Peace Victorious

Submitted by Kyleigh on Sun, 10/25/2020 - 23:37

On a whim, I changed up some parts of this old short story. It hasn't been through intense editing but I wanted to share anyway. ;)

Aquis, mid-year, 417.

I let the strong wind whip across my face. It dried the tears I didn’t want to cry, and embodied the violent storm I felt inside.
“The ships won’t come back full, Enna,” Kyler had said.
But I never thought they might return without him. And to get word of his death now, when all around me was already in chaos. To what purpose was it all? The war, the sending off of our brothers, fathers, and sons to battle, the hostages and truces and disputes.
I knew my family, the royal family, was at the head of it.
And I, a nineteen-year-old princess, who wanted nothing more than peace, was in the thick of it.
I heard footsteps behind me. I turned, expecting my cousin, Lewis. Instead, it was Jarlath. I looked away.
“The council is ready for you,” he said.
I continued looking at the sea, twisting the ring on my finger.
“They’re very impatient.”
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll come.”
“They’ll want to hear the whole story, you know.”
“I know.”
“You must tell it. You have the strength,” he said.
We were back at the castle, under the drawbridge and into the keep. Jarlath pushed a door open and held it for me. “The Creator will give you the courage you need.”
The eyes of the council were on me as I entered the great hall. I swallowed hard and hoped there were no tearstains on my cheeks.
My cousin, the king, looked at me. “We are ready for your rendition of recent happenings. You must tell all, and tell all truthfully.”
“I would not tell a lie,” I said, then began my story.
I was born on a clear winter’s night. My mother, a Byshani, and my father died while I was young. I was raised by my uncle, the king of Aquis. My older brother, Kyler, was also raised by our uncle and aunt. My cousins, Raymond, Ian, and Lewis, were like our siblings.
I wasn’t unhappy with my cousins, but there was always pain in my heart because I missed my family.
As I grew older, I learned more and more of Aquian history. I heard of my uncle’s decisions that eventually led to war, decisions my father often opposed. Papa had wanted to keep peace.
Even so, I was not personally involved until Kyler left for war.
I said farewell to Kyler on the docks. I watched as rank after rank of men boarded the ships.
“The ships are so full!” I said.
“Aye. We have many who love their kingdom.” Kyler said.
“If the ships are full now, how will you fit when you have prisoners and spoil?” I had wondered. I was fourteen at the time, and did not understand war.
“The ships won’t come back full, Enna,” Kyler said.
It took me a moment to understand his meaning, but then I wanted to weep. How many would be killed? How empty would the ships be on their return? Fear filled my heart. What if the empty places were those of my cousins, heirs to the throne? What state would our kingdom be in then?
“I love you,” he said, hugging me.
I hugged him back. Part of me clung to him. The other part of me was too weak to hold on.
“Stay close to Raymond, especially as you go west to the fortress. He will protect you.” He slipped a ring onto my finger. “And wear this to remember and pray for your favorite older brother.”
I nodded and wiped tears from my eyes.
I stayed at the docks until we could no longer see the ships in the distance, then we walked back to the castle in silence.
Thus began my life without Kyler. He had spoken of our going west, farther from Byshan – the Byshanis were our enemies, we were told. But we never went west. There was too much going on at the castle for anyone to be spared to take us. I spent my days down by the sea, or helping in the castle.
I was down by the sea one day when a storm rose. I ran to the woods for shelter, eventually stumbling upon an abandoned cabin. I did not know at the time that it was a guardpost for the Byshani army. I went to a small window, from where I watched the storm. Soon it subsided. I was about to leave when a voice from the doorway addressed me.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?”
I turned from the window. I had not heard anyone enter. A young man in Byshani uniform stood just inside the door, hand on the hilt of his sword. “I – I was forced to find a shelter in the storm,” I stammered, stepping backwards.
“And before that?” His dark eyebrows shot up.
“Walking by the sea.”
“Well,” the soldier scoffed, “we’ll see about that. No one in this part of the kingdom passes without interrogation.” He advanced and took hold of my arm. “Come.”
I resisted his efforts to lead me away. “Why must I go with you?”
“The duty of a soldier, the laws of Byshan in wartime, you could be a spy – you’re not one of us.”
“Let me go; I’ll go straight home. What could you want with me?” I can’t let him know who I am!
