Chapter 35 - Request From the King

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Kastali Dun

Claire was moody in the days following her argument with King Talon. She claimed she had little desire to be in his presence or even in the same room as him. She wanted everyone to believe this—even herself—and she did her best to avoid him. Only, there was no need to. He did them both the favor. Each mealtime—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—King Talon was nowhere to be seen.

This was both good and bad. In a way, it forced her to question things she had never questioned before. Her questions led to long internal arguments. She often found herself making excuses for King Talon's behavior that she never would have made. And then something odd happened: Her perception of King Talon began to change.

Maybe he wasn't as bad as she first thought. Perhaps she had misjudged him, just as he had misjudged her. After all, they both had their faults. He struggled to converse with women, she lost her temper too easily. Neither of them was blameless. He shouldered the weight of a kingdom, she shouldered the weight of an Unbreakable Promise, but neither was a good excuse for bad behavior.

At this point, what had happened between them was water under the bridge. If she didn't move on, her frustration with him would only make things harder. If he never apologized, she would have to accept that.

After a few days passed, and she was beginning to view the situation with clarity, she found herself searching for more answers. King Talon was a complex individual and she was determined to figure him out. It was for this very reason that she brought the subject up with Desaree. She was sitting at her vanity while Desaree worked on her hair when she asked, "Des, how much do you know about King Talon?"

If Desaree was surprised by the question, she hid it well. "A fair bit. Most of the king's life is common knowledge." As she spoke, she slid a barrette into place. "Public figures do not get much privacy. Is there something specific you want to know?"

"Nothing specific, I suppose. Reyr told me a little about his younger years."

"You mean the time when he was handsome?"

She giggled. "Is that how his life is split? Into the days that he was handsome and the days that he became scarred?"

Color crept onto Desaree's cheeks. "I suppose it is. I have never really thought about it deeply." Desaree's fingers continued to separate strands of hair into various ways as she pinned here and tucked there. "I once saw a picture of the king, a painting from when he was young. It was hidden away in storage. Gods, he was a handsome young man."

"He still is, if one can see past his scars. All the same, it is hard for me to picture what he must have looked like younger, before the battle..." Desaree continued her work. "Do you think the painting is still there? I would like to see it."

She was surprised by her own heart's longing. Perhaps if she saw King Talon before he acquired his scars, she might better understand him. That was the excuse anyway. In truth, it was merely her curiosity that led to her longing.

"I am sure it is. I can take you there later if you wish."

She nodded then fell silent. Her hands fidgeted with a jeweled hairpiece as she turned it in her fingers. The jewels sparkled in the light with each turn.

Desaree spoke again, "There was once a time when every woman in the kingdom dreamed of being King Talon's mate."

Claire barked a laugh and her gaze found Desaree's reflection. "I don't suppose that surprises me. A handsome young prince? Who wouldn't?"

"He was a bit a womanizer, you know."

"Yes, Reyr told me. He also told me about King Talon's parents, about how he got his scars, and about how he stopped pursuing women once he..." She trailed off. It was all rather sad. "I suppose my heart aches for him when I consider it. Believing one's self to be a monster based on looks alone. It must be a difficult burden to bear. Perhaps if you believe it long enough, your insides become monstrous too, your behavior, your mood, everything." Her eyes widened. "That's it, Des!"

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