CHAPTER 42

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Xerxes and Stephan remain quiet, both in deep thought. "Do we know if he was tortured?" Stephan asks, looking at his Man of War.

"We didn't find his body. He was supposed to show up at our meeting point a few days ago, but he never did."

"That does not mean he's dead!" Stephan says, glaring at him. "My Lord, I was sent this," the man pushes a small box to him. Xerxes, following Stephan's actions with his eyes, sees what's in the box when it's open.

"That is his finger, My Lord. I recognize that scar on the thumb anywhere," he says resting his case.

"This could mean he's still alive, but they're torturing him," Stephan says.

"Either way, he's dead," Xerxes finally speaks.

"This is a sign of war My Lords," the Man of Artillery states, looking distraught. "We cannot afford to go to war now. Xerxes' woman is heavily pregnant"

"Betrothed," Xerxes corrects.

"Apologies brother." Stephan's advisors look at each other in shock. Xerxes is the last man they thought would stay with one woman considering his temperament. Is King Xerxes really going to get married before King Stephan? The thought is strange but great for the land.

"My Lord, we can have your trusted men watch over her."

"Leaving her is out of the question," Xerxes says, glaring at them who bow immediately in apologies at his words.

"We are not at war yet," the Man of Artillery says.

"He's right. We shall begin to prepare for it, but never declare until it is sure we are being attacked. When that time comes, brother, you will need to leave her, it can't be helped," Stephan says to an already angry Xerxes.

***

"I still wonder how you make it work considering King Xerxes' temperament," Laila says curiously.

"That's all it is, his temperament. He's sweet, charming, and loving, in his own way. Although he rarely smiles, it doesn't make me love him any less, he's just everything I want. His frown is enticing, it seems he doesn't know that yet, he just frowns all the time," Saya explains giggling.

"You love him so much,"

"I do Laila, and I'm glad he's the father of my baby," her hand resting on her large belly.

Laila looks at her belly smiling, "How far along are you?"

"Seven months and it is killing me!" They both laugh at her complaint. "But I wouldn't trade it for a thing. I can't wait to meet her."

"How do you know it's a girl?"

"Xerxes and I switch the genders all the time, it's just fun for us," she explains chuckling.

"Oh...Princess, the more I think about it, the more I believe I should leave the king. I want a baby, no children, a family of my own. I doubt I have the slightest chance of having that with him, so it will be for the best if I leave on time while I am still young, and find a suitor, who, by the grace of the gods, I will fall in love with and forget King Stephan."

"Laila, you did say King Stephan took you last night, and you're the one he chose to welcome us, that does say a lot. However, if you think that is for the best, I will encourage you to follow your heart. Nothing is better than following what your heart tells you, and your mind, but in this case, your heart."

"Thank you, princess, you know I was-"

Laila is cut off immediately when the door opens to reveal a frowning Xerxes but smiling Stephan.

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