“Hurry along! Stop gawking at every little thing.” The older maid chastised the fresh hire for what felt like the hundredth time. It was the girl’s first day, and it was painfully obvious she’d never been around those with money. She had to serve royalty now, this was so much more than wealth. The maid grabbed the girl’s arm and dragged her along,”You must not embarrass yourself. Or [i me]. Keep your head down. Speak only when spoken to. Just blend in, for goodness sake.”
“Yes ma’am.” Evie tried. She really was trying her best. This job was important, it was a way to finally get out of that hell. Everything here was just so beautiful though. She’d never seen so much [i green]. And the flowers in the gardens were absolutely breathtaking each time she caught a glimpse of them. Everything looked spotless, pristine, and oh so grand. The ceiling arched up high, dangling down delicate looking chandeliers that were themselves art. That wasn’t even mentioning the art on the walls, depicting famous and some not so famous moments from history and myth, and portraits of so many members of the royal family she could never hope to remember them all. Most of those in portraits were long dead, but she knew some were still living. The king himself, and of course his numerous children. She would be meeting many of them later.
Her eyes lowered to the luscious red carpet as she was pulled along. Her first day and she didn’t even have the luxury of a normal quiet day. The whole palace buzzed with activity and anticipation. The King had fallen quite ill recently and had sent word that all his children must gather. His heir would be named tonight, or so the rumors said. Evie wondered who it would be, and if she’d seen their portrait before. Or maybe even seen them already.
Some of the royal children were here waiting for the important announcement. It was supposed to happen just before supper. None of the Princes and Princesses were children anymore really, all of them were adults now. Plenty capable of wearing the crown and ruling the kingdom, which encompassed their whole planet and the three moons overhead. She’d hardly been here long enough to get her room and her uniform, a plain slate blue dress with a swoop neck, but she’d heard rumors. The Princes and Princesses were difficult to please, endlessly complained, and there were several more likely contenders. The eldest boy, which the maids described as a spoiled brat, who was the son of the King’s first wife. He was arrogant and disliked, but technically the firstborn. Others favored one of the middle daughters who was described as cunning. Still others said one of the older sons was the favorite, he’d been close with the King. Evie didn’t know what to think, but she didn’t have much time to ponder it once they reached the main hall.
“Set the tables. Plates, utensils, cups, napkins. Everything is there. Ensure it is [i flawless].” The older maid motioned to a little push cart stacked with supplies. “There’s a pad there with the seating chart. Be sure each place is labeled correctly, the nameplates are in the bottom. When you’re finished get back to the kitchen, I need all the help we can get.” Then she was off, leaving Evie to her task.
The shuttle would start to shack as the shuttle slowly made it reentry into the planet's atmosphere. Four people would be sitting in the small but convenable space each sitting across from each other as one pulled on his collar uncomfortably. “Son stop playing with your collar or your ruin your outfit.” An older woman most likely in her mid-50 said. She had long blond hair down to her mid-back braded and was in a long fancy dress. A white lily rose was wrapped around her wrist and an aura of calm and dignified surrounded her.
The young man sighed as he stopped pulling at his collar and leaned back into his seat. “Sorry Mother, but I just can’t breathe in this dam thing.” He replied. He was younger than the woman only being in his mid-20 with short black hair with a hint of blond at the tips. He was dressed in a fancy suit with a cap and silver buttons.
“Well, you did agree to dress like this for your father.” The lady smiled reaching across patting down a wrinkle that had been caused by his struggling . “Well, the old man dying. It not going to kill me to look the part.” He looked down trying to hide his sadness. He had never been overly close to his father, the king. In most respect, he should hate him yet he didn’t. He had fond memories of them playing in the palace garden. Him teaching him how to ride a horse and how to stand up for himself. Even encouraging him to follow his mother into the field of diplomacy. Yet he always felt mad at his father for being the way he was with women and his children. He had over a dozen wives and twice as many kids. He felt it wasn’t fair to them as he could not teach them or care for them in the same way a normal father could. “Are you sure you want to come you know the rest of his concubine will be around as well?”
This just made her giggle as she tilted her head. “I told you before Leonahardt. When I agreed to marry your father, I was prepared to be one of many that would fight for his affection and in that time, he never once forgotten my birthday or our anniversary. Plus, as his adviser and diplomatic, I got more time with him than you think. I regret nothing in my life with him and I want you to feel the same way.” Her voice was sweet and filled with truth.
Looking down and sighing again he couldn’t say much as a voice came over the intercom. “ETA on landing is 30 seconds my lord and lady.” The voice of the pilot said letting them know they were about to land at the landing pad. At that, the two other figures in the shuttle stood up at the same time and faced the shuttle door in perfect sync. Shortly after that, the shuttle would land with a sharp hiss and light thud.
“Seems we have arrived shale we.” Leonahardt mother said standing and offering her arm so her son could lead her down the ramp.” Nodding and standing as well he would take his mother's arm and lead her down the ramp. “Now Arriving Third Son Prince Leonahardt V. Esmond and Forth Lady of the Court Lady Leona V. Esmond.” The guards announce in a thunders voice for all to hear. Clap would greet them as they ran into a small party meant to greet them. None of his brothers of but he did see one of his youngest sisters. Two small children at her feet whose eyes lit up at seeing them before breaking from their Mother's side and rushing at the two.
“UNCLE LEO GRANDMA LEONA.” They cheer rushing up to the two. Everyone else gasped and held their hands over their mouths. Their mother looked horrified at her children's outburst. However, this did not affect the royal as Leonahardt leaned down and picked up the boy while Leona leaned down and hugged the little girl. “My god you two have grown a lot since the last time we have seen you,” Leona said smiling while Leonahardt ruffled the boy’s hair. “Yes seems that you two have grown up.”
Letting both go they walk over to their mother. “Alice how are you,” Leona said taking the other woman into a hug. Alice would blush deeply still embesesed at the outburst. “Lady Leona Brother Leonahardt I’m so sorry for my children's outburst.” “Think nothing of it sister.” Waving an arm to defuse the situation. “They are kids and family. They should be allowed to be happy.” Even then she seemed a bit flustered. “We both know that I lost my title after marrying Sett. I’m only a low class nobly now the only reason I was let in the Palaic again was because of father condition.”
“Doesn’t matter to us, dear,” Leona said patting her shoulder. “You are still family to us and even your father, I'm sure or he wouldn’t have requested you.”
“To be honest I’m jealous, you followed your heart instead of any tradition.”
“You're both too kind but thank you I’m glad to hear you say that.” She said tears welling up in her eyes. “But don’t let me keep you much longer.”
Leona then grabbed her arm and pulled her along with the two of them. “The pilot will look after the kids. You are coming with us courts be dammed.”
“You should be able to say goodbye as well, plus he happy to see you. He never hated you for picking your own path.”
Her jaw would work quickly to say something but it was too late as she was taken away.
The place settings had to be flawless. Evie kept that in mind as she set about the task she had been assigned. Each setting was carefully arranged, and she consulted the little pad provided for the seating information. The screen had a map of the layout of the banquet hall and after looking around a bit she managed to orient herself and get the nameplates in the right places on the right tables. Despite mostly being family at the banquet it was anything but casual. As an official event, one where an heir meant to rule their entire planet might be named, all the protocols would be followed. The King’s table was set apart from the rest, small and raised it would allow him to oversee the dining hall, and any guests of honor would be seated with him.
For tonight’s meal the King would dine alone, his setting was the only one Evie had set at the table which sat above all the others. Stretching out from that table was a long one meant for all the royal children. The Princes and Princesses were seated in the order of their birth, regardless of their mother. It meant that the siblings were often not seated next to their full siblings, but rather half siblings closest in age. A table to the King’s right, set at an angle, was reserved for the Queens. It was shorter than the children’s table, which was by far the largest of the tables. Then to the left of the King’s table, symmetrical with the other, was the table Evie had set for concubines. The Ladies of the Court that were not officially Queens, but still the mothers of Princes and Princesses of the court.
The last settings were a handful of round tables set far away from the King’s table, at the far end of the Prince’s table. These were for any guests not honored nor officially titled. Evie wasn’t sure who they were, but dutifully set the table and placed the appropriate nameplates. She did not know all the intricacies of the court, nor was she aware of what happened to each member of the extensive family. These places were for those in the family who had relinquished their titles for various reasons, as well as some friends of the King’s from his military and advisors.
With the task complete Evie wheeled the cart to a corner of the room and made her way back to the kitchen. She was not particularly tall, and with her head lowered slightly she did not stand out particularly. Her brown hair was plated in a simple braid, and as she had been taught she kept to the walls as she walked.
Still, somehow the royalty always seemed to know when there was a servant despite the attempts at being nearly invisible. Evie turned her head at the sound of fingers snapping and went over to a blond man who must have been around her age, though it was hard to tell. What she could tell from the attitude alone was that he was much, much higher ranking than she was, so she curtseyed as she approached,”Yes? What can I do for you, sir?”