“We can’t release a stranger in wartime.”
“But I’m not a spy!” I wrestled my arm away, but he caught me by the wrist.
“You have no proof,” he said. A ray of light glinted off of the ring I wore, Kyler’s ring. His eyes narrowed. He removed the ring with his free hand and inspected it. “And you may be useful for ransom or bargaining,” he mused.
I lowered my eyes and swallowed. Kyler’s ring had the king’s crest on it. “I’m not a spy,” I said again.
He smirked. “You could be much more than that.”
“Please, just let me go. Walk me to the border if you must, but let me go.”
He shook his head. “You’ll be treated well, unless proof arises that you are a spy.”
“That’s very noble of you.” I said, with a hint of sarcasm.
“We want peace, and we honor women.” He said disdainfully. I knew he was talking about my uncle’s treatment of some of the captives he had taken.
“I didn’t choose my side; I was born into it.” I said, defensively.
“Shush,” he said with a look that made me wish I had been silent to begin with.
He pulled me along. We walked through the woods, too quickly for me. The wind was still strong, but rain no longer fell. After an hour or so, we came to what looked like an army camp. The young man pushed open the door to a small makeshift building. Letting go of my arm, he pointed to a bench. I sat, without a word, as he knocked on the door. I glanced toward the door that led outside, but knew he was watching me from the corner of his eye. Where was I?
Soon a man opened another door.
“What is it?” He spoke in the common tongue, but with an accent heavy enough that I could tell it was not his native language. Was it obvious that I was from Aquis, I wondered?
The young man looked at me and jerked his head toward the room. I stood and followed him in. The older man sat behind a desk. Two other men – perhaps around twenty - stood near him. All were in uniform. The young man closed the door behind him, locking it.
“Eric,” he said, tossing the key to one of the men.
Eric caught it and tucked it away in a pocket, with a glance toward me.
“So, who is this?” Asked the older man. I assumed he was in charge of this camp.
“Captain, she says that she was walking and sought shelter in the storm – in our guardhouse.”
The captain looked at me. “Well, were you?”
“Aye.” I said quietly, after a pause.
The captain looked at the soldier who found me. “What makes you doubt her word?”
“It would have to have been a long walk, for there are no people other than ourselves for miles, and she’s not one of us.” He set Kyler’s ring on the table. “And this.”
I looked down. I could tell that they all spoke the ancient dialect; though for my sake they were speaking the common tongue now.
“I was by the sea and a storm forced me to find shelter,” I said. “I’m no spy.”
“It’s your word against hers, Jarlath. We have no way of knowing.”
Suddenly all eyes in the room were on me. I bit my lip self-consciously.
“Who are you?”
I shook my head. “I got lost in the woods.” My words were barely audible.
“You’re avoiding my question.” Jarlath’s accent grew stronger.
I didn’t reply.
The captain stood.
I drew back and swallowed. “I cannot tell you who I am, but I am no spy.”
“Alright,” said the older man. “Take her into the back room. Bind her securely.” To himself he muttered, “she looks familiar.”
Eric unlocked the door, and as he opened it, I bolted. I can’t remember ever running so fast before. They were not far behind me as I entered the forest. I don’t quite know why I ran – some passion must have come over me, for under other circumstances I would not have had that boldness. Perhaps it was the fear that enters a wild animal when you try to catch it.
Then I tripped. Everything went black as pain shot up my left leg. As I was coming back to consciousness, I felt a gentle nudge on my foot.
“She’s breathing,” a voice said.
Someone lifted me up, but I was so weak that I couldn’t stand. I cried out as weight fell onto my leg, and tears came to my eyes.
“She won’t make it back walking on her own.”
Jarlath lifted me and trudged back to the camp.
The others pushed open the door to the hut we had been in earlier. Jarlath set me on a long table, and the Captain joined us.
“What happened?”
“She fell.”
The man nodded. “But why did you bring her back here?” He hissed, reverting to the ancient tongue. I could just make out what they were saying with my faint knowledge of the language.
“She’s the enemy, you know that!”
“Aye, but I wish to have nothing to do with her.”
“Captain, we have orders. She needs help!”
“All she’ll get here is imprisonment.”
Jarlath shook his head. “Not yet. Not while she’s injured; that’s the rule.”
