“How long has it been since we’ve been able to get away from Newdell?” Flora asked. I was too busy gazing at the sunset over the open seas.
“Maerwynn? Are you listening to me? Maerwynn!?” She was hovering over my shoulder, but I didn’t bother to turn around.
“No. I’m trying to ignore you.” I replied. She sighed and leaned onto the rail of the ship.
“Do you know where Daniel is?” She questioned.
“Getting seasick somewhere.”
“Sounds about right.” She sighed. I glanced over to her,
“We performing again tonight?”
“No, not tonight.”
“Good.” She gave me an odd look. Her long, blonde hair was blowing in her face when she turned to speak.
“What’s the matter? I thought you liked performing.”
“I do…” I stared into the crystal clear water as I continued to speak, “It’s just as of late I feel… Forced.” She pulled her bangs back behind her ear and looks back towards the horizon. A peak of land was just visible in the distance.
“Well we are traveling minstrels, we do have to perform to make a living.”
“But we do it because we love it! That’s why we became minstrels in the first place!” She gave me a chipper smile. I tried to give her one in return, but it only lasted a few seconds.
“Besides, a new town will make all the difference. New scenery, new people– you’ll feel refreshed.” Flora smiled at me and gave me a pat on the back. She took a step away from the railing.
“I’m going to go find Daniel. We should be arriving on Runeswick Isle soon.” She walked away and left me on my own. Thank goodness. I love Flora, but I just needed to be alone for a while. I gazed at the island as it drew nearer, a sense of dread in my mind. I never wanted to come to this place. I never wanted to leave my homeland, yet here we were. I wanted to speak up, but if Flora ever knew how I felt about how sick of this lifestyle I was, it would crush her.
I can’t take the traveling anymore, and to be honest, I never really liked it in the first place. It was incredibly boring, not to mention tedious and exhausting. What made it worse was knowing that we had to do it again the next day! Each day we’d travel to a new place, yet we’d never have a set destination. Flora would usually decide on a whim where we should head next. We had traveled the entirety of the continent of Newdell, excluding a few of the Elven or Dwarvish realms where humans were not permitted, and still that did not satisfy her. Now here we are, on a ship to an entirely new kingdom, and honestly, I couldn’t care less.
Even if the location was new and people were different, every day was the same thing. Wake up in the morning, perform for breakfast, travel a while, then break for lunch. Of course, we had to perform to pay for that as well. Then we would travel some more, either make camp or if we were lucky, stay at an inn. We’d sing and play for supper, then repeat the next day. All the little ones who come see us play always envy our lifestyle and say what they’d give to walk a day in our shoes. They have no idea what I’d give to trade for a place to call home.
Ever since I was a child this had been my life. I never knew my parents. I don’t know if they left me or died, but I’ve been on my own for as long as I can remember. I started in an orphanage, but I ran away when the conditions deteriorated. Kids had to fight each other for food, the caretakers were monsters; it was the best thing I could do. I ran away to the next town over, starving by the time of arrival. I saw some street performers alongside a cobblestone path, singing and dancing. Not only was I impressed by their skill, but the fact that people were literally throwing money at them! I had learned some old folk songs at the orphanage, why couldn’t I try? That was when my life as a songstress began.
I was sure that people gave me their spare copper pieces because I was a child and they pitied me, but one person believed I had a true talent; Flora. It had been a year or so after I left that atrocity of an orphanage, and I was just barely getting by. I had enough to feed myself weekly, but that wasn’t enough for a girl who was all skin and bones. I stayed in that town, sleeping in the allies where no one could find me, singing the same four songs I knew every day. That is until Flora came along. She heard me sing and approached me.
“That was very good!” She said. The first thing she ever spoke to me. I thought she was mocking me, so I muttered out “thanks” and continued on with my routine. She sat down and continued to listen. By the end of my set, she applauded me. No one’s ever done that before. She told me I have talent, and that I should keep practicing. I nodded and said I would, hoping she would leave, but she kept on prying into my life. What was my name? Where did I come from? Where did I learn to sing? I wasn’t interested in talking to her at first, but I eventually opened up and told her everything. She genuinely seemed to care. The conversation went deep into the night, and eventually, she convinced me to join her in her travels. She was wandering around the continent of Newdell performing her own music. She played the flute and was looking for someone to accompany her. I guess that someone was me.
