The Isle of Harris...1840
With every step his steed took, Helania's limp form slipped a little further from Viktor's cramping grasp. He paused and re-adjusted his hold and her body flopped in his arms like a ragdoll in motion, but he couldn't bring himself to stop or waiver, knowing it was imperative he made it to Massoulieu Palace before the gates closed at nightfall.
The muscles in his back burned from the strain and nausea coiled in his gut from the smell of her charred flesh that drifted upwards, assaulting each of his senses. Even still, he didn't falter, more because he loved her and knew he could carry her another hundred miles if needed.
Black lines streaked each of his cheeks as his tears gathered soot on their descent down his seared and burnt face, while his mind struggled to block out the fire that had desecrated Helania's home and ultimately ended her life.
He urged his mind to become numb, wanting nothing more than to block out the anguish and turbulence that was now ravaging through his body causing him to waver in utter exhaustion.
His unstable consciousness drifted back, reminiscing over the last ten years and the affection he’d always carried for Helania.
He always believed he would marry her someday.
Never once had he considered the horrendous lengths; his father would go to make certain this union never took place.
Pausing his steed, he reached down and lifted his wooden canteen to his parched lips, then he paused to stare at the imposing Palace resting on a cliffside in the distance.
Viktor sigh with trepidation; he was almost home.
The reverberating sound of his steed's hooves clonking against the wet pavement drew everyone's eyes to the slow passing rider. As the patrons recognized the young Prince, they moved to the street's edge, lifting their hands in honor to him. But their admiration quickly abated when they eyed the charred and bloodied limp body resting in his arms.
Both men and women alike appeared to mourn at what their eyes beheld, causing Viktor's rage and hatred to boil closer to the surface.
At the Palace gate, four armored men blocked his progression as they regarded his disheveled state, not recognizing him. But that swiftly reversed when he pushed the hood from his head and his cold stare peered down at them.
"I'm sorry my prince," one guard bowed in reprieve. "We could not see your face." The guard signaled for the rest of them to step away and allow him to pass.
Viktor continued to stare down at them with a rigid jaw. "Is my family in the Palace?" he asked.
The man's eyes flitted from him to the unmoving girl in his arms, then to his fellow guards. "Yes, my prince," the guard answered tentatively. "They are presently taking supper in the dining room."
"Perfect," Viktor sighed before spurring his steed forward.
Once inside the gate, the imposing staircase to the Palace came into view. His loyal advisors, Dominic and Hester were already descending the stairs to attend him.
Neither of them could conceal the apprehension and concern depicted on their drawn faces.
Hester swiftly clutched the reigns while Dominic reached up and allowed Viktor to lower Helania into his waiting arms.
Unable to hold his tongue, Hester spoke up. "My prince, your father will not be pleased. Why did you bring her here?"
Viktor's face presented no emotion. "Do you think I care if my father is pleased?" He held out his arms and waited for Dominic to pass Helania back over to him. Then he commenced to ascending the great staircase.
"You can't do this Viktor," Hester exclaimed.
Viktor ignored his appeal and stepped around him.
Hester glanced at Dominic for assistance. "We have to stop him," he proclaimed with wide eyes.
Running up the stairs, Dominic stood in front of Viktor, impeding his progression. "What are you going to do once you are in there Viktor?" he beseeched. "You will merely serve to inflame him more. Is that truly what you want?"
Again, Viktor didn't acknowledge him and he pushed past without a second glance.
Running before him, Hester paused at the monumental doors and planted his huge frame in front, widening his shoulders, arms jutted out to the sides. "I can't let you do this. Please, Viktor, think of the repercussions that will befall you."
"Move Hester," Viktor demanded, green eyes narrowing to angry slits. "Or I will have no alternative but to move you and I can assure you it won't be pleasant."
Hester's mouth gaped wide. "Please my Prince," he pleaded. "Your father will never forgive you."
A sudden smirk flowed from Viktor's lips and he bowed his head. "Good! Then we will be even," he spat. "Now move!"
Hester glanced at his fellow advisor. "Let him go," Dominic conceded, but then placed his hand on Viktor's arm. "I hope you understand what you are doing. You are a young, seventeen-year-old boy that is not yet a man; you will find another love. But your father will always be your father."
Viktor stared at him for a moment before he spoke, eyes piercing into his. "I will love one woman and one woman only, and that woman was Helania. Now she is dead because of him. From this day forward, I have no father."
Dominic's face collapsed as he watched Viktor walk down the long corridor, past the Royal tapestries and oil portraits of former monarchs. Their astute blank stares followed their Prince as he stalked towards the grand dining room and kicked the double doors open.
