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Tears streamed from pale green eyes, down soft caramel colored cheeks as she watched her people gathered up, herded, shoved into vehicles… all to be transported into slavery. She looked up at the palace which was once her own, set in the midst of a kingdom that she was to inherit, and all that she could feel was pain and despair.
Princess Devotia saw her new prince, on her own balcony, looking below at the hoards of people being moved out, so that his kingdom could come into what rightfully belonged to her people. She called out to him, in anguish, and saw his notice of a voice calling him. He clearly realized that this voice was different than all of the others crying out. Then, he saw his most recent bride, among the throngs of people. How the hell did she end up with them? The look on his face showed that he was displeased. Even though he was a traitor and already had reign over her kingdom, he obviously still wanted her.
He sent a guard to retrieve her, but when the guard came to repossess her, she refused. The prince desired to keep his bride. He always enjoyed knowing her. She remained pure, for him, and had pleased him, highly during their consummation… but she did not seem to understand that she was now an object and her people were, too. She had no intention of being a more prized object, so she elected to go wherever her people were sent. That had been years ago…

"Votia! Where in Zalyashy is that maiden? Milady!" Henrietta, the nursemaid, called. The wide hipped woman was large for a female, tall and muscular, but still maintained a bit of femininity to her. One had to in order to be allowed seen with the Princess of Zalyashy. "Mother's garden, probably," Rietta mumbled to herself, as she headed towards the only garden that was as vast as the sea. "Princess Votia!" The woman called, now completely frustrated. What didn't she understand about the fact that the rulers of Alkanvon and Demigorra would be here soon? She was expected to be at her father's side and to greet the royal families! "Votia!"

"Yes?" The princess called out, as she poked her head from behind a flower bush. Rietta sighed and marched over to her with her gray eyes almost as flaming as her bright red hair. "Milady, did you forget that there are engagements prepared?"

"Of course not, Rietta. Why do you think I'm in the garden?" She asked as she turned around to face Rietta, holding close to her body an arm full of flowers of every color.

"GRACIOUS!" Rietta cried out and tried to take them away.

"They are for the queen and princess!" Votia fussed, maneuvering herself to not lose the flowers that she had obviously worked long and hard to pick. The girl went running through the garden, carrying her load, kicking dirt all about. Her father would have Rietta's head if she showed up looking the way that she did, and yet there was very little time to make her look any other way. Now, Rietta simply looked at the sky and said, "My Queen, please be with your daughter. Your King will not be pleased with her."

Votia handed off her flowers to a pack of maids that she had waiting for her at the gates of the garden and told them, be sure to make them EXTRA lovely. This is the first time that the Triune Kingdom leaders have gathered since my mother's death, and I want to be a pleasing hostess." Then, she dashed to another team and they quickly began to refresh her makeup and straighten her clothing, accordingly, as she walked briskly to meet up with her father.

There was a parade, with chariots, carriages, and litters entering the place. She rushed up the road, through the courtyard and slid into the throne room, where her father was waiting at the door, with a grimace. "I am here, Father," she reported.

His only response was a severe grimace, which hurt her heart. Once again, she had disappointed him. The tall, dark skinned man stood regal and divinely in his royal purple garments. The hall and rooms were all adorned with the deepest purples, crimsons and fine gold and jewels.

"You seem out of place in this room," he finally commented and she gasped and reached into her sash to pull out her crown, dust it off on her gown (which made her accidentally smudge dirt on her gown), which made her gasp again and look at her hands, which had been neglected of a washing, after picking her flowers…

She began to try to dig in her nails, and he clapped over servants to tend to her dirty hands. As they did so, the announcer called out, "King Avarus of Demigorra, with Princess Avriel!" An old man with cold, blue eyes and long white hair came walking down the golden carpet laid out for himself and his daughter. Both of them wore gold clothing and she was adorned, from head to toe in lavish jewelry and the fanciest crown that Votia had ever even seen. The princess' long, platinum blond hair fell to her waist and had strands of what might have been real gold woven into it, for shimmer and sparkles. Wow, that is a true princess! Votia immediately thought. She herself, in her purple gown, and her plain tiara, made with a simple design, as the rest of her jewelry (since she did not have much of a ladylike disposition and frequently ruined much of her belongings by doing things not suitable for royalty… like picking flowers).