The young man was not alone. A younger boy, also blond, was with him. He was definitely a little younger than Evie, and both boys were laughing,”We’re bored waiting on the old man and dinner. Entertain us.”
She was supposed to go to the kitchen, but her training had also stressed the importance of following orders from those above her. So she would need to entertain these two somehow. “Er, how? I-I mean, how would you like me to entertain you, sirs?” She had to remember her manners. Evie held her hands together in front of her and lowered her gaze. She could not lose this job.
The young men seemed amused at least. The older one elbowed his younger brother while laughing, the pair exchanging a look at went unnoticed by Evie. The younger one tapped his chin,”Can you dance?”
Evie shook her head.
“Huh. Juggle?” Again she shook her head. “No? Oh, give it a go. What’s around here… Ah-ha.” He picked up one of the vases set along the tables spaced evenly along the corridor. The single decorative flower he plucked out and set on the table, then carelessly poured the water onto the carpet before throwing the vase at Evie. She only just caught it and looked terrified, which made the pair laugh even more. The process was repeated with a second vase and Evie was looking quite worried.
“Just start with two. Go on, try throwing them.”
“I-I couldn’t. I don’t know how…”
The older one stepped closer, his smile a little more predatory than before,”That’s an order. Juggle the vases.”
Evie only hesitated another moment, looking unsure of herself, before she did as she was told and tried to throw and catch the vases. She didn’t last more than a few seconds before a vase shattered on the floor, then the second fell and cracked as well. She looked mortified but the two men were laughing.
“That was funny. Come on, we’ll find something else for you to do. Oh, I have an idea.” The older one started, motioning for her to follow them. She hesitated again, looking at the broken vases. Would she be in trouble for this? She wasn’t sure, but she knew she would be in trouble if she disobeyed, even if the orders were ridiculous, so she followed along as the two brothers led her out to the walled in garden.
The group of three would walk slowly into the palace flanked on either side by Leonhardt guards. Each was clad in armor that mostly covered their faces but left their eyes openable to scan. Each had a halberd in their right hand. The weapon looked old fashion but what most people didn’t know was it was also a modern charge rifle able to open at the tip of the spire and shoot super-heated energy. They were very well trained as both had gone throw the Royal guard training that the king's men went throw. They be handpicked by Leonhardt for bravery and being his friend for many years. Most nobles would not know but both were born of common birth and had no ties to the court making them more trustworthy in Leonhard's mind.
As the group entered the court a small group of maids would greet them three on either side. “Lady Leona Prince Leonhardt welcome home.” They said in perfect sync bowing before coming back to the attraction. Leonhardt disliked all this as he had never been fully comfortable having people wait on him hand and foot. One or two would be fine but six what was he supposed to do with six. His mother had no issues as she went right to work. “Good evening Ladies, we have a few bags in our ship if you be so kind to fetch them and take them to our rooms. After that please prepare my guest room for Lady Alice and her family.”
Alice herself gasped as she turned to Leona. “Lady Leona that is too kind of you I can’t accept that.” A few of the younger maids looked a bit uncomfortable and confused. It was well known that Alice was looked down on for her marriage and abandonment of her title. However, the senor maid sighs stepping forward. “Will you ever learn to accept that you break too many rules and traditions by doing stuff like this Lady Esmond?” She said a frown and serious look on her face. The woman was older than anyone else in the palace. However, she only started to get wrinkles under her eyes. She had sharp blue eyes long blond hair tied back into a braided ponytail. The most sticking feature was two pointed ears. She was an Elf.
“Who me? I would never break any rules of the court.” She smiled at the lead maid tilting her head tilted and looking incent. “Plus, I didn’t make it this far as a Royal Lady by playing by the rules.” This caused Leonhardt to Snicker as he drew the attraction of the elf. “And you boy how many times do I have to tell you to stand straight. Your poster is importin if you want people to take you seriously.” She walked up pushing Leonhardt to stand up straight and then fixed his collar that he messed up while pulling at it. “I swear you two cause my life to me three times harder by just walking into the door.” She then clapped her hands. “Did not the lady give you an order? Are you all not maid jump to it!” She said turning to the five other maids who all flinched and almost fell over each other try to get away from the angry eyes of the lead maid.
Once all other eyes were out of the room the maid's features would soften as she looked at the two of them and shake her head. “I swear it hard finding good help these days.” She then takes one last look around the room before stepping forward and into the arms of Leona who greeted her with a giggle and kiss. “I missed you two seems forever since you last been here.” Alice who was surprised by these actions and turned to Leonhardt who had moved to cover the two women with both his guards in case someone had walked in smiled and shrugged. “Alice meet Ruby my second mother and my mother's wife.” He smiled before turning and hugging the woman. Alice's poor brain could not keep up with what was happening today.
“But but she the king’s wife and…”
“Please dear if your father allowed to have six wives and how many other concubines, I think I’m initial to one other lover,” Leona said walking out from behind them. “Plus, he knows and is fine with it. Half of his lovers have hidden concubines that they think he doesn’t know about. But I was honest with when Ruby and I first started finding feelings for each other.”
“She was my nanny at first.” Leonhardt took over putting a hand on his sister's shoulder. “Took care of me when mother duty took her off-world and she couldn’t keep me with her.” “And with that, I spending a lot of time with the most beautiful kind and sweet woman in the court,” Ruby added standing next to Leona. “I work for this kingdom for a long time yet she was not like one lady I had met in all that time. Not only did she fully trust me to raise her son when not around but asked me for advice and even reward me with bringing me along on trips when she when off for vacation. One thing led to another and we ended up getting married in a small wedding hosted by the king no less. Said he was happy for both of us but we had to keep it secret.”
“So, no second ring or public affection. How awful.” Leona teased as Alice nodded slowly getting the full picture. “Dad seems so cold and hard whenever I see him yet he let all this and more?”
“He cold cause 90% of his wife and children want nothing more than his power with the other 10% thinks he an ass,” Leonhardt said shrugging. “He careful but kind. Again, it is why he left you to leave normally you never be able to be married down but he pushed the court to be able to let you. The losing of title was just the price he had to pay.”
Alice looked down and frowned. “I never knew I just thought he hated me. Seems there a lot I didn’t know.” Leonhardt shrugged. “Not your fault he still an asshole but as he had more kids, he slowly started falling out with keeping up with them. In all fact it was never your fault for not knowing just his for not showing you more love or care.”
With that last note, everyone would turn their head as they would hear a crashing sound down the hallway. “I swear if it that new maid,” Ruby grumbled standing upright and bowing. “If you will excuse me, I must go check out what that was.” She would then turn and leave them all returning to her duty.
Evie was worried about what kind of ideas the pair had. Their ideas about entertainment so far weren’t looking like good things. Two vases were already shattered, and they were leading her into the garden. Once out in the fresh air her pace noticeably slowed. She just couldn’t get over how beautiful everything looked.
The paved path was meticulously maintained, well trimmed grass stretched out on either side, lined by carefully crafted and cultivated flowerbeds. Trees of various sizes, shapes, and colors provided shade. Near the path were some tiny, beautiful white flowers growing in clusters low to the ground, settled quite happily in the thick leaves of the plant, which she couldn’t identify. She came to a stop to examine them a little closer, then jumped when she heard the snapping again.
“Keep up. What an airheaded maid.” The older one complained, but in a light tone. He wasn’t mad, not yet anyway.
Evie lowered her head and hurried after the pair while the younger one chuckled. “She’s cute though. That’s probably why she’s here anyway.”
They both looked at her while she kept her head down, looking at the grass and their feet. She’d worked hard to get this job. She’d begged for the chance. A girl she’d grown up with who now worked washing linens here had finally stuck her neck out and suggested Evie when a job opened. It got her out of the slums. Those cramped streets of crumbling concrete and rusting metal where she could scarcely see the sky were now a memory. The rather simple servants apartments were still unbelievably luxurious to Evie. And she got to see flowers.
They came to a stop and Evie finally looked up. The older one waved his hand vaguely at the tree, toward the branches which reached up toward the sky, blotting out most of the light with the full, leafy boughs. “Up there is some fruit. Go fetch some for me.”
“Ah… up there?” Evie looked as hard as she could, squinting. She didn’t [i see] any fruit.
“Yes. All the low fruits are gone, but the ones high up are the best anyway. Get me fruits as high up as you can. Go on.” He was smirking, as was his younger brother.
An order was an order. She wasn’t really in any position to disobey. She took a breath and then started to scramble up the tree. First one branch and then another. By the third she was looking down nervously. She did not much like heights. “Are you quite sure… I could bring something from the kitchen?”
The younger brother elbowed the older,”Look at her. I can think of something else to do with her.”
“Alright then. As you like. Come down.” The older one waved her down, and Evie quickly complied.
