(Copyright 2016 Clara Bennet)
“You are lovely, as promised,” I say, setting eyes on the young girl that was my 17th birthday gift. I turn to the guards who escorted her in. “Leave us,” I command, and they go.
“What is your name?” I ask her, taking in her appearance.
She is tall, with fair skin and a head of long, straight dark hair. Her eyes are like dark chocolate, beautiful.
“Aille,” she whispers. It is clear that she is nervous. She straightens herself. “And might I ask yours?”
“Faelan,” I answer, giving her a slight bow. Then I walk to her and fold her into my arms. “I am the son of Attila the Hun.”
She stiffens. “Sir, if you’ll unhand me, I’ll be back to my duties.”
I smirk. “But these are your duties,” I murmur into her ear. And then I cup her face in my hands and draw her mouth to mine.
Violently, she struggles in my arms and I release her. She flees out the door.
The guards rush into my room.
“Should we go after her?” one asks.
“No. Let her adjust. No doubt she is slightly… shocked,” I say.
“Yes, Your Highness,” they say, exiting.
My father comes in after the guards leave.
“Well?” he asks. “Are you pleased with her?”
“Very, Father. How did you find her?”
“Her mother was a prisoner of war. I’d heard rumors of her daughter’s beauty and offered a trade: the woman’s freedom for Aille to be your birthday gift. I’m glad you like her.”
“Good.” He leaves, no doubt with battle plans to draw up.
The day passes. I do not see Aille until the next morning. I knock on her door and she opens.
“Yes?” she asks quietly.
“Come with me,” I say simply.
She doesn’t want to; I can tell. But she comes anyway.
“I want to…apologize for the way I acted yesterday. I must have terrified you,” I say as we walk through the halls of the current Hun fortress. “I’ve arranged a quiet breakfast outside by the lake for us.”
She nods and I notice her relax a bit.
I take her hand and lead her to the place where the servants had spread an array of food for us.
“Before we eat,” I tell her, reaching into the bag I had grabbed before we left, “I have something for you.”
I produce a dainty ruby necklace and place it around her neck. It compliments her dark eyes.
She gasps. “I thank you, sir. But really, this is unnecessary.”
“No, it’s yours. I want you to have it.”
I smile at her as she toys with the elegant piece of jewelry.
“Do you like it?”
“Oh, yes!” she exclaims.
I take a seat on the blanket and pour two glasses of wine.
“Join me,” I order gently.
She sits slowly down beside me.
I take a sip of my drink before I make an attempt at conversation.
“Tell me about you,” I say. “Where are you from? What are your hopes and dreams? What was your favorite thing to do when you were 5? Tell me everything about you.”
I handed her the second glass and began to fix myself a plate of food.
“My life is relatively simple; not nearly as exciting or important as yours, Your Highness. I’m simply the only child of a Visigoth witch.”
“Call me Faelan. And everyone is important, Aille. Even the only daughter of a Visigoth witch.” I reach over and run my fingers through her long brown hair. “Eat.”
She obeys, helping herself to the stew.
I notice her begin to relax, and I smile lightly to myself. I don’t want her to be afraid of me.
“It suits you.” I gesture to the necklace.
The days go by, and Aille and I quickly become close friends. We share embarrassing stories about ourselves and laugh, and grow to be comfortable together. I have not kissed her since the day we met.
Weeks after the breakfast, I go to her room in the evening.
“Good evening, Aille,” I say. Then I notice the look on her face. “What’s wrong?”
“Faelan,” she says, burying her face in my shoulder. “My mother is ill. This note I received says she has not much time.”
I wrap her in my arms, letting her tears fall on my shoulder as a stroke her hair.
“Go to her,” I whisper into her ear. “You need to be with her.”
“But I don’t want to leave you.”
I clutch her closer, hold her tighter.
“What if something happens?”
“Aille.” I take a deep breath. “Don’t be afraid. And whatever happens, I will always be here for you, the same way the earth is beneath your feet.”
She wipes her tears and rises, brushing my lips with hers ever so softly.
I rise and meet her eyes, my lips tingling. “Go, Aille. You have my permission to leave. Your mother needs you.”
I look at her, seeing her completely for the first time. She is just a sixteen-year-old girl who loves her mother. Yet she is extraordinary.
“Come back,” I say, my voice quiet. Even though I know she is needed, a part of me does not want her to leave. How can I be so selfish? Aille’s mother is sick. Deathly sick.
I draw her close again, just wanting to hold her for a moment longer.
“Go.” I finally have the courage to say it.
Aille kisses my cheek faintly before leaving.
She is back within a week, looking shaken and horrified. As soon as she sees me, she rushes into my arms and I hold her as sobs rack her body.
“Aille…” I whisper her name. “What happened?”
“That’s not my name,” she says. “I’m Adelina, a princess.”
“What?” I gasp, confused.
“I was kidnapped as a baby by my “mother”,” she explains, her words barely understandable through her tears. “Oh, Faelan… She’s a monster.”
I stroke her back, trying to comfort her. There are no words.
Months pass. Adelina (I am still not used to calling her that), is no longer my slave. Proof of her identity was found. But she still has the bedroom next to mine and we have begun to fall deeply in love.
I have not kissed her since the day she left to see her “mother”, but I have been longing to. And today, there is a question I intend to ask her.
Somewhat nervously, I walk to her door and knock. She opens.
“Faelan!” she exclaims, smiling. She has such a beautiful smile. “Come in.”
I enter her chamber and take her in my arms. “Adelina,” I say, “I need to ask you something of great importance.”
She raises an eyebrow, and I can tell she is very curious. “Yes?” she prompts.
“Adelina, Princess of the Burgundians,” I pause and take a slow, deep breath. “Will you marry me?”
My answer comes in the form of a passionate kiss, and I do not protest. I return her kiss and she sinks against me, hands on my chest. I wrap her in my arms and kiss her harder, not wanting to ever break away. Her lips taste of tea and mint. They are soft, warm.
“I love you,” she murmurs against my mouth before kissing me once again.
“Does that mean “yes”?” I ask, forcing myself to stop.
She nods, taking my lips between hers again.
“I love you, too,” I say when she pulls away.
We were married a month later. And three months after that, Adelina told me she was pregnant. It is days before we make the official announcement.
Something shatters in her room, and I rush in, followed by her maid.
Adelina is laying there, a broken perfume bottle beside her. I drop to my knees and cradle her in my arms as the maid hurries to find a physician. The perfume was poisoned.
There is a letter near it. It is signed, “Mother.”
“Don’t go, Adelina,” I breathe softly, looking down at her. Her eyes are closed, but she is breathing. Barely.
“Faelan…” Her voice is weak. “I love you.”
And then she is dead, along with my child.