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The prince of Cadeweth listened to her talk about the King. He smiled slightly, "Grant will be upset if he discusses the matter. As will I. It's not anything that belongs in public conversation." Zander was calm, but would be incredibly angry if anything came up. Cadeweth and Severijan did not get along well, and Zander's father would be extremely upset to owe them any kind of debt.
Zander looked around curiously during their walk. He wanted to see Lirakin's because he could tell how much Sophie loved her home country. He looked at her curiously when she mentioned the training fortress. He narrowed his eyes, thinking for a minute before nodding. "Sure. We can do whatever you would like." He was unsure of the idea, but it would be a good distraction.
The curious Marilyn had to struggle to keep silent about the hunt as they made their way towards the library. "The people of Lirakin are afraid of Severijan," she told Grant. Her voice was quiet and small, feeling bad that she had to tell him. She didn't want him to feel unwelcome or out of place here. "What does Severijan think of Lirakin?" she asked.
Sophie walked off and turned to look back at Zander. She could tell something he was worried about crossed his mind for a moment. “Thinking about what happened on the hunt?” the neko princess questioned lightly. If Zander and Grant were not going to talk about it then she wouldn’t push the subject too much; even if she really, really wanted to know. “I understand you both aren’t so willing to talk about it but you’ll have to be careful of father. After diner he likes to gather guest in the study and have a nice glass of wine or brandy. Father is an ad vide story teller and occasionally he slips and tells a story that someone was trying to keep a secret.” Sophie shrugged as she took Zander’s hand and leaned on his arm. “Just a fair warning,” she giggled.
Sophie matched her steps with Zander and just let him lead the way as the wandered about on their leisurely stroll. She let all her worries melt away as they enjoyed their time in Lirakin. Sophie’s ears twitched with an idea. “Zander, how about tomorrow we go on a ride out to the old fortress? We can see more of Lirakin and check out the troops training facility.” Maybe they just needed another distraction from their worries and the dark cloud that seemed to always be merely a few feet behind. That and she wanted Cadeweth prince to see as much her kingdom as they could.
Grant watched Zander and Sophie leave before turning back to Marilyn. “Zander seems like a decent man; a little stiff and distracted by his own thoughts but still a great man. He seems to be a perfect fit for your sister which I know makes you happy.” He was also happy that Sophie loved Zander too, because if Zander hadn’t fallen for Sophie, he would be competing with Grant for Marilyn’s affection. Grant leaned forward and kissed Marilyn on the lips. “Let’s go to the library my love. I want to see what history out kingdoms share. I need to know how your kingdom views my people if we are ever to make our union work.” He gently took her hand and led her towards the library.
Marilyn smiled, "I didn't know what you would think of him. Sophie seems enamored by him." She smiled, seeing that he didn't want to talk much about the hunt. She kept glancing at Zander and Sophie, though being careful not to stare.
Prince Zander listened to her excitement about tea and was glad to know that she had a good time. "I'm glad you enjoyed your tea, my love," he kissed the back of her hand. His chin brushing against her knuckles.
Zander smiled at his princess, "I did, didn't I." He scratched the back of his head, "I almost forgot all about it." He followed her and chuckled at Grant's embarrassment. He was different than his father, that was for sure. The prophecy struck his mind once again but he shook it away.
Marilyn watched them go, smiling after them. She turned back to Grant, looking up at him. "What would you like to do now?" she asked him. "We could go into the library or into the parlor."
Grant nodded. “I did though not as well as I would have liked. There were minor complications with the hunting trip but nothing you should worry about.” He let his gaze drift over to Sophie and Zander. Part of him wondered if he should tell Marilyn the truth of what happened though he didn’t want to cause her any panic over what had passed. Silently he wondered if Zander would keep his word but on the other hand he trusted the other prince completely. The grey skinned prince smiled at his princess. “I say Zander lived up to my expectations and put any doubt I had to rest.”
Sophie meanwhile was happy to be back in Zander’s arms. However, his words nearly made her gasp, thought she tried to conceal it best she could. Her maroon eyes begged him to explain but when Zander jumped to another topic she let go of the fact of ever finding out. “Tea was lovely and I am so thrilled we got a chance to catch up. You don’t know how much it means to me to see my family again.” Sophie glanced back towards Grant with deep appreciation and new found respect.
