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PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, '11, 7:55 pm
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“Queen Alis, you have a visitor!”

I put the book I'd been reading down on my dresser and followed the guard downstairs. Nekise was waiting for me in the main foyer, wearing his finest clothes and holding a bouquet of flowers.

“What's all this about?” I laughed. “Now I feel under-dressed.”

“I wasn't sure what the proper protocol was for visiting the Queen of Algol at her palace,” he said, offering me the flowers. “I wanted to make a good impression and try to make sure I wasn't breaking any rules.”

“I try to keep things pretty relaxed around here when I can. But you do look very nice.” I handed off the flowers to a nearby servant so she could put them in water. “Come on, let me show you around.”

I led him through the rooms on the first floor of the palace, stopping in front of the fireplace in one of the sitting areas. “I did manage to save a few relics from my journey,” I said, gesturing towards the Laconian pot that sat on the mantle.

He grinned, gently brushing his fingers against it. “It looks very nice here.”

“I emptied out all the laerma nuts, I was afraid they would start to smell after a while,” I half-joked.

The throne room was our next stop. “It seems smaller than it looks in the pictures,” Nekise remarked.

“That's because I barely use it,” I explained. “It's really just for show. I sit here to receive visitors such as the governor of Motavia and delegates from Dezoris because I'm 'supposed' to, but then we go into another room to discuss our business more comfortably.” I stood next to the intricate golden throne and nodded towards it. “You can sit in it, if you'd like.”

“Really? Are you sure that's allowed?”

“I make the rules around here, remember? Go on, have a seat.” He cautiously approached it and gingerly sat down on the edge. “So do you feel like the ruler of a three-planet star system sitting there?”

“No, not really.”

“I know. I think it's sort of silly, to be honest.”

We continued down the various marbled corridors until we eventually wound up outside in the courtyard. Gray stone benches circled an exquisitely sculpted fountain and I took a seat facing the spouting water. Nekise sat down next to me and we watched it spray into the air and trickle down around the gently curving forms. “I didn't want any of this, you know,” I said softly. “Part of me just wanted to go back home, but I guess one can't rule from a tiny cottage in Camineet.” I listened to the bubbling water playfully splashing in the pool at the bottom of the fountain. “I guess I shouldn't complain though, it is rather nice out here.”

“Yes, very relaxing.”

I shook my head. “This is really just another fancy place to entertain guests. There's another spot I go to when I need to clear my head.” Turning my head, I looked him over. “I'd take you there, but I don't think you're dressed appropriately. I'd hate for you to ruin your nice clothes,” I teased.

“Well pardon me, Your Highness. I wasn't aware that my noble Queen spent her free time racing through the woods or rolling around in mud puddles. I'll know better for next time.”

“You're excused.” I couldn't help but smile a bit while thinking that there would be a next time. “Tell you what – come back here tomorrow looking more like your usual self and we'll go up there. You won't be disappointed, I promise.”

“I don't think you could ever disappoint me.”

I felt the color rising to my cheeks again. “I would hope not,” was all I could say.

“What time would you like me tomorrow?”

“Whenever you want. Don't wait too long, though, I want to get up there while it's still light.”

He for a few more hours as we eagerly continued our conversations from the other day, though we both agreed it was best he leave before night fell. As I was preparing to sleep later on, I started to become anxious about our plans for the following day. I was planning on bringing him to a place that was special to me, where I went when I needed to think things through, or reflect on difficult matters, or when I just needed to be reminded of the beauty of my world. I didn't know why I had been so eager to invite him into my sanctuary, but I hoped that he would appreciate it as much as I did.

Nekise arrived early the next afternoon, as promised. “Are you ready to go mountain climbing?” I asked mischievously.

“...What?”

I laughed. “Don't worry, it's not all that strenuous. Let's go!”

I led him outside and away from the palace. There was no trail leading up the hill of Baya Malay, but it was not a difficult trek. Upon reaching the top, we were greeted by the sight of a narrow tower that seemed to reach up far beyond the clouds. I opened the door at its base and stepped inside.

The inside of the tower was still well-lit, the stone walls reflecting the pale yellow glow. The dead ends and pitfalls had been bricked up and though it was long, the path to the top was now straightforward. We climbed higher and higher, up all the staircases I knew so well, and eventually, we reached the final level. With one hand on the door, I turned around to face my companion. “Are you ready?” I asked with a knowing smile.

Though I had been all over the three planets in our system, nothing could convince me that the view that greeted us was not the most spectacular sight in all of Algol. Standing atop the tower, we could see over the mountains that provided natural protection to Baya Malay. The verdant plains and forests that defined the planet of Palma stretched out in all directions, ending only at the deep blue oceans whose crystalline waves crashed against the shores. If I faced southwest, I could just make out the walls of Camineet.