The Captain waved the young men out, then lifted my arm and felt my pulse. He laid his hand on my forehead. After that, I drifted off to sleep, so tired that even this strange place and the pain in my ankle couldn’t keep me awake.
“She looks exactly like her mother,” I heard the older man murmur to himself as I woke.
I opened my eyes.
“Your ankle is severely sprained,” the captain said. “We have a rule that injured prisoners must heal before they are sent to the gaol.” He paused. “We can’t put you in the infirmary because that’s only for men. So you’ll stay here with us.”
I managed a small nod. My leg throbbed. “How long will it take to heal?”
“A week, maybe two.”
So I have that long to formulate a plan to get out of here.
“But we must report you to the King and take you to the capital.” He motioned to the soldier who captured me. “This is Jarlath. My name is Keith – the captain of this camp, and a doctor, before the war.
“I must go now. Jarlath, you’re in charge. Watch over her.”
I pointed to my ankle and glared at Jarlath. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’m not worried about you but those who would try to rescue you,” Jarlath said. “You’re a valuable prisoner.” He smirked again, pleased with himself for his find.
Rescue me? “Then hadn’t we better move farther from Aquis?”
“Since when are you in charge?”
Soon Eric came to speak to Jarlath. They asked me a few questions, then left.
I was still sitting on the table. I looked around me. I was in the same room they had brought me to before. There was the door to the outer room and across from it the door to the back room. It wouldn’t be hard to run away, but I had no idea where they all were, and without a crutch, my leg wouldn’t take me far. I lay back down.
A while later the three young men entered the room. They carried a large stick and tools. Jarlath had a steaming mug. He handed it to me. I inhaled deeply, drinking in its sweet aroma.
“Try it,” he said. “It’s not too hot.”
I stooped to sip.
“Like it?”
I nodded. “It’s very good.”
“You may think nothing good can ever come from Byshan, but surely you mustn’t think we’re all bad. This is a traditional drink.”
“My mother was Byshani,” I said quietly, immediately wondering if I had given myself away. Then I remembered what I had overheard Keith say, and how Kyler’s ring hinted at my identity. But they still might not know. I took another sip. “I like it.” I said.
“We’re going to make you a crutch,” Eric said when I had finished drinking.
Anders helped me off the table and Jarlath measured the length. Then they began to cut the wood. Out of the leftover wood, they formed a crossbeam and put it across the top, wrapping it with cloth to make it more comfortable. It wasn’t the most beautiful crutch, but it would be useful nonetheless. I thanked them quietly. This act of kindness completely surprised me. I was their prisoner, and yet they treated me so well? Was my uncle right in telling me that these people were our enemies?
“Let’s go for a walk,” Jarlath said.
“A walk?” I asked, motioning again to my ankle.
“To get away from the camp.”
“Don’t you have duties?”
“You are my duty.”
We left the house and started toward the woods. Soon Eric and Anders left to attend to other duties. There’s only one of them now, I thought. I began to trail behind, hoping that I could get far enough behind him that I could hide and make my way along later. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to journey very far before my leg gave way if I tried to go ahead of Jarlath. Still, something told me I must get away. The Byshani seemed like kind people, but I was terrified of what would happen if they knew who I was.
Jarlath didn’t seem to notice, so I slipped behind a tree. Instantly he was there, holding me tightly. His fingers dug into my wrist as I struggled to get free.
“Stop,” he said firmly. I stopped struggling, but my muscles remained tense.
“We’re trying to help you,” he said. “You’re only making things worse.”
I relaxed, and he released me.
“How is keeping me prisoner helping me?” I asked, leaning heavily on my crutch. I glared up at him. “I want to go home.”
“I was going to explain once we got far enough away from the camp. There are some there who would want to see you hung with no trial. We’re giving you some freedom and helping you heal. We want you to see both sides of this war. We want peace.”
“You’ll just imprison me once I’m healed.” I said bitterly, looking down at the ground.
“Not if we can help it.”
I was surprised at his words and tone – it was so unlike how he had been before. “But you’re on their side; you’re my enemies! And as soon as the King knows I’m here, you won’t have a choice.”
Jarlath lowered his voice. “I said it before, and I’ll say it again. We want peace.”
I stared at him.
“Don’t worry, we have a plan.” Then he laughed. “You can’t even run a quarter of a mile without being caught.”
