Unrelated Royalty: Chapter One
The king jerked away from Lady Mairi in surprise. "What?" he said, disbelief in his voice. He really hoped that that he had heard the noblewoman wrong.
"I'm pregnant." She repeated with no emotion evident in her voice. "I thought it was only fair that you should know now, before you made a decision."
He stared at her, not sure of what to say. "Well," he started hesitantly, "It would seem obvious that we cannot marry if you are with some man's child."
She smiled indulgently.. "I am no tramp, my lord. The child is legitimate. It is the offspring of my late husband, the Duke of March."
It all made sense to the king now. He knew that Lady Mairi was in fact a widow, her husband had passed away just recently from a sickness that had manifested itself through old war wounds. However, the powers that be decided that she would not be able to remain in mourning for long.
In the age of Seasons, if a person with noble blood was without a partner, they were quickly married off to the benefit of their family. Lady Mairi's husband left her all of the land in the March, and the kingship desperately needed more land. It was the War of Seasons, and the area the March contained was vital in the war campaigns.
"Lady Mairi," the king said, "If you would excuse me for just a moment." She nodded knowingly, for it was common knowledge that the king never made a decision without asking his trusted advisor, Lundie, what he should do.
Pacing out in the hallway, the king waited for Lundie, who was calmly observing the king's nervous twitching as he leaned against a wall with his arms crossed, to speak. Lundie was tall, lanky even, and a dubious man. Many of the staff questioned his motives, but the advisor never showed any reason for distrust. He was just generally creepy.
"My Lord," he said, pushing his long, blond hair out of his eyes, "My thoughts on the matter are only for your benefit, but I wouldn't want to impose…" he trailed off.
"Oh Lundie, stop the play-acting, and just tell me what to do." The king said, his face tightening with frustration.
Lundie smiled, which didn't quite reach his eyes, "Of course my Lord. I believe that you should marry the woman. She can have the child, who is, of course, legitimate. It will not have rights to the March, or the kingship. It will be given a title, lord or some such, but it will have no power. Draw up those terms to the Lady, and if she agrees, marry her.
The king nodded. Of course, the plan was brilliant. The child could live on the outskirts of the court, and then seep away into the dark when it was old enough to leave. He walked back into the room in which Lady Mairi was sitting, and gave her a basic outline of the terms.
There was no hesitation. "I accept." she said.
It was unfortunate for the Lady however, for she would die from complications from the childbirth some months later. It was not unexpected, and she had taken the king aside one day, a week after the birth, and asked him to adopt the child, so that it could remain in the castle. "You don't need to give him anything," she said earnestly, "just don't take everything."
The king agreed. He was skeptical about how he would feel about another man's child, but he was fond of the Lady, and when the newborn was brought to him, freshly washed after the birth, he knew that he could not be unkind to the little smiling bundle of new life.
Lady Mairi died before the official naming, never able to learn that her son's name was Silas.
Silas was a joy for the castle. He was given a nurse, but all of the chambermaids would sneak in and coo over the newborn. The king would come once a week, and ask the nurse how the child was progressing, and than he would leave. Even Lundie would visit the baby, but would only stare for a few moments, before leaving quickly, and as quietly as a wraith.
It would three years later that the king would find a new wife. Her name was Lady Nessia and she had inherited the August, quickly becoming a marriageable target for the king. Their marriage was a grand affair, the Lady had demanded it. There was a parade, and free food served in the streets in celebration. It was not until their wedding night, that the kind admitted that he had an adopted child, which of course had no consequence.
"When you give me a son, that child will be the first in line for the throne," he said, trying to appease the distressed Lady.
"Yes, yes, but what if this bastard child covets the kingship?" she asked, her high-pitched voice screeching in worry.
"It does not matter," the kind said with a sigh, "Silas is not in any way eligible. He is not my blood son, and his name was never written in the family tree."
The Lady of August nodded, feeling safe that her son would be the next king. The only thing she had to do now was birth him.
It was frustrating to say the least. With her first pregnancy, everyone became elated. She would piously waddle around, bragging about how she just knew that it was a boy. Imagine the disappointment when a fresh, young girl popped out. The baby was soon given the name Nerini, and was just as quickly shoved off to a wet nurse, easily forgotten in her mother's mind.
