Chapter OneMature

“I heard you were romping through the halls in your underwear. I did wonder why,” said Luna. She finished with Viv’s braids and began pinning them up on top of her head. “You should have sent Maisy to deal with it and waited until you were fully clothed before you left your room.”

          “As if Maisy would actually go get my dress back from Turkey. He’s the king,” said Viv. She blew a loose wisp of hair from her eye. It fluttered in the gentle breeze Viv created, but then settled right back down in front of her eye. A few hairs tangled in her eyelashes. She sighed and rolled her eyes, accepting her situation. “She’s just like everyone else in the castle; pussy-footing around Turkey as though their afraid to step on his toes. I’m not. It’s not like he’ll actually do anything. It’s just a dress. And it was just a prank. He’s just Turkey, king or not.”

          “I would lecture you on the importance of being respectful and loyal to your monarch,” said Luna. She finished with Viv’s hair and turned her around to look her over. “But I’ve been down that road before and you never listen. Besides, you’re getting a new monarch in a few days. A few years from now, you’ll be a monarch yourself. Then you can run your kingdom however you’d like.”

          “I do so respect him!” said Viv, an offended look coming into her eyes. Luna waved off her comment and Viv crossed her arms. “I do. And as my best friend, I’m probably more loyal to Turkey than I am to you. But if you expect me to fall to my knees and worship him every time he passes, I can tell you right now, I’m not going to. And Turkey doesn’t care if I do.”

          “That is the exact same thing you say every time we have this conversation,” said Luna, massaging her temples. She took a step backwards and plunked down on a red chaise next to the bookshelf. “I never thought I’d meet someone more impossible than your father. Instead, I created one. Sometimes, I really hate me for doing that.”

          “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that, but, since you mentioned Papa, he’s going to be home soon, right?” asked Viv eagerly. A few weeks before, her father had gone off on to a trading negotiation in one of the lesser kingdoms. Might have been Wusal, maybe Greniere. Viv wasn’t sure. He was due back that very morning. “I mean, I don’t want to leave without saying good-bye. I’m going to miss him a lot.”

          “I don’t know Viv,” said Luna. “He was supposed to be back by now, but I don’t know that he’ll be back in time.”

          “Oh,” said a voice from the door. “I’m already back. How are you ladies this fine day?”

          Viv whirled around, a wide grin on her face. At the door stood her father, Grand Duke Arthur Heart. His hair stood out as a shaggy red mop against his porcelain skin. His eyes sparkled a merry royal blue from his round, smiling face. He wore a clean black suit, minus the coat, with the waistcoat hanging open and a blood red tie around his neck. Riding boots covered his feet. Little bits of dried mud were flaking off of them onto the floor, much to Luna’s dismay. Viv squealed when she saw him and rushed into his arms.

          “Oh, I missed you, dearest,” said Arthur, giving her a final squeeze and placing a tender kiss on the top of her head. When they separated, Arthur held her hands in his. “If it weren’t for this whole marriage business, I’d have taken you with me. And, I know you’re all tired of hearing me say this, but I think all this marriage talk is nonsense. She should be free to marry who she wants.”

          Luna rolled her eyes. Ever since the marriage proposal had arrived, Arthur had been completely against the idea. He hadn’t had a wife picked for him from a kingdom he’d never been to by his family. He had gone out into the world and found the love of his life. His son had done the same. He didn’t believe that Viv wanted to go to Alterra. How could his little girl want to leave home to live with strangers? Luna was all for Viv going to Alterra. After all, she was the one that had begun writing to her old friend Valentine, suggesting the marriage. She wanted the best life as possible for her children, and she could think of no better life than that of a queen. Of course, she wasn’t going to force the marriage on Viv. Viv knew her duty as a noble of her kingdom and was only thinking of her fellow Underlandians over herself.  She had had her doubts that Valentine would even extend the proposal. After all, Viv was the cousin of a king whose mother was a commoner. She never did figure out why Valentine accepted.

          “Papa, I have to go,” said Viv. Arthur scoffed and let go of her hands. “Papa, you know why. I have to keep the people safe. I mean, I just have to get married and I can almost guarantee their safety. I don’t see the problem.”

          “Because there isn’t,” said Luna, rising to kiss her husband. “Sweetheart, we’ve talked about this. She’s already accepted and envoys will be here for her this morning. We can’t tell her she’s not allowed to go this morning. It’s too late for that. Besides, we already worked out a compromise.”

          “Compromise?” asked Viv. Arthur and Luna turned to their daughter, looked back at each other, and then smiled at Viv. She couldn’t help but smile back. “I hope that means it’s a good compromise instead of a bad one.”

          “It’s to finally put your father’s complaints to rest, that’s all,” said Luna. Viv raised an eyebrow. “I’ll let him explain.”

          “Well, after protesting to this ridiculous marriage as adamantly as I have been,” said Arthur, rubbing the back of his neck. “I, Victor, Marigold, your mother, and the nobility in Alterra have all agreed that there’s only one solution to my problem. I’ll be accompanying you to Alterra and staying with you until the wedding. That way, you won’t be completely surrounded by strangers. And I can get used to the idea of… being without you. But, if I know you as well as I think I do, and I do, then I can rest assured you’ll do the right thing. Isn’t that right, Viv?”

          “Damn straight, Papa,” said Viv. She gave him another quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I’m so glad you’re coming with me! I don’t know how I would’ve ever gotten used to things without a familiar face.”

          “That was my thought exactly,” said Arthur. He clapped his hands once then rubbed them together. “Now, let’s get our shit together. Gather the family, head out to the courtyard, put some shoes on my daughter. It’s a very big day people, let’s go, go, go!”

The End

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