Cadence Lee (as Hemere) POV:
The [First Prince] of the Hin’Tye was not what I was expecting. He flirted with anyone who had a pretty face and was quite intelligent once he started to speak. I had been expecting a far more martial personality considering the constant conflicts that the Hin’Tye were in. Whether it was monsters or wandering tribes or other empires like Ra’Sharon, the Hin’Tye were always in battle.
Sut was quite refreshing to talk to actually. Perhaps because our rank was relatively close but we didn’t have the same kind of competition that existed between myself and my siblings. Plus, he was only a few years older than me, so his flirtations were more welcome than the advances of lecherous old [Priests] and nobles who were often three times my age. After all, only old and powerful politicians that were secure in their positions could decide to take a woman as a wife from the Royal family with the kind of baggage I had.
These thoughts had suddenly become rather pertinent as I knelt before Father.
“You will continue acting as a guide for the Hin’Tye [First Prince] while he is here,” Father spoke, his Skills causing me to tremble. I wasn’t going to be given much of a choice in whatever he wanted, it seemed. “However, you will also be acting as hostess for him during this time.”
I was surprised, shocked even. There were very specific implications from such an action, which was why I had avoided them despite technically being the prince’s host. For Father to order me to do so…
“Great Father,” I spoke hesitantly. “Is your plan to have me married to [First Prince] Sut..?”
“I had considered your Classes useless,” Father mused, leaning back on his throne. “For you to waste your talents in such a pathetic way… You should be among the top few of my children. You are intelligent, well-spoken, and your ideas have merit Hemere, but you are the least of my progeny.”
I can’t say I was remotely close to Father, I didn’t really like the man. However, I would have liked to be close to him and for him to tell me that he saw me as worthless was unpleasant. It was not surprising, but it still hurt.
“And yet,” Father continued, “I may have been too hasty. If your beauty can earn my empire a better deal it is a trade worth a great deal.”
Part of me wanted to excuse him. The choices that a leader must make are not always kind choices. In every world I have lived on, marriages were often used to seal deals and negotiations. After all, what could be more binding than becoming a single family? In the games between empires, a beautiful daughter is a precious resource to be traded for peace.
On the other hand, the truth was that my own Father was ordering me - even going so far as to use his Skills - to seduce a man I barely know so that he could save some gold. My time as a maid and being servile towards often rude nobles who thought of me as nothing but a commoner was less demeaning, at least I had a choice in what I did.
“Better still, this entire thing is your idea. You are the best option to go with them to maintain it, and what is a better show of commitment than giving my own flesh and blood? With you, they gain a connection to the blood of the gods themselves!”
I could see his logic; I could understand exactly why this was happening. I couldn’t refuse, not here and now while under Father’s Skills, and did I even want to do so? This was a perfect chance to escape the deathtrap closing around me here in the palace. I would cease to be a threat to my siblings and would instead become a valuable ally in another empire.
As for the Hin’Tye, well I would have all the same enemies that the [First Prince] would have, but I would also be the wife of the [First Prince]. I would not need to worry about my head unless the entire Hin’Tye empire was collapsing, although political games would undoubtedly continue.
I was nervous about it though. If you counted my lives together, it had been over thirty years since I had last had a relationship and that had merely been a boyfriend. Marriage, was that something I was ready for? In my first life, I had been encouraged to marry for love and in my second life Cat had occasionally mentioned that she was envious that I, as a free commoner, could marry someone I loved instead of having it arranged for me.
The choice between death and marriage was harder for me than it would be for others, I think. I knew what would happen after I died, death was just a restart button to me. On the other hand, I still instinctively avoided death. I’d like to die peacefully of old age for once instead of being murdered
I didn’t hate Sut… He was likable, a good conversationalist, and handsome as well. I suppose I could at least try. Maybe Sut would turn Father’s offer down anyway, and then the problem would be moot.
“I will do my best, Great Father,” I said as I bowed my head lower. “I thank you for this opportunity.”
I was dismissed, and I hurried to leave. I had arrangements to make, and plans to change.
[First Prince] Uppilimus Sut of the Hin’Tye POV:
Negotiations with the [Pharaoh] were difficult, but rewarding. He had wanted to delay certain things for tomorrow however, which I found somewhat suspicious. The [Pharaoh] clearly had a plan, something he had to show me that would change my stance on the tariffs on copper imports or perhaps the export limit for textiles that I had proposed.
