~ Chapter 41: The letter that sealed their fate (Part 2) ~
A gentle hand was placed on my shoulder and a pair of golden eyes filled with guilt looked back at me. The Princess bit her underlip and looked down.
“I'm sorry... I couldn't protect even you, my last knight.” she said.
My knees went weak, but I refused to subdue and fall down. I refused to do so, yet... there was nothing I could do.
“I... Why?” was all I could ask as whimpers escaped my lips.
“Draejan hit two birds with one stone as they say... The opportunity came, so he seized it.” the Princess shook her head. “You know, as soon as I received this letter, I found out that the guards outside my chamber have been called away. Right now, I don't even have the power to protect myself let alone another. Even so, I rushed over to my father, to plead for him to annul this engagement, but the guards would not let me see him. My brother, the Prime Minister Elovius, came to speak to me on behalf of my father. He told me that he was too busy to deal with my... 'tantrum' right now.” she clenched her delicate fists and glared at the floor.
Although she was like this, the tone of her voice was calm. Even now she was restraining herself to act as a diligent and elegant princess, as one befit of her royal status.
But from her words, I understood quite well what this meant... The party of the Third Princess had collapsed. I was the last pedestal... It was a brilliant political move, but a devastating one for all of our futures.
“Thank you for your effort, your Highness... I appreciate it.” I spoke, but my voice barely came out.
“There's nothing to thank me for, I failed.” she closed her eyes and turned her head to the left “With Draejan being named as the General of the Brekkar Army, I thought that he wouldn't last long because the soldiers wouldn't listen to him as they did your grandfather. But then he came up with this tournament idea to promote the strong ones among them, gaining the favor of many within the commanding ranks. The final blow then came when he proposed to my father to let him take you as his wife... This way, the new General of the Brekkar Army would have by his side the daughter of the former general. The moral of the soldiers would rise instead of falling. And with the approval from my brothers, he practically took away both my army... and my last knight. He won...”
“There's nothing we can do?” I asked hoping for something... anything.
“It's a declaration from my father... not a suggestion.” she pointed out.
Indeed, this was akin to an order. If it was the latter, I could have brought Alkelios over and maybe convince him not to do it. That could have been my last chance, my last resort, but unfortunately, that too was taken away.
“You said that you love this Alkelios fellow, correct?” she asked me.
“Yes, I do so very much.” I replied without the smallest sign of hesitation in my voice.
“Then... maybe... Hm, bring him to me. If my interview of him goes well, there may still be a chance to turn this around. At best cancel your engagement or postpone it long enough for father to be convinced that Alkelios is on our side not on that of the humans.” she looked back at me with a determined look in her eyes.
“But what about you, your Highness?” I asked.
“My fate is already sealed as a mere political coin to be traded off when it will be needed. This way, I can at least try to keep you, my last knight and also my friend, away from that dragon's grasp.” she showed me a smile.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart!” I replied and knelt before her.
To think that even with this last drop of her strength, she was still trying to help me. Within my heart, I knew that I had chosen the right master to serve even if her political power was now almost non-existent.
“But you should first go and visit Dregarya Gorrashy. Have her fix your armor, it looks like you just returned from a fierce battle.” she told me.
“Yes, your Highness. To be more specific, I faced off Kataryna Greorg in battle and then an army of draconian undead spawned by the dungeon near Pertiko village. In both cases, I am highly thankful for Alkelios' cooperation as he was the one who was able to bring both battles to a closure.” I expressed my honest opinion.
“Is that so? I will take it into consideration when we will meet for the first time.” she nodded.
“Then I will go and meet with Dregarya Gorrashy before issuing the official summon to Alkelios Yatagai, Kataryna Greorg, and my sister Thraherkleyoseya Draketerus.” I said and bowed respectfully in front of the Princess.
I mentioned their names as well because I considered they too could be of use now, when her party lacked both the number and strength to keep her afloat at the Palace. With a bit of luck and maybe a wish from Alkelios, I could save the Princess as well.
“Please do so.” she nodded and then I left her chamber.
[Princess Elleyzabelle's point of view]
When my last knight, Seryanna Draketerus left my room, I let out a sigh and laid down on my bed. Although I never mentioned it during our conversation, but that letter was received just the other day. It was written in such a way that it declared with absolute confidence that I had no way out.
Without a knight by my side, I had literally no protection, which in itself would prompt the high nobles to request marrying me off into a foreign family. Most of my younger sisters have all been married off into prosperous noble families in order to maintain their safety and luxurious lifestyle, while at the same time maintaining their absolute loyalty to the crown. My younger sister Decessere Jenne Seyendraugher, the Fifth Princess of Albeyater, was married off to the Fourth Prince of the Dragon Empire Embryger.
Meanwhile, the First and Second Princesses were to be married off to the most prominent ducal family at the time of the coronation of the First Prince, Charmeill. My second oldest brother was forced into the Prime Minister role and in case of the demise of the First Prince, he would ascend to the throne.