She didn’t stop with just me, though. A few years later, we ran into Daniel, who was in a similar situation as myself. He was older, though, and much better at performing. He was a skilled drummer at the age of thirteen and caught Flora’s attention immediately. His story played out similar to mine, except that he had a huge crush on Flora when we first met. That made his decision to come with us pretty easy. Ever since then, it’s been just the three of us, wandering the countries of Newdell, playing, eating, sleeping, repeating. I couldn’t ask for better companions to travel with, I look up to them as if they were my older siblings, but I just wish that we could have a normal life and be more like the other families.
I always see families that pass by as we perform. I’ve seen them as we walk passed open windows. While we wade out in the cold, they sit together around the dinner table, passing around plates of steaming hot food, sharing a laugh or two. I’ve seen them as they rush out of the pouring rain, a father carrying his coat so that his sons wouldn’t get wet. They had a place to go to. A place to call home. That’s all I want. Somewhere with a nice warm bed and a good, hot meal waiting for me when I get home. Somewhere I can go when I want to be alone, but where I could also be together with my family. A place we can gather and share a laugh around the fireplace. A home worth giving me something to sing about again.
“We’ll be docking soon! Isn’t this exciting?” My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by this statement. Flora was back, now with Daniel by her side. He seemed rather pale and using all of his strength to keep from falling over. Flora took my hand, smiling brightly, and lead me towards the exit of the boat.
We stayed at a local inn that night but had only but a few cents by morning. I knew what this meant. At least I was able to sleep in a bed for once. It had been months since I last laid my head on a decent pillow.
Unfortunately, morning came around, and after we spent our last copper pieces on a measly breakfast, we headed towards the town plaza. Daniel began to beat on his drums while Flora whistled into her flute. My heart wasn’t into it, but I sang regardless. The townspeople tossed their money onto the floor before us, occasionally clapping as we ended one song and began the next.
I couldn’t help but notice in the middle of one of our songs a young man with a violin case standing by a tree. He saw us performing, then left with a look of sorrow on his face. I felt guilty. This was his place. He actually wanted to be here, yet here I was, singing a song that had no meaning to me. That feeling ate away at me for the rest of the evening.
We stayed at the same inn that night, but I could not sleep. I tossed and turned, still thinking about that man. Then it made me angry that I couldn’t sleep because I was in a bed for once! When would be the next time I would get to sleep on a soft, comfortable surface like this? Apparently not tonight!
I got up and tip-toed across the room, snagging the room key on the desk. I made my way downstairs to the tavern. Perhaps a drink would calm me down. I sat at the bar and made my order of one ale. I took a sip when a man took the seat next to me.
“Hey, you’re that singer from before, huh?” He said. I was mid-drink when he spoke. I set down my pint and looked over to him. He was a tall, lanky fellow. Pretty average looking with blonde hair and a beige vest with a few stains here and there.
“Yeah, that was me.” I reluctantly replied. I continued to drink my ale.
“You seem awful thirsty, let me buy you another drink?” I set my glass down again, now mostly emptied.
“Nah, I’m good.” I kept my eyes ahead of me, knowing he was still staring at me. I hate it when guys do that.
“So how are you liking this ol’ town so far?”
“You see all the sites?”
“Really? Well while you’re here you should see…” He continued on, but I phased him out. I wasn’t interested in anything he had to say, but more importantly, I heard another conversation go on in the distance. Two girls sitting at the table behind us chatting.
“So are you going to the Prince’s ball?” One girl asked.
“I don’t know if I should…” The other replied. A party? That sounds fun.
“Why not? Every eligible woman in the kingdom has been invited!”
“I know, but I don’t know if I want to be picked as the Prince’s bride! That’s such a big decision to make!” So I guess the prince of Runeswick is looking for a wife. I guess I shouldn’t go then. Not that I’d get picked anyway, but still, I don’t want to look like I’m trying.
“Oh, think of it! Living in the palace, butlers and maids at your every beckon-whim–” …Keep talking.
“Oh, stop now, you know I wouldn’t marry for any of that fancy living!” I would! I jumped out of my seat and walked over to the two ladies.
“So sorry for interrupting, but I couldn’t help you talking about an upcoming ball?” I asked. Both girls turned to me, but before they could answer, you-know-who followed me.