I looked up to see Nekise's reaction. He stared out at the breathtaking landscape, turning around in a full circle to see as much of our magnificent world as possible. I let him have a few moments to take everything in, but then I placed a hand on his shoulder and turned my face up towards his, letting my eyes ask my wordless question.

“It's amazing,” he whispered.

The roof of the tower had been transformed into a small garden and I sat down in a patch of grass, looking towards our hometown. “I come up here a lot,” I said as he sat down next to me. “Every time I get upset or frustrated, I see all of this and it reminds me of my purpose.”

“I can imagine.”

“It does have its downside, though.” Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him turn his head towards me out of curiosity. “It also reminds me of the distance between me and everyone else, of what I've given up. Yes, it's beautiful, but it also reminds me of how lonely I am. You're the first person I've ever taken up here.”

“I'm glad you trusted me enough to bring me to this place that is so meaningful to you.” I felt him take my hand. “You shouldn't have to be alone.”

I suddenly became very aware of how close he was sitting to me. I kept my eyes focused on the horizon as I mentally took note of his hand around mine in my lap, our knees touching as we sat on the grass, his face close enough to mine that I could hear the steady rhythm of his breathing. His other hand came up to brush my hair out of my face and tuck it behind my ear; I still stared straight ahead, too nervous to make eye contact with him.

His hand rested near my shoulder, almost hesitantly, as if he were as unsure as I was. I was fighting to control the quickening of my pulse, as I felt as if my heart was filling up my entire chest, ready to explode out of me. Trying (and failing) to breathe deeply, I finally allowed myself to peek up at him, not knowing what the result would be.

The pale blue eyes I'd been avoiding looked upon me with warmth and kindness, though they did nothing to help soothe my heightened senses. His hand moved beneath my hair to the back of my neck and I instinctively closed my eyes as his head moved towards mine. My breath caught in my throat as his lips brushed against mine, his soft touch the faintest of sensations. They lingered there for a moment before he pulled them away far too soon, though he was still enticingly close to me.

This was an entirely novel experience for me and I wasn't quite sure how to react or respond. I wasn't sure if it was inappropriate to want more or if I could accidentally do something wrong. When I opened my eyes, he'd tilted his head to the side and looked at me shyly, almost as if he were asking permission to continue.

We found each other again; this time, he pressed his mouth to mine more firmly and didn't pull back. I felt his lips part slightly and I did the same; his tongue gently slipped inside to meet my own. It was new and strange and exciting and I'm sure my face was a bright, flaming shade of red, but I tried not to worry about that too much. I played with him, I explored with him, I breathed with him and prayed for this moment to last as long as possible.

All good things must come to an end, however, and he eventually broke the kiss and pulled back to look at me. I was conscious of the color that was surely in my cheeks and my eyes darted around, afraid that if I met his gaze, he would somehow be able to read my every thought. I was sure that enough of my flustered feelings and worries about my inexperience were already blatantly apparent and I didn't want to give anything else away.

“Alis...” He nervously ran a hand through his hair as he searched for the right words. “I...uh...forgive me. Sometimes it's easy to forget you're the reigning Queen of Algol.”

“I wish it were easy to forget. But that doesn't matter now. Pretend I'm just a normal eighteen-year-old girl.”

“Oh, Alis, you are anything but normal.” Now it was his turn to look away, afraid of revealing too much. “You're so intelligent and beautiful and warm and passionate, and ever since you reappeared in my house in Camineet, I've been able to think of little else. Even without your title, you'd seem just too good to be true.”

I shook my head. “You're the one who's been too good to me. I blew in out of nowhere, unfairly heaping all these expectations on you, and you've fulfilled and surpassed them. You've let me remember who I really am, I feel like I'm finally awakening from being asleep for three long years.”

“To me, you'll always be Alis first, and the queen second.”

“That's exactly how I want it.”

He smiled. “So what now?”

I bit my lower lip as I felt the flush return to my cheeks. “We could always go back to what we were doing before...” I quietly suggested.

His smile widened as he let out a low laugh. “Anything for you,” he said, his tone light yet sincere. This time, he pulled me into his lap and wrapped his arms around my waist before kissing me again.

I couldn't remember ever having been this physically close to another person and it was exhilarating. My eyes closed, I let my other senses take over, wanting to feel rather than see. I clasped my hands behind his neck and felt the soft fringe of his hair brushing against my fingers. We were embracing each other tightly, our upper bodies pressed as close as was humanly possible. He even smelled good; I had no idea what the scent was, but it was wonderful.

That day, two people sat on top of the Baya Malay tower instead of the usual one. A new part of me had been discovered as I was finally able to forge a deep connection with another person. No longer was I the lonely princess pining for an escape; I'd had my much-needed breath of fresh air and was ready to face my kingdom again, as I no longer felt the oppressive burden of my prior loneliness.
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