Cantaly and Claudius had their guards let in their final audience for the day. It was a king and his middle daughter, Nephel. “What has brought a king into our court Mathius?” He bowed slightly out of respect for his fellow nobility. “My daughter Nephel is nearing her twenty fifth birthday and is still without a husband or even a romantic interest. She wastes her life studying and I have been patient enough with her. Her sisters did what they ought, both married not long after they came of age and it’s about time she did that same.” Cantaly didn’t really need to listen to know what he was there for. She looked at the young woman beside him. She was obviously uncomfortable and didn’t wish to be trotted around like this by her father.
Her attention was taken from the girl when her husband began to speak “we do not do arranged marriages in this kingdom. I know you are aware of this. This line has chosen it’s mates since King Gabriel Henri chose the Cantaly my wife is named after.”
“I know sir Claudius but your family line is a proud one, one I’d be honored for her to marry into. If you would but let her stay here and see if one of your boys want her.” She could tell he was upsetting Claudius but it was only obvious to her “she’d have to agree to it. My wife and I don’t wish to offend you but if one of our sons would like to be with her we wont be a part of forcing her to be with them”
“I knew that coming here sir. Will you let her stay”
“May we speak to her alone Mathius?”
“of course” Mathius left the room and Cantaly stepped down from her throne “do you want to stay?”
“With you two yes, if only for a break from this. He’s already taken me before two other nobles and their aweful sons. I’ll be a good guest if you let me stay. I actually like your children. They have always been nice. Your whole family is nice. I’ve met Belle before too, a real sweetheart” Cantaly smiled “They like you too, didn’t you dance with Balthazar at the last ball?” She blushed “yeah, I was so surprised he asked me”
“why?” Nephel looked a little sad “I am not very pretty your majesty. You don’t have to deny it, I am aware. I kind of got the short end of the stick with looks and just got too big of a brain instead. Not a good fit for the kind of princess my father has always wanted of me”
Cantaly and Claudius glanced at each other. “Whoever told you that obvious has very little brain.” Claudius said.
“Please make yourself at home Nephel. We’ll have a room made up for you.”
“Thank you ma’am, sir.”
When she had left, Claudius turned to his wife. “Who gives such a wonderful young woman such low self esteem?”
Cantaly reached over and took his hand. “She’ll do better here, just wait.”
Balthazar yawned as he walked through the castle doors. It had been another long day with his twin cousins. He went out and played with them from time to time, hunting games, racing, and wrestling to keep himself sharp. Irim’s boys were formidable opponents, they knew more magic than anyone with the exception of their father so it was fun learning how to defend against it. He noticed someone new passing out of the throne room and it took him a moment to realize it was Nephel. She looked up, making brief eye contact with him, then back at her feet as she hurried upstairs. She looked embarrassed and a little sad.
He went to his parents who were saying goodbye to Nephels father. Mathius and the king nodded at eachother out of respect before the king walked out and Balthazar walked up to his parents “what’s going on?” They explained the situation and he sighed “what an asshole. She’s immortal for christ sake, why does she need to be married at twenty five. No wonder she looked so embarrassed.” Cantaly laughed, they didn’t think much of her father doing what he was doing either but her son was beyond flustered by it. “well she’ll be with us a long time and away from all that. We asked if she wanted to be here and she said it would be nice, that she liked you guys”
“where’s the room you gave her?”
“Just down the hall from yours.” Balthazar told them he’d see them later then left to go check on Nephel. He just didn’t understand the need for her to marry now. She was so beautiful and intelligent and should marry when she found someone who loved her for her. It wasn’t hard to find her room since she had her door cracked open and gently tapped on the door frame.
“Nephel, it’s Balthazar, may I come in?” He asked.
The door was pulled the rest of the way open and he smiled at Nephel. “You heard right?”
“Yeah, I wanted to make sure you were okay. Your father shouldn’t make you do this.” She still looked a bit down. “So, want to go for a walk or something?”
“That sounds like just what I need” He smiled at her and moved out of the doorway so she could come out. He guided her out and said “do you know this kingdom at all?”
“I know a ton from books but I’ve only been here a few times”
“Anywhere you’ve read about that you want to see?”
“I know it’s sort of a weird want but I really want to see your cousin Ediva’s school. I’ve never seen an actual school before”
“That’s not weird atall. Come on” They walked through town and up to Edivas school. He took her inside, knowing his cousin wouldn’t mind. He took her to Edivas room first since Balthazar knew she didn’t have a class to teach right now. She looked up from some papers she was grading “Balthazar and princess Nephel. What brings you two here?”