She was not forgotten in Silas' mind however. The four year old would hover around the cradle, and play with the baby. He was enthralled to have someone younger than him to play with.
"I love you little sister," he would whisper, stroking her soft cheek, causing Nerini to giggle.
It was one time after he spoke these words that a dark voice said from behind him, "She is not your sister, Silas, she is your step-sister. Keep that in mind."
Silas turned to see who had spoken to him. It was Lundie, standing stiff against the doorframe, his hands hidden amongst his robes. He had been incessantly cold towards Silas, and the young boy feared him. However, the king had demanded that Silas call Lundie 'Uncle', and so he did.
"I wil,l Uncle." he said, trembling. Lundie nodded, his eyes narrowing, and left the room. Silas turned and hugged his little sister, whispering, "I was lying to him, Nerini, you are my sister, you are."
The event had finally come. After a tumultuous second pregnancy, Lady Nessia was due to have a child. He would be born in the Winter Season, on the same day of Silas' 5th birthday.
He was named Lorne. The celebration over their wedding was miniscule compared to the celebration of their first male child, heir to the throne. The king and queen paraded their newborn around the court.
Meanwhile, in the nursery, Silas had rushed in, tears streaming down his face. "Nerini," he whispered to his sister, who was fast asleep, "I fear that they have forgotten my birthday … I am five today Nerini."
The girl remained asleep. Silas watched her breathing, and wondered if anyone loved him. His nursemaid had been let go, for he no longer required her care, and now he was free to roam the castle, uninhibited. The downside of this was that he was alone.
Silas walked to the window, brushed his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes, and wiped the tears from his face. He watched the parade, and the people in the streets, celebrating the birth of someone else's child. All of this was for Lorne, who Silas had yet to meet.
"I hate him." Silas whispered, "I hate him, Nerini."
"Silas," came the familiar cold voice. The young boy turned to face Lundie. The man walked
over to him and knelt down. "Are these tears?" he asked, "what for?"
He brushed his pointer finger down a tear streak, and then licked his finger. "Silas." He said, his cold, blank eyes revealing nothing, "Silas, come meet your step-brother, the future king."
He said the last words with a malicious smile.
"Yes, Uncle." Silas said, and started to run for the door, but was stopped when Lundie grabbed his arm.
"Oh," Lundie said, "I forgot." He reached into a pocket, and pulled out a small box, "Happy birthday," he said, handing the box over to Silas. The young boy smiled widely, quickly forgetting his fear of the man. Lundie had remembered!
"Thank you, Uncle!" he said cheerfully, and hugged Lundie, his arms barely reaching halfway around to the man's back.
"You're welcome," Lundie replied, "But open it later, for now, go see your new step-brother. The king and queen will be waiting for you."
Silas nodded, and headed for the door, before stopping again. "Uncle, should I bring Nerini?" he asked.
Lundie smiled, his sharp teeth appearing for a moment. "What thoughtfulness from such a young boy, but no Silas, I think you should leave Nerini to her slumber."
Silas nodded again, and left. Lundie watched the door until he could not hear the footsteps of the boy, and then turned to watch the festivities from the nursery window.
Later that night, Silas thought back to his meeting with Lundie. The man was odd and frightening, but he had remembered Silas' birthday. Silas didn't want to think about Lorne, the new child. It seemed wrong to Silas how the king and queen fawned over the baby. Silas was used to the newborn being cast aside, like him, or Nerini. He did not understand why Lorne was so special.
However, he cast these thoughts from his mind, and instead grabbed the box that Lundie had given him. It was wooden, had a small metal clasp, and a red ruby inlaid on the lid. Obviously it was of high quality, and Silas wondered if the box was the gift itself, but he heard a noise from the inside when he rattled it, so he carefully opened the box. Inside was a necklace. It was a silk choker, and the charm on the front was a golden lock, with crystals along the edges.
There was also a note in the box. "A treasure chest, and treasure," it said, "but Silas, do not wear the necklace until you are older."
