She wasn’t pretty,
She was otherworldly and vaguely threatening.
Rosalind, future heiress to the Fures Noctis Guild, has now taken on her biggest mission, the royal castle. Her plan, pretend to be just a guest to the Prince’s ball, collect as much information about layout and hideouts as she can, and get out. Easy, right? But when she and a man start to really hit it off, it’s hard to leave. She ends up staying the night, before leaving before he even wakes up the next morning.
Even with the excitement of last night still invading her mind, she heads off to complete her mission. Sneak in the castle undiscovered, get as many things as she can, and get out. When one mistake causes her to get caught, she is taken in front of the royal Prince to see out her punishment.
She was dragged across the throne room floor and thrown at someone’s feet. Lifting herself up, she looked into the face of the man she met last night. Not just a man, the Prince. The man she spent the night with last night. Instead of sending her to the dungeons, he sends her to be locked away in the tower of the castle, keeping her from getting back to anyone in her guild. The Prince begins visiting her daily, and the visits become longer and less hostile. A bond forming between the two.
Will the Thief and the Crown Prince ever be able to be together publicly? What happens when both of their father’s find out? Will their love withstand the war in their midst?
She wasn’t fragile like a flower.
She was fragile like a bomb.
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Rosalind smirked when Arthur asked her about how she felt about her friend. She shook her head, “Not in a way that would make me want to marry him. I never really found someone who was able to click with me in a way like that. But friends, yeah. We at least will get along and the guild will have people to guide them.” she smiled. As she listened to his way to get out of his marriage attempts, she nodded. He was smart to have thought of that, which was nice to know he was so dedicated to finding someone who would be a good fit for him. A good fit for the crown, and someone who hopefully the kingdom loved as well.
Listening to him speak of his mother did upset her a bit. Her parents were so hopelessly in love before she was sick, but it was like her father never visited her mother anymore. It was almost like he didn’t want to see the woman he loved in that way, but it still upset her as well. As she was about to apologize and sympathize with him about her parents lack of love lately, he hit her with a question she didn’t think she’d have to answer now.
“May I ask why you're so set on disliking me so much?”
Arthur truly didn’t know half of it. The reason was, she did like him. He seemed to think it would be no big deal if they were friends but Rosalind knew. She knew what would happen if either of their father’s found out, and Arthur wouldn’t be able to save her in either sense. But what really dug deep to Rosalind is that she didn’t just like him as a friend, she was truly starting to have real feelings for the man she thought she would never see again. And now he assumed she didn’t like him at all.
“I understand that our fathers may hate one another but surely we can be friends. I will admit that Ellison has pointed out that my treatment of you has not reflected the normal procedures of a prisoner hostage situation, and I can see that now but I don't think it has to be a problem. I don't have many friends. Ellison is about it. And from what I've heard it sounds like there aren't many people around your age in the guild either so I can only assume you're just as lonely as I am.”
Would he just stop talking so she could explain herself? She barely knew how to talk to other people, let alone someone she liked. She didn’t know how to be kind and considerate, and ‘ladylike’ how he was used to. She was strong, she was always going to be strong and take no one shit. She didn’t sugar coat anything. She just wanted to get a word in.
“I just mean…you know what, I don't know what I mean! You are infuriatingly difficult to figure out, do you know that? One minute you're chummy and the next you're insulting me. Am I that repulsive to you or am I just a good joke to laugh at?"
“It’s because I like you, you idiot!” Rosalind shouted, her eyes widening slowly as she realized the words she yelled. She took a breath, trying to regain composure. “I, uh, don’t know how to talk to other people well. I have always been bold and a bit brash, but it’s not because I don’t like you. I do-- like you.” she spoke, taking a few more heavy breaths.
“My mother- she won’t tell me how, but she had a connection to this castle. She had seen first hand how royals treated people like us. Like me. And she didn’t want me to get hurt like she did, by the same people. But, I know it wasn’t by you, because you have treated every person I have seen with dignity and respect. I have never seen a person in power treat someone, regardless of who they are, like you have. You have heart, and care about people and how they live. You ask questions and- But it goes against everything I ever learned.” Rosalind rambled, and before she could think, even more words tumbled out, “And I thought that if I could make you dislike me…it would be easier to just agree to what I’ve been taught my whole life. But you just won’t quit.” Rosalind's eyes met Arthur’s, and a genuine smile rested on her lips.
“And the night at the ball was something I thought I’d never have to think about again. But I am brought back every time I look at you. I’ve never met anyone like you before.”
“It’s because I like you, you idiot!”
The words hung in the air and practically twinkled like stars in front of him. Rosalind was clearly exasperated by his behaviour but it was apparently out of fondness and not loathing like he'd anticipated. A dumb smile wiggled its way onto his face but he tried to school his features back to neutrality. An effort that was wasted. Knowing she didn't hate his guts did wonders for his mood, not that he'd openly say as much. Arthur was acting enough like a crushing schoolboy.
“And the night at the ball was something I thought I’d never have to think about again. But I am brought back every time I look at you. I’ve never met anyone like you before.”
“Not all royalty are villains,” he mused, playing with the hem of his tunic. “Though I suppose I can see your reasoning for why you would believe as much. I take after my mother. Or at least, that's what Ellison tells me. She was always known for her compassion and empathy but my father has done his best to quell that in her. I don't pretend to be anyone other than myself, Rosalind. Despite what you've been raised to believe I do love my people and want to do right by them. I'm glad I can shatter the illusion of a monstrous brute, or however you pictured I'd be when you got here.” Though his tone was serious, the grin was still there like a bloody traitor. “Tell me, did you anticipate I'd be as handsome as I am? That I trust has been proven true.”
Brazenly flirting with her was becoming a favourite past time of his when she wasn't scaring the shit out of him with her focused stare. Rosalind wasn't the only one who struggled to speak with others but much like her, he found himself falling easily into her companionship whenever she was around. “Am I at least more handsome than your not-betrothed? Please say yes or I'm afraid I may wither in disappointment. If I live up to anything of your expectations of what a prince is like, just know that vanity is one of them. You have no idea how long it takes to brush my hair just right.”
Playful banter was safe. They seemed to bond over it, in fact. Maybe it would put her at ease to be on equal footing with him once more now that she'd blurted out her confession of liking him. Arthur still wasn't sure if it was a friendly like or a take me back to bed like. Best to play it cool for now or else he was in danger of overplaying his hand.
“Would you tell me about your home? You've seen mine and know what it's like, but I feel like I know nothing of the guild's home. What kind of community do you have?"
Rosalind was screwed now. Arthur was never going to let her live it down that she liked him. She didn’t fully tell him the extent of her ‘liking’ of him, and she was glad at least he didn’t realize she was starting to develop feelings for him at this point. But, she knew that she didn’t have to come off as harsh anymore, which was actually a relief. She could just be herself, which was almost as scary.
Looking up as he explained himself, Rosalind smiled. “I can truly see that. Thank you for showing me that all royals are not monsters.” she spoke, her eyes meeting him. But her smile soon dropped playfully when he began to boast about himself. She rolled her eyes, before running a hand through her hair to push it back from her face. She did enjoy their playful banter, it had begun when they first met and it didn’t seem to change since. It was something they both were confident in, and it allowed her flirting without crossing boundaries the guards seemed to think they still were.
“Actually, I thought you were going to be more handsome. I was a bit disappointed at the ball, to be honest. Everyone was going on and on about your looks, but my hopes were shattered. What can I say, I prefer blondes.” Rosalind teased, throwing some of her own blonde hair over her shoulder. The smirk on her lips told her playful and teasing nature. She adored having this type of banter with someone, as she never had anything like this before. Another reason her wall she had built around her heart and mind started to shatter.
When Arthur spoke of Phyros, Rosalind knew she could have fun. “Well, he is more rugged than you are. He’s blonde, which you already know is preferred. But you do have one thing over him.” she strolled over to him. “He’s never slept with me.” she whispered before going over to her cot, sitting on the edge, crossing her legs in front of her, a wicked smile on her lips as she waited for him to stumble, knowing how he did whenever she mentioned their night together.
Then, Arthur mentioned her home. She smiled at the thought of home, as she loved where she came from. It was a hard and unique life, sure, but she loved it. “After the fire, we moved from permanent buildings to tents. We all have our family tents. When you are old enough, you can move on and get your own. They are large, and we have ‘rooms’ separated by tarps. There are also tents for important groups. Medical tent, Meeting tent, School, The Canteen; that’s where we eat. And we mostly live in and out of those places. We grow crops and herbs, and we take rounds working in those fields. We have someone who was a doctor and a midwife outside of the guide who has joined us now and takes care when people are sick or pregnant. We have once a week meetings to discuss plans and missions; supply rations. The kids meet for school twice a week, and three times a week for combat training. I run combat training for them. We all eat together, as a guild and we all eat the same things. It depends on harvests, what kind of game is available, and if we have any successful missions lately. The community works together and takes care of eachother. Everyone knows everyone, we’re like a giant family. No one gets more or less than anyone else. Everyone is on equal footing. We have gatherings during holidays and tell stories and sing songs. We do what we can. It’s hard sometimes, but we know we have each other.” Rosalind spoke, losing herself a bit in her speech. She missed her home, she did. But being with Arthur, it was filling a part of her she never knew she was missing.
Rosalind could feel the want for tears to slip from her eyes. But she refused, she swallowed hard and resisted the need. She got up and headed to the window. It was barred, but she had a clear view of the forest. She knew there was where the guild resided, and even with the trust she began to build with Arthur, she couldn’t disclose that to him. She stared at the forest for a moment before looking to the sky. The sun was going down, but dark clouds also seemed to be joining as well. That lump in her throat was back.
“Is it going to, uh, storm tonight?” Rosalind spoke, her eyes glued to the clouds.
The prince observed her with rapt attention as she described the simplicity and intricacies of her home and people. Everything was so…organized. It shamed Arthur to think that he'd assumed a guild of thieves would be haphazardly operated with no such detail so well thought out. Everyone relied on everyone to contribute. One pulled their own weight instead of ordering about others to do it for them. For heaven's sake, they even had a school to educate their children! They weren't the lawless monsters he'd been raised to believe. What else had his father lied to him about?
“I can hear how much you adore your people,” Arthur cleared his throat. “I wish I could say it was the same around here but you'd see right through that lie. There are some of us who genuinely care for those less fortunate but most of the time, you'd be right about royalty being pompous and self-centered. I want to break that cycle. Will you show me your home some day?”
Way to be presumptuous that she was even going to want to remain in contact once she was released back to her family. Rosalind hadn't even left the castle and already he was focused on seeing her again. Would her family welcome him as a friend or would he be doomed to the same fate they wish for his father? Perhaps he should introduce Rosalind to his mother as a sign of peace?
