If you have not read chapter 2 click here.
KNIGHT FIRST CLASS
BY D. M. YELL
Edited by “Kaillup”
The council of the three kings would hold a session after evening supper, and her father and two other men would decide what would become of her future. She had gone into her father’s chamber two nights ago to confront him about the issue and what the outcome must be: “Why does the law in Sanabria state that the father of a royal daughter will choose what man she must take as her husband for life? Why can’t she choose her own groom? They’re not the ones who have to live with that man. The daughter does.”
Her father sat up in bed. “As I stated before, sweetheart, I can do nothing now to change this law. Sheehan, Warlyn, and I made an unbreakable oath to keep the peace in Sanabria as long as we live. I cannot break a vow; it would bring disgrace upon our family. Believe me, it would make these times less difficult and this case much easier. If things were simple, I would not have to deny the wish of either of my two friends.”
“Better to deny your friend’s desire than your daughter’s.”
“Victorea, I know you are in love with Christoph, and I have the deepest respect for your feelings.”
“Good, then your decision is final. I will marry Christoph.”
“Victorea, being in love and real love itself are two very different things.” Medena’s eyes, neck, and whole face strained as he said this with feigned patience. “In time, my hope is that you will be able to discern between these two kinds of love. If you do marry and live with Jossiph, in time you will experience and learn what real love truly is.”
“I hope I never have to experience such horror as 'real love' then. Father, you don’t know what injury I may do to myself if I am forced to wed Jossiph and live the rest of my life with him.”
"Do as the law requires or you may never marry. If you do have to marry Jossiph, love the Prince of Warlyn and, eventually, it will blossom and grow and—"
“When it comes time for Jossiph’s sister Samina to marry, Christoph will do the same.”
“That is not possible. Surely, you cannot believe this is true, Father. Why are you abandoning me right now, in my most desperate time of need for you?” As her temper escalated, her face felt hotter.
“It works out best this way, my dear. It might be the only way forward.”
“Well, then, Father, who will Prince Kaillup marry in his ready time?”
"A bride from among the three kingdoms will be chosen to match his needs.”
“Well, then, a bride from among the three kingdoms can be chosen to match Jossiph’s voracious needs, too.”
“Being in love is an improper measure to guide my decision. Princess Samina is in love with Christoph, too.”
“How can you weigh her love for him against mine? My love is far greater than hers. Her love does not equal the weight of mine. Her love for him exists in some dream world in her imagination. My love is real, based on solid touchable reality. Plus, I am the only one between the two of us receiving his love in return. That is real love.”
She folded her arms. Her father closed his eyes, and she smelled victory.
“Victorea, you are only thinking of yourself,” he said with eyes remaining closed. Then he opened them. “Christoph is a good, fine, and honorable man, yet we must think of the three kingdoms. If Christoph marries you, you will live in Sheehan Castle after his father has passed away. The land of Medena and Sheehan would most likely come together after I die. The lands will be unequally divided, violating the oath we three kings made to King Bolderoth. If you marry Jossiph, it would balance the kingdoms and keep the land in equal thirds. My realm would be given to you and Jossiph, then Christoph and Samina would receive Sheehan’s realm, and Kaillup would inherit his father Warlyn’s.”
“How do you know that the two brothers would not become allies, then try to overtake Christoph’s realm?” she asked, angrier and more afraid than ever. “There might be a war no matter what decision you make, no matter how long you think about it.” Fed up, Victorea turned to leave the chamber.
“Wait, Victorea,” Medena said. “Please don’t leave angry. That would only make matters worse. The wisest decision will be made for everyone’s benefit. I promise I will make the best decision I can, for your sake.”
"For my sake? Are you certain about that, Father?" She nodded indignantly and left him lying there thinking about making the right decision that would ultimately control her destiny.
Presently, Victorea thought about the conversation with her father as she and Maiden Julianna strolled briskly through the middle bailey yard of Medena Castle toward the front entrance. In outdoor raiment and light dresses that did not restrict their bodies or fit too tightly, they returned to the castle from the garden whose flowers had begun to bloom. Tulips and carnations, lilies and roses, and many other flowers of diverse kinds would soon spring out of the earth. Lilac shrubs would sprout pink, purple, and white flowers and paint a marvelous portrait with bushes and trees in the garden. Among all flowers, sunflowers were Victorea’s favorite since they represented friendship. Julianna received the first sunflower from her; Victoria's handmaid was her best friend.
“Victorea?” Julianna asked. “I know you have not seen Christoph since the beginning of last summer, and upon his return, you might want to be alone with him. I was wondering, however, if the two of you might like to take a carriage ride down to the south beach to look off the cliffs with Lieutenant Knight Quinn, Knight Second Class, and me? My betrothed says there is much to see on the way down, and we could also take the long road to look at all the wildlife. I told my dear Quinn how much you love animals and seeing new sights, and my lover man is most delighted by inviting you two.”
