Chapter 32

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I subconsciously curl my fingers around one of the rings I put on to wear to this event. It's a simple silver ring, my initials carved into it in a fancy cursive. It was my mother's handwriting with my father's handwriting right below it. So they were layered, one above and one below. My mother had to cut up one of my father's letters so she could glue the letters side by side for the ring makers to see. It was something special and important to me so I used it as a grounding ring, a ring that kept my head out of the clouds and focused on what was going on in front of me.

I smile politely as I am announced, nodding my head in greeting as I walk down the steps. I had to gather my skirt up so as to not trip and manage to pretty successfully make it down. I only kicked the back of my own leg once so that was pretty successful if you ask me. I am immediately greeted by Baron Carp after though so my celebration is short lived.

"Hello Baron Carp. I must say this event looks wonderful," I say politely as he bows. I offer my hand despite not wanting to, fighting back a grimace as he takes it and presses a kiss to the back of my hand. His beard is rough against my skin, making me shiver just barely.

"I am glad that you are enjoying it, your majesty," Baron Carp says, making me smile slightly. I wait for just a second before pulling away, nodding my head.

"I will make my rounds now and see what else you have prepared for us. I'm sure it will be most delightful," I say after a moment, making him nod his head. I step away as quickly as is appropriate and try to find someone I'm comfortable with talking to. I raise an eyebrow when I see Maximilian Margaster, wondering what the 8 year old is doing here all alone.

"Well hello little lord Margaster," I greet him, making the boy blow his hair out of his face. He smiles slightly, the gap in his teeth making me realize just how little he is.

"Hello my lady," Maximilian says as he bows, nearly toppling over from the weight of the sword on his back. I purse my lips, surprised that he had been allowed to keep his weapon. He was only 8 so I guess Baron Carp wasn't worried about him doing anything too terrible.

"Is your father here with you Maximilian?" I ask, frowning when he shakes his head.

"He didn't want to come. I did though since mama always enjoyed the parties. And don't call me that, my name is Max," Max says as his nose wrinkles up. I chuckle, remembering how much I hated being called by my full name when I was his age. I had made all my tutors call me Liza. At least I tried to but mother always had them too afraid to even try.

"Well I need to make my rounds, Lord Margaster," I say, using the title he would one day hold.

"I don't think the people would appreciate the queen's attention being captured all night by a young gentleman like yourself. I can just imagine the rumors that would cause," I say, making Max pause.

"I wanna be your bodyguard then," Max declares suddenly, making me raise an eyebrow.

"Why is that?" I question.

"Cause all queens need bodyguards. It's in every book that all queens need protecting," Max informs me, as if I should have known this. I nod my head, pretending he has a point, chuckling slightly at how happy he was to be my bodyguard.

I let him walk beside me, instead of asking him to follow an actual guard protocol and walk either two steps in front of me or two steps behind. It wasn't like he was actually guarding me anyway. I already had guards stationed around the room, out of sight. Guards that were very closely watching me at the moment, probably because I was walking with someone who had a sword, even though that person was a child.

"Mr. Pelicant," I greet the former merchant politely. He had been someone I had known since I was 16. We met after I wanted to get into knowing more about merchants and their trade ships.

"Your majesty, how lovely to see you," Carnath Pelicant says as he bows, leaning on his wooden staff. It's a beautiful piece of wood, carefully carved to hold symbols that run down the center of the staff. Resting on top of the staff was a dragon that had amazingly intricate details on it. I can only imagine how much something like that must have cost him but it's not like he needs to worry about that sort of thing.

"I'm surprised they managed to pull you off a ship long enough for you to attend this event," I tease, earning a small chuckle from the older man. His eyes flicker to Max and I can see the raised eyebrow that means he is curious and also going to tease me.

"A brand new bodyguard? Wow, I can't believe you had the budget for such a fine, young expert. You better not let your mother know you are spending our taxes on such things," Carnath says, making me roll my eyes. Of course he was going to use Max to tease me. It didn't shock me at all for him to do such a thing.

"I know. The best money could afford on such short notice. I'm sorry that you can't afford such an expensive bodyguard like our Lord Margaster here," I taunt him, a small smirk on my lips as I look down at Max. He looks as pleased as punch at the compliment. I can tell that he'll be talking about this for as long as he can, to whoever he can possibly tell.

"Well, we'll see about that," Carnath says as he puffs his chest out. He crouches down, trying to be at eye level with Max. I can tell by how Max's cheeks redden that he hates that, just as I had when I was younger. I wasn't a baby, I could look up at people. I wonder if that was his train of thought as well? It's also just annoying because it reminds you of how short you are and no one likes being reminded of that!

"How much would it cost to hire you on as my bodyguard?" Carnath asks, seeming surprised when Max steps back and sort of hides behind me. I stop myself from touching the top of his head, knowing he would hate that.

"I'm the queen's bodyguard, and no one else's. Never working for you," Max says, making me smile slightly. I stick my tongue slightly out of Carnath, making him roll his eyes.

"I'll go find my own bodyguard then. One much better than you," he fake stalks off, clearly just leaving since he doesn't want to risk upsetting Max any more. I glance around, making eye contact with my mother by accident. She gives me an approving nod, making me furrow my eyebrows. What had I done to get her approval? Shouldn't she be upset that I entered without her? I have no idea what she is thinking, like normal, but I was going to try and keep doing... whatever it is, just so she kept giving me those small smiles and nods. And hopefully stayed over there, far away from me!

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