“She’s staying in the castle awhile and I’m giving her a tour. I asked where she wanted to go and she wanted to see your school”
“If you see a class you want to take here Nephel you’re welcome to join us though if I’m correct there probably isn’t a class I have you couldn’t be the teacher of”
“Thank you Ediva, how is your family?”
“wonderful, Chapin spends the day out with our kids while I’m teaching. It’s nice to hear all the stories over dinner”
“You have more besides Malchior now?”
“Yep, Valora & Zyta”
“I’d love to meet them.”
“They’ll be around, they like to help out.”
“You could teach here while you’re visiting, I bet you’d have fun.” Balthazar said. “I mean if you want to that is.”
“May I think about it?”
He blushed, feeling embarrassed that he sounded so pushy. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound bossy. You should do what makes you happy. You’re just so intelligent, I’m sure you could even teach me a thing or two.”
She smiled “You’re not pushy. I just would like to think about it” Nephel looked back at Ediva “what subject do you need?”
“Maybe you could teach about your kingdom. Like the plants and animals that are specific to it or maybe about the stars. I’ve never had a teacher for either.” Nephel smiled “Okay, I’ll get back to you on it. It sounds fun”
“It is, I love teaching and the friends I have made.”
“How many people do you have teaching here nowadays?”
“Five including me. You’d make us an even six” Ediva winked and Nephel smiled “I hear the hours kind of depend on the class you’re taking”
“Yeah, each of us offer two periods you can take our class and I let the other teachers select what time slots work best for them, though, we all try to make it as easy as possible to take multiple classes if a student wants to be taking classes from more than one of us at once.”
“When would be the best times for me to teach if I didn’t want to coincide with anybody else?”
Edina walked over to her desk and slid open a drawer, grabbing a copy of the schedule. “Look it over and just fill in when you want to come in.”
“Thank you so much.”
“How long are you staying?”
Nephel shrugged. “I’m not sure, awhile I guess.” She sighed. “My father is being a bit difficult.”
“It’s okay, Balthazar bringing me around made me feel better.”
“I hope you enjoy your time here. At twenty five your father really can’t stop you from leaving home if you ever need to get away. You always have a job open at my school so work to support yourself isn’t somthing you’ll have to worry about.”
“Yeah, as king he technically could but I don’t think he’d embarrass himself doing somthing so petty” She imagined how her father would react to her becoming a teacher instead of some arm ornament for another noble. It would not go over well in the slightest but as much as she loved him she didn’t care if it made him angry.
They hung around for her final class and Nephel soon met Ediva & Chapins two younger children. Nephel and Balthazar left about halfway through the class and decided just to wander around since it was getting late.
“I’m really glad your father decided to bring you here.” Balthazar said.
He smiled at her. “Because we won’t force you into anything. This kingdom values our women’s choices. You can be whatever you want here.”
“I’m sure my father would disapprove if I wasn’t married by the time he returned.”
“Let him, you should be happy. I hate seeing you sad.”
Nephel wanted to hug him and often yelled at protagonists in books she read for not doing things like that when they had the urge so she asked nervously “I want to hug you. Is that okay Balthazar?” His already sweet face seemed to soften even more as he gently tugged her into his arms. “My whole family loves hugs. You don’t have to ask” Butterflies fluttered against her innards as he held her. He was so handsome, and sweet and amazing to be around. Her mind drifted to their dance together. He looked even better in what he had been wearing that night. A light breeze could have knocked her over when he caught her attention to ask for a dance.
Balthazar Valdemar, the last man she expected to ask an average girl like her for a dance. He was quite considerably out of her league. He slowly let her go and she came back to the moment “Lets walk a bit more then go home for leftovers. They’ll have eaten by the time we get back”
“Oh no, I’m sorry” He chuckled “My parents don’t care. They like eating dinner with us but we don’t have to be there. As kids we had to but I haven’t been a kid in quite a while”
“As long as you’re sure.”
“I am, I’m enjoying spending time with you.” She blushed and ducked her head, hoping he wouldn’t notice, but Balthazar picked up on her quickening heartbeat and smiled when he noticed how red her ears were. “May I show you something before dinner Nephel?” He asked and she raised her head.
He offered his arm and she slowly took it, letting him lead her a little ways from the castle. He took her to a small pond then held out his hand. The water seemed to go still and she looked at it curiously. “Step on it.”
He chuckled. “Watch.” He stepped onto the water and she was surprised that it was solid.
“Whoa, wow. How did you do that?”
“It’s something I learned from Irim. I manipulated the water’s elemental properties and turned the surface to glass. It’s perfectly safe to walk on and the fish beneath are alive and well. Would you like to dance with me? I enjoyed last time, so I thought why not dance before dinner.”
