His Prince Submits
The Veiled Court, Book 1
Copyright © 2017 by Marie Medina
The Veiled Court (The Realm of the Fey)
Alexander jolted awake and grabbed the hand touching his arm. He rolled in bed and saw Edmund, his father’s adviser, leaning over his bed holding a candle.
Alexander relaxed and let go of Edmund’s arm. “What’s happening?” He rubbed his eyes as they adjusted to the dim light.
“Sorry to wake you, Your Highness, but your father wishes to speak with you.” Edmund cleared his throat, frowning. “It can’t wait until morning.”
Jumping out of bed, Alexander grabbed his robe and threw it on as he rushed to the door. “Why? Because it’s that important or because he may not be with us in the morning?” The king had been withdrawn for weeks, but no one was sure if he was actually ill or not.
“It’s that important. It concerns you primarily, though Nathaniel and Rory might find it interesting as well.”
As they moved through the quiet hallways of the palace, Alexander eyed Edmund, who seemed very tense. “But not Henri?” What could possibly matter to him and his two younger brothers but not his twin?
“Yes. In fact, it has nothing to do with Henri.”
Puzzled, Alexander stopped. “I don’t understand. You seem upset but not really worried.”
Edmund’s jaw clenched. “I’m … angry about the news you’re about to receive. You’ll understand soon enough.”
Alexander watched Edmund turn a corner, and after a moment, he followed. His father’s chambers were illuminated by dozens of candles, even though it was the middle of the night. Grayden sat by the fireplace and stared at the flames. The light danced on the dark red walls, giving the room a sinister look.
“Father,” Alexander said, waiting to be acknowledged.
Grayden turned and looked up at his son a moment before gesturing toward the large blue armchair across from him. “Sit, Alexander. I have something to tell you.”
Alexander obeyed but remained on the edge of his seat. “How are you feeling tonight?”
“Tired and old. And ready to unburden myself.” He focused on Alexander. “To right a wrong.”
“All right.” Alexander cast a quick glance at Edmund, who still looked very unhappy.
Grayden looked over his shoulder and sighed. “You have Edmund to thank for this. I might’ve taken this to my grave otherwise.”
Yes, I have Edmund to thank for many things given how little you care about any of your children. “Father, why don’t you go ahead and tell me? Then we can worry about thanking people and righting wrongs.”
Grayden shifted back in his chair and focused on the fire. “There’s a reason the seers haven’t approached you with the identity of your cariad.” He folded his hands in his lap, his knuckles going white. “I forbad them from doing so when I found out who it was.”
Alexander felt the room spinning, and he clutched at the arm of his chair, both to steady himself and to keep from bolting across the small space and wrapping his hands around his father’s neck. All fey people had a cariad, the one person who would make them complete. This person, according to scrolls written thousands of years ago by people now long forgotten, held the other half of one’s heart. Happiness could be found with another, but it supposedly would not compare to the love that would be found with one’s cariad. His twin brother had been married to his cariad, Lorelei, for nearly four years, and Alexander had been waiting all this time for the seers to have a vision of his own bride. Now he knew why the news hadn’t come.
“And what is it about her that you object to so much that you wish me to be alone and unhappy?” Alexander said through clenched teeth.
“It’s a man.”
Alexander opened his mouth to reply, but words wouldn’t come. He looked at his father and then at Edmund. “Why is that a problem?”
“You’re the crown prince. You must have heirs.”
“I have three brothers. I’ll surely have many nephews and nieces to choose a successor from.” He narrowed his gaze. “That’s not it at all. Is it?”
Grayden wouldn’t meet his gaze. “What other reason could I possibly have?”
Grayden didn’t respond, and Edmund turned away from them, staring out the small corner window with his arms crossed.
“You believe same-sex pairings are bad luck. I’ve heard you say it before,” Alexander said, fury filling him. “You’re no better than a bigoted human!”
The king’s eyes flicked back to Alexander. “My older sister was fated to a woman. And she drowned the day after their wedding.”
“That was an accident!”
Grayden stood and looked away. “I’ve told you. You can do what you like with the information.”
Alexander jumped up. His father’s flippant demeanor had him ready to scream. He took a steadying breath and said, “Where is he? Who is he? I want to meet him as soon as possible.”
“You’ll have to ask the seers about that.”
Unable to hold back bitter laughter, Alexander shook his head. “I can’t believe you have no idea where he is.”
Grayden brushed past him and opened the door to his bed chamber. “His name is Sebastian, and I sent him to the human realm ten years ago.” He turned back briefly and said, “Only the seers will be able to help you.”