“Julianna, of course, I’d love to go. I’m sure my tall, dark, and handsome prince will be more than elated to come along. Being caged in a castle most of this winter makes me want to climb mountains, swim oceans, and run across sandy deserts.” Genuinely ecstatic, the princess asked, “When shall we be going?”
“About mid-May,” Julianna said. “I am delighted to see you smiling again, your Highness. Your smile has been greatly missed these past couple of fortnights.”
The ladies still had some distance to go when a sudden chill wind blew in and invaded accessible parts of their clothing. They crossed their arms to warm themselves and picked up the pace even more to hurry inside.
Despite Victorea’s efforts to appear happy, Julianna sensed trouble inside her. The maiden had a gift for reading what was going on in her mind. Julianna grabbed her sleeve to comfort her. King Warlyn would be arriving at Medena Castle shortly, along with his whole family, and he had pressured her father hard on the matter of the marriage so that it would be his son she married. Warlyn asserted an obstinate argument about how brave and mighty his son was, and how Jossiph, not Christoph, deserved more for his actions and sacrifice in the war. Warlyn advanced the idea to her father that his beautiful daughter Samina had only two years to go before her own wedding birthday. Christoph would not go without a worthy bride, and he had tried to make her father feel bad about how it would cause distress among the kingdom if the marriages were arranged any other way. Warlyn most fervently stressed that it would go against King Bolderoth's wishes and violate their oaths to each other.
By her father’s actions lately, it was obvious to her that Warlyn would persist in having her marry Jossiph. Her father Medena isolated himself inside his private chamber for hours and refused to eat anything. He drank red wine in greater quantities than usual, and when she went to check in on him, he was drunk and rambling on about the leg he had lost in the old war. Medena had been wounded around the time she was born and was confined to a chair for life. Jossiph was a great Knight First Class, and he might have been the best fighter in the whole kingdom, but Victorea did not care about that. Jossiph was too sure of himself. His looks, his body, his appearance, and his ability attracted a lot of women, but he was a poor conversationalist and had no appeal to her as a lover. Jossiph would belittle others on the training grounds and battlefield to inflate himself above everyone else. Rumors had been spreading around for a long while that Jossiph had slept with countless women from all three realms of the kingdom and even some from exotic lands beyond Sanabria. This was his most loathed attribute to her; she wanted no part of it. A decision would be made tonight as to whether she would have to marry that amoral heathen.
Victorea had frequent dreams of Christoph coming to her rescue on her wedding birthday. Two monstrous guards in heavy steel armor dragged her down the aisle and pulled her tight by the wrists as she cried aloud at them to let her go and for someone to help her. Ahead of her, at the end of the aisle, the back of Jossiph stood in a royal blue uniform with his frosty yellow hair flowing down to his shoulder blades. He stood silently, patiently, unmoving. She looked down at her pure white dress. The purpose of its color seems so meaningless now. Her purity would be given away unwillingly to a man she did not love, a man who could love only himself. She would be ravished rather than give into Jossiph’s lust by her own free will. As she drew closer to a smiling noble loremaster eager to perform and seal the vile ceremony, she watched in horror as the old man’s grin became wider and wider each step she took forward. To her left was a bed at the front of the wedding hall full of onlookers. Tugging and yelling, she twisted her wrists to break free from the guard, but their grip was unbreakable. She was finally near Jossiph, and as the prince turned towards her, eyes wide and menacing, his nose flared like a viper and his face turned reptilian and threatening. The guards cast her towards him, and the snake that was Jossiph drew long fanglike fingernails into her dress. His claws pierced her flesh as he picked her up and carried her towards the bed. He tore open her dress, then off, revealing her undergarments. The snakeman hovered over her, about to engage her body, but was thrown off her suddenly.
Christoph had thrown Jossiph off of her. Gently, her love took her by both hands and lifted her off the bed. She was safe in Christoph's arms now.
Then Jossiph and his two guards vanished. Christoph was filled with so many unconquerable good qualities that countered Jossiph's hideous self. Many women may have been more attracted to Jossiph, his illustrious form and build, but nothing compared to her prince. Her love was stout and robust in muscle and frame. Julianna agreed with her judgment, and truthfully so. Christoph had not slept with any other woman, even though many offers had been made. Several beautiful young women of nobility desired him, some more so than Jossiph, yet it was of no importance. Christoph had an adorably cute dark face, and his appearance and wide build were rugged, solid, and distinguished.
The two ladies came to the front entrance, and the guards at the huge double doors stepped aside. The soldiers on duty standing watch on top of the front castle towers were alert. “The guests are here already, m’lady,” one of the guards at the front door said.
“Quickly! Let’s run in and change,” Victorea said. “I don’t want Christoph to see me in this simple attire.”
The two picked up their speed and ran inside.