The celebration continued as the sun rose to the apex of the sky. The path to the portal was opened as a group of men walked through the crowd. A woman in the center.
She was dressed in a black, shadowy gown that danced around her as she walked. The people grew quiet as the Matriarch took her seat on the center stage and let the weight of the moment settle on the crowd. Kyera and Clovis stood together, at either side of Crystalsa, in the position of the champions. Crystalsa put jer hand on Kyera's, looking up at her.
"Are you sure?" she asked softly and Kyera smiles raising a brow. Her expression seemed to ask when she had ever backed down after making a decision like this. The Matriarch smiles and looked out at her people. Some were confused, but others were just interested as to why the newly married pair stood together where the champions should be.
"My, children, today is the dawn of Night. Nearly 200 years ago this kingdom was a different place. Tribal nomads moved across the land, chasing the few natural game we had. Caribou, and fish were all we could truly rely on. Most our food came from trade with other countries. Without their aid, we would have ceased to exhist… or so they thought." Crystalsa's words were met with roars and growls of challenge and pride, as it was every year. Their people still proud and full of fighting spirit. She raised her hands and soothed the crowd.
"As I was saying, they tried to force us to conform to their ways. A Proper Country. They wanted a capital city, a royal line married off into other kingdoms, and a Man exclusively on our throne. We did not bow, you, my people stood by my side as we refused their laws, refused their influence in a system they had no right to." Crystalsa started coughing. So much talking was really starting to affect her breathing.
Bryson stepped onto the stage, and knelt at his mother's feet. She nodded at him and Bryson stood and faced them. "Matriarch Crystalsa stood her ground. We, as a unit withstood them, and with the gift of the Snowdrop flower it became our time. The barren ice scapes we loved so dearly teamed with life. Plants, animals things we had yet to enjoy here in our home land. We no longer needed the kingdom's to support us, we reared upon our own legs, and silenced their attempts at control." Bryson's passion inflamed the hearts of his kin. Kyera stood tall behind her Grandest Mother, a smile on her lips. "However, this gift of the Shadow Princess came with a great cost. Once a year we must send one of our own into the realm of shadows to pull a single drip of nexter from the mother tree. Then, once that hero returns, the nectar applied to the floral heart of our Matriarchal Mother will restore the trees that keep our land fertile."
This was met with quiet. Everyone glanced at one another. Most were well aware this was their last chance. The last few years had failed. If they failed again… there would be no next year. Hearts trembled as they waited for the announcement of the champion.
"Prince Clovis and Princess Kyera have volunteered to enter the portal together. Kyera's mother paid the price for Kyera's royal blood, making the trip no less than seven times. She is unsatisfied with that, and chooses to act as Prince Clovis's Guide into the heart of the shadow realm to save our lovely lady. What do we the people think of this?" Bryson asked looking out at the sea of surprised faces. No one spoke, most looked confused or lost. They knew it was not Kyera's turn to enter the portal. Her mate would owe nothing to the family. One question was on all their minds. Why?
Kyera stepped forward, her mind in sync with her countrymen. "My Brothers and Sisters of the Snow, please allow me a chance to explain." Kyera spoke clearly, the spell amplifying her voice yet again. "My mother indeed paid the price, and it is true you have not seen me for many years. My heart has always belonged to this land, my second form is as pure as the snow we stand upon. I wish to go with Clovis, to take my cousin's place because we wish your blessing. We wish for the people of the Frostlands to acknowledge us both as worthy Royals of this family. This land, for no other is truly part of me. If we succeed, all I ask is my grandfather's title be placed upon my mate and I. The true heirs of the FrostClaw line."
There were claps and roars of approval, signaling she had won their hearts and their support. A sudden realization dawned on Clovis. This had been her plan all along. They were not here for the Matriarch's approval, they were here to gain him the right to compete, with Kyera or without. With a title of First Prince of the Frost lands, no one could claim him unfit to compete for his own title.
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