Shatti agreed with me on this. He expected the banquet we were going to attend was going to show off something, to make an offer of some kind. I was skeptical of this, what could he show off that he couldn’t just say? What would require him to showcase its value.
Arriving at the hall things were strange to start, with Princess Hemere herself showing me to my seat instead of an [Attendant] or [Servant]. I was almost shocked when she poured me my glass of wine herself. She had greeted me with the small talk one would expect during a banquet, but now Hemere met my eyes.
I still felt I could lose myself in her eyes, but I had to keep my calm here. Instead, I merely raised an eyebrow to express my curiosity while keeping my faith in a neutral smile. Taking a taste of the wine, another delicious vintage.
She seemed to search my face for a second, but I was confident in my practice; there was nothing to find there. In the end, she simply let out a sigh, and began to speak. This time, she did not quite meet my eyes.
“Prince Sut, I am not good at this kind of thing.” She said, looking off to the side, “Some of my sisters might be more practiced in this kind of interaction, but I am not. My first instinct when making deals and talking politics is to be open about everything. I think you can understand Father’s offer, and I didn’t object.”
I had noticed that about her, intrigue was clearly foreign to her. Instead of hiding her goals and working to create networks of allies to achieve them, she seemed to be the kind of person who tried to choose a goal that everyone would agree on and be happy with anyway. But you can’t please everyone, and if I asked her, I am sure she would agree with me on that.
The disconnect between how she acted and what she said; I have not known her for long, but I would guess that she doesn’t want it to be true. Still, my instincts from my [First Prince] and [General] Classes make me wonder if I have simply fallen into a trap with that thought. It would not be the first time that someone has played games within games and laid plans within plans…
On the other hand, it would serve as a guarantee of the treaty. In the future, when her brother was on the throne - probably anyway - her connections to his court would be invaluable. And of course, the offer was tempting just by her sheer beauty. It was that temptation that made me wonder where the knife was in the deal.
“I will just be honest, I suppose,” Her lips didn’t move, yet I could hear her whispering in my ear. A useful Skill to be sure. “I tried to be non threatening to my siblings, and I failed. I spent so long away from them that I just didn’t think when I proposed this peace and didn’t think that it would be any threat to them. Vision is perfect in hindsight, but now my only choices are marrying you or dying alone. So… Please?”
“I… Can’t answer that now,” I took a breath and said words that hurt coming out. If this really is a mask, I have fallen for it. I desperately want to accept her appeal, but I am a prince. For all that I love women, I would never throw my empire away for one. “There are discussions to be had and negotiations to make, it is no simple thing.”
She seemed to deflate, her shoulders and face falling, before she pulled herself up and a smile returned to her face.
“At the very least, your Highness,” she spoke, the music returning to her voice. “I hope you can enjoy my company during these negotiations. Later tonight I myself will be providing the entertainment with dance and song. It will be my first time in front of an audience, but I think you will enjoy it.”
Well, I can hardly say that I would be unhappy when seeing a beautiful woman, and if she dances like she moves then it is something to truly look forward to. The banquet continued with the princess herself serving me, and I could see the glances and the whispers around the table. It was amusing to have traveled so far and to be in such a different place, and to find that things haven’t really changed at all.
Regardless, she was excellent company. The banquet progressed smoothly until she slipped away towards the end. It wasn’t long before I saw her again, seeming quite small on the stage meant for an entire troupe of performers. I wondered if she would even be heard over the banquet, and I thought it would be a shame to miss her singing.
I needn’t have worried. Her voice reached over the banquet with ease, just like when she whispered to me, it was if she was right next to me singing clearly. When her dance started, she dominated the stage; twirling and leaping to the sound of bells and singing. It was absolutely mesmerizing, and soon all sound other than her song had been silenced and all movement other than her had stopped. The entire crowd had fallen under her spell along with me.
I could feel her Skills at work, she had let them off the leash. The minor emotional tricks she played somehow were woven into her voice, her dance, and her bells to become something more. Waves of emotions ebbed and flowed through the crowd, with different feelings waxing and waning as the performance continued.
