Arabesque: Chapter 17

5/18/2017 House of Geekiness 0 Comments

I will be sharing parts of my writing every week (alternating between Arabesque and Persephone) as 
I write them (with the exception of some parts of Arabesque, which were written previously), so please be patient with any errors you may find, as these are a first drafts.

About the book

Tatania is tired of living in her sister's shadow but doesn't know about Princess Anna's dark secret. Bound by a sacred oath, Anna's struggles to live a double life that can never be her own. 

Described as "Sense and Sensibility meets Ever After with ninjas," Arabesque is full of action, romance, intrigue, and betrayal.

Since I've always been super paranoid, Arabesque was officially copyrighted in 2009. Duplication or use of this work in any other form is prohibited by law.

© Copyright 2009-2015 Laura Lynn Watkins

Chapter 17

I had dreaded this encounter for weeks. Henry and I sat side by side, across from King Nicholas and General Ashenhurst. My palms sweated, but I refrained from wiping them on my skirts.

"I assume you know why you were called here," the king spoke.

"Yes, your majesty," Henry and I said, almost in unison.

"Given the events that occurred some weeks ago, we have made a determination. General Ashenhurst?"

"Ahem. Yes, in light of the circumstances," he began.

My heart beat furiously. Henry shifted in his chair. Would we be separated? Had they determined how utterly useless I was?

Although my world balanced precariously upon the point of a knife, he continued formally, "And given both accounts of the matter, and despite nearly fatal mistakes, we have decided that Henry will continue your field training, Princess Anna."

I slowly released the breath I had been holding inside.

"Henry," the king turned to him. "We have arrived at the conclusion that your actions were both honorable and courageous. You acted to the best of your abilities to protect the princess, and you will be rewarded."

Henry sunk to one knee. "My thanks, your highness, but I require no more reward than the princess's safety."

The king smiled. "And yet, you shall have it." He waved him back to be seated.

"Princess Anna," the king said to me with a strange expression. "I must admit shock at your behavior. Yet, you have confessed your mistake and we believe it to be simply that, a foolish mistake that nearly cost the lives of both you and your protector. However, given your steadiness of character, we trust this incident will not recur." His eyes softened. "We all make mistakes, my dear, I trust you have learned a hard enough lesson from this one.

"Aside from that lapse, Anna, your actions have been impeachable, and I could not be prouder."

He arose and took my hand. "Although your modesty has muddled the exact details, it is clear that, despite your own injuries and inexperience, you rose against terrible odds and saved this man's life."

He nodded to the general who said, "Princess, we have deemed your first field test a success and we will commence additional training immediately. In addition to excursions such as the last, you will both work more directly with myself in an effort to gather information and to weed out those who threaten our kingdom and the crown."

Henry and I left the room stunned. We would have access to the general's personal network of informants and spies. We were to periodically patrol the palace and the city, seeking any connection to the mysterious pattern that had been unearthed. Most importantly, Henry and I would do all of these things together.

I was not unfamiliar with such work, but espionage had been but a small part of my education. The fact that I was being called into such action was unsettling. I strived to be prepared for threats at all times, which was expected of me. Such diligence had practically been graven in my bones. A royal title of Acacia did not ensure safety. I had survived the first attempt on my life, of which I can recall, when I was but five years of age. Such dangers would no doubt increase in a political climate such as this.

My heart beat loudly in my ears as I climbed the stairs in the hidden passage of the southeast tower. My slippered feet padded softly, yet Henry turned when I entered the windowless chamber. The flickering candlelight glowed softly against his skin, illuminating the gentle smile that spread across his face.

"Princess," he bowed and kissed my hand. It tingled as I reluctantly lowered it back to my side.

"Henry," I attempted to reply serenely, but a shy smile crumbled my fa├žade. I threw myself into his waiting arms.

All of the doubt, fear, and torment dissolved as he held me. I did not realize I had been weeping until his hands lifted my chin and his warm fingers brushed a tear away. He pulled me close again. I buried my head in his chest, and he gently kissed the top of my head.

For the first time in my life, I felt completely at home, completely safe, completely accepted. Henry saw all of my faults, knew how weak I was, yet loved me completely.

Eyes finally dry, and I hoped less inflamed, I raised my head and apologized for spoiling our moment.

"You never need fear to show your emotions to me. You hide them too often. In fact, I have grown to cherish the few times I have witnessed such events. Anna, you have been strong for too long. I will not pretend to understand all you endure, but I know that if you do not have some reprieve, you will break. As surely as the stream splits the mountain, you will be worn down and broken if you continue alone in this."

Again, in his eyes, I saw my soul laid bare.

His hand caressed my cheek most tenderly. "My princess, will you allow me to be the protector of your soul, your mind, and your heart, as I have also sworn to protect your personage? I have loved you all these many years. Since childhood, I have wondered if you could possibly love me as well. Through fevered ears I heard you speak the very words I longed to hear more than I longed for breath in my lungs." His cheek touched mine and I leaned closer to him. "I love you." His whisper danced in my ear and rebounded through me, leaving pulsing warmth in its wake. His lips found mine and I was lost as never before.

The world twirled before me as our lips parted. We rested, foreheads pressed together, still inhaling the sweetness of each other's warmth.

"Henry, I love you," I whispered, and studied the dark pools of his brown eyes.

He took my hands in his. "When would you have me speak to your father?"

"My father?" I mumbled, my eyes trapped in his gaze.

"Yes, my love. When shall I speak to him? I'll not risk any damage to your honor. Since we are so often alone together, he may wish for us to be chaperoned."

My father. What was I thinking? How could I...

Henry was positively jubilant, as I, myself, had been but a moment earlier, and did not see the sudden pain creasing my eyebrows. He began pacing the small room, nearly bouncing with each step.

"Speaking of spending time alone together," he said and stopped at the small table. "My father and I have drawn up a few theories, leads to investigate, which is actually the official reason I asked you to meet with me here. We will have to be sure to get to them eventually..."

His beautiful smile faded as he registered the change in my demeanor. "Anna, my darling, is something wrong? You do want to tell your father about us, do you not?..." His face fell further.

"It is not that... It is simply that I cannot," my voice broke. "Henry, I love you, but I am not..."

He raised his hand and stopped my words, shaking his head. "Please, say not another word. I understand how foolish I have been. My head has been among the clouds and I did not see your discomfort."

I tried to interject, but he would not have it. "I thought that when you confessed your love, you were willing to brave the king's disapproval in your choice. I realize that I am no prince, but I had thought that mattered little to you."

"Henry, no!"

"Please, if you value our friendship at all, you will pursue this topic no further."

His tone silenced me. The hurt in his voice was obvious, but I had never witnessed the expression of utter defeat displayed so plainly before me. Broken, he struggled to retain some semblance of dignity. If I spoke, he would not hear my words, and I would simply push him further away.

"Pray, let us still be friends," he whispered. "We have duties that await us."

Dumbfounded, I sat at the table beside him.

I scarcely recall the details of our work that night. Through investigating and even prowling the streets of Acacia City, a nightmarish veil seemed to shroud me, and I knew I would never awaken. With a few simple words, I had broken both our hearts and destroyed any hope for our future.

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