Shey walked guided by the officer towards the table. The three seats at the right end were seated by men dressed in robes and uniforms she had never seen before. The deep red stripes on their clothes matched that of the room. There were two other men standing at the back of one chair, like guardsmen. The two seats in the middle were occupied by one of the Queen's concubines, Feyr Jocheal of Elmnova, her mother's third husband and Minister Beth'gard, head of affairs.
The last two seats at the end were placed close together. One seated Aphron, Shey's father and the other was empty. Both seats were placed backing the Queen and facing the table. Shey was guided to her allocated seat beside her father while others just watched in silence. She could feel every eye on her especially her mother's cold piercing eyes. She tried her almost best not to look at her because if she did she knew she would freeze on the spot. Her mother's gaze had the power to do that every now and again, she felt powerless under that gaze. After a year of not being under those eyes she almost made forgot what it was like.
She could feel her watching every step she took as she approached the chair like she was gauging whether or not Shey could carry herself like a royal should. Assessing her subtly without any words just with her gaze alone. Shey always hated this feeling, she would always look disappointing in her mother's eyes not matter what she did. Even though she knew she was her mother's favorite, she always wished to be approved.
The long trek finally ended by the time she got to her chair. She waited for the chair to drawn then took her seat, holding the best smile she could muster. Even though she was melting inside she held a strong graceful face to all those who gazed upon her. Her father placed a hand on top of hers and squeezed it slightly like he could sense her distress. That gesture help calm her beating heart and relax her body just enough to maintain her smile with little effort.
Now that she was seated she could see the faces of the men around the table clearly now. The men on the other end were dressed so differently she knew they were not from Lynnoia. The man in the middle had more classy high-quality robes and jewelry on him than the other which met he was their leader and the two beside him were his ministers while the other two were bodyguards. The man in the middle older looked slightly older than her father Aphron but not as old Beth'gard. Jocheal looked like the youngest here apart from her. She could have sworn she saw him gaze at her lustfully the minute she sat down but it disappeared in an instant.
"So shall we begin where we left off, gentlemen," The Queen said, breaking the silence. Her voice deep and smooth like that of woven silk. Everyone's one's attention was now on her, where Shey felt it should be.
"Yes, I believe the Duke Pi-van was telling us about Fayra's plans over the past few days," said Minister Beth'gard, bringing everyone back into focus. They all turned their head to the white skinned muscular man at the end of the table.
"As I mentioned before, Fayra is looking to expand its borders and an opportunity like the Victor day scramble would be a perfect way to do it without suspiscion. They look to defeating you and Golemn and gaining for land as before," he explained, his voice calm and alluring. He spoke with in perfect tone for persuasion.
"We won last time but we had did not bargain for a land or resources, why would they take such aggressive tactics? Fayra has enough land," inquired Sir Jocheal, he sounded albeit disappointed.
"That I am not certain of, they keep that particular reason hidden well. I do know that the Patriarch himself his pushing this agenda,"
"How do they plan on securing this agenda?" Titania asked practically cutting him off before he finished his sentence. Everyone was surprised by the Queen's sudden inquiry, it took a moment to regain themselves from the shock. Their head turned once again towards the Duke to hear his answer.
"From what I know, the Patriarch sent his youngest son Lavi to acquire some mercenaries. He is known to be one of the best fighters in the Royal family, he's only second to the first son the warrior champion. He had been going round Redusia looking for mercenaries and a particular assassin,"
"Yes I believe one from the famous Family shrouded in shadows,"
"Impossible, The Family has always been a suspected existence, finding one is next to unachievable,"
"They have become dormant in the past year or so, no one knows why however, there had been a string of deaths that all point to The Family in Golemn and surrounding areas. They had even started giving him a name, White Blade," said the Duke. The room fell silent once again, each person thinking about the new information they just heard.
"Has he found him yet?" Aphron inquired, the first time since Shey came.
"I am not certain but last I heard he was on his trail and had tracked him to the central district,"
"Is there anything you are certain of?" Titania spat, the tone of her voice laced with annoyance. Everyone froze after her outburst, the Duke particularly looked shaken up. Shey could see him swallow a bit. She couldn't help but smile at the sight of the man who carried himself with such importance quiver at the sound of her voice.
"If he were to recruit him what would happen?" Sir Jocheal asked boldly breaking the silence.
"Then there would be more chances of Fayra winning at the Victor Day scramble," Aphron replied, Jocheal felt embarrassed for not knowing such a simple answer. His eyes glared towards Aphron in spite for the shame he had caused him. Shey did not understand what was being said and she wasn't sure what her role in this was. From the little she understood and from the solemn faces around the room, she knew what was going on was beyond her.
"So are you sure you can secure a percentage of the Patriarch nobles to our side and get us them to side with us when the time comes?" questioned Titania.
"Yes I can, a number of nobles are already opposed to the Patriarch's treatment of their material possessions so it wouldn't be hard to sway them to get back at him, plus I am an influential member of the nobles committee,"
"All without being discovered?"