“Is it going to, uh, storm tonight?” Rosalind spoke, her eyes glued to the clouds as she broke through his train of thought.
“Hmm?” He blinked up at her. “Oh, yes I believe so. Ellison always told me that you can smell a storm coming in based of the dampness in the air. We haven't had one yet this season, we're overdue. I just hope it doesn't bring a tornado with it like it did at the end of summer last year. Tore through the village and cost hundreds to repair the buildings. Father was outraged.”
Arthur tilted his head, taking in the tension in her shoulders and shifty eyes. Was she…afraid? “Do storms bother you? You seem a little uncertain.”
As a small child he'd been terrified of them until his father put an end to Arthur running into his parents' bedroom seeking comfort. A man does not weep, he'd yell. It had been years since the rolling thunder and flashes of lightning bothered him, but it appeared to the prince that not every adult had been able to shift that childhood fear.
Rosalind's eyes widened at Arthur’s question. She wasn’t about to let him think she was weak, especially about something like thunder and lightning. “Pfft. No! I was just concerned…about the room getting wet. You know, with the barred windows…and all. But..I guess the glass helps against that...But I- uh, love storms.” she stoke, lowering her voice slightly to try and hide her nerves. She could feel her cheeks heat up slightly, but didn’t dare turn from her spot of looking out the window. The cool air helped her warm face cool lightly, but the more she stared outside, the more the clouds worried her.
Soon it was time for bed, made known by the guards. The pounding on the door let Arthur know it was time for bed, and Rosalind couldn’t help but laugh at the fact he had a bedtime. It was something clearly set by his father, but couldn’t remember the last time someone told her she had to sleep. She waved him goodbye, sending a wink his way as well. A little bit of a tease before bed couldn’t hurt, right?
As Rosalind sat in the dark of the room as it rained, she leaned her back against the wall as she curled up on her bed. There was no way she was sleeping, as the thunder rumbles started slow and grew as time went on. The flashes of lightning didn’t help her nerves causing her to wince and squeak out a noise as she did so. During storms in the guild, Pyrrhos knew to sneak to Rosalind’s cabin to help her make it through, mostly covering her ears and holding her close. Her father knew of her nerves and it never seemed to bother him. But now, she didn’t have Pyrrhos to help her through. But, she could go to Arthur right?
Rosalind went to the door, hearing snoring noises come from the other side. She snorted a laugh, yet fell to her knees at another strike of lightning. She pulled the lock pick from her hair, listening against the door to hear the lock click. When it did, she opened the door, to both guards at her door asleep. She tiptoed past them, before heading down the stairs of the tower. Once at the main floor of the castle, she looked around, checking signs by each door to see what each room was. She saw the stairwell that she knew went to an exit. Her freedom was only steps away. Yet, Rosalind turned and followed down a hallway opposite, walking farther in to the castle.
Rosalind had seen at least 5 bedrooms, 13 washrooms, a tea room, a room full of animal furs and a library; but no room where Arthur was. She continued down the hall until she heard another crash of lightning. She fell against the wall, covering her ears and deep breathing, taking time to calm herself down. She was never going to find Arthur’s room. Why did they need so many rooms anyway?
“Lady Rosalind, what are you doing out of your room? How did you get out of your room?”
Rosalind froze. She knew that voice as Ellison’s, and knew he’d have guards drag her back to her room. She wiped the tears from her cheeks, before turning around to him. As soon as their eyes met, his face softened from the stern look it had at first. Ellison knew, she looked just like…no, she couldn’t be. But they looked almost identical at this moment. And he could have sworn just now it was her; considering that girl had also been terrified of thunder.
“I’m sorry, I just…I need to see Arthur…” Rosalind spoke, her voice strained.
Ellison walked up to her, standing only a foot or so away from her. His eyes scanned her face, his face looking like the person he was looking at was some he had known for a long time. “Follow me, Lady Rosalind.”
Rosalind followed behind Ellison, taking the time she needed between thunder rumbles and lighting strikes to regain composure. Ellison continued to ensure her to take the time she needed, but refused to look her in the eye anymore. They approached a bedroom, Ellison knocking before opening the door. “Your Highness, Lady Rosalind is here for you. I think she’s nervous about the storm.”
“NO! I mean, I’m not afraid. I know storms can be scary. For you. Scary for you. So I came by to check on you. Make sure you were okay.”
Before Rosalind could back herself up with a look, the lightning crashed and she crouched down, a squeak escaping her lips. She swallowed hard, taking a deep breath before standing, slight tears in her eyes. “See? I’m totally fine.” Thunder rumbles, and another squeak escaped her lips, her eyes shut tight.
Surely that couldn’t be- were those tears in her eyes? The prince almost stepped right up to wrap her in a hug but his current clothing situation struck him.
“What the hell are you doing?” Arthur yanked Ellison into his room, looking up and down the corridor to ensure the coast was clear. “One moment please,” he instructed Rosalind to stay put.
“Your Royal Highness I really don’t appreciate being manhandled.”
“Ellison you can’t bring a lady to my room when I’m completely indecent!”
Arthur donned a knee-length nightgown with a matching linen cap to tame his wavy locks. Under no circumstances was he in any shape or form to accept company in such a manner. Ellison, however, didn’t see the problem. “Arthur just put on a robe, you will be fine. As long as no limbs are showing you are in the clear.”
The prince pulled the cap off and wrung it in his hands. “I don’t think you understand that I am entirely not prepared to receive female company dressed in such an….an….elderly manner!” He leaned in closer. “Particularly when I find such company to be…appealing.”
“I will ignore the insult to the sleepwear I happen to also use. Fine, you have two minutes to put on whatever you deem to be better, and then I will send her in. No questions, I will ensure that the guards are away from your door for the remainder of the night.”
What did one wear for an unexpected midnight visit? Everyday wear was out of the question, she’d know right away he put effort into his appearance for the occasion. No, plain linen pants and a white linen tunic would do. Simple yet dignified. Opening the door again, Arthur steeled his face into something more calm, cool, and collected. “Please come in,” he gestured for her to make herself at home.
With every crack of thunder - several over the span of only a few moments - he watched as her shoulders flinched and her brows furrow in the glow of the preceding flashes of lightning. Gone was the woman who was so confident in herself and in her place remained a timid creature he didn't think his heart could take much more of. “I know just the solution. Move, please.”
It took several trips from his bed but soon all of his bedding and pillows made a perfect pile in the middle of his room. A litlte bit of rearranging of furniture and the fort began to take shape, stretching up from the top of his four-poster bed to a brass statue he'd dragged over, and then flung over the backs of his wardrobe and settee. Crawling inside, Arthur fashioned a bit of a mattress out of the absurd amount of pillows he had until it was cozy and perfectly squishy to sit on. Stretching a hand out to her, he grinned. “Join me in the fortress, Lady Rosalind.”
The confusion as the door was closed in her face showed clear on Rosalind’s face. She could hear faint talking, but she couldn’t make out clear words, only Arthur’s pained voice. She raised an eyebrow and looked both ways down the hall, hopeful that no guards or any other members on staff would see her. She knew most of the guards knew she was a prisoner, and the other staff would probably ask a guard if they saw someone they didn’t know. The rumbles of thunder and lightning still struck, causing her to shudder to herself, wrapping her arms around herself. This was worse than being in the tower.
That was until Ellison walked out of the door, facing her. “His Royal Highness will be with you momentarily. He felt the need to change.” Ellison spoke, before turning on his heel and heading down the hallway, still evading her eyes. She watched as he made his way seemingly into his own room, before she turned toward the door that Arthur opened in front of her. A faint smile rose on her lips as she entered, the large windows in his room already worrying her of the amount of sound and light she’d be able to see.
Rosalind sat on the bed, her arms still wrapped around herself, her eyes glued to her feet as she shuddered seeing a large streak of lightning light up the night. The large, loud rumble of thunder caused her to bring her knees up to her chest and hide her head in her knees, trying to block the light. She stayed like this until she heard Arthur speak. She peaked her head up, looking at him confused. “Alright…” she spoke, sliding off the plush bed.
Arthur went right to work, pulling blankets and pillows off the bed and onto the floor. She watched as he moved this around, sitting back on the bed once he had moved all his materials to the floor. He moved furniture, threw blankets and piled pillows into a nest-like shape on the floor. Once he was done, he held his hand out to her. “Join me in the fortress, Lady Rosalind.”
Rosalind smiled, taking his hand and joining him in the fortress. “For a royal, you're not terrible at tent-pitching.” she spoke, before another crash of lightning caused her to jump slightly into Arthur’s side, hiding her face in the sleeve of his arm. “Sorry…” she spoke, squeezing the fabric of his shirt into a ball as the thunder crashed. “I’ve always been afraid of thunderstorms. I was alone a lot because my parents went out on missions when I was younger and I usually had to get through them myself. I know it’s childish but it’s just something I’ve never been able to get over.”
Another crash made her bury her face more into his sleeve, her fist balling a little tighter with the fabric. “I’m used to being quiet. And the dark. Thunder and lightning take the things I love and change them. Change has never been easy for me either, I think that’s why I hate it…” her body relaxing as she rested her head on his shoulder, her hand unbaling the fabric and rested on his stomach.
“What made you think of a fort? We used to pitch tents in the woods sometimes but I didn’t know people made them indoors as well.” Rosalind asked, pushing some of her blonde hair back from her face, her eyes looking up towards Arthur. It was the most casual she had ever seen him, and it was her most favorite as well.
Arthur chose to focus on the fact that she was trusting him to see her so vulnerable, and not so much on the realization that she was grabbing him for comfort. He shifted slightly so he was closer to her, hoping to provide a sense of protection but also not knowing where the hell to put his arm. Would she welcome it around her shoulders? Would she break his wrist if he tried? Risking it all, he brought a hand up to rest on hers where it clutched at his tunic. “I used to build forts all the time to hide,” he admitted bashfully. “Sometimes from storms but most of the time just to have a sense of comfort because my mother wasn't allowed to do so. I'd hide away with books or something until I felt better, and then I'd take it all down before my father found out.”
The prince was fine disclosing this secret surprisingly. If she was going to show weakness, so would he. It was only fair. “I used to have all of these stuffed animals that people would gift me as a child. I'd line them up and pretend that I was holding court in my own castle. I'd hear their petitions for hours.”
He'd almost forgotten he ever did such a thing but remembering those days brought a fond smile to his face for young Arthur. Even then he wanted to help people, and right now Rosalind needed his help more than anyone. “Ellison used to say that thunder was just the gods having a banquet, with drummers playing the tune. It made it less scary for me when he'd tuck me in at night, after my father forbid me from going to my mother for comfort.”