“I’m already caught, nothing worse can happen,” I said, still serious. “How do I know I can trust you?”
Jarlath stared off into the trees for a few moments. “I’ll give you my word as a man and a soldier that I will not harm you, and I won’t allow others to harm you, if it is in my power.”
I looked up at him. His kindness and sincerity surprised me once again. “You mean that?” I asked.
He nodded, then added. “But if you run away again, the law demands we kill you. And we must take you to the King. Come, let’s go back.”
I followed Jarlath around for the rest of the day, caring for their horses. We didn’t talk much apart from him telling me about the horses.
Now as we ate dinner, the wind of another storm howled outside Keith’s quarters.
“Tell us about yourself –“ Keith began, then paused. He stared at me.
“Enna,” I said, when I realized I had not introduced myself. Then I hesitated. How much should I tell?
“You’re in the company of friends,” he said. “We won’t use this information against you or Aquis.”
I looked at Jarlath, who nodded.
“My mother was from here.”
“I guessed as much,” Keith said. “I think I knew her.”
I met Keith’s gaze. He seemed to know who I was, but the others showed no sign of knowing.
“You don’t need to say more about her,” Keith said.
“Father was against the King,” I added, feeling the need to defend myself.
“Then you were always on the right side,” Jarlath said.
“There isn’t one right side,” I said. I had read so much on the subject of the war when I was searching for answers years before. I wanted to know whose fault it was, and had found that neither side was innocent. If I’d had paper and ink then, I’d have filled pages on the subject. Instead, I stumbled over my words. “I read – I mean, when I started wondering what had really happened – there was so much to ask and read – and war isn’t any one side’s fault. I don’t think it ever is.”
“There’s a first time for everything,” Jarlath said.
I stood, upsetting cups and bowls as my chair moved across the floor. Without a look behind me, I limped out of the building.
“Enna!” I heard someone call, but their voice was swept away as I stepped outside into the storm. The wind pushed me back against the building. I half-smiled, thinking of a long-ago journey to the glaciers in the North of Aquis. Kyler, papa, and I had stood on the deck of our ship for hours, watching wales slip through the water, shadows shrouded in mist.
A movement nearby called me back to the present. “Did I offend you?” A voice beside me said.
I turned, the smile disappearing from my face. “What do you think?” I didn’t meet his eye, but looked away.
“I’m sorry. I spoke in haste,” Jarlath said, “and I forgot the company I was in.”
“That doesn’t change your opinions.”
“Look, this wind is terrible. Let’s go inside and discuss this over the rest of dinner.”
I hesitated. “Whenever I try to talk about these things I only get upset. I have enough trouble getting words out of my mouth when I’m calm.”
He held out his hand. “You won’t improve if you don’t practice.”
I didn’t take his hand, but did follow him inside.
Keith poured me a cup of tea and handed me a steaming bowl of soup.
“Alright, tell your side,” Jarlath said.
“In 404, some Byshani refused to go through proper procedure for crossing the border. They didn’t answer the questions of the guards, and attacked them, saying they didn’t have to give their information. The story spread, as stories do so well in Aquis. The balladeers sang of it, lamenting the death of our brave guards. I don’t know that it was the right thing for them to do; it stirred up enmity in many people. But my uncle did nothing, until two months later when Byshan imposed a border tax. We retaliated.” I paused, pondering what to say next.
“Aye, you sunk a fleet of our ships. Many of our horses were in them; it cost us dearly,” Jarlath said.
“Aye,” I said. “That was our fault. But it was provoked.” I lowered my eyes. “The king’s desire for justice did not pay back eye for an eye, or tooth for a tooth, but went beyond that. You, of course, struck back when you raised the border tax and refused to trade with us. It was escalating retaliation. At this point, my father, who was holding the king back, died. And then all-out war began.”
Jarlath said nothing. Keith nodded.
“Even you and I fought this evening,” I said, looking at Jarlath. “I hate and am ashamed of the enmity that has come between these kingdoms. Look at us! Everyone has the same dark hair, eyes, and brown skin. We all love stories and music; we all love our freedom. We used to get along. What happened?”
Jarlath’s eyes met mine. His were fierce. “We will figure out a path to peace,” he said. “Are you willing to be a part of it?”
I nodded. “I’m sorry for getting so upset.”
“I forgive you,” he said. “Will you forgive my pride?”
