“Foster brothers,” King Henrik said, absent-mindedly stroking his beard.
Elise nodded and looked down at the crown in her lap. After all of this, she was still just a foster child.
“Elise, darling, you know you are my daughter, yes?”
“I beg your pardon?” Elise asked, raising her eyes.
“I have not adopted you and given you my family name for…various reasons. But you are still my daughter, as you are Queen Ingrid’s daughter,” King Henrik said. “You are her legacy. She chose you. She looked all over Arcainia to find you.”
“Why?” Elise asked. “Why me?”
King Henrik sighed. “I knew one day I would have to explain this, but I never much wanted the day to come,” he said. “You know why the use of magic is banned here in Arcainia? Why we can use magic-made goods and materials, but every enchanter, enchantress, or fairy godmother who visits us cannot use their magic while in our lands?
“Yes,” Elise carefully said. Even though everyone knew the reason, openly discussing it was something of a taboo. “It was because Mother was an enchantress before she married you. The Veneno Conclave worried she might abuse her powers to better Arcainia. They agreed she could marry you only if she renounced her magic.”
“She did, as you know. But the conclave feared her friends and allies might take it upon themselves to use magic in her stead, so they banned the use of magic in Arcainia all together,” King Henrik nodded. “But what they banned was casted magic. Some people are gifted with natural magic, like you. From what your brothers tell me, this ability of yours to cancel out magic is always active. It is a part of your very being, and it is a power unique to you. You do not have the ability to be an enchantress, as Lady Angelique, but your powers are still magic.”
“I agree,” Elise said.
“Your Mother, Queen Ingrid, had a bit of natural magic as well as her powers as an enchantress. It was nothing big; she could occasionally sense the future. She never saw complete pictures. It was more feelings and prophecies of what could come. After Rune was born, Ingrid foresaw her death was approximately two decades away. She also foresaw that your brothers and I would be in grave danger after her death,” King Henrik said, shifting in his chair.
“Ingrid was a stubborn woman, and she knew she could not rely on her friends to aid us with magic being banned and all, so she searched far and wide for a person who could help us. She found you. I don’t know if she knew about your powers. She didn’t tell me everything she saw about you or any of us, I think to save us from ourselves, but she did see that if you remained with our family you would see us through, and quite possibly save the Arcainian empire. She did not wish to tell you this, fearing such a prophecy would burden you, but our eldest boys were made aware of the situation. Being unable to keep their mouths shut after we took you in as a fosterling, they shared the news with their brothers.”
Elise vaguely recalled Gerhart complaining about everyone calling her the family savior. They must have discussed the situation when she was not around.
King Henrik cleared his throat. “She also foresaw some of your…mmmm…romantic entanglements,” he said, tugging on the collar of the black jacket he wore.
“She foresaw that Rune and Falk would profess their love for me?” Elise guessed.
“Yes,” King Henrik said, looking relieved. “Matters of the heart are tricky to foresee, so it was not set in stone, but she wanted to give you the freedom to choose whom you loved. That is why she forbade us from officially adopting you. As long as you remained a fosterling, you were free to love whomever you wished—whether he be an Arcainian prince or a lowly blacksmith.”
Elise nodded, pursing her lips.
“You are not surprised?” King Henrik said.
“After seeing my brothers turn into swans and holding a conversation with a cat, no. I can’t say I am,” Elise said.
King Henrik laughed and slapped his leg. “Elise, my darling daughter, you are certainly the daughter of Ingrid’s heart.”
“There is something that is still bothering me,” Erick said, rapping a spoon on the table surface to get his family’s attention.
“What?” Nick asked. “Are you sad none of your little college attendees have come to check on you yet?”
“No. Why didn’t the Veneno Conclave act against Clotilde? They chased after the Lady Enchantress Angelique fast enough. You cannot tell me they were unaware of Clotilde’s activity. The woman was entirely lacking in subtlety,” Erick said.
“It is odd that they would allow dark magic to be used at all. It’s been decades since a powerful dark magic user like Clotilde made so much as an attempt for power,” Rune said.
“Odd doesn’t begin to describe it,” Steffen said.
“No, Rune has a point of which he probably isn’t aware,” Erick said.