“Hey Zander, didn’t you want to go for a walk when you got back?” she asked as she took his hand her eyes never leaving Marilyn and Grant. Grant pulled Marilyn closer to him all the while looking as if he was scared to breath; that if he breathed too hard he would accidently shatter his princess. Sophie giggled. This startled Grant who stared at the other couple with embarrassment across his stone features. “S…Sophie,” he complained stiffly. “Sorry Grant,” laughed Sophie. “Are you ready to go for the walk, Zander?”
Marilyn saw Grant rushing toward her and moved quickly to him. She blushed slightly at the kiss on her cheek but returned his affection. "Sophie and I had such a great time having tea," she told him. "I missed you while you were away on your hunt. Did it go well? Did you get to know Zander?" she asked. "Sophie spoke very highly of him. I hope he lived up to it."
Zander took Sophie into his arms when she came racing toward him. She had watched Marilyn and Grant, which made him smile. "He is a good man," Zander whispered in her ear. "He saved my life," he told her his voice low, "but you can not say anything about it." He smiled at her and then spoke in his normal volume, though his voice was soft, "How was tea with your sister? Did you get to catch up as you had wished?"
Sophie wrapped her arms around Marilyn and hugged her back. It brought a few tears to her eyes to hear the princess say that. She smiled brightly. “You are my first and best friend, too. I can never thank you enough for your kindness and acceptance. I hope that, well, someday we can be as close as two ‘sisters’ can be.” When she pulled away Marilyn had grabbed Sophie’s hand and dragged her into the hall. Sophie grew excited. Zander was back. The cat girl picked up the pace to match her friend as they raced out of the palace to meet the princes.
Grant dismounted his horse in time to see Marilyn and Sophie arrive. He handed the reigns over to the stable hand before rushing of to meet her. Severijan’s prince scoped Marilyn up in a hug, planting a kiss on her check. “Glad to see you again, darling. I hope you had a good time with your sister.” Deep down he hoped she wouldn’t ask too many questions about the hunting trip. “Your father should be here shortly. Oh, I did miss you so.”
Sophie came to a stop to watch Marilyn and Grant’s embrace. She was still weary of the man from Severijan but she now truly believed they loved each other. Sophie smiled then raced over to Zander. “Zander,” she chimed with a smile. “I can’t wait to hear about your trip. I hope you and Grant got along well. We both expected you’d be back later or else we would have been waiting for you to return.”
Marilyn smiled at her friend. "Thank you Sophie," she said. "For always being there for me. Even before now. You'll always be my best friend." Marilyn wrapped her arms around Sophie in a tight hug. She was unhappy that she could not see her friend as often as she used to.
Zander laughed and caught up to Grant before riding along side him. He was glad that they were able to get along so well, even if their trip had started out a bit rough. Zander didn't like everything about Grant, but he was incredibly grateful to him, and he did think that he was a good man.
Marilyn saw Zander and Grant arrive back from their hunt. She smiled and grabbed Sophie's hand, pulling her out of the room. "I can't wait to find out how their hunt went," she said excitedly. She went to find Grant, hoping Sophie would find Zander with him.
Sophie looked over at Marilyn and placed her hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry,” she reinsured her. “They haven’t been gone that long. It will take some time but they will be back again before we know it.” The once maid smiled brightly. “I bet they both were at a bit of odds at first, maybe even competitive but I think they will get along just fine.” Sophie wondered how long it would take for Zander and Grant would return. She could see that Marilyn couldn’t wait to see her prince.
Granted nodded. “I guess we aren’t that much different, are we? However, I have more to worry about than you. In Severijan, if the heir is deemed unworthy by either the king or the other potential heirs he can be challenged to prove his worth. If he fails a new heir is chosen to take his place. I don’t want to be placed in that position. I want Severijan to be at peace with the other kingdoms.” He slowed his horse to match Zander’s pace. “I’m sure you understand.”
Grant nudged his horse forward. “Let’s get back to the castle. I have a feeling the girls will not expect us to be returning this soon and I would like to surprise Marilyn.” The prince laughed and urged his horse to race of toward the castle. As he raced down the path Grant yelled back, “Try to keep up Zander.”