She was still a tiny bit unsure about stepping onto water but she moved forward. Her nervous heartbeat grew excited as she looked down at the fish below. When she looked up a small amount of heat returned. Those blue eyes somtimes had his red dragon in them. She wasn’t sure how to describe it but it was somtimes truly amazing to look into a dragons eyes. Balthazar guided her out to about the center of the water and began dancing with her. He looked so sure of himself as he led her, causing Nephel to have no fear his spell would hold.
He had her laughing and smiling as he had the last time. Even without music dancing with Balthazar was the most fun she could remember having. After a few dances he pulled her close for a slow one. To him Nephel was gorgeous and he wanted to hold her. “we can do this as often as you want Nephel? I can take you a few other places aswell that would be beautiful to dance in”
“I’ll definitely take you up on that” Balthazar held her a little tighter. Now that they were slowly moving and he was holding her he could really take in her scent again. It was so calming, it seemed to release every ounce of tension in him every time he got close to her.
“I…you…” he sighed, a small smile pulling at his lips. “You’re an incredible person, you know that?”
She blushed. “I am?”
“Yeah, everything about you is just so perfect. I want you to remember that next time your father says something stupid. You are perfect.”
“Thank you, but…”
He shook his head. “Don’t put yourself down, I won’t allow it.” He chuckled. “As a prince, I order you to stop lying about yourself.”
She smiled and then started laughing. “If his majesty commands it then I guess I have to listen.”
He lightly chuckled and finished the dance with her “Let me get you home so we can eat.” He offered his arm again and she took it. They had dinner together then he walked her to her room since it was on the way to his anyway. “sweet dreams Nephel. You’re welcome to anything in the castle. After breakfast tomorrow lets walk around some more”
“Could I see your library first?” He chuckled “I should have thought of that, sure”
“Great” she hugged him “Thank you” he gave her a gentle hug in return “Hey, you don’t have to thank me. I enjoy spending time with you” They let go and he went to his room. Nephel was tired but wanted to write a few of her close friends. They had been worried about her when she told them she was leaving for her fathers mission to get her married off. Nephel wanted to assure them a noble wasn’t forcing themselves on her, that she was in the Valdemar kingdom enjoying time with Balthazar and his family. She knew she was too tired to write about the awful nobles she had seen before arriving here but she promised to tell them about all that in a future letter.
She wrote them up and got them ready to mail. She peeked out of her room, disappointed when she saw nobody walking by. She explored a little bit and noticed a maid “yes mam?”
“How do I go about mailing these out?”
“Give them to me and I’ll make sure they are sent”
“Thank you so much”
“You’re very welcome princess Nephel. May I get you anything else?”
“No, I’m going to bed now” Nephel rushed back to her room, changed into pajamas and settled in for the night. The next morning she woke to the maid she had given her letters to “Sorry if I woke you. I just wanted you to know they were sent. Breakfast will be ready in about forty minutes”
“I’m glad you woke me. I need a shower”
“Did anybody show you where the towels are?”
“I’m sure I can find them. don’t worry”
“Okay” The maid walked away and Nephel went into her rooms bathroom.
She tried not to spend too long under the water, wanting to spend time with Balthazar. He had been so sweet and understanding, even calling her beautiful when she didn’t often feel that way. She enjoyed her time with him, that he was so honest and had not tried to force her into anything. She sighed as she picked out her clothes, wondering if there was anything he liked her in. She blushed at the thought that she wanted to look nice for him. She finally settled on something and dressed quickly then did her hair and stepped out of her room. She was startled when she was Balthazar leaning against the wall across from her.
“Sorry, I wanted to walk you to breakfast.” He smiled sweetly as he offered his arm to her.
“What if I had already left?” She asked as she took it.
“I asked so I wouldn’t be standing here like an idiot.”
She lightly giggled, her cheeks tinting when she saw happiness gleam in his eyes. When they got to breakfast the king, queen, Cantalys grandparents and Balthazars siblings were there to eat with them. Nephel was a bit in awe. She hadn’t met them in their past life and few outside their family had spent much time with them since they had been resurrected from the grave. The former king had had to spend so many years mourning Cantaly that he was a bit selfish with her time now. Nobody blamed him, it had been clear to everyone after her death that a part of him felt dead without her. To have her back, it must be near impossible for him to share.
They all talked happily about their lives which was nice for Nephel. Meals were pretty silent in her home. They were nearly done when the current queen Cantaly asked princess Nephel “How was your first day here?”
“Wonderful thanks to Balthazar”
“I’m glad, Balthazar is a wonderful tour guide.”
