"Have you seen Vanaheim's suns?"
You're reclining upon the windowsill the next day, a soft breeze tickling your face.
"And its rivers flow through the realm?"
Somewhere across the courtyard Lyssa is singing, her voice echoing through the trees.
"Does the forest guard your secrets,"
The afternoon sun peeks through the trees, casting dappled shadows upon the courtiers milling about the paths.
"As it does mine."
Truman, a baby no longer, sits at your feet, a book in hand.
"Have you been washed by the Rains of Vanaheim?"
Your mother walks in with Edwechon. Lazily turning your head to look at them, you are struck by how similar they are in stature. The differences in their personalities make it easy to forget the fact that they are siblings. "Mother," you acknowledge, smiling. "Uncle. I trust the day is treating you well?"
"Even better than it is treating you, I daresay." Your mother seats herself in one of the chairs scattered about the room. Edwechon moves to stand beside her, clearing his throat. "We have received a request for a marriage arrangement from Alfheim."
"That's nothing unusual," you reply, looking back out the window. "I think Gunnora is seeking to wed. She's obedient; she'd go willingly to Alfheim."
"This is more than a gesture of goodwill." Your uncle's tone is logical and firm. "They seek to form an alliance. There are whispers of darkness from Svartalheim. If the Vanir are united with the Light Elves, both parties will fare better if the Dark Elves decide to overstep their boundaries. Alfheim seeks a match for the son of their High Sorcerer."
"Then offer them Gilrin. She is your daughter, after all, and as I recall you've been seeking to make her a royal match." He does not respond, and you snap your head back to look at him, suspicion growing. "You cannot mean to give them Lyssa?". Edwechon shakes his head.
"We have offered you."
That evening your mother sits patiently on her bed as you storm about the royal chamber, cursing the Light Elves and the Norns and everything in between. She lets you rant for a time, but then grows serious.
"I said enough." She looks at you. "You've always known that you will marry to the advantage of Eryncelon; this is nothing new to you."
"I'm not upset about the marriage! I don't understand why I'm the one that's leaving Vanaheim!"
"Edwechon believes that you are the key to the strongest alliance possible."
"But I'm the eldest! This isn't Asgard; our inheritance goes by birth order regardless of gender! Why is this alliance suddenly of more importance than my birthright?"
"This is not up for debate. Edwechon has already made the arrangements."
Your heart grows cold. "How long do I have left?" Nimirel reaches into her gown and hands you a piece of parchment. You scan the contents.
"The Bifrost Ball? What is this, some excuse for the Aesir to get into drunken brawls?" You look at the invitation again. "It's not even for another three moon cycles." You mother sighs. "Your uncle has arranged for your betrothal to be announced at the Ball. One of the conditions of the alliance is that you live at the Aesir court until the gala, and then you will be taken back to Alfheim for the wedding."
"No one from Eryncelon will be in attendance, will they?" She shakes her head regretfully. "My brother says it's simply not practical. Svartalheim is up to something, and we must remain united at Eryncelon."
"By casting the Crown Princess out? By throwing the heir to the factions into some foreign marriage so that she may never be seen again? Mother, this doesn't add up. You know Edwechon better than the rest of us combined; you know he's nothing if not logical. But this makes no sense. He's up to something, can you not tell?"
"Listen to me." Her voice is low and intense as she rises and takes you by the shoulders. "Perhaps he is up to something, perhaps he does have some higher motive. This is difficult enough, given the circumstances. Rumor tells that Odin is nearly ready to pass the throne of Asgard on to his son; that alone will cause uproar. There are realms that will lash out, simply to test the mettle of the new king. We need this alliance, and Edwechon has made sure that the only way we're going to make it is by offering your hand. Vanaheim needs you to be strong." She pulls you into a hug. "I need you to be strong."
"Can you tell me his name?" Your voice is muffled and thick with emotion.
"Do you know anything else about him?"