I Know He's a King Ch. 09byJane Shield©
Author's note (I can't get enough of those): You know I've started every chapter with a memory of Amram's time with Alexander? I'm out of good memories, so don't expect any more to come. Perhaps they will, perhaps not. I hope you've noticed that they contributed to the story.
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Both Vicdaen and Alexander stuck in my mind like boots stuck in mud. Although I tried so hard not to think about Vicdaen's kiss I did and I liked the tingle in my chest that spread outwards to every part of my body. But then I remembered the confused look on Alexander's face, and the wicked look of Vicdaen's.
What was I supposed to do? Which one was I going to choose? I could not love both of them! Vicdaen set my body on fire, said lovely words that calmed my mind, but he could do such things that made annoyance seem like the least appropriate word. Alexander smiled at me and I felt better than I had ever done before, but he was the king... And the king cannot love a simple peasant girl.
I sat in awkward silence until my stomach started to grumble. It said it was time for food. I figured it had gone a couple of hours since I said those horrible words to Goovar and the 'nice' visit by Calem. And as if my stomach had acted like a bell someone came into my tent.
"Good evening, Amram. I'm disappointed to say that you've failed the trials", Wizer Joanja said and drew the blindfold from my eyes. Rays of the evening sun drew tears from my eyes, making them hurt.
"I failed?" I did not even know that the trials had started. Had they started with Bea or Goovar? If I failed, and she sure knew that I would, why had she even attempted them on me? Had she learnt anything useful? I sure had not.
Except that when the rage started to build inside of me I remembered how I had humiliated Goovar. If I had not been blindfolded I could easily have killed her. And Joanja could pull that trigger inside of me by a few well chosen words, and I would not even hesitate to give into the anger.
For the first time in my life I subdued that anger. Instead of seeing Joanja collapse I saw every occasion when someone had died in front of me, just before my eyes. I saw the Wiliji, the rapist officer, and then I saw three more deaths – the first my old school teacher who at the time I was fifteen had clutched his chest and died after an argument with me. The second was a neighbour who dropped down dead when I found him beating his wife senseless. The third one was the priestess daughter who had whored with almost every man in the village and died in a terrible cough-attack when she had said some very nasty words about my mother. They had all been killed by me. No!
How could I ever have done such a thing? There was no restraint in me. Whatever acts all the victims had done the emotions that had filled me had caused me to kill without a blink. And it was wrong, so wrong. I could justify that I killed the rapist, and perhaps even the Wiliji, because they were themselves seeking death, but what of the other three? They had done horrible things, but they could be amended in other ways than by death. I had done great wrongs.
"Good, Amram", said Joanja. "You've improved your control. Very good. You've passed the trials."
"Was this a trial?"
"Yes it was", she said and then bent over to release me from the ropes. She told me I was good. I smiled. That was the only praise I would ever get from Joanja. But it still warmed inside of me, knowing that she thought I had done well.
Bea came into the tent and Goovar followed. An awkward quiet moment passed as I tried to think of what to say to Goovar. I still felt really ashamed of what I had said to her. But as soon as I was to open my mouth Goovar interrupted.
"Don't worry about it, Amram. I know you're sorry. I'm a touch-psychic you know."
The three of them sat down in front of me and started lecturing about how I could improve my control. They talked about meditation and relaxation training. They were just to leave as my eyes started drooping. But there was still something I wanted to ask.
"What about the deathbringer business?"
"There is no such thing as a Deathbringer, Amram", said Bea surprisingly. "It's a far too complex magic to decide when to just kill. What you are experiencing is the magic of life. The easier part of that magic is to kill, but you still have to learn to do life. But the most crucial thing for you to learn right now is to control your feelings. Which you will achieve with meditation – and perhaps you should stay away from Alexander and most certainly stay away from Vicdaen."
"No!" I protested. "Why?"
"You're hot for Vicdaen, and you don't know which one to choose", said Goovar. "If Vicdaen and Alexander weren't having enough problems as it is, maybe it wouldn't matter, but it does. Vicdaen and Alexander are not known to cooperate very well, and you are not helping them. 'Tis best for all three of you if you don't meet any of them again."
Grudgingly I let it pass, but I was not so sure I would mind their wishes. But for the moment, there was a more pushing matter I wanted to ask.
"Why do they call me a Deathbringer, then? If I'm not a Deathbringer, what is a Deathbringer?"