Another crack and the blankets glowed with rapid flashes of lightning. The timing between rolls of thunder was getting less and less, signally the storm was almost right on top of them now. “If you count between the lightning and the thunder, you can tell how far away it is,” he taught her. “Watch.”
As soon as the next bolt of lightning lit the room, he counted. “One…two…three..f-” The thunder hit quickly. “It shouldn't be too long of a storm. They're coming too fast now to last much longer.”
It was cozy under the cover of blankets, with her pressed up against him. Rosalind didn't seem to be trembling quite as much but she'd yet to release his tunic from her grasp. Unaware of his own hand betraying him, his fingers began to caress her wrist. “Do you trust me?”
Arthur wanted to change her perspective but he wasn't going to do so without explicit permission that she was comfortable. “I promise you won't get hurt, I just really want to try something to help you.”
Rosalind felt a hand cover hers, his warm hand sending warmth over her. Normally, she would have grabbed his hand and bent it back for touching her without asking, but right now, she accepted it. She scooted herself a little bit closer as she hid her face in his shoulder. She listened as he explained that he made forts as a child. She never really had heard much about his childhood, so hearing his stories was nice. The ability to be so open and vulnerable with someone was something she never did, but with Arthur it was so easy. Why was it so easy to just tell him everything? Maybe it’s because they were so similar, it was like talking to a best friend.
Looking up at him as he explained the ways he was told about thunder and lightning definitely made them less scary sounding, but it didn’t make the sound any worse. She watched his hands as he counted between the lightning did help, but she could help but shutter at the sound when it happened. The fact that the counting helped figure out how long the storm was was helpful, as she could do it and gauge how long the terrifying storms would happen. She kept herself firmly against Arthur, his touch calming. Even if she still shuddered at the sounds, she wouldn’t continue to shake next to him. And she wouldn’t admit being next to him made her heart race double time, even with the thunder and lightning.
Rosalind’s hand still had his tunic balled up, and she could feel Arthur brushing his fingers over her wrist. So gentle and calming, he truly didn’t understand how helpful she had been. She closed her eyes for a moment, just taking in this moment with him, until another crash happened and she shuddered once more.
“Do you trust me?”
Rosalind got goosebumps. She opened her eyes to look at him, pulling her head back from his shoulder to really look at him. His dark eyes weren’t as terrifying as she always thought they would be. She always expected if she was face to face with royalty their eyes would exude pain and suffering, and yet, Arthur never did. And, she did trust him. More than she trusted anyone else at this moment.
“I promise you won't get hurt, I just really want to try something to help you.”
“I trust you.” Rosalind spoke, a faint smile appearing on her lips. “What are you thinking?”
Maybe he should have thought this through more. What if she didn't like it? What if she thought he was trying to sabotage her by pushing her out of her comfort zone, right into the arms of the very thing that was terrifying her. Thoughts spun in circles as he crawled back through the opening of the blanket fort, reaching back for her hand. “You'll be completely safe the whole time,” he reiterated his reassurance.
One perk of being the prince was that his chambers had the fancy addition of a large balcony that overlooked the sprawling grounds of the castle. They wouldn't be able to see very much in the darkness but at least it still offered plenty of privacy for what Arthur had planned. “Here,” he slid his hand from hers, opening the door and immediately blinking against the horizontal rain that had been pounding against it.
White clothing had been a terrible idea. Within seconds they were soaked to the bone, shirts clinging to their skin desperately. Arthur wiped away the hair plastered to his forehead, and then did the same for Rosalind. The wind howled and the thunder continued but the point had to be made. He couldn't bear to see her suffer and if this worked, her night wouldn't be plagued with fear. “It's only unsafe if we're near metal. It attracts the lightning but look,” he took her hands again and pulled her further out onto the balcony. “Feel the rain on your skin. Smell the air and listen.”
Arthur tipped his head back and closed his eyes, following his own instructions. “Storms are a part of nature. They can be scary but they are beautiful at the same time. The lightning charges the air. The thunder grounds us. It's something to admire, not to fear.”
He walked around until he was standing behind her. Trailing his fingers along her arms, Arthur took her hands and extended them outwards, palms up. “Come alive with the storm,” he murmured, lips against her ear and chest pressed against her back. “Take your fear and embrace it. It's just noise, it can't hurt you.”
It was freezing cold but he didn't dare move. Not when Rosalind was so perfectly close by and allowing him the opportunity to touch her so intimately. He'd gladly catch pneumonia and die if it meant he got even another minute of holding her. Dramatic, maybe, but so painfully true. His hands moved back up her arms, then down her sides to hold her by her waist. A little more sliding and his arms were wrapped around her entirely. “You're more terrifying than any storm, Lady Rosalind,” he admitted.
With his height advantage, he looked down at her and admired the water beading on her skin. She didn't seem to be trembling any more but she also wasn't pulling away. Risking moving his hands once more, one came up to rest on her cheek, slightly tilting her head towards him before he gave in to temptation and covered her lips with his own.
Rosalind watched as he exited the fort, before reaching a hand out to her. His words made her smile as she took his hand, exiting the fort as well. Arthur had a way about him at this moment, his confidence making her memorized by him. She truly couldn’t take her eyes off him, and only faltered when the thunder rumbled once more. All she needed to do was squeeze his hand a bit tighter, before he began to lead her away from the fort.
The blonde noticed him headed toward the balcony, and she wanted to dig her heels into the floor. He wanted her to go outside?! Was he crazy? He didn’t let her question him or think before he let his hand slide from hers to open the door. She did say she trusted him, and followed him out onto the balcony.
Soaked to the bone immediately, but she was outside. She was pressed against the door they had come out, as she was terrified to get any farther out. He wiped his own hair from his face, and she watched him a bit longer than she wanted to admit before he approached her and brushed her hair from her face as well. God, she was lucky it was dark and cold, as her blushed cheeks were harder to notice.
“It's only unsafe if we're near metal. It attracts the lightning but look,” Arthur took her hands again and pulled her further out onto the balcony. “Feel the rain on your skin. Smell the air and listen.”
Rosalind stared at Arthur, her eyes large as she looked out at the expanse from the balcony. She reached a hand out from her own body, before pulling it back, wrapping both around herself in discomfort. She looked to Arthur as he tipped his head back and closed his eyes “Storms are a part of nature. They can be scary but they are beautiful at the same time. The lightning charges the air. The thunder grounds us. It's something to admire, not to fear.”
Rosalind was frozen in fear until she felt Arthur behind her, moving her arms out. His fingers burned her skin in such a way she had never felt before. She let her head fall back into his back, her skin feeling the rain. The thunder rumbled, yet she only opened her eyes. Her body did not tense, she had no need to shield her face. She felt so safe. She had never felt safe before.
Arthur’s words rang true in her ears. Come alive with the storm, embrace the fear, it’s just noise, it can’t hurt you. His hands moved from her arms to her waist, and her body warmed immediately from the freezing rain she was feeling. Her arms still were outstretched, and she was smiling. She listened to the rumbles of thunder and a strike of lightning was no longer panic inducing, it was now something she watched. She watched the strike and her eyes widened at the beauty of something she feared so much. Sure, the noise still sparked a bit of fear, but she was not freezing or in panic anymore. She let herself melt into Arthur’s touch.
Arthur’s arms wrapped fully around her body, before he whispered a simple sentence that made her weak at her knees. “You're more terrifying than any storm, Lady Rosalind.” And without another thought, he turned her head to look at him, his hand on her cheek before their lips collided. The kiss surprised her briefly, before she fully accepted the kiss, kissing him back with everything she had. The woman moved herself, still pressed close to Arthur but turned toward him to get a better angle to kiss him. The lightning strikes and thunder rumbled didn’t bother Rosalind in the slightest as she kissed Arthur. She knew she was starting to fall for the Crown Prince, and she couldn’t stop.
Rosalind wrapped her arms around Arthur’s neck, backing herself up against the door of the balcony. She took one hand, searching for the door handle and turning it. She fell backwards slightly as the door opened, but her lips refused to leave Arthur’s. Once in the room, she pushed the door closed and reached the bottom of his tunic, pulling it off of Arthur’s top, the soaked garment falling into a wet pile on the floor. Rosalind pulled back slightly as she laughed softly, the smile on her lips large and her eyes only showed joy.
Her black clothing was already tight, but now was fully sticking to her body due to the rain. Rosalind let go of his hand, before running into the fort, before discarding the wet clothes that were on her body and throwing them out of the fort. She looked out of the fort to Arthur, before using her hand to call him over. “We do not want the inside of the fort to be wet…” she teased, before ducking back inside the fort. She grabbed one of his fluffy blankets, wrapping it around herself enough to cover herself before she walked out of the fort and over to him. She took his hand, leading him to the front of the fort before pressing a kiss to his lips. “I will be waiting for you. And I hope you know I will be all over you the moment you come in. Don’t keep me waiting too long.” she whispered into his ear, before ducking into the fort, waiting for the Prince of Astonia to join her in a pillow fort.
If you had told Rosalind she would be soaking wet in a pillow fort with the Crown Prince, she would have laughed in your face. And here she was.
Arthur's heart was hammering in his ears in its mission to burst from his chest. Rosalind was enticing enough already standing there drenched in rainwater, let alone wrapped in one of his blankets naked as the day she was born. Rules were rules, and he was not about to break them. His clothes were heavy as he discarded them, plopping to the floor in a wet heap. The fort was a welcoming warmth as he joined her, tugging at the blanket around her shoulders. “Mind sharing?”
It was a lackadaisical way of getting her skin back against his own but if it worked he wasn't going to be embarrassed by how cheesy it was. Rosalind was cool to the touch from the storm but Arthur felt burned wherever she was pressed against him. For hours he put all of his attention on memorizing every inch of her, coaxing the sweetest noises from her lips and returning the favour with his own. Several times he found himself stopping his movements just to take in the lines of her face, her half-lidded eyes, and the delicious music of his name on her breath. Where the hell had she been all of his life?
In the afterglow and early morning light, Arthur stirred. Noticing Rosalind's shoulder was bare he lifted the blanket to cover her, only then taking in the eyes peering through the fort. “Fucks sake, Ellison! What are you doing?” The prince shot up in an instant.
“Please tell me that you were careful, Prince Arthur.”
“I will tell you nothing about anything, what the hell are you doing in here?” Arthur hastened to ensure Rosalind was fully covered.
“My prince, it is my recommendation that your guest return to the tower immediately, before the rest of the castle rises. You are lucky that I am an early riser.”
