Chapter 19: Nineteenth Phase.1

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 61

Aslan walked through the cloister connecting his palace to the vacant queen’s palace through which, hitherto, he secretly accessed the Outer Palace. The night air was mild, and the cloister brightly lit by lanterns, so Eunuch Iroro had extinguished the candle in the lantern he held. Ambling beneath the marble structure overlooking the gardens that spanned the space between the two palaces, Aslan thought joyfully on the soft kiss he shared with Emeravwe, his fingers pressed absently to the smile that curved his lips. He had not meant to kiss her.

Being in the garden with Emeravwe almost nightly was both a pleasure and a trial for him, in more ways than one. He had watched her grow from a sobbing girl eager for his attention to a woman who depended on him yet held him at arm’s length. This last point made him chuckle silently to himself. She had grown out of the meek shell of the harassed Omote he met in the garden years before and was now almost as she used to be long ago; dependent, yet defiant.

Almost, he thought, and his smile and fingers dropped from his lips at the same moment. It was this qualifier that always gave him pause, made him remember her true situation. Long ago she had been a child surrounded by wealth, family, and privilege. Now, she was an inconsequential maiden with no background to speak of, and even worse, she had no recollection of her life before entering the palace. He often felt it was a blessing she could not remember her family, but Aslan had never missed the desperation behind Emeravwe’s diligence in work and study; her single-minded determination to meet and woo the king. He knew it was fear that drove her actions. Fear of being alone, of being forgotten.

He dropped a dismal scowl to the solid patterns adorning the floor of the cloister. He longed to take her in his arms, to place her permanently at his side and show her she was by no means insignificant; that she did not have to strive so hard. To him, she had always been his family. He had every intention to make her his consort and lavish her with luxuries and affection. As the years went by, his desire to do so only multiplied, for in all the Sun’s Court, it was only with Emeravwe that he could be completely at ease. Only with her could he set down all conventions and speak without pretense and laugh without reservation. To everyone else in the palace he was “Ovye,” but with her, he could simply be “Aslan.”

Still, he was not confident he could keep her at his side. That was why he had not meant to kiss her. That was why, though he saw almost nightly how lovely she had become—how her girlish lines had turned to noticeable curves; how her beautiful round gray eyes sparked softly with the illumination of moon and lantern; how her soft laughter filled him with warmth and longing whenever they bantered—he restrained himself from advancing on her with all his kingly discipline. When he offered her his heart years before she rejected him, but he had since noted her lingering gazes and bashfulness whenever he drew near to her. He believed these were signs she was not altogether indifferent to him, which made it so much harder to resist touching her.

He had failed miserably tonight. Though he knowingly encouraged her feelings, he did not want to make any decisive moves until he was certain he could protect her. And until he knew she loved him, too. Not as a friend, not as a king, but as the man Aslan. He knew he probably had no right to expect or demand such devotion from her, but he could not help himself. He wanted to have her to hold and to love, but he also desperately, and selfishly, desired for her to love him and not “Ovye.”

The matter is that you have deceived me! Aslan grunted within, raising an agonized expression to the ceiling as the echo of Emeravwe’s pained words rang in his head. I would have her either way, he thought. I want her either way! The problem was whether she would still want him, king or not, when everything came to light. He was afraid he already knew the answer.

 “Miguo, Sovereign Brother!” Princess Ada’s gleeful greeting pierced his anxious thoughts, and Aslan lowered his gaze to see her bending in a butu.

Kneeled around her in greeting were Eunuch Edewor and the Grand Maiden, Princess Ada’s Head Maiden, and a few of Aslan’s royal guards. Aslan paused with Eunuch Iroro in the middle of the cloister. He was briefly surprised by her ambush, but only because of its suddenness. Since Prince Etegah learned of his nightly excursions to the Outer Palace, he expected that Princess Ada, too, would find out. What was truly amazing was that she had not approached him sooner. Taking a moment to comport himself, Aslan approached his sister.

Vrendo. Rise, Ada.” He motioned for the others to do the same.

Rising, the princess spread her arms to her sides as she turned slowly, reveling, “Quite a lovely night for a stroll in the Outer Palace, is it not?” A sly grin plastered her mouth, her amber eyes sparkling merrily with the light of the lanterns.

Eunuch Iroro turned an acute glower to Eunuch Edewor who, shoulders hunched, cowered slightly behind the Grand Maiden. “Edewor!”

He flinched, then, looking up pitiably like a puppy drenched by rain, griped woefully, “Yes, please scold me! I have not been trampled enough by Princess Ada!” He marched forward and threw up his arms, falling to his knees once more. “I give up! No matter what I do I am wrong, so I might as well die now.” He turned a sharp glare at the royal guards, pointing an accusing finger, “You were supposed to assist me, so do not think I shall be kissing worms alone! Princess Ada,” grim, he faced the princess, bowing his head, “it has been an ill fate, I am glad to leave you. Grand Maiden Inene, please write a letter to my family. Tell them I have been mistreated even by cousin Iroro, and if they do not avenge me, I shall reincarnate as a black cat and walk across their paths daily!”

Aslan said, looking from Eunuch Edewor with amusement, “Ada, have pity on our attendants. They cannot withstand your vehemence, and Nene is getting too old to deal with your antics.”

“Grand Maiden Inene, I do apologize for forcing my way through Sovereign Brother’s palace,” Princess Ada said to the mild-mannered Grand Maiden, “but you gave me no other choice. And Edewor, get up! Stop being so overdramatic. Just look what fun you have brought me; there is no ill fate in this!” She turned exuberantly to Aslan, clapping her hands together. “It is delightful to know that Sovereign Brother is not at all as stately and stale as I have always thought. How exhilarating!”

“We presume you have heard from Etegah?” Aslan said, continuing down the cloister toward his palace.

Princess Ada had always been the more playful of his siblings. She was a free spirit who sought excitement in everything she did, and a busybody who entertained herself with others’ matters. Though she had a sociable character, Aslan had to admit she could be a bit callous. He could not fault her for this, though, for she had been raised with only the affections he had time to spare her and was surrounded by servants and courtiers who catered to her every whim. For the most part, however, she was a sweet girl with good intentions, as well as a penchant for mischief.

Princess Ada grinned from ear to ear. “Oh, yes!”

“We, too, have heard of your bold visit to the Bureau of Court Affairs,” he said, and her grin grew even wider. “So, did you find what you were searching for?”

The princess shook her head. “Not yet. Sovereign Brother is well informed, but I fear he has yet to hear the best of it. Etegah made a request of me, but as Sovereign Brother knows, we have rarely seen eye to eye.”

Aslan raised a brow. “Oh?”

Her eyes gleamed with guile. “It may please Sovereign Brother to know that I have a proposition he simply cannot refuse.”

Submitted: September 06, 2019

© Copyright 2020 OE. All rights reserved.


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