Balthazar blushed and his siblings laughed. He glared at them and they laughed harder. “Now, now that’s enough you guys.” Claudius said. “It’s not nice to tease your brother.”
“Sorry.” They said in unison.
“He’s been really sweet, he even took me dancing. It was a lot of fun.”
“Well it made you happy.” Balthazar replied and Nephel’s heart skipped a beat. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile so much, even the last time you were here, you didn’t look that happy.” His cheeks were burning, but it was the truth, he wanted to see her smile, to hear her laugh and know she was happy.
After breakfast he took her to the library as promised and showed her around. She saw a few that caught her eye she planned on reading at some point while she was there. Upon leaving the castle library he took her to the different places his cousins worked, spending a little time at each. He had so many thanks to Zane and Belle that easily ate another day. Nephel wrote her friends every evening as a few weeks passed. The night before her father was supposed to return and see if they still wanted Nephel to stay Balthazar gathered his courage and went to her room to ask her to be with him.
He wanted to ask before her father got there because he didn’t want him to pressure her if being with him wasn’t somthing she desired. He had already had a small crush on her before her weeks here but being with Nephel daily, hearing her laugh, seeing that stunning smile so constantly, Balthazar knew he needed that. He needed her to stay with him and hoped she felt the same way. He had picked up little hints she liked him too but he still wasn’t fully confident she would want to be with him.
Nephel was in the middle of writing tonights letters to her friends when Balthazar knocked on her door. She answered a bit confused. She wasn’t used to anybody coming to her once she said goodnight. “Oh Balthazar, hi”
“May I come in?”
“Of course” she pulled the door open fully and allowed him in.
“Are you busy?” He asked, noticing the letters.
“Not really, they can wait.”
Nephel could see there was something going on. He looked so nervous, like he was trying to gather his thoughts. “Is everything okay?”
He sighed and reached out, gently taking her hands in his. He stood there for a moment, enjoying the softness of her skin. “Nephel, I want to ask you something and I want you to know that it’s okay to say no and I won’t be mad.” He looked into her beautiful eyes and resisted the sudden urge to kiss her. “The time we have spent together has made me so happy. You’re funny and smart and so beautiful, it drives me crazy. I really love you, I mean really and truly love you and I wanted to know if you would consider marrying me. I’ll even do it in the way of your people, anything to make you happy, I just want you.”
Her heart fluttered and her eyes grew a bit wide in honest surprise. She wanted to say “really?” but that sounded so dumb. If he was saying it, he meant it. He was even saying it now instead of tomorrow when her dad would be there so she’d actually have a choice. Even with his parents saying she didn’t have to if he asked tomorrow her dad would have bullied her into marriage with anyone. It was absurd how badly he wanted her to get married. She hugged him, her sweet, considerate dragon. “I can’t believe you’re asking me…I kind of thought of you as out of my league”
He held her in return “that’s silly Nephel. You are beautiful and smart. I would be lucky for you to say yes, please Nephel”
“Yes, I would love to marry you Balthazar Valdemar” He held her almost too tightly against him. His body was surging with elation. She giggled and he let go, stroking her cheek when he was able to “You really are beautiful Nephel. Your father has really warped the way you see yourself”
“Thank you, I’ll try not to make negative comments about myself anymore”
“Good” he rubbed the back of his head “I’ll let you rest then. I just had a hard time gathering the courage to ask but I wanted to ask before your father got here. I didn’t want him to pressure you into being with me. This way if you said no I could have pretended like I didn’t want you…” The thought seemed to hurt him deeply so she hugged Balthazar “The letters and resting can wait…I’ve wanted to be held by you ever since our first dance. Would you cuddle with me?” He took her hand and guided Nephel back to the bed where he got in with her.
They fell asleep together, comforted by eachother warmth and love. The next day she announced to her father and his parents that they were going to get married and they were all jubilant. Cantaly and Claudius had expected it from seeing them together but her father was surprised, obviously thinking she’d never marry. They told her father she would be staying in their castle, she loved her family but she knew she’d have a better relationship with them if they just visited from time to time. It especially made sense since Balthazar had this big, loving, wonderful family here. Nephel would miss her friends but she knew she could always visit them too.
When her father left he didn’t return until their wedding ceremony. Nephel took Balthazar up on his offer to marry her in the way of her people. That connection was so amazing and she wanted it with Balthazar, to always be one with him, to know anything he was going through. With nearly all of her family and Balthazars attending the wedding was massive but it went smoothly. It truly was everything Nephel had ever hoped for and more. She was excited for her life here as a teacher and as Balthazars wife. Nephel and Balthazar had their happily ever afters no matter what laid before them.
~ The End