Marilyn giggled, "Im sure you know a completely different side of him than I do." She offered Sophie a smile, "I wonder how their hunting trip played out. Did their personalities put them at odds, or do they get along well now," she thought aloud. "I know there are strains between their countries." She shook her head and declined more tea, she wanted Grant to come back so she could find out about the hunting trip. And she missed her prince.
Zander smiled at the king, "Grant seems different from his family," the prince agreed. "I wonder how it will play out in Severijan's future. I am hoping that we may one day get along," Zander said. His voice was quiet, almost as if he was only speaking to himself.
Zander smirked a little as Grant apologized. "Trust me, I understand," Zander said. "I went through hard training as well. As a warrior and as a prince. Only perfection was acceptable." It made him think about growing up with Will. He had told Sophie a few stories of when they had caused trouble, but he has hardly any stories left since neither boy was allowed much play time. There was only time for training.
Sophie giggled. “Oh Marilyn, Zander’s not like that at all. He was trained to be a warrior so he appears to have stiff and is always ready to defend others. In fact, Zander is not stuck up. Not by the slightest. He actually has a sense of humor. Right now he’s nervous about meeting you all and getting your approval. Once you get to know him, you’ll see what I mean.” Sophie laughed some more. Neither prince appeared to actually match their personality. Guess they would all have to get to know each other better. “Marilyn, do you want more tea,” she offered the other girl.
The King rubbed the back of his neck. “I can respect that. Our relationship with Severijan is quite strained too. They are a militant kingdom and their warriors are brutes. I doubt Severijan has any allies that are true and not joining them out of fear or for their own nefarious gain. However, it was quite shocking to meet Grant. He was the first one I have had the pleasure to meet from the royal family that was sincerely kind.” He rode a few paces with Zander. “I would call this hunting trip over. I feel you would saw you both miss your princesses.” He looked over his shoulder at the servants when they raised a question about what to do with the lion. “Take it back with you. Keep it just between us. I’m not sure if I’d rather have it stuffed or made into a rug for the office but we can figure that out when we get back.”
Grant was rather silent, lost in his own thought until he heard Zander’s horse behind him. He turned back to look at the other prince. “Sorry for the cold shoulder. It is just that I can hear my father scolding me back when I practiced archery daily. My training was harsh. He demanded nothing less than perfection. I’m glad he pushed so hard after all it came in handy today.” Grant managed to crack a smile. He couldn’t wait to see Marilyn after this whole ordeal and judge my Zander’s face he couldn’t wait to see Sophie.
Marilyn smiled at Sophie, "I doubt he thinks you're a burden." She smirked slightly, "Anyways Sophie, he's a man... they like to show off their manliness by protecting you. Did you ever think it makes him happy to protect you?" she giggled a little. "Zander seems like he could have a huge ego anyways. Does he? I mean, is he stuck up? He seems uptight," Marilyn was just trying to be honest with her friend.
She didn't know how the sovereignty of Lirakin would turn out, but she was hoping she would still be able to be it's queen. She wanted to keep her country in her own control. If she couldn't, she would hope to find a way that Sophie could.
Zander froze and watched the arrow fly by him. At first he had been confused, but it wasn't long before he had sensed the presence of the large cat behind him. "Thank you," Zander said. He seemed just as unfazed as Grant did, but hid his reaction to the kings distress. His own father would have never shown that kind of panic.
"I would like the same thing," he told Grant. "My father would be quite unhappy as well." He watched Grant ride away and looked at the king. "As I'm sure you know, my father and his father are not the best of friends. There's a bit of hostility between the two countries because of that," he explained. He then followed after Grant, heading back to the castle. He missed Sophie.
“Yes, he has defiantly put it on himself to make sure I stay safe. However, it can make me feel like a burden so the more I train and learn to defend myself, the more I can take some of the stress of Zander’s shoulders.” Sophie munched on her snacks some more. For a moment she was happy to hear about Grant wanting Marilyn but that happiness faded. Marilyn was the heir to Lirakin’s thrown. But if she married the future king of Severijan then there would be no one to rule Lirakin in the absence of the King and Queen. Lirakin’s sovereignty would end, being absorbed into Cadeweth, Severijan or both.