All three of them smiled at me – like I was a child and they were adults who had been asked a very silly question. "It is ancient mythology", said Joanja. "After life had been created by Tree's Gods one of the gods went astray and after a millennium he came back. He was angry because none of the other gods had searched for him. So he left death and destruction in his wake. And he was named Deathbringer. The first one that named you Deathbringer probably had a very bad knowledge of this certain mythology, and nobody cared to adjust the mistake."
"Not even you", I dared to accuse Joanja, throwing a smouldering look her way. It had given me great pain to be called something I felt like I was not, and now that I was free of the label I could finally blame someone.
"Do not blame Joanja for what someone else did wrong, Amram", Bea said sharply. "Say you're sorry."
What was it with older people that could make you feel great regret – or was it disappointment from someone you cared of that was disguised as remorse? But the problem was that I did not feel the least sorry, I could blame her all I wanted and not care of her feelings. And so would Joanja keep doing, and I knew that she could get away with it. No way would Joanja apologise to me, regardless the complexity of the problem.
"I will say that I'm sorry if you say that you at least tried to defend me. Then I will be sorry."
Bea flashed a smile of approval but Goovar looked exhausted and Joanja, she looked like she would blow up anytime. "Well, I didn't, so you can keep your excuse. Go and eat something. You're back to training again tomorrow, no exceptions", she blurted out and left the tent. Goovar followed her, but Bea stayed a bit before saying goodnight to me; remembering me that I under no circumstances should meet Vicdaen and Alexander. I could always try.
When dark fell I found myself an insomniac. I tossed and turned on my thin mattress, my state of awareness never reaching that blessed state of unconsciousness. Faint voices of the guards patrolling camp slipped through the tent's cloth like moths flying softly past my ears, and as annoying as mere flies landing on my nose. I could not sleep. I thought back on my conversation with the Wizers and Bea. How dared they forbid me to see Alexander and Vicdaen?! Determined to disobey them I slipped out of my tent and shied away to the fortress gate. The gate was guarded on the outside by two guards, but neither of them seemed to be fully awake, so I slipped easily past them and walked through the small door in the gate.
As I walked towards the guard-less – where were they? And those who were around, why were they sleeping? – door leading to Alexander's chamber, I heard loud arguing voices, voices talking about me.
"What makes you think that you have firstborn right to her?" That was Vicdaen, the fire in his voice bright and clear, and so hot you could easily get burnt. And so were probably his intentions.
"I've known her a lot longer than you. Amram and I were best friends when we were young, and we would probably be so now, if you only would stay away from her!"
"Perhaps you've known her longer than me, but what was it, ten years since you saw her last? Much happen in that long time. You change, and so does she. And you're the king of Aarenion and she's a lowly peasant."
"Watch what you're saying!" growled Alexander. By now I was leaning into the door, pressing my ear against it hoping to catch every last word they would say.
"In Veriton her heritage does not matter, you know that. But here with you she would be judged by everyone, and despised by her a likes. And in the end you would hold it against her, just like everybody else, since you would never be free from it yourself."
After the moment's silence that followed the door handle was pushed down. I knew Vicdaen could feel the pressure of my weight upon the door, but he waited to push it open. "Alexander, given promises are supposed to be kept."
"I know, Vicdaen. I'm trying."
There was no sign of surprise in his face when Vicdaen came out of the room. He grabbed me by the arms and pushed me up against the wall. His nose and lips were wrinkled like a dog shows his fangs to his adversary. "He can't make you happy."
"And you can?"
"I could at least try. If you'd only let me."
"You had a chance two days ago, but you did something inexcusable..."
"You can't have us both!" he interrupted. "You did not want Lex to know about us, you were going to lie to him. And I was mad, because you... Don't you know how it feels to be jealous? The first moment you were kissing me, in the next you were ready to kiss Alexander."
"You forced yourself on me", I protested.
"You were the one that made the invitation, you know that. You were pressing your lovely body against mine, and making sounds as well. And I don't remember you pulling away from my kiss. One day or another you have to choose, you'll have to decide. Good night, Amram."
He left me in the corridor, where I tried to smooth out the wrinkles in my shirt. Were my cheeks red? They were so hot I could fry an egg on them. My hair was rumpled and a lot of strains had wriggled out of the braid. No matter – I needed to see Alexander.
"You heard us arguing", Lex said as I entered.
It was no question, but I could still answer no and make him feel more comfortable, but I did not. "Yes." And you heard me and Vicdaen argue, I thought.
"No, don't be. I'm sorry. You were fighting about me. I can't see why. But I don't want to be causing you trouble, because I heard you already had problems... Argh, I don't know what to do!"
