From the moment she came into the world with a scream on her lips, the king’s daughter was as stubborn as she was spoiled. Daughter like mother, Seeley mused as he made his way down the courtyard walkway. He had been young, in those days. Four and ten, barely a man. Yet, despite his youth, he knew the king’s daughter, not yet one, would grow to be as wild as the woman who bore her.
Little did he know how tireless, how unyielding, she would be.
As he turned into another hall, making for the stairs, he could still hear her as an infant screaming. Servants had rushed to her aide, lifting the wailing infant from her crib with soft whispers and gentle coos. Seeley also recalled how, when set back in the crib so another child could be tended to, the young princess would start screaming anew.
Such fits were not all that uncommon. Even as she aged, from toddling across the floors to running through the hallways with a hint of wild perfume on her skin, she always had a temper lurking under the surface. Her nose would scrunch up, hands balling into fists as her face flushed with embarrassment or rage. It brought a smile to his face, as he made his way deeper into the long, winding hallways towards the kennels.
As he stepped through the open archway, he saw her kneeling next to one of the hounds with a sharp grin on her face. The pup was on its back, hind legs kicking as she scratched its belly. Seeley slowed to a stop behind her, one hand on his hip as he stared down his nose at the woman-child he had been roped into protecting.
“Even now you find someone to torment,” he was grinning as she ‘eeped,’ stepped back quickly as she whipped about. Curly hair tumbled around her, a glistening pale blond close to silver, as she returned, “It’is not torture if the animal isn’t being harmed, Seeley!”
“Oh?” Seeley walked a close circle around her, grinning as her hands, as expected, turned into shaking fists. He stopped behind her and plucked a stick from the tangles of her mane, grinning as she whirled about. She paused, staring at the incriminating evidence as he asked, “And does your Lord Father know you’ve taken in another stray?”
She flushed. Then she shook her head, lips pressed into a tight line.
“Will I ever make a princess out of you, Ilea?” She turned away, but he pressed on, “Why, I remember when you were a babe how you tortured me for days on end!”
She was back to facing him, a finger pressed against his nose. “How did I manage that?”
Six months old, she had been. He could still hear those screams, could still see his mother bouncing another sick, wailing child on her hip. The princess had been on the floor, playing with a toy, when the older child had begun to cry. He had moved without thought, bending down to pick that screaming, red-faced girl off the ground.
As she always had, she stopped screaming the moment she had someone’s attention. As he recited this memory, Ilea was staring him in the eye. Seeley grinned as he leaned in, till they were nose-to-nose, and said, “Why, after that moment, no one else was able to hold you. Not even your own Lord Father or Lady Mother. I got slapped into the royal nursery after that, and, from that moment, I’ve had to cart you out of trouble.”
Ilea crossed her arms over her chest, cheeks still red but the ire fading. He watched as her gaze flickered back to him, and then she was starting to smile. He returned the look, a fondness rising within. As he looped an arm around her shoulders, tugging her against his side, he said, “No matter how many tenacious tendencies you might have, Mi’Lady Ilea, we’re stuck with one another. A nightmare, truly.”
Ilea snorted. “If you could survive me as a child, then we’ll live with this.”
They were both smiling as they made their way towards the uppermost part of the castle, grinning despite the narrowed gaze of the king and queen hot on their tail. Tenacious tendencies aside, Seeley was content.