The young boy was mesmerized by the elegance and luxuriousness of the gift. He quickly put the necklace back in the box, and then hid the box under a loose floor tile, which he had discovered a month before, and which had always wished he could hide something in.
The next day, he went up to the high table, where Lundie sat during breakfast in the Great Hall, and said, "Thank you, Uncle for the present, it was wonderful."
Lundie didn't show any reaction, but merely patted the boy on his small head. "Fine, fine, child, I am glad you liked it," he said smoothly.
The king, who was sitting in the ornate chair next to Lundie, watched the interaction curiously. He had never seen Silas actually talk to Lundie, at least not voluntarily, and he had definitely never heard of the slick, manipulative man giving anyone any gifts.
"Lundie?" he said, and the lanky man turned to face the king, "Yes, My Lord?" he replied.
"Lundie, I am mystified. Why are you giving the boy a gift? You didn't even give Lorne a gift for his birth," the king said, bringing up his disappointment over the lack of Lundie's fawning over the new heir.
"Well, my liege, it was Silas' day of birth as well."
The king blanched, clearly caught in his faux pas, "Ah yes, it was good of you to remember."
Lundie smirked, his snake-like eyes gaining a hint of life, "Well sir, I always try to watch out for the boy."
"Oh Silas, do come on, it's going to rain soon." Nerini whined, slapping her hand down hard on the wooden surface of the humongous kitchen table. It was large enough to prepare food for the entire castle, and the entire staff was bustling around, preparing a large celebratory meal. It was five years to the day from when Lorne was born, and his upcoming birthday dinner was a large highlight on the social calendar in the court. However, none of this really mattered to his siblings.
"Just a moment Nerini, I'm trying to get Gebla to give us some bread," he said pointedly to the matronly cook.
"Does it look like I have the time to make you a loaf of bread Silas?" Gebla yelled from the stove, "I'm trying to bake two dozen cakes."
Nerini noticed the storm clouds in Silas' eyes; she was a very perceptive little girl. "Gebla, is there a cake for Silas?" she asked.
The cook scoffed, "For Silas? Why should that boy get his own cake?"
"Because it's his birthday!" the girl said, exhasperated with the cook, slamming her fist down on the table again. Silas smiled, but quickly hid it behind his hand.
Gebla blanched, "His … birthday? He has Lorne's birthday?"
Nerini glared, "No you stupid woman, Lorne took Silas' birthday, Silas is five years older than that brat!"
Gebla smiled indulgently, "He's not the only brat around here." she said.
Silas quickly strode over to Nerini, and covered her mouth before she could reply, and said, "Gebla, Nerini is sorry, we're sorry to have kept you."
The cook glanced at Silas, and sighed, "Alright Silas, I'll give you one of the small cakes, but I'm doing it for you." she said, sending a stern look to Nerini. She picked one of the beautiful finished cakes, and put it carefully into the children's picnic basket.
"Gebla, can Simon come as well, if he's done with his chores?" Silas' asked.
"Oh Silas, I still don't understand why you like to spend time with my mongrel of a son." Gebla said, but no one believed her. She said the words with a hint of pride, and always bragged about how royal blood chose to be friends with her little Simon, a livery boy.
"Thank you, Gebla!" both kids yelled, as they ran out of the hot kitchen. "Careful with that cake!" she screamed at their retreating backs.
They ran down to the stables, where they found Simon cleaning saddles. He clearly looked bored. "Simon!" Nerini yelled out, "Come play with us!"
The blonde, blue-eyed nine year old looked up from his work. "Ok," he said calmly, and with an easy smile, "Where are we going today?"
Nerini, who always had the best imagination of the three, always chose what illusionary land they would play in. These fantastical countries were always situated on the same place in the castle's forest however.
"In April City!" she giggled, "I hear that they have the most wonderful, new fashions there!"
She saw the two boys stare at her dubiously, "Well ..." she continued, "I also hear that they
have a pirate infestation." This news brought smiles to the two boy's lips.
The three children set out, with Simon offering to carry the heavy picnic basket. As they were crossing the castle courtyard, they were stopped by a loud call.
"Nerini! Silas!" yelled out a young boy. It was Lorne, his silken, black hair slicked back, with a few bangs loose. The five year old ran out to the three older children. "Brother!" he puffed, "Where are you going?"