Grabbing the door and holding it firm, Alexander refused to let his father dismiss him. “You’ll come with me. You said you wished to make this right.” Alexander knew his father hadn’t meant the words. It was obvious he’d only gone through these motions because of pressure from Edmund.
“I’ve sent word that they’re to obey you. Since they’ll have to force a second vision to locate him, you’ll need to be there.” Grayden grabbed Alexander’s hand and yanked it from the edge of the door, showing surprising strength in that moment. “You’re dismissed.”
The king passed into the next room and slammed the door shut. Alexander heard the bolt slide into place a moment later.
Alexander couldn’t move. His mind raced, and he could hear the blood roaring in his ears. He jerked when Edmund placed a hand on his shoulder.
“How did you find out?” Alexander asked.
“Your mother told me a couple of hours ago. She found out when they were having an argument earlier today and came to me when she couldn’t manage to convince him to tell you the truth.”
“I see.” Alexander glared at the door of his father’s bed chamber. He knew as well as everyone else did that Edmund, whose cariad had died nearly thirteen years ago, was in love with the queen. Whether his love was returned by Venetia wasn’t quite as clear, though Alexander had noticed how little time his parents spent together. Even though his father was getting on in years and might die soon, his mother slept in a different wing of the palace. He checked the time, judging that it had been nearly midnight when his mother had told Edmund this news, so the adviser had obviously been in her chambers after she’d retired for the evening. Henri disapproved of the affair, but Alexander had never minded. Edmund was more of a father to all of them than the king had ever been. He certainly loved the four of them far more.
“Do you wish to go to the seers?” Edmund asked. “I sent word for the one on watch tonight to wake everyone else up.”
“Yes. I’ll never be able to sleep. Not until I know more.” Before he could stop himself, Alexander picked up a vase and hurled it at his father’s door. Then he took a deep breath and left the room, sensing Edmund following behind him. He felt the urge to continue smashing things as they made their way to the east tower where the seers had their library, but if he woke the entire palace up, he’d have to face a lot of questions, which he wasn’t ready for yet.
When they reached the east tower, he said, “Go find two of the best guards. Ones who’ve been to the human realm many times. I’m going to need their services.”
“Yes, Your Highness.” Edmund gave a curt bow and hurried down the hallway.
Alexander scrubbed a hand down his face and tightened the sash of his robe before opening the door and heading up the winding stairs. When he arrived at the top, he didn’t even knock. He shoved the door open and found the library full of people, all of them seemingly calm yet with a wary look.
“I’m not here to yell. I understand none of you could disobey the king,” Alexander said.
No one would quite meet his gaze at first. Ronan stepped forward, clearing his throat. “We still wish to apologize. And help you as much as we can.”
“So you can find him again?”
“I’m the one who originally had a vision of him. I should be able to locate him if you’ll come to the vision room with me.” Ronan gestured to the ornate door nestled in amongst the bookshelves across the room, everyone else moving out of the way. “We can get started right away.”
Alexander followed Ronan into the smaller room and shut the door behind them. This room held nothing but a table and a large silver bowl filled with water. The curtains on the only two windows were drawn, and there were no candles. Yet the light coming from the bowl illuminated the entire room. Visions could come to the seers in any water or reflective surface, but the ancient bowl supposedly amplified their powers, so it was still used often in addition to whatever object was used in their daily meditation.
They went and stood on either side of the bowl. Ronan gripped the edge and said, “Place your hands close to mine. I’ll draw on your energy through the bowl.”
Alexander did so, looking down into the water, which swirled with color. “Will I see what you see?” He knew little about how the visions worked. His people didn’t consult the seers as often as they once did concerning everyday matters. Most simply waited for news of the identity of their cariad.
“No. You’ll only see the colors. Some vague movement. You have to be born with the gift to see anything in the water.”
“I can’t help being curious. I’ve never had a male lover.” He watched the water, then studied the filigree work around the edge of the bowl. Part of him feared it wouldn’t work, and he didn’t want to think about that possibility. “Your cariad is a man, right?”
“Is he the only man you’ve ever been with?”
Without looking up, Ronan nodded. “I was shocked. But after one conversation, I knew we were meant for each other. Even though I’m a seer, I have my doubts at times. My faith can waver. But his love has done me a lot of good.”
“I have no idea what to do. I’m so angry I can’t even make sense of it.” He closed his eyes. “I’ve been robbed of ten years.” He opened his eyes and blinked repeatedly, wishing he didn’t feel so helpless. “We could’ve been together and happy all this time.”