“There. We just began the fight for peace.”

The next day, they loaded me into a cart and we traveled for two days until we reached the capital. I was lodged in the castle infirmary, which was comfortable and private, though secured to keep me in. I washed and rested, but slept little, for I was restless with anxiety.

Our first morning in the castle, I sat looking out of my window when I saw a group of soldiers coming across the courtyard.
Suddenly my door opened. It was Keith, Jarlath, Anders, and Eric.
“You’ve been summoned.”
“Already?” We thought it would be days until the King called for me.
“Ready or not, they’re coming, so we’d best be ready,” Anders said. Jarlath handed me my crutch. I hobbled to the door, where Eric and Anders waited.
“Give him your hands,” Anders said, taking the crutch. “According to law prisoners must be bound to enter the throne room. Even though we know you pose no threat. It’s just protocol.”
I held them out to Eric. He took them and bound them together.
“Not too tight, not too tight!”
“If I don’t do it a little tight, they’ll not trust us!” They said, slipping into the ancient dialect.
Anders sighed. “He said he has to do it a little bit tight, just to look right,” he explained to me.
“I know; I understood.”
“Hurry up,” Keith called.
We entered the castle courtyard, the soldiers walking in front and behind us. Keith stayed by my side, supporting me as I could not use my crutch with my hands bound. The young men waited in the courtyard.
We entered the throne room. I was so surprised at how much like my Uncle’s it looked that I forgot to curtsey until Keith nudged me. Then I curtsied as low as I could with my hands bound.
“Rise,” the King said.
As I rose, Keith and the King began to exchange formalities in the ancient tongue. I looked at the King. I had heard news the year before of their king’s death, but did not expect the new king to be so young. Except for his great beard and the stern look on his face, he reminded me of Kyler.
The King turned to me. “Last night when your arrival was reported, it seemed most likely you were a spy.”
I swallowed and looked at Keith, panic rising. Had they tricked me?
Keith met my gaze and nodded for me to look back at the King.
I breathed deeply and straightened, looking the King in the eye.
He held up a scroll. “But my Captain suspected otherwise, and this arrived this morning.”
He unrolled the scroll and looked from it to me a few times. “It says that the king’s niece has gone missing, and contains threats of further violence against Byshan, blaming us for her absence.” He rolled the scroll up and handed it to an aide, leaning forward as he spoke again. “Does this have anything to do with you?”
I said nothing.
The King rose. “You are the niece, are you not?” His voice was tense.
I nodded silently, fearful of what might happen next. Would they use me for ransom, or to bargain a false peace? Would they still accuse me of spying?
He looked at Keith. “It is as you guessed.” Turning to me, he said, “Your ring and this man’s memory may have saved your life, and my kingdom. Unbind her,” he said as he descended the steps of the dais.
Keith untied my hands, and the King walked towards me, holding out Kyler’s ring to me.
“I believe this belongs to you.”
I took it and curtsied. “Thank you, your highness.”
The King began to pace in front of me. “But you still present great difficulty for me, you know that?” He seemed fierce, but there was a hint of amusement behind his dark, bushy beard.
I nodded, though I did not mirror his amusement.
He paused in his pacing and met my eyes, spreading out his arms. “Well, what are we to do with you?”
“I…” I began. “A – a king does not usually ask one like myself for counsel.”
The King roared with laughter.
I looked at the ground, my face flushed.
“You are the one who knows your King and your country, princess.”
I looked up. The King was serious.
He returned to his throne, waiting for me to speak.
I swallowed. “My Uncle likely thinks that I was kidnapped and have been ill-treated. If – if you return me home, perhaps it will be clearer that your intentions were not to harm.”
The King stroked his beard, but said nothing, though his gaze remained firmly fixed on me.
My heart beat quickly, and I wondered if I had spoken presumptuously.
At last, he spoke. “We will see that you are returned safely home soon. You may go.”
Keith and I bowed low. He took my arm to support me as I limped out of the throne room.
Two days passed in safety and happiness. I enjoyed the company of Jarlath and Keith. Eric and Anders had to return to their post near the border, but Jarlath became my appointed guardian during any outings. He did not guard me from running; I had given my word I would not escape. But he protected me from any in Byshan or Aquis who would seek me. If an Aquian ‘rescued’ me, the situation would only be aggravated. We were only waiting for the King to arrange my return.