She and the king greeted the incoming royal family, which was then escorted to a pair of thrones. Avriel sat next to her father, in her mother's place. The woman had been ill for years, and never did any travelling; therefore, Princess Avriel frequently was understood to be the lady of the kingdom.

Then, the announcer called out, "King Sirius and Queen Chemise of Alkanvon, with Prince Ambrose!" A dashing older gentleman, dressed in crimson and scarlet entered, with a playful look in his hazel eyes. He smiled brightly at Votia and her father and the princess blushed mildly at his good looks, and obvious charm. His wife seemed pleasant, as well – with her deep red and silvery gray streaked hair woven into a nice hive on her head and her crown complimenting it so elegantly that it made Votia's heart melt. Wow, what a queen! She thought. Having her mother die giving birth to her, Votia frequently missed out on seeing other royal women… But, the few times that she did, she was always in awe.

Then, she saw the prince who entered with them.

He was dressed in scarlet as well, with a very large fur of a very big animal draped around him. His eyes were a brownish color, but the red in his attire brought out glints of it in his eyes. Those eyes were like a kaleidoscope of colors and his strong jawline and firm scowl immediately heated her core. She and her father greeted them, as well, and Ambrose stared at her as they did.

When the king and queen took their thrones, and Ambrose stood right next to his father's seat, he looked at Votia, yet again and kept his stare upon her. Now, King Ramarak of Zalyashy welcomed his guests cordially and made his way to his own throne, which Votia stood next to. "Without further delay, bring in the entertainment!" King Ramarak ordered.

There were forms of all sorts of entertainment, and artists and performers from all over the kingdom to give the best of their service, though Votia noticed that Avriel seemed bored and simply unpleasant for the entire show. Ambrose and his father spoke amongst themselves about different things, while their queen remained silent and focused, seeming to enjoy every act, and Votia tried to concentrate on paying attention to the spectacle, instead of fawning over the handsome prince.

Afterwards, they were escorted to the royal table, where they were presented with a great feast and everyone engaged in festive conversation, except for Votia. Her father preferred that she not involve herself in conversations at the royal table, so she only spoke when addressed, like when Queen Chemise asked, "Are your stones native to Zalyashy?"

"Yes, My Queen. All of my jewelry is made in the mountains and brought over, by carriage."

"Zalyashy has all of the best resources in all of the lands," King Sirius commented, "From precious jewels to beautiful women," he nudged his head at Votia and she simply smiled, shyly and glanced at Ambrose, who smiled at her and agreed.

"I concur, Father," the prince said. Now, her smile brightened the room and she quickly put her head down, so that her father would not have to scold her for her goofiness, later.

After dinner, the kings, the queen and Avriel made plans to wind down in the King's leisure chambers, to discuss Triune matters. Before they left, Votia said, "Oh, I have something to give you, to thank you for coming!" Quickly her maidens rushed out with their decorated bouquets, which were done so impressively that Votia could not believe that they were the mass of flowers that she had passed off to the ladies.

Avriel turned her nose up and turned completely around, refusing to even look at the meager gift. "Avriel," her father reminded her, "We are guests in Zalyashy. Accept the hostesses' gift of flowers."

"Her highness picked them from the garden, herself," the servant told her.

"Is this slave addressing me?" Avriel asked her father, as she snatched the flowers from the woman, then proceeded to throw them right back at her and break the bouquet on her chest. "When you address royalty, you use a title!"

"Yes, your majesty," the woman said, with her head down and gathered up the flowers that spilled on the floor.

The other servant nervously extended her bouquet to Queen Chemise and said, "For you, my queen."

