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Grant shook his head. “No I haven’t. I don’t think it is anything important…” Grant frowned. His hand rested on the outside of his jacket, pressing the letter close. His father must be furious with him but by now he should have realized all the messages were pointless. “I’ll read it after dinner. I would hate for anything father said to ruin the evening.” He forced a smile though the letter weighed heavily on his mind.
They took their seats at the table. Sophie smiled at Marilyn across the table. She knew that after diner there would be many things that would have to be discussed; Zander and the King about Cadeweth’s war, Sophie and Marilyn about the secret they were keeping from Grant and the assassin incident. Her maroon eyes glance over to the other prince. Surely he would understand, wouldn’t he? Yet, even if he did who was to say that others from his country would be as understanding. Certainly, Severijan’s prime minister would be unpleased. If they told Grant the secret most likely have to keep the secrets from the rest of his life.
The meal was brought out swiftly. The first course was a tomato bisque soup paired with a salad dressed with pine nuts and a raspberry vinaigrette. Sophie tried to stick to the salad since the soup wasn’t her favorite. It was the king’s. The main course quickly followed. Roast venison with creamy potatoes with a small side of green beans. It was scrumptious and tender. Sophie ate every bite nodding her head as the King sang the praises of Zander and Grant’s hunting skill. Not once did he mention the mountain lion… yet. She could sense it was coming soon. Finally desert arrived. It was a fluffy vanilla cake topped with a mix of fresh berries.
“Well, that was a grand diner. A grand diner indeed,” the King chimed after the diner. “Now, I kindly invite you all to join me in the music parlor for some after diner entertainment.” He rose and the rest followed him to the music parlors. Sophie’s father took his place at the piano, filling the room with a relaxing melody. Meanwhile, Sophie’s mother served refreshment as the king sat in a plush armchair and once again begun to spin stories.
“You should have seen them, my dear.” The King took another drink from his glass. “These two are by far the most talented young men I have ever seen. They also work well as a team. Ah, they would have been fast friends as boys. That is if things had been different between the nations.” He swirled the liquid around the glass. “Oh! I never thought I’d see the day a Severijan man would save the life of Cadeweth man. Grant shoot his arrow and it passed by Zander’s head by this much.” The King held up his finger to further elaborate on the distance. “This much I tell you! I could not believe my eyes. For a second I thought I was going to have to explain to Cadeweth about some horrible attack on their prince but no. Grant’s shot sailed right by Zander and killed this mountain lion. One perfectly placed arrow and it fell dead!”
Silence engulfed the room as everyone stared at Grant. He sat ridged, caught in his earlier lie. A lie that he hoped Zander would have played along with to by his kingdom time and supplies from Severijan for such a life debt. Grant coughed. “I… I uh just remembered I haven’t read my letter from home.” He swiftly dug in his pocket and tore the letter open. Sophie shock her head. Goodness, Marilyn would have to scold him on lying even if his intentions were valiant. Sophie’s father was about to turn back to the piano and continue the night’s serenade when he caught Grant’s paling face out of the corner of his eye. “Are you alright, Sire?”
Grant gripped the paper hard, staring at it silent for a second before shaking his head. “No. Everything will not be alright.” He let out one shaky breathe. “My father is coming to Lirakin. If I read the letter correctly he should be here by tomorrow.”
Zander walked with her, his tight grip on her hand was the only thing keeping him from getting completely lost in thought and letting his worry about his home consume him completely. If she weren't here he would have completely cast diplomacy aside at the first notice of war, but this trip was beyond diplomacy. This trip was primarily about Sophie, and he couldn't ruin this trip for her by rushing off to a war.
He also couldn't help but worry about her. She would want to come with him, and he couldn't put her in that much danger. He didn't want to expose her to direct war where she would have to witness the pain and experience the danger. The idea left him indecisive if he would even end up going to fight or not.
When they entered the dining room, Zander pulled himself out of his thoughts and focused on dinner. Allies were incredibly important, including Lirakin. Zander would continue to be diplomatic and princely in front of the King and Queen despite his worries. He put a polite smile on his face and watched Sophie. Something on her mind was clearly bothering her as well, but he wouldn't ask her now. They could discuss it tonight, when it was the two of them. They had enough to worry about before that.
