“Marriage,” she croaked softly, brushing the tips of her fingers across her damp cheek. “Marriage?” Her hands holding the piece of parchment began to shake and she had trouble taking in breaths through the lump of fear and despair forming in the back of her throat. “My father,” she gasped, “has not been in the ground longer than a week and they petition me for marriage?” She looked up at Willeon, begging him for an explanation by means of the fear welling into her eyes, “How can they do this to me?”
“Shamelessly, it would seem,” Willeon replied with ease, his eyes intent on rolling. Willeon was a man well into his years, but no more than about ten years younger than her father had been when he had passed. His forehead and the tender skin around his eyes were riddled with wrinkles of wisdom, brought on from a young age from hours in the sun, training their guards and seeing that the capital was well defended.
Sybelle stood up on shaky legs, “Narder,” she called to her brother’s attendant, promptly gaining his sympathetic gaze, “put Riffin to bed for the night.” The tall, young man bowed to her before turning to the eight-year-old boy, gathering the sketchbook and pencils that he had busied himself with before taking him out of the room. With the doors shut and no one other than herself, the general and her own attendant, she turned back to him and spoke, “What do they suggest I do with this?” she asked, fanning the parchment about. “Accept?”
“They are merely preying on your state of mind,” Willeon replied, sighing. “They clearly hope that you will be more lenient than your father. They think your susceptibility for fear at your newfound position will convince you to accept in hopes of relinquishing politics to those more seasoned. You know that they have sought out your hand before; it should not come as a surprise that they would try again in a moment of weakness.”
She scoffed, her breath hitching in the back of her throat, and then tossed the parchment onto her mother’s throne. “They cannot so easily get what they desire,” she retorted, walking across the room, “more so when they have tried to do so in such a cruel manner!”
Willeon smirked, bowing his head and retrieving the parchment. “I will put together our reply and seek out your approval upon completion,” he said.
She stopped where she stood, unable to leave the room with the realisation that his words caused. That was it. Every action conducted by any person of staff, her staff, would have to be approved by her. She looked over her shoulder before turning around entirely to face her father’s general, her general, swallowing thickly and gripping her dress tightly in between clenching fists. She gave a firm nod, pursing her lips together before boldly walking back to her place on her mother’s throne, adding, “Please do so. I shall be waiting.” Seated, alone, Sybelle wiped her tear-stained face with the sleeves of her dress, tilting her head back and inhaling the last breath that felt like freedom. She would have to erase the fear. She would have to erase the uncertainty. She would have to erase anything and everything for as long as it made her appear weak in the eyes of others.