“I don't care what anyone has to say, Ellison. It's no one's business but my own.”
The advisor paused, giving thought to that statement. “It might not be the business of staff but Prince Arthur, I've received notice that your father will be arriving much sooner than expected.”
Arthur's stomach clenched. “How soon?”
“Your father will arrive at the castle some time this morning.”
No words could instill fear in a man quite like that statement. Arthur shook Rosalind's shoulder as Ellison excused himself to the hallway to spare them an observer while they got dressed. “Things just got incredibly complicated. I need t get you back to the tower immediately.”
The first time the two had ended up in bed together had been due to arguing, and that night had been filled with passion and screams. This time though, the two took their time with each other, moments of pause between them just to look at one another. She memorized his face, and wished she could replay over and over the way he spoke her name. She could help but watch him sleep for a little bit once their time was over, before resting her own head next to him before she fell asleep as well.
Her dream was beautiful. A true dream as the couple were able to share their time between the guild and the castle, both of their people accepting a relationship between the opposite people. But once Rosalind realized she was dreaming, she realized how ridiculous she sounded. Arthur had never even told her he liked her, only she had told him. But, after last time, was it not silly to think he could possibly have feelings for her as well. Her eyes stayed closed even if she was awaking, and she could feel Arthur cover her shoulder with the blanket before she drifted back to sleep once more.
Rosalind expected to stay asleep for a little longer but instead she was shaken awake by Arthur. She pulled the blanket over her head, before letting out a groan. “Arthuuur, it’s too early. Can we please just stay here for a little longer?” Rosalind asked, dropping all formality of his name she had been keeping up with. She pulled the blanket to look at him with the best puppy dog eyes she could, before hearing Ellison, who was now at the door at this point. “Lady Rosalind, King Alistar is going to be home this morning, I think you should listen to the Prince.” Ellison spoke, before the sound of the door opening and closing happened as well.
That caught Rosalind’s attention. “Your father?!” Rosalind spoke, sitting up in the nest of blankets, letting them fall to her waist before pulling them up after a few moments to cover herself.
Getting up completely and out of the fort, she went to her pile of clothes on the floor. They were still soaked, and completely unwearable. Rosalind, without asking, opened the prince's wardrobe to find something she could at least wear back to her room. She knew that one of the lady-in-waiting had left a handful of clothes in her room before she was supposed to go to bed, so she could surely change in there. As she opened the wardrobe, the amount of glitter and glitz on the outfits before her caused her to giggle. “It seems like someone likes to dress you up like a doll.” she teased, before remembering the task at hand, “Right, clothes! I’m looking for clothes.”
After a few more drawers of fancy shirts and pants, she was able to find at least something to wear, and she was grateful it was in black as well. The woman was not a fan of light colored clothes, but she remembered seeing the bright and light things she had waiting in her room. She passed by a mirror, looking at herself. “I look like a page boy…” Rosalind commented, before grabbing her wet clothes as well before heading to the door.
Ellison had been waiting at the door, seeing Rosalind exit the room, raising an eyebrow at how she was dressed. “My clothes were wet!” she whisper-shouted, before showing him her bundle of clothes. “By gods, what did you two do last night?!” Ellison asked, Rosalind leaning in to punch him before he backed up and held his hands in defense. “Are you going to help me back to the tower or not?”
They made their way mostly to the tower, using servant hallways and secret entrances to make sure that no one saw the three of them head back to the room. Ellison knew this castle better than anyone else, it was clear watching his confidence in the route he was taking. They got to a staircase, before he stopped. “Up this staircase. You’ll come to another staircase. That one will lead up to the tower. I suggest you make as little noise as possible up here for the time being, or the king will suspect-”
“What will I suspect?”
King Alistar, in all his glitz and glamor, much like his son at the ball, looked at Arthur and Ellison. Rosalind, had carefully ducted down, making her way slowly up the stairs, and out of sight of the king. Thank God for her stealth training. She was able to slip into the door of the tower room, closing the door lightly and then leaning against it.
Holy shit, what was she getting herself into.
Only one voice could make Arthur's skin crawl with fear. “Hello, Father. I didn't know you would be back so soon. How was your journey?” Arthur's own voice squeaked.
“I asked you a question and you will answer it. What will I suspect, Arthur?”
While the prince was taller than average, his father towered over even him. His thick beard was neatly trimmed with new streaks of grey and his eyes that could pierce a diamond were focused right on him. Intimidation was his game. All familiar traits that Arthur had not quite inherited. “Have you lost your tongue as well as your sense, boy?”
“I was merely saying that you will suspect if we were to throw you a welcome home gala. However I see now that it is far too late to plan such an occasion as you are…here. Already. That horse of yours must have been flying.”
Arthur could see his own reflection in the chest plate of his father's armor. It wasn't unlike a child in the midst of a scolding. Alistair glared down at his son with contempt at the pathetic show of affection. “You forget whose castle this is, boy. I'll not tolerate liars, especially not my own son. You have one more chance to answer the question.”
Ellison stepped forward. “Welcome back, Your Majesty. Prince Arthur and I were discussing his studies and he stated that you would suspect he cheated with how phenomenally he's taken to battle strategy. Perhaps once you are rested he may go over some of them with you?”
Thank all saints above for Ellison, Arthur released a slow breath. Alistair didn't like many people but his elder advisor was one of them. “I've spent the last three months discussing battle strategy on the front. He may spare me the details of his studies. So long as he's not completely inept there's hope for him yet. Come closer boy, let me look at you.”
Arthur always felt like a prized calf being inspected for defects whenever his father appraised him. There was always fault to be found. “You are to cut this hair, do you understand me? I'll not have my son looking like a woman on that throne. Look at your hands. Soft. Never seen a hard day's work in your life, have you?”
The prince bit his tongue, used to the insults. It wouldn't do to retort that the king himself wouldn't know hard work unless it bit him on the ass, as evidence by polished armor that held no markings of seeing battle. While his men were fighting on the front, no doubt the king was safely hidden away in a tent awaiting the battle results. “I'll have the barber cut my hair first thing, Father,” he droned.
“You'll do it now. I'll see you in the throne room in under an hour, do you understand me? You will not be late to hear court petitions.”
Arthur didn't breathe again until his father and Ellison were rounding the corner and out of sight. Slumping against the door, he waited another few minutes to ensure the coast was clear before slipping inside after Rosalind. “We have a major problem on our hands. You look beautiful by the way, but this is now a serious situation we need to deal with.”
Rosalind went over to her small washroom that was attached to her room, using the pitcher to pour some water on her hands to wash her face. She knew she’d have to ask for some warm water to be brought up later so she could bathe after being in the rain and the…activity she was involved in. Now that the King and Queen were home, Rosalind knew her time here has now become exceedingly more difficult. If Alistair learned of her living here, he’d easily throw her into the dungeon or worse. She was trying to steal more than just gold, she had snatched a crown before she left as well.
Rosalind took her clothes and used the pitcher of water to wash her clothes that had been soaked in rainwater as well. The lady-in-waiting had brought clothes as she asked, but almost all were dresses. Rosalind didn’t particularly love to wear dresses, as she felt much more comfortable in her pants and guild garb. Once they were rinsed out, she hung them up over the folding partition she had blocking the rest of the room from her washroom. She really didn’t want to stay in Arthur’s clothes, so she went over to the array of dresses she was brought. She did find one that had a corset on the outside, rather than built in, which she appreciated. She used her mirror to get into the dress, tying the corset up in a comfortable fashion.
Rosalind could hear rumbles of the King’s voice, but not full words. She knew that Ellison and Arthur would keep her under wraps for now, as her existence would cause trouble for both of them. But, Arthur…liked her, right? He had to, considering this time, he kissed her. He kissed her because he wanted to, right? He had to. There was no way he was caught in the moment. She would believe it in her head for now, because if she didn’t; she would be devastated about how idiotic she was being.
The blonde broke from her thoughts when Arthur came into the door. She looked a bit shaken, which she assumed would be normal. She smiled seeing him, which was a natural reaction she wasn’t a huge fan of, her emotions being written all over her face. “We have a major problem on our hands. You look beautiful by the way, but this is now a serious situation we need to deal with.”
“Thank you.” Rosalind approached him, her eyes meeting his. “These dresses are not my favorite. But what’s the problem? I couldn’t hear much but does he know I’m here? Am I getting thrown in the dungeon, or worse?” she asked, her lips pursing together. As her brain went to what worse could happen, she bit down on her bottom lip, her eyes straying from him. She had heard the things that had happened to guild members at the hand of the king, and the fire was only part of it. Her breath quickens, before walking away from Arthur and sitting on the bed. “I’ve heard what happens to guild members at the hands of King Allistar…” she spoke, her eyes meeting his, showing her fear.
“What are we going to do, Arthur?”
“What?' he frowned, instantly shaking his head. ”No, of course not! No one is going to the dungeon. Especially not you."
Arthur paced the room, trying to come up with a plan off the cuff. There were few places in the castle that his father didn't bother visiting but he couldn't guarantee that staff wouldn't find her if he hid her somewhere. Alistair prided himself on running the castle like a military barracks, carrying out inspections when he saw fit. If he stumbled upon Rosalind hiding out in a closet or library she'd likely be interrogated for criminal activity. Granted she was there for criminal activity to start but now that Arthur was falling like a lovesick puppy into her orbit, there was zero chance he was willing to risk her safety.
“It isn't our most creative plan but it just might work,” he spun around and grabbed her hands. “What if we pass you off as an entertainment girl?”
His father was not a man of monogamy and had his own share of women of the night at his beck and call, some even residing in country estates on the king's dime. If Arthur kept Rosalind in his bedroom and the king stumbled upon her during an inspection, then the prince could always claim she was a prostitute that he'd taken on for fun. It might even make his father respect him a little more. The problem was that he didn't want to insult Rosalind by suggesting as much, even though that was precisely what he was suggesting.
“It would mean you could stay in my rooms with me without his suspicion. If anything, his son shacking up with a woman of the night would probably make him more proud of me than he's been in years, he wouldn't question it at all. ‘A man has a right to his toys,'" he mimicked his father's brogue.
Then again, it wasn't as though she would be safe for long in that position. The king had wandering eyes and Rosalind was beautiful. Arthur worried that his father would eventually take an interest in her, forcing unwanted affections on the poor woman until she'd have no choice but to put him in his place. And that was treason.
“Saints above this is a nightmare,” he groaned, flopping on the bed and putting his head in his hands. “I thought we'd have more time, I didn't think we'd get stuck in this situation with my father looming around every corner. What would the people of your guild do in this scenario?”
