|Posted by Christie V Powell on June 9, 2017 at 9:30 PM|
Bonus story: Keita Sage is being forced into betrothal. After watching her friend Zuri talk her way out of trouble, Keita tries the tactics she observed on her father...
Keita sat silently beside her two friends, looking over the empty fields of the summit: a mass of monocultured grass, dull yellow and topped with weedy plumes. Every year Glen had told her stories of his adventures at the summit: exploring with the other boys, friendships, adventures, traps and nar-row escapes. And there they were, doing nothing.
He father materialized from among the simply thatched huts. A stern look sent her friends scampering. “What do you think of the other heirs?” the Sprite king asked.
“Carli and Zuri and I are friends,” she answered.
“And the boys?”
“I’m not sure. They don’t spend much time with us.”
King Drake nodded. They walked side by side until they reached a corner of the great walls that glowed despite an overcast morning. “The Lectrans and Nomes seem unusually close,” he said. “If they exclude the other clans, they could be plotting against us.” He glanced at her, then away quickly. “The other leaders think an alliance with another clan would help our cause.”
Normally she would have stayed silent, or presented a logical argument, or at least a snappy re-tort. But that’s not how Zuri had won him over. "I feel like a prisoner," she admitted.
His composure dropped. "I'm sorry."
That wasn't the answer she expected.
“This was so easy with Glen. He and Zuri just clicked. And so did your mother and I.”
Keita started. She knew her parents met here, at the Summit. She knew how everyone reacted. She knew about kingdoms and treaties, ceasefires and allegiances, but she did not know how her par-ents felt about it.
"Jasper and Brian are nice enough, but I don't know them, Dad!" She stopped. She hadn't called him that since he'd given her education to her unpleasant cousin Felix.
His eyes narrowed. "The rulers are concerned about recent events. These marriages aren't about limiting your choices. They're about keeping our kingdoms... and you!... safe. You heard of the Mers who were lost at sea? And Brian’s mother? If someone is picking off royals, we need to stand together more than ever."
Picking off royals? A chill travelled down her spine. For a long time she stared at the drifting clouds, planning. "What if..." she began. "What if I went on a trip—an internment, maybe—to the dif-ferent kingdoms? I'd have more time, get to make a better choice, and I'd still be bringing unity—maybe to more kingdoms than just one."
Drake frowned. "What if you ran away?"
"Spritelands means more to me than that."
He hesitated. "The others expect me to make an announcement tonight."
"Announce Glen and Zuri. You don't need both of us right now." She felt a twinge of unease, sacrificing her friend and brother, but neither seemed to mind.
For several minutes he thought. She hardly dared breathe. At last he nodded.
She forced back stinging tears. "Thank you."
If only it had worked that way.