Soon the day came, and we journeyed towards Aquis. The first night, we made camp halfway between the Byshani castle and my Uncle’s, with intent to arrive in Aquis the next evening. Jarlath, Keith, other soldiers, and an official emissary from the King traveled with us.
But it was not to be. Just after midnight, Keith’s hand brushed mine. I glanced up. The fingers of his other hand were on his lips. I listened. Through the grogginess of waking, I heard faint conversation. And there, a horse's whinny.
Horsemen rode in. Instantly we were all awake, and Jarlath was at my side. I groaned as the horsemen dismounted. It was my cousins and a squad of soldiers. Ian, my middle cousin, whipped his sword out and pointed it at Jarlath’s throat.
“I won’t kill you,” he said, but still refused to remove his sword from Jarlath’s throat.
“Ian, stop this!” I said.
“Step aside,” he commanded Jarlath.
Jarlath obeyed. Soldiers came toward me and took hold of me.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“We’ve come to rescue you,” said Lewis, my youngest cousin.
“I don’t need rescuing. Let me go!” I said.
“I will, once we know you have not committed treason.”
“Treason? I have committed none. I was rescued and cared for by men honorable and truthful, and they are bringing me home now that they know their mistake.”
“Well, maybe your view of them will change,” Ian said, sheathing his sword, “Now that my father is dead. At the hand of these Byshani you seem to think so honorable.”
My uncle, dead? I looked at Keith.
“Our King had nothing to do with this,” he said.
“Come, Enna, it is time for you to leave these folk,” Ian said.
Lewis mounted his horse, then soldiers placed me in front of him. He flicked the reins, and we were off, riding fast, before I could see what happened to my companions.
“How’s your ankle?” Lewis asked.
“Fine.” I stiffened.
“When we get to the castle we’ll get it looked at. And we’ll get you something clean to wear, and put you back into the presence of women. Think you can manage?”
“I’ve been more than managing, thank you.”
When we arrived back at the castle, they took me to my room and left me there. I heard the door lock behind them. My own family must keep me under lock and key, while the enemy let me go free.
I heard the door open a few minutes later, and my aunt slipped inside the room.
“Hello, aunt,” I said. “What does your son mean by this?”
“He does not mean harm. There is much on his shoulders,” my aunt said. “I have come to get you, for he wishes to speak with you. Be gentle with him, Enna.”
“They just want peace,” I said.
“Then help him see that.”
“I want to, Aunt! But you know how I struggle to say what I think!” I sighed. “Why must there be this trouble between the kingdoms? The Byshani aren’t evil; they’re good and kind. I know my history, but why must it continue so long? Enough have been killed.”
“Not all would agree with you, Enna. Be careful that your mother’s ancestry does not cloud your discretion.”
My aunt left as quickly as she had come, but her words remained in my mind as I was taken to my cousin.
His greeting was formal. Mine continued the ceremony.
“Princess Enna.”
“Your highness.”
“Welcome home.”
I nodded stiffly.
“Come closer.”
I walked closer to him.
“That’s enough,” he said. I stopped five feet from where he stood. “No closer until I know you’re not a traitor.”
Anger burned within me. “A storm drove me into Byshan, and I was found by Byshani,” I said. “That’s the truth.”
“I’m told you didn’t want to leave them.”
“They were kind to me. And were bringing me home when Lewis and Ian so rudely took me from them.”
“Bringing you home?” he asked.
“They want peace, Raymond.”
“Tell me how they plan to make it.”
“You won’t listen to me; you think I’m a traitor.”
“I won’t ignore the counsel of a lady,” said my cousin. I knew he meant it well, but it sounded to me like he was mocking me. That, or he was masking fear of making decisions himself.
“They were going to return me here and seek to make truce. Their king had sent them. We’re all tired of war. Let it end.”
“It honors your father to make peace, while it degrades mine,” Raymond said.
“It’s not honoring to applaud a wrong decision,” I said.
“Say all you want. Truthfully.” His eyes met mine. His were bloodshot. They seemed to plead for help and relief. He was desperate, but also proud.
“Neither they nor we are fully in the right. Your father did things that were wrong. That angered them, and they lashed back. That was wrong. It’s easier to keep fighting and ignore the root cause. But too many men have died for this to keep going. It has to end before it’s too late. Here’s a chance to end it all and bring back the peace that was there in the time my parents were wed.”