It seemed she’d scarcely touched the ground when the younger of the pair was right next to her, too close for comfort. He touched her head and she shied away. He took hold of her shoulder, and she started to get really worried about what they were going to do next. Then they weren’t alone, someone had approached from another side where she hadn’t seen.
The stranger cleared his throat,”My Lords. As you requested.” This man was no noble. He was dressed simply, his pants threadbare and dark. His shirt was too loose, as though it hadn't originally been his. His hair was stringy, and he hunched over a little as if he were trying to not be noticed.
The older brother took the little bottle that the stranger procured. The younger was at least looking at the stranger and not Evie anymore, though the stranger was staring at her quite intently. The older one asked,”And you’re sure it’ll work? He’ll be dead in minutes? Anything longer and help might save him, and our friend wants him dead tonight.”
“Yes, yes of course. Potent stuff, so be cautious yourself, my good sirs. Is the girl…?”
“Oh, don’t mind her. She’s just our afternoon entertainment.” The younger insisted, putting his arm around her waist. Evie squirmed uncomfortably. “Now go before anyone else sees you.”
“There is the small matter of payment, My Lords…” He bowed with an oily smile.
“Here.” The older tossed a card at the man,”You’ll find everything in order.”
“Thank you. Thank you. And pass my gratitude to your… friend.”
With that the stranger slipped away almost as quickly as he’d come, and the pair’s attention returned to Evie fully. The younger, who still had his arm around her, pulled her in closer even as she tried to lean away,”Now it’s just us. The banquet is hours away, and I have a new idea about how we can pass the time.”
Ruby would leave only to return a few moments later and grab the shorter of the two guards. “You with me I’ll need your skills.” Normally a guard would not move for anyone but his lord. In this case Leonhard but he'd trained them to listen to not just him but his mothers as well. So with a quick look to his master who nodded he smashed his halberd into the ground with a thud and turned to follow the maid out the door. “Think everything okay?” Alice asked. “Not if she got a royal guard,” Leona said sighing moving over to a couch. “Someone fucked up big time as if she got a guard, she feels like someone should be punished.” Leonhardt nodded moving to join his mother. “Yes but for now let wait someone should be around shortly.”
“For what?” She asked confused.
“To see your father dear. Everyone was set with a time to meet him before dinner. We were last since we were off-world handling duties.” Checking the clock Leona would smile as she patted the couch next to her. “Next half hour and we be summoned.” Back with Ruby, she would lead the guard down the hall and out to the garden. Her vision for things most people could see help her track down the culprits. It wouldn’t her long to find them as she turned to corner to see two nobles’ sons each of a high class and friends of the 7th son forcing themselves onto one of the maids. It didn’t take long for Ruby to notice that she was one of the new maids. One to the king's brand new maids. He often likes young things to look at and ogle at. In all the time she worked for the king since he was a boy to the old man, he was now she never understands how much of a womanize he been. However, that did not stop her from doing her job and protecting what was his. Snapping her figure, the guard behind her would lift his halberd and throw it like a spear. With much skill in the aim, the tip of the halberd would hit the noble shoulder and untangle him before impaling him to the tree. It was done so skillfully as to nail him but not kill him. The wound would be shallow and only bleed and hurt not to kill. Once she had their attention, she would hold her chin up high and speak in a commanding voice-only woman of her level and age could muster. “Who the hell do you think you are. That is one of the king’s personal maids. Not only do you touch a royal maid but you have the audacity to touch one of the king’s personal maids. You bring shame to both your family and the kingdoms themselves. Such crimes should be rewarded with death but since it is a rare event with all the king children returning home you may count yourself lucky, I don’t have the guards end you hear.” The guard would step forward and crack his neck with an audible pop. The crest of the third son would be on his shoulder as he walked forward and pulled his halberd free from the man's shoulder letting him fall to the ground. Before in a spin so fast that no one could really see he cut off the little finger of both men's left hands. “Let this be your warning to you both that if you ever cross the line again you lose much more than a finger. “ Ruby said turning s the guard turned his back on the men and grabbed the young maid by her should and covered her in his cap so no one could see her. Once back in the hallway the guard would stop and uncover the girl as ruby would turn to her. Her voice was softer now. “Are you okay girl? What is your name and who is your trainer? Why is she not with you.” Once all the question was answered she would sigh. “You should not have been left alone from this point you are under my command. You will stay with me until the time I see fit and your trainer is punished for leaving you alone without someone looking over you.” She held herself even better than her head maid that she had been training with. She would then turn and tap her foot as she was expected to fall in on the left side with the guard taken upon in the rear. “Come now or ill be late for my meeting.” She would then lead the way back to Leonhardt Leona and Alice.
Evie stumbled back when the man let go. It all happened quickly, but she could sense danger. Not directed at her, but it made her want to hide all the same. Instead she bore witness to the men’s punishment unfolding with her hands covering her mouth.
At the hand touching her shoulder Evie jumped. She followed though, not voicing any complaint. Her mind was struggling to sort out all of the things that had recently happened. The men’s behavior, the stranger visiting, and then her shocking rescue. She looked to the woman who had saved her with wide, doe-like eyes. “Y-yes ma’am.” Evie answered the questions as well as she could, explaining her trainer had set her on place settings and gone ahead to the kitchen. It seemed to Evie that at least for the moment she was not in trouble.
It was a relief to not find herself in trouble over the situation, which still had her head spinning a little. “Of course, ma’am. Thank you ma’am.” Evie fell in place beside and slightly behind the clearly higher ranked maid. She had no idea where they were going or what she would be doing next. She just planned to keep her head down and follow orders, and hopefully stay under the wing of the stern but kind maid just a little longer.
They would come in just as the other where standing. “Good your back.” Leona said smiling. “It our time to be summoned.” She would then look at the new girl and title her head. She was familiar with all her maid and even those of her son but she didn’t not know who this was and from her simple cloths and by the way they looked like they been ruffed she could put together what happen. From the outside Leona would look like any other of the other queen pretty and pampered but her eyes gave away the truth.
Looking into Leona eye’s Evie could see a very smart and intelligent woman. Once that looked like they could read everything about someone and their true intentions. Evie would remember seeing only two pictures of her in her short tour of the castle. The first being the line of queens that hung in the main hall and then one of her the king and a young boy between them. Odd since she seen dozens of pictures of the other queens.
After giving Evie the once over her eyes would soften and a nice almost motherly voice would take over. “I know you like picking up stray cat Miss Ruby but I can't have you bring them to me without warning.” She walked up to Evie as short laugh could be heard from the prince. Even ruby face for a fraction of a second twisted but it was so fast that Evie would be hard pressed to say she saw it at all. “Hello I’m Lady Leona this is my son Leonhardt and my daughter Alice.” She offered her hand not to kiss like Evie had seen others do but to shake. “Sorry if the locals caused you any trouble it a feeding zone if you don’t know your way around.”
She would take her hand and led her away. “If you excuse us for a second, I’m going to take this one to get a proper dress if she going to stay with us for our meeting.” She would then take the girl out of the room and into her room. “Hope your first day not bad miss? Evie what a pretty name. Well then let get your properly dress I got some old dress form my younger year that should fit you. I swear they never let you throw anything out in this place. I order them many a time to get rid of this cause one I have to other wear much fancy cloth and two I got taller.” She giggled only being a few inches taller than Evie. She would then open a door to a massive closet. “Please take find something you like and that would match to something similar to what Miss Ruby had on. We meeting my husband and I can't come in with subpair company.”
It took Evie a moment to recognize the woman. She was initially struck by how it felt like she could see right through her, as if just looking could tell the woman everything she wanted to know about Evie. Then she remembered seeing the face before, among the portraits of Queens. Evie’s eyes widened and she looked worried for a moment. Evie was still feeling skittish after everything that happened, and she was terrified of being sent away. Back to the streets where she’d grown up. Metal buildings stretching up so high it blocked the sunlight, cold damp streets full of rust and filth. And also back to a place she was unwanted, and they’d rub in that she was a failure, that they’d told her she’d never make it and be right back there begging for an old job.
After a moment of subdued panic where she took the offered hand and awkwardly shook, while trying to at least half curtsey, she looked around up at the woman and relaxed a little. She seemed kind, and as though she were trying to comfort Evie.
There was little choice but to follow Lady Leona. She was kind, but had an expectation of obedience that Evie didn’t want to disappoint. Not so much for fear as she’d hate to upset the kind lady.”O-oh. I, um. Y-yes Ma’am. I’m quite happy to, to be here.” Evie stared at the closet in disbelief. “My whole apartment could have… Ah, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t know where to start. I, um.”
