Chapter 1: The false proposal

The young king sat on the floor with both his knees flexed. He silently counted from one to any number he could as he tried his best to steady his breathing.

Anger.

It wasn't something that could trouble him, it wasn't something that could break him, shattering his mask, smashing his composure to miniscule pieces. In fact, he was one of those who held anger by the chain, manipulating it to awe, to charm, to comfort, to scare or even to let others do to his biddings. But, no matter how trained he was, how practiced, angry he was that day with all the things that happened till he was forced to seek refuge inside his own dressing room to burst out and then collect himself again, frightening his old servant, Oak in the process.

Finally, he sighed, a relieved but troubled sigh and glanced around the room only to be greeted with the sight of the gilded scroll yet again. Up on the table, the scroll poorly lay in taters, a dagger was stabbed right through it and it stayed silently as if no one would believe it was the message of the High King Thol of Karg. To Arren, it wasn't as silent as it was then. In fact, the whole words it bore were clearly echoing in his head mocking the voice of the Thol's ambassador as he read it out loud in public before handing it to him.

"Let the daughter of Thol the High King, who sits upon the throne of Thoreg and whose ancestor was Wuluah, wear the Ring of Peace upon her arm as Queen Elfarran of Solea wore it, and this will be the sign of everlasting peace between the Western and the Eastern Isles."

Oh, how his pride had shattered by that sudden and extreme offer. Instead of peace the High King Thol had given him a threat destroying even his peace of mind. Almost he regretted writing a message to him asking to make peace by totally forgetting about himself, who was young still and without a queen. A sly king could easily take an advantage out of this, by getting to him in a most unexpected, difficult and painful way. Of course, it wasn't difficult and painful in the High King's part as everybody knew how the Karg treated their daughters.

And she was, as Arren saw it, a tool to strengthen the High King's shaky throne. Just to think about it boiled the royal blood in his veins.

The princess didn't say a word during the receptions, as expected, and she stood faceless among her servants and the ladies that were assigned to take care of her and do her honour. She was veiled from top to toe, and neither her looks nor her emotion could help the king made his decisions.

He couldn't bluntly turn down the offer, could he? And neither had he any excuse. Doing so would mar the High King Thol's honour, disgrace him to the lowest degree possible and the peace treaty would be but a dream.

Therefore, appearing as collected as he could, he said in his clear quiet voice, "The High King Thol does us great honour." Then, he paused and with a pin drop silence the whole court and emissaries waited. "You are welcome here, princess," the king said to the veiled figure. It did not stir. The fact that she might be mute or deaf did not at all clear Arren's suspicion. Almost he thought that she was a pure brick-carved pillar or a palm tree in a red headdress or an android even, if the king live in those eras. Seriously, what lowly yet royal prank was sent to him!

"Let the princess be lodged in the River House and let all be as she desires," King Lebannen said and the crowd cheered.

Up on his seats, he heard some of them said, "The Queen House?" The Queen House was the other name for the beautiful, newly repaired and refurnished castle and the fact that it was, had opened a new door for another king's gossips which all his courtiers and people enjoyed doing so much. He realized what he did too late, though and the gossips went through the courts and halls, spreading out like wildfire.

King Lebannen had instantly lodged the princess in the Queen House!

Oh, how his pride had shattered because of this! And all his men were clueless of the impending peril the Thol had set for him. He used his daughter. He used the Sacred Ring, Tenar and Ged's ring. He used him.

"A ring in her arm and a collar around my neck," he snorted, a rush of air denoting amusement despite the overwhelming fury he had had before. "I will not let him use me! By my name I will destroy Thol and his kingdom before I let him use me as a footstool for his throne!" With a clenched fist he buried his face to his knees like a child and skipped his dinner.