Part 15: The Lie
Emerald was out in the garden early one morning, hoping to be alone with her thoughts and feelings long enough to sort them out. Except it just wasn’t easy doing that. Instead of thinking things through, she could only think to herself, what is wrong with me? She had never felt so conficted.
In her younger years, she had breezed through her days with barely a care in the world, with only the good fairies to keep her company and to care for her. She had never quite understood why she had been living in a cottage in the woods — hadn’t exactly known that the fairies were, well, fairies. But she was happy, and she didn’t ask many questions. Most would think it would have been a boring childhood, but she found it peaceful and, in some ways, fun. Sometimes the fairies would let her sleep outside under the stars. In the cottage, she learned to bake and care for a household. The fairies even homeschooled her. When there was no work to be done, she was free to roam the forest.
That was how she met Hunter.
One day, at the age of ten, she had been out picking flowers to bring home. She remembered that she had wanted to put them in the awkward, childish vase she had tried to make out of clay. The memory made her smile. But then the memory of seeing such a richly dressed boy in the forest made the smile grow nostalgic, almost sad. Hunter had been different then. He came every now and then to play with her, and that only made living in the forest more exciting once she had a playmate.
But it didn’t last.
Hunter was older than her, and he was training to be the next king. She hadn’t known his identity until years later. It hadn’t exactly changed her view of him, but it was his personality that was the real change. The older he got, the more he matured into the king he was meant to be, and the less he visited her.
Then the day she turned eighteen came, and she was brought to the palace with the shocker that she was actually a princess that entire time. Somehow, it hadn’t even shocked her that much. However, she had felt quite numb to reality once she was brought to the palace, but that was quickly taken care of one she was put into a deep sleep.
And the rest is history.
When she had learned of everything that had taken place, she found herself relieved that Hunter wasn’t her true love, and that in turn made her feel guilty. She knew Hunter loved her. When they had been only children, she couldn’t help but love him back. But as they got older, that love turned into something different. She could love him as a brother and a friend; that was all. She couldn’t imagine being married to him. He was a good man, but…well, he was just…
“You’re just not right for me,” Emerald whispered, messing with her braid. “The fairies themselves said so.”
Then that left her rescuer — her True Love — Janus. She would have never imagined that, out of all people, the witch’s own twin brother would be the one destined to fall in love with her. This was where her feelings became a jumbled mess. Janus was cold, and distant, and cruel. How could she love him?
She sighed because she knew Janus had the capacity to love. He could be a good person. He had been trying so hard to be good. But she could since the evil he was holding back. What would happen if he just let it all go?
The night before in the courtyard had been on her mind almost constantly since the moment it happened. For a moment…it was like she could feel that fate had indeed bound them together. She wasn’t sure how she liked the feeling, but could she defy fate? She most likely could, but what would the results be? Would she be happy?
Janus had left his cloak behind, and she had yet to return it. She wore it now over her deep pink dress, trying to keep warm. Perhaps once she thought things through she would give it back…
A guard suddenly came up to her. “Princess Emerald,” he said, giving a stiff bow. “His Majesty wishes to speak to you immediately.”
Emerald rose from where she had been sitting on a small white bench. She had been so lost in thought she didn’t remember walking through the garden and sitting down. “Oh my,” she said, touching her cheek. “Is there something wrong?”
The guard’s face remained emotionless as he clutched his spear in one hand. “If there is, he hasn’t alerted anyone to it, Your Highness. Now I shall escort you to him.”
Emerald nodded slightly, then followed the guard back into the palace.
Hunter was in his throne room gazing out one of the large windows when Emerald entered with the guard. The doors were closed, and the sound of it echoed through the nearly empty room. Hunter turned to her with a small smile.
“You came,” he said, almost shyly. He started towards her and they met in the center of the room.
Emerald smirked. “Well, I thought that when the king himself summons you, you don’t exactly have a choice in the matter.”