Rosalind’s breathing calmed when Arthur assured her she wouldn’t be going to the dungeon. She was able to just look at his face and calm, trusting him almost instantly. She took a moment to remind herself she couldn’t just fawn over the prince like she was. She needed her walls, she needed to protect herself when he decided she was no longer important to her. As much as Rosalind hoped and prayed that wasn’t the case, she couldn’t be prepared until he fully committed himself to her.
Arthur paced around the room, Rosalind watched him think and walk. She knew what he was thinking, what were they going to do with her? Clearly the tower wasn’t going to do now that the King was home, and no room was off limits to him. She needed a way to be hidden in plain sight, as Rosalind was not one to blend into the furniture of royalty.
“What if we pass you off as an entertainment girl?”
Rosalind stared at the man, a bit dumbfounded. She approached him as he explained his reasoning, continuing his rant of what they would do in the guild. As she reached him, she slapped him straight across the face. “Are you mad? You expect me to act like a mindless toy for you to play with?! I know we’ve slept together twice but gods above. You are an idiot if you think I’d ever go along with something like that! What do you take me for?” Rosalind spoke, backing him into a wall. “And to think I was softening up to you.” she mostly mumbled, but still enough for him to understand, a playful energy in her words caused a smirk on her lips as well.
As Rosalind walked away, she used her hand to push back her long blonde hair from her face. She shook her head, thinking of what her guild would do. “What would we do? We’d kick the person out and shoot arrows at them. We’re not friendly people.” she spoke, before tapping her cheek. She had an idea, but he’d probably think it was dumb. It really was dumb, but it was better than being entertainment.
“You were supposed to find a wife at the gala, right? Say I’m the one you're courting. I was able to convince you I was a princess. We’ll say I live far away and that I’m staying at the castle until my father can come and meet the King. But my father…is away on war business. Or something. But that means we can still see each other, and you’ll be off the hook from meeting more maidens. What do you think?”
Had she truly gone crazy? A minute ago she slapped him for being stupid and now she was going to pretend to court him. “It will all be an act…of course. You don’t have to actually marry me or anything…I understand I’m not the royalty you want to marry.” she spoke softly.
Yes, Rosalind was falling for the prince harder each day, but she couldn’t just tell him that. He had done no such reciprocation in telling her he liked her. Sure they slept together but that didn’t mean anything. He never told her he liked her. And now, she couldn’t tell him she was falling for him, or she’d embarrass herself out of the only real friend she had ever had.
“It could buy us time. See, I can have class and play princess.” Rosalind spoke, before walking away and turning away in her dress.
Rosalind glided over to Arthur, her dark eyes doe like and her a small sincere smile on her lips. “Your Majesty, It is truly an honor to be in your presence.” she spoke softly, her voice raised a half octave up. She curtsied properly, before tripping slightly before standing up. Her face broke into a bigger smile before she subdued it back to her small gentle smile.
Rosalind dropped her act, her natural smirk and her voice in its normal octave once more. “Maybe I need a bit more practice.”
“I was just thinking out loud!” Arthur hissed at the pain in his face from her slap. “I wasn't expecting you to actually be a prostitute for me.”
It was a ridiculous plan that was doomed to fail. She was right. The problem was, the way of her guild was also an issue. They couldn't very well kill anyone, especially not his father, no matter how effective it would be to solve their problems. “Okay so what do we do?”
“You were supposed to find a wife at the gala, right? Say I’m the one you're courting. I was able to convince you I was a princess. We’ll say I live far away and that I’m staying at the castle until my father can come and meet the King. But my father…is away on war business. Or something. But that means we can still see each other, and you’ll be off the hook from meeting more maidens. What do you think?”
It…actually made a lot of sense. His father didn't know every single kingdom out there, it was very possible for there to be a princess he's been unaware of this entire time, who came to visit for the gala. “My future wife?” Arthur blinked at her, finding he quite liked that idea more and more.
“It will all be an act…of course. You don’t have to actually marry me or anything…I understand I’m not the royalty you want to marry.” she spoke softly.
“I don't want royalty," he blurted out, desperate for her to know that. “But how would we pull this off if there is no intention of marriage at the end of it?”
Princess classes, she suggested with a clumsy curtsy, drawing a smile from him. “And who will run these princess classes? I happen to have it on very good authority that I was an excellent student during my royal education. I could probably teach you a thing or two that you must know. Or perhaps Ellison.”
The wise advisor knew every ounce of etiquette that a royal should have, whether a prince or princess, king or queen. He prided himself on decorum and surely would be willing to help under such dire circumstances. “We can ask him this evening. For now I think I must find you some more princess-worthy clothing. My father is quite vain and he would be suspicious of someone claiming to be royal wearing anything but the highest fashions. Our seamstress can sew your new dressed once I've ordered the fine fabrics from the village.”
Order a wedding dress, his brain nagged. Quite unhelpful, really. “A royal guest would not be housed in a place such as the tower,” Arthur noted. “We will have you moved to a room in my wing of the castle. That way we're always nearby. Not that I expect I'll leave you alone any time soon with my father around. The man is constantly searching for new girls and I will die before I let him have you.”
It was perhaps a little too passionate of a declaration but there it was. They'd known each other only a few days and already the crown prince was willing to die for his prisoner thief. “Would you like a princess lesson now? Beacuse if I'm perfectly honest, that curtsy was atrocious. Here, watch me.”
Pretending he was holding up fabric of a dress, Arthur crossed his ankles and dipped down flawlessly, rising back up with the exact same precision. “The trick is to not move your feet until you're standing again. Tuck one behind the other and bend at the knee with grace, not like you are doing a squat.”
The blonde was a bit curious as to why he was so keen to tell her he didn’t want royalty, but she guessed she understood. She knew that he had to marry royalty, but maybe didn’t want it personally. But before she could speak, Arthur seemed to take it by the handles, so she guessed this was happening now. Not that she was unhappy about being able to be a bit more affectionate with the prince publicly, but it almost hurt a little that it was pretend. Maybe, over time, it would be a little less pretend. But, she truly couldn’t figure out Arthur’s thoughts about her. It was clear he could display his affections toward her physically, but using his words to do so seemed to escape him. For someone so eloquent, the man could tell one girl if he liked her or not?
Rosalind smirked, rolling her eyes and crossing her arms over her chest as she listened to Arthur ramble on and on about how to train her and make sure she looked like a princess. He must have forgotten she looked like a princess all on her own, and tricked the crown prince and his advisor, as well as hundreds of royal guests, that she was indeed a princess, and could handle it on her own. Sure, she was clumsy and inexperienced, but she was sure she could woo the king and queen, at least until she could figure out ner next step. There was no way that she could get someone to pretend to be her father and come meet the king. No fucking way,
The blonde remembered that she had some dresses dropped off from the lady-in-waiting, and maybe one of those could be used before she received the dress from the seamstress. She would have told Arthur about this until he started to criticize her curtsy. She turned toward him, watching him and then imitating him exactly, making sure to look up at his eyes for approval, before stepping forward until her chest was firmly against his. She looked up at him with a smirk, her eyes meeting his. “Like that?” she asked, before letting her eyes drop to his lips for a second, before walking away from him.
“To answer you before, we’ll just say my father is away chatting war affairs, and he wanted to meet the king before he gave his only daughter away to you. And we’ll just keep pushing it back until we can’t anymore. We’ll definitely have a plan at that point.” Rosalind spoke, hoping that the king could be calmed about it all for at least a couple of months. “Besides, how quickly does your father want you married? It’s not like you’ll be king very soon anyway.” she spoke, waving her hand as she sat on her cot, excited to see what room she would get now that she was moving into the castle.
“As for outfits,” Rosalind started, as she made her way to the pile of dresses. “One of the ladies-in-waiting brought these to my room, even though I requested pants. There has to be something in here that’s princess material, even if it’s like ‘casual princess’.” Rosalind looked through the dresses, before pulling out an emerald green dress, holding a finger up to Arthur as she went to change into the new dress. She felt like the dress was made for her, as she slipped into it like a glove. She only had to tighten the corset a bit for it to be snug, before pushing aside the curtain to show him the dress. “It’s something at least, right?”
“So, how does the rest of this day go? You must have prince stuff to attend to now that your father is home, and I should start moving my…very few things down to the new room. I can manage to move it alone, don’t bother anyone. I just need an escort, I could barely find your room last night.” Rosalind asked, adjusting the tulle around the arms before getting frustrated
“How do you all wear all of this stuff?! This dress feels like 8 pounds or so. It’s like it’s made of rocks.” Rosalind asked, trying to find somewhere to put the fabric.
Her question was valid. It wasn't as though his role of crown prince was going to become king of the realm any time soon. At least, not if his father had anything to say about it. But how long would they be able to parade around with the charade of courting? Arthur tried to focus on that conundrum instead of fantasizing what Rosalind would look like once she was in that emerald dress she was holding. “I will get Ellison to accompany you. He's the only one I trust to keep this a secret and he will be willing to play along if he's sure there is no way to get found out. He is loyal to my father but even more loyal to me.”
Hell, Ellison practically raised him. If anyone was going to look out for his best interest it was going to be him. “I will be occupied with hearing petitions for the next few hours but I will meet you in your new rooms before dinner. After that we can…present you to my father.”
God, just imagining how it was going to go was gnawing at his stomach. His father was a loose cannon but perhaps with a potential daughter in law present, he might hold his tongue. “One thing I will advise you on is that eye contact is a big thing for my father. If you don't maintain eye contact he will believe you to be weak and I know you are the exact opposite of that. I just don't want you to make a rookie mistake that will ruin this all before it gets started.”
Way to insult her, Arthur, he scolded himself. “Not that I think you're going to make a mistake, you're flawless at what you do. I'm just incredibly anxious when my father is involved and I know what he is like. He is ruthless when sousing out new people. I want this to work for us.”
If they were able to pull this off without a hitch then Arthur would never again doubt his own abilities. For now, he would be a little ball of anxiety and stress. “That won't even remotely be the heaviest gown you'll wear, so be prepared. My father will also know if you're uncomfortable. A princess will be used to such heavy garments.”
It was time to go but he wanted more than anything to stay. “I'll see you soon, I promise. Ellison will be here shortly.”
His father was already waiting on the throne when he appeared. “Stand up straight, boy. Christ above it's like your lessons have gone to waste. Need I strap a broom to your spine?”
“No, Father. I apologize.”
Focus. All he had to do was focus. Alistair was an imposing figure where he sat and it was evident that the townsfolk were less comfortable in front of him than they were of their prince. Most kept their heads bowed, hats fiddled with in their hands as they stammered through their requests only to be shot down one by one by their supposed benevolent king. “Do you not think that my time is worth more than settling petty peasant disagreements?” he sneered at one farmer who had brought forth a complaint of his neighbour stealing crops. “If you bring such nonsense before me again you will be paraded through town with declarations of shame, do you understand?”