“Hey, I was talking to you! That was pretty rude, you know.” The guy whined. I sighed, not having the patience to deal with this right now.
“Rude is yammering someone’s ear off who is clearly not romantically interested in you.” I snapped back.
“Whatever, Red.” Ugh. Another thing I hated, when guys refer to me by my hair color. You’re really not making this better for you, Blondie. He then leaned on the table in between the two girls.
“How about either of you? Care to chat for a while? I’ll buy you a drink or two?” The girls gave each other uncomfortable glances before looking back towards the flirtatious failure.
“I- I’m sorry, not now… maybe another time.” The girl on the left replied uneasily.
“Oh, come on, it’ll be fun!” He said, leaning in close to her. She scooted back in her seat trying to get away.
“I– uh– ” She stuttered.
“Hey, she said no. Leave it at that and move on.” I interrupted.
“Am I talking to you?”
“You’re making them and everyone in here uncomfortable, so why don’t you do us all a favor and get out of here?”
“What’s your problem, Red?”
“My problem is that I and these ladies can’t relax without you trying to seduce us! Just call it a day and go home, no one here is interested.”
“Fine, just forget it! Not even worth it!” He waved me off and left the table. I sighed and shook my head. I then noticed the girls, who still looked shaken up. I bit my lip in guilt.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to cause a scene like that! It’s just guys like that– I– I should just go-”
“No, please, wait!” The girl to the right said, holding her hand out to stop me, “If anything, we should thank you!”
“Yes, I just get so nervous in situations like that, I really appreciate you standing up to him like that! I wish I had that kind of confidence!” The other one continued. I blushed a little, I never got complimented for telling someone to take a hike before.
“Um… You’re welcome.”
“Now what is it you were asking about before that rude interruption?”
“Well, actually, I just was curious about this ball you two were talking about. What exactly is it?”
“It’s a party being thrown in Prince Kurt’s honor as a suitors ball. He’s become of marrying age and the King and Queen have invited all the eligible women in the kingdom to come as guests in hoping that the Prince might choose his bride.”
“Oh? Really? That sounds like fun! When will this be held, exactly?”
“In three days.” She replied. Blast, Flora only wanted to stay tomorrow and then we head back. While I tried to concoct a plan to convince Flora to stay, one of the girls hindered my thoughts.
“Would you be interested in a party like that, though? With the man you just told off and everything?” Double blast! My cover was about to be blown!
“Well, it’s just…” Think, Maerwynn, think, “I’ve never been to a big ball before, I just thought it would be an enjoyable experience. To tell the truth, I’ve always dreamed of going to one ever since I was little…”
“Oh, then it would be absolutely perfect for you!” She replied. Nailed it. I’ve always felt I had a natural gift when it came to lying. Never really sure if that was a good or bad thing, but it sure came in handy in times like this.
“Thanks so much!” I exclaimed, face beaming and all. I don’t remember the last time I’ve been this excited!
“Oh, it’s us who should be thanking you!” The lady on the left responded, “If there’s anything else we can do for you, please, just say the word!”
“Actually, there is something now that I think of it…”
I re-entered the inn room quietly, now holding a bag under my arm. I tip-toed in quietly, but Flora and Daniel were already up. I almost ran face first into Daniel as I walked in.
“Maerwynn, where have you been!?” Flora shrieked, latching onto me, “I was so worried!”
“Relax, I just went down to the tavern for a while.” I said, patting her back lightly.
“I was just about to come looking for you! You should have told us you were going out!” Daniel scolded, crossing his arms, “And what’s that you’ve got there?” He nodded towards my bag.
“I borrowed a dress for the upcoming party this weekend.” Flora stopped her sobbing and jolted her head up towards me.
“No, in three days.”
“But Maerwynn, we’re leaving tomorrow night!”
“What? We are?” I said giving my best puppy dog eyes. I hoped that it would look convincing enough. I didn’t like to manipulate Flora, but there was nothing more I wanted than a life at the castle.
“I told you that already. Did you forget, silly goose?”
“I guess I did…” I sighed, then flopped down on my bed, “I was so hoping that’d we’d at least get to stay until the ball.”
“Our ship leaves at dusk tomorrow, if we miss it, we’ll be here for another five days. We need to keep moving.”