“Actually, Sebastian’s much younger than you. He was only ten when I saw him in my vision of you.” Ronan cleared his throat. “And I made the mistake of asking your father if I should wait to tell you.”
“You couldn’t have known he’d react that way. I’ve seen how strange and awkward it can be when the visions come before both people are of age.” He sighed. “If he was ten back then, that means he’s only twenty years old.” Alexander tightened his grip on the edge of the bowl. “He’s twelve years younger than I am. What if he doesn’t want me?”
“Once you’ve befriended him, you can unlock his memories. He’ll understand everything. Know what a cariad is and how important the bond is. Perhaps he’ll even remember you. The people have always favored you.”
“But he was ten. A child. I doubt he paid much attention to what the royals were doing.” Alexander shook his head. “How could my father do this? Who cared for Sebastian? He was so young.”
“I don’t know. The king wouldn’t tell us.”
“I wish my father would hurry up and die.”
Ronan glanced up briefly. “You don’t mean that.”
Unwilling to agree completely, Alexander said, “Feels good to say it.”
Ronan stiffened. “I’ve found him.”
Alexander stared down into the water even though he knew he would see nothing. “I wish I could see him.”
“He’s handsome. Shorter than you but still tall. He’s with friends at some sort of party. It’s still early evening wherever he is.” Ronan closed his eyes. “He must be powerful. Could possibly even be a seer. My connection with him is very clear.” He nodded to the door. “I need paper and a quill. If I take my hands off the bowl, I’ll have to start over again.”
Alexander went back into the library and headed for one of the desks. He felt everyone watching him as he picked up several pieces of paper and then grabbed a quill and an ink bottle. Before returning to Ronan, he said, “Ronan found him. Everyone stop looking so damned nervous.”
He understood why they would all be worried, but he wasn’t going to blame any of them for this. He planned on saving every bit of reproach for his father. He set everything down on the edge of the table beside Ronan and returned to the other side of the bowl.
Ronan took one hand off the bowl and began writing immediately, and Alexander tilted his head to read the words. His cariad had brown hair and blue eyes. Next came the name of a city—Mountain Brook. Ronan wrote down an address, then some other random things.
“Can you feel what kind of man he is? Through the connection?” Alexander asked.
“Vaguely,” Ronan said softly. He wrote a few more things down, his head drooping a bit.
“Ronan, don’t tire yourself. You have an address. That’s more than enough.”
Ronan nodded, but he didn’t let go of the bowl for another minute. He took several deep breaths and then looked the paper over before handing it to Alexander.
Alexander read over it, finding out his cariad’s favorite foods and color, among other things. He now had his address and even a description of his car. One item made him pause, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to ask. “You wrote that he’s attracted to men.” He lowered the paper as he looked at Ronan. “Did you sense that through your connection to his mind? Or was he with someone at this party?”
“He was … flirting with a man. Standing close to him.”
“Are they lovers? Could you tell?”
“It seemed they’d just met, but I can’t be sure. They were making small talk. Seemed like a very superficial conversation. Who invited you to the party, what do you do, have you seen a certain movie. That sort of thing.”
“Hmmm.” He looked back to the paper. “Then maybe he’s unattached. That would be a start.” Shaking his head, he said, “How do I even approach him?”
“Perhaps you could try to meet him. He’s young so he probably goes out a lot.”
“And flirts with men. Men who aren’t me.”
“At least he likes men.”
“Men his own age, I’m sure.” Alexander’s head ached. “I’ll never forgive father for this,” he said softly. Trying to focus, he asked, “Is it only me?”
“What about Nathaniel and Rory? Has anyone had a vision concerning them yet?”
“No, not that I’m aware.”
“Good. Edmund mentioned that this might interest them, but I guess he just meant because they’re waiting to find their own cariads as well.”
“I truly am sorry. I had no idea Sebastian had actually been sent away. The king only forbad me to tell you his identity. I know that doesn’t make up for it, but I’ll help in any way I can. Always. What your father did was wrong.”
“Yes, it was wrong, but the information wasn’t worth your life or anyone else’s, given my grandfather’s habit of chopping heads off.” Alexander scowled as he thought of his grandfather, glad the old tyrant had died when he was still a small child, though his father was only a little better. “Thank you for your support, but it’s all up to me from this point. I have plans to make.” He strode from the room and found that Edmund had returned with two guards. He nodded to the door that led out of the tower. “Follow me. We have a lot of work to do.”
The three men followed Alexander back to his study as he tried, and failed, to calm his pounding heart and slow his jumbled thoughts.