Royal Obligations, by Misha

My life had been filled with people telling me where to go, whom to hate and, somehow even more insidious, whom to love. Neopar gave me his assurance that he would do whatever was possible to find Lev. Unfortunately, it also left me rather exposed and vulnerable, precisely how the king preferred his companions. He was given to many fetishes, most of which were better suited for the kitchen than the bedroom. Most times I tried to shut out his voice, which was no small feat because of his boisterous and jovial nature. He never spoke in a normal conversational tone. It was always either booming and grandiose or emphatically hushed.

It was little surprise that the Queen kept her distance from him. The power of Belaurii was fully on her side of the family tree which was why he was so preoccupied with screwing Fen and that prophecy of the branch rejoined.

No, I was not the mistress, just the cuckold. By this time I had citizenship in two countries neither of which I particularly cared for and an impetuous, loquacious and self-absorbed child for a wife.

When Neopar got too demanding or just generally annoying, Fen and I would get him drunk and wait for him to pass into a deep, deep sleep. That was about the only time we could socialize with Hetta and Taisia who became very dear friends to me. Fen had the habit of making herself scarce, as if it wasn't my job to notice, and I would generally find her the following morning in much better spirits. Neopar, on the other hand, would wake up a complete wreck and swear off drinking, until the next time we needed to silence him.

As bad as it typically was, it got markedly worse when Neopar threw his back out logrolling and was laid out flat on his back for weeks.

"Well, go on," I said to Fen who was lounging about reading the book of poetry I had given to her.

"I'm almost done with this page," she said without looking up.

I took the book from her. "And this page is done for the night. If you'll excuse me, berry seeds are chafing my foreskin."

"I don't like berries."

"Always about you, princess."

"I can hear you," Neopar bellowed from his bed.

Fen glared at me and slapped me across the face. I quickly retaliated then she trudged off behind the bed curtains.

Though she tried to remain disaffected by the circumstances of her young life, the reality was very much to the contrary. Neopar, jovial and warm as he could be, was far too concerned with his precious prophecy to see the terrible void that was growing within Fen. She couldn’t hide her pain and disillusionment from me for it resonated so completely with my own feelings of helplessness. Often she would cry herself to sleep, my arms wrapped tightly around her, as I filled her head with foolish notions of poetry and romance hoping in time they would trickle down into her parched soul.

I pleaded with Neopar for answers about Nalev and the prophecy. Anguish filled his eyes and the color drained from his face. Quietly he said, “My friend, I fear Dophe’s hand in every cruel transgression in all three courts. The prophecy may be my only hope to regain authority and set things right.”

"Not your only hope, King Neopar. We shall see to it," I vowed.

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