Orion’s Embrace Part 8
Sleep had been something I honestly thought I would never see again. At least not since my parent’s death and Nathaniel’s actions. Here I was in a strange place and sleeping like the dead. Or at least, that’s how the woman watching over me had described it. I know she came to check on me throughout the night because she told me so the next day during the noontime meal.
A part of me wanted to question Meredith, but I was afraid. Not for myself, not of her. Just of the answers she might tell me. Of things I thought were long since dead and buried. My mother was a touchy subject, so was my father. There were still so many things about my parents that seemed to be hidden from not only myself but my brother as well. It made me wonder what the reasoning behind all of this was.
I forced myself out of the funk I was currently in and decided to engage Meredith in conversation. I was grateful for her assistance, and sitting around like a silent lump wouldn’t show that. Nor would it help me gain the information I desperately sought after.
“Thank you for your assistance Meredith, but I don’t want to get you in any trouble. I understand my brother, the King, has pulled in a lot of places. I am the one on the run, and you will be killed if they find out you helped me. I thank you, but I cannot stay.”
The soft laugh that poured from Meredith made me nervous for a moment before I could catch her gaze. She honestly thought something I said was funny. Something about this woman calmed me down, and I knew I was safe as long as I was with her, but it couldn’t last forever. Not by a long shot.
“Child, your brother doesn’t scare me. He thinks he’s king, but he is not. It takes more than a crown or a self-appointed title to become a king. One must also have the respect of the people, and Nathaniel has none of that. You, however, do and you will discover allies along the way. There are things we must talk about, but it’s only your first day here. Are you sure you want to jump right into it?”
Her voice was soft as she spoke to me, and I heard the words, but a part of me wasn’t sure if I understood the meaning. I was the daughter, and I was the black sheep. Yes, I was the eldest, but in a patriarchal society like the one I came from women didn’t rule. Even my mother, the queen, was subservient to my father. She wouldn’t speak without his permission, and she didn’t dare to question him, at least in public. In private, they were so unlike what anyone expected—loving and warm. Father always listened to mother’s advice.
Nathaniel was the opposite of our father. He always felt entitled and was bitter he was the youngest. Everything he’d done since we were young had been to hurt me, even though he knew he would have the throne when our father was willing to step down. He had killed our parents. I knew this. To keep me quiet, he sold me off as a slave. I don’t doubt he will be alerted to my escape and send people after me.
Every step from here on out would need to be carefully planned, or my life would be forfeit. There would be no branding this time. Nathaniel would kill me if only to get me out of his hair. Up until now, he hadn’t had any valid reason to try to kill me until now. My escape from Mathias and violating his orders might be enough.
“There is so much that seems to be missing from my understanding of my parents. I’ve never met you before, and you know my mother very well. The woman I knew as my mom was nothing like me, that I could tell. I just.. I want to know what is going on and why all of a sudden, my world decided to tilt on its axis.”
I would be childish to think that the world was not full of more significant scenarios than what I was dealing with. I needed answers, and I was going to get them. So far the only ally I had was Meredith, but she had promised me that there would be more to follow. Maybe it was dangerous for me to know the truth, but I felt as if I needed this. I would not afford to go blindly about. Stumbling around like a blind fool would do far more damage than me knowing about my parents.
I watched as Meredith took a deep breath and closed her eyes. It was as if she was trying to prepare herself for the words. At that moment, I knew she would not tell me everything. The woman who had given birth to me was not the type to hand out answers. I would have to work for them, but I hoped and prayed this woman would at least give me a foundation.
My entire life had been upheaved, and I was trying to figure out who I was again. Where did I fit in the current situation? My brother murdered my parents and was now the self-proclaimed King. I had been sold into the harem of a man I wanted to gut. Was this the end of Caesar Seven? I hoped not.
“You are your mother’s daughter. Headstrong and fiercely defiant. Let us hope it serves you as well as it did her. After all, it landed her a king.”
Whipping my head back in the direction of Meredith, I knew I had to look shocked. She had just implied my mother was not royalty. What was the hell going on?