"Then if I were to give my daughter in marriage I would get my promised result without fail?" Shey was taken aback by that statement. Her eyes widen in shock as she finally understood her role in this meeting. Her mother had agreed to marry her off in order to win against Fayra. From the non-surprised look on everyone's faces, they all knew about it. Nothing like this ever happened before, the Lynnoians pride themselves in keeping their blood pure and only within this land. Interprovincial marriage was forbidden and punishable by death.
Shey struggled to breathe as the pain in her chest did not allow her to. Her hands started shaking slightly under Aphron's grasp. Her face stood stiff, losing the color it had slowly. She couldn't believe her mother would sell her off. Go against a rule even the Queens before her obeyed, all to win a stupid game. She wanted to look back at her, show her disgust and disappointment but she never had the courage to. She just sat there frozen and confused.
"But is there really any guarantee that you can do what you say?" Aphron accused rising his seat, "Is there any evidence that can prove what you say is true. What we are agreeing goes against the very law that our Monarchs of past have set, we need more than just your word," His voice rising and hoarse as he spoke. His eyes narrowed on the Duke with deadly intent.
The whole room fell silent once more, their faces conformed in thought. Each person had doubts about the proposal but Aphron was the only one who voiced it out. Shey rose her eyes to her father in admiration and awe, he stood strong and defiant, questioning gaze to the queen herself. Only he could question the Queen's authority when no one else could. Shey could feel the throbbing in her chest dissipate and the color return to her face. Her eyes fixed on the only man who stood for her and stood by his promise. The silence was broken by Minister Beth'gard cough.
"Dear Aphron I know this might-"
"Although this might have something to do with me being the father but it also has to do with keeping the integrity of the Queen,"
"But to challenge the Queen's-" He began,
"I am not challenging my Queen, I am protecting her," He turned his eyes to the woman on the high chair, staring boldly yet compassionately, "My Queen, I mean not to offend you and forgive me for I have spoken out of turn but can you truly place utmost trust in this mission?" He asked in a soft voice but full of intent. He then turned back to the table before continuing.
"Sir Duke Pa-vin, I recall we have had many dealings in the past and all fruitful, I mean no disrespect but can you guarantee this mission a success? Unlike the others, a minor mistake could lead to the exposure and the death of both you and the new bride. If word got out not only would the authority of the Queen be affected but the Fayrains would view this as a declaration of war. In this uneasy age, I would rather die than to let Lynnoia be the cause a war," He said, finishing his statement with a pat on his chest and a soft spoken declaration. The room fell quiet for a while before the Duke spoke.
"True, everything you said is completely true, that is why I brought these with me," He gently brought out a piece of paper and a small stone out his bag and handed it over to the man on his right. The tall black haired man proceeded in handing the two items to Minister Beth'gard, his eyes widened in shock once he began reading the contents of the paper.
After he was done, he handed it back to the tall man who then walked over to Aphron and handed him the items as well. Aphron couldn't hide his surprise as his eyes laid on the paper.
"As I'm you all know, that is the royal letter seal from the house of Mayfire, one of the oldest and most powerful noble families in Fayra. If you check it correctly you know would know it wasn't forged. The insignia gem would glow when in the presence of another," Shey had heard about the three royal families from her father once during a lecture she received from him from time to time. After to the royal family of Fayra there were three others who rule with them; Mayfire, Thunderoaken and Oakenfury. The Duke scanned the room for reactions affirming what he had said as each person read the letter, "After we first discussed about this, I knew I needed something so I got in contact with a few of my supporters in Mayfire family and got them on board,"
Sure enough the letter and the gem was proof of what he says. When the gem came in contact with the gem in Aphron earring it began to glow. Shey got a chance to glimpse at the book before it was taken to the Queen. The one part that got her attention was where it wrote that a company of twenty five men of the finest of Mayfire would arrive in Lynnoia in five days via the Duke's secret smuggling route. Thus, adding that the Duke's life was to be forfeit if the company were not to arrive within five days.
"So are you waging your life on the arrival of this twenty-five men?" The Queen enquired.
"Yes I am, to prove my worth to you I must be willing to take some risks," He said, there was a small hint of a smile at the corner of his lips. Even as he just declared possible death he still had that confidence look in his eyes from the start of the meeting.
"And if the men do not show?"
"Do with me as you will," He said, graciously taking a slight bow. Aphron attempted to speak but he was waved down by the Queen with a caution this time.
"So the man says, we will proceed as planned. Assheyria will still remain a princess for the next five days. At the end whether or not she leaves or you die depends on the outcome of the twenty-five men," With that she adjourned the meeting and everyone began to return back to their posts and chambers. The red door opened once again as the men strolled out escorted by the guards but Shey never moved. Her heart, however, sank into the bottomless pit of her stomach, tightening in her chest began again as she as hopes were shattered to the floor.
Even though her father had fought for her and had kept his word to be on her side, it wasn't enough, not nearly enough to change her mother's mind. A hand reached for her arm and pulled her into a tight embrace. Even in her distraught the smell of wild lilies was enough to bring her back sane; it was the smell of her father, her pillar. She wrapped her hands round his waist, burying her face in his chest. He gently planted a kiss on her head and lowered his head to her ear slowly, his lips inches from it and spoke the two words that rained tears from her eyes.
All that was left was to bet her life and freedom on a company of twenty-five men.