I paused at the sight of my room. Servants wandered around, packing away my things. Confusion crowded my nerves. The next second, it dispersed into excitement. No, anxiety. I couldn decide. Brother and I spoke about my departure a few months back. He gave me the impression it would be after the Court settled down. Everyone had been on his back about his lack of producing heirs. It became the talk of the kingdom in less than a month.
He and the Queen had doubled down on their sexual encounters. I wanted to gag every time they pretended to care about each other. Such was the duty of a royal. Self came last to an entire Kingdom. I couldn wait to free myself of that useless shackle.
I loved my kingdom and its people. The fire Kingdom, Azoria, had all the pleasure one could hope for. But I refused to put my desires last and be tossed around by unworthy assholes. It was preposterous how high and mighty the people of the Fire Count behaved. The need to set the Castle on fire became unbearable each day. Not that it would ignite. The Fire Castle was built to withstand the most dangerous of flames.
Thus, I requested an infinite leave of absence from this wretched place. A chance to tour the several Kingdoms of our beautiful Globe. The chance to not have to worry about being judged by my actions or not using the proper royal dialect. I could curse, do silly things, and no one would care. I could live a happy life.
”Your Royal Highness? ”
I jumped at the voice behind me. One swivel on my heels and I came face-to-face with a messenger. Well, he bowed, so it would not be considered face-to-face. Another thing that annoyed me. I needed friends, not people who bowed or hung to my every word because of a title. Normal people had friends. People who stared them dead in the eye. All I had was my brothers. They were off doing their royal duties half the time. I was left alone. With no one. All by myself.
I cleared my throat. ”You may rise. ”
The soldier straightened. His eyes on my shoes. ”The King requests your presence in the royal office, Sir. ”
I stiffened at the message. My brother never requested an audience with me in the royal office unless it was important. And by the meaning of important, I meant something to do with the Fire Kingdoms Court. Which meant I was yet to depart from this place for good.
I blew out an inaudible sigh. ”Thank you, you may be excused. ”
He nodded and marched away.
I straightened my shoulders and went in search of the royal office. There was nothing my brother could say that would dampen my mood. Nope. Not even if he requested my presence on some ridiculous royal outing. I am Prince Arson soon to be just Arson. I had better change my name to something more natural. Ben. No, Phillip. Yeah.
The royal guards announced my presence and opened the double doors to the office. I ventured inside as they closed it behind me. A sudden wave of uneasiness twirled into the pit of my stomach.
Brother perched behind his desk not bothering to look up at me. He scribbled on a few papers before pushing a once sealed letter towards me. I snatched up the envelope and scanned through the letter inside. My heart rate increased with every read word. Sweat beaded my forehead. I read it twice just to be certain my eyes hadn mistaken me.
A letter from the Ice Kingdom. Their new Queen requested my presence at her Debutante Ball. In other words, she wanted me to be a candidate in her charade of choosing a husband. The next King of Cordal.
I stuffed the letter back into the envelope and dropped it on the desk. ”Im not going. ”
”You will, ” Brother opposed, still refusing to turn away from his work. ”And you will marry her. ”
All the air left my lungs. I stumbled back.
”Its a debutante, ” I whispered.
Other royal bachelors would be present. She didn have to marry me. She could marry one of them. She could choose one of them. He wouldn say that unless…
”You already made an agreement with them, didn you? ” My words were slow and soft. I half wondered if he heard.
He chose then to look up at me. He did. He signed over my life to them. Vibrant red hair swung against his earlobe. Orange danced in a few areas. From certain angles, it looked as if it was a flame itself. A fire. I used to envy his hair. Everyone often said it was a mark of a great king. As I stood before him, I didn see a great king. No. I saw a betraying brother. The worst kind.
Anger bubbled beneath my flesh. ”You promised me you would let me leave. You promised. I can not marry her. I will not marry her. You do not get to do this to me. ”
All those years of waiting. All the lies he fed me. I should have never expected any better from him. He became king and forgot about putting his family first.
”You are a crown prince, ” he started. ”You have a duty to your kingdom. ”
Heat rushed to my head.
”I don want to be a King, ” I all but yelled. ”I don want to rule over a kingdom, Anubis. I want what you promised me. I want to travel and enjoy my life. I want to be happy, not stifled to death. ”
”Stop being childish, Arson. ” His eyes pierced into mine. ”A prince of the Fire Kingdom is not meant to run around without his head screwed on properly. Youve done enough of that already. Youve become a man now. A man takes responsibility. ”
I furiously shook my head. ”No. No. No. I can do this. Why are you chaining me to another kingdom? You don have the right. I won go. I should abdicate the throne. ”
”You will do no such thing! ” he barked. Waves of heat washed the room. Sparks flickered from his body. The specks of lime green in his eyes disappeared as the yellow brightened.
I wanted to challenge him. To scream. No one listened. No one cared. I needed to stand up to him. I couldn , though. Anubis wasn known as the vicious king for nothing. Blood or not, he didn tolerate insubordination.
My shoulders slump. The anger dissolved into pain. Sadness. My throat tightened. We made a promise when we were kids, and he broke it. He was breaking me, killing my spirit. He promised the throne wouldn change him. He promised he would allow me to fall in love before marriage. This wasn it. Lies. I never should have believed him.
He settled down. His eyes returned to their normal yellow and lime green. ”You will go, and you will marry the Queen of Cordal. You will make the fire Kingdom proud. ”
I provided a stiff bow. ”As you wish, my King. ” My hands trembled. ”Is there anything else? ”
He returned to his papers. ”Youll leave at night fall. ”
Three hours notice. Wonderful.
He waved me away like one of his servants. Someone beneath him. ”You may go. ”
I moved to the door, but stopped to add, ”I won ever forgive you for this, Brother. Ever. ”
He didn hesitate to respond. ”You have to grow up somehow. If your hatred is a price Ill have to pay for pushing you to manhood, then I don mind at all. ” An answer that hit me harder than it should have.
I pushed the doors open and stormed back to my chambers. The sight of the servants and my packed trunks jabbed at my anger. I hooked my fingers into the nearest one and yanked it off the bed. It crashed onto the ground. Clothes spilled out on the floor. All eyes turned to me.
”Get out! ” I vented. ”Get the ** out! ”
They scurried past me and out of the room. My rage continued. Trunks tumbled over. Clothes littered the floor. Flames danced from my skin. Heat coursed through my veins.
The bedroom door opened. My eldest brother, Baron, strolled into the room. His silence didn stop me from emptying my problems on him.
”My life is ruined. He ruined my life. I won be able to fall in love, have kids when I want them. Ill be forced to be a puppet for a court I don even know. I won be able to be anything but what they want me to be. ” Hot tears sizzled as they traveled down my cheeks. ”First, he married her—the woman I loved. I loved her first. And now hes killing me. I won ever be happy. Ill be miserable for the rest of my life. ”
Baron approached me. He flicked a tear off my cheek. ”Do you want to sneak out of the castle? ”
I snorted with a nod.
The corner of his lips tilted. ”Lets go. ” A hand ruffled my hair. ”Dry the tears, youll tarnish the familys name with that face. ”
And just like that, the anger left me. From three-sixty to zero within seconds.
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