Marilyn smiled and spun in front of Grant, showing off the entirety of her dress. She took his arm with a smile and they began walking. "You haven't read your letter yet," she observed, "Don't you want to know what your father has to say." She didn't know much about Grant's family, but from what she said they weren't like Grant. She was happy that they were spending time in Lirakin. She was scared to go to Severijan.
Marilyn smiled when she saw her parents, Sophie, and Zander waiting in the dining room. It was exciting that they were able to all sit together. There was an air of worries, but it could be momentarily pushed aside. They needed to enjoy this time where all of them were together.
Sophie was beaming. Finally after a long day Zander was smiling and the two of them were back to enjoying Lirakin. Sophie took his hand, lacing her fingers between his. “Alright, let us head out to dinner. I wonder what the chefs decided to serve. They will probably make a small soup and salad to start with while they finish preparing the main course. You and Grant went hunting today so I believe your catch will be featured in the main course. As for desert… I have no idea what it might be.” Sophie chuckled.
They walked a longer route to the dining room as to avoid the library and the guards and servants that would likely be cleaning up after the incident. As they went Sophie started comparing her home to the castle in Cadeweth. A soft sigh escaped her lips. It was rather strange she thought. She missed Cadewth while in Lirakin nearly as much as she missed Lirakin while in Cadewth. Sophie shock the thought out of her head. Better not to think of Cadeweth at the moment. The thoughts of war would only cloud the few precious days they had left in Lirakin.
They arrived at the dining room a few minutes after the king and queen and a few minutes before Grant and Marilyn. Sophie took the same spot as before; beside the queen and across from Grant should Marilyn take the seat beside her father. She turned to Zander, unable to hide a frown that washed across her face. They would have to let Lirakin’s leaders know about the assassin if they weren’t already informed. However, mentioning the war Cadeweth was facing against Garth was up to Zander to decide. Sophie forced a weak smile as she figured such thoughts would be crossing Zander’s mind as well.
Grant gave a slight nod before planting a kiss to the back of Marilyn’s hand. For a moment he debated following her so he could personally stand guard at her door. The assassin’s stunt made him uncertain that it was a wise idea to leave he side for the time being. Grant shock of the idea. He’d be quick, go apologies and rush back.
Grant walked hastily over to the front door where he had left the guards who had tried to stop him from charging into the place earlier. They weren’t there. Grant went outside. He gave a quick scan of the courtyard and found a group of guards conversing. Cautiously the foreign prince approached noting the group consisted of the guards from the gate and the castle entrance. Spotting Grant, the group turned and fell silent. The prince bowed. “I am deeply sorry for my actions earlier. I humbly ask that you accept my apology.” Grant stood upright to meet a crowd of faces that ranged from shocked to confused, angry to dumbfound. The angriest looking guard of the bunch just gave a quick nod before jabbing his finger at the prince. “Accepted, but don’t you dare pull a stunt like that again. Next time there is trouble, explain yourself before charging in and stirring up a larger commotion.” Grant’s gaze dropped to the ground. “I’ll… uh… I’ll be sure to do that next time.” The prince gave the guards one finally bow before running back into the castle to find Marilyn.
Grant came to a stop outside the princess’s chambers. He sighed. Good, he hadn’t missed her. Not knowing how long it would take Marilyn, Grant fished out the letter from earlier. He turned it over in his hands still debating on opening it. “You keep sending me the same message, Father. I get it. You’re furious I left and demand I return at once with Marilyn. Sadly, I can’t do that just yet. You’ll just have to wait patiently for my return. Or rather wait un-patiently.” Grant had begun to tear open the envelope when the doors in front of him opened. Grant froze, gapping at Marilyn. He had always thought her beautiful but to see her now… It simply confirmed in his mind what he had already known to be true. It took him a moment to regain his composure and stuff the letter back into the jacket. Smiling widely, he took her hand and kissed it. “Enchanting, my darling. You look absolutely enchanting.” He planted another kiss this time on her cheek. “Now if I could do you the honor of escorting you to dinner.” Grant smiled and offered his arm to Marilyn.
