohana watched as a pair of maids fussed over her appearance. She was wearing an elaborate dress that a team of seamstresses had worked around the clock on to have ready in time for her wedding. In deference to the current lack of abundance in the Kingdom, the dress had been remade from the previous Queen's wardrobe and had been cut to flatter Rohana's figure and features.
Wow...” she murmured with reluctant appreciation. “I look really good.”
So far, she was doing a good job of not crying, but the sight of her in this exquisite wedding dress reminded her of the dress she was supposed to be wearing as she married the man she had dedicated her whole life to. She took a deep breath to combat the stinging in her eyes. Surprisingly, that worked.
All too soon, she was standing outside the throne room waiting for the doors to open and she was every bit as nervous as she had been the first time she stood outside these doors. Maybe more so! It was hard not to pull a strand of her coppery red hair from the elegant coif and twirl it around her finger.
Are you ready, my dear?” Lord Arturos asked, a look of sympathy on his face. He was the one about to escort her down the aisle and give her away. The only man that could do so, honestly, since the only other two who could were Prince Orion – who was too young – and Chyllen...
Thankfully, Lord Arturos understood that that would be far too painful to even contemplate. It was hard enough just knowing that Chyllen was going to be in the audience watching as she vowed to be a good wife to another man. Rohana briefly wondered who had the harder task; her getting married or him watching her.
Yes,” Rohana stated breathlessly. “I'm... as ready as I'll ever be.”
Lord Arturos nodded in acceptance. “Not long now.” He tucked her hand in the crook of his arms and then used his free hand to stroke her face. “I know that this is hard for you, but I have every belief that you will be happy. I am certain that the Gods chose you for this for a reason.”
Rohana gave him a weak smile. “Thank you.”
Her mind wandered to Felix once more. Ever since she'd first met him, she'd felt admiration and a strong desire to help him be a good King. She had also felt a tiny tug of attraction, but she had firmly pushed that aside. Even so, she couldn't help but notice how kind he was to her. He had treated her like someone special long before the council had even thought about getting together to discuss possible solutions to their unstable government.
Why do people have so much faith in me? What about me makes them think I'll be a good Queen! Why are they so sure that I will know how to guide their King and save them?
The answers were not forthcoming and she was just as baffled as ever. Suddenly, the doors to the throne room opened and the music that was playing changed to let everyone know that something important was about to happen. It was time...
She was determined not to trip during what was hands down the most important walk of her life. Back home, stumbling or even stepping on her dress and falling on her rear would not be such a big deal, merely something to laugh at. Here, however, she had never met the majority of the people in the audience, and she dreaded making their first impression of her unforgettable because of clumsiness.
To her great relief, she managed to reach the dais where Felix stood waiting for her without incident. Her face was smooth and hopefully serene, and she walked with grace despite her lack of confidence. Felix stared at her as she approached him with an expression of sheer joy. His obvious eagerness to see her cheered her up and she started to smile at him in return.
Felix held his hand out as the priest talked about joining them in blessed union. Lord Arturos waited for the right moment to place her hand in his, and then he bowed to them and left them alone. Rohana felt an unexpected sensation like a tiny sizzle race through her hand and throughout her body. She stared at their joined hands as if she had never seen hands before in her life. They felt foreign and strange to her... but right...
So very right.
Rohana looked up at Felix in surprise, not hearing a word the priest said. Felix leaned over to whisper in her ear. Which made the priest frown slightly as he ignored the unexpected and fairly rude behavior.
You look so beautiful,” Felix informed her softly. “I feel like the luckiest man alive today!”
Rohana trembled, his words making her want to cry from something very close to happiness. He could have merely tolerated her and married her out of duty. Instead, he planned to make their marriage a good one, which made her almost giddy with relief.
The priest asked them both questions about how willing they were to honor each other and their Gods. Felix was specifically asked to promise to rule wisely, and Rohana was specifically asked to worship Uridian Gods as well as her own. They answered all questions satisfactorily and were soon pronounced married.
Her lips tingled strangely as Felix kissed her. Rohana was tempted to kiss him back, but it ended before she could. She lowered her eyes to the floor as a blush stung her cheeks.
Next, the priest quickly chanted a short prayer asking for the Gods blessing as he crowned her Queen. The crown was dainty and light, but it felt impossibly heavy as it rested on her head. Rohana thought that she was going to fall from the weight of it, but then she exhaled and the excessive weight disappeared.
By the blessing of the Gods, I now introduce for the first time as a Royal couple, King Felix and Queen Rohana!” The priest announced.
Felix turned to the audience and guided Rohana so that they were both standing at the edge of the dais in front of everyone who was clapping to congratulate them. Rohana smiled lightly. It was a small smile but it was genuine. If all these people were praying for her happiness as much as she was praying for theirs, then the future was sure to be a good one!
Her eyes landed on Chyllen. He looked sad, yes, but also proud of her and even a tiny bit hopeful. She knew he wanted her to be happy, but she had hoped he would be throwing a jealous fit. A large part of her had hoped that he would grab her and run off with her.
His expression changed when he realized that she was looking at him. It darkened so that she could see how he really felt. The pleasantness was just a show; inside, he was a mess! She saw hurt and anger and resignation.
Felix held his hands out wide – still holding her hand in his – and announced that it was time for everyone to adjourn to the large dining hall for a feast to celebrate. Audience members stood to do as he told them to just as he tugged on her hand lightly to pull her towards his private entrance/exit.
Who is that man?” Felix asked her as they walked.
Rohana tried to match her stride to his – which was longer and more confident than hers. “Which one?”
The one who looks at you so passionately,” Felix clarified.
Chyllen...” Rohana replied honestly, her voice catching despite her best efforts to sound calm. “He's one of the guards...”
Felix decided to be pacified by this for the moment because they were already about to enter the dining hall. He paused in the open doorway to kiss her hand.
I warn you, I don't know how weddings are in the Valley Kingdom, but here we will be expected to kiss a lot. The guests will demand it; they want to see proof that our union will produce heirs one day.”
Rohana took a deep breath to calm her suddenly erratic heartbeat. “Yes... we have a similar custom in my Kingdom.”
Felix placed a hand on the back of her neck and held her still so that he could start the tradition of kissing before the guests demanded it. His kiss was possessive but relatively chaste. Even so, it was enough to make her toes curl!
That red hair of yours! It inflames my passion and makes it hard for me to stop kissing you!” Felix confessed in a low voice, just barely louder than a whisper.
Rohana blushed so hard she would swear she could feel it all the way down to her feet!
Most of the guests had found their seats and now clapped softly in encouragement. Rohana looked around with a mixture of embarrassment and guilt on her face, and it suddenly hit her that people would always be watching her every move from now on. Once more, her eyes landed on Chyllen, but this time, he looked ready to kill someone.
With a grim expression, he excused himself to Lord Arturos and left the room.
Rohana's heart ached to see him leave even as she sighed in relief.

Go To Part 3 

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