Nereus sat alone in the darkened room; he had liberated the small bedchamber of its previous occupants. One of the perks of being the crown prince was getting what he wanted, when he wanted it. But in truth this tryst would surely see him beheaded rather than crowned. His father, the High King Rylan, had been forced into another marriage after the loss of Nereus’s mother. It was some age old rule according to the brotherhood, which stated no king of Theyrn was allowed to die without a queen at his bedside. And while Rylan was not too far off his death, his willingness to remarry had been all but non-existent.
Nereus had found himself in the bed of his new mother. She was a princess, from the isle of Corraidhin. An island so small it barely deserved the title. Corraidhin was the last kingdom to be founded, fifty years previously. Once Ryker was named king and Lyle joined the ranks, there would be a whole of 5 kingdoms included in the empire of Glyndwr. An empire Nereus would inherit.
“Waiting for someone?”
Nereus looked up, she had appeared. Her hair was like the autumn leaves he remembered treading through as a child, with bright green eyes that stirred him inside, he was weak to her.
“Clio” Nereus said softly.
He watched as she smiled and came closer, her gaze dribbling down him like fresh running water. He wished he could blame her for their involvement, but the truth was far less obvious. Upon meeting her at her wedding to his father, Nereus had briefly complimented her beauty. Several nights after, she appeared to him in her nightgown. Ever since that night she had made a habit of appearing before him when he least expected.
“The Elder Nerio keeps pestering the king,” she told him, finally moving close enough to touch “Insisting that the king impregnates me, in case of your death.”
Nereus nodded, “Makes sense. I get badgered everyday about taking a wife.”
“Will you?” She sat beside him, peering at him with uncertain eyes.
“It’s not as if I can’t,” Nereus shrugged. “I need an heir, else let the crown fall to another.”
He leaned back to take a better look at her, she was so young, he wondered at her wanting of him.
“What if… I gave you an heir?” She asked tentatively.
Nereus groaned inwardly, “You’re my mother. It can’t be,” he told her solemnly as she took a seat beside him.
She looked unhappy, her lower lip pouting outward. Nereus smiled at her, reaching out to clear away a stray hair. In truth, he knew who is intended was – and he knew that he had no choice in the matter. Although the Brotherhood had not gone public with his betrothal, it was set like a stone beneath water. And in a way he preferred it that way, his marriage would be an agreement, a contract. He would save his heart for others, like Clio.
“I’ve heard your sister will be sent away soon,” Clio said, looking up into his eyes.
He gave stiff nod, “She should have been married a long time ago, but there wasn’t anyone particularly suitable.”
Nereus watched her as she nodded her understanding, looking away as she considered speaking what they were both thinking. His sister Neith was not married because for so long her unofficial betrothal to Ryker had gone on as a huge disagreement among the church. A great many hoped for a marriage between the Ryker and the princess – those great many who also believed that Nereus was not worthy of his father’s crown, being an unmarked son of Theyrn. Though it was not uncommon for the sons of Theyrn to be unmarked, Ryker’s birth had sowed the seeds of doubt in the kingdom.
“Well, I’m sure she will make a beautiful bride,” Clio said finally. “And you will make a fine husband.”
He simply nodded his agreement, his mind drifting from the conversation. It wouldn’t be long before everything changed, his sister would be gone and he would be forced into a marriage bed – he would have to have a marked son, in order to quell the rumbles of doubt about his worthiness. In the meantime, he hoped that Clio could continue to keep him warm during the cold nights – even if her position as Queen was hazardous to their health.