This story is by Monica Martinez and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Damian stood in the uppermost chamber of the Western Tower, blue eyes scanned the land below, always looking for any hidden threat. He tightened his cloak at the frigid air.
He hadn´t always hated winter.
But that had been almost a lifetime ago, a time where he was a constant visitor of the castle, and the rush of battle didn’t call his name.
He heard steps and the soft creaks of the hinges as another soldier opened the door. Sir Candor entered first, followed by their liege.
Damian turned and bowed respectfully his head, “your Grace.”
William dismissed Sir Candor and waited for him to leave before responding. “We are alone.”
We are alone. Those were Will´s words for when he wished to forget their titles. For when he craved informality.
Damian’s eyes soften in response, and Will stance relaxed.
“Ready for tomorrow?” Will walked to stand beside him and fix his gaze on the gardens. Some soldiers were practicing below “You have always felt like an outsider, but you proved them wrong. They are naming you Duke of Nemeth after your victory in Esciter.”
Damian knew better than to believe his actions heroic. They were reckless. The battle had been won by luck if not anything else.
What was there to fear if a part of you wished the next moment would be your last? What was there to lose when you had nothing?
He turned his head to the outside again.
“A title most underserved. I did my duty and nothing else.”
Will sent him a side glance. “Perhaps, but the soldiers are still calling you a hero. I don´t believe their admiration is misplaced.”
“The men are free to think as they please, as long as they don’t expect me to be inhuman I see no harm coming of it. Even if they are indeed mistaken in their belief.”
Will sighed tiredly at Damian gruff response. Their talks didn’t use to be like this.
“Have you thought about it?”
Damian had to fight the instinct to slam down his walls and run away.
Will had asked him to leave. To accept the title and the lands that came with it, to get away from him and from Eliza.
But he couldn’t leave.
“I’m still needed here.”
“No, you are not!” Will exclaimed, raking a hand through his hair. “Why can´t you see this is the best for you? For all of us.”
“You mean for you!” Damian pointed an accusing finger to him “You are the reason we are in this situation! I begged you to refuse, but you still married the woman I loved!”
“It was my duty!“
That was what they always said. It was their duty to marry and stabilize the realm, their duty to bring peace.
They didn’t care how much it tore him to pieces to see that happen, how much that peace cost him.
“How bloody fantastic for you!” Damian snarled “I’m sure being king is a terrible burden to bear.”
Will’s eyes flashed with pain, and a part of Damian took perverse pleasure in knowing that.
“She asked me-“
“She didn’t have a choice! She-“
“She is pregnant!”
Damian took a few steps back as if the words had been a physical hit.
Since the moment they announced their marriage a part of him had hoped to get her back. But she was starting a family, there was no going back. Not with that.
Will’s gray eyes were pained and understanding.
“That’s why I asked you to leave. The three of us need space to heal, to try and be happy.”
“I’d have stayed out of your way” Damian straighten up. His tone was hollow like the emotional argument had taken all he had.
“But you are still here, still hurting” Will raised his hand, and Damian took a step back before he could touch him.
“That’s my decision.”
Will threw up his hand in exasperation.
“Dammit, Damian! Stop being selfish for once in your life! This isn’t about just you.”
Damian glared, and then a look of understanding flashed through his eyes.
“You love her.”
It wasn’t a question. Will winced at the broken tone.
Under his regal composure, he felt a deep and bruising ache, letting himself feel the consequences of his actions for the first time instead of hiding behind his title and obligations. He knew that under it all he had always loved Eliza, and that was one big part of why he didn’t deny the proposition.
If there was one thing he regretted, it was knowing how much their decision hurt his little brother.
He hadn’t meant to destroy him.
Maybe he should have stopped Eliza from naming Damian captain of the royal guard, but he wanted to keep him close as well. He selfishly wanted to have it all, damn the consequences.
“Can’t you see that´s why I told you to leave?”
Damian stared and chuckled darkly.
“Is that a suggestion as my brother? Or an order as my King?”
Will straighten up. “An order as your King.”
Damian gave him a mocking bow.
“As my liege commands.”
With that Will twirled around and made his way out.
“For what it’s worth, I am sorry,” He said, pausing at the door, but not looking back.
Damian´s brows furrowed, and something flashed in his eyes before it disappeared.
“You know, in all this time… I believe that’s the first time you uttered those words.”
Will turned around, a denial on his lips, when he was hit by the realization that it was true.
Innumerable fights and arguments, a myriad of excuses and he had never apologized. Will had stolen the woman his brother loved, and he had always defended himself behind his duty.
“But then again” Damian continued, looking out of the window once more. Oblivious to the dark spiraling thoughts of his brother. “It’s not the King’s place to apologize for his actions.”
Will stood there for a moment, blinked his eyes, hoping to scare away the tears gathering there, and when no words came he turned around and left.
Damian stayed silent for a long time after he left. It was only when he saw his brother´s purple cloak fluttering in the wind as he rode away did he finally speak.
“I’m sorry too.”
**3 Years later**
His Grace, the Duke of Nemeth warmly requests the presence of
His Royal Highness, King William of Arcadia & Her Royal Highness Queen Eliza of Arcadia
To the marriage of
His Grace, the Duke Damian of Nemeth
Lady Emerly of Winshire