CH 2

12 de outubro de 2022antaresstratis

Cesare had never criticized her in public. This happens because if his fiancée is lacking, it means he is also lacking. However, he had become more and more impatient with his words and action since he started to act as regent king and showed no hesitation in expressing his displeasure with her, whether or not there are people around.

“Don’t argue with them, Ariadne. Behave yourself.”

Cesare certainly couldn’t control the volume of her voice this time, his scolding voice instantly filled the entire drawing room. And the nobles from the central capital were not fools to miss this opportunity. The Countess, realizing that Cesare had no intention of defend Ariadne, quickly added.

“My Lord, I hope you take care of your fiancée thoroughly.”

She looked up and down with contemptuous eyes at Ariadne, whose hair was disheveled.

” I almost mistaken her for a wolf dog raised on a ranch running wild instead of a noble lady.”

The Countess turned to the noble ladies and they agreed enthusiastically.

“Grace…”

“Education… Pedigree…”

“Isn’t that hair, that tangled ponytail really like a shepherd’s dog?”

Ariadne’s hand went up to her head, combing her unraveling hair awkwardly while the noble ladies from San Carlo stabbed her with their tongues.

“If your grace wants the support of the central aristocrats and the social circle running smoothly, please take good care of your fiancée.”

The countess and other ladies looked up and down at Ariadne, who was standing alone quietly.

“Or, why don’t you reconsider your marriage? I’m afraid it must be really hard for miss Ariadne.”

It was like they were saying ‘You don’t fit in the high society’.

“I’ll take my leave. After the death of her majesty the Queen and the change of ownership of the court, I don’t believe I can enter the palace without taking a risk of being hit. How uncivilized, huh!”

As the Countess headed out of the parlor first, the rest of the ladies began to leave at once, looking up and down at the quiet figure of Ariadne stand alone. Her disheveled hair was sticky from the desserts from the moment she threw herself at the table and her dress was mess.

The tea party was empty and she had no friends. She glanced at it with under the contemptuous gaze of the man she loved and felt miserable. Since then, the rumors about Cesare’s birth cooled down, but Ariadne has gained a bad reputation as a dog-like woman, a Moorish’s slave, and a hillbilly maiden. 

Of course, she also suffered from ridicule that said her demeanor of a unmarried old woman was a result of her lowly birth and because she resembled her mother. In face of this, she repeatedly asked Cesare to procced with their marriage in order to facilitate the management of the social circle, but he firmly refused.

“How can I make you the regent’s wife if you can’t even manage your reputation like this? This position can’t be given to a flawed woman.”

His order was specific.

“Study harder than you do now, learn how to play the lute, to appreciate famous paintings, and become fluent in Latin. Try to be a talented and virtuous lady who is not ashamed to present herself in front of others. Then I will make you the regent’s wife.”

Therefore, Ariadne thought those things were all she needed to do. 

*** 

It took a long time for regent Cesare to appointed as the King Cesare I, but in the end, it was only a matter of time. He both military and economic power in his grasp, the only thing he lacked was legitimacy. Or time, to be exact. That was the only thing he needed to get this opportunity. Ariadne still remembered Cesare’s accession, precisely the day before his coronation. It was the year she turned 30, and he was 36.

She could help but laugh every time she thought of that day.

“Since I am a generous king, I must embrace the power of the late Prince Alfonso in my arms.”

Cesare sat down on Ariadne’s bed and buried his lips in the nape of her neck. She moaned feeling his breath against her smooth skin. Ariadne pulled her back, but Cesare grabs both of her wrists simultaneously with one hand and pushed them down forcefully against the bed.

“You should be quiet.” 

He kissed her neck thoroughly, rubbing his face in her pale skin. 

Ariadne’s greatest strength was her alluring atmosphere, she wasn’t particularly pretty or had an innocent face. But tall height and generous curves make her seem very attractive, giving her a special charm. Her appearance and style were those men called beautiful more than the women do. The thirty-year-old Ariadne was a flower in full bloom. Even when she didn’t want to, she exuded a dazzling density, which was the only part of her demeanor that Cesare complimented on.

“Right.” Cesare’s voice sounded like a melody to her ears while her head was dazed by the warmth of his body so close to hers.

“So, I’m thinking of appointing Isabella as my queen.” He said without missing a beat.

Isabella Mare de Carlo, the half-sister of Ariadne de Mare and the Crown Princess of the dethroned Crown Prince Alfonso. Her blonde hair shined like gold and her eyes resembled an amethyst gem, she was the perfect older sister who looked nothing like Ariadne. She was known for her innocent beauty, and her presence always shone with high dignity of a noble woman. 

Ariadne suddenly came to her senses and pushed Cesare away from her.

“I beg your pardon?” Trying to make sense with herself, Ariadne thought she must have heard it wrong.

“Cesare…? She is my sister! And she was the Crown Princess of the deceased Prince Alfonso.”

It was customary for widows without sons to go to monasteries to spend the rest of their lives. They could not remarry, nor could they return to their families. Cesare tried to kiss Ariadne’s chest, but she pushed him away. With a sigh he answered sarcastically.

“Don’t be narrow-minded. Don’t you have pity for your sister?”

‘What did I just hear? Are you going to marry my sister instead of me?’ He thoughts ran wild in her mind and Ariadne pushed him away again. 

‘What about me? What happened with all of the thing I’ve done for you?’ When Ariadne seemed unwilling to acquiesce to his delightful play, Cesare licked his lips and sat upright.