She looked distressed. Thankfully the Lady was also compassionate enough to help her select something. Evie’s eyes had lit up seeing a pale pink dress. It was not especially ornate, but had a layered skirt that gathered under the bust and fell in a way that reminded her of flower petals, which she’d voice aloud and then looked embarrassed about, but the Queen had simply laughed and had Evie try it on. It fit well, and Lady Leona helped adjust the part that Evie had initially assumed were sleeves, but actually fastened at a spot near her collarbone and draped around her arms and in a loop around her lower back, the fabric simply hanging loosely. The straps just wrapped around her neck, a halter top to keep the front of the dress up while her back remained more exposed than she normally would have liked.
Lady Leona seemed pleased with it, and Evie was blushing. Looking at herself in the mirror she was almost unrecognizable. A far cry from the dirty urchin she’d been when she begged for her job here. “It suits you, even if it’s a little formal. Now we have to hurry. We can’t be late.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Evie was sounding a little more confident and followed behind Lady Leona with a smile, looking a little bashful. She’d never worn anything nearly this nice, she’d thought her slate gray dress had been wonderful. Even if she never wore anything like this again she’d always remember this.
Once they had rejoined the other Leonhardt and Alice would turn and smile at the both of them. "O my you look so pretty," Alice said standing up and walking over. "Sorry I didn't introduce my self I am Alice." As Alice had a quick chat with Evie Leonhardt would walk up to his mother "Are you ready mother?" He asked taking a few seconds to look Evie up and down taking in her new appearance. She look better and he could help but wonder what happened that would make Ruby bring her with them. This was supposed to be a private event with only the close people involved. However if ruby felt it was important enough to bring her along or keep a close eye on her then he would not question it. "Yes dear I'm ready, come along now." She said wrapping onto her son's arms with her own and leading him out of the room. Alice would curtsy to Avie before turning to rejoin Leona and Leonaharth. Ruby would snap her finger the command to fall in beside the head maid. After them, the two guards would fall in behind them guarding the rear watching over the group. As they walked Ruby would talk in a low tone. "Now then since you be joining us on our visit to the king their are three rules you need to know. First do not speak unless spoken to. We are not there to do anything but follow our lord's and lady's request should they need anything. Second, stay next to me and don't wander off I know most of this is new to you but can't have you falling behind. Last and most important anything and everything you hear and see stay in that room. You are not allowed to speak of anything you see or hear no matter what. If you fail to follow this last rule the crime is punishable by death." Ruby would turn her head for the first time and look at her while they walk. "Do not replay Lady Leona's kindness by blabbing her secrets to her enemies." With those last words, she would turn her head back straight as they walked out into a grand room before turning off and heading down a side room before coming to a grand door with two guards standing outside is decked out in heavy golden armor. They would both smash their weapons as the group approached before each grabbed handle and opened the grand doors. Letting the group enter.
“Thank you, Lady Alice.” The girl couldn’t have been much older than Evie, and her casual manner made Evie feel quite welcome. They talked briefly about fashion and colors, where Evie revealed she’d never worn anything very nice before. She was delighted with all the clothes she saw here, even just to look. Her earnest enthusiasm had Alice smiling through their talk.
Evie was feeling much better as she returned Alice’s curtsy and hurried to walk by Ruby, as instructed. Somehow Ruby had a way of being commanding that left Evie in awe and rushing to obey without making her feel frightened. She listened to Ruby attentively when she started speaking. She nodded along, taking it all quite seriously. “Of course, ma’am.”
The instructions were simple enough, and of course Evie had no plans to do anything that would hurt Lady Leona. The Lady had been nothing but kind to her, despite no reason to do so. She could have simply abandoned her back to the palace alone, but instead she’d dressed her and brought her along.
The doors were magnificent, and the rooms beyond even moreso. Evie couldn’t help but gasp softly when they entered and she took in the chamber. The first room was a sitting room, which was by itself larger than the home she’d grown up in. Shelves were lined with delicate looking baubles, there were seats made of plush red fabric and a dark polished wood. It all looked too beautiful, especially with the light from the golden chandelier hanging down. They didn’t linger here, instead moving on to a bedroom that was similarly large. A huge bed dominated the room, and laying among the pillows and huge blankets was the King himself.
He looked so frail, not the strong man from the portraits. The rumors that the King might die soon seemed real enough to Evie now. It was the first she’d laid eyes on the King despite being hired as part of his staff. As instructed, Evie didn’t say a word and stayed right by Ruby’s side.
The group would enter the room and notice a lone figure standing next to the bed her expression somber-looking down at the king gently resting in his bed. The King himself was looking worst than anything Leonhardt had ever seen. His skin was pale and wrinkly, his eyes had sunken in and had dark bags under them. A far sight from the strong man who had raised him in his early year. He must not have been the only one to think so as Alice gasped and grabbed onto Leonhardt's arm looking down and away. She couldn't stand to see her father like this. A man who had commanded respect and power all these years and who had shown his children appearances meant anything world of politics. And here he nows lies his body betraying him. Looking up from the king the woman would smile noticing the group. "Leona, Leonhardt, Alice, and Ruby, how good to see you all again." The woman said walking around the bed and walking up to Leona and taking her into a hug. "Queen Euphemia," Leona said returning the hug her voice chocked up for seeing the king. "How is he and how are you?" Queen Euphemia the first Queen of the kingdom and the woman how had put up with more of the King shenanigan than any other person alive. Yet she had no children of her own. She instead made her way in the world by keeping her husband in check. She was the most loved and feared of any of the queens as she spent so much time with the king. This made some of the lesser wives jeluic and envoys but no Leona she always respected and looked up to Euphemia as an older sister. "He has been better off and on again sleeping. He has been asking about you three quite a bit. You're the last to see him. As for me, I'm fine worried but we both knew that this sickness may take him someday. I made my peace but I find it hard to leave his side." Leona would nod hugging her tighter. "I'm sorry my duty put me farther out than normal. I rushed back as soon as I heard. Understandable really you have been together for so long." Just then a deep and hard voice would speak up from the bed. "Would you two stop talking about me like I'm already dead." The king said slowly pushing himself up into a sitting position. "The darkness will not claim me until I'm good and ready." This would cause a grasp from the group and a smirk from Leonhardt. "Not willing to just roll over and die? Goes and here I thought wouldn't ever have to talk to you again." This would earn him a slap on the arms from Ruby but a hardy chuckle from the king. "I'm afraid not my boy. I figured I need to give you one last stern talking to before I kick the bucket. You as bull-headed." "As you my dear." Leona finish smiling at her husband as she walked over and kissed him having to almost climb up into the bed to do so. Euphemia smiled before excusing herself to let the group have their turn with the King.
As she’d been instructed to Evie stayed by Ruby’s side and remained silent while the family talked and spent time with the gravely ill king. There was little for her to do but watch and think. In private like this they seemed like… well, a fairly normal family, she supposed. She couldn’t really compare it to her own upbringing. Her family was not so affectionate, or what was left of it wasn’t.
Then there was the matter of the two lords who had cornered her. They had bought something from a suspicious stranger, and the way they talked had her fairly certain it was some kind of poison. They were buying it for a friend though. She wondered who this friend was, and more importantly who it was they wanted dead. A member of the royal family? But who?
She doubted it was the king. Just seeing him told her he didn’t have much time left. It wouldn’t be worth the death sentence if they were caught to kill a dying man. Then was it a Queen? Prince or Princess? She had no idea, but she intended to keep an eye out and figure out what was going on.
Once the visit was over she continued to keep close to Ruby, and await any further orders on what to do before the banquet.
With Euphemia leave the King would smile at them all. "It's good to see you all. I have many things to say and I fear not a lot of time to say them." He said slowly pushing himself out of bed and standing. This shocked most of the people in the room as Leona let him lean on her for support as a coffin fit took him. "Father you shouldn't be up," Leonhardt said concern in his voice. "Is that Concern I hear my boy. So you do care." He chuckled much to Leonhardt's annoyance. "No, I spent too much time in that blasted bed. I refuse to let my last days be stuck in bed helpless. If I die it will other on my feet or my favorite chair." He would then lead the group into a connected room that was his study. Books would line the walls and a fireplace would be surrounded by chairs and a couch. "Please sit sit." He took the biggest one with a sigh that was located closest to the fire. Leona took the seat next to him resting both hands on his left arm while everyone else would take a seat other on the couch or on the chair across from the king. Evie would find herself sitting next to Leonhardt on the couch with Ruby to her right. At first, only the crackles of the artificial fire would make a sound until finally, the king sighed. "Let me just say out of all my wives and lover Leona you have been one of my close and most faithful. Never have I felt betrayed or that you just loved me for my position. You loved me for me alone. You help our kingdom form relations with our many allies in the galaxy. I'm glad to have met you and had you in my life. You have given me a son truly worth the title of prince." Leona lean against her husband a tear streaming down her face as he spoke. He turned to Leonhardt then. "Leonhardt, I know we have not always seen eye to eye. You think me spoiled, bashful, and womanize. And you may be correct in a lot of what you say about me but out of all my sons, you have always had the best heart. A lot of that comes from your mother raising you not to abuse your power but to instead use it to help others. I know off all your deed form story of friends and even your brother and sister. You are kind smart and understand that a king is nothing without his people." Leonhardt looked down his face filled with grief He then turned to Alice. "Alice my daughter. You have made me so proud of the woman you turned into. I have not been a very good father to you. Having to kick you out of the line and even banning you from the palace for anything less than my death. But please do not think it is because I don't love you. In fact, you have become better than any other of my children. Willing to leave everything behind to stand behind the man you love. I fear a storm is coming and I am happy to know you are left out of it." Alice wiped tears from her face as her father spoke. He then turned to Ruby. "It makes me happy to know you'll still be watching over all of them when I gone Ruby. You who has Faithfully served since the day I was crowned king. The lover to a beautiful woman you love with all your heart and the second mother to my finest sun. I wish there were words for how grateful I am to you." Ruby face was no longer the stoket face but one of sorrow. "It was my pleaser my King. Do not worry about everyone I will watch and guide them as I have watched and served you." She said bowing her head. The king smiled then turned to Evie before tilting his head and looking confused. This got a laugh out of Leona as she said. "Don't you remember dear? This was your newest maid the one you planned to add to your harem." This caused the king to chuckle and play along. "O yes I remember now. I'm sorry my dear I'm not as handsome and dashing as I use to be." He said to her.
