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Unexpected Change

Nya’s shoes slid as she rocketed around the corner, in a hurry to get to the throne room where her family awaited her. She was supposed to be there ten minutes ago, but her training with Rok had kept her longer than usual, and by the time she’d gotten the message that the king and queen were waiting for her, she’d had to rush to put on presentable clothes and get her hair up as she was supposed to wear it in their presence.

Then there was the matter of not smelling like she’d been outside sword fighting in the hot sun for hours. That had taken some time to hide as well. It wasn’t as if she’d had the hour it took for a bath to be run and for her to soak the stench away.

She took the last corner a little too quickly and almost slid into the wall on the other side of the wall. The only thing that prevented her from doing so was Lady Bethany McWeasel, who happened to be coming down the hall from the other direction. Nya slid right into her, the slippers she was wearing much different than the boots she wore when she was sparring. As Nya collided with the older woman, sending the bouquet of flowers she was carrying flying into the air, all she could do was mumble a quick apology and continue on her way.

“Oh, my!” the white-haired noble declared, her eyes burning a hole in the back of Nya’s head as she neared her destination.

The guards outside of the room were on high alert as she approached until they realized it was just the youngest princess making all of that noise. One of them shook his head at her as the other pulled open the door. “You are expected, Princess Nya,” he said, hiding a smirk. She knew both of them well, having exchanged blows with them while practicing swordplay. Neither of them would mention that so close to the king, who was still in the dark about Nya’s training almost a year after she’d begun. With the next Dragon Moon looming, Nya hoped that he wouldn’t find out before then.

She slowed her pace and straightened her long, red and gold gown as she entered the room. It was a large, open space where her father greeted dignitaries from other kingdoms, presided  over hearings, and made declarations. At the moment, it was nearly empty--except for her parents, and her sister, Princess Eru, who was seated in her smaller throne to the left of her mother. Nya’s throne was the smallest and sat on the other side of Eru, but she didn’t sit in it. Instead, she curtsied low in front of her parents and then stood, patiently waiting for them to tell her what was going on.

“Nya, how nice of you to join us!” her father said, annoyed.

Her mother’s eyes were wide as she exclaimed, “Your hair! What’s going on?”

Nya reached up and realized a pin had come loose and a large swath of her blonde hair had come undone and was hanging out of place behind her right ear. She hastily pulled it back up and tried to pin it, but she wasn’t sure if it looked any better now. “Forgive me. How may I serve you, my king and queen?” Even though she was still angered by her father’s actions in allowing--or was it causing?--Gavin to be taken by the dragon, she maintained her respectful stance whenever she could manage so that they wouldn’t become suspicious that she was up to something with Rok--or anyone else for that matter.

King Zar cleared his throat. Nya knew that meant he wasn’t particularly excited about what he was about to say. His eyes shifted slightly toward his older daughter, but then they met Nya’s. “We have made a decision, Nya, that we believe is best for the kingdom, and for Eru.”

Nya’s eyebrows arched as she considered what it might be that he was about to say. She had no guess. “Yes, Father?”

“You are familiar with Prince Hextan, from the Kingdom of Davindwar?”

Nya nodded. She knew of the man. He was about ten years older than her. Since Davindwar had become an enemy of Frindom early in her father’s reign, she was well aware of every member of the royal family, especially the arrogant prince who would one day rule the kingdom. She felt it was part of her duties as someone who would one day advise her sister, who would be queen, to know as much about their neighboring kingdoms as possible. “I know of Prince Hextan, Father,” she assured him.

The king acknowledged her with a rocking of his noble head. “His father, King Boro and I have been in negotiations these past six months or so and have reached a conclusion. In three months time, your sister will wed Prince Hextan and relocate to Davindwar. One day, she will reign in conjunction with Hextan over our neighboring kingdom.”

Confusion washed over Nya as she tried to process what her father was telling her. How could her sister relocate to Davindwar? How could she reign over Frindom from there? Would the two kingdoms combine?

Reading her expression, her father drew in another deep breath and continued. “You will become queen of Frindom one day, Nya, after my reign ends.”

The explanation did nothing to clear up her confusion. None of her father’s words were making sense. It was almost as if she were staring at him as he read Gavin’s name again. It felt like a dream. And from her perspective, Nya wasn’t sure it was a good one. “I will reign?” she asked, still dumbfounded.