Zander wasn't sure what he thought of Grant knowing her secret, but he did trust her judgment and knew she would do what she thought was best. He didn't want to stand in her way. He followed her back to the living quarters and waited as she changed. He was worried about his kingdom and his people, especially with the war going on. Will's letter hadn't made that much better, but he knew they would be able to manage just a few more days.
He was even more worried about bringing Sophie into a country that was at war, letting her be somewhere where she could possibly get hurt. Assassins were one thing, attacks were small and usually infrequent. They would lessen as the people adjusted and began to trust Sophie. A war could devastate the entire kingdom, and was a completely different situation.
Zander was so lost in thought he wasn't paying attention to the time and was surprised when Sophie came out in her gown. After quickly and silently chiding himself for letting his guard down, Zander smiled at her. "You would look beautiful in anything, my love," he told her. "However, this dress does make you look quite lovely." Hearing her laugh made him more happy than any dress could though.
He smiled, "I can't wait to try it," he told her. He didn't have much of an appetite, with everything that was on his mind, but he was sure as soon as he sat down he'd be hungry.
Grant's promise brought more than happiness to Marilyn's eyes and face. She felt protected and she felt secure, something she wanted and needed. "I love you Grant," she said. "I hope you work on letting me see and experience all of you. I love you, and I want to know every part of you. Please let me?" she asked him. She was serious and sincere, wanting to know him, and not have him afraid for her to know who he was.
Marilyn's smiled beamed as she took his hand and pulled him closer to her with a gentle tug on his arm. "You have nothing to apologize for," she said. She squeezed his hand before letting go, "Don't be too long," she said. "I don't think the guards are that concerned with an apology, but I will be very concerned to not have my escort to dinner." She turned and started toward her quarters to change for dinner.
Marilyn could not decide on which of her dinner gowns to wear. After a few minutes of consideration she chose a navy gown with a beaded neck and waist. It flowed around her feet, gently brushing her toes as she slipped on a pair of matching shoes. She took a deep breath before heading toward the door, excited to show Grant her dress.
Sophie smiled up at Zander. Even after the events of the day he still wanted to do what they planned. Sophie’s cat ears flicked to the side as she thought. “I’m not sure… I want to trust Grant, I really do but I’m not sure how he’d respond. He is kind and Marilyn trusts him. Yet, at the same time I don’t think he’d be happy that he was being lied to. Even you have to admit you were a little upset at first, too.” Sophie grinned at Zander’s idea. “I’ll ask Marilyn what she thinks. That would be best.”
Sophie stepped back and looked over at the grandfather clock. “I’ll talk to Marilyn about it tonight. We can have the wedding tomorrow. After all it’s getting late and we need to get ready for dinner.” She took Zander’s hand and led him back to their living quarters. Upon their arrival, Lillian whisked Sophie in to her room and dressed her in a burgundy evening gown. Sophie gave a quick twirl in front of the mirror before entering the common room to meet Zander. “Zander what do you think?” She spun around laughing as the dress billowed and fluttered as she turned. “I hope you have your appetite with you. Lirakin food makes you want seconds.”
Grant shrugged as he sat himself upright. “I never knew how to tell you. I couldn’t even think of the right time to talk to you about it. In the beginning our relationship was so fragile I didn’t want to put that much stress on it.” He wrapped his arms around Marilyn and pulled her close to him. He planted a soft kiss on the side of her head. “I love you Marilyn,” he whispered. “Never change. I love everything about you just the way you are right now. All I need in life is your love and for you to stay beside me forever. In return, I’ll never leave you and I shall protect you no matter what come our way. I promise.” Grant’s face softened. His amber eyes were once again bright with light and love. He wished he could remain here in this moment for all on eternity. Sadly, there were places to go and things to do. Grant passionately kissed Marillyn one more time before releasing her from his arms.