It was as if Helania's body bore no more weight than a feather. He strode purposely towards the long table where his father remained seated at the head.
Siblings, Rikard and Viktoria rose to their feet as they watched Viktor enter. When he paused beside their father's side, their faces paled with an apprehension of what was about to come, but each of them held their tongue, unwilling to risk the wrath of their father shifting onto them.
Viktor placed Helania onto the table in front of his father. Fine china and crystal crashed to the floor and King Olfred's gaze remained bland and carefree. "I'm overjoyed to see you have finally decided to honor us with your presence, Viktor," came King Olfred's response. "Your poor mother has been tormented with worry over your paucity of morality and honor to this family."
A new wave of fierce anger surged over Viktor's body and he hurled himself at his father, knocking him off his chair. The King landed on his back while Viktor straddled his body and curled his hands around Olfred's neck. "I want you to die," he flared as his fingers gripped tighter and tighter, digging into his skin. He had no perception of the men working to draw him off. "You had Helania killed. Didn't you? I want you to say it! I want you to admit your doing!"
Rikard tackled his brother and they both rolled from their father landing onto their backs a few feet away from him. Rising back up, Rikard crawled to his brother and poised over him, pinning him down. "What are you thinking Viktor!?" he shouted, out of breath. "Don't ever come at our father that way again. Do you understand?"
Looking up at him, Viktor struggled to catch his breath. "He killed Helania," he choked with a crushed voice.
"You don't know that," Rikard challenged, working to keep him down. "Father would never..."
"The boy is correct," Olfred suddenly proclaimed as he struggled to climb back to his feet. "The girl needed to be dealt with; my son declined to obey my warnings." His eyes wandered over his family who remained at the table. "I see you all judging me, but that girl was beneath us. She had no legitimacy or lineage to be courted by a prince."
Discharging his brother, Rikard rose to his feet and stared at his father in incredulity. "So, you had her killed?" he raged. "You could have just sent her away!"
A deep laugh rumbled from Olfred's lips. "Do you not think I tried to persuade her?" Olfred claimed with narrow eyes. "She rejected my offerings, declaring she loved him. No measure of payment could persuade her." He shifted his glare to Viktor with a jeering taunt. "This is as much your fault boy as it is hers. I advised you to leave her be, but you wouldn't listen." An angry smirk flowed from his lips. "These walls have ears and I know of the plans you were forming with her. You are a prince, and a prince has responsibilities to carry on our royal blood. There is no way I would allow this girl to pollute our family with an inferior bloodline."
Sitting up, Viktor lifted his knees and held his head in his hands. He knew it as the truth, but he still couldn't believe his father’s admission. "I despise you with every breath of my soul," he proclaimed, shaking his head.
"Despise me all you want, boy" Olfred laughed. "But our bloodline remains pure." Again he faced his wife and daughter. "I see the displeasure and contempt in your eyes, but I have no care for it. Even you, Viktoria will marry at your stature. We don't bring outsiders here. And we most unquestionably don't marry beneath us."
Rising to his feet, Viktor moved towards his father, but Rikard stepped between them. "Don't do this," he whispered, lifting his hands to settle on his brother's shoulders.
Viktor shook his head. "I feel sorry for you brother," he sighed with revulsion. "You will be the next king, and for the sake of this family, I hope it's soon." He pulled away from him and walked towards his mother.
He crouched beside her and placed his hand over her own, resting in her lap. "I'm sorry mother," he whispered, feeling her tremble against him. "I must go."
Her hand rose and swept a stray brunette lock from his cheek. "Please don't go, Viktor," she implored as tears pooled her eyes. "Your father will atone. I know he will."
He bowed to rest his forehead onto hers, exhaling deeply. "Olfred atones for nothing," he whispered with a broken voice. "We all know that." He kissed her forehead, then turned to face Viktoria, his twin.
Viktoria flung herself into his arms. "Please don't go," she sobbed into his shoulder. "I am not whole without you."
Closing his eyes, Viktor fought off his own emotions. "I will think of you every day of my life," he whispered against her dark curls. "But I can't remain in this Palace a second longer. I can't be his son."
"I love you Viktor," she sobbed, her grip tightening.
He pulled away from her and turned to glare at his father one last time. "From this day forth," he declared, struggling to preserve his posture. "The son you know as Prince Viktor Nikolas Massoulieu, no longer exists." He bowed his head and exhaled deeply. "He is dead to you."