Evie did exactly what she was told and took the seat indicated for her and remained silent as she watched and listened. This was a side of the royal family that few were permitted to see. The King as a caring father. Every portrait she’d seen of him projected power, but here he was weak and vulnerable.
She couldn’t help but let her eyes wander just a little over the magnificent surroundings she found herself in. Just these private chambers seemed more than comfortable to live in, and it was only a small part of the palace itself.
The King was saying his goodbyes to those he cared for, so Evie didn’t really expect to be noticed or spoken to. When she was she looked a little startled. “Huh? Oh.” Her cheeks were turning red. Evie knew she was hired as a maid for the King’s household, and had generally been told how the prettier ones were often part of the King’s harem before long, but it was still a bit unexpected to have it mentioned in this context when she was content to be ignored.
“N-not at all. I mean, I… um.” Evie covered her mouth with one hand briefly,”It’s an honor to meet you, Your Majesty.” She had recovered and remembered some of the manners she’d been taught in a hurry just before actually starting. “I am so grateful to serve here.” It was sincere, and she lowered her head before peeking to either side of her, to Ruby and to Prince Leonhardt, wondering if she’d said too much.
Leonhardt rolled his eyes at his father as Ruby just shook her head. Leona would just giggle as she patted the girl's knee. The king for his part smiled sweetly before coffing for a bit. "Do not worry my dear. These are my days of peace you may drop the formalities speak with me as you would your own father." "Or grandfather with how old and decrepit you look," Leonhardt said. "Can you for once in your life not flirt with every woman you meet. She is more than half your age and most likely finds you old and wrinkly." His voice was annoyed but didn't hold any anger. "I must agree with Prince Leonhardt, my lord," Ruby said fain deadpanned. "You have far reached the rears that you should be the chacing girl your own daughter age." The king would be sent into a laughing fit that would quickly change into a coffin fit before calming down. "Perhaps you are right but no I will never stop this world is filled with to many beautiful that I can not ignore. Out of all the things I have given you I'm saddened you never learned this from me, my boy." "It because of this that I have learned not to be like you. Over half of your children hate you while the other half only wait for you to drop dead and pick your body apart for the riches. I'll be happy to settle down with one or two wives and live my life out happy away from this mess of politics." The king would sigh at this. "Again true but I believe they hate me for more than just my romantic side but it is true. Most of them seem happy my end is near they only wish to live fine lives without understanding the importance of it. In this, I have failed to teach them." He looked down before sighing again and smiling again. "Speaking of wives how is your fiancee." "Lady Serina? She is fine last we spoke she and her father will be coming to pay their respects to you. Should arrive after dinner." He spoke smiling a bit at the mention of his fiancee. It had been an arranged marriage. Between the houses in charge of the major farming clans of the kingdom and the kingdom itself. "Very very good. I was hoping to get to speak one last time." He then turned back to Evie and offered her his hand to come to join him next to his chair. Again Leona didn't seem to mind use to her husband's flirty nature. "Now then please tell me a bit about yourself and tell me what you think of your first few days working here?"
“My own father…” Evie mumbled and frowned slightly. Her father was not someone she’d speak fondly to or of. Not that she needed to tell them all of that. Instead she listened as they teased the old king about his flirtatious habits.
There was a lot of history here she could tell she was missing. Of course, they were a family and had plenty going on before her arrival. They were the royal family at that, the one that maintained control over their entire planet through a complex series of alliances. And wasn’t Lady Leona a diplomat, or something like that? Evie was trying to remember, but was being asked again.
She hesitated before rather shyly going where indicated to go by the old king. “Myself? I can’t say my life has been terribly interesting. Working here is wonderful though. I’ve never seen so much green and beautiful plants. Things are so clean and it’s bright.”
Evie was enthusiastic about her job here,”I know I have a lot to learn still, but I’m very glad to be here. Miss Ruby and Lady Leona have been wonderful to me.”
The kick would instruct her to sit on her left side while Leona was on his right. Looking now at the rest of his family the king would smile at his son. "See anything can happen if you are polite and nice." The king said patting Evie's knee. Sighing his son would roll his eye. "She only doing cause you king not cause you charming or handsome. She just makeing a dying man happy." "Well she making me very happy so mission accomplished" This got a few chuckles out of the rest of the family. Once the laughter died down did the king continue. "My final lesson to you is to enjoy life. It's short and you don't know when it will be taken away. I have very few regrets in my life as I lived it the way I wanted." He then looked at Evie. "Miss Evie please accept my first and last order to you. Server my Son Prince Leonahardt V. Esmond and his mother Lady of the Court Lady Leona V. Esmond as you would have me. Server under them and treat them no different than you would have me. You will be their personal maid until the time Lady Ruby sees fit to make you ahead maid over Leonhardt's own children.” Ruby smiled agreeing. "I think in time she makes a fine maid and servant to the throne." Leona clapped her hands. "O it been so long since I had someone so young to dress up and gossip with." Leonhardt shook his head but smlied. "Always so spear of the moment father but it is nice to have another person to help. Work gets busy in the spring and a maid that can be trusted is hard to come by. Plus if anything you can distract mother when she gets in her moods." This got him a swift kick from Leona who hussed him. "I don't have moods thank you very much
Evie listened and nodded, looking quite happy with the order. “Of course, Your Majesty. I will be delighted to serve them to the best of my abilities.”
It meant a lot that they trusted her. She barely knew them and yet they had defended her and taken her in under their wing. She smiled at their banter, hoping that in time she might feel at ease enough to speak so freely, but she was too shy for now. So she just listened with her hands in her lap for a moment before adding,”Well, whatever is needed I hope I’ll be of some help to everyone. Kindness like this is… much more than I expected to find. So thank you.”
She hadn’t been sure what awaited her here when she had applied and been accepted as a maid, but this was beyond her wildest dreams. She had hoped for simple stability. A comfortable bed, warm meals, and honest work were all she dared hope for. That and the chance to escape her life from before.
Evie was content to mostly listen while the family spent their time together. She could tell that the King was frail, perhaps more weak than he let on, and wanted to spend the time with his family. Still, the visit was over sooner than she thought any of the family would like, but he needed to rest before the banquet that evening since he intended an appearance.
Evie followed Ruby as she knew was appropriate when it was time to leave and was ready to dutifully follow whatever orders were given next. She’d be sure that as far as she was able that Lady Leona and Prince Leonhardt would be perfectly pleased with the banquet. At least whatever she did for them.
The small talk would go on for a while more before a knock at the door would interrupt them. Lady Euphemia would return with a sad smile. "I'm sorry it interrupt but dear you should rest before dinner. You don't want to faint in the middle of dinner." The king would scoff at this but agree to sigh himself. "Seems our time it up but after dinner come back here for some more conversations and tea." Slowly standing up with help from Leona and Evie he would return to his room while the rest would be shown out.
Leonhardt's face was a mix of emotions that his sister would see coming close and hugging his side. Her own face sad as well. "I wish we have gotten more time." She said Leonhardt agreeing. "It strange to see him like that trying so hard to be strong while his body is slowly killing him. Not even once showing trying to show it."
"That is your father," Ruby said walking up and placing a hand on his shoulder. "He will never let life take away from what he wants to do. Or let others see him as anything but a strong king." Leona nodded walking up next to Ruby and hugging her from behind. They stay like that for a few seconds before remembering they had someone new in the mix.