The prince stood up. He bowed deeply to his princess. “Princess Marilyn, whenever you are ready I would love to escort you to diner. It would be my honor.” He held out his hand realizing fully that she would most likely have to go and get changed before heading off to dinner. He wondered how beautiful Marilyn would look in a new gown. Grant shook his head. It would not matter what dress she wore, she would always be breathtaking in his eyes. Grant chuckled to himself. “I suppose while you are getting ready I should apologize to the guards for startling them earlier. I am also deeply sorry for scaring you earlier, my love.”
Zander took a deep breath, looking at her. “I know Will can manage, even if it’s for a little while. My warrior side is telling me to go, but a part of me doesn’t want to listen to that. Missing a ball that we planned on attending, that’s not diplomatic and I would hate to create any tension by doing so,” he said. “I am a warrior, yes, but I am also a Prince and there are separate duties that come with that title.”
He took her hands, “They have my father, and while he may have aged and not physically capable of dealing with battle anymore, his mind is as sharp as ever. That will buy them enough time.” He kissed her cheek, “We’ll leave immediately after the ball if that’s alright with you?”
Marilyn was tense while he spoke. She was trying to make him feel more comfortable letting her know who he truly was, but it clearly didn’t work. “If you don’t want me to know that side of you, then there’s nothing I can do. I wish that you would trust me enough to know that I will love you no matter what,” she said. She looked at her hands that were neatly folded in her lap.
She listened to him, her eyes softened as he explained more of what he felt. “You’ve never talked with me about this,” she told him. “It is hard to understand, and I am trying to relate with what you feel, but I honestly can’t. I’ve never been exposed to battles or war; I don’t have any training in anything other than being a Princess. I can understand making decisions that you don’t want to make, but that about the limit of how I can relate to how you feel,” she told him. “Even though I don’t understand exactly how you feel, I want to help you however you need me to,” she said. “I love you, every part of you, even the parts that you’re not fond of. Those traits make you who you are, and I love who you are.”
Zander smiled at her request, “I would love to marry you.” He smiled at her, pulling her into him and squeezing her. “Are you comfortable with Grant being there? He doesn’t know your secret; do you trust him with it?” he asked. He didn’t want to put her in an uncomfortable situation, or risk anything between the two of them. “You could discuss the idea with Marilyn first,” he told her.
Sophie followed Zander into the room. Every so often she rest her hand on his shoulder in reassurance. She hadn’t expected news to come back from Cadewth so quickly. Sophie scanned the letter for signs of trouble then read it word for word slowly. The princess sighed. “I know Will can handle things for himself but it sounds like he would like your support. Probably because he feels that he might need it sooner than he thinks. I believe it would be best for use to return to Cadeweth as soon as possible… even if we miss the ball.” Sophie sighed looking at the floor for a second. She studied the pattern on the rug as she let her thoughts settle. “We could prepare to leave so we will be ready at a moment’s notice. The ball is in three days. I want to try to make it. We can leave immediately after it or before if absolutely necessary. It is your kingdom not mine… not yet anyway. What do you think is best? What is the warrior side of you telling you?”
Grant matched his pace to Marilyn’s as they walked. He nodded solemnly at her comment about being scared. When Marilyn mentioned being afraid of him, Grant visibly stiffened. He turned his head away from her, feeling ashamed. Cautiously, the prince turned back to look his princess in the eyes. The expression on the prince’s face was fear. The warrior prince of Severijan was scared! Terrified in fact. Grant clenched his hands into tight fists. “What if I said that I wanted to hide part of me away, huh? What if I don’t want you to ever know that side of me? What then?”
Grant studied Marilyn’s face for a second before letting out a deep breath. “I’m not proud of what I am, dear. I know it sounds crazy and is hard to understand but that’s the truth.” Grant took Marilyn’s hands gently in his own. “I… I have this flame of rage buried deep down in me. Every time I try to snuff it out, be free of it forever, something pours fuel on it and it rises back up. I am a warrior and I’m sure you know what that entails. I have had to do things I never wanted to do. I’ve killed before. I admit it.” Grant sighed again. “You have to understand, Marilyn. Yes, I am warrior like Zander but unlike him I was trained to be ruthless and ferocious. When I have to fight it just comes out. I can’t control it.” He buried his face into her shoulder. He couldn’t tell if he felt better or worse after letting it of his chest.
