“I thought I would find you here.”
Zosarah tightened the strap on her dardlizz’s saddle before looking up at her mother. She needed that extra time to rein in her anger. After all, it wasn’t her mother’s fault she had been sacrificed to stop a war between Picexan and Zo, but while she understood the need for the treaty and the forced marriage to a man she had never met before, it still irked that her father had done so without first consulting her. Of course, the outcome would still have been the same, but she might not have felt so utterly betrayed by his decision to barter his only child like mere livestock.
“I thought I would make use of what little freedom I have left.” A note of bitterness crept into her last few words. Zosarah bowed her head so her mother wouldn’t see the unwelcome tears.
“Your father’s worried you now hate him. I reassured him you understand your duty to the people of Picexan.” Queen Bethelisa placed her hand over the one Zosarah had rested on her dardlizz’s neck.
Her mother’s ice cold touch did nothing to relieve Zosarah’s anxiety, but she met Queen Bethelisa’s eyes with a confidence she far from felt. “Of course I will. It’s what we royals always do after all, isn’t it? We serve our subjects and do what is best for them. I know my duty, Mother. I just don’t like it.”
“Maybe when you say those same words to your father later, you’ll sound more sincere than you do now.” Even though Queen’s Bethelisa’s voice was firm, her eyes held only kindness and understanding for her daughter’s predicament. “My only consolation is that you will only be a day’s journey away. Though I knew this day would come, I still find myself unprepared to have you even that small distance from me.”
Zosarah resisted the temptation to roll her eyes. Even though the queen was her mother, she was still the queen. Besides, maybe there was still a slight chance of changing her father’s mind. It might work to her favor to play the ever-obedient daughter.
“What do you know of this Zoan you have pledged me to?” How could her parents have bartered her away to such a barbaric realm? “I always thought, even if I never loved who I was bound to, that at least I might one day come to love him. How will that be possible when I’ll be caged for the rest of my life, as if I’m some lowly beast?” She patted her dardlizz’s purple leathery neck. Its rough feel matched her cantankerous mood. She had no intention of being caged for the people of Picexan or for her father.