I freeze in shock over what my Father the King just said, there is no way that he meant that; that would be him sending me to my death. There is a moment silence and awkwardness as the rest of the family stare at me. I watch Queen Lare smirk in satisfaction, she rises and stands with my father.
“What an honour it is, a sacrifice that would be remembered in history, my dear Salem; I am so proud of you, you have done plenty for the kingdom and looks like you still have more to do” Queen Nuke says as she holds my father.
I scan everyone in the room and I know that Paula was right, I am alone, I always will be; I don’t want their affection, I just want their respect, something my mother wasn’t afforded. I am usually good at keeping my emotions under control but this time, I feel an anger that burns all through my body as I glare at my father, I feel Christiana move as she tries to slap me, I catch her hand and rise to my feet and push her into the arms of her husband.
“Do you have a problem with my decision?” My father asks me, daring me to contradict his words and silence me, it usually works but this time, I’m too far gone to care.
“Yes Father”, there’s an outburst of whispers and groans as Christiana the first princess screams at me “How dare you? The King’s words should not be questioned by anyone, least of all you, apologize now or…”
“Or what? I’ll be flogged? Put to death? Burnt alive ? Or banished like my mother? Look at me, what difference does it make to me? I am going to be dead either way, I’d rather father just stab me now and be over with.” I cut in heatedly, this is the first time I have ever defended myself in any way to this family and for a second, I feel a sense of satisfaction until my father sends everyone away from the room, leaving just me and him.
“Why? Why would you do this? You know who I am and what I have done to the Rale royal family! You know that the moment they find out I’m the masked general, I will die; I killed their crown prince, I have killed so many, for you father, is this what I deserve? You don’t need to turn your back on me, I just want to be left alone.” I expect my father to me mad at me or punish me but he sat and calls me closer to him.
“Sit Salem, I know I have not been a good father to you, I know everything even the things you keep hidden away in your heart, I don’t deserve your forgiveness so I’m not going to ask. I know what you have done, I know what you have sacrificed more than anyone; I have fought with you side by side and that is why you are the one I can send to Rale.” I look at him in an incredulous manner, he chuckles sadly for some reason. ”
“This marriage will bring peace to the nation, I am not getting any younger, my heir will be between your two brothers. I can’t send Nadia and Salma; they have been sheltered from birth and will be eaten alive there.” He lowers his face to mine as he shakes his head at me.
“This just feels like Lare talking, Father! You have nothing to fear from me. The soldiers fight with me but they fight for you! and I’ll always be the bastard child of a maid, there is little or nothing I can do to you. Can’t you see that Father?”
“I have seen your eyes, the only thing stopping you from taking this throne is the absence of your ambition and your loyalty; how long will that last?”
“So you are cutting me loose before I can even conceive that thought; Is this all I am to you? A means to an end? Something you can dispose of because I’m uncomfortable? Who made me into this? You trained me father! You made me into the monster I am and now you are just going to throw me away” I say to him calmly.
” Salem, there is no space for you here, I have seen how you are being treated, at a point, you will want more, who will protect my family from you? You are the best fighter I’ve ever seen, not just because of your skills but your wits. Yes, I am afraid of what you can do and because there is no other choice, As long as you keep it to yourself that you are my general, no one will find out. I am shameless to ask this, but let this be the final order to you from a King to his general.”
I look at my father and I don’t see the strong man he was, what I see is someone who is tired and weak, he keeps a good front and that has ensured our safety for years.
“The walls have ears, the soldiers know who I am, this is not a secret that will hold, you have given me no other choice, do you know the law above the king’s word? It is marriage, If I get married to Prince Erin, you will no longer have my loyalty; you know this father, yet you do not care. I am not going to beg for mercy, I will do as you say for the last time.”
My father nods his head at me and dismisses me. I go into my room, Paula is pacing back and forth. “Is it true? The rumors? Are you really getting married to Prince Erin?”
I grin at her, “Paula, what do you think about Rale’s landscapes, I hear they are beautiful at this time of the year.”
Paula gasps “Shit!”
“Not a chance father, I won’t get married to any child of Roelum, much less the princess!”