Sophie took the letter from Zander, reading it one more time before folding it up neatly and tucking it into his jacket. She smiled softly before kissing him. “Even if we leave before the ball there is something I still really want to do here in Lirakin. Zander, will you please marry me?” Sophie eyes sparkled, pleading softly for his answer. This time the King would have to be there to officiate and now Sophie wanted her entire family to be present. Of course there would be her parents and the king had to be there but she wanted the queen, Marilyn and Grant to be there too. Even though Sophie was nervous in letting Grant be there along with her parents. Could they let him in on their secret or not.
Zander eyed the letter and took a deep breath. He bit his lip and looked at Sophie, not wanting to open the letter in front of an audience. He knew that everyone knew what was going on between Cadeweth and Grath, but he didn't want to create more of a scene about it. "Let's go see what this says, my love," he said to Sophie. He quickly left the room, holding her hand in his.
Marilyn watched as Grant quickly hid his letter. She waited for Zander to open his but he was quickly gone, and she understood why. If that letter contained bad news, Zander wouldn't want to find out in front of a crowd.
Zander went into a quiet room before looking at the letter again. He looked at Sophie, the slightest hint of fear shown in his eyes. He opened his letter, seeing that it was from Will. It read:
[i The conflict with Grath is beyond what we thought it would be. When they first attacked, we figured it would be a battle quickly won, however they have proven a much more formidable enemy. I'm not worried about supplies and troops, but I am worried about leadership. It is not our desires to draw you away from your trip with Sophie and Lirakin's ball, but should the path of the battle continue as it is, your assistance may be needed. Your father came to the battle field in an attempt to assist with this problem, as it turns out that one of our commanding officers leaked our strength to Grath. However, his battle skills have weakened and he is not the warrior he once was.]
Marilyn walked with Grant through the castle. She was exhausted, not having experienced anything like this before. "I was scared today," she told him. "Because of that man. You scared me too, you were angry and I haven't seen that before." She paused for a minute, waiting to see how he reacted. "I understand why you were angry, I would have been too. There's parts of you I don't know yet, traits that you don't let me see." She sat down in a window bench, gently pulling his arm so he sat next to her. "I love you Grant, and I know the intentions behind what you do. We will always be learning about each other, but you don't have to hide anything from me. As your soon to be wife and one day queen, you cannot hide yourself from me."
Zander looked at Sophie, he was more relaxed. "I won't go if you don't want me to," he said. "Will is a smart man, he'll manage." His instincts were telling him that he had to go, and a large part of him wanted to, but he had come here to go to a ball with Sophie and get to know her home. "You tell me what you need," he said, kissing her cheek.
Grant pulled Marilyn into a tight hug. He was so relieved that she was safe. “I am alright, my dear. I hope you are unharmed.” He stepped back scanning Marilyn for any scraps and bruises. Grant sighed in relief when he couldn’t find any. “I was so worried about you. If something had happened… I don’t know what I would have done.” He embraced her again before planting his lips to hers.
Sophie watched and smiled before going over to Zander. She gave him a hug and a kiss before whispering softly, “I trust you kept Grant from doing anything hasty.” The dark ora around the other prince seemed to be gone but she didn’t know what that meant as far as his actions. She scanned the area around them. “I can’t believe one managed to get through. At least we know it was just one. Captain Thomas and the guards will work harder on tightening security. Oh, Captain Thomas will have to be informed. He is out of the castle due to his wife’s illness.”
Grant stiffened, a dark wave of emotion passing over him. “Of course! How could we have been so stupid?” One of the guards was leaving the library to get more help for removing the dead assassin. Grant pointed at him, causing the man to freeze mind step. “You, get news to Captain Thomas and the doctors. Tell them to give a detox or anything that nullifies poison to the Captain’s wife. Hurry!” The guard bowed and rushed off.
