Orb's Year 937
The twins were old enough to watch after themselves! After all, she'd practically raised herself!
"I've been dying to see you, too."
"No!" she said a little more loudly than she'd intended. "I will not have my life dictated by another!"
"What do you mean?" Stuart asked. "I love you!"
"I know. But, I don't want to marry. I don't want to bear children! I want to be the best... swordswoman... in the kingdom! I want to have action and adventure!"
"You don't want children?" Stuart asked dumbly, "You don't want... to marry me?"
Henna shook her head sadly. "Not now. I'm too young."
Stuart stood angrily and headed for the door.
Stuart made a face. "Well, I'm not going to wait for you to make up your mind," he said stubbornly. "What do you think of that?!"
Stuart opened his mouth to say something, then shook his head angrily and stalked away.
Henna watched him go with a sinking heart. She'd never meant to hurt him...
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her...
Shaking his head, Prince Earl tried to clear his mind. Could this beautiful woman before him be the pixie girl that had captured his attention all those years ago? "It is you. I touched you at the castle when you ran" he said, gazing in her eyes. "I've dreamed of you," he whispered with a voice full of wonder.
This is what I want! she thought with amazement. Passion! Adventure!
When they reached the bed, she stumbled on top of him, pressing him down. not even breaking their kisses.
"No, it was my fault," Henna interrupted. "I'm sorry."
Henna took a deep breath, "It would appear so."
Henna grinned and stepped closer.
"But..." he said so sadly that Henna stopped mid-step.
"I'm to be married. I cannot dishonor my wife. This," he said, motioning towards the bed. "It never should've happened. I... I'm sor..."
"Don't say it!" Henna said sharply, stepping away. "Don't say you're sorry one more time." Taking a breath to steady her emotions, she attempted a careless shrug. "It was all just a lark to me."
Earl stepped closer once more. "If you find you have need of me, please do not hesitate."
Henna scoffed sharply, "And why should I have need of you since you've so kindly announced that you could not dishonor your wife!"
Earl motioned towards her stomach nervously, "You know," he insisted. "If you become pregnant..." he trailed off with some embarrassment.
Henna scoffed again. "That will not happen. I assure you. You are free to take your leave from me now, guilt-free."
Earl nodded, torn between thankfulness and sadness that it was not possible to have sired a child with her... Shaking his head once more, he turned and left before he said anything he might regret. Like offering to throw aside his throne for the pleasure of being with her again.
Whatever the cause... she was now a woman...
Orb's Year 939
"Well, if there's anything I can do to help you... any questions you might have... Perhaps about Stuart or..."
"Actually," Henna interrupted. "There is something. I want to practice sword fighting now! Father always promised he would. It's time. Talk to him for me."
"I will," Rebecca said cautiously.
Alibaba shook his head. "She's fine. I'm her father! I would see if there was something wrong! My girl has always been interested in the swordplay. I think perhaps it is time to teach her. I want her to be able to protect herself."
"If you say so," Rebecca said, not entirely convinced. It seemed that there was something else troubling Henna.
What about her? They still saw her as a biddable little girl instead of the woman that she was.
Narrowing her eyes, she determined that she would prove to them that she was an adult one way or another!
"What is it, Henna? Rebecca said you were interested in sword-play."
Henna swallowed nervously. "I... I'm pregnant..."
Alibaba's face turned mean. "Stuart?" he asked with barely restrained anger.
Henna shook her head. "No."
"Then who?" Alibaba asked, confused.
Henna just shook her head again, unwilling to name the father, no matter how her father railed at her. And yell, he did. But, stubbornly, she kept her mouth shut despite the threats and accusations cast her way.
No one would ever know that she carried the Prince's half-class child.
"I'm sorry about the things I said in anger," Stuart said in a rush before she could stop him. "I'm willing to wait for you, you know that. I love you and I want to make you happy."
"Stuart, don't," Henna protested. "Don't make this more difficult than it is."
"What do you mean?" he asked. "Why did you agree to meet me then?"
Henna shook her head again. If her father could not get the name from her lips, then surely Stuart had no hope.
A sigh escaped from his lips. "Are... are you to marry?" he asked gruffly.
She bit her lip and shook her head again.
Curses flew from Stuart's mouth. "He would dishonor you so! Tell me who he is so that I can see justice done!"
Henna placed her hand on Stuart's shoulder. "No. I do not wish it. It was my fault as much as his."
Stuart looked ready to deny her fault and launch to her defense until her words penetrated his rage. Bleakly he looked in her eyes. "I'll still marry you, Henna. I... well... I still love you. Let me be this child's father. I'll love the child as my own."
Stuart gazed in her eyes and saw that she meant it and no amount of pleading would change her mind.
It was over, he thought, walking away slowly.
Orb's Year 940
Alibaba implored her to see the reason. "They will know your mother and I. We have stayed far too long. We must go."
"Then go!" she said softly. "But I cannot join you. They might recognize you... but they will not recognize me."
Stepping back, she pulled out a large golden statue that she had grabbed from the King's caravan.
"You? You stole that?" Alibaba asked with surprise. "How? I'm so proud of my little girl!"
Henna laughed as she hugged her father. "I have nimble fingers!"
...but her destiny was here.