Alëxios grinned with lust still seeping from his emerald eyes. “Grand-mére, please forgive my misconduct. I merely wanted to cut through the long-standing ceremonial procedures of which I have been at the forefront for centuries.”
Lady Rüvym cut her eyes at him indignantly. “Ah, yes. Traditions be damned, I suppose,” she replied.
He kissed her on the cheek without removing his eyes from Malaykah. “Only in favor of love,” he said.
Malaykah snapped out of her trance with his words. “Love. Like, actual real love? He loves me. He loves ME? Or, does he love that I am like him?” she pondered. Titanëa’s theory that she was selected to be his queen only because of her divinity stuck out in Malaykah’s mind. It made sense, given that Alëxios lived a tragically isolated existence. His desire to connect with a companion who would understand the depth of his spirit was relatable.
Before she could give a reply, Lady Rüvym had already whisked him away. The rest of the entourage followed suit inside the castle. They walked through the corridors, out to a candle-lit amphitheater where dinner was served. Byakko and his siblings, this time a total of twenty-five, were already situated and eating. A long round marble dining table for the royal family and kingdom officials lay in the center.
Malaykah was far enough behind Alëxios to see that he slightly limped instead of his normal steady gait. His mood was cheerful, and he seemed well at ease. Either no one else noticed it, or they dared not to make mention it. He sat at what was considered the head of the table, as a king should. Lady Rüvym insisted on sitting next to him. Malaykah did not protest in favor of getting acquainted with everyone else. Oddly, she chose to sit at the opposite end of them next to Sӧlitha. After several minutes of awkward silence, Malaykah realized she was being ignored on purpose by Sӧlitha. No matter how often she conjured any small talk, Sӧlitha abruptly began to speak to others at the table. Just as Malaykah had given up, Sӧlitha addressed the room.
“I have to give my brother, king Alëxios, credit where it is due. His endeavors and military excursions have always been successful. Yet, for the life of me, I cannot fathom his desire to explore other realms for the likes of lowly humans. In all of Phëläniciä and this entire realm, he could not be satisfied to find a maiden pleasing enough to become his bride. I suppose Lady Rüvym is to blame for filling his head with anecdotes about how their bloodline is better than the rest of us,” she said.
Lady Rüvym nodded with a grin. “My grandson was birthed from the loins of a God. There is no other way for him to think. It is in his divine nature to find another deity as his lovemate. He has done just that, nothing short. His maiden is every bit his equal. No one among us can say as much,” she quipped.
Sӧlitha reached out to retrieve a piece of round mixed-berry cake on a platter. She stood, held it up in the air, and said, “Ah, yes. The Divine Maiden is among us. I grieve both for and with my brother’s harem of concubines. It is undoubtedly a somber occasion. If this bitter pill we should have to swallow, let us eat it with cake.” With that, she picked up the cake with one hand and shoved it into her mouth.
Lady Rüvym mockingly returned the gesture, which made Sӧlitha plop back in her seat with a scowl.
Every time Alëxios attempted to make eye contact with Malaykah, she pretended to be engaged in a deep conversation with the other table members. She had no way to make sense of what just occurred, so she thought it best not to cause another scene.
~Ch. 10, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~