All is Fair in Love & War

“I don’t wish to fall in love. I won’t fall into lust. Stop expecting these things from me.” The prince slammed his fist on the arm of his throne. “I won’t have you ordering me about to follow your silly desires. If I am to be king, I will follow my own path. You may watch, or you may leave the kingdom. I will no longer stand to be treated like an illness, an error.”

“But sir, your father and his declining health alongside the neighbouring enemies, we need to strengthen our alliances” rushed the advisor.

“The neighbours are the problem. Aren’t they? It’ll be solved.”, said the prince as he got up from this throne, his blade shining bright.

The prince was a man of his word. In six months, the threat of an Eunoian invasion had been negated and his sea-green castles saw the arrival of Aria, the princess of Eunoia- a token of love and harmony to ratify the treaty of peace signed by both parties. She was the enemy's daughter so he had never planned to fall in love with her and yet, every night he was picturing her lips pressed against his.

One night, Aria sat alone in the prince’s room. It was late, the curtains were still drawn apart. It didn’t bother the princess, she liked the touches of the soft wind against her face. Moonlight dripped into the room from every opening to the environment, illuminating it and revealing to the princess its features and contents.

Suddenly, the door burst open and there stood before her Chris, the prince and Fiona, a former romantic fling. She looked first carefully at Fiona and then to her prince, who had his hand around the small of Fiona’s waist. A battered expression cast over her orange face. “Is his hand there out of obligation or affection?” thought Aria as she read worry written all over the prince’s face.

“Now, Aria, how have you been? Has my man been treating you well?” Fiona slurred. “Your man, the prince, he loves and so he keeps me well.”, said Aria trying to sound nonchalant. “Good. He won’t keep you for long.”, said Fiona, sounding so pleased with herself. Suddenly, all colour drained from the face of the prince. He was gazing at Aria but when she looked up at him, he dropped it.

“Shocked. Aren’t you? Six months ago, your father came knocking at our doors. He insisted, we have a piece of Eunoia to mark the beginning of the alliance. The prince would risk the possibility of war if he were to decline and so he had you. It’s a pity, how he played you. First, to win your father’s allyship and then for his own pleasure. That’s why the prince hasn’t labelled whatever this is.” Fiona went on to say, “Sit down. The best is yet to come, as per the treaty, after your father is dead and you succeed the throne, it is required for you to give us nothing short of fifty percent of Eunoian territory. How does-”.

Fiona was claiming this moment. It didn’t appear like she would stop until she fell to the ground, thus interrupting herself. Chris had left her side. He now stood before Aria. He tried to say something but didn’t know how.

“Is it true, you want my land?”, she uttered.

“I did. Yes, that was before”, the prince replied. He had always been a man of word.

“Before what-”, Aria asked. Her feet were weak, they wouldn’t let her stand through this. Her lips quivered and her body shook, holding back a sob that peeked through her glistening eyes.

“Before you meant something to me.” Once again, the prince looked away almost like he was robbed of his pride. Mutual embarrassment filled the air. Quietness washed over the room. Fiona was done and destroyed, her empty eyes spoke of regret. The regret of ever enjoying the sensation of alcohol burning her throat.

Aria on the other hand didn’t know any way to react. The last six months of her life had been a lie. She figured that the prince only won her over to win her people and win her land. Her heart was breaking into fragments like glass in the sand. Memories washed over her brain- every happy memory that they shared had been a lie. Their marriage- a mirage of the oasis, in broad daylight under the scorching sun and she an inexperienced traveller.

Soon, shock faded and hatred took over. She loved him and so she hated herself. How could she trust her enemy’s son? She glanced at the scars on her wrist. Her heart further crumbled into pieces, she had told him how she got them. He had kissed them and told her that it was alright, that he would never put her in a position to get hurt again. She had been vulnerable before him and she wanted to kill herself for that. Her eyes were blank and her body slightly trembling, desperately trying to hide any signs of vulnerability. Her eyes were red, from being pressed shut, slightly burning from the discharge of tears from the edges. “You betrayed me”, these words were all it took from Aria to gain the prince’s attention once again. He was disturbed by her state, in a state of perpetual heartache of which he had been the cause. He hurt her, he knew it. He wanted to make her feel better. He wanted to kiss her scars and tell her that he was sorry, that he had changed. He wanted to press his warmth against her body so she knew that she was safe.

The prince couldn't hold back any longer; he saw this moment as his only chance to claim her love again. “Aria, I’m sorry. I love you.”, No sooner had he said these words, than he pressed his body against her, clasping her lips with his as passionately as he could, in an attempt to consume all of her. His arms snaked through the expanse of her back, they held her in a way to protect her and prevent her from slipping away. They stayed like that for a minute, until he realised that it was only his lips moving hers.

When he stopped to look at her, she pushed him away as her eyes shone bright, brimming with tears, “It is so easy for you, isn’t it? Love is a gamble for you and you have just put my heart at stake. So tell me, what’s my worth? A kingdom or two?” slowly chuckled Aria as her tears dried up and her eyes turned calm. “Your highness, now it’s my turn. You love your people and I mine, so the treaty must prevail. I’ll not have my hands stained red for the menace you created. Your people are mine but I shall never be yours. Put on a show, for the people have the monarch- a king and his queen. You’re Robin Hood and I’m the guarded princess, we aren’t meant to be. You stole my dignity for your people and for that mere reason I can’t hate you.”

“We don’t have to do this Aria”, his eyes glistening with the last remains of hope.

“Yes we do love” she said as she walked out of the room, granting him the space he desired.

Authors: Anubhi Srivastava and Vedant Vaswani

Editor: Eeshpal Singh

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