“Since you were only my fiancée, you can still find a good husband and live a prosperous life in the countryside. But poor Isabella will have no choice but to spend the rest of her life on the cold monastery if I don’t help her.”

But it was clear that she had misunderstood something.

“It is impossible to marry the widow of a relative.”

Cesare responded as if nothing special.

“You just need to get the divorce confirmation of Alfonso de Carlo and Isabella de Mare, who died in his drawing room. Because Isabella was chaste throughout her marriage, it is an exception to the Etruscan Kingdom’s non-divorce policy.”

For Ariadne, it was absurd.

“Cesare, my sister is not chaste. In 1128, the first year of marriage, she had already given birth Prince Alfonso’s baby and had a miscarriage.”

“Be quiet!” He screamed.

Isabella’s purity must have been the last straw for him. Cesare, who had been speaking with a calm expression, suddenly turned red with rage and leaned over Ariadne, grabbing her arms.

“Lie! It is said that a woman’s enemy is another woman, and it seems to have no exceptions even between sisters. You’re so lowly, Ariadne!”

Ariadne was suffocating with her own tears, desperately trying to convince Cesare as much as possible that she’s not lying. She continued her story with a single tone, quieting her voice.

“Cesare. It’s not a lie, it’s true. All the maids who served the Crown Princess at that time know it.”

“Noisy! All you do is lie!”

Cesare was not in a state of being able to speak now. No reasonable talk could have reached the person who had intentionally blocked their ears.

“I thought you were so pitiful that I felt sorry for you! So I arranged a marriage with a merchant just to guarantee you a peaceful life, but now I can only wonder if is really right to keep such a wicked woman alive!”

Merchant? An uneasy life? Just hearing it was ridiculous. You promised me that you loved me and that you would be with me forever. So I did everything for you. You told me to postpone the day I became a queen because I had flaws, and to make up for it I have studied hard and devote myself to it. 

But the bottom line is, is the ‘flawless woman’ you’re looking for is actually my sister, the late prince’s widow?

“You said you loved me… That you would make me your queen and be with me forever.” Even thought she knew it was stupid, that was the only thing Ariadne could say, but Cesare snorted with contempt.

“I never thought that you would be such a frivolous woman to interfere with a noble cause. There is no virtue of making concessions for the future of the country. How is it so different from Isabella, who gave up even her marriage for the sake of her younger sister’s happiness?”

I was out of breath now, I could feel my heart tightening and the pain make it hard to decide if these emotions surfacing were sorrow or anger.

“What…? Am I interfering your cause? Is Isabella a concession? I sacrificed everything for you! I gave up my reputation, my marriage, and even committed treason by murdering Prince Alfonso for you. What has Isabella done in the meantime? What did she do for you?”

In that winter, when Crown Prince Alfonso and Isabella had a grand wedding and Isabella miscarried a child, the fruit of her blessing, Ariadne had to chew on a contraceptive leaf every time she had private time with Cesare.

“Sleeping without the possibility of the birth of life is a sin in the eyes of God. I don’t want to take contraceptive leaves anymore.”

“It is just a leaf, what is the matter?”

“…If you don’t want me to have children before marriage, then marry me and only then take me.”

“Ari, don’t you love me? If you truly love me then prove it. Hurry, come here.”

Her adamant refusal was simply ignored by Cesare.

“How embarrassing would it be if you got pregnant before we got married? An illegitimate child born from another illegitimate child. I would hate that kind of thing, so just chew it. Don’t embarrass me in front of people.”

If she didn’t want to lose Cesare, she had no choice. In 1129, while Cesare was sharpening his sword and preparing to invade the capital, Ariadne who was still seen as an unmarried aristocratic maiden, secretly served as informant for her fiancée inside and outside the castle, walking through the snow every late night. This was possible because no one would have imagined that a well-known lady would play such an important role in his military action.

“I pretended to be in love with a playboy every night for you.”

While chewing contraceptives because of Cesare, Ariadne sneaked out every night to give information to his men and ironically, rumors then spread that she was being unfaithful to her fiancé. Those rumors were holding her back even now, nine years into Cesare’s reign.

“Even the rightful lord of the throne has cast my hand to the hounds.”

Prince Alfonso, who had always been kind to her, hung on the wall and became food for the crows.

“This finger! I drank poison in your place and it rotted away.”

Ariadne lifted her left ring finger, showing Cesare the bruise left after being it rotted away and being partially amputated. In 1132, in the fourth year of the reign of Regent Cesare she was stuck arsenic that targeted her fiancée and the only way to save her life was to cut off her finger. 

It was later found out that it was Cesare who ordered the poisoning of her left ring finger. She believed it was a misunderstanding or an unavoidable situation and he had chosen her finger as a best outcome. She thought it was all necessary for Cesare, whom she loved the most in the world. Because he loved her as much as she loved him.

She was crippled because she sacrificed herself for him and because she devoted all her time to him, she was now older, weaker and uglier compared to her youthful, radiant and beautiful self. Now was the time to get his care back. 

Cesare looked down at her with her cold expression on her face. His stature was daunting and even at this moment his sculptural features, strikingly contrasting with his reddish-brown hair, were so beautiful. 

He opened his thin lips and smooth lips.

“Someone had to cut Alfonso with their own hands. You can’t make noble Isabella do that, can you?”

Ariadne’s eyes widened.

“So, was it true that you had a relationship with my sister since Prince Alfonso was alive…?”

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