All turning they give her a look to see her reaction. Before Leonhardt finally broke the Eerie silence. "So then Evie was it? I guess I should properly introduce myself. Third Son Prince Leonahardt V. Esmond. However, I tend to hate my full title and you can call me Sir or Leonhardt." He would reach out his hand to her to properly shake it. A thing, not often done by nobles but one he perfected from years of training to be an Ambassador.
This was the first time he had really gotten a good look at her and his father was right. She was very pretty. Her soft and pale skin was beautiful in the dress her mother had given her. She might even notice for the spilled second his eyes taking her fully before going back to the neutral.
"I know isn't great," Leona said snatching the woman into a hug. "Your very own handmaid and one as beautiful as this what a great gift. O i cant wait to start dressing you up in all the fine gones I can find." "Dearest don't harass my new apprentice," Ruby said snapping to recall the girl to her side and away from the two nobles.
"O you never let me have my fun." Leona pouted to Alice's giggles.
"Cause if I did she run off in a week compiling bout how touchy the queen is."
The king likely needed his rest. He was putting on a brave front, but he looked so frail compared to his portraits. Evie was glad to help and bid the king a goodbye that was polite and sweet, genuinely wishing him well before following Lady Leona out.
They really were a tight knit little family. It was touching to see them care for each other, but it was bittersweet for Evie. She couldn’t really see her own family ever acting so kind and caring towards each other.
Evia smile at the introduction and rather timidly took the hand he offered. She wasn’t used to this sort of thing. People being particularly polite to her. “It’s an honor, Sir.” She was a little afraid to be too informal.
He seemed to be looking at her more closely, but before she could give it any real thought Lady Leona had pulled her into a hug. Evie just smiled, quite happy with the attention. Once she was released she obediently hurried to Ruby’s side,”Oh, I don’t mind really. I… my…” She hesitated, not quite ready to share details of her family life. “It doesn’t bother me, it’s quite nice.”
There were still a few hours until the banquet and likely plenty of work to do. She had no idea how the kitchen would be faring without her, but now she had actually officially been reassigned here so she could attend to anything Lady Leona or Leonhardt needed without any guilt.
Ruby would smile a bit at the quick-acting girl. "Well, I should see that the staff knows of Miss Evie's transfer to my service and few words with her old supervisor about why she was left alone in the first place." A glint in Ruby eye's made Evie shiver and almost feel bad for her former employer. Turning to Evie Ruby would say. "Return to the queen's room with her and dress back in your maid outfit and under no circumstances let her dress you. You have work to do before dinner." This caused a pout from lady Leona but nothing else.
"Once dress follow Lord Leonhardt and prepare for the arrival of Lady Serina and her father Lord Jarrvien." She would not know the name of Lady Serina but Lord Jarrvien she would be taught in school that the world was ruled by the king but broken into areas City Farming cattle weapons and military. Each held great power but none over the king however they each held power over the world with the Lord being able to control trade in and out of the cities.
Lord Jarriven was lord over most of the food and his family symbol would be over most food packages that were sold. Out of all the lords, he was known for being the nicest and most likely to help the people often setting up food banks to feed starving families. He was also close to the kind and when his elder daughter came of age both had agreed to an arranged married to straighten the tied. However, when it was announced that the third son was set to marry the lady there was an outrage in the castle as most would think the first son was going to be picked.
This had even surprised Leonhardt at the time as he had been off-world on missions. The king had left the subject with more questions than answers only saying. "I have picked only basic on the fact that my first son already married." This was true as he had been married off years early and even have several mistresses. At which, the duty would fall to the second son but he been in the military for many years and was much too busy to take a wife. Leaving Leonhardt. This had earned him many glares and much eve from the court.
"O that right your set to be married I forgot," Alice said blushing and walking over to Evie and taking her hand. "I'll help Evie change as I love to meet her if that's fine with you brother." She said slowly forcing herself to act normal around her family.
"I would love for you to meet and take your time I'm sure we have another thirty minutes before they arrive after that we have drinks before dinner." He said smiling before Alice would lead Evie away.
Evie had a feeling her previous supervisor would end up in quite a bit of trouble over this. Hopefully not too much, it really seemed like she was just overwhelmed with the amount of work to do.
“Yes ma’am.” Evie nodded. Already she was meeting so many important people, but she supposed she shouldn’t be so surprised since she worked in the palace, and especially now that she was working for the third prince.
She smiled at Lady Leona. Maybe later she could have her fun dressing her up. Evie wouldn’t mind it, as long as it wouldn’t interfere with her work, since she didn’t want to risk her job. “Thank you um, Miss Alice.”
Not sure of what title to use she settled for that and hoped it wouldn’t offend. The last thing she wanted to do was offend or upset people who had been so kind to her. “I appreciate the help. I’m still getting used to this. It’s actually my first full day here.” Evie was glad for the help handling the delicate, beautiful dress Leona had put her in to make sure it got put away properly and not damaged.
"Please just call me Alice." Said taking her hand and leading her back towards the room where her clothes had been left. "It's fine I'm sure it is all very overwhelming. More so for your first day. I don't know what happened before Ruby found you but seems it changed your life quite a bit." She make small talk before they arrived back in Leona's room and she help her change back into her maid outfit and get the clothes put away. Once they were done with that, Alice offered to braid her hair and make it easier to handle. She reminded that they had at least another ten minutes before they had to meet back up with the prince. "This place hasn't changed much in the time I've been away yet it feels more empty without father in it. Before he was all over the place moving in and out of the room checking on all his wives and kids. He never had a lot of time for each of us but he made time at least to say hello and see how we were doing. Ask a few questions about our studies or lives and even make time if we had issues or problems." Evie felt like she wasn't fully being taken to more like the girl was trying to come to terms with what she has just seen. The king had been in a pretty bad state even if he had hid it well. "I remember when I was young I often play by his feet with some of my sister and brother but as I got older I saw him less and less. Until the day I told him I wouldn't marry the prince I had been set up with. That I loved my Jim and I would marry him. At the time he didn't say anything to me as my mother panicked and told me everything I'd be given up. I replied I didn't care dam the crown and dam my states. At that point, my father stood up and left only saying. "As you wish." He had a look on his face that I always mistook for a foolish pitty but I know was pride and happiness that I stood up for not just myself but also the one I loved. I never saw him again yet looking back now I think he was the one that help me out the most." She stooped her braiding and blinked. "O sorry I didn't mean to ramble on like that I'm sure you don't want to hear about some noble woman's daddy issue. I'm sure you have a lot more on your plate." She would stand up and offer her hand and start to lead the way back out towards the waiting room.
Her life had changed dramatically recently. “Yes, things are very different now from how they were. It’s a good change, though.” She smiled and nodded at Alice, and then just listened as Alice talked while they got Evie changed in preparation for the banquet.
It seemed as though royalty had their own problems. Not that Evie was especially close to her father. It sounded nice that the King had cared for his children, even if he didn’t have much time for them. It was nice to let Alice just talk and braid her hair. It felt almost sisterly, it reminded her of happier times as a child almost, though the girls when she was little all complained about very different things than Alice. Evie smiled and took Alice’s hand warmly,”No no, don’t worry. It was nice. You’re a very sweet person, Alice. Thank you.”
It can’t have been easy to leave her family. Her family cared about her, but there were heavy expectations. Evie couldn’t quite imagine it, but she was a caring sort of person. That hadn’t been squashed out of her in the difficult years she’d lived in poor conditions. It was time to meet up and get her next set of instructions.
They would meet up with Leonhardt out in the main room again. He was looking at something on his communicator before looking up at them. "Right on time good." He said walking over and handing Evie her own. "Here your need this if you want to get in touch with me or Ruby. Feel free to add more contacts if you like but do remember it most for your job so don't play with it on the clock." Alice smiled taking it first and putting her own number in it. "Just in case you ever need anything." She smiled handing it over. With that all done they would head back out to the landing pad. The guards followed behind watching over the group as always. The landing pad was mostly empty but for a hand full of troops. They were all dressed up in fancy uniforms but the man in the middle had the most medals and rank of the group. Taking a few seconds to look at his face she would recognize him as the Second Prince of the nation. Second Prince Alexander. "Alexander." Leonhardt bowed toward his older brother. Alexander was a hair shorter than Leonhardt but was more well built and had a stern and hard face to him. "Leonhardt good to see you." He said walking over and shaking his hand. "How goes the talks off-world?" "Slow mostly, the new dawn they a greedy bunch but not against haggling and making compromises. Their trade roots will make it faster and safe to move your troops should we ever need them." Though they talked in a flat and natural voice there was respect between the two. Alexander had joining the military once he come of age saying that a leader is nothing if he didn't know how to lead. He enter under a different name so he would be treated like an equal and quickly rise in the ranks before revealing his true identity. Because of this, he was looked at fairly by both the king and the people. He was most like to get the thrown since Leonhardt had rejected it himself. The bother were friendly enough each sharing hate for their eldest brother. "Here to greet the duke?" Leonhardt asked. "That we are only seemed fair to greet them and seeing as your fiancée would be on board I figured it was the best to talk to you." "Is there something the matter?" "Their might but it word only for your ears." He turned to Alice and Evie. "Good to see your sister but I'm sorry since you are not part of the royal class I must ask you to step away. Same to you Miss. If you both be so kind my Wife and kids are in the main hall could you grab them for me and bring them here." Alice browed. "Of course brother. Come Evie." She said turning to leave the brothers
Evie thanked him profusely for the communicator, and Alice for her number. She didn’t have one before this, so it was pretty important to her. She handled it carefully as she tucked it away,”I’ll take good care of it.”