He did the same as Vicdaen and grabbed me by the arms, almost pushing me backwards to the wall. "What do you want to do?" he asked with a low growl in his throat. "Why did you come here tonight?"
I came because I wanted to see you, my heart roared like a lion. I came because I wanted to break the rules someone had so determinately set down. I came because there was no chance for me and you.
"I'm not trying to fool myself, Lex. I know what you are and I know what I am. And even though there could never be I wish that there was a chance. And I guess that's why I came, to ask you of that chance."
I thought I could see a bright light in his eyes, a twinkle that sparked for me. He smiled, and it widened in that fashion that I loved. But eventually his smile faltered, and his face became closed. "But there is none." He released my arms and left me to massage them. He paced the floor back and forth.
There is none. He would not even give me the faintest hope, the hope that I needed. The hope I needed to sleep well at night, what I needed to keep Vicdaen away from me at an arm's length, he could not give me what I wanted. Had I been wrong to think that what we had when we were young was so much stronger now? Strong enough for me to feel it when I once saw him again after the long years?
I was ready to shed floods of tears, still I stayed with Alexander as he wore out the floor with his strides. Whatever the chances we had or not, he must have felt something for me to be able to walk the floor like he did.
"I have given a promise, and promises are to be kept." He stilled in front of me. "Tomorrow I leave for Islanda. Perhaps when I come back, we can speak again."
"Yes, in business. War is expensive – I need money to be able to raise more armies to place at the border. Please, Amram. You'd better go sleep." With that he pushed me out of the chamber and slammed the door behind me.
I felt like a dead as I walked back to the Moonsisters camp. Exhausted by the day's trials and the night's emotional tests I fell asleep immediately as I fell back on my mattress. I wished for a dreamless rest, and perhaps it was, but I was awakened by a little pull on my toe – and the small movement had me awake and alert in a second.
The intruder in my tent was Vicdaen. When I tried to sit up he pushed me down and settled himself down next to me. "Sch... Do not make a noise. I need to speak with you about my past."
"Your past?! What for?"
"Would you just listen for a second...? You heard me and Lex argue tonight. That was not supposed to happen, but it did. And there are a few things that I want to make clear for you. Alexander is going to marry... No, please let me explain, Amram... He has to marry. His stepmother has made an ultimatum, because of Alexander's sisters. He wants to marry them off as soon as possible, but in order to do so the queen made him promise to marry first. And he needs his sisters to be married because he needs the money for this war he's waging... Yes, it sounds very cold, but he's doing it all for me."
"You know that my father was Alexander's father. But what you don't know is that my mother was the queen... of Veriton. Eight years ago my mother sent me to Aarenion, to my brother who had no idea that he had a brother, let alone a halfbrother, trying to protect me from Placident."
"Who's that?" I asked. Vicdaen and I were lying close to each other as we whispered. It felt cosy, and I snuggled closer to him, in the way that I never noticed but everybody else did.
"The most powerful person in the world, and she knows it. She's an auto-magician... She acts as a focus for the Maester magician..."
"Wait, you're confusing me. Who's the Maester magician?"
"Waranler, but he's nobody important. Placident seduced my mother's lover Hajieelkhe, Veriton's general and he under Placident's spell betrayed my mother. They put Ziyakhede on the throne, and the first thing she did as ruler of Veriton was to have me and my mother executed. What they didn't know was that I was already halfway to Aarenion when that happened..."
"So you're living in exile?"
"I chose it on my own, but yes, I live in exile. But now I want my throne back, and Placident wants me dead."
"I thought it was just some border disputes this war was about..."
"No. It may seem so, the way the Wilijies are fighting, and the way they can suddenly retreat. They're bloody treacherous, that's what they are. They're planning something big, and I know that Placident's behind it all."
"What do you think will happen?"
"Placident's always had an eye for the magnificent, and I bet that whatever they are doing will be so. But then again, she's deceitful and never thinks twice about killing. I've got a feeling she will hit me where it would hurt the most."
"She's a scumbag", I yawned.
Vicdaen pulled me closer to him and whispered softly in my ear. "I want to stay with you tonight, Amram. I promise I won't do anything unless you want me too."
The thought of having Vicdaen at the beck of my will made a fire burn inside of me. I could almost hear it roar. But the tenderness he spoke with brought out other feelings. I had been hurt that evening and I needed someone to care for me. With an amazing effort I tried to keep the tears from filling my eyes, but I failed.
"He doesn't love me", I sobbed.
"Who? Alexander?" I nodded. "I think he does love you, Amram. But he can never have you."
He could not have me, because I was a peasant girl. He is a king who deserves a queen, but I am no queen.