Funny, from an outsider's point of view, one could go so far as to consider that there was a lot of infighting among us siblings, but the truth was far from that. Our backing and political power declared our social status and ability to move within the Kingdom. This sort of strength was approved off by both nobility and royalty. Assassination and the like were detested. Only the lowest of nobles could think of such disgraceful things.
In other words, since there were so many of us, trying to kill us off one after another would have been too much of an effort and fruitless in the end. However, by shifting their favor and backing to those with a good promise, the noble families would have a lot more to gain from this.
This favor and backing was counted by the number of the knights who served under us, the strength of our individual armies, and the strength of the individuals we could directly command. Thus, having someone with a Breakthrough under one of us royal siblings was more than enough to guarantee our worth in the Kingdom.
The reason for this was in itself simple. The Breakthrough ones all had a very peculiar way of thinking that deferred from ours, who were simply Awakened. They saw neither nobility nor common folk, only the worth of one's strength. To put it simply, it was highly impossible to force one of them to think as the rotten nobles desired to. Thus, if I were to have one under my command as I did Brekkar, then my worth in both the political playing field and that of the military field would remain uncontested.
40 years ago, my army was leading the anti-human campaign. Because of this, my political power was as high as that of the Crown Prince. But now... I didn't even have the confidence that I could order one of the Palace Guards to escort me outside and back safely. If they had nothing to do, maybe, but if one of my siblings gave them another command, they would disregard me and listen to them.
Taking a deep breath, I let out a heavy a sigh and then looked up at the ceiling.
“If this goes well... If I can convince Kataryna Greorg to follow me, I could somehow regain my power even if I would lose the Brekkar Army. Actually, I could most likely build another one with her might. As for Alkelios, if he is a human who caught the eye of my knight, his worth is also priceless... If I can have a human military adviser in the upcoming wars, then the dragons wouldn't have to fear another incursion like the one 38 years ago... But will he follow me as well? If I free Seryanna, he should... But will he betray us? This is what I need to find out... If he is a worthless human, then I will assume that Seryanna just made a childish mistake. She has yet to awaken yet, so it's not impossible. All children make mistakes...” I said to myself and then let out another sigh.
Maybe it was bad to think of my friends as pawns in my game, but... at this point, it was either this or suffer the life of a political coin. My chastity and freedom would be exchanged for some sort of agreement between kingdoms... Or simply to improve the overall relationships between Albeyater and Embryger.
It wasn't like they couldn't use another one of my sisters, but I was the only one among them with the political and military ability to actually end up being of use to Albeyater, while at the same time have so little backing that no one would oppose marrying me off to a foreign prince.
Each and every one of us siblings had their own individual political games to deal with, and mine just ended up being on the losing end. But when I thought about the Family Tree of the Albeyater Royal Family Seyendraugher and organized it by age, I got a splitting headache...
First, we had father and mother: The King Feryumstark (age unknown/never told me) The Queen Elliessara (age unknown/scolded me for asking about a lady's age). Then, the tree continued with their children:
Crown Prince Charmeill (324 years old)
Prime Minister Second Prince Elovius (318 years old)
First Princess Natalia (302 years old)
Third Prince Baluth (280 years old)
Fourth Prince Navarius (261 years old)
Second Princess Josephine (250 years old)
Fifth Prince Dorrian (231 years old)
Sixth Prince Zadangarok (201 years old)
Seventh Prince Basphermus (188 years old)
Adopted First Prince Coshun (180 years old) (Deceased)
Adopted Second Prince Kryogan (162 years old)
Adopted Third Prince Mostrack (160 years old)
Adopted Fourth Prince Pluvius (140 years old)
Third Princess Elleyzabelle Sojourn (110 years old)
Fourth Princess Mayelle Kristoff (102 years old)
Fifth Princess Decessere Jenne (94 years old)
Sixth Princess Noyelle Praz (92 years old)
Seventh Princess Saluka Fer (86 years old)
Eight Princess Constance (80 years old)
Ninth Princess Jaquelinne (62 years old)
Tenth Princess Corsonna (58 years old)
Eleventh Princess Neptuneya ( 34 years old)
Twelfth Princess Shezelle Eska (12 years old)
Eight Prince Ashernitz Kos (12 years old)
But in this list, I did not count any of their spouses and thus extended families, children, etc.
When I think about it, this is more like a political win-win situation for everyone except me and Seryanna. If I was in father's place, I wouldn't hesitate to marry me off to one of the bachelor princes of the Empire to further solidify the relationship between us. From here to an official alliance it wouldn't take too long, and this would also solve the current problem of the aggressive human invasion campaigns. The Embryger Empire's armies are nothing to joke about. I thought as I looked in my mind at the overall political map of our continent.
Our main enemy was located on the Human Continent, the Human Empire Akutan...
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