“I see you’re just as smart as she is as well. You’ve figured it out then? Your mother was my sister. My baby sister if you want to be exact. Her origins were hidden after she married the man who would be your father. It was for safety’s sake. There will always be threats against the royal family, because of the way things were done in the past, the way your brother plans to continue doing things. Like your mother, you know things have to change.”
My aunt. She’s my aunt.
Tears started to fall down my face. I couldn’t help it. Every time someone talked about either my mother or my father, I cried. They meant the world to me, but I had always assumed we had no other family. I was not stupid enough to argue that our family was in danger. I had seen it first hand growing up. I also knew that my father had been making strides to change things. Slow and steady, he used to tell me.
“I can read your face almost as well as I could read your mother’s. Curiosity, while not a bad thing, can lead you into trouble. Ask your questions, and I will answer what I’m able to.”
My mind was abuzz with questions and scenarios. Would any of them give me the answers I needed? I would only find out if I spoke them.
“If you’re my mother’s sister, my aunt, then why are you here? Why were you not there when we were growing up? Surely, you knew what went on?” My voice was soft as I spoke, afraid to raise it above a whisper.
Meredith moved to my side and took my hand in hers. It was meant to comfort me, and strangely, it did. If she said she was family, I wanted proof. I was done being naïve enough to trust people at their word.
“This war has been going for years, even before we were born. It’s going to take an alliance between the two houses to get it to stop, and no one has been willing to do that. When your mother met your father, she knew who he was. There was an agreement they made before they married. That you whoever the eldest child was, would be the one to try to broker peace. Your brother grew up a hateful man, and none of us knew why. He will do anything to stop the peace. Before you ask, I do not know what you have to do. Just that as the eldest, it is up to you to find peace.”
“Peace is a lie. That was what I was taught my entire childhood. There can be no peace while they want to slaughter us for what we have. You’re claiming to be my mother’s sister and spouting about things that could be considered treason if we were back home.” I sighed.
Before I could say much more, there was a photograph in front of me. Crude in its form, taken from a machine that hadn’t been seen in immediate use in decades. I knew the woman on the right was my mother, and the one on the left looked very much like the woman standing before me.
“This was taken just before she married your father. When she knew she had to say goodbye. Given the danger of being forward thinkers, she hoped I could one day join them—her entire name and details of her origins. Her birth name was Melody. I’m not trying to taint things but rather prepare you. She kept in touch with me, often had my bakery cater events at the castle so she could have an excuse for me to see her. She loved you and her life. But the secrets had to remain. Especially if we were going to keep you safe enough to do what you need to do.”
I knew the war was terrible. It had been around for longer than I could remember. My parents were all but telling me it was my duty alone to end this war. How would that even be possible? We’d tried to negotiate before; all they made were demands. Demands we had not been able to meet. In truth, I honestly believed the reason the war continued was a severe lack of understanding from either side. I didn’t know how I was expected to broker any talks.
“My mother always thought I was her key to everything. Even as a young child, she told me I would do great things. I don’t understand how I can be the means for peace. No one has been able to talk to that side in forever. Tir Andrel does not talk; they fight. Same with the Carpathians. We fight. We always have.”
Emotions overcame me, and I could feel tears start to gather in my eyes. I was alone out here in the wilds. In the wilderness of the planets. No one to guide me anymore. It was my world, my life. I was finally the adult my mother wanted so badly, but could I do this? Could I uncover the secrets my mother left me and take back my throne and my planet?
I hoped I could. I wouldn’t be able to do this alone. I had found one ally. Now I needed to find others. If my aunt was correct, there would be others along the way, and they would hold another piece of the puzzle in their hands. I didn’t know what it was about Meredith, but I trusted her. Something told me she was not leading me into danger but trying to help me.
Tomorrow would dawn a new day, and my adventure would resume. For now, I was content to sit in the bakery and talk. Meredith could tell me more about my mother’s origins and why everything was happening the way it did. She also seemed to know far more about the king than most people. The king had typically hidden away from society.