Raymond moved closer to me.
“The Byshani deserve a chance,” I continued, pleased with how easily the words came. “They treated me with respect and fairness. The Captain recognized me because of my mother. But their respect was because I’m a woman, not because I’m royalty.
“We have a chance now to end the war and be stronger together.”
Raymond said nothing for a few minutes. I wondered if I had said too much, but he had given me free reign to say what I wanted.
“Thank you, Enna. All of my advisors have been egging on pride and telling me to keep fighting, but only because they think that’s what I want. They’re afraid of me. You’re not.” He came closer. “They said you look like your mother, you do – but you have your father’s character.”
“Thank you.”
“I will call a council with the Byshani leaders.”
The council was scheduled for the end of the next week, and the castle was a flurry of activity preparing for our guests. Yet while we prepared to make peace, the fighting still continued.
The day of the council dawned with sunshine. My soul was bright, too, bright with hope. The Byshani king wants peace; Raymond wants peace. Perhaps we will have it. My excitement grew when I heard that Keith would be coming as well. A knock sounded on my door just as I finished dressing.
I opened it. A messenger stood there, a letter in his hand.
“Thank you,” I said.
The letter was addressed in Kyler’s handwriting. I tore open the seal feverishly. I had not heard from my brother in three months!
My dear sister,
It began.
But I didn’t read the rest of the first paragraph, for I noticed that partway through the letter the handwriting changed. It was unfamiliar, and the name signed at the bottom was one I did not know.
Your brother instructed me to write you. The last battle we fought, we won. Rejoice in that. But it was a hard fight; many of our men were lost. Kyler led his men bravely, and led another division when their leader was killed. He was leading a charge to take the hill, the final charge, spurring the men on for a last effort. It seemed it would be a feeble one, but he had such a way of inspiring the men. It brings tears to my eyes to remember it, and my heart aches that I am the one who must tell you such terrible news. Kyler no longer lives. He died hoping that this battle would bring peace. He cared not for victory, only reconciliation between the two kingdoms. With his last breath, he declared his love for you and his hope and assurance through Adan that he was going to the Creator.
I would read Kyler’s last words to me later, when my vision was not blurred with tears. I threw on my cloak and ran down to the pier where I had last seen Kyler.
I let the strong wind whip across my face. It dried the tears I didn’t want to cry, and embodied the violent storm I felt inside.
“The ships won’t come back full, Enna,” Kyler had said.
But I never thought they might return without him. To not have seen him for three years, and to know that I’d never again see him on this earth. Hours went by, hours spent in tears, heartache, and prayer to the Creator. Kyler and the council became connected in my mind. Peace was what Kyler had fought for. I knew the peace he longed for was more than not fighting. He longed for Byshan and Aquis to return to the ways of the Creator. Let it be so, Creator.
I heard footsteps behind me. I turned, expecting Lewis or Ian. Instead, it was Jarlath. I looked away.
“The council is ready for you,” he said.
I continued looking at the sea, twisting the ring on my finger.
“They’re very impatient.”
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll come.”
“They’ll want to hear the whole story, you know.”
“You know how I struggle with words.” I looked out to sea. “Everyone else could always tell wonderful stories, while I stumbled over my words.” I shook my head. “But I must learn to say it.””
“You must tell it. You have the strength,” he said.
We were back at the castle, under the drawbridge and into the keep.
He stopped. “I was told about your brother. I’m sorry.”
I nodded.
Jarlath pushed a door open and held it for me. “The Creator will give you the courage you need.”
The eyes of the council were on me as I entered. I swallowed hard and hoped there were no tearstains on my cheeks.
My cousin, the king, looked at me. “We are ready for your rendition of recent happenings. You must tell all, and tell all truthfully.”
I looked around the room. The king of Byshan met my gaze, and I saw the same amused smile hiding behind his beard. It strengthened me, as did Keith’s nod. I began.
And so there we were. I finished my history. Everyone’s eyes were still on me. Raymond thanked me; then I was told to go.
I don’t remember the rest of that day. I paced the floor outside the great hall, where the council was meeting. What were they deciding?
Would peace come with a covenant? Or would there be exchanges of hostages, and rules about weapons? How much would we trust each other?
