To celebrate the completion of Leagende as a series, I will post the openings to all the books.
All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2016, 2019 Cat Hartliebe
Three years after Bludi became a prince, life could be considered good. Bludi spends much of his time with his son Adain and his pregnant wife Ellone. He works in the baby room when not dealing with the more annoying of political turf wars. Bludi has had it with the nobles complaining their space is too small. He has gotten to the point of taking pieces of land if they brawl for no reason.
His ability to listen was the reason the queen, his mother, took the recognized prince from his daily activity and sent him on this quest. King Richard and Bludi leave the quest feeling used. Bludi curls into the corner of the carriage not looking out the window at the beauty that surrounds them.
The eldest daughter fought for a piece of the land, which should have been hers, if her mother did not write her out of the will. All bullshit matters, but something the queen had to weigh in on because it dealt with land.
Try as the pair might, they could not get the family to agree to any terms. The parcel of land in question was turned into queen’s territory. The daughter has been sent to an aunt for the time being.
“Relax.” While saying the word, Richard flinches in his seat. Even with the four sisters tempting him every turn, Richard stayed away from bed games. He did not sleep the last six weeks. What magic he used has not returned to him. Luckily, it was not a heavily magical experience. “How about instead, I say forget them? They are on the edge of our kingdom. Not something we need to worry about.” Richard waves it off.
The two of them truly cannot forget them even if they wish to. Bludi goes on these quests because he understands the need to care for every elf with land or title. It makes ruling exhausting. “If they were not someone we needed to worry about, why did Mother send us there? She said I would be allowed to stay home during the year of Ellone’s pregnancy in case something happens.”
Richard waves the idea of hardship during Ellone’s pregnancy away. Her previous pregnancy was perfect start to finish. “Anna watches her.”
“That does not make me feel better. Anna is only thirteen, a child who is clueless in most matters,” Bludi complains moving deeper into his corner. “Sven even promised Ellone would be safe.” Then his eyes gain heat as they go right for his old friend. “And why have I not heard the queen state pregnancy?”
“Because she isn’t,” Richard huffs out, arms crossed. “High as my fertility is, she has not gotten pregnant.” His head drops. “The only thing I am supposed to do, and I cannot do it. Not that we do not try. She forces me to try every single night whether I am willing or not.” Richard gulps in a breath of air like it may be his last. “Yet not once have I been called and congratulated. Not once have I heard the cries of my own young. It depresses me, too, not just the kingdom.” Richard knocks his head on the wall behind him. If it caused him pain, he does not give note.
For three years, Richard has been married to the queen. Bludi has watched the two of them become lovers and then friends. Richard loves the queen to no end. Plus he loves children. The entire kingdom feels his heartache.
Richard is the queen’s second husband, after the first needed to be removed for various reasons. Bludi’s human father was never his mother’s husband. Since she was unmarried at the time, he is not called illegitimate. Technically, that one point has made several back him to be crown prince, no matter how many times he denies it.
The king leans forward letting his head fall between his knees. “Every time I hear one of the babies cry, my gut twists slightly. I fail the kingdom. But more importantly, I fail myself. I was considered a bastard from day one, perhaps one of my mother’s people cursed me with fertility to never be able to see my own child walk. Every single one dead. And now, I give nothing.” He looks up at Bludi’s sad expression to add, “Not that I mind watching over your children.”
Considering Richard falls all over his step kids and the other kids in the baby room, everyone knows he wants his own. No one can help him. All he can do is keep trying. Anna and Sven use Richard’s love for children against him. As Bludi thinks it over, he wonders if Sven realizes Richard is not his real father.
Richard sits up clasping his hands together. “And you let me ramble on about the most dangerous of topics. What if we are being listened in on?”
Bludi shrugs resting in his corner. “They will know you try.” The magic smoothes out the worse of the ride, but the pot holed road leaves much to be desired. “I am looking forward to seeing Ellone and Adain. I miss them.”
“You know I am glad you got my sister pregnant again.” Richard knocks Bludi’s knee. “She is in such a happy mood. I am also so glad you waited this long. Perhaps longer next time.”
“We are not exactly trying.” Bludi grows uneasy with the topic. Most are happy but wish they waited longer. Only two years between children? It is like they will be too tough to handle. “We were not going to deny ourselves. True to Mother’s promise, we only seek each other’s warmth.” The only pair of elves monogamous in their marriage are in the carriage ride going back to the castle. Both have been told to strictly be with only their wives by the queen. Richard nor Bludi wish to deny her.
“In case she dies, you are needed as King.” Richard tries to relax in his seat, but the tension could not be defeated so easily.
“I am a half elf. Prince is the highest title I can reach. I should not have been able to earn that…”
“You are exactly the king everyone expects and desires. If they just ignore your slight off looks, you would be perfect.” Richard takes in all Bludi is. “You match the queen so well no one doubts you are her son even with the fifteen year absence. How many royal bloods come back from that?”
Bludi looks out the window not wanting to make a comment about that. Often times, when a prince disappears from the castle walls, they never return. It takes many trials to reenter the hallowed walls as a prince. Even the queen’s siblings lack the titles. Only her older brother Hank continues with a title and royal wing.
Yet Bludi, because of his looks, voice, and skill, was welcomed back with half opened arms. Half opened since he is a half elf. He knows who hates him for it at least. One of the hardest ones to handle is his own father in law. Ellone tends to visit her father without Bludi around.
