Chapter 3

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*Elizabeth's P.O.V*

The dining hall was decorated quite spectacularly. It was quite hard to get fresh flowers in the middle of winter but the greenhouses could supply some. The flowers were placed in vases around tables, bringing a sort of lightness to the rather dismal dining room. The walls were a dark grayish color, complemented by the white ceiling.

It had been redecorated numerous times throughout time but I had yet to add my own personal touch to it. Many of the former kings and queens had painted the walls or had stained glass windows installed. One had even had pillars added just for decoration.

I had removed some things which had caused some upset with the older crowd of nobles but I could not say that their reasons for being upset were valid. Things always had to change or else the kingdom would have sunk a long time ago. Besides, getting rid of some old china plates or having a staidowned glass window removed was really not that big of a deal. It was not as if I had removed the portraits of the former kings and queens that lined one of the main hallways.

"So truthfully, why did your advisor quit? No lies, no changing the subject," Duchess Grey says as she sits down at the table. I look between her and the head of the table before deciding to sit at the head of the table as I usually did. Normally I would have sat across from her or even next to her but I did not wish to sit so close to someone that was already displeased with me.

"Richard was just not suitable for the job. He was displeased that I would not have a meeting with Lord Dacre," I say as I ring a bell that was sitting on the table. That sound meant that the maids could start serving and I was slightly pleased that it meant I could avoid talking about the issues with my former advisor.

"My dear Elizabeth, having your maids come in will not save you from this conversation," she informs with a small frown. She gives me a look that tells me that she knows what I am trying to do and it won't work. The frown on her face only adds to the look she is giving me and makes a small shiver run down my back.

"I do not care what they see or hear," she says as if it is a simple part of a conversation, like it's not a reminder of her earlier words.

"Is that truly the only reason? I have met Richard and he does not seem the type to just give up so easily. He was as stubborn as a mule," she says as lunch is set down in front of us. It's grilled salmon that is mixed into a salad which makes me crinkle my nose up slightly. It wasn't as if I didn't enjoy salmon, I just didn't enjoy the vegetables that it was served with.

"Could you fetch me something more suitable for breakfast?" I request the maid, both of us knowing it is not just a request. The maid nods, a quiet "yes your majesty" escaping her lips before she goes to take my bowl away.

"She is fine," Duchess Grey interrupts, her hand moving to block the maids. She has gotten up, moving to sit right next to me. She is just to the left of me and I ignore the feeling of anger that boils up, upset that she would not just let me have my way. I wave the maid away, deciding to let the Duchess win this one point of the conversation.

"Well perhaps your knowledge of Richard is lacking in some areas," I continue our earlier conversation as I pick at my salad, picking out bits of salmon to eat so I could avoid eating the lettuce.

"I'm fairly sure that I know quite a bit about him. As well as one can know anything about your advisors in the short period of time that you have them," she states.

"It is not my fault that the advisors I tend to hire are rather subpar and lacking," I retort as I push my salad around the bowl, meeting her gaze after a moment.

"Your attitude is what is lacking right now. I already know that Richard was taking bribes from Lord Dacre and that is why he was so insistent that you see him. Is that what you are trying to avoid telling me? Is that what you don't want the maids finding out?" she declares, raising an eyebrow when I just stare at her shocked before continuing to push my salad around my bowl.

"And stop playing with your food... eat it," she scolds.

"I am not hungry Duchess Grey and I would prefer you not treat me like a child," I retort as I spear some of my salad onto my fork. I am the queen, I shouldn't be bossed around like this. I am adult enough to not eat my vegetables if I do not want to.

"Besides, how did you find out that he was taking bribes? I only found out hours before he quit so unless you have an inside man then I presume word has spread?" I question.

"If you would like to be treated like a queen, then act like one and stop acting like a spoiled child... Sorry, I mean spoiled princess, your highness.," she retorts with a seated bow, making me narrow my eyes in anger. "I will not tell you how I found out, just know that you can not hide things from your mama, nor can you hide these things from any established noble household." she states.

"I order you to tell me." The words escape me before I even think about what I am saying.

"Would you mind repeating that?" she queries, raising a threatening eyebrow.

"I order you to tell me how you found out that Richard was taking bribes," I state as I set my fork down, raising my chin in defiance as I held eye contact with her.

"You may be the queen but you will not speak to me in that manner," Duchess Grey says after a moment, a frown on her lips. "but I will give you what you want and in return, you will give me what I want. I found out through the maid that was serving you that night. She informed me for a small reward. Small for me, at least, pocket change really. I imagine not for her though. They all know about it, dear, and I'm sure I'm not the only noble they go to. You are the queen, The Queen! It's in our best interest to know what is happening here. Who else would know the castle secrets best besides the maids?" she states, making me nod.

I would have to fire Rei then, I could not risk having information leaked by one of my maids. The news about Lord Dacre was small but next time it could be something bigger.

"So I should get rid of my maids since I can't trust them, is that what I am hearing?" I ask as I take a bite of my salad, purposefully holding eye contact with her as my fork scrapes along the bowl. Her head twitches just slightly since I know that she hates the noise.

"You will not do such a thing, if you mess with any of the maids that come to me with what you are up to, I will find out and I will punish you. You are not too old to be taken over my knee, young lady" she says, just a bit too loud. If she was any louder than the maids in the kitchen may hear.

"Keep your voice down! You can't just say stuff like that," I say as I bite my bottom lip, glancing towards the door. I could not handle the embarrassment of the maids finding out what she says. It would ruin my whole persona I had built up.

"Don't bite your lip," she says softly, rolling her eyes at me. "That is a terrible habit you have always had and I have always hated," she murmurs.

"I know, you tell me that often," I say with a small smile. "Can we, pardon my language, cut the shit? I know the thing you want me to do for you as something to do with your pick for advisor so who is it exactly and why is it so important to you?" The questions spill from my lips quickly. I'm unable to pretend I have any amount of poise right now.

"That depends, I have your word that you will not fire the maids?" she asks.

"Yes, I swear to you on my crown that I wear everyday. I will not fire them if you promise to stop treating me like a child," I say as I take a sip of my tea which had been sitting by my bowl.

"We will see," she murmurs as she takes a glass of wine. She always preferred the bitter wine which I despised. It did not taste that good, I couldn't see why she would drink it.

"Now, who are you recommending for my advisor, ma?" I ask the question as I clasp my hands together, leaning closer to look at her.

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