This a short chapter, but I hope you still enjoy it! :)
The air was still and static crackled at Luce's fingertips as she lightly grazed Annabelle's hand with her own. A hard moment passed between the two women as their eyes met, but then it was gone. Luce rushed to Annabelle, closing the gap between them, and wrapped her arms around her. Annabelle closed her eyes lightly and hugged Luce back just as fiercely.
"It's you, it's really you," Luce whispered over and over again. She held onto Annabelle with all of her might, as though she might disappear all over again. Luce felt her eyes well with tears, and despite the fact that there were a hundred courtiers surrounding them, she let them fall.
"Yes, it's me, Luce. It's me," Annabelle said. She ran her fingers through Luce's ringlets, a small attempt to soothe her. After what seemed like an hour, Luce and Annabelle broke apart. Both girls wiped at their tears while laughing slightly. Through the silence, it became apparent that many of the courtiers were confused. Luce cleared her throat.
"My good ladies and gentlemen, as surprising as it is, it is clear that I now have the honor to present to you someone whom I thought had gone forever. A lost gem, a flower among weeds - Miss Annabelle Rivka," she announced. Immediately, the room was filled with chatter. Those who remembered the Rivkas broke into explanation for those who did not. This was followed by slight gasps and inquiring stares. Suddenly, a pounding on the floor caused the noise to cease. The courtiers looked up to King Alphonse, who had almost broken his golden staff on the floor.
"Young lady, why have you interrupted my court?" he asked, a slight edge to his voice. Princess Raisa stepped closer to her father and put a calming hand on his shoulder. Luce glanced towards Annabelle, prepared to defend her, but the look on Annabelle's face made it clear that she needed no help. She boldly stepped forward.
"Your Majesty, I mean no disrespect to you or this court. My name, as Miss Brigantia correctly pointed out, is Annabelle. Though, she was mistaken on my surname. Although it used to be Rivka, it is now Sabierriene," Annabelle said smoothly, holding her left hand up so the ring could catch the light. Luce felt her face flush slightly. Considering the size of the ring, she was surprised that she had not noticed it before. Annabelle continued.
"It is true that eight years ago, my family and I left the Kingdom of Cetique due to financial troubles. However, I am delighted to be back in the kingdom of my birth. I hope that, with your permission, I may be accepted into society once more," she finished. There was a slight pause before the King spoke again.
"You said your current surname is 'Sabierriene' - it that of the Forella Sabierrienes?" he asked. Annabelle nodded.
"Yes, you're quite right, Your Highness. My husband is Arthur, son of Richard Sabierriene. I do wish he could have joined me here, but he had business to attend to. He sends his apologies and congratulates the future king," she replied. Luce thought she saw Annabelle's eyes flash when she mentioned Henry, but she convinced herself that it was a trick of the light. However, Annabelle's answer seemed to satisfy King Alphonse.
"Well, despite the fact that you have arrived late for Prince Henry's coronation announcement, it seems that you have somehow managed to appear at the right time. This is, after all, a joyous occasion, and nothing should mar it," he said. Luce held her breath.
"Once you and your husband are settled, please know that you are now a proper Cetique courtier. Welcome to court." the King said. Luce breathed out and smiled. It seemed that Annabelle had done the same. The royalty turned to make their leave, though Luce caught Prince Henry's eye. He smiled that same dazzling smile, and she returned with a courtsey.
Once the royalty had left, almost every courtier made their way to Annabelle, doing their best to make sure that their question was heard. Luce smiled, grabbed Annabelle's hand, and quickly led her out of the throne room, much to the dismay of the other courtiers.
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