Since the day he flew through the court room, people have wanted to call him crown. By law, the youngest legitimate adult prince or princess holds the title of crown. Bludi is the only adult of his siblings and the only one that is not illegitimate. The prince has refused the added title every single time. Bludi knows what would happen if a half elf becomes king.
Richard sighs leaning against his hand while looking outside. “Actually, I cannot wait to see her again.” Bludi glances at him confused by the random comment. Richard explains, “Alaenia. She may be harsh and controlling, but I would rather her than those wretches I had to deal with these last few weeks. I am supposed to be your guard. Not their love fest.”
Bludi nods back to his window. “I miss everyone. If even one of them is missing, I would probably go head long into a quest to solve it.”
“No can do, buddy.” Richard sternly stares at him. “Crown princes do not go on quests. They sit back and send other people on their quests.”
“Not like you would get to go.” Bludi chuckles at Richard’s obvious desire to escape. Richard slumps. “You are marked as king.”
“I know.” Richard goes back to relaxing in his seat. It seems he has almost given up his desires to flee the title forced upon him. “How much longer do I have to deal with this?”
A knock on the door and a cold voice enters from outside. “Four days, I believe.” It seems the guards can hear them and believe Richard means the ride.
Richard slams the view out closed. “We should skip out and just fly there.” The guard raps against the window and Richard knows it is the undesired course of action. “So we are mic-ed.” His light hearted tone does not match his annoyed eyes.
“I am not surprised. Normally they have the carriage mic-ed.” Bludi chuckles over Richard’s discomfort. Nothing about this trip can be called good. Queen Alaenia does not want more land; she wants happy people. If she was not the one who sent them, they would think someone wanted a chance to reach the inner sanctums.
The prince has no fear of someone hurting the queen. She is the strongest mage that he has ever known. The queen uses magic every day of her life sleeping each and every night beside her most trusted. With Richard being out for these weeks, Recha, her most trusted guard probably stays with her.
“I guess I’ll nap, then.” Richard closes his eyes. “Wake me if we are attacked.” He wiggles into a good spot. Bludi turns back to his window. Men and wildness. If anyone tried to attack, the enemy would be certain to lose. Bludi has confidence, but Richard is just powerful. As Bludi has been trained by him they both excelled in areas ones would not expect. The only one the prince ever thought could hurt his mother would be Richard.
As Richard feigns sleep, Bludi thinks of the couply atmosphere his friend has with the queen. Richard could never hurt Queen Alaenia. He does not need her; he wants her. And she wants him. Bludi’s little sister, Anna has seen it. His wife, Ellone teases them all the time. Bludi could only smile when watching them just be in love. Richard would put his life at the queen’s feet if only she asked. Not because she is the queen nor his wife, but because Richard loves her.
The rattling carriage ride does not stop or get jostled from its path. Four days of this slow going takes a toll even on Bludi. He is used to being near the seat of the capital. Even for those fifteen years, he was not far; only a few hours flight from home. This territory is five days ride. By wing it would take a full day to reach the capital. Bludi sits there begging the ride to go faster, knowing it won’t. Rides like these are always slow and boring.
The pair reaches the castle in the capital of Kee. The overwhelming negativity tenses them. Something is amiss. Fear drifts through the windows and into the carriage.
As they exit the vehicle, the most important person is not there to greet them: Queen Alaenia. Recha stands guard solemn and forlorn. Bludi goes to Ellone and Adain waiting for him, but their energy reeks of sorrow. The hug calms Bludi immensely until Richard flies past.
The insanity spells running off him sends everything into disarray. Ellone covers Adain against the nastiest of it. The one word that Bludi could hear from the rampaging monster the king became is, “No!”
“Get all the children into the baby room.” Bludi directs Ellone and Adain away. Richard would never go there in a rampage. He turns to Recha who comes to his side. His mother’s favorite guard attempts to speak, but Bludi knows it’s better not to know. If it set Richard off, he might do the same. “I will take care of him.” Recha nods to the prince as he starts off.
During the flight, Bludi only remembers the few times Richard has rampaged before. Once when he realized he could not escape the terms of the royal marriage. Another when he heard his wife was pregnant, and it turned out as rumor. The third was strictly for Bludi’s knowledge. During the real rampages, the castle needed major redecorating. Besides Bludi and Mother, no one wishes to bother him while he is rampaging.
It is not that Bludi does not fear the power of the king; he does. But if the queen happens to be out, it is up to Bludi to stop him. Queen Alaenia normally comes in waving his spells away like burnt toast. Bludi always takes serious abuse to reach Richard and stop him.
During the two minutes it takes, Richard destroyed the queen’s quarters. Bludi finds it strange, but not unheard of. Queen Alaenia was the main reason for his last two rampages. Ignoring the tattered clothes caused by the magic, Bludi reaches the master mage.
Using the same spell as the magic scanner, Bludi shuts down Richard. Things fall all around them making the queen’s bedchambers a complete disaster.
Bludi could only focus on the male elf crying into the shredded shawl the queen normally wears. “Richard?”
Tears stream down the king’s face. Everything that happened over the last six weeks disappears in an instant. “She’s gone.” The low voice and hiccup make it almost lost.