Silas glared at him, upset that Lorne was out to ruin his day again. "No where, we're just walking," he lied.
Lorne smiled, "Can I come?"
"No." Nerini and Silas replied at the same time.
Lorne's smile quickly faded, and his eyes began to well up, "Silas, you never let me come, not even on my birthday," he said, his voice trembling.
Silas shifted uncomfortably, he hated when Lorne cried, and made a scene. "You're too young," he said, "Maybe next year."
Lorne's green eyes looked like they were about to shoot sparks, as his face creased in anger, "I demand that you let me come! You have to let me come!" he said, "I can't believe would want to play with a servant boy more than me!"
"You're such a brat!" Nerini screamed at him. She could afford to be ruder than Silas, for she was of actual blood. However, Silas felt that he was on a dangerous edge, and tried never to offend anyone.
"No I'm not!" Lorne yelled back, tears now streaming down his face.
Lundie, who had been watching the interaction from the shadows, stepped out quietly, and said, "Silas, may I speak to you for a moment?"
Silas looked up at Lundie and smiled. Nerini and Simon could never understand why he liked the creepy man, but he did, and always tried to get Lundie's attention, whether by asking the man to play ball, or read him a story.
"Yes, Uncle!" Silas' said, and ran after the lanky man. After a safe distance from the other children was attained, Lundie knelt down, so that he was face to face with Silas.
"My," he said, "You are growing very quickly." Silas smiled at the compliment. Lundie, however, sported a disapproving frown, "Silas, perhaps this one time you should let Lorne play with you children."
"But why?" Silas whined, scooting forward so that he could wrap his hands around Lundie's neck, so that their noses were barely touching. Lundie stiffened uncomfortably, and gently unwrapped the child's arms, pushing Silas away, his hands lingering for a moment on Silas.
"Because, it is his birthday, and he may idolize you now-" Silas snorted, "-and," Lundie continued, holding up a finger, "your age may give you power over him now, but one day he will be king, and on that day, you do not want him to hold some kind of grudge against you."
Silas just stared at him; still hurt that Lundie had dismissed his hug so abruptly.
"Silas, try to comprehend this." Lundie said. Silas heard a hint of desperation in Lundie's voice, and decided to appease the man. "Ok," he said, and then ran back to his friends.
He returned to find Lorne still crying, Nerini glaring, and Simon shifting awkwardly from one foot to another. Silas sighed, and walked up to Lorne. He took the boy's hand in his and said gently, "Alright Lorne, you can come."
The youngest child smiled, and clasped Silas' hand even tighter. "What?" Nerini exclaimed.
Silas shot her a stern look, and she remained quiet.
The four set out, headed towards the forest. It was a cool, clear day in winter. There was a crisp cold bite in the air, but the children were well bundled.
They found their normal spot in the woods, where there was a conclave of trees that provided excellent shelter. They all sat down, and set out the cake.
"Hey!" Lorne said, "That's one of my cakes!"
"No." Nerini replied, "It's for Silas." She cut up the cake, and gave the biggest piece to Silas. They chewed in silence for a moment.
"When I'm king," Lorne said, causing his siblings to roll their eyes, for this was his common mantra, "When I'm king, there shall be cake everyday for dinner."
"You wouldn't want to get fat, would you?" Nerini said, "All the court ladies would think you gross."
"I don't care about those ladies! They pinch my cheek, and giggle behind their fans like they're keeping a secret!" Lorne said.
Silas and Nerini merely shrugged. They both had spent little time in the court, and didn't know what it was like. As future king, Lorne was required to spend most of his time there.
"Come," the resolute Simon said, putting down his plate, "Let's play."
All three children soon entered a realm of their imagination. Nerini became a fearsome dragon, Silas became an adventurous prince, Lorne became a brave knight, and Simon became a pirate king, for he loved pirates.
"Well, since I'm a knight, I have to protect you!" Lorne said to Silas, brandishing a long stick as his sword.
"I suppose." Silas mumbled, glancing down at the boy, who was at least half a foot shorter, "but I can fight as well!" he grabbed a stick, and faced the Pirate King and the dragon, allies in evil.
