AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you to everyone who read The King's Guard. Here begins it's sequel! Hopefully everyone will love this story as much as the first one and are excited to see where these characters will go next. Please feel free to leave any thoughts, comments or questions about this story. I love feedback from my readers! Enjoy The Commander's Daughter!
"We need to talk."
The four most terrifying words no one ever wants to hear. But considering who it was coming from, I wasn't too worried. Yet.
"About what, Father?" I asked as I shoved my foot into a boot.
I had an appointment with Laurie to get to and of course that would be the time in which Kornelius wanted to talk to me. I had no idea about what since these sorts of talks were becoming habitual.
"The Summer Court will begin next week and I want to make sure you are prepared."
I chuckled with a shake of my head as I pushed myself up off my bed. I walked over to him and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
"I will be all right, Father. Imogen has taught me pretty much everything I need to know and Laurie has helped fill in the gaps. I'm sure I will be fine."
I brushed past him and headed to the door, my head resting on the handle before I was given a reason to pause.
"I want you to participate in the Princessions.
"It hasn't officially been announced yet, but the King told me this morning that he intends to go forward with the process regardless."
"Process for what?" I asked again, since I seemed to be getting no answers.
Kornelius sighed as he pulled the bench out from beneath my vanity and settled himself down upon it. He patted the place beside him.
I sighed, blowing a piece of hair out of my eyes before I joined him.
"As you may or may not know, Laurie's twenty-fourth Name-day is fast approaching and by the end of the summer is his expected to choose his bride."
"How does this concern me? Is he not already committed to Bianka?"
The single word ran through me and it was all starting to make a little bit of sense.
Kornelius slid off the bench and knelt down before me, taking my hands in his.
"Before now, she was really the only choice for him. Her family's land borders that of the Faeries, they have a vast wealth based in salt and her uncle is the King's personal physician. Previously, the King would have initiated the process and Laurie would have picked her for any of those reasons and not for any personal affection for her."
"What has changed that choice though?" I asked even though part of me already knew the answer.
"You." He pauses with a sigh as he looks into my eyes. I feel the sparks starting to tingle my fingertips. "He cares for you. He always has."
"He cannot and he will not," I whispered before I pulled myself away. I surged to my feet and strode over to the other side of the room, out onto the balcony, my fingers gripping the white marble until my knuckles turned white.
"Have you forgotten what I am?"
I barely heard my own voice but there came an answer.
"You are my daughter."
"I am Marked. Designated property of Faeries; creatures who would see our world burn. Who have and continue to enslave our own people. I am still hunted by them because I ran away. Even six months later, I know Severin will come back for me. My own people will fear me for it and hate me. More than they already do. Laurie would never pick me for this reason only and the King would never allow it."
"Have they both not accepted you for who you are?" His voice growing lauder as he drew near.
"They have, privately. But neither would acknowledge me publicly. And I do not want them to. I could never be Laurie's princess."
"Yes, you could. If you would allow yourself the opportunity to show him, to show everyone what kind of she-elf you are. You are stronger than most and smarter. You already challenge Laurie in ways most others would fear to. You do not bow down to him or grovel at his feet. He doesn't not want a wife like that and he deserves to have someone like you."
"I am undeserving of someone like him. Father, he is the prince, heir to his father's crown and if it were not for you, I would still be no body. If not for you, I wouldn't have a title of my own. We would not even be having this conversation, but the idea of someone like me with the prince is simply ridiculous."
"You would go back to hiding?" he asked.
"I have been hiding since I was four years old. All I ever wanted was to find my family. And I found you and you have accepted me. I could not ask for more than that. Not even Laurie's crown."
"There are other people who have accepted you too. Donavan kept your secret, even from me."
"I couldn't ask for a better friend than Donavan."
My father still did not know about my relationship with Donavan or that even after seven months, that we were still technically married. Donavan was everything to me and I didn't want to do anything to risk it. I had pressed him on more than one occasion to tell Kornelius about us, but he always had an excuse, some reason not to tell. So, I let it go. But I could tell that Kornelius was becoming suspicious of all the time we were spending together.
"Donavan cares for you." It was not a question. And I felt like it was going to open up a whole other discussion, I did not want to have.
"And I for him," I replied carefully, not sure where this was going to lead.
"But your growing attachment to him does raise some concerns." The edge in his voice taking a rather sharp turn.
I turned around to face him, my mouth hanging open.
"He almost died because of me. Forgive me, if that does not warrant a certain level of loyalty."
"Your loyalty is deserved but your devotion is not."
"What are you saying? That Donavan is undeserving of me?"