It was time to go so Evie fell in line and followed at the respectful distance she’d been directed to. It was the default unless specifically instructed otherwise. It was back to the landing pad, where Evie assumed more guests would be greeted. Seeing another prince she bowed as well and awaited any instructions. She knew she wasn’t to speak unless spoken to, and to simply wait until she was required to do something. These brothers seemed to be fairly close, though Evie wasn’t sure about how all of the royal siblings interacted. There were quite a few of them since the king had numerous wives.
A conversation not meant for her ears. She supposed she should get used to this. There were probably plenty of secrets around the palace. With a quick glance to Leonhardt to see that it was fine for her to go, or if he had anything to add, she bowed,”Of course, sir.”
Evie followed Alice back inside from the landing pad and hesitated, keeping close to Alice,”I’m afraid I’m not quite sure I know where I’m going. The main hall is… which way from here again?” She was sure she’d get it soon enough, but she was more familiar with areas lower down where the kitchens and dining halls were, since that was where she’d been trained mostly.
Once both girls were out of ear range Alexander would start. "I come to warn you, from what I heard and my people have overheard your life is in danger." He didn't look at Leonhardt directly but passed him. His vision was forced far off. "I fear more than just your life is in such a state. The fact of the matter is that once the king passes a lot of sons and daughters will try to take their claim to the throne. Seeing as your one of father favors and most likely his picks for king, you be a target to them." "I already made it quite known that I have no interest in claiming the thrown. You know that well." Leonhardt said his voice holding a hit of anger. "Plus I'm still at least third in line behind Lionheart and you." "Normal you be correct and but I fear things are not that simple. Everyone knows that if Lionheart gets the throne the kingdom will be thrown into chaos. He may be the eldest son but he nothing but an entitled brat that has no interest in leading a country just using it for his party and fame. Our kingdom will be taken advantage of by other plants to fill his pockets. Father knows this the council sees it." "Then that leaves you."Leonhardt pointed out. To witch, Alexander nodded. "True I would be next but I don't have the diplomatic weight that most of the rest you do. I know how to lead yes but politics and such are not my forty. I would most likely be miss lead." "I or some other advisers could help you with that. That not a hard thing to fix." "True but still this makes you a target by our other siblings Once they get you out of the way they make a slot open for themselves. War is coming Leonhartd you must be ready for it." ------------------- Alice would giggle a little as she lead the way. "Yes it quite easy to get lost in the palice. I cant remember how often I got lost as a child and some guard or nanny had to find me. From what i heard when Leonhardt was young he had the whole palice panicked casue he ran off and hid and no one could find him. Well that was until father found him hidding in one of the hidden passages that only they knew about. Leona was in such a fit she punshed the boy with a month of school work." Alice would lead them down several halls before finally coming back to the man gate. One of Leonhardt guards had followed them to make sure both lady would be portected and no issue would come of them. The main hall was grand as any in the palice filled with pictures of kings form long. The hall was filled with people chatter up and down that hall. "So if I remeber right the family should be the most well behaved group of kids you ever seen." Alice giggled seacher the hall with Evie.
“Oh my.” Evie couldn’t help but giggle at that, her mouth hidden behind one hand,”I suppose I don’t feel so bad for getting lost.”
She followed along, trying to keep the route in her head. She hoped to be able to figure her way around the palace before too much longer, but it was just so large with so many floors. There were so many people gathering, which made sense because the banquet would start in a while and no one would want to be late, and they seemed to enjoy the socializing before the meal. “Ah, I’m sure they’ll be lovely.”
She had no idea who she was looking for, so it was only when Alice greeted them that Evie knew who they were. There was a dignified looking woman that had to be a few years older than Evie, at least. She held herself tall and seemed stern, but she had a kind smile when she greeted them.
Two children were next to her, one to either side. A boy at least a few years old and a girl a little younger. They were both small, and looked precious when they greeted Alice and Evie with waves. Evie curtsied,”It’s a pleasure to meet you. Prince Alexander requested that we escort you back to him.”
“Thank you. Children, come along, your father wants to see us.” The girl stayed close to her mother, but the little boy started ahead and went to Alice to chat with her. While he did the woman walked closer to Evie,”I haven’t seen you before, I can tell by your uniform you’re a royal maid. To which household are you assigned, and how recently?”
“Ah, um Prince Leonhardt, ma’am. Today.”
“Very new. I see. I take it he’s talking with my husband now? That’s good. I hoped they could meet before dinner.”
Evie wasn’t sure why, but she knew something was happening. This dinner was no ordinary dinner with family. She wasn’t sure what to expect as the night went on, but expected that she would simply keep her head down and do as she was told.
"Do you really think that they try something before father passing?" Leonhardt asked looking up. "I not sure it makes sense as any move against the next hair now would be foolish as he can still cut them out of the family moment before his death. However, most of our siblings are not that smart so they could try any number of things. Just keep your guard up for now." "I will and you do the same." With their meeting over both sighed and shook their head. "I see the day life was simple. when it was just the three of us." "Simply would be nice we all grown into different people. You, me, and Lionheart have all changed quite a bit. "One of use became the main general one a diplomat and one a spoiled brat." Leonhardt chuckled before looking back at his brother. "I wonder what changed. I remember him being strong and noble when we were kids. Standing up for the three of us taking the blame when I broke something. Now he has none of those things he's just a brat. "I feel like it has something to do with his mother and the one around him," Alexander said shrugging but I do remember when he was a man I looked up to. ------------- Alice would smile but not say much as she would help Eve lead them back but however when they got close they would hear a great commonion ahead of them. The path had been blocked by a man and his Entourage of some very beathful woman. He was dressed in a almost commical amount of garments. All the woman would be laughing and giggling over every word the man said and only stop when he turned and looked over at the group frowning. "O so the even let the lowere classes back in for the old man death it seems." He said laying eys on Alice would recoliced and stepped back. "Yes broth..." She try to say but was cut off by a sharp. "THAT FIRST PRINCE LIONHEART to the lower classes like you." he said with so much vinom that Alice flinched as if she been struck. "Now what do you want I'm in the middle of showing these fine lady around." "I'm...I mean we are... taking lady Knight to meet her husband at the landing pad..." "Well go around." He cut her off. "I'm using this area at the moment." He then looked over at Evie and gave a charming smile. "You can stay miss why dont you join us." It sounded more like an order then a subjuects to Evie. "She with..." Alice try to say but was harshly and rudely cut off. "I wasn't talking to you present now leave or I have one of my guard toss you out." at this point Alice was almost in tears try to control her emotions.
Arrogant. That was the first word that came to mind when Evie saw the first prince. He was, quite simply, a bully. He wasn’t the first bully Evie had ever met. She didn’t like the way he spoke to Alice, but there was little she could do. She was easily the lowest ranked person here by status. She couldn’t disrespect him. Besides, that wasn’t how Evie was, even if she thought he could do with being humbled a little.
Evie bowed deeply when he smiled at her. Refusal didn’t sound like something he would take easily, but there was no way she would go with him,”I… Ah, I’m deeply honored, First Prince Lionheart, by your gracious invitation.” She glanced to Alice briefly. She was so nervous, but she went on as politely as she could,”I’m afraid I just can’t accept.”
“Of course you can.” He barked. He wasn’t used to being disobeyed. Evie’s cheeks were red, partly from anger but also from embarrassment, which was how he took it anyway,”Get over here. I’ll show you a nice time. You don’t need to be shy, but it’s kind of cute.”
He was still interested in flirting with her, so that was something. He wasn’t angry yet. Evie gave her best curtsy,”As I’m assigned to Third Prince Leonhardt and he’s given me an order I must carry it out, Sir.” She was going to be pushing her luck a little here, but she chewed her inner lip briefly before she went on. She wasn’t going to fail in her duties serving Leonhardt. “A man as noble and intelligent as you, Your Highness, must understand. And I know my place as a servant to follow the orders of my master.”
If she understood the code correctly from when it was explained to her then regardless of rank one member of royalty could not order a servant from another household around in a way that would directly contradict an order from their actual master or interfere in their duties to serve the master they were assigned, with the only exception being the king who could order or reassign servants as he saw fit. It was in place to prevent the various wives and children from messing with each other using the servants.