“…Alright. I understand. It’s a shame, though. I mean, what am I going to do with this now?” I pulled out a bright pink dress from the bag. The color honestly made me sick, but it was what all the noble women were wearing– At least I prayed that’s what they were wearing. It was a spare dress from the one girls closet she lent me for telling off that jerk before. Flora’s eyes lit up when she saw the dress.
“Maerwynn!” She gasped, “I didn’t know you liked to dress up like this!”
“Yeah, it doesn’t seem like something you’d like…” Daniel said, eying it a bit more skeptically.
“It was just something I wanted to try, you know? I’ve never gone to a big fancy party before… I just thought it would be fun is all.” I shrugged and gave the saddest eyes I could.
“Oh… Well… I guess that makes sense…” He said. Daniel looked to the corner of the room and scratched the back of his neck, the thing he usually does when he feels guilty. It was working. Flora grabbed my shoulders and rubbed them gently, leaning her head on my shoulder from behind.
“Don’t worry, there will be more parties when we get to Newdell again!”
“But when have we ever stopped to go to one? And even if we did, I wouldn’t have this to wear… I suppose I should go return it.” I said, packing the dress back into the bag.
“We’ll buy a new one!” Flora yelled in a panic, “You’ll see, it will be great!”
“She already has one now, why waste good money for food on a dress that will only be worn once?” Daniel chimed in. Flora gave him a puzzled stare.
“I mean, it’s just this once, we can let her go and have fun. Having the extra week might help us earn more than enough for the boat fair instead of just getting by, too, so, if you think about it, it kind of makes sense, no?” Daniel sounded timid when he spoke, not looking Flora directly in the eye. Both of us couldn’t stand it when she got upset, but right now, I was happy he was on my side. The both of us together could at least have a chance.
“Well yes but… Are the people really going to pay us as well for the rest of the time we’re here?” She questioned.
“Possibly, if we keep up a good performance and do a variety of songs.” He answered. All I needed to do was deliver the final guilt blow.
“Daniel, I really appreciate you trying to help, but she’s right. It was silly of me to think I could do this… I might have to wait a few months or, well, even years, but I know I’ll go to one of these balls eventually.” Oh, I definitely overdid it, but I could see it in her eyes. Flora was about to break. She looked genuinely upset as I gave my pity speech. She let out a sigh, walked over, and gave me a big hug.
“Alright, we can stay. For my little Maerwynn.”
“You mean it? Truly?”
“Of course.” She said gently as she stroked my hair.
“Thank you, Flora!” I squeezed her tightly, “And you’ll come with me, won’t you?”
“O-oh, no, I don’t really care for fancy parties…”
“Oh, come on, it’ll be fun! You and Daniel should both come! Every eligible woman is invited, and I’m certain they wouldn’t mind us bringing along an escort!”
“Eligible women?” Flora asked. Shoot, in all the excitement I slipped up. I couldn’t let them know I wanted to go because I wanted to bag and marry the Prince!
“Y-yeah! I mean, the ball is for the Prince to choose his bride or something weird like that, but I just thought it would be fun to pal around together! It’s no fun without you guys!”
“Oh, I see!” She reacted a lot more positively than I expected, “I bet there will be a lot of single men there as well then! With all those single women prancing around, surely there will be some single men who would care for a dance!” She giggled. Of course, why did I start with that? Flora’s such a big flirt, I should have told her the party would be swarming with men from the start! Now I don’t really know if her indications of the party would be correct, I really expect there to be a lot more women than men, but if it gets her there, then it will be worth it. If I didn’t know she didn’t want to settle down, I would say she should be the one marrying the Prince, but I knew she wasn’t up for that kind of commitment. I’ll show her, though, once she gets that small taste of the good life, she’ll stay at the castle with us, and we can all live together as a family.
The three days in between then and the party flew by so quickly! The excitement of how much I wanted this kept me going strong. I had finally something to sing about again! I worked extra hard when we performed, and it showed! We managed to make a few extra gold pieces for Flora and Daniel to buy some fancy wear for the party as well. As excited as I was, I was incredibly nervous as well. I mean, I have never gone to a party like this. Ever. Not to mention I wasn’t the most romantic woman in the world. I spent a lot of time following Flora and watched how she interacted with a lot of the men in the village. Man, it’s unbelievable what turns guys on. A few flickers of the eyelashes, a giggle at every other sentence, and a wink if they were really cute. I think can master that in a few days. Too bad I couldn’t practice without any goons getting the wrong idea.
