Chapter 23: Here Comes the Queen

Chapter 23: Here Comes the Queen

The carriages began rolling in when the sun began to set, and Daphne watched with no small amount of interest at the difference in carriage designs. There was a sigil on top of each carriage, and they seemed to be based on animals. From her room, she could spot a hawk, a bear, and even a fox.

How interesting. Reaweth had nothing like this.

The sight of never-ending carriages lining the path did cause a pit to grow at the bottom of her stomach. These were Atticus' people, and they would be her people soon enough.

Everyone's eyes would be on her. How was she supposed to compose herself, when she spent most of her teenage years at the corner of every ballroom? What if Atticus' nobles were just like him, ruthless and cunning and prone to mocking?

How was she supposed to escape?

"Are you alright?" Atticus asked.

Startled, Daphne jumped a little, turning her head to look at him. Her hand was looped with his, resting on the crook of his elbow.

"Of course," she replied. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"Because you're about to be sent into the lion's den," Atticus answered, a sparkle in his eye. A faint red crept onto his cheeks. "Well, at least you're dressed for battle."

Daphne's hand reached up to touch her hair.

Maisie had come into her room after she had returned, dressed. The maid basically sobbed and wept in apology for her tardiness before flying into action. Maisie had decided to braid her hair into an elegant, elaborate chignon, emphasizing the sparkle of her earrings, as well as the slenderness of her neck and the necklace that adorned it. She had used red flowers to keep in the theme of the dress, insisting heavily that the king's vision should be kept since he had taken the time to pick such a wonderful outfit for Daphne.

"Let's go."

Her earrings chimed with every movement. She would have to remove them if she was to make her grand escape, in case someone would hear the noise they made. Judging by their craftsmanship, they would fetch her a tidy sum in the case of an emergency.

If the earrings weren't enough, she would have to sell the necklace too. Her hand instinctively curled around the garnet pendant, feeling a strange pang of loss. She had this necklace for less than a day, yet she felt a strong kinship with it, as though it was giving her strength she didn't know she needed.

Daphne thought about the gentle way his fingers brushed her neck as he tried to fasten the necklace for her. The very same bloodstained hands that had killed assassins without mercy. She shuddered. nOvε.lb-In

Before she knew it, she was standing in front of the grand doors of the ballroom, her arm linked in Atticus' own. They swung open, and Daphne was momentarily blinded by the bright lights.

"Introducing King Atticus Heinvres and his wife, Queen Daphne Molinero of Reaweth!" the herald announced.

At that moment, the chattering nobles that had gathered in the ballroom, sipping their wine glasses fell into immediate silence as they finally got a glimpse of their king's chosen bride. Instinctively, Daphne's grip tightened around Atticus's.

Daphne looked down and gulped. There was a long, twisting flight of stairs they had to walk down to the ballroom, and she felt her hands begin to sweat as she caught sight of the numerous judgemental gazes sent her way.

She caught more than a few sneers directed at her, but she willed herself not to react.

She had guessed that there would be plenty of people in attendance tonight but she hadn't thought it would be this many.

How was she supposed to escape like that?

As if he had read her mind, Atticus leaned in and whispered, "Don't even think about running, sunshine. Sable hadn't been very cooperative earlier today and she most certainly wouldn't be now."

Daphne scoffed but otherwise didn't say another word.

The king led her down the stairs and into the middle of the dance floor. As they walked, the crowd parted for them like the red sea, a hushed murmur falling over them. Daphne could catch whispers from here and there, things that only added to her nerves.

"Is that the new queen?"

"I heard she isn't able to use magic."

"A royalty that can't use magic? How weak."

"She will be the fall of the king."

Each additional commentary only made Daphne's heart thump even faster. She didn't care much for whether or not she would be a good queen for Atticus ― she didn't plan to stay long, after all ― but she most certainly had an issue with them talking so brazenly about her when she was right there.

What they said might be true but she was still a princess, and at that moment, their queen. How dare they?

"What a disgrace," the woman nearest to Daphne scoffed. Her companion nodded fervently in agreement.

Daphne glared hotly at the women. If looks could kill, they would've been dead.

When their gazes met, the woman's scowl deepened. She pursed her lips in disdain, trying to match Daphne's glare. But for a second, her eyes flitted to behind Daphne and immediately, her face paled several shades. Her companion followed suit, both of them turning away to look at the floor instead in shame.

She wasn't stupid. Daphne knew that it must've been Atticus's doing. And surely enough, she heard Atticus's voice speaking lowly right by her ear, "Is someone bothering you, sunshine?"

"Only a handful of flies, my dear. Nothing for you to worry about." The endearment rolled off her tongue easily. She hated calling Atticus that, but it was worth it to see the way the women's faces fell in disappointment and fury.

No one said she wasn't capable of being petty.

"My apologies for dirtying your eyes," Atticus said as he pressed a kiss to the back of her hand. "I'll trim the guest lists in the future."

The women's faces fell even further, and they stalked off to the sides of the ballroom, upset. In their place, several other couples took their spots in the ballroom.

"Forgiven," Daphne said, her lips forming a small smile.

The orchestra started to play.

"Shall we dance?" King Atticus asked with an outstretched hand, a twinkle in his eyes.