Chapter Six (Edited)

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The next day is hectic. Everyone has to get ready for the Prince’s homecoming party and then be sure that all the rooms are prepared for the many guests that will be staying at the palace. No one has made any announcement as to why so many people have come to the palace, but as long as I am allowed to hide in the shadows, it should be fine.

It is now later in the evening and the party is up and running. I’m walKing around, handing out hors d’oeuvres, at the now bustling party. I’ve had two men spit the hor d’oeuvres onto my apron, then blaming me for ruining their time at the party. Luckily, it seems that they haven’t called over the King or Queen and order for my execution, so I’m going to assume that they only did that to show their dominance over me.

Which doesn’t surprise me.

After handing out all the food, I am able to go back into the kitchen and change my apron. When I walk back out of the kitchen, I see all the guests crowding to the front of the room where a stage and platform sits. I go to stand in the back of the room with the other maids, while the King stands on a platform, ready to address the crowd.

“Friends, welcome to the great land of Ostium. I am so happy to have my son, Noah, back with us after so many years. It has been a long while, but I know he will bless our lands with wealth and happiness just like his father and grandfather.”

It takes everything in me to not laugh at this ridiculous lie.

“But before he takes the throne, he must find a queen to stand by his side. To help him rule with an iron fist. And to embody the beauty of Ostium. That is why we have called you all here today. Please join me in welcoming the nobel ladies.”

The crowd applauds lightly as women with beautiful gowns and accessories walk in and stand next to the King. I recognize a few of them as being the women I saw while I was polishing the stairs. Saying they are not beautiful would be a lie, but I know that beauty is not what this land needs.

“These beautiful women will be staying with us all social season in the hopes that Prince Noah will choose one of them to be his bride. And once the season is over we will have a grand wedding, to celebrate the union of Prince Noah and the lucky nobel lady.”

The crowd gasps, then cheers with eagerness. Everyone loves a good competition. This will clearly be a great way to entertain the Kingdom for the next few months.

I look up, expecting to see Prince Noah soaKing up the attention and puffing his chest out with pride. Instead I see the Prince looKing at the ground, deep in thought. He doesn’t seem to share the same enthusiasm as the crowd, who is already placing bets on who they expect to win.

***

The party has come to an end and all the workers are left to clean up the mess that was left behind. It is quite late and I want nothing more than to go lay down and get a few hours of sleep before I must wake up in the early hours of the morning.

Once I finish cleaning the kitchen, I walk down the hall that will eventually lead to the maid quarters. But I suddenly stop in my tracks, hearing voices coming from one of the rooms.

I can’t help the curiosity that courses through me, so I put my ear against the door and hear the gruff voice of the King and the light but fierce voice of the Prince arguing intensely.

“Why must you do this? You know we need one of these women to maintain the wealth of the royal family,” the King says sounding clearly irritated.

“But Father, the wealth needs to go to the people. So, I would rather work and try to get some alliances with other Kingdoms. I have studied immensely on how to strengthen our economy. We need to build bridges-”

“We burned those bridges a long time ago and I will not go back. This is the end of this discussion.”

I hear footsteps rushing towards me, so I quickly turn away from the door and pretend to be walKing casually down the hall, as a way of trying not to look guilty.

The door opens and I hear the King’s voice echo off of the walls, “Maid.” I stop, scared that I have been caught and will now be punished for gathering information.

“Come and gather these presents.” I sigh in relief, knowing I am safe for another day.

I turn around and make my way into the same room that their conversation was taking place. I easily notice the presents and walk up to them and turn, waiting to hear where the King wants me to do next. But when I turn around, the King is not there to give me another order.

The Prince steps into my line of vision and I quickly look down. “Could you please follow me to put those in my room?”

Though slightly confused that I was asked to do something instead of being ordered, I hurry to grab the presents before the Prince takes them. But I am too late, as he is already holding a majority of the presents in his arms. I grab what is left and follow him up to his room.

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