Her guard would step up at this point. It was the half-human from the best Evie could tell but he had picked up off Evie open. Guards didn't hold much more authority than servants but when it came to caring out orders or protecting their current charter they could be quite threatening. Stepping around and then in front of Evie he says. "Lady Evie is under my Lord's care should you have an issue with this you may follow us and resolve any insults or issues." Clearly, the Prince did not like this his Face going red with anger. He steps back and opened his mouth to say but then thought better of it. Whether it was common sense that took hold or something else he sighs regaining his poster."Fine and I think I'll do that." He then did a full 180 his cape flapping in the wind as he would leave. His Entourage following him giggling and whispering to each other. "I sware if that boy becomes king this kingdom will fall within a month." Alexander's wife said shaking her head and looking down at her boys. "He a spoiled brat with control issue." Alice had her head in her hands trying to control herself. Tears streaming down the side of her face as tried to wipe them away. What had been said to her clearly affected her. A pain running deep in her
Evia sighed softly. The issue of the succession was a thorny one. While she knew it often went to the eldest, the King could choose any of his children to succeed him. It wasn’t unusual for a King to name a younger child as the heir, but it was odd that the King seemed so close to death and still had not named which child would rule next.
It wasn’t her concern, really. Such matters were far above her. Instead she put a comforting arm around Alice,”Here. I… I know it has to be hard.” She dropped her voice to a whisper, just in case she might be overheard,”But you’re a much better person, whatever class. I can tell. Let’s get back to Prince Leonhadt, he’s much more pleasant to be around, hm?”
Evie wasn’t sure what else to do to comfort Alice other than being there, but she tried as she walked with the others back, only having to pause and ask the right way once. She mostly remembered the route they had taken, but the palace was still so big it could be hard to tell.
The older woman would also come over and place a hand on her shoulder. "She Is right Lady Alice you must hold your head up high." Her face was just as deadpan as before but her eyes held warmth. "Don't give them the satisfaction of seeing you cry. They are nothing but bullies." Alice would wipe at her tears trying to regain her composer.
"yes yes your both right." She gasped finally. Her eyes were read and her makeup a bit of a mess but she slowly recovered. "Thank you both." She would say much as they traveled back and MRS Alexander was happy to help point the way the one or two times she slipped up. She didn't seem annoyed or give the slightest sign of being upset. Everyone had a first day. Once they got back the brother would be talking in a hushed voice but both look over and smile at the girls. Both smiles would drop at the mess of Alice's face. "What happened?" Leonhardt asked his voice holding anger.
"Your brother I'm afraid." Mrs. Alexander said walking up to her husband and whispering something to him. He just nodded as Leonhardt fumed. "He was looking to make a show of himself and most just made an ass of himself like normal.
"I sware I'll throw him out of a building," Leonhardt grumbled before sighing and turning to Evie. "Did he give you any trouble? I know how he acts and seeing that you're beautiful I'm sure he gave you a hard time. Do not worry you won't be punished for any harshed words you used against him."
"I'm sure you would reward her," Alexzander said rolling his eyes and knowing despite all his brother's qualities letting a slight go was not one of them.
A blush spread over Evie’s cheeks and she shook her head,”Ah, no. I mean, I… politely declined his invitation, and thankfully he dropped it once it was clear I work for you so, um. I hope I haven’t caused a problem.” Did he really think she was beautiful? She was used to men only saying things like that when they obviously just wanted something from her. The compliment was simply a way to get what they wanted, and often quickly retracted when she refused.
Alexander’s wife smiled, a little proud. “She twisted his words against him. Gave him no legitimate complaint to make against her. You should have seen his face when he realized he couldn’t do anything. You’d have loved it. Taken a picture and framed it.”
Evie’s blush deepened a little at the praise,”Well, I just didn’t want him causing more trouble if I offended him. Miss Alice was upset, and I hoped he’d leave quickly. I… I do hope I’m doing alright in my duties.”
Leonhardt smiled and nodded his smile sweet and nice as he listen to their story. "Good work. Sorry, this all has to happen on your first day but glad that you're quick on the uptake and know how to handle a delicate situation. As much as my brother is an Ass he is still the eldest and even I have issues fighting his word." He would turn back as the landing pad lights would turn from their normal red to yellow showing a ship was on final approach.
At seeing this he offers one more word of encouragement. "You did great work and I thank you for looking after my sister. I'll be sure to put in a good word with your boss so you are rewarded for your efforts and loyalty." With that, he turned his full attention to the ship that was coming in.
It was similar to many around the palace but for two major things. First was the color instead of the normal black and red this one was blue and gold. The second was the crest on the side. instead of the royal family lion, it was an eagle holding crops in each talon. This lets most people know that this was a royal ship of the farming clan. Taking its time it would land in the center of the landing pad where trumps would play and a guard would call out.
"NOW ARRIVING COUNT JORDI PIERCE AND HIS FIRST DAUGHTER SERINA PIERCE." At the same time, the door to the shuttle would open up and lower letting two people walk out. The first was a large man would a big round belly short white hair and a long curly mustache. His eyes were bright green his head was held high. He knew he was a man of importance. An attitude of cockiness and authority surrounded him. His daughter's hand was almost the opposite in many ways. Only sharing his white hair she was tall and slender. Blue eyes would shine with a kind smile and she walked a little behind and to the left of her father. She gives off this feeling of kindness but also timidness.
Behind them would be a small group of servants that would line up to either side. Evie would know she have to get with them to help unload the ship and take them to their rooms. Lucky she would have to know where it was but follow the group behind as they moved back towards the castle.
Evie blushed more at the praise and nodded. She was glad to be doing a good job. She waited quietly while the ship came down, observing as their important guests arrived. The woman looked lovely and Evie was staring maybe a moment too long. She quickly regained her bearings and hurried to help the other servants unload the luggage and carry it where it needed to go.
It was easier in a lot of ways to work in a group like this. She carried her load and followed with the group. As long as she stayed close she couldn’t get lost. The luggage she carried was made of fine material and looked as if it could be brand new, although it might have simply been well cared for. It was clean, nothing was frayed and there were no holes. It was for the Count’s daughter’s room. Evie set her load where she was directed to by the others, and while several of the Count’s staff remained to unpack some things Evie was sent with the rest to rejoin the group and follow, attending to any other needs.
Even with the group it was something of a relief when they caught back up and she could rejoin Leonhardt. There was a sense of security being around him. It was partly because she was under his protection and authority, but something else too that she couldn’t put her finger on. Whatever it was, she was content to follow along and await more orders or her next task. The banquet would be happening soon, but there was still time and things to be done, most likely.
Leonhardt would fist bow to Jordi first showing the duke great respect. He would then do the same for Serina but add a kiss to her hand. "You are as lovely as ever my dear." He said in a charming voice before turning back the duke. "And your arrive is greatly appreciated."
"Your father is a great king and a dear friend. I'm sorry that this is happening your father deserves better than a slow sickness taking him in his sleep."
"I couldn't agree more but if you see him it's hard to tell at all. He's keeping it together pretty well."
"I'm not surprised he's always been a strong and bullheaded man."
"That he is." Leonhardt looked over the make sure Evie was handing her job fine. And from the looks of it, she was fine. The other maids welcomed her and showed her what was most imported to unload. Not long after the pleasantries Leona and Rin would rejoin the group and after that, they make their way back to the castle. They first stopped by their rooms to show them their place and then moved to the study. Everyone would split up and go into their small groups. By the end, Evie Serina Alice and Leonhardt would have their own area.
Alice was the first to break the ice. "Hello, Lady Serina I'm Alice, Leonhardt's younger sister." Serina smiled before moving her hands in a strange way making sighs. Leonhard then said. "Hello, Alice it's nice to meet you finally your brother told me a lot about you."
Alice looked confused for a second before Leonhardt answered the unasked question. "Serina is sadly mute her voice never properly formed. She hates any text-to-speech device saying they sound unladylike. So she learned to sigh while most people also learned to read what she saying. Alice looked amazed before looking back and saying. "Wow, that's amazing."
"Thank you rare to find someone so understanding." She sighed. She then looked at Evie. "And who are you might I ask? Are you another suiter for the prince?"
So Serina couldn’t speak. Evie was surprised to learn that. She watched the movements of Serina’s hands, and agreed that it certainly seemed more dignified and ladylike than typing. But that Sarina would be very ladylike regardless.
Her question caught Evie off guard and she blushed. “Huh? Oh no. I’m simply a maid, My Lady. My name is Evie.” She curtsied,”It’s my first day. It’s lovely to meet you.”
After a moment she glanced to Leonhardt who was providing the translation, and then to Serina,”I… I’m afraid I don’t understand the signs but… but I’d like to learn. If that’s alright.” Her education had been poor. She was literate, barely. She only had poorly funded public schools in her sector, and then dropped out to get a job when she was old enough. Really, this job was her only chance at anything better than the factories or bartending.
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