Orion’s Embrace – Part 2
I tell you these things so you can understand what I am experiencing now. I am awaiting my turn to be seen by our newest crown king. My mother and father are dead, have been for a year. It was such a lovely birthday present, walking into the palace to find the murdered bodies of my mother and father. Everything after that was a blur until the coronation of Nathaniel. I know he had something to do with the murder of our parents, if not by his hand. My baby brother has always wanted power and was tired of waiting for father to hand him the reigns.
Upon his coronation, my brother demanded that I follow through with plans that my parents had to marry me off. However, since my father had not yet secured a deal it was now his responsibility, and the man he named was someone I detested more than anything. You see, this was a strategic plan for Nathaniel. Get rid of me, and it would pay off the debt he owed to this man. My brother had a bit of a gambling problem. Always owing money to dignitaries from other planets and the only way out of them would be to form less than healthy alliances. They would forgive his debt for access to our ore. If Nathaniel remained in control, he would empty both our mines and our coffers.
When the guards came for me this morning, they told me to pack a very small bag. I would be allowed a few small items to take with me to court and then they handed me a bag no larger than the smallest knapsack. I was not even able to fit in a change of clothes. It was so small that I could only put in the small package that had shown up for my birthday. My mother had asked them to deliver it to me on my seventeenth birthday should she not be able too. I have not even opened it yet because almost as soon as I got it in the bag, the guards were back and yanked me from my room.
Our path took us across the hall, down two flights of stairs and all the way to the throne room doors. I was told to sit and wait my turn. There are guards everywhere, and I know that I cannot leave. It was why I had grabbed the book that happened to be sitting on the chair, and started re-reading the history of my planet. Waiting was never my strong suit, and I’m starting to grow impatient with it all. Nathaniel knew this and was making me wait on to see if he could get a rise out of me. It would work, despite my hope that it would not. I could already feel my ire growing by leaps and bounds. It was going to take a miracle to keep me from saying something stupid.
I heard the creak as the door opened long before I felt the hand on my shoulder pulling me up. I did not want to stand up, did not want to get tossed into the court and listen to my brother berate me, again. It was, inevitable though, and so, I stood when they pulled me up, placing the book down in the chair I just vacated. Standing tall, and holding my head up I took my first steps towards my probable doom.
The throne room doors opened, and the guards dragged me into the room. All around me were people that I recognized and some that I did not. My brother wanted an audience for whatever he was going to do. Typical of Nathaniel. His ego would not allow anything less. Confusion and other emotions are visible on the faces of many who knew me. Confusion at why I, the princess, was being treated as nothing more than a common criminal. Deep in my gut, and in my heart, I feared I knew exactly where this was going. There were only two options. Submit and suffer, or refuse and suffer. At this exact moment, I have no idea which path I will choose.
I expect to hear chatter around me, but the air is deathly silent, the only noise coming from my boots as they hit the floor with each of my steps. Keeping my head high, I stopped in front of my brother as he lounged on the throne. I would not bow before him. He was not my king. No matter what Nathaniel thought, he would never be my true king. If I were to bow or curtsy it would be for a King or Queen that I felt was truly mine. He was my brother. Nothing more.
“I see even now, and after all this time you still do not know how to show me the proper respect I am owed.” Nathaniel spat at me as I looked him in the eye.
He was baiting me, hoping I would rise to the occasion. To the right of Nathaniel was a man I never wanted to see again, Matthias. He was a man I remembered with much disgust. Since I was old enough to look like a grown woman, Matthias has been pursuing me. My father had turned down his offer several times, hoping to draw out a better suitor. An action which created tension between our planet and his trade ship. Not that it mattered now that my father was dead. His standing that close to Nathaniel only meant one thing, the creep was getting his way.
“Respect is earned dear brother, not demanded or owed. If you want respect, you must earn it and fear is not the same thing as respect, Nathaniel.” My voice was calm but quieter than I wanted it to be. He will never understand that fear and respect are not the same things. It was useless to convince him otherwise.
“It is your very lack of respect that has forced me into the actions that I now take. You could have avoided all of this, Adelaide, if you had followed my rules,” came the snide haughty, voice of my brother.
I knew that I would not be able to defend myself at this point. The crowd behind me was growing more restless and Matthias was grinning like the cat that ate the canary. For the first time in years, fear was the only discernible emotion I felt as it seeped into every pore of my being. I was struggling to keep my composure. I would not allow Nathaniel to see me weak, to let him know that I was going to be a willing pawn to end the fear. No. I would face my fate defiantly.
“It is time to pass judgment on this villainous woman. I, Nathaniel Carpathea, the true ruler of Ceasar Seven, do hereby decree that Adelaide Carpathea is a traitor. She shall be stripped of her title and all the wealth and rights that come with it. In her defiance, she has refused to seal an alliance that would place our world at the forefront of military supremacy. As such, her fate will be enforced henceforth. Matthias has graciously agreed to follow through with the alliance regardless of Adelaide’s refusal. I give Adelaide to Matthias to do with as he pleases, thus ensuring our deal is complete. Guards, step forward and show the world what we do to traitors.”
I wish I could tell you that the next few minutes happened so fast that I do not remember them but that would be an utter lie. Instead, I remember every excruciating detail of the events though I do no wish to speak of it at this juncture, perhaps in time, when the wounds have healed.
As the guards stepped forward there were gasps in the crowd as the citizens started trying to speak out. If Nathaniel expected this he did not act like it. With the sudden uproar by the people, he took the most outspoken away faster than they could resist.
See, what most did not understand was that we branded our traitors. There was a special mark that was seared into their skin and anyone would be able to recognize a traitor for who and what they are. Being branded a traitor meant that no one was allowed to help you. If you managed to escape the city you were left to fend for yourself in the woods. Wild animals and harsh climates often killed most. Well, that is what everyone assumed as those not killed by the guards were never seen again.
What Nathaniel was doing was branding me and then giving me away to a horrible man. By wearing this brand I would not be able to seek aid from any of our allied planets. They would be duty-bound to alert the Carpathian guard to my location and I would be dragged back and placed in the dungeons, if I was lucky, the unlucky were killed on the spot.
Fighting the urge to scream in the pain, and to vomit from the smell of burning flesh, I kept my eyes trained on my betrayer of a brother. If anyone was the traitor, it was the man-boy sitting on the throne, the person who murdered our parents for power. I had always been the one to suffer for his actions and it appeared as if that would not change any time soon.
When the guards moved away at the completion of their task, I could barely stand due to the pain but I was still determined to not allow Nathaniel or Matthias to see my weakness. They might have won this round but they have not won the war. Not by a long shot.
My mind was trying to absorb every last detail that I could in hopes of finding a way to escape my predicament. If Matthias got me off this planet my chances of escape and rescue were severely decreased and yet, that is exactly what was happening.
Two guards grabbed me by the arms and dragged me out of the throne room. Neither cared enough to be gentle or to make sure I was not injured more. I could not fight back, the pain was so intense that my brain was shutting down so it no longer had to deal with the agony.
“Get her out of my sight. If I ever see her here again, without you, I will kill you both. Do you understand?”
I could hear Nathaniel talking to Matthias, but the rest of the conversation faded the further away I was dragged from the throne room. Sunlight bore down on my eyes. I wished I could shade them, to ease the pain in my shoulder by focusing on something else but neither option was available to me.
Before I could figure out the direction I was being taken, my brain shut down completely and I drifted off into sweet oblivion. My last thought was hoping that if I woke it would at least be in a cell, and not in Matthias’ bed.
Sending that prayer up to whoever controlled the universe, I allowed myself to succumb to the darkness.