Alëxios sat and slumped down on his throne with a hand covered over his face. Lady Rüvym massaged his temples to calm him.

“Fret not, dearest. Everything will fall into place in due time,” she coaxed.

He sat straight to look at her.

“How can you be certain? Clearly, I have not successfully wooed Malaykah into my world. For every moment she has felt out of place in the human realm, I intended to give her the opposite here in Phëläniciä,” he said.

Lady Rüvym cackled, “Malaykah maybe but a young maiden in this realm, but she is also a full-grown woman in the human realm. Her troubles cannot be wooed away with trinkets, baubles, and other extravagant treasures. Therefore, you must develop a different tactic so that she can feel secure seated next to your throne. If you have taken the time to really listen to her, you know that you must honor her wish to release the remainder of your harem.”

“It has already been decreed to do so,” he replied with a half-smile.

Lady Rüvym hugged his neck, then said, “Remember that you are to keep no more secrets. Give her the respect and grace to understand who you are without imposition. Her thoughts and feelings are not to coddled as if she were a child. Speaking of children, I have the utmost faith that the gods intended for your union to be a success. You were brought together for a reason. Together, you must discover that reason and hold on to each other.”

After hours into the night, Alëxios brought a tray filled with several succulent dishes to Malaykah’s room. The celebration had been canceled, and the feast was sent out to feed the families in the city. He knocked gently twice before he entered her chambers. There she laid draped across the bed with her face buried in the plush pillows.

He placed the tray on a candle-lit table and called out to her.

“Malaykah, I know you are upset. In truth, I cannot imagine how you must feel because you refuse to let me inside your thoughts. However, I am certain that you must be famished at this late hour. Please eat something.”

She sat up on the bed and listlessly looked at the tray of food. Then, though she did not speak, she rolled off the bed to eat.

“It breaks my heart to have you look at me with such contempt,” Alëxios sighed.

Malaykah nibbled a piece of bread dipped in honey broth and said, “It breaks my heart that I could possibly be the one to hold you back from everything that you need.”

Alëxios sat in the opposite chair. Then, without thinking, he reached for her hand.

“How can you even contemplate such an untruth? I am not held back from anything. When I first saw you, I was well aware of the obstacles that we would encounter. I did not care then, nor do I care now. Malaykah, you are my destiny. Without you by my side, I would not be alive or have a kingdom to reconstruct,” he replied.

Malaykah took a sip of wine from a small vial on the tray, which was sweet and made her feel more relaxed.

“I don’t know how to reconcile my feelings about all of this. You built me up to be this amazing queen, and I believed it. I know that everyone has flaws. In this realm, it seems that my one flaw could cost you everything. In my mind, your one flaw is just as costly to me,” she said.

Alëxios studied her but was still unable to break through the veil.

“Tell me what you need, and I swear to give it to you,” he said.

Malaykah drank the rest of the wine in one gulp. It seemed to have a calming effect. She felt tranquil but determined.

“Tell me more about yourself. I don’t really know all there is to know, which makes me feel out of the loop with everyone else around,” she answered.

Alëxios leaned in closer to her, and his eyes prompted her to be more specific.

“Alright then,” she sighed. “Tell me what the deal is with Sӧlitha. She seems to have had a bone to pick with me since the moment I arrived in the realm.”

Alëxios paused for a moment but was interrupted by Malaykah’s pleading eyes. He rocked back in the chair and locked onto the veil in her mind. Then, instead of another attempt to open her thoughts, he poured his own out like a waterfall.

In truth, she is of no relation to the royal bloodline. I suspect by now, Titanëa may have already enlightened you on the matter. With my father’s decree, there was no course of action to reverse her adoption. During the time I was kidnapped and held captive, she was the only successor to the throne. The former king did not foresee such a disastrous outcome for any of us. Once I was formally returned to Phëläniciä, she befriended me. We were so alike in that we were orphaned early on. After her mother disappeared, she was raised by royal wet nurses and nuns. Grand-mére ensured to remain within the laws of the edict but sorely did not care for the girl.

Then came a clamor of concern by the royal officials that I was not fit to be king. During my stint with the Sea Pirates, I went on a murderous rampage. In fact, every article of décor, furniture, and weaponry stems from one hundred fifty years of raids. Byakko and I were sent to the monastery temples to train with the ancient monks. It was then that I learned to discipline my wrath. Upon my return, Sӧlitha had come of age and was a fully grown maiden.

She began to plot how she would stay in the castle. Her plan started off subtly, but over time she repeatedly threw herself at me. I would find her naked in my bed chambers or in the bath quarters. Her plans to seduce me were continually thwarted as I remained firm in my stance to turn her away. Finally, she outright begged me to allow her to become either my bride or consort. It was her desire to conceive my heir at all costs.

In my empathy for her position, I could not see fit to cast her away like mere rubbish. I took an oath of silence never to speak about or directly to her to honor my father’s wish. We have all done harmful deeds out of desperation and sheer madness. I had hoped that she would find someone to help heal her wounds and that she would be glad that I did as well.

~Ch. 19, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~

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