The Imprisoned Princess

supernature earth
enimies to lovers

"So I am bait?" I asked. I knew I was repeating the obvious but I was trying to absorb what was happening.

"Basically." He said. I burst out laughing.

"You really have miscalculated. You have overestimated the generals' affections and my parents." I scoffed. This seemed to anger him and I jumped as something slammed in the dark.

"Surely your parents will want you to be Queen one day." He stated, clearly confused.

"My parent's want General Ahriman to be King. They are only marrying me to him because tradition demands it. My Mother told me after the engagement that I would likely die in childbirth and my husband would be free to marry a stronger she-wolf." I finished triumphantly. This seemed to enrage him. Suddenly, hands closed around my neck. I panicked as I struggled to breathe. The hands were sending sparks into my skin, as if an electric current was running from his skin into mine. I was starting to lose consciousness when the hands let go. The chair was knocked over and I let out an involuntary cry as I went crashing to the floor, hitting my head. Everything hurt. I had never been treated this way by anyone. I felt myself being moved and realized the man was standing me and the chair back up. I could feel the blood oozing from my head and I groaned. The wolfsbane was stopping me from healing.

The man came close, grabbing me by my hair. My eyes met his and I felt paralyzed. He was extremely handsome. He was tan with shoulder length brown hair. He had a defined jaw and a nose that looked like it may have been broken once. His eyes were a vibrant green. For a moment we just stared at each other. Then he lowered his face to mine and whispered softly into my ear: "I hope for your sake, you're wrong. Because if your fiancé doesn't claim you, you're of no use to me." He was so close I could practically taste his breath.

"And if I am no use to you, then what!?" I said softly, afraid of the answer.

"Then there's no point in keeping you alive."