The song itself described a story of their chief god tricking their war goddess to end her rampage and I swore that I felt every emotion the story told. Utter devotion, implacable rage, quivering fear, and unspeakable horror as the goddess did her duty and lost control of herself to her anger, destroying friend and foe alike. Impatient anxiety, brave determination, humourous trickery and finally relief as the goddess was tricked, ending her rampage after drinking an entire lake of wine.
I stood up, nearly knocking my seat over in my haste to applaud the performance. I had seen [Dancers], heard [Singers], and listened to [Storytellers] recite epics, but I had never seen them combined in such a way before. Even if I had, I wondered if it would compare. The emotions she created, the exquisite mixing of feelings and sound was something I had difficulty imagining being replicated.
Damn the [Pharaoh], that wily old snake! He had gotten my measure far faster than I had gotten his. He was probably laughing right now, knowing exactly what I would do.
Cadence Lee (as Hemere) POV:
I continued to be the [First Prince’s] hostess, but that subject never came up again. I was too nervous to bring it up, although after time to think I had decided that I really would prefer it over death. Still, I think that my mind was still too wrapped up in my original life.
I didn’t treat myself as if I was Hat’He-Emra Hemere, Seventeenth Princess of Ra’Sharon. No, I acted as if I was Cadence Lee, in the shell of the princess. It had been thirty two years since I first died back on Earth. Thirty two years… I am fifty one years old, even if it isn’t contiguous, and I act nothing like it.
Part of it, I feel, has to do with the maturity of my bodies. I might be more mature than my age in some ways, but I had been more childish as a child and I certainly did act like a teenager as well. However, that was overlooking the main issue. I didn’t change because I looked down on the people around me. They were beneath me.
Why should I enter a feudal medieval society more than I must? Look at it! Until they break the bonds of serfdom, begin to centralize power, start the industrial revolution, and learn the concepts of human and worker rights they are little more than barbarians compared to me. I might play the part of Annora the [Battle Maid], but I would never sink so low as to be Annora the [Battle Maid].
As for Ra’Sharon? They were in the bronze age, they didn’t even have cast iron much less steel! The power was centralized, but it was also in a highly rigid caste system that denied liberty entirely. Even as a princess, at the peak of that caste system, Father could order my obedience in anything and there was nothing I could do about it. I had no right to say, “no.” It goes without saying that such a society is almost humorous in how behind it is.
I am not entirely sure that this is absolutely wrong. I am Cadence Lee, even when I am Princess Hemere, and this society is backwards and barbaric. But I don’t have the power to change these societies from the outside. Maybe - someday far in the future and after many lives - I might have the power to act without needing to be part of the society I am changing.
I could and would change how I acted from now on. I will work to convince the Prince to accept the marriage and I will restart in the Hin’Tye court. I need to make allies, convince people of my views, and work to build a coalition of people who want me to succeed whether because they truly believe in my purpose or out of greed and fear.
The viewpoint I had was unique, what I could do was unique, and if I wanted my lives to be long and pleasant, I needed to make them that way. I couldn’t know what world I would be born into next, for all I know it could be worse than whatever world I leave, so it would be better for me to improve the world around me instead of running away.
For now, that meant dancing and singing. Leaning in towards Prince Sut, and always giving him my fullest attention. I used makeup techniques - learned long ago on youtube - that improved upon Ra’Sharon’s standard, even going so far as to risk poisoning myself by using cinnabar as a rouge for my cheeks.
I did everything I could to show my interest, and it wasn’t entirely feigned. The longer I spent with him, the more I was fairly certain that I would have accepted if he asked me out on a date on Earth or if he had attempted to court me in my second life. I had to accept that this wasn’t Earth, and here things are different for now.
I knew friends, back on Earth, who had arranged marriages even in the modern age. I had always thought the phrase, “I will learn to love him,” was horrifying. And perhaps it was, but I could try.
Support "The Many Lives of Cadence Lee"
Hello! I am Vladerag the author of several stories here on Royal Road! I hope you are enjoying whatever you are reading, and I hope you check out some of my stories!
You can find them here! https://royalroadl.com/profile/76129/fictions
And if you are interested in supporting me, you can do so here as well! https://www.patreon.com/vladerag