This book doesn’t have a title I like at all, so I’m not using a title in this post. “DotH” is short for Daughters of the Hylands. The Daughters of the Hylands is an eight-book subseries of my Hylands series (The Half-Elves, etc.) and this is book… three. At least for now. I might end up reordering them whenever I get around to actually writing them. But anyway, this story is the least solidified story of the series in my head, so this should be interesting. XD Enjoy.
I took a deep breath and headed downstairs, worrying my hair would slip from its braid or I’d trip on my dress down the stairs or my ring would catch on the silk. I tried to turn my mind to other things – imagining what the suitors would look like, for instance – but I just kept worrying. Now that I was twenty I had to deal with all the suitors coming to ask for my hand.
“Maybe it won’t be so bad,” I tried to convince myself, muttering under my breath. That didn’t help either. I kept thinking about how Malanda didn’t have to deal with this, and my younger sisters wouldn’t have to deal with it either. I decided I liked worrying better.
I stopped in front of the throne room door. As the guards opened it and my heart rate tripled, Zarek Mian, the high steward, announced my entry.
“All rise for Princess Mara Arun.”
There was a clamor as everyone seated in the chairs up to the throne dais rose and watched me enter. My fingers immediately grew more fidgety and I thought I might fall over as I walked. I always got self-conscious about my walk when I thought people were watching. And this time I knew they were watching. I kept my eyes straight ahead, barely keeping them from straying into the crowd out of curiosity, as I stepped onto the dais and stood in front of my throne, to the right of my father. He gave me an encouraging smile and I returned it as I looked out over the crowd, finding a spot on the wall to stare at.
“You may be seated,” Father said.
I took my seat along with all the suitors and nobles who’d come along. There was a pair of chairs set on the dais facing the thrones and my heart continued to pound as I wondered who would be the first to sit there. I glanced over at Mom, on the other side of Father, and she smiled at me, which made me feel slightly better.
Father lifted a list from his lap and read off the first name. “Koen Rylee.”
A dark-haired young man who was probably about nineteen stepped onto the dais, his father behind him, and they took the seats across from me. He looked even more nervous than me, his gaze wandering every which way and his fingers a trembling mess in his lap. He was handsome enough, with dark olive skin and curly dark hair, but I knew little about him, as was the case with most of the Remeran nobles. I tended to avoid social functions whenever possible.
“Good morning, Lord Koen,” Father said. Koen shifted in his chair, as if the title made him uncomfortable. “How are you?”
“Fine.” He still wasn’t making eye contact. His father nudged him with his elbow and he coughed. “I mean, I’m doing well, Your Majesty.” He made eye contact with Father very briefly before his gaze wandered again.
“You’re…” Father looked at the list, “eighteen?”
“The betrothal would be a long one,” Koen’s father put in, “but I think it would be beneficial for Koen and the princess to get to know each other before the wedding anyway. And Koen’s always been mature for his age.”
Koen looked highly uncomfortable at his father’s words, biting his lip.
Father nodded at Lord Rylee. “Thank you.” He looked back at Koen. “Are you interested in marrying Mara?” He emphasized the ‘you,’ obviously trying to figure out if Koen had had any say or if Lord Rylee had brought him out of a desire for prestige or something. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the latter were the case.
“I… it would be an honor, Your Majesty.” He made eye contact with me briefly and my heart jumped. I didn’t do well with eye contact. He looked back at Father, seeming to be a little more comfortable with the situation. He at least held eye contact for a few seconds. “I’d like to get to know her, at least…” He trailed off, a blush rising to his cheeks. He looked at the floor and I bit the inside of my lip.
Father nodded. “I’ll make sure you have a chance to spend some time with her as the process goes on. Thank you.” He smiled.
Koen looked up at Father and offered a shaky smile in return as he stood, his gaze meeting mine for a very brief moment before he and Lord Rylee returned to their seats.