A dark haired young man stood on his balcony watching the blood red sun begin to rise as the sounds of a victorious night broke through the crisp air of the new morning. The gray stone of the balcony was cold on his feet, the air raising gooseflesh on his arms and across his bare shoulders. Despite the chill, a smile graced his lips when he recognized the sound as a signal of a home success. Ignoring the bodies of hung over Vampires that littered the floor, Aubrey dashed out of his room to find his family. Glorious news had come to them this day.
In the corridor, the Prince of Exiles skirted around courtiers and servants on his way to Battle Sanctum, the room used by his family for war preparations. After tripping over what felt like half of the court and hearing their shocked whispers about his lack of clothing, Aubrey finally made it down three flights of stairs to the Guards’ Corridor. Anything dealing with security could be found in this one section of the Court of Exiles.
“My lord, good morrow,” a member of the Lower Guard greeted Aubrey as he entered the Guards’ Corridor, silently forgiving the royal for his casual dress of torn and faded jeans. “Are you looking for everyone, sire?” he asked.
“I am. Battle Sanctum?” The prince pointed down the corridor to a darkened alcove. The guard nodded and carried on cleaning his golden pistol, grumbling to himself about a spot of dirt that Aubrey was almost certain didn’t exist. The prince hurried toward the doorway through which he would find his family.
Just inside the door, Aubrey felt someone drag him close to the wall. “We were wondering when you would get here. Your ears must be absolutely buzzing,” Amelia, Aubrey’s bodyguard, whispered. She flicked her auburn hair out of her face. “The war’s ended, though you may wish it had continued,” she said with a knowing smile, her hazel eyes sparkling with mischief. The girl glanced at the table in the center of the room around which most of the Silver family and the Captain of the Guard sat in discussion.
Aubrey pushed away from his guard to stand at the corner of the table. “Father, we have won the war, have we not?” Marius Silver lowered his eyes to the table momentarily before answering his son, weariness coloring his voice.
“We have won the war and an alliance with Mor’Lumina.” Aubrey smiled over his shoulder at Amelia. An alliance was unexpected, but a good thing nonetheless. Amelia certainly shouldn’t have had anything to be smug about.
“Brilliant. How did we manage an alliance?” the boy asked, turning his attention entirely back to the group before him. The feeling that something was severely wrong dawned on him, as not a single person would meet his gaze. “Father?” Aubrey’s tone took a turn towards suspicion as he absently ran a hand over his chest. He was regretting his haste.
“They made an offer and I felt inclined to accept it. We could always use more allies.” Marius stood from the table slowly, as if to leave. “I have no doubt that Miss Delacroix will make a fine bride for you, son.”
Silence filled Battle Sanctum. The absence of sound stood solid against the stonewalls covered in maps. The rug and tapestries did little to warm the air enough to keep Aubrey from shivering as the news finally settled in. He clenched his jaw in an effort to keep it from falling open. From somewhere deep inside his mind, Aubrey was attempting to form a coherent thought to express his displeasure at such a suggestion. The sudden shock of the information kept him silent for a moment longer.
When Aubrey regained his ability to think properly, he let loose a torrent of protests. “A bride? What do I need a bride for? That prissy wench couldn’t make anyone a good bride if her life depended on it!” It hardly mattered at all that he didn’t even know her personally. He was content to believe every rumor he had heard about her was true as long as it kept him from being married anytime soon.
“As it stands, her life does depend on it. The very lively hood of her people depends on her marriage to you. What kind of a fiancée would you be if you didn’t look after your bride’s interests?” Marius grimaced to himself. He had known what to expect from Aubrey at such an announcement. The boy’s lack of interest in anything that did not resemble a party was clue enough to how he would react. Of course, Marius had been mistaken in thinking his son would be even slightly open to the idea.
“I would be the kind that isn’t engaged,” Aubrey sniped. The insanity of the idea left the prince on edge with a burning need to defend his lifestyle.
“Alas, you are.” It would have been pointless to impress upon Aubrey that he didn’t have a choice in the matter. Marius decided it would be much wiser to save his breath. “We will be going to meet with the Delacroixes soon. You will be accompanying your mother and I, Aubrey.” With the matter hopefully sealed, Marius held out his hand to his wife. Together they left the room, quickly followed by the High Guard. None of them wished to tempt Aubrey’s wrath further. Amelia, however, remained faithfully by Aubrey’s side.
“It won’t be that bad.” Amelia took a step closer to her charge. He was a year her senior and at least three inches taller than herself. Regardless, the girl did not fear his anger. Her own could very well rival his.
“Won’t be that bad? Are you as mental as the rest of them?” Aubrey growled at her, his deep green eyes flashing angrily. “Do you realize what this means? How this changes everything?” The prince spun from the girl, his best friend of a few, short years. Growing up, Aubrey had wanted nothing more than for this war to come to an end. Now, he had to wonder if the price he would have to pay would be too high.
“It would have happened eventually, you know. It’s part of being the Prince of Exiles.” Aubrey rolled his eyes. It was the same speech he had heard all of his life. Everything only ever happened because he was prince. Nothing happened otherwise. While others in the Court were planning their lives and following through on them, Aubrey was having his life planned for him.
“That’s it then? That’s your advice: let it happen?” Aubrey sneered. He could see the girl before him shrink away from his harshness. Even so, his anger continued to boil.
Amelia threw her shoulders back, her head held high. She wasn’t going to stand here and be bullied by him. “You’re simply being pig headed, Aubrey James. How often did you tell me that you would do anything to see our troops come home? Here’s your chance and you’re backing out of it.” The girl spun on her heel and marched towards the door. “So yes,” she said at the door, “that is my advice.”
Aubrey watched his guard go. As rational minded as Amelia was, he was convinced that the girl just didn’t understand. Another shiver ran through Aubrey, reminding him that he required more clothing for the day. The prince shoved his hands deep in his jean pockets and retreated to his room.
The Silvers had been fighting against the Delacrioxes since the latter had been banished from the Immortal Court. Despite the fall of the Immortal Court and rise of Mor’Lumina, the war continued, growing bloodier with time. Growing up during the war had left the youngest Prince of Exiles eager for a new era.
Upon opening his door, Aubrey found his room emptied of the people he had left there. As he bathed and dressed, the prince cursed everyone involved with the alliance. If it weren’t for them, Aubrey could have continued with his life of ceaseless parties and youthful flirtations.