“I don't recall asking for your opinion. Did I? You will answer me, boy.”
“No, Father. You didn't. I merely-”
“Then you will keep your fucking mouth shut while you are here, am I understood?”
Rosalind nodded as Arthur spoke that he had to go, a small smile on her lips as he left. Everything he had told her swirled in her head. Was this the right plan? Was being here still even a good idea anymore? Why was she still here? Well, she knew why. She was falling for the Crown Prince more with each passing minute, and now she was going to impersonate a princess for him? She was about to risk her life and play princess. Rosalind had always been a risk taker and a rule breaker, but this, she felt, was going to be the hardest thing she had ever done.
The blonde gathered the writing supplies Arthur had given her, along with the books he had also given her. As she was gathering it up, a bird landed on the windowsill, sliding between the bars that covered it, a small piece of parchment tied up under it’s neck. Her father’s messenger bird had come back. She untied the piece of paper, before she sent the bird back, knowing there was no way she would be able to write back now.
My dearest daughter,
We were quite worried about you. No matter, we won’t come after you until you ask us to. We know your dedication to the guild and that you will do whatever it takes to get us what we need. What your mother needs. We are all thinking of you, and proud of you. We are rooting for your safe return.
All my love,
Well, if that didn’t shatter her heart into a million pieces. She wasn’t doing this for the money anymore. She wasn’t thinking of the guild. But, she was infatuated with the Crown Prince and stealing from the kingdom wasn’t something she could do anymore. But maybe, he’d just…give it to her? Maybe she could send them money, help her mother and they could continue being here. Being together.
The knock on the door had Rosalind break from her thoughts, putting the letter from her father into her stack of paper. Ellison came in, bowing his head as he did so. “Lady Rosalind, His Highness informed me you are moving to a room in his wing of the castle. As you are no longer a prisoner in his eyes, I am now also an attendant to you as well. Whatever you may need, please don’t hesitate to ask.” he said. His face almost went white as he met her eyes, looking away quickly. Rosalind nodded, before grabbing all her things and following behind him
Ellison went on with a tour of the castle as they made their way to the room. The castle had to be as big as the forest the guild resided in, and was lined with portraits, expensive vases, statues, and detailed architecture. They finally came to a room, which she realized was next to Arthur’s, even if the door was at least a mile away. She entered the room, in awe that all of this was for her. A large bed, a washroom attached, her own balcony. The room was as large as the community tent, and she could believe it was all for her. She placed her things down on the desk, and layed the dresses down on the bed. “Thank you, Ellison.” Rosalind spoke, trying her new curtsy she had learned from Arthur.
“Of course, Lady Meira.”
“I’m sorry. What do you call me?” Rosalind spoke, her personality back to harsh and defensive. How did he know her mother’s name, and why did he call her it? Sure, she had been told she looked like her mother did at her age, but no one had ever called her Meira before. “My apologies Lady Rosalind. You look like someone I knew years ago. I apologize.” Ellison spoke, bowing deeply, his face embarrassed. “Meira Wright?” she asked, looking over at him. Ellison looked up at her, approaching her slightly. “You’re not Meira, are you?” he asked, his face confused.
“I’m her daughter.”
Ellison wrapped the girl up in a huge hug, picking her up slightly. He realized what he had done, before setting her down and taking a few steps away. “My apologies, Lady Rosalind.” he spoke, adding a small bow before heading to the door. “How do you know my mother, Ellison?” Rosalind asked, her face confused. Ellison realized her mother must have never told her, so he asked a maid to fetch them some tea, before sitting down with the woman.
Ellison explained how he had started at the castle as a young boy, working as heir of his father who was also an advisor of royalty. He met Meira when he was slightly older, as she was a maid who worked with her mother, who was a lady-in-waiting in the castle. Meira and Ellison became friends, more of a brother/sister relationship. He would sneak her extra bread and cheese when he could, making sure she got what she needed. She had explained the whole writing system to Ellison, which they used to communicate through letters in their own language. Meira, though, wrote Ellison one last letter when he was advisor to a young Alistar, saying she was running away to be with someone she loved and leave the king’s wandering eyes and hands on her. Ellison helped her get away and escape and never heard from her again, but always hoped she would be safe as she left. Seeing Rosalind now, he was happy to know she was alive and started a family.
Rosalind held back that she was sick, as she hated to make Ellison upset. But, it worried her that Ellison knew their language, and would have to hide the letters they wrote back and forth. “Rosalind, you mustn’t tell Arthur about this now.” Ellison spoke, putting his tea cup down. “Why not? I don’t want to lose the ability to talk to you about my mother. I miss her.” Rosalind almost pouted like a child, crossing her arms. “My gods, you and your mother are the same person, hm?” Ellison teased, as a red faced Rosalind dropped her arms. “I’m teasing. I would prefer if Arthur didn’t know about the treason I committed when I helped your mother escape.” Ellison spoke, before leaning in to Rosalind, “Also that boy can’t lie to his father. If he knew, it would come out eventually.” Ellison teased, a small laugh escaping his lips.
Rosalind laughed as well. “Okay. Can we talk about her when Arthur is busy then?” she asked, to which Ellison nodded. And the two continued to laugh and exchange stories of Rosalind’s mother, Meira.
One by one the villagers came and were sent away empty handed, their simple requests denied by a spiteful king too wrapped up in his own personal agitation to bother helping those he swore to serve. Arthur knew that the king's mood was in large part to his interaction this morning. Alistair did not take well to his son stammering and showing weakness. He'd in all likelihood hoped that in his absence Arthur would have grown to be more like him over the course of the last few months but returned to have those hopes slashed in a single conversation. Arthur was used to the blame. He only wished the king would hurry up and release him so that he could hurry back to the much more pressing matter at hand.
“Three months. I was gone for three months and you couldn't even be bothered to grow a spine in that time.”
The argument was prepped the moment the last of the servants left the throne room. Arthur hung his head, steeling himself for the yelling. “I watched countless better men than you die in battle and yet you have done nothing to better yourself in my absence. You expect me to trust that you will one day inherit my place to run this kingdom when you couldn't even man up for three months. You disgust me, boy.”
“Forgive me, Father. I thought I had done well but I see that I was very wrong.”
“All you are is wrong. You're too much like your mother, always whining and sulking like a child. It is time to grow up, Arthur. War is on our doorstep and growing closer each day, there is no time left for you to be a disgrace to this family. Get out of my sight.”
With a bow, the prince did as instructed. Normally his father's insults would sting for the remainder of the day but all he cared about in that moment was getting back to Rosalind. His father might have been right that he was not prepared to run a kingdom yet but that didn't mean he wasn't prepared to fight for someone he cared about, directly under the king's nose. Hurrying to her new chambers, he halted just inside the doorway. “What…is this?”
He'd never seen Ellison so at ease with someone that wasn't a member of staff. And Rosalind looked…happy. Why was she happy? “I'm sorry, has something dreadful happened?”
“I don't understand, Your Royal Highness?”
“You…you're amiable with one another. Willingly. Surely something awful has happened and the two of you must have forged an alliance to handle it.”
“Are you upset, Prince Arthur?”
“Not upset, just utterly baffled. Wait, Ellison are you dying? Is your dying wish to alleviate tension with your enemies? Is that what this is, some kind of penance?"
“My prince I believe you must be coming down with a fever. You're becoming delirious, why don't you sit?”
“Rosalind, what is the meaning of this spontaneous alliance?”
Maybe his father was right, he was too nonchalant about matters of the castle. Ellison, who had shown nothing but wariness for Rosalind, was sharing a table with her like old friends. How had Arthur missed this? Something wasn't sitting right but he couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was.
“No one is dying then? Or ill? You just…decided to have tea together, even though you could barely be in one another's presence until this point?”
Rosalind was in shock about how many things she learned about her mother. How strong and independent she was even as a young person. It was nice to talk to someone who knew her home, especially now that she was away from them. She knew if she didn’t want to be here, she was sure Arthur would let her go, but she didn’t. She wanted to be here now, and she was determined to stay with Arthur anyway she could.
Rosalind stood when Arthur first entered the room, placing her tea cup on the table. Her eyes widened slightly, yet Ellison was easy to calm the prince’s nerves. Ellison had known Arthur all his life, and seemed to have a better relationship with the prince than his own father had. He didn’t calm Arthur’s questions, but he dulled them at least a little bit. But when Arthur spoke, no demanded at her, Rosalind’s hands went to her hips.
“First of all, don’t speak to me like that. You know I consider you an equal and I expect to be treated as such.” Rosalind spoke. She knew that Arthur’s father was harsh, and Arthur could possibly take on the mannerisms of his father, but Rosalind knew she could keep him from spiraling. He is already perfect; Gods she had to keep her thoughts calmer than that.
“Ellison and I were just getting to know each other now that I was moving down to this wing of the building. Considering I am supposed to be a princess and all, he would have known me this whole time. I was just going to ask him about the classes, the princess classes.” Rosalind spoke, to which she saw Ellison slightly smile now that she would keep his secret from Arthur. She went to Arthur, sitting next to him on the bed. “You don’t have to worry, I won’t take your best friend away from you.” she whispered into his ear, a smirk playing on her lips.
“Anyway, Ellison. Now that I am in this wing of the castle, our plan is for me to pretend to be a princess who is being courted by Arthur.” Rosalind turned to Ellison, explaining their new plan. “You are…pretending? You aren’t…” Ellison spoke, using hand gestures to assume the two together. Rosalind looked to Arthur, before a blush rose to her cheeks. “Well, he's supposed to marry royalty, right? And I am not royalty. Even if he doesn’t want it, it’s required, right?” Rosalind spoke, her eyes coming back up to meet Ellison, who could see her disappointment in her eyes. Poor girl was all Ellison could think.
“Marriage is supposed to be a way to solidify connections between nations and build the kingdom. So, usually it is a princess.” Ellison spoke, trying to speak around the fact Alistar would likely skin Arthur if he married anyone who wasn’t of pure royal blood. “Well, I need to be more princess-y. I don’t know how to do princess-y things. Arthur taught me curtsy, but I learned combat training, not etiquette. So, we were hoping…” Rosalind spoke, before Ellison could complete her statement in his mind. “I would be happy to train you on all things royalty. The king is particular about who he’d want his son with, so we will make you perfect for him.” Ellison spoke, a shiver going down his spine, “Well, not too perfect.”