The woman smiled and gathered them up to smell them, "Thank you, Princess Devotia. Not many princesses will put the effort of picking flowers herself. And these are of your mother's garden, no doubt. I appreciate this gift. Please don't think me rude to wish to share it."

Votia smiled at her and clasped her hands together, "That is acceptable, Queen."

Queen Chemise handed the bouquet to some slave children, nearby and told them, "Each of you take one, and keep it in your rooms, for good luck. These were handpicked by your future queen." The girls happily took the flowers and rushed off, each dividing the bouquet for themselves and laughing excitedly about this wonderful gift. Chemise turned to her son and asked, "Will you come with us?"

He replied, "I am going to hunt in the forests, but I'm sure that you will update me of everything that comes to pass."

"Indeed, I shall. Be careful and when you make it back to the palace, try not to impregnate any of the servants." She laughed lightly and touched his cheek, lovingly.

When the rest of them travelled down the hallway to converse with the king, Ambrose asked, "Why aren't you going?"

"I'm not allowed in father's business," she said, and collected the ruined bouquet from her embarrassed maiden. "I am so sorry to have subjected you to such action against you, my kind maiden. Please, retire for the night and do well by your mistress in working no longer until tomorrow," she told her servant, gently. The girl bowed her head and rushed away, covering her face, as she did.

"Are you always so familiar with your servants?" Ambrose asked with amusement.

"I am. Most of these girls were acquired when they were as young as I was when they arrived. Many of them, I grew up with. Some, I am watching grow up and even others are born in servitude, with me there, to comfort their mothers," she answered as she headed for another group of servants. "Please, see to it that these are properly put into a vase, decorated and placed in a flattering location."

"Of course, milady," the girls said in unison.

"You will be a gentle queen. Perhaps one is needed in these lands," Ambrose said.

"I don't suppose that I am queen material. Father hopes that I may marry well into a family whom he can trust with the future of the kingdom. He fears that with me in power, we are sure to be overthrown," she confessed, insecurely.

"There isn't much to being a queen. You bear sons and look beautiful doing it," he said.

"I'm told that my mother was a proper queen, but she bore no sons. She gave life only to me and I took hers when I arrived," were her sad words.

"Such speech is not becoming of a queen. Perhaps your husband can teach you to be the wife that he desires, so that you may learn to reign with the grace of royalty. I could give you some pointers, while I'm here."

"In his stead?" She asked, playfully; then said, suddenly, "I will race you to the forests for the honest truth to any question!"

"I will give you the honest…"

"Go!" She called and took off running through the castle.

He laughed, slightly, and gave chase. He could easily catch her, pass her by and leave her behind; and normally he would do such a thing, just to show his superiority. For some reason, on this night, he showed some mercy.

Devotia stopped just short of the forests and laughed out loud. "That's what I've always wanted… to meet a prince with the free spirit to simply run with me." Though she had not yet fully caught her breath, she said, solemnly, "Thank you for obliging my frivolous request."

"Absolutely," he told her, virtually not winded, at all. "Now then, I believe that you had a question for me."

"What will you seek when you engage in finding a suitable wife?" She asked. Her green eyes bore into his and he stalled, unsure of what his answer was. Of course he knew the answer, as he had considered it many times before, but now that she asked…

"I seek a woman with a strong resolve, brave enough to challenge others, but not so bold as to offend everyone," (like Avriel, she thought – how offensive could one person be?). "I want her to be kind, but able to take the necessary choices that I make as her husband and ruler, and she has to be delicate and beautiful, all the while."

"That seems to fit the description of just anyone," the princess stated. "Even my maidservants fit such a description!"

He chuckled and leaned so close that his nose touched hers as he said, "If they do, I am sure they learned it from their mistress." Then, he turned sharply and said, casually, "Thank you for the escort to the forests. Beyond this point, you will see many dangers. If you trust me enough to enter…" He reached out a single hand towards her and she smiled brightly and joined her own to it.