Three girls helped her put the dress on. Three! When she was a proper queen there would be five! If she’d been harboring any last minute doubts about what she was about to do they would have been washed away in the utter ridiculousness of Rhen Darzon, a former slave slash savior of the world, being expected to be unable to put her clothing on.
Actually, the fact that she actually was unable to put her clothing on would probably have done it. The corset, the petticoats... She kept expecting some monster to jump out and attack her and she’d go down screaming and die, all because she couldn’t move efficiently when wearing a mountain of fabric.
Now that she was in the dress, though, it would probably take a miracle to get it off. Oh well. She hadn’t had a moment to herself since defeating Ahriman, not a single opportunity to escape.
Well, here was the opportunity, and she wasn’t going to squander it getting out of the dress. She was expected to make her way down to the wedding on her own now, but if she took too long they would send someone to find her. And at that point she needed to be sure that the only thing they would find would be her letter.
She’d already thought this out. She couldn’t head anywhere straight, because the future queen couldn’t exactly wander out of the city in her wedding gown, now could she? She took a last look around and pulled out the Aveyond portal stone, rubbed it between her hands and felt it warm to life.
Behind her on the desk lay a neatly folded sheet of paper.
Thais is all yours, now. I’m sure you can handle it, you always struck me as uniquely suited to the job. Have fun!
([d]I’m sorry about leavi[/d] Find yourself a pretty girl that a daeva didn’t tell you seduce, okay? And maybe consider growing your hair out.)
The chancellor, standing stiffly in the doorway, looked impatient. He was the sort of person very talented at looking impatient, a skinny bald man that Dameon had not particularly disliked until just now. Once again, the man cleared his throat loudly.
Dameon turned the note over in his hands. It felt like the hundredth, thousandth time, but it was probably just the… fifteenth, maybe? Twentieth? Who was counting how many times he had futilely searched for even a line of explanation on this stupid sheet of paper?
There was one, really. The crossed out apology and the hastily scrawled line next to it, written in sloppy forceful handwriting in contrast to the neat loops of the line above. They gave plenty of explanation as to why Rhen Darzon- Rhen Pendragon- had run away. They just gave no information as to why she had never simply told him, let him see an inkling of her doubts or frustrations. Why she hadn’t trusted-
Well, that was the central issue, wasn’t it. They had been so close! She had changed him! She had made him into a better person, she had saved him from the dark side…
And he had… he had… He had been someone she liked, hadn’t he? She’d blushed every time he talked to her!
The chancellor coughed. “If you’ll excuse me… but if you are quite done examining the note, there are still several rather important ceremonies left to attend.”
“I- um. Sorry, what?”
“Ceremonies. To attend.”
“But...but the wedding is off! There shouldn’t be any ceremonies to attend.”
“Yes, that will require a cancellation ceremony, big pain, I agree. But there is still a coronation to attend, as well as an official dedication of the future site of Thais castle, as well as a fundraising event, and all this before the day is done. There really is no time to waste.” He said the final sentence disdainfully, dropping the final word like something unpleasant.
“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understa-”
“You are now the new king of Thais, there are duties you have to fulfill.”
“Why am I the king?”
“Well, firstly, because that was one of the things settled during the pre-marriage stage. Thais is traditionally ruled by a King, with a queen to produce heirs. When only a female heir is available, her spouse becomes the next king.”
“But I’m not her spouse.”
“Well, according to common law, no, but according to the Thaian legal system you have already acquired all her rights during the engagement process. As she has not properly reclaimed them- and you have written proof of that right there,” he said, gesturing to the paper, “you are obviously still in line for the throne.”
If Rhen was here she would be furious, listening to this man. If Rhen was here…
He looked down at the piece of paper in his hand. Not the last line, that made his heart ache.
I’m sure you can handle it, you always struck me as uniquely suited to the job.
He owed her…
YOU OWE HER NOTHING. A part of his mind screamed. SHE LEFT YOU AT THE ALTAR!