Sophie looked over at the Queen and her mother and could see some of their own sadness sneaking past their happiness. The Queen rose to her feet. “I hate to leave our chat early but there are matters concerning the ball that I must overlook. Please, keep on chatting happily on without us. Are you coming Annalise?” Sophie’s mother stood up and curtsied to the princesses. “Of course, my lady.” They smiled at the girls and left. Sophie cheered up. “Oh Marilyn, I can’t wait for the ball. They always looked so exciting for those invited.” Sophie was giddy with excitement.
Grant nodded and drew another arrow. His expression had gone from joyful to stone cold in the time it took Zander to turn to face him. Grant set the arrow and drew it back hard against the bowstring and aimed…right at Zander! “Zander,” he spoke in a cold dark voice. “Do not move.” Without hesitation, Grant fired. The arrow whizzed past Zander by two inches and bored into the chest of mountain lion. It dropped dead behind Zander. The king rode up a few seconds afterwards. “Are both alright? That was the best shot I’ve ever seen! Great Scotts! It was probably stalking the deer before we ever arrived.”
Grant on the other hand seemed unfazed. “I couldn’t very well let the cat get him. Marilyn would never forgive me if I let anything bad happen to Zander,” he stated flatly as he turned his horse away back towards where they came. “I would prefer to keep this between the three of us, please. If my father and brother hear rumors that I saved the life of Cadeweth’s prince they will be displeased.” He rode off. Servants that had tailed them came to collect the prey. The King turned to look at Zander with a hint of mild confusion.
Marilyn noddrd, "As long as he is keeping you safe," Marilyn said. "Zander seems like he wouldn't let anything happen to you," she told her friend. Marilyn was still worried, especially since she didn't know Cadeweth or the people who lived there. She cared about Sophie's safety. "The threats from Severijan have stopped. I was shocked when Grant came. I was told a carriage was going to come for me and take me to him, but when the carriage came Grant stepped out. He told me that he didn't want me to have to leave home. He said I will probably have to return to Severijan with him, when he becomes the King, but for now we can stay here."
Zander grunted softly as Grant told him the deer was veering right, like he couldn't tell. Zander didn't like it when others tried to dominate over him or give him orders. He wanted to get along with Grant though, so he continued the hunt. When the deer was hit and turned, Zander heard Grant shout to shoot the deer, but had released the arrow before the command. He smirked, but had the look erased when he turned to face Grant. "Nice teamwork," he said to the other male. "That was a good shot."
Sophie dropped her gaze to the table. “They are trying to, but if there is one thing I’ve learned from my time outside of Lirakin, is that one cannot completely control assassins.” She let out a deep sigh. “Cadeweth is no dangerous than any other place, really. I believe the assassins are after wealth and power. They don’t like our kingdoms’ alliance. I fear that me moving to Cadeweth forced their hands to act know.” The neko girl shrugged. This was the way things were now. She wondered what Will and the guards were doing at the moment. Sophie sipped her tea again. “Have the threats from Severijain stopped at least? I thought you were supposed to go to Severijain but instead Grant decided to come here. Marilyn, I bet you were surprised.” She laughed again with Marilyn, happy to change the subject for a moment.
Grant looked over at Znader racing beside him. He narrowed his eyes and laughed that he now had some true competition. The grey skinned prince drew an arrow from his quiver and set it against the bow. “Zander get ready. He’s probably going to veer right.” Grant aimed and let the arrow fly. It struck the deer in the left hip. It kicked in surprise and pain, turning right and giving Zander the perfect target. “Get him Zander!”
Marilyn smiled at Sophie, watching her friend as she spoke to her. "I think it's amazing that you are learning combat and ways to protect yourself. Cadeweth sounds dangerous with the assassination attempts that are occurring. I hope the court soon gets them under control," she told Sophie. Marilyn gave Sophie a questioning look, "Why doesn't Cadeweth control these assassins better? Why would they want to attack the royal family?"
Zander watched the king draw his arrow and aim at the buck. He could tell the shot was going to miss, and he remembered what Sophie said about the king not being good at hunting. He was prepared to chase after the deer and was by Grant's side as they both races after the buck. Zander tried to figure out where the buck was going to go, to cut him off.
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