The dark, twisted man before her was not the boy she had once loved.
Maya remembered the spring she turned sixteen, when she had met the Captain of the guard’s son. Unlike his strong, knightly father, Raol was sickly and confined to more scholarly pursuits. She watched him study in the castle library, pouring over thick tombs for hours on end. She asked him to teach her Greek, and she encouraged him to occasionally leave the dark library and venture out into the sunshine. Months passed and their friendship blossomed into romance. She loved his mind, and he, her spirit. But due to the differences in their station, it was unlikely that they would ever wed.
He began to study magic as a way to improve his station. He left to pursue his studies abroad, apprenticing in another land. But his studies went far beyond the usual healing and protective arts. He was fascinated by the darker arts. The more he read, the more he was seduced by their promises of wealth, fame, and power. His obsession with the dark arts was surpassed only by his love for Maya, but by the time he returned for her two years previously, he had completely changed. She could no longer recognize the brilliant but shy boy in the twisted,power-hungry man that asked for her hand.
Her rejection was an injury that never healed, and her eventual marriage to another man was an insult he never forgave.
“I see the brawny Prince wasted no time impregnating you after stealing you away from me. Twelve strapping boys, and another babe on its way. You have been busy.”
“We have, indeed, been blessed.” Maya answered diplomatically, placing her hand on her husband’s to keep him quiet and in his seat.
“And with another ‘blessing’ on the way.”
The crowd gasped at the rude insinuation toward the Queen. The King tightened his grip on his wife’s hand, but held his peace at her silent insistence.
Raol continued his speech, excitement edging his voice as he reached his true purpose.
“How shall I congratulate you, your highness? I recall an ancient tradition of gifting a new babe.” His smile was cruel as he saw his former lover’s hand move to protect her belly.
“Let all these fine, illustrious people serve as witness to this momentous occasion! The day that an old tradition is revived!” Raol opened his arms and bowed to the crowd, who stood in horrified awe.
“A princess will be born to the Kingdom as winter ends. She will be a jewel to the crown, and beloved by all who meet her.” He made a dramatic pause, enjoying the pounding silence of a collective heartbeat.
“Oh yes, she will be as wise and as beautiful as her mother before her, but her love will come with a terrible price. Hear me now and heed my words! The princess will bring destruction to those she loves most. The day she is born is the day her family will fall under her curse.”