“Well, if you are planning to meet the king, you should change into a more princess dress. I’ll have one brought down from the queen’s closet, and let the seamstress know to make you some dresses.” Ellison spoke, heading to the door. “The one you have on is nice, but you need something more…” Ellison spoke, before heading out of the room.
Rosalind turned to Arthur, “Another heavy dress?” she groaned, laying back on the bed. She turned to Arthur, pushing herself up to sit. “How was hearing the petitions? I know you enjoy speaking with people.”
It relieved him more than he'd care to admit to know that Ellison was in on their secret now. He hated few things more than lying to his most trusted friend but seeing him get along so well with Rosalind - while alarming - was also reassuring that they weren't caught yet. “Honestly I'd take a heavy dress right now over how it went with my father,” he slumped into a chair, head falling back to the wall. “Whatever progress I thought I was making in earning the support and trust of our people will quickly fade. He was a brute in there, I don't even think he listened to a word any of the villagers said. Not to mention he barely acknowledged me unless it was to scold or insult.”
Alistair had been back less than a day and already had set his son on edge. Arthur was a coward on the best of days when it came to his father, let alone lying directly to him by omission of who Rosalind truly was. Dinner was going to be a disaster. “How quickly can we start on the princess lessons?” he looked hopeful. “If we intend to go forward with this, we'll need to make sure we're thorough in teaching you.”
“We can start as soon as the two of you are ready,” Ellison stood straighter, already in teacher-mode.
Etiquette and posture would have to be first. While Rosalind was graceful in her own movements, she lacked the prim and proper delicacy of a princess. “Maybe her walk first?” Arthur advised.
“Excellent choice, my prince. Now Lady Rosalind if you wouldn't mind watching how I make my way across the room,” Ellison stepped carefully, one foot in front of the other, and kept his back completely straight with his head held high. “A princess is soft in all of her movements. She moves as light as a feather but also with confidence.”
Arthur chewed on his fingernail as he observed the lesson, not wanting to interrupt. Rosalind moved quietly enough as it was but it was through pure stealth and necessity, not as though she'd been tutored in high class society. “The objective is to hold yourself with elegance but not draw attention to yourself. A princess's role is to be seen and not heard.” Foot, meet mouth. “I don't mean that to say that I believe a woman needs to be silent, I just mean that princesses are expected to -”
“My prince, perhaps it's best if you leave the lesson to me?”
“Excellent idea, Ellison.”
“You're doing a fine job, Lady Rosalind. Just hold your shoulders a bit less tense and you've got it. Your posture must be as though you are carrying a book on your head; straight and true."
Arthur allowed himself a moment or two of trailing his eyes up and down Rosalind's body, still enamored from the night before. He was easily distracted by the knowledge of how soft her skin was under those many layers, and how firm yet fatal she was. They needed this plan to work because after the last night with her, he couldn't bear to lose her entirely. What they would do when it came down to an actual marriage was beyond him but they had time to figure that out as they went along. After all, it would make no logical sense for him to pre-plan their future on the off-chance that they were actually going to get away with this. “The corset will help keep your posture straight, I think,” he joined the conversation after a while. “It won't be so much remembering to sit up straight as it will be remembering to breathe.”
Rosalind stood, watching Ellison walk calmly and delicately across the room. His head held talk, his shoulders back. He looked so elegant, and Rosalind could only think about how she would never look like that. She wasn’t raised to be delicate and dainty, she was raised to be stealthy and cold. Her idea now felt like the stupidest thing she had ever done. How in the world would she be able to trick the King and Queen of Astonia that she was a princess and was being courted by the Crown Prince who had rejected women time and time again.
Biting her bottom lip, Rosalind tried the walk. It was clumsy at first, but she was able to steady herself with some adjustments from Ellison. Arthur’s comments, although, made her glare toward him with cold eyes before he was able to backtrack a little bit, and Ellison quieted him down. Her face then shifted to a more confident one, and was able to follow the instructions of Ellison. Ellison even thought about putting a book on her head to balance while she walked, which caused another stumble.
“This will never work! Why did I ever think I could be a princess?!”
“Lady Rosalind, you are doing wonderful. Let’s try again, shall we?”
Ellison’s coaxing and calm smile did help her try again, this time the book staying steady on her head. She continued walking until she couldn’t feel her feet in the heels she had been wearing. She wanted nothing more than to be back in her pants and boots. After at least an hour of walking back and forth across the room, Rosalind slumped down in the chair that was set at the writing desk.
“Are we done yet? I think I look fine with how I walk, and don’t we need to get ready for dinner?” she spoke, Rosalind quickly throwing her hair into a quick braid. “You are doing well with your walk, and we can work on it more. For dinner, I would work on just agreeing with whatever the King says, and we can work on more in depth conversation topics at a future time, Lady Rosalind.” Ellison spoke, making sure to check his pocket watch for the time. “Well, I was able to fool the Crown Prince the night at the ball, I believe I can fool the King. I have wonderful conversation skills.” Rosalind spoke, a smile rising to her lips as she thought back to their conversations.
“Lady Rosalind, I’m pretty sure Prince Arthur screamed at you most of the night?”
“I can tell you, I made him screamed throughout that night.”
“So, we will find a time to make sure you can filter your language, Lady Rosalind.”
Ellison had a small smile pulled at his lips before going to the door when one of the Lady-In-Waiting appeared at the door with a long jeweled dress, along with all the proper undergarments. “Lady Rosalind, please stay here with Lady Gwendoline and get into the attire for dinner. Your Highness, we should return to your chamber and you should get ready as well.” Ellison reported, leading the male out of the room and down to his own.
Rosalind smiled at the Lady, and quickly was able to strike up a conversation with the older woman. “You are very kind, Lady Rosalind.” she mentioned, before pulling the corset tight. Rosalind felt the breath leave her lungs, squeezing out a “Thank you.”. Rosalind felt every pull the woman made, each lace being pulled a bit tighter. “Is this how tight they are all the time?” Rosalind asked, as the woman tied it off at the bottom. “Yes, of course. The queen does go a bit tighter, but her waist is trained for years of corsets.”
Lady Gwendoline led Rosalind to a mirror, and Rosalind looked at herself for the first time. She looked like a princess. The Lady let her hair out of the braid, pulling into a half-up-half-down hairstyle, her waves adding natural bounce to her hair. Lastly, the woman added a tiara, a small addition that really made Rosalind feel like a princess. Maybe this really will work…
Back in Arthur’s room, Ellison helped Arthur pick out what to wear for dinner. “Your Highness, how do you think tonight will go? I think Rosalind makes a beautiful princess, don’t you?” he asked, pressing the prince a bit. “I think you are quite fond of our thief turned princess. You’ve never been this enamored with any lady you interacted with before.”
After a while when Arthur was dressed, Lady Gwendoline lead Rosalind to Arthur’s room. She knocked, and waited until Ellison answered the door. “Presenting, Princess Rosalind Tuck from the Kingdom of Noxus.” Lady Gwendoline announced, using her old pretend Kingdom as she stepped back to allow Rosalind to enter the room. The dress was at least 30 pounds, but she was able to practice walking in it, which she was able to do. Arthur was right, the corset did help. Rosalind locked eyes with Arthur as soon as she could.
“Well, what do you think?”
“Your Highness, how do you think tonight will go? I think Rosalind makes a beautiful princess, don’t you?” he asked, pressing the prince a bit.
“Hmm?” the prince stared blankly, thoughts entirely elsewhere as he adjusted his royal blue tunic. What colour would Rosalind be wearing? Would his tunic compliment her dress?
“I think you are quite fond of our thief turned princess. You’ve never been this enamored with any lady you interacted with before.”
“Enamored?” Arthur refocused his attention. “I wouldn't say I was enamored. That makes me sound like a schoolboy with a crush.”
“Forgive me, is that not what this is? You stare at her like she's given you the secret of enlightenment.”
“She's different, Ellison. Rosalind doesn't care that I'm set to inherit an entire kingdom, nor does she go out of her way to try and impress me. She's real. You can't blame me for being intrigued.”
“Intrigued is not the word I would use, sir.”
“And what would you us-”
“Presenting, Princess Rosalind Tuck from the Kingdom of Noxus.” Lady Gwendoline announced, using her old pretend Kingdom as she stepped back to allow Rosalind to enter the room.
Fucking stars above, she was beautiful. Gone was the scrappy thief he'd encountered and before him stood a woman as regal as a princess born into it. Ellison beamed, hands clapping together. “Marvelous! Simply marv-”
“You're breaktaking,” Arthur cut him off though he wasn't apologetic about it.
Oh god, his father would never believe that he managed to have such a gorgeous woman in his company, let alone for courting purposes. Arthur felt a flare of pride. Little did Alistair know that his son had managed to not only capture her attention but also her sincere interest. The prince wasn't a burly brute like his father hoped but he at least possessed some charm to make up for it. “Shall we?”
Ever the gentleman, Arthur stepped forward and offered his arm. An excuse to get close to her? Maybe. He'd rather cover that up with a practical reason of needing to brief her on his father before dinner. “You should know that he's extremely confrontational,” he murmured as they traveled the corridor. “He'll be looking to get a rise out of you at every turn, particularly in the case of politics. I have every belief that he's going to brag about his recent war tour but it will simply be to suss out whose side you are on.”
Alistair was famously a braggart, something that wasn't going to sit well with Rosalind. Especially when he boasted of pain he'd inflicted on innocent lives. “You mustn't rise to the bait. Fawn over him if you must but anything countering his own position will inflict a fight and we just need to get through this dinner so we can properly plan out what exactly we're going to do for our real future plan.”
He wasn't entirely sure why he'd lumped them both together in planning - or what they had to plan - but he didn't want to think about a future that didn't have her in it. Therefore, it was crucial that they succeeded in pulling the wool over Alistair's eyes to buy them time to get her safely out. “He'll also flirt shamelessly with you. Go along with it. He's got an ego the size of the country, it'll infuriate him if you ignore it.”
Arthur hated giving her advice that went against everything he stood for but they were in a serious situation that needed to be handled delicately. Unfortunately, they were doomed right from the beginning. As they entered the dining hall, Arthur's gut clenched to see that his father had already arrived and was awaiting them. The king being kept waiting in any scenario was faux pas. Waiting for his own son was an insult to Alistair. “Sit.”
The order was given and like a scolded boy, Arthur hurried across the floor with Rosalind in tow. “Forgive me, Father. I lost track of time. May I-”
“I don't need your excuses or introductions. If I care to know the lass, then I'll ask her myself.”
Alistair set his steel blue eyes on Rosalind. “Where did he find you?”