Sophie rubbed her forehead as the realization set in. The Captain’s absence had been too perfectly timed to be merely a coincidence. Sophie opened her mouth to ask Zander a question when Violet and Lillian arrived. They bowed to the royals. “Your Highnesses, diner will be ready shortly. We are here to escort our ladies to their rooms so we can make them presentable for tonight. We also have letters for you Prince Zander and Prince Grant.” She pulled out the two envelopes. The first she handed to Zander. “Sorry about the crumpled state. It arrived moments ago via falcon so I assumed it was rather urgent.” Violet turned and handed the second letter to Grant. “This is yours. It came from your father.” Grant nodded his thanks but instead of opening it he merely stuffed it into his jacket pocket as if he had no care in the world about what it said.
Sophie turned to Lillian. “I will meet you in my room in a minute. As for now I would like to l hear what the letter says.” Her face was tight with worry as she gently gripped Zander’s arm. She could only hope it was the request for supplies to aid in the fight with Garth not bad news from Cadeweth.
Zander's eyes were soft as he listened to Grant. "She will," he said. "Marilyn will accept that side of you, if she truly loves you. It will take her time, a long time, but someday she will know every aspect of you. She will understand all of your traits and your actions, and know where they come from in your heart."
"I was lucky not to have my friendship destroyed. Usually it wouldn't have turned out that way," he said. He smirked slightly at Grant, "I'm sure they'll understand, but I think you're right. It's a bit safer for me to explain."
Zander turned when the guards rushed in the library. "Everything has been dealt with here," he told them before explaining what happened in the library. Zander's explanation was direct, but he left out parts that weren't necessary for Lirakin to know. Specifically, Grant's actions. He knew that if Lirakin's guards heard of the prince's anger they would become more fearful of him.
Marilyn watched Sophie and was amazed with how well she handled the situation. Marilyn followed her friend, she was worried about Grant and the fierceness she had seen in his eyes. She didn't want him to do something he would regret. She had seen his kind heart, and how much he cared about her. She knew he wanted to always be kind to others, but he had come to protect her, because he was concerned about her. She did not want him to make himself upset or be something that he didn't want to be because of her.
When she saw him her heart began to pound, she hadn't realized how worried she had been. Zander was talking to the guards, and Marilyn listened carefully. She wanted to know what had gone on in the library. From what Marilyn could tell, Zander was only telling the guards what they needed to know. Marilyn looked at Sophie and smiled, "He is very well spoken," she told her friend.
When the guards left Marilyn went quickly to Grant's side. "Are you alright?" she asked him.
Grant blinked in disbelief at the dead man. For a second it terrified him. He thought he had done it without realizing it. Hearing Zander, Grant released the breath he had been holding before approaching the other prince. “Killing…death…it has never sat well with me. But you are right that we should have found a better solution.” He leaned over the dead body. His face twisted with disgust both from the sight of the still body and from his opinion of the dead man.
Grant slide the dagger into its sheath. “I don’t think she would either but Marilyn doesn’t need to know about that yet. For now, she doesn’t need to learn about that side of me. I doubt Marilyn would ever accept it.” The fierceness Grant had displayed mere seconds before had been replaced with an expression full of shame. Even his eyes seemed to have dulled. How could he even find the words to tell if he was going to? Grant shook his head.
“I am sorry to hear that. I hope it didn’t destroy your friendship.” Grant rubbed the back of his neck. “I guess we aren’t that different from each other. We’d do the unthinkable to protect those we love. Seems love really does make you do crazy things. Umm... If you don’t mind my asking, did you ever tell Sophie about the incident? How did she react?” Grant followed Zander but was uneasy about leaving the body there. If someone found it before they could explain the situation to anyone it would look good. “You might have to explain most of this to the guards. I may have nearly run them over with a horse early.”
Sophie smiled. She was proud to see the princess take what she had told her in stride. Sophie nodded and followed along until they found the guards. A wave of relief washed over her. “Alright Marilyn, I will handle this.” Sophie approached the guards. They stop their sparring and bowed to the girls. “Princess Marilyn, Princess Sophie. What brings you two out here? Is something wrong?”
