Here are the first five pages of my book, Securing the Kingdom of Aisling. Enjoy!
“Queen Brianna, are you listening to me?”
I looked across the council room table directly at Reilly. “Yes, you just told me that I have until my birthday to find a husband and get married. I am aware of that. Are you aware that my birthday is almost six months away and the Session meeting we are supposed to be discussing today is just next week? We can plan a wedding after we get back from Gilvary. In fact, I will even allow you to coordinate it if that would please you.”
I am sure my irritation showed as I took in his dark brown eyes and gray hair, more on his thin face than on his head. He had been going on about this for the last year, and I had grown weary with the subject. I had inherited Reilly Cassidy as my advisor when I gained the throne a little over a year ago. He was in charge of relations between our own kingdom of Aisling and the rest of the world. He had faithfully served my father, but I am not sure how he felt about serving me.
I needed no reminder of what was expected. The laws of this country had been part of my training almost from birth. I had felt more panicked over this particular rule with every passing month. I had tried in vain to have it changed. I had never been on a date, been in love, had a boyfriend, or even had a crush on a boy before. How was I supposed to find a suitable husband?
Reilly had not seemed the least bit daunted by my irritation. “I can assure you that this is foremost on King Coman’s mind. He has made no secret of the fact that his greatest desire is to join our kingdoms together, and you can bet that he will bring this up at the meeting. I just want you to be prepared, My Queen.”
I knew there were some who felt the small country of Kearnley should be under one rule. My father had never been of this mindset and neither was I. I feared what could happen if one person was given so much power. Many thought the job should go to King Coman. He ruled over the neighboring kingdom of Gilvary. He was known to be ruthless and heavy-handed in dealing with his people. I would never willingly hand over my crown to anyone, especially someone like him.
“Reilly is probably right. I agree that you should expect a great amount of pressure from King Coman. Even some of your own people are restless with the idea that you should be married and soon. They are worried about an outsider usurping the throne. You can add the fact that many of them believe the kingdom would be more balanced with a married couple ruling. That is why these laws were placed to begin with. I am not telling you this to upset you, My Lady, but you do need to know what you are facing.” It had to be serious if Eamon was weighing in.
Of my three advisors, Eamon Alexander was the one I trusted and relied on most. He had been part of my father’s council since before I was born. Before becoming an advisor, he was the General over our band of warriors, so naturally he oversees the kingdom’s defense. But he was so much more than that to me. No one could replace my parents, but Eamon had filled part of that void after the death of my father. I knew my best interest, as well as that of the kingdom, was at the heart of his concern.
“Have you given any more thought to Dunbar’s offer?” I knew exactly what Reilly was referring to, but he was being ridiculous as far as I was concerned. Dunbar was Coman’s eldest son, heir to the throne in the kingdom of Gilvary. His father seemed especially bent on my marrying his son and had been pushing us together for years. The pressure had increased significantly since my own father’s death.
“What offer would that be?”
“Why, marriage of course. We have talked about this before. I do not understand your stubbornness.”
Eamon cleared his throat. No doubt it was a warning to Reilly that he was overstepping his bounds again. I allowed for a relaxing in the rules of etiquette to make for an easier flow of communication during these meetings. That did not, however, include showing disrespect for the queen.
“I remember all of your talk about how enamored he is supposed to be, and of Coman’s approval on the matter, but I can assure you that Dunbar has made no offer.” He never would if I could avoid it. Even if I had the desire for marriage, he was not my idea of a good match. Just thinking about a life spent with him sent an involuntary shudder running through me.
“But he will, and it will probably happen as soon as your very next encounter. He spoke to me at my last meeting with King Coman. The boy is besotted with the thought of you as his bride.”
I could just bet he was. Dunbar did nothing unless his father instructed him. I suspected the boy had never had an original thought in his head. I could not tolerate that in a husband. I knew I could not. I am sure his father’s prodding was the true source of Dunbar’s interest in me. What better way for King Coman to fulfill his desire of uniting the two kingdoms?
I mulled over ideas of how I could proceed. Looking out over the Moya Ocean always had a calming effect, helping me to slow down my thoughts. I would long for that view when one of these meeting became too intense, but there were no windows in this room. In fact, it was devoid of any adornment. There was only the small table where I sat alone on one side facing my three advisors. I suppose it was set up this way to avoid distractions. It was my least favorite room in the castle. I realized I was drumming my fingers, a nasty habit, so I placed my hand in my lap. Even without distractions, I had allowed my mind to wander. I reined it back in to the problem at hand.
My own dear father had counseled me concerning the need for an early marriage. First of all there was the law to be considered. I could lose the power to rule my kingdom. Then, as Eamon had mentioned, some of my people were starting to lose faith in me. Their fears were to be considered more important than my own. In addition to all of this, there had been small attacks from the outside that must be addressed. Even though we had no proof, it was suspected the threat was coming from King Coman. Marrying into his family would probably put a stop to this.
The way I saw it, a woman was not meant to go searching for a husband. It should have been up to the man to find me. This experience had been taken from me by the laws of my country. Even though I had never imagined wanting to do anything else, I had never asked to be queen. I had no choice in the matter. It was my duty to find a husband by my next birthday. I would not disappoint my kingdom.
If I wanted to have any control whatsoever over whom I would share the rest of my life with, it was time to stop avoiding this marriage issue. I knew my responsibilities. I just needed to handle this problem more decisively. I pulled a scrap of parchment closer to me. “I want to do what is best for Aisling so help me work through this. I know the law states that a queen in this country may marry whomever she chooses. If I were in love, that would be enough. Since that is not the case, what choices would most impress my people?” It was Eamon that I looked to as always.
He paused and studied my face. I knew him well enough to read the love and concern in his eyes. He was weighing me, a person needing to be loved, versus me as a queen needing to do what was best for her kingdom despite her own desires. I also knew which side would win this time. “A king, of course, would be the optimal choice, but unless you are willing to look outside of this country, there are only two and neither is available.”
“Go on.” We all knew it was unlikely that I would choose anyone whose loyalties lie outside of Kearnley.
“You could choose a prince. There are five, all belonging to Coman, as you are aware. And you could marry a duke, but that is as far down in rank as I would suggest if you really want to make an impression on your people.”