The fated day did come, though, and all I had to say was
“Wow…” I stared up at the castle gate entrance, watching all the party-goers enter the courtyard.
“Well, Maerwynn, are you ready?”
“Huh? Oh, what? Yeah. I am.” I said though I felt like I was going to be sick. There was no time for that, though! I had me a prince to snag!
The three of us were escorted in by guards. Royal guards. The only time I’ve ever got escorted by a royal guard was that one time I almost got into a fight with some punk at a tavern and they dragged me out kicking and screaming. That was a fun night, but I couldn’t let that side of me show tonight. I had to be the perfect lady if I wanted this to work.
We entered the courtyard and again, wow. It was gorgeous, and that’s not a word I use often. It was a huge area with a stone tier where everyone was dancing. There was stunning greenery all around, and the whole area was decorated with festive lanterns. Yes. My decision is final. I want to live here.
“Look at you, I’ve never seen you so excited!” Flora gasped. My smile vanished instantly, how embarrassing! I didn’t even realize how outwardly expressive I was. I nodded shyly, and Flora giggled.
“Seeing that smile made everything worth it.” On top of everything else, Flora’s sweetness was just too much for me! My face turned completely red, but I also couldn’t help but smile.
“So what should we do, Maerwynn?” Daniel asked, looking around the party. I wanted to go find the prince, but I couldn’t say anything aloud.
“Why don’t we just walk around for a while? We can find something to do that way.” I suggested.
“Sounds like a plan.” Daniel agreed. I lead the way, searching around, scanning every individual at the party. It would have sure helped to have known what the prince looked like.
“Oh! Look!” Flora squealed. I turned my head, thinking that she had found the one I was looking for, but instead, she found the minstrels of the ball.
“They play so elegantly, it’s so… unique!”
“It sounds like our stuff.” I stated.
“No, this sounds different… Like… They’re playing because they have to, not because they want to.”
“They play for the same reason we do– The same reason anyone does in public– to get paid.”
“No, we don’t play for the money.”
“Well, not entirely.” Daniel chimed in.
“Alright, so we do need money, but we play because it’s what we love to do. Do you think they’re happy?” She asked. I shrugged. How should I know?
“Why don’t you ask them?” I remarked sarcastically.
“Alright!” Flora agreed, then began to make her way over to them. I didn’t think she’d actually do it, but hey, one less person to interrogate me as I sneakily search for the prince. There was still Daniel, though. He was actually the one to be more concerned about. I especially didn’t want him to know what I was up to.
“Hey, Daniel, you’re a good dancer, right?”
“Huh? Oh, um, I guess so.”
“Why don’t you go and find a lady to dance with?”
“W-what? No, I-I don’t think that’s a good idea…” He stuttered. Poor kid was super shy around girls– other than Flora and myself.
“Of course it is!” I said, taking his shoulders, guiding him to the dance floor, “There’s no reason for you to be so shy! It will be fun!” Daniel was too nervous to even try and get away. Perfect. I looked around for a single girl, which wasn’t hard considering the event, and tried to pick out the prettiest one for Daniel to dance with. After browsing through the crowd, I finally saw a girl that was perfect for him. She was sitting off on the sidelines, watching all the dancing couples longingly. She had raven colored hair and glasses. I guess she was an elf with those long ears of hers, but hey, all the better in terms of beauty, huh? I brought Daniel over to her, and she seemed somewhat shocked.
“Hi, there!” I started. Daniel was mortified. His face was bright red and I could actually see the sweat dripping down his face. Real attractive…
“This is my big brother, Daniel. He’s a great dancer, and was wondering if you would care to join him for a dance?” Her cheeks turned the same shade of red as she listened to me. It took a moment, but she smiled and nodded her head.
“Great!” I patted Daniel on the back, “You kids have fun!”
“W-wait, but Maerwynn–”
“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine wandering around on my own! Have a good time!” I replied. Daniel looked back to the girl, smiled, then looked again towards me.
“Well, alright. You be careful, though.”