"Give me your castle's treasure!" The Pirate King demanded, "Or my dragon, and my crew will kidnap all of your friends!" The dragon flapped its wings menacingly.
"Not if me or my brave knight have anything to say about it!" Prince Silas replied, swinging his sword forward, Lorne following close behind.
It was a vicious battle, and blood was let, but the dragon was soon slain. Prince Silas' laughed triumphantly, and was caught by surprise when the Pirate King tripped him over onto his back.
He lay there, with the Pirate's sword pointed at his neck.
"What say you now, fair prince?" The Pirate King laughed.
"He says goodbye." The Knight yelled from behind, and stabbed the Pirate King through, killing him instantly. The Knight ran up to his prince, and knelt beside him, "You are safe." He said.
"You saved my life." Prince Silas said, smiling, "I will grant you any wish in return."
The Knight smiled, and leaned over to kiss the Prince's cheek. "I wish that we be married, for I surely love the prince, and I want to protect him forever."
The game disappeared in an instant. "What?" Silas said, sitting up, "Lorne, I would never marry you … I hate you."
Lorne jumped up to his feet, tears threatening to fall again, "I didn't really mean it, Silas, we were playing a game!" he said. Simon and Nerini watched awkwardly.
"It doesn't matter." Silas replied, "I would never marry you in a game, or anywhere."
Lorne trembled unhappily, and then turned and ran. "Lorne!" Silas yelled after him.
"Silas, he's going further into the forest!" Nerini said, "You go get him back before something bad happens, and we're all hanged for it."
Silas nodded, and ran after his stepbrother, yelling behind his back, "Go get an adult!"
He ran after the five year old, quickly catching up to the small child. "Lorne, wait!" he yelled.
He had reached Lorne at the edge of the Tuesday River, which was quite treacherous in the winter season. "Careful!" Silas yelled, grabbing the younger boy by the arm, but Lorne jerked away.
"Why do you hate me?" Lorne said quietly, tears streaming down his face. Silas could barely hear him over the roar of the river.
"What?" he yelled.
"Why do you hate me?" Lorne screamed, his fists tightening, and his eyes closed. Before Silas could yell anything back, Lorne lost his foothold, and was under the water in a second.
"Lorne!" Silas screamed. He knew that all of his stepbrother's heavy clothing would bring the child down like a lead weight. He quickly shirked off his own layers, and jumped into the river.
It felt like an eternity, but he soon felt the cloth of Lorne's jacket. He grabbed hold, and jerked the boy up for air, dragging him towards the bank of the river. When they reached ground, Silas leaned over Lorne, to make sure the boy was breathing.
He was, and his eyes were wide open, and bright. "You saved me."
Silas laughed in relief, "Of course I did, I wouldn't let you drown."
"So you must not really hate me …" Lorne replied.
"I guess not," Silas mumbled, pushing the wet hair away from Lorne's eyes. The young boy started shivering. "Let's go back to the castle and get some hot cocoa." Silas said.
As they were walking, Silas held on to Lorne's cold, small hand. The child looked up adoringly at his older brother. "Silas, don't forget, you have to marry me someday."
Silas' mouth stiffened into a straight line. "Oh? And why?"
Lorne laughed, "Because I saved you from the Pirate King."
Silas looked down at Lorne, and saw the pure joy in his eyes. Lorne never got to spend time alone with his older brother, and was treated with hostility whenever he did get that time. Silas decided to be nice for once.
"Fine," he said, I promise to marry you when you become king."
He was sure that Lorne would forget this promise, and when he got old enough, would soon start courting some noble lady. There was no need to worry about some silly promise made to a five year old.
That night, at his birthday dinner, Lorne recounted how he had bravely saved Silas from a pirate and a dragon, and then how Silas saved him from the river. The king nodded approvingly, not knowing that his son's life was really in danger.
"And," Lorne finished, talking to the crowd, "When I become king, I will make Silas my bride."
As he said this, he wrapped his arms around Silas, who was sitting next to him.
The whole crowd laughed. "How adorable." One court lady said to her friend.
It truly was.