Sophie nodded solemnly. “It seems that an assassin has managed to find his way into the castle. Currently Prince Grant and Zander are keeping him occupied but they asked us to find you. They are in the library.” The guards nodded and rushed to the library.
Sophie turned to Marilyn and took her hands. She gave them a little squeeze. “You handled yourself very well today Marilyn. I know you were scared but you didn’t let it cloud you judgment. I am very proud of you.” Sophie was beaming. She turned back to the castle. “I think we gave the boys enough of a head start. Let’s go find Grant and Zander. I bet their worried sick about us.”
Zander's eyes narrowed at Grant as he was dragged away. His next comments were quiet, yet his voice was still hard, not the typical soft voice he used with Sophie. "We need to get him to put that bottle down, if we have to fake a negotiation then that's what we'll do," he told Grant, his voice was quiet enough for only Grant to hear.
Even without his magic the elven prince was quick on his feet. He rolled out of the way of the poison, getting closer to the assassin in front of him. He got so close that his sword was soon through the assassin's heart. Zander pulled his sword out of the now dead adversary's body, the blood dripped on the floor. He took a deep breath before turning around.
"I'm not one to believe killing is the correct solution, but in this case it seemed inevitable that it was going to happen," Zander said. "You don't have to take my advice, but I can see Marilyn has been pretty removed from fighting. Her reaction to all of this made that clear. I don't think she will understand the side of you that has fought and killed quite yet. It may be best if she's given time to warm up to the idea."
He paused for a moment, before continuing. "You asked, what I did in the same situation. I killed by best friend's older brother because he was threatening Sophie," he spoke. Zander knew that Severijan was known for being a harsh and cruel kingdom, but he also knew that every person had a harsh and cruel side. This was his, and it wasn't very often that it showed. He moved to the door, "Now we should probably tell someone about what just happened here," he said, his voice lightening slightly.
Marilyn relaxed at her friend's smile, "Keep moving forward together," she repeated. Sophie had always been good at making her feel better, but that's what friends were for. She always hoped that she did the same for Sophie. "We have to find a guard, tell them what's going on," she said. She started moving again, going to where she knew she would be able to find help.
"Will you tell them what's going on?" she asked Sophie as they found a few of the guards training out behind the castle. "I'll come of course, but I don't think they'll be able to make heads or tails of it if I explain," she said.
Grant lowered his blade for a second. He seemed shaken up and indecisive about what to do. It was true that all his hard work to prove he was a kind soul could go out the window in a single second showing Marilyn why others were so fearful of him. He would become his own worse fear, he would be a monster. Yet at the same time he couldn’t let this man simply go free. “You seem to know your way around this type of situation, Zander.” There was a tone of annoyance in his voice. “Tell me, what did you do when you in my shoes. I doubt you were this merciful.”
Grant’s amber eyes narrowed when Zander got between him and the man. Grant swiftly returned his dagger to its place in his belt. He then grabbed the elf roughly by the collar dragging him a few feet back from the other man. “You would negotiate with him! He can’t be trusted. They lie. They are trained to lie! If we let him go he’ll tell his association how he managed to slip past Cadeweth and Lirakin patrols. We’ll be drowning is assassins within a fortnight,” He hissed quietly at Zander.
The man before the two shifted his wait anxiously from foot to foot. “We will consider you offer,” stated Grant calmly as he let go of Zander. “But only on one condition. You put that bottle down.” The man looked down at the poison. A wicked gleam flashing in his eye for only an instant. “Of course. I will gladly do that.” The man cautiously walked over to the closest table. Grant’s gaze followed his movement. Something didn’t sit well with how quickly the man was willing to turn over his only bargaining chip. Grant turned his attention to the bottle. Where was lid? It had one just a second ago. The prince instinctively pulled out his dagger. “Zander look out!”
