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I was once a princess, heir to the throne of Lore, but someone thought

that I would strive to take power one day so they married me off until I
was just the wife of a duke who could have been old enough to be my
uncle. Instead, my second cousin sits on my throne. But I didn’t care – I
had no want to go to Court or get my throne back. I just wanted to live
a peaceful life with my husband, spending the rest of our lives together
in our quiet estate far out into the country.
I didn’t love my husband like a lover, but I had some adoration and
admiration of him. He was caring and kind, and in some ways, he was
also loving. He was a handsome man, almost in his thirties, while I was
only fifteen. He never showed a mean face to anyone – not even to the
servants’ children who did their best to cause mischief around the
duchy. Instead, he lectured them with a few words and sent them on
their way.
My name was High Princess Kerthina Susanna Elizabeth. Now, it’s
just Lady Duchess Kerthina Susanna Elizabeth. I had been married to
my lord Bren Dales ever since I was deemed old enough to leave home
– which was at eleven years of age.
We had a quiet life in the countryside, with regular visits from
Bren’s friends. They entertained us with stories from Court and often
stayed for a long time. We didn’t mind and let them stay as long as
they wished.
All in all, I wished for this peace to never end. I didn’t want the
throne of Lore, despite what many might think, and I didn’t care how
the kingdom was run – so long as it didn’t bother us here in our lands
far away.

“My lady,” Bren called down the hallway to me.