“I’m always careful!” I said, backing away. I kept moving backward watching as the two headed towards the center of the courtyard. Now was my chance. I turned around and starting looking all over for this prince. Where in the all Divine One’s dang creation could he possibly be? Just as I thought this, my questions were suddenly answered as I saw a massive crowd of women swarming in one spot. That had to be him!
“Now, now, ladies, Prince Kurt will greet all of you one at a time. Please be patient.” Perfect! This was my chance! All the girls scattered away as an Elven gentleman in a fancy suit shooed them off. I started to sneak in closer, though I tripped over this darned ball gown on my way over. I caught myself before I could hit the floor, but still, hope no one saw that.
As I got closer I got a good glimpse at the prince. He was about average height, dirty blonde hair, fair skin, blue eyes– not too bad looking. Not that it really mattered, but hey, he wasn’t ugly so that’s a plus. He was dressed in this deep purple getup with a cape and crown and everything. I’m betting those were his casual clothes.
Alright, now that these girls were gone it was time to make my move. I continued to move in on prince charming over there when suddenly the Elf-man introduced him to another woman! Behind him, a line was starting to form! A huge one! I was never going to get my chance with him! He’ll have gone and married, had two kids, and a grandkid by the time I would have the opportunity to speak with him! Unless… I did it from the sidelines. I snuck in closer, but not by much. Just so I was in a good range of sight.
The girl he was currently with was rambling on about something, and I could see by the prince’s eyes that he was not interested. Good sign for me. I could tell because it was the same face I made whenever clowns like Blondie the other day tried to impress me. I should be able to get his attention somehow, then I could show off my new flirting skills. I thought for a moment, then suddenly burst out laughing. That actually caught a lot of peoples attention, which was kind of embarrassing, but it also caught the princes. Our eyes locked, and I went for it. The shy wave and giggle. He blinked twice, then returned his gaze to the woman in front of him. Ugh! It didn’t work! I’m not giving up, though, it’s not over until the fat lady sings!
I moved in closer, making sure the heeled shoes I wore clicked loudly as I did so. I didn’t move directly towards him so I wouldn’t seem so obvious, but close enough that he might turn around again. He heard me approaching, and turned his eyes towards me once more, though still facing the yapping broad. I swished my dress a little, then giggled again. I even through in a wink. Man, I’m classy– or so I thought, ‘til that little palace brat rolled his eyes and looked back to the other girl. What nerve! This wasn’t over, I WILL get my castle life if it’s the last thing I do!
I was enraged, I actually started stomping over towards him and as he looked my way once again, I tripped. This stupid, horrible, pink mess of a dress tripped me again! It was probably only a few seconds, but it felt so long as it happened. I could feel every heart beat pound inside my chest as I tumbled to the ground, but I didn’t hit the ground. I crashed face first into the prince, toppling him over as well. It’s over. It’s all over.
I quickly jolted up, and offered out my hand to help, apologizing over and over. The Elf-man helped him up instead, and the prince looked towards me with a rather stern look. With my luck, I’m not only getting kicked out of the party but the kingdom. He opened his mouth to speak, and I cringed, waiting to hear screams and shouts, but he calmly said,
“May I speak with you a moment?”
“Wha… What?” I said stupefied.
“Come with me, I need to speak with you.” He said again, “Nieven, I will return momentarily.”
“Yes, Sire.” The Elf said with a bow. The prince began to walk off and motioned with his hand for me to follow. Oh, crap.
I followed behind him to a more secluded area underneath a columned balcony. Darn, this place was fancy, I wanted to live here so badly, but I’ve gone and done it now.
“What do you want?” He murmured.
“You were clearly trying to catch my attention. Now you have it, what do you want?” He crossed his arms and glared at me fiercely. As if the pressure wasn’t awful enough before, this was really getting intense. I had to keep it together, though!
“What are you talking about? You turned my way, and I just responded politely.”
“Politely? That’s what you’re calling it?”
“Why, yes. I thought I was being rather sweet, but I do apologize if I seemed unruly.” I lied. I stood my ground as he stared at me in silence. If there’s one thing I learned from performing is that confidence was key.
“…You’re a good liar, I’ll give you that.” He huffed.
“Lying? Why I would never do that! Especially in your company, my prince!”