Sophie sighed coming to a stop with Marilyn. The once lady in waiting managed to uphold a clam outer appearance. Inside she was upset but knew Marilyn needed her the most. She smiled the best she could. “They will be fine Marilyn. I promise. They are both skilled warriors. One adversary is no match for the two of them. They will return to us shortly.” Sophie gave the princess a soft pat on the shoulder. “And I will protect you too.” She motioned to her sword. “After all; you are my kingdom’s heir, my sister, my best friend.”
Sophie’s smile faded out slowly. “I…I don’t like it either.” She sighed. “I’m not taking it as well as you would think. We’re constantly on edge. There is hardly a moment of peace and quiet. Just today…” Sophie closed her eyes to hold back potential tears. “Just today we were going to be married but when I…,” she paused to gather her thought, “When I received a threat, I almost threw out our entire relationship just because I was dumb enough to think it would protect him. It was a big mistake.” Sophie met Marilyn’s gaze with a newfound level of confidence. “You find a way to get through it. You learn to deal with it by relying on each other. Together is the only way you make it to tomorrow.”
Zander felt more relaxed once Sophie and Marilyn were out of the room. Especially after hearing Grant's words that there were no other men that crossed the border he wasn't incredibly worried about Sophie and Marilyn, but knew that Sophie could protect herself if she needed to. He had taught her that much.
Zander watched Grant draw his dagger and shook his head. "That's not a good idea Grant," he said, his voice was quiet but hard. Zander couldn't have been more angry at this man, he had threatened Sophie, ruined their wedding day, but right now was not the time for Grant to have to explain all of this to Marilyn.
"We'll see what we can do," Zander responded to the man's offer, making his way inbetween him and Grant. He didn't want anyone jumping to kill the other. Zander didn't look at the Prince of Severijan, but that was who he spoke to next. "Grant, I know what you're thinking now. I've been there. You don't know what this will do to you and Marilyn. Do you really want her to know this side of you?"
Marilyn went out of the room with Sophie, sticking close to her friend. She was scared, but Marilyn hadn't been exposed to as much danger as Sophie had. Marilyn didn't have much experience with assassins and war, and what she had heard was distanced from her. This was too close, and that look in Grant's eyes...
"Sophie," she said, "Are they going to be alright?" Her voice shook, she stopped moving and looked into her friends eyes. "I don't like this Sophie, not at all," she told her most trusted friend. "How do you deal with it?"
Sophie took a step towards Marilyn wrapping her friend in a protective hug. She clung on to Marilyn as her eyes drifted to Grant. That dark gaze made her shutter. He looked more like how Sophie thought he would be like before she met him. The look vaguely reminded Sophie of the time Zander nearly lost control over his magic. At first Sophie didn’t know how to respond to her friend. She turned to meet the princess’ worried gaze. “It will be alright, Marilyn. It…it means he will do anything he can to protect you. He cares about you that much.”
Sophie turned to Zander than looked past him at the man. “Yes, That his him.” She glared at him. “He is the one I told you about.” The man gritted his teeth, took a step forward then a step back still uncertain about dealing with Grant. “I thought I told you not to say a word, girl. You just sealed your fate. My partners have already carried out our backup plan.”
“That’s a lie!” snapped Grant. “I know you were the only one to cross the border. You’re stuck here, without any back up. So cut the act.” Sophie’s grip around Marilyn tightened. She urged her to take a few steps towards the door away from the conflict. Zander could sense the fight about to begin and wanted to make sure the girls were fair away from it. Marilyn looked terrified. Sophie put on her bravest face. “Come Marilyn, everything will be fine. Let’s do as Zander asked.” She dragged her out the doors.
Grant glanced over his shoulder at Zander. “I want you to go with them. I trust you to keep them safe.” Grant drew his dagger. The Lirakin guards hadn’t permitted the prince to carry a sword but they allowed him to be somewhat armed. It’s didn’t bother Grant. He had been trained to be lethal with any weapon he could get. The man reached into his jacket to pull out the poison bottle. “Let’s negotiate. Before either of us does anything stupid. All I ask is an escort over the border and I’ll be out of your hair.” There was a tone of desperation and fear leaking into his voice.
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