I always smiled when I heard his voice. It was a gentle voice, one
that everyone likes to hear all the time. I was in our bedroom at the
moment, looking out over the landscape from the large windows. “I’m
in here, my lord,” I called back.
Bren entered.
Bren was a slender and gentle man, with pale blonde hair and warm
grey eyes. He moved with a careless grace that seemed more natural
than practiced. When I turned to him, he crossed the rest of the room
in three great strides to me and swung me up into the air, swinging me
around once. I laughed as he set me gently down on my feet.
“How are you this morning?” I asked him with a smile.
He gently cupped the side of my face with a smile and let me go. I
stepped back from him, locking my hands behind my back. “Had a
little sparring practice with the men, oversaw some problems in the
countryside, took a little ride,” he said with a gentle shrug as if none of
the things he had listed mattered. Then he smiled again. “And you?”
I reached for his hand and he gave it to me. Together, we walked
out of the sunny little room. “Spent some time painting on that new
easel you bought me for my birthday,” I replied, smiling up at him.
He leaned down and kissed the top of my head. “Happy fifteenth,”
he told me, and then he was gone. Bren was always busy with one
thing or another, despite our quiet life in the country.
What I did mind was that though I was his wife and I was young, I
was only a teenager to him. So he was gentle and had a very firm rule
about touching. He only allowed holding hands, and if we kissed, it was
only our cheeks that would be touched, or in my case, the top of my
head. When we slept at night, we slept in the same bed, but at the
opposite sides, never touching.
It drove me crazy sometimes, how we couldn’t come closer to each
other as a husband and wife should be. I had seen other couples in the
village and when Bren’s friends visited us and they brought along their
spouses. They were always close to each other, touching each other’s
hair, looking at each other with expressions of love that I could not
bear. But I knew the reasons for what he was doing and I had to
respect that, though it drove me mad.
Going back to the art room that Bren had made especially for me in
our castle, I went up to the beautifully carved easel in the center of the
room, turned so that the sun shone gently on it. On it was a finished
portrait of Bren and me that I had been making as a thank-you present
for him. I gazed at a long time at our intertwined hands, the only thing
connecting us together, and sighed.
I still couldn’t decide whether or not I would give this to him. I had
been done with it for days now, and it was beautiful, but I was torn, for
some reason, just looking at it.
Suddenly, Bren was there again, coming around my side. He sat
down on the couch next to me and I leaned against him. At first, he
stiffened, but then he relaxed and put an arm around me, though he
didn’t pull me closer. “It’s beautiful,” he commented on my painting. I
smiled. Painting was one of my most favorite hobbies – it also ran in
the family – my mother before me had also painted, and so did her
mother before her and so on. “But why do we look so sad?”
I struggled to find the right words and he glanced down at me. “I
don’t know,” I finally said after a moment.
He turned me to look at him. “Ker, are you unhappy?” he asked me,
his eyes worried. “You know that I’ve done my best to make you happy
here. Anything you want, you can have it. You know that, right?”
I nodded and looked away from his grey eyes. Sometimes I thought
that if I stared at those eyes long enough, he would know my thoughts.
I didn’t want him to know them. “I just want you to treat me like your
wife, not like your daughter or ward,” I finally said with a sigh.
He looked at me startled. “I do treat you like my wife. Anything of
mine is –” he cut himself off when I started to shake my head. “What
have I done wrong?”
“We don’t touch, for one thing,” I muttered, standing up,
straightening my skirt out. He reached out and grabbed my hand,
standing up at the same time.
“What do you mean?”
I shrugged. “I mean like, you never even just hold me. You play with
me, hold my hand, but you never come closer to me other than that,” I
explained.
He smiled at me gently. “You know the reason why – I want you to
know what it’s like to be a child before you must take over the duties
of a grown woman,” he told me. I looked up at his eyes.
Bren had been to the Court of Lore before. He had grown up there
and he knew very well, like all aristocrats that have been to Court, how
to hide their feelings. And because of that, I couldn’t tell what he was
thinking. “I’ve been trained all my life how to be a caring and good
wife,” I told him tightly, standing up. He looked up into my eyes, a little
startled at my hard tone. I pushed on. “And when I finally am a wife –
to you – you treat me like a child. I’m fifteen, Bren. I’m a woman now,
not a child. And I have been ever since you met me.”
He watched as I left the room. I didn’t know why I had snapped at
him so. I always was gentle towards him. But I guess it was because of
the tension of the current situation. Then, as I started down the hall, I
looked up to see Bren leaning against the wall in the hallway. “How did
you get there faster than I did?” I demanded.
He gave me a smile and pushed himself away from the wall. “There
are a lot of secret passages here, and I did grow up here as a boy and
often spent my summers alone exploring the passages,” he explained,
striding forward to take my hand. I tried to pull away from him but he
held on firmly. “Ker, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that you felt this way
about my treatment of you.”
I looked up into his gentle eyes, full of genuine sorrow, and the fight
immediately left me as quickly as it had come. “I forgive you,” I
murmured, looking down at my feet. Gentle fingers touched my chin,
making me look up again.
“But the reason why I have put off this treatment of this kind is
because of the problem the kingdom currently has at hand,” he told
me quietly. “Your cousin that sits on the throne is in an unstable
position.”
“What’s going on?” I asked, suddenly alert at the mention of my
cousin.
Bren put an arm around me and together, we walked down the hall.
“Well, it seems like your cousin has been ruling rather selfishly, taxing
the people rather harshly just so that he could host a feast for no
apparent reason. That’s just one of the few reasons. Another reason is
that there is a rumor going around that he plans to attack Kirev, our
long-time ally,” he told me quietly.
I stopped and stared in shock at him. “But almost all Loreans are
Kirevians by either descent or immigration,” I whispered. “My own
mother’s father was a Kirevian. If he goes to this war, then –”
“The whole country will be ripped apart,” he finished for me grimly.
“Not only that, Kerthina, but it is rumored that you will be leading an
uprising against your cousin because you want back your throne.”
I stared in shock at him. Then my knees buckled and he scooped me
up before I crashed to the floor and instead, sat me against the wall.
“I’m only fifteen,” I whispered, putting my face into my hands. His
gentle hand stroked my back soothingly. “And I don’t want the throne.”
“Kerthina, you must make a choice – you must leave the
countryside, go to the capital and stand next to your cousin at Court to
show everyone that you don’t plan to lead a rebellion, or you must
take up arms and lead this rebellion and take back what’s rightfully
yours by birth,” he told me quietly.
“Leave the country? Why?” I asked, looking up at him. I leaned
against his shoulder and twisted to get more comfortable.
“You must leave the country if you don’t do any of these things
because your cousin may see you as a threat and you may find
yourself in a position of peril to your life,” he replied.
“Well, I’m not leaving. But I can’t go to the capital either – I can’t
face my cousin who took my throne from me, but neither can I lead a
rebellion,” I said, thinking out loud for Bren’s benefit. Then I suddenly
realized something. “Where are you in all of this? And what does this
have to do with your treatment towards me?”
“Well, if you become queen, you will have to cancel our marriage
which has still not been consummated in order to marry for the good of
the country,” he explained. “And because of that, I didn’t want to be
the reason why my country can’t have an ally through a marriage.”
“Even if I do become queen, I wouldn’t want any other person than
you to guide me and help me with the ruling of Lore. It’s a big job and I
can’t do it with someone who is a complete stranger to me,” I
muttered. He was silent and I looked up at him.
He had the expression equal to someone who had just been hit in
the face. “Thank you for that comment,” he managed to say, his voice
strained as if he had a hard time speaking the words.
“It’s true,” I insisted.
He shook his head and looked away. “It’s not for you to decide.”
“Why not?” I asked him.
He sighed. “Well, we all have to make sacrifices for the greater
good. You might not always get what you want because you have to
think about what’s the right thing to do – in this case, you have to think
about what’s good for Lore when you marry and every movement you
make will have to be decided based on what’s good for Lore. Or you
might end up with the same situation that your cousin is currently in,”
he explained to me.