This was the man she was to spend the rest of her life with, the man who would be the father of the children she had never planned to have. Fighting back a sudden urge to flee from the room, Juzeva curtsied to him.
The Prince stepped forward and bowed to her, then spoke in formal, carefully-pronounced Savarunan. “My lady Juzeva, I know this duty is difficult for you, as it is for me. We are both forced to give up our own desires for the sake of peace between our lands. But I promise you that from now on I will look forward, not back, in the hope that we can be, if not happy, at least content with our destiny.”
Juzeva hadn’t expected such a courtly speech. The Prince had clearly spent a great deal of time practicing it, and Juzeva found herself moved by the effort. If nothing else, she would be married to a gentleman. She bowed her head to him, grateful for his courtesy and thoughtfulness. “I thank you, Prince Idan. I too will do my best to make our union a successful one.”
She watched the Prince take his place beside his father again. Her gaze slid past Sajur Golu’s face just as the priest was hiding a look of deep contempt. Another prickle of revulsion or fear, or both, crept up her spine.
“Let us be done with this, then,” Queen Ilvana said. She and Ezdar moved to a table which stood beneath the great middle window, where a scribe waited with the marriage and peace treaties. The scribe began reading the documents out loud. Juzeva didn’t bother to pay close attention; it made no difference whether or not she knew what they said. The terms had all been worked out already. She had had no say in them, and her opinion and consent had not been asked. The essence of the agreements was that, in exchange for a marriage-link to the Savaru royal family, which would bring with it a significant voice on the Queen’s Council and a healthy portion of the profits from Savaru’s rich fishing, farming, handcraft, and mining enterprises, the Madrinan Empire promised to not run its armies over the land. A bloodless defeat for Savaru, a quick and cheap victory for the Empire.