Darkness fell; I became bored. How long would negotiations take?
I fell asleep. Dawn poured through a window as I was woken to the sounds of men talking. The doors to the great hall were open. I sat up. Raymond exited first. I stood, and he ran to me. He took by the hand.
“There is peace.”
All worry within me escaped in a sigh of relief.
“We will speak more later. Your presence will be needed again here, this evening.”
Raymond was rushed off elsewhere, and Jarlath and Keith approached me.
“It worked!” I said. The Creator did have a great plan in my capture!
“The covenant of peace is signed,” Keith said. “If either kingdom breaks it, the other kingdom has the right to attack with the help of all of the other kingdoms.”
“But what will keep them from breaking it?” I asked.
“Marriages, between the kingdoms.”
“Raymond will marry a Byshani,” I began.
“Aye, and our King,” Jarlath began, but stopped.
“Your king?” I asked, eyebrows raised.
At that moment, the King of Byshan and his advisors came out of the meeting room. Keith and Jarlath bowed, and I dropped a deep curtsey as they passed.
But the King stopped in front of me.
“Princess Enna,” he said.
“Your highness,” I replied, keeping my head down. I finished Jarlath’s sentence in my mind. And their king will marry me.
The King moved on, and I turned to Jarlath and Keith, shaking.
“I did not want to be a pawn for bargaining,” I said.
“How much say do you think your mother had?” Keith asked. His voice was gentle, but left no room for questioning.
“I don’t even know his name!” I said.
“Brendan. His highness King Brendan the Second of Byshan.”

That evening, I found out that Raymond’s request for my presence was to inform me of my betrothal. I entered the meeting room to find him and King Brendan there alone.
“I hear you already know of the marriages arranged in the peace covenant,” Raymond said.
I gave him the slightest nod I could manage.
“Then I will leave you to become acquainted.” Raymond left the room.
“Princess Enna,” Brendan said.
I dropped a deep curtsey. “Your highness.”
“Brendan,” he corrected.
I rose, but did not look up. I expected I would see that amused smile hiding behind his beard again, and I was far from amused.
“You are not pleased,” he said.
I looked up. There was no trace of a smile anywhere on his face. “No.”
He said nothing at first, but when I remained silent, he spoke. “We royalty have very little say in our own affairs.”
“You at least had some say, and you are not some king’s war prize,” I retorted.
He studied me. “My request for your hand was not purely a matter of politics. If I had known it would trouble you so, I would not have asked for it to be included in terms of peace but would have pursued our marriage at a later time, although I suspect my wishes would have been overruled.”
“What’s done is done,” I said quietly.
“Am I really that bad?”
I remembered the audience with him in Byshan. He had been everything I had always thought a king should be: firm, just, and kind. “I think, in time, I will not mind it. You remind me of my brother Kyler,” I said.
“I am sorry for your loss. It grieves me to know it could have been prevented had I been able to make peace sooner. I wish I could have met him.”
We were silent for a long while. I spun Kyler’s ring around on my finger, pondering all that had passed in the last two weeks.
Brendan broke the silence. “Perhaps your wisdom at my side will keep our lands from further conflict.” He held out his hand. “But for tonight, I believe you are to be at my side for the first of many feasts.”
I took his hand, and looked at his face. His smile was no longer hiding behind his beard; it spread across his whole countenance, even into his dancing eyes. For the first of many times, I returned it.

Author's age when written


That's kind of a sweet story. A little sad, but I like the hope it brings out. I'm curious how the princess and king will get along in the future. A lot of people hate the idea of an arranged marriage, (for definitely understandable reasons as it's usually best to know who you are going to be linked to before you put on the ring, otherwise you could find yourself in a horrible situation) but I think it makes pretty interesting stories. I read one recently where a princess agreed to marry and elf prince to help bring peace to a tense situation. I really enjoyed their characters because they were the exact opposite of each other, but they both did what they could to make things work. It was pretty sweet.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

Thanks, Allyson.
I agree that arranged marriages can lead to horrible situations, but I also personally know a couple very happily married from an arranged situation. And in this story I see it as a bit of a jab at Disney as well. ;) But it's also a change from the original Peace Victorious, where she had married Jarlath, a bit more by choice, but then I realized that really wasn't realistic as Enna is essentially a princess and Jarlath a common soldier.