Rosalind’s lip curled into a smile as Arthur approached her. “Thank you. You don’t look too bad yourself, Prince Arthur.” she spoke softly, waving goodbye to Lady Gwendoline as she scurried off from the Prince’s chambers. As the Prince offered her his arm, she wrapped hers around it. She was grateful because she knew she would surely trip if she didn’t have his arm to keep her steady. Her smile that had graced her lips began to slowly leave as he began to speak of the king.
The king sounded like a horrible person, and Rosalind realized The King was who her mother had always spoken about. The fact that he belittled others just to make himself feel big, that he would blatantly flirt with whomever was put in front of him, his complete disregard for people. All of it makes Rosalind sick to her stomach. “Arthur, you surely aren’t expecting me to follow all of these rules-”
Rosalind stopped just as abruptly as Arthur did, his eyes looking terrified. She turned to her head, seeing the king seated at the table. He was large, intimidating, and glaring daggers at his son. She had expected the king to look different, he was far more terrifying in person than she expected. But the way the king spoke made her blood boil immediately. Rosalind followed behind Arthur, a step behind but far more confident than he was. Her eyes looked over to the King as he spoke, her scowl forming into a meek smile. She had to play princess, and she would do her best.
Rosalind had perfected her curtsy, giving one to the king before standing back straight. “The ball, your Royal Highness. We met just a few days ago and have been inseparable since.” she spoke, feeling one of the attendants pulling out her chair, and she sat and allowed the man to push in her chair. “It is truly an honor and pleasure to meet you. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about your strength and conquests from the Crown Prince.” the woman lied through her teeth. It was killing her to not snap at him, but she would try for as long as she could. It was just dinner, right.
After another moment, the Queen was announced she was entering. She was far more beautiful and graceful than Rosalind had imagined, the epitome of Royalty. “I apologize for my absence.” she spoke softly, as she waited for the attendant to pull out her own chair. Rosalind observed the look the King gave the queen, followed by a role of his eyes. How dare he treat her with so little respect? Her own father would be skinned alive by the guild for acting in such a manner to his wife.
“God woman. You don’t need to speak every time you enter a room. A woman is to be seen and not heard unless spoken to. I shouldn’t have to explain this to you every day, you stupid woman.” The king spoke, which Rosalind couldn’t hold back any longer. “How dare you!” she spoke, before she caught herself. She pretended to cough, pretending her words were part of this cough. “My apologies. I had something in my throat.” Rosalind attempted to play it off, hoping she could get through the rest of this dinner, but it was already proving difficult.
“Son, who is this beautiful lady you’ve brought with you? Did you marry while we were away?” The Queen spoke, taking the glass that was filled by the attendant with wine before lifting it to her lips.
“Son, who is this beautiful lady you’ve brought with you? Did you marry while we were away?”
Arthur silently thanked his mother for her interjection before his father latched on to Rosalind's outburst. “Mother this is Lady Rosalind. She and I became acquainted at the ball the other night and I invited her to remain at the castle for the foreseeable future as we get to know one another better. Courtship, if you would like to put a name to it."
“How wonderful. I would have been devastated to miss my only child's wedding.”
“That's because you're too childish to worry about more pressing matters. The boy's marriage is only good to us if it provides something of value.”
“Is love not enough?”
“You know damn well that it isn't. Enough of your swooning romantic idealizations, woman. The real world does not revolve around fairy tales and romance! You'll teach the boy to be a cowardly man of weakness if you keep filling his head with nonsense of love.”
Arthur's jaw clenched but he couldn't bring himself to come to his mother's defense. The abhorrent treatment at his father's hands was nothing new and he needed to maintain appearances for the sake of the scheme. If he were to suddenly challenge his father out of the blue, it would likely end in shattered pieces before they even got a grasp on what they were trying to pull off. “Look at him,” Alistair continued. “He's only half the size of most of my knights, he already needs to work harder to gain any modicum of respect. If he plays this game of waiting for true love, my kingdom will flounder before I'm cold in the grave.”
“Lady Rosalind has been quite engaging regarding our kingdom's customs, Father. She wishes to learn much during her time here. It is my hope that I can provide some insight for her as to what our family contributes to this land.”
“And did it come to your tiny brain at all that it may be a ploy to get insider knowledge of my kingdom to use to her advantage.” It was not a question.
“Forgive me, I mere-”
“You have brought a stranger in to my home and you did not even think to have her questioned before you began spilling all of our nation's vital secrets?”
“Father, I assure you that no secrets have been spilled.”
“You cannot promise that!” Alistair's fist slammed to the table. “You, girl. My son says you came for the ball and yet here you remain, days later. What is it you wish to gain from this exchange? A woman does not simply remain in the company of a man without an ulterior motive. And I can guarantee it is not because of my son's charm. So you will be honest with me right this very moment. What is your purpose here?”
Rosalind held her tongue as much as she could after her accidental outburst. She knew how much this was causing Arthur to worry, and she didn’t want to make it worse for him. But he had to know how much it was killing her to not scream at his father. The way he spoke to his son and wife made her blood boil. No one would ever speak to their family in that way in the guild. Family and community was so important in the guild, and the way you spoke meant a lot to everyone. He threw around words like they meant nothing, and made sure they cut deep and hurt.
When Arthur introduced her to his mother, Rosalind smiled and bowed her head to the Queen. She seemed kind, kinder than her counterpart. Rosalind’s smile fell as soon as the king began to speak again. There he went with his loud mouth, arrogant speech. Rosalind held herself strong, although her grip on Arthur's hand in one hand and the arm of the chair in her other hand caused her knuckles to go white. Rosalind was sure she would break off the arm of the chair if she shifted even an inch.
Rosalind turned her head when she was vaguely addressed by his father, her eyes slightly narrowed as she looked at him with as blank of an expression as she could muster. Now was her time to shine. She let go over Arthur’s hand and the arm of the chair, before placing her hands on the table. The smug look on her face grew more apparent as he spoke to her, a smug smile dressing her lips. “Your Royal Highness, is it so wrong for me to think more highly of your son than you do?” her words dripped with arrogance.
“I have my own kingdom where I am the sole heiress of myself. A place I am truly proud of my people and the community we have built. A place where I know what my people need, and don’t allow my people to live in poverty. It looks bad on whoever is King of that area, truely. I need nothing nor want nothing from this exchange except for the fact that your son and I are quite fond of one another.” Rosalind spoke, taking a sip of the glass of wine that was poured for her. “Thank you, sir.” she thanked the man who poured her wine, the man looking shocked was acknowledged at all.
“Even if you can not see it, the charm and strength your son has is remarkable. Once he takes over, this kingdom will only then be a place worthy of…anything. Frankly.” Rosalind sipped her wine once more, her mood calm and collected, the only daggers she had right now were her words, and she could see them stabbing the king as she spoke them. “The only thing I would ever want from this kingdom right now is your son. He is, honestly, more of a man than you are, Your Royal Highness.”
Rosalind sipped her wine in silence as no one spoke after she finished speaking. She then turned toward the Queen, a now genuine smile playing on her lips. “If Arthur and I do decide to marry, we would never do it without informing you, Your Majesty.” Rosalind then turned to Arthur, giving him a brief apologetic smile. She knew she would be getting the wrath of the King as soon as he could gather himself to speak considering how angry he looked as she spoke to her.
Rosalind was going to die. She was going to be executed and there would be nothing that Arthur could do to stop it. The second she made eye contact with the king and began talking back, the prince knew she was done for. Alistair didn't tolerate being challenged by those who had been in his inner circle for years, let alone a strange girl he'd just met moments before. Arthur couldn't stop the blush that coloured his cheeks, both bashful and nervous by her praise. It seemed sincere. But then again, she could just be an extremely talented actress in the face of danger.
“Wine anyone? I think we need some more wine, please,” Arthur waved over a servant.
Alistair's forehead vein was pulsing in rhythm to the clenching of his jaw. It was clear that Rosalind had crossed a line, but how far the king was going to go with punishment was a mystery. He could chuck her in the dungeon or he could string her up in the courtyard to set an example to other visitors. “Father, please take a breath,” Arthur gripped the linen napkin in his fist.
“You come into my home and disrespect me in such a manner?” His voice was practically a growl. “You freely give your opinion when it was not requested and you act as though you are more familiar with my son than his own father. Tell me, Lady Rosalind, does your kingdom have an army worthy of defending your land against a military of my own size?”
A threat of war was nothing short of alarming. “I believe we all just need to calm ourselves before this gets out of hand,” Arthur was ready to rise from the table.
“I quite agree, that's enough of this. Please," his mother rubbed at her temple, a telltale sign of a migraine coming on.
“Both of you will be silent unless instructed otherwise,” Alistair didn't look away from Rosalind once. “My son is a fool, this is common knowledge. You claim to find some level of appeal in his company though I can't for the life of me imagine why that is unless you are here to gain prominence for your own small kingdom. You aim to do so by what exactly? Being defiant in the eyes of a king?”
Arthur couldn't breathe. The end was coming soon for her unless he found a way to get her to freedom before the guards could arrest her. Again. He opened his mouth to try once more but his father…smiled? Why was he smiling? And was that…a laugh? Arthur and Adeline exchanged a glance. What sorcery was this? “A woman with enough courage to stare down a man of my title. I must admit I'm intrigued. If you finish with my son, I think I'd like a turn.”
The prince's own jaw clenched. Adeline was unfazed, clearly used to her husband seeking sexual comforts in the arms of another woman. Perhaps it was only that he dared to do so blatantly in front of her that fueled Arthur was rage. “Don't.”
“I must have misheard you.”
The challenge was painted in the air. Arthur raised his gaze to meet his father's. “I said don't.”
“Who the fuck do you think you are speaking to, boy?” Alistair rose from his chair, hands braced on the table.
Rosalind had been brave. She'd parried every verbal blow with expertise, unblinking and unafraid of the consequences. Maybe it was time he had that kind of confidence. “I don't care what you do in the privacy of your chambers but you will treat my mother and my guest with respect in front of me.”
His voice wavered the entire time but he didn't once look away. Alistair's head tilted. “What is it that you think you will do, boy? Going to draw a sword and run me through? Claim the throne for yourself? I'd say you wouldn't make it around the table before I drew first blood.”
As the king spoke he walked slowly along the edge of the table until he was beside Rosalind. “Perhaps I should do more thorough research into our guest here. A king has his desires. It's up to his people to fulfill those desires and make their king happy. Wouldn't you agree, Lady Rosalind,” he stood at her shoulder, leaning down and grabbing a lock of her hair to pull. “Surely a woman of your caliber would prefer a stallion to a foal.”
Arthur was out of his seat the second he saw Alistair's tongue dart out to trace the shell of Rosalind's ear. “I said that's enough!”
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