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I was born into a life of privilege, or so I was told. I can't say I've ever felt privileged but what do I know. I know next to nothing of the world, aside from what I've read. At least reading was encouraged. Though maybe ignorance really is bliss. Maybe if I hadn't read about true love and lives full of adventure and choices, I wouldn't be so unhappy about my life.   My life was anything but an adventure. As for choices, I didn't have many. Everything was chosen for me. My daily activities were meticulously planned and scheduled. My clothing was chosen and coordinated. Even my marriage would be planned. So much for true love.   I had been raised to do as I was told. To be a perfect Princess. I was told I should be thankful for my position. Grateful to be so well taken care of, but I couldn't see things the way they wanted me to. To me, my position didn't make me feel privileged, it made me feel trapped. When they talked to me of my responsibilities, all I saw were shackles. When I was told I needed to be protected, it meant I had to live in a prison.   I was never alone. There was always a servant or a guard by my side. I was always watched.  Any misstep was reported to the Queen. Unless it was for an official function, I was never allowed to leave the palace grounds. I had no friends. No confidants.   To say I was lonely would be an understatement. I was empty. I was a hollow shell with a crown and a smile. This wasn't living. I simply existed.   I'm sure some would call me spoiled. There were those much worse off than me. I was a princess in a palace. One day I would be Queen. It sounded good in theory but I knew better. Once I was married, my only job would be to produce an heir. Even a simple highborn maiden would have the responsibility of running a household but here, high ranking servants had that responsibility. I would only ever be a breeding vessel. A decoration.   I spent each day simply going through the motions. None of it brought me joy of any kind. I had no sense of purpose. Everyday I felt myself die a little more. Was this all my life would ever be? Event after event with people who didn't care if I lived or died, unless it affected the kingdom of course. Another day of plastering on a smile when all I wanted to do was scream.   I could see the years ahead of me. See my meaningless existence as it unfolded. This wasn't a life I wanted but as I said, I didn't have any choices. I was the Princess of Eardwulf, and one day I would be the Queen of all werewolves. There was no escaping my title. My fate was sealed.    Chapter 1 I awoke early in the morning. I laid there unmoving. I didn't want to alert the servants that I was awake. I wasn't ready to start the day yet. I did this often, pretending to be asleep. This was the closest I could get to being alone, aside from using the privy. I dreaded most days but this day I had been dreading my entire life. Today was my eighteenth birthday. There would be a grand ball and celebration, presumably in my honor. At the end of the festivities, my betrothal would be announced. The lucky man? You may ask. I wouldn't know. I will be as surprised as everyone else.   While I may not be happy about it, none of this is a surprise to me. My whole life has been about preparing me for today and the marriage that will follow. I am convinced that I was being taught how to be the perfect wife while still in the cradle.  "She's awake." I hear my handmaiden announce. I open my eyes and glare at her.  "Don't glare at me Neoma!" She scolds me. "It's time to start the day, Princess and we all know when you're faking asleep anyways." She finished. I grunt in frustration but get up. Immediately I am bombarded by servants. My night clothes are being stripped, my body is sponge washed, then rubbed with scented oils. Then I am dressed. My Mother insists on formal wear. I am surprised she didn't bring us back to the days of corsets. Still, I think as I am being zipped into my dress, this is hardly comfortable. Lastly, I am presented with shoes. High heels of course. Sadly, my poor feet are used to this. I have worn heels every day of my life since twelve. When the servants finish dressing me, I am led to the floor length mirror. This is our daily ritual. I have to approve their efforts. Honestly, the ritual is empty. These clothes are selected by my Mother. Even if I said I was unhappy, it wouldn't matter.  I look myself over in the mirror. I hate my reflection. I look like a ghost. I am pale. Far more pale than most people. My eyes are a light blue and my hair is nearly white in color. I don't know where my coloring comes from. Neither of my parent's have it. Both my parents have dark hair in fact. My light coloring has always been seen as an oddity. Another thing that makes me feel out of place. It also doesn't help that I am very small in stature. At five feet tall exactly, I was much shorter than most of the she-wolves and again, I didn't get this trait from my parents. My Mother always made disparaging remarks about my appearance. How she wished I looked more regal. I was constantly told I looked sickly and weak. I wasn't sickly at all in truth. I was in perfect health and while my wolf may be a little smaller than others, I was just as strong as anyone else. I squared my shoulders and looked at the dress for the day. This one was cut right below my knee. It was a pale blue with gold embroidery. The shoes matched the dress. I nodded and was led to my vanity next. One servant styled my hair while another applied my make-up. Once done I had to, again, nod my approval. I watched as my long pale hair was brushed, curled, and then arranged in an ornate bun on top of my head. My make-up was natural. A classy daytime look. I nodded my approval and they moved on to jewelry. A gold tiara set with sapphires was affixed to the front of the bun. Matching earrings were placed in front of me as they placed the necklace around my neck and clasped it. The earrings I was allowed to put on myself. Once I finished, I nodded again. I stood up and my handmaid, Milena, met me by the bedroom door.    It's time for breakfast in the main hall. I am not allowed to go anywhere alone. Milena is my constant companion. She loves me but she is loyal to my Mother. She may feel badly when I am punished for mistakes but if she chose not to report them, it would be her who was punished. We both know this. She is my caregiver, my companion, my spy.   We arrive in the main hall. There the banquet table is set with an array of dishes. If I expected any sort of recognition that it was my birthday, I would have been disappointed. My parents weren't even here. Either they had taken their meal earlier or they had chosen to take their meal in their rooms. I went to my chair and a servant pulled out my chair so I could sit down. Once I sat down the chair was pushed back in. Then I was presented with various dishes. I chose a few pastries and some fruit. I couldn't resist a piece of bacon as well. I finished eating and wiped my face with my napkin.  "Your Mother has requested that you join her in the garden." Milena said. I nodded and followed Milena. My Mother requesting my presence was never a good thing. I was usually requested when she felt I needed to be scolded for whatever crime I had committed that week. One time it was because I had chosen different night clothes for myself then what had been laid out for me. I was berated for being unthankful and ungrateful. What was worse, all the servants that assisted in dressing me that night were whipped, including Milena. That had been the last time I objected to anything chosen for me to wear. If a wool nightgown was presented to me in summer, I would wear it. We reached the garden and my heart immediately started to race. I never felt comfortable around my Mother. I always felt inferior under her scrutinizing gaze.  We approached my Mother and her gaggle of handmaidens and I sank down into a graceful curtsy.  "Lady Mother." I said, greeting her formally. "Daughter, please stand. You're so small and pale squatting there my attendants might mistake you for the lilies." She said condescendingly. I stood as she commanded.  "Yes, Mother." I said obediently.  "Now, about tonight……"

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