He nodded. “Your mother and I have determined it is for the best. Your sister’s skills lie in making peace, in creating good relationships with others. We believe she can do that with Davindwar and help ease the tension between our two kingdoms. Through her role as queen there, she will also be able to manage other… strained relationships. We believe the twelve kingdoms will be able to live in harmony for many years to come through this union. However, it is Beelzanborg  that concerns us. We know of your military training, Nya. I know you think you’ve kept it from me, but you have not. Given your bolder assets, your willingness to fight and defend our kingdom and what you believe in, we feel you are better suited to lead our kingdom in a time where the threat from Beelzanborg is sure to be stronger.”

The shock that her parents were aware that she had been training with Rok had to be pushed aside as she considered what else her father was saying. He believed trouble was brewing at their eastern border, where Beelzanborg lay. She swallowed hard; the idea that she would reign one day had never entered her mind. Her plans were to face the dragon, not the evil king who had ruled Beelzanborg for the last thirty years, King Grim. Could she do both? She didn’t see how. While she was confident in her growing ability to slay the dragon, how she could defeat him and then come back and rule was yet to be considered.

“You can do this,” her father said, likely reading her expression of doubt about her own plans as a fear that she would not be able to successfully rule. That was the least of her concerns.

It wasn’t possible for her to say no. It wasn’t as if her father had given her an option. This was a command, like every utterance that came from his mouth. Nya answered the only way that she could. “Yes, Father.”

He smiled, a proud expression taking over his stoic face. “Thank you, Nya. We will begin with your extended training into affairs of state and other matters… soon.”

She knew he wasn’t apt to put an exact timeline on anything. Once again, Nya nodded. As she turned to go, she caught her sister’s eyes. For the first time, Nya wondered how her sister felt about this. Was she willing to marry Hextan, or was this a forced, arranged marriage? From her face, Nya couldn’t tell exactly. Eru didn’t look upset, but then, she was good at hiding her feelings so that her father wouldn’t know her true emotions.

Nya headed out of the throne room, back to her quarters. She was done with her training for the day, but she wanted to speak to Rok and decided she should straighten herself out a bit before she went looking for him. He had seen her a mess more than anyone, but she needed to look royal now that she was to be ruler. Had he known about this ahead of time? She couldn’t imagine her father would’ve kept the information from him.

She also wanted to talk to Eru. She and her sister had not ever been too close, and they’d grown further apart since Eru’s allegations that Gavin’s sacrifice had been forced because their father felt that Nya had romantic feelings for her friend. Nya didn’t know what to say to her sister after that. But now, she felt the need to talk to her. If Eru wasn’t comfortable with the arrangements, there would be little either of them could do. Still, she wanted to know.

Back in her room, Nya stripped off the gown she’d thrown on and went about properly cleaning up. She dismissed her ladies, as she often did. She didn’t feel the need for assistance in taking care of her own body, but sometimes they were necessary for buttoning and fastening clothing items. She didn’t plan on putting on anything overly elaborate to seek out Rok.

As she washed herself using a bowl of warm water and lightly scented floral soap, she thought about who would be next in line for the throne if Eru married Hextan and the dragon killed Nya. It would be their cousin, who was currently only thirteen years old. His name was Sten. He was her father’s sister’s son. He was a bright boy, strong and handsome. He would probably make a better king than Nya would a queen, she thought.

The idea that she could still chase down the dragon came to mind. Her father would be king for many years to come, perhaps another decade or two. She could continue her training, perhaps under the guise of training to defend the kingdom, and then go after the dragon, perhaps a little later on than she’d intended. If her father knew she was training, he likely knew why. She was certain that this Dragon Moon, which would be coming soon, he would be looking for her to make a move.

But what about next year?

She hated the idea of another innocent soul from Frindom being sacrificed to the dragon, but if it meant she was better prepared to stop the tradition altogether, it might be worth it.

Nya took a few deep breaths and finished cleaning herself so she could get dressed and go look for Rok. She still thought he was evil and vile, but she had learned to trust him since she’d begun her training. She would run the idea by him. It was odd how her worst enemy had suddenly become an ally. But then, that was often the case when it came to royals, wasn’t it? She was no student of history, but she believed so. Besides, the only true enemy she had was that dragon. Even King Grim was not as much a threat as that menacing dragon. She would end him--one way or another.

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