But he could turn that to his advantage, couldn’t he? He already knew all the nobles by name, rank, and personal flaws. He could already see just how he was going to have to spin this…
In his head he felt the sudden exhilaration of power, and panicked. This felt too much like what it had been like serving under Ahriman, watching the world turn at his whim. It was dangerous. He would have to watch himself very carefully, as he got to work fixing up this mess of a city that Rhen- pang in his heart and a painful tightening in his chest when he thought her name, and how could he use that? His subjects’ pity could be turned to love and loyalty, it wasn’t a bad place to start…
He swallowed the lump in his throat and looked at the unsuspecting chancellor, standing there so irritatingly, blissfully unaware that as soon as Dameon was king he was going to be cleaning horse stables. But there was no need for him to know that yet… Dameon smiled to himself.
“Very well, he said, composing his feature into the perfect semblance of a nobly oppressed lord rising to take a necessary burden, “we shall go”.
Ambiguously royal we, he thought, nice touch.
And the pain in his heart and his head were just the tempo of a new life, starting... now.
She battled her way through the snowy northern continent with practiced ease, making her way along a path to the dock that she’s taken many times before, and felt a swell of nostalgia as she dispatched with ease the monsters that once upon a time had been such frustrating barriers to getting where she needed to go.
Alone in the wilderness, she had plenty of time to start feeling guilty. Sure, Dameon had started off knowingly using her but even she wasn’t blind enough to not notice that things had changed, tat in the weeks leading up to the wedding he had looked at her with real devotion. At the time it had made her feel even more chained but in retrospect she began to feel like scum.
It was just… the person Dameon had fallen in love with had been real, not a figment of the imagination crossed with wishful thinking.
Maybe that wasn’t true. Maybe Dameon had fallen in love with a fantasy just as much as she had. Because the person Dameon loved was almost definitely not someone who had led him on, and then left him on the wedding day-
Oh, she wished she’d had a chance to escape earlier. It would have made things so much simpler.
At that, a fresh wave of guilt started, and she ruthlessly suppressed it. Dameon would recover, and it was better to have this over with now rather than going through the motions of a loveless marriage.
And there, past a pair of easily dispatched snow-wolves, was the dock.
“Where to?” The ferryman asked.
“Eastern Continent,” she breathed, without even thinking, as she stepped into the boat.
Veldarah. It was the natural, instinctive choice. The empress who had been her salvation could be so once again. And…
Clearwater was a distant dream. Returning there had been a surreal experience, compounded by the discovery that her parents were not her blood parents, merely her adoptive ones. She suppressed that line of thought. She was Rhen Darzon, not Rhen Pendragon. She felt a vague fondness for Devin, nothing more, and not even a recollection of her deceased blood mother, Alicia (who had apparently also not been fond of being royalty, even if she had gone along in the end). Ma and Pa were still her true parents. But she’d grown up and left the nest, and Clearwater wasn’t…
There had been a house in Sedona. But she’d handed it over to Mad Marge, who had grand dreams of transforming it into a massively lucrative inn. By now all the familiar rooms had probably been gutted, crammed with beds instead. And it was too full of memories that clung to the walls and whispered.
But Veldarah- and just the name made her heart ache, in a pleasant way. It had come to feel like home, and each time she’d returned there she’d been pleasantly surprised to see that the feeling remained, even as her visits grew rarer and rarer. Truthfully, her bitter memories of the eastern continent were more than matched by her happy ones, in the one place where people remembered both Rhen the girl and Rhen the heroine, not just one-or-the-other.
It also meant, though, that she was going to have to deal with a certain green-haired sorcerer sooner or later. Not something she was looking forward to.
Well, first she’d- No, first she’d buy some clothing, change out of this dress, clean herself up.
Then she’d visit the empress. Pay her respects, request permission to settle (she had never stopped being a citizen of Veldarah, heck she still had that token that had declared her “property of the empress” somewhere), apologize for any possibly future diplomatic difficulties with Thais- Nah, Dameon wouldn’t… Would he?
And then she’d go to Shadwood Academy and inquire about a teaching job.
And then maybe find some other things to do. For a few years, say. There was no need to hurry a confrontation with Lars.
Procrastination, the grand cure of all life’s ills. She should be able to avoid Lars for a long time, if she put enough effort into it.