Kornelius took me by the shoulder and I could tell he was resisting the urge to shake some sense into me.
"He is not in a position to be committing to anyone, least of all you."
"Why? Because all of a sudden I share blood with you, that makes me so much better than him." I tried to pull myself away, but Kornelius' grasp would not relent.
"As Captain, he is forbidden from marrying or risk his position in doing so without the proper consent. His personal life will not allow it either. What kind of future do you think he can provide for you? He is the son of a blacksmith and if it were not for the opportunities, I availed to him, he would still be in that little village, nothing more than the poor scrawny boy he was when I found him at thirteen."
My knees shook and if it weren't for Kornelius, I would have hit the floor. I had nothing to say, any words of protest froze on my tongue.
It was no wonder that Donavan didn't want to tell Kornelius about us. It wasn't a fear of my father's now apparent disapproval of the situation, but he could loss his position, his only means of survival.
Why hadn't he told me?
"Leave me," I murmured when I finally found the courage to try and pull away again. He let me go and I went back to leaning against the railing.
"Marsie," he started but stopped when he noticed how violently I began to spark. He straightened and headed towards the door. There he paused for a moment. "You will participate in the Princessions when the time comes. You will represent our family with pride because I cannot allow you to languish your life away in the shadows. Your mother would not want that for you."
With those last words, he was gone.
I wanted to scream, cry, vomit, anything. But I find myself frozen in my place, the hairs on the arms standing on end, each end standing at attention and sparking. The railing beneath my hands was no longer white, but purple seeping through. The color faded away as I yanked my hands back and wrapped them around myself.
I needed to calm down. I needed to get myself into check, before Donavan realized that what I was feeling was more than simple worry. He would come find me as he always did to make sure I was alright. There were too many nights to count where I would wake up in the middle of the night from a terrible nightmare about Faeries coming to get me and he would be there. He was always there for me when I needed him. And while even I didn't want to admit it at the time, I was becoming a distraction.
Just then, an all too familiar little brown squirrel dropped out of a tree and effortlessly landed on the railing beside me. His tail twitched for a moment before he hopped to the ground and changed once more.
I couldn't help but smile at the small brown lop-eared bunny that hopped around my feet.
What are you doing here? I asked as I knelt down to pat the bunny on the head.
You were late of our appointment. I wanted to see what was keeping you. Laurie's familiar voice echoed in my head. A feeling that was becoming all too comfortable.
A conversation with my father, I did not want to have. What is this about the Princessions? I had to ask, if only to get Donavan out of my mind for a short period of time. It was something I was going to spent enough time worrying about later.
I could almost feel Laurie sigh as I settled down on the floor beside him and he hopped into my lap. I scratched him behind the ears and he closed his eyes. Laurie was like having a pet that could talk back to you and be a real person when you wanted them to be. Even if I had to keep reminding myself that Laurie wasn't really my pet, but my sovereign. As strange as it was, I still wouldn't have changed any of it.
Kornelius told you, didn't he?
Of course he did. Apparently, your father has something to do with it.
Father is insistent that I choose a bride by my next Name-day. I didn't see why the matter is so urge, but I will have to abide by his command.
So, what is it exactly?
The Princessions starts with an opening reception where all the eligible maidens in the kingdom come to Court to be presented to me as possible brides. Then over the course of several weeks and different events, they are given the opportunity to impress me in the hopes of being picked.
Why do you sound less than excited about this? All the girls in the kingdom throwing themselves at you. I chuckled at the image it presented in my head.
Laurie shuddered. I would rather do it my own way in my own time and not be forced to make such an important life decision based solely on spectacles. I find the whole prospect truly distasteful, but it is the way it has always been done, and who am I to try and change it.
You are the Prince, Laurie, you can do as your please.
You might think so, but I am more constrained than most people think I am. I just know one thing, if I am forced through this process, I want to find the right girl for me. I do not want what my parents had, where my father picked her solely for her family connection and there was no affection between them. I want someone who can understand the kind of person I am and be okay with that.
I'm sure if you look hard enough you will find someone.
Will you participate?
My father is not giving me a choice.
I chuckled as Laurie hopped out of my lap and turned back into himself. He reached a hand down and helped me to stand.
He pulled me close, hugging me tightly to his chest and I returned it.
"AT least if you are there, it will be more interesting."
"Make Bianka nervous. And when she's nervous the plants in the room tend to do rather bizarre things and it is really fun to watch."
I laughed with a shake of my head. "You are ridiculous."
"Can't help it."
Leaning down, Laurie pressed a light kiss to my forehead as I tightened our embrace. Not a moment later, the door to my room banged open and there in the doorway stood a stunned Donavan.