Hunter rolled his eyes. “I suppose you are right, even though I know you don’t always follow the rules. Like the fact that you ran away from your poor Guard last night. Where were you anyway, and where is he now?”
Emerald shrugged. “I went out for a walk, and he probably looking for me again right now since I ran away from him again!”
Hunter frowned. “Emerald, it is for your own safety that you have someone to protect you.” He sighed, running a hand through his hair and messing it up. He always did that whenever she was around.
“What is it you wanted?” Emerald said, deciding to change the subject. “I hope nothing is wrong.”
“Oh, no, I just…wanted to speak to you about something important,” he said, started to pace back towards the windows.
Emerald had a bad feeling she knew where this was going. Glancing at the guards that lined the left wall, she wondered what would happen if she ran away. Probably nothing, but she went on ahead and followed Hunter to the windows.
“Emmy, you know how difficult it is to run an entire kingdom,” Hunter said, looking out at the town through the windows.
“I can’t say I know exactly what it’s like, but I can imagine,” Emerald replied. Outside the town spread on for miles. It was the largest city in the country, with such a great number of people that they sometimes had trouble feeding everyone in the winter.
Hunter leaned sideways against the window and looked over at her. “It would be nice to have someone I can turn to for advice, and someone to confide in.”
Emerald forced a smile on her face. “I suppose that’s what the Royal Adviser is for.”
Hunter laughed, shaking his head. “That’s not exactly what I meant.” He closed the distance between them and took her hands in his own. “Emerald, I’ve been king for a year and the palace officials believe it’s high time I choose a wife.”
Emerald felt as though the room was spinning. “Well…I’m sure I can help find a suitable one for you,” she said, trying anything to get out of what he was going to do.
“No,” Hunter said, shaking his head. “I…I wanted to ask you, Emerald…I would be honored to court you…if you would have me.” He smiled. “The people love you dearly, and it would give them a reason to celebrate if you became queen. It would make so many people happy, including me.”
Emerald looked at him with her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open. “I…I…” She was so prepared to say no…but she hadn’t realized that it would make the kingdom happy. Now that she thought about it, she had to admit that it would. How could she say no? As princess, her duty was to her people…not to her own feelings. It could be worse, too. She could be sent off to marry someone she didn’t even know or love at all. At least Hunter was a dear friend, and someone she had known for years.
“You don’t have to answer now,” Hunter said, letting her hands go. “Think it over. You have plenty of time.”
She bit her lip, feeling her stomach turn over and over. “I…I will do it…I want everyone to be happy.”
Hunter’s face paled slightly in shock, then he smiled. “You…you will?”
Emerald forced a smile on her face. “Yes. I know that the fairies said Janus is my True Love, but…honestly…I-I don’t think I could ever be in love with him.” The words made her heart ache, though she didn’t know why. Janus could never be marriage material. Hunter could.
Hunter pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. “We can keep it to ourselves for awhile,” he said softly. “I want you to myself for a little while.”
Emerald nodded, lowering her gaze. For the first time, her smile was real. Maybe she could simply fall in love with Hunter. It couldn’t be that hard…he was gentle, and kind. He was sweet when he wanted to be. Perhaps he could be two people at once; Hunter, the cold, calculating king, and Hunter, her loving husband. And she would only be courting him for now. That would give her time to see he was right for her, and fate could be defied.
“That’s not your cloak, is it?” Hunter’s voice made her look up. His brow was knit in confusion.
“Oh…no,” Emerald said, quickly taking the cloak off. “It’s…it’s my Guard’s, actually. He let me borrow it…”
Hunter stared at it for a moment, and Emerald worried he would recognize to whom it really belonged. “Oh…”
Emerald smiled again. “Well, I’m going to go return it now.” She stood on the tips of her toes to kiss his cheek, then hurried out of the room.
~ <♥> ~
Things are getting a little more interesting now! How will Janus react when he finds out the princess is courting Hunter? Hopefully The kingdom doesn’t burn for this, haha!
I hope y’all enjoyed this part! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! As always, God bless y’all and have a wonderful weekend!