“There are always some things in which a ruler has no say.”
“Zane, I swear it! You will be the end of me!” I lie back on the sofa in my family's quarters and place the wet, cold towel on my forehead. Nadine was so nice to retrieve it from the kitchen. Zane brought me home when I fainted right in front of Nova in a most undignified manner. Now, the whole family had to assemble to deal with this issue.
Zane shakes his hands, denying Nova's claim. “I told you that she is lying... most probably...”
How can he be not sure about something so important! This isn't a joking matter.
“Stop lying, Brother. Just admit that you went fishing in foreign ponds. I knew it from the beginning. All men are the same. Even those who you think you know lose their heads when a beautiful woman spreads her legs.” Zane's little sister, Nadine, glares at her brother. He was her idol for a long time, but no more. Not since he botched his betrothal. She is sulking at the little table in the room's corner.
The escape from our estate hit her the hardest. She never knew anything else, other than the life in our mansion. Our quarters on Illum aren't bad. They are even luxurious, but it's different. We can't have any retainers and Nadine has to go school, instead of being home schooled. That's something which shocked the spoiled child more than anything else. On Illum, minors are forced to go to the public school by law, where they aren't treated any different than the rest of the population.
Oswin clears his throat. “I have to admit that Nova's body is a very tempting argument for any man, but what the hell were you thinking when you bedded our liege lord? What if you have a fight with her and she throws us out? We don't have anywhere else to go, other than hiding in the darkest corner we can find.”
“Yes! Not only did you betray your former fiancee, you even impregnated that woman!” I hiss.
“I told you that she is lying. None of you know her! I am working with her on a daily basis, so stay out of my business. It was me who got us into this, so trust my judgment.” Zane runs a hand through his hair, clearly tired.
I growl at him, which causes him to shrink a little. It's good that he didn't forget that I am his mother. “Then explain it to us. Why should a woman of her status and power lie about something like having a child?”
Zane looks a little lost as he tries to explain. “She isn't necessarily an evil person, but she loves to play her games with people. She is always pushing my buttons in an attempt to weaken my control. When you surprised us, you showed her weakness. Nova is a psychopath! I already learned the hard way that Nova is like a wild animal. If she senses a weak point, she pounces without hesitation. She couldn't resist shoving a finger into your open wound and stirring it around.”
My daughter shakes her head. “The common folk tell a completely different story about her. According to them, she is an angel.”
Zane leans against the wall. “That's because they don't know her! Nova has a good reason for using her subordinates as shields against the public. She is a horrible person, once you get to know her.”
I sigh. None of us know Nova as well as Zane. I saw her only three times, and Oswin less than ten, even though he started working for Illum's air-forces. Today, I tried to get an audience with Nova. I simply had to find out what's behind the rumours of my son and her being involved. “Just explain what you were thinking.”
“I wasn't thinking at all! I am just winging it, one problem after the other. Our family isn't in a position of power. We don't have the freedom to plan our actions. We are standing with our backs to a wall since the king abandoned us.” Zane spreads his hands. “Nova has an interest in me. I don't know why, but she is attracted to me. Ultimately, I had to make a decision, so I decided to get involved with her.”
My daughter huffs. “So you-”
Zane interrupts her, shouting, “Yes! Damn it! She is a beautiful woman! A sex-dream which turned into reality! Bedding her is the best experience I have ever had. It almost makes up for her flawed character and having this discussion with you!”
Nadine shuts her mouth, eyes wide. It's the first time ever that Zane screamed at his little sister. I am surprised myself.
But Zane isn't done yet. “I don't know what's going through that woman's head. One moment, she says that it's just a one-night-stand, then she uses me to expose my fiancee as a traitor. She continues to drop all kinds of offers until I decide to take them. And then she practically throws herself at me, offering me every carnal pleasure I ever imagined. To top it off, she suddenly considers using me as nothing more than a breeding stud, denying me access to my offspring. She didn't even ask for my consent!”
Oswin clears his throat. “That doesn't sound too bad. Be a proper man and use the chance to...” He quickly turns silent when I glare daggers at him.
“Husband or not, one more word and you sleep on the couch.”
Zane continues with his explanations. It takes over half an hour, but in the end, he manages to give us a little more insight into his situation. It forces me to change my opinion of Nova. At first, I thought of her as a competent ruler who is loved by her people.
Then there was the issue with her newly revealed identity. Her relation to the Mirai alone opens a whole basket which is filled with hornets. Now I have to add to that a slightly psychotic streak, which makes her not only ruthless but also dangerous to her enemies and her subjects. It just shows that I am a bad judge of people. When we first met, I even said that I like her.
Will she simply decide to sacrifice us at some point? We have to observe her actions closely.
After a few moments of silent contemplation, I return my attention to Zane. “I am beginning to understand what I witnessed. So Nova is using you. As her subordinate, you saw no other choice than to go along with her whims. You also fear that she could rethink our alliance if you turn out to be more trouble than it’s worth. That's not chivalrous. I really thought that I trained you better in your function as a knight of the house Birald.”
Zane attempts to answer when suddenly the door to our living room opens and the Sovereign herself enters the room. “Good evening. I hope that I am not disturbing you.” She looks around, inspecting our humble home.
I am immediately up and on my feet. My migraine starts again and it feels like a hundred little men are pounding away on my brain, but I ignore it. “Sovereign! How can we help?” More importantly, how did you get in here?
“I was nearby and heard a few interesting rumours from a little bird.” After surveying the whole room, she chooses the couch, sits down and swings one leg over the other. “Let’s just say that the rumour caused me to be very interested in Zane’s family.”
She grins devilishly, which makes me wince.
Oswin instructs Nadine to fetch something to eat and a drink. “I have a feeling that this will be a long discussion.”