“You can keep going on, but I’m just going to cut to the chase. What is it you want? Money? Jewelry? Fine wine?” He knew! I don’t know how, but he knew! Has this happened before? It really was the end. I was so stupid to think that I could actually pull this off. All it took was one wise-guy like him to send this plan into ruin, and that’s exactly what happened. I could feel my face tingling, turning red all over. There was no point in keeping up the charade. Guess this is where I give up. The fat lady had sung, and she hit a flat note.
“Alright, alright. I’m done.” I proclaimed, raising my hands up in front of me, “I’ll just let myself out. No need to fetch the royal guards…” I turned around to let myself out when suddenly I felt a hand grab my shoulder. I gasped in fright, not expecting this, but I turned back to face the prince again.
“No need for that. You’re exactly the woman I’m looking for.” He proclaimed. I probably looked so dumbfounded when I heard him say this. I tried to respond, but all I could mutter was,
“Huh? But… Really? What? I don’t… What?”
“Look,” He said, leaning in to explain himself, “I’m not particularly fond of this whole ‘marriage’ thing, but it’s been a tradition for the royal family to marry at the age of twenty-one, so there’s no getting out of this; believe me, I’ve tried. I can tell that you’re the type of girl who just wants all the royal benefits, am I wrong?” He asked. I shrugged at first, but then I just shook my head honestly.
“So here’s my proposition; You and I get married and put on an act for the people and my family, but behind the scenes, you and I can go about our lives freely as we did before, plus you getting the profit of living in the castle as a princess. No romance, no complicated emotional nonsense, as little contact as possible. Sound reasonable?” It took me a moment to process all of this, but once I did, all I could say was,
“That sounds perfect!” I laughed, this was too good to be true! Having a husband in high places who I hardly had to see and got to spend his fortune as I pleased? It’s every girl’s dream! At least, I assume it would be, and if it’s not, it should be! This sounds great!
“Wonderful.” He replied with a grin, “So we have a deal then?”
“Wait–” I started. He gave me a perplexed look.
“I have… A brother and a sister. We’re not from this country, so they’ll need somewhere to stay too. I’ll take your deal so long as they can live here too.”
“I’m sure we can find a house for them to stay in on the island.”
“No, here. In the castle. With me.” This whole plan wouldn’t be worth it if the two people I loved most in the world weren’t here enjoying the high life with me. It was a gutsy move, but I think I had the upper hand. He sighed,
“… Alright. I could probably pull some strings, but just the two and that’s it. It’s irksome enough having to share a castle one more person, let alone three.”
“Don’t you worry your pretty little head off, we’ll be out of your hair and out and about. You’ve got yourself a deal.” I stuck out my hand towards him. He seemed a little taken off guard by this at first, but then smiled slyly and shook my hand in return.
“They don’t know I’m doing this, so you have to stay quiet about it to them too, though.” I briefed.
“Very well then. Pleasure doing business with you, Lady…”
“Maerwynn.” I replied.
“So tell me, Lady Maerwynn, can you dance?”
“I can. Well.”
“Good.” He took my hand and placed it on his arm, “Follow my lead.” I nodded and walked with him back to where the Elf steward was.
“Welcome back, Prince Kurt. You have many other bachelorettes who are waiting to meet you tonight.” He informed. Kurt waved his hand and shook his head with a seemingly sincere smile.
“I don’t think that will be necessary, Nievan. I just had a lovely chat with Lady Maerwynn here, and I think I would like to share a dance with her.” He sounded so genuine compared to the snarky tone he had before. I guess he was just as good as covering up his true feelings as I was– heck, maybe even more so. Nievan smiled and nodded his head.
“Of course, Sire.” He said. Then he turned to me and bowed, “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance this fine evening, Milady.” I was a little thrown off by this, but I curtseyed in return.
“I shall clear the dance floor for you, please give me but a moment.” Nieven informed. He went ahead of us and started creating an open area amongst the sea of people. I could overhear a few upset girls who were whining about how they wanted to meet the prince. I felt a little bad at first, but then again, he probably wouldn’t have given them a second glance. Maybe I saved them from a disappointment? No, I definitely did. The prince turned towards me and gestured towards the now cleared dance floor.
“Shall we?” He proposed. I simply nodded yes. He led me out onto the cleared courtyard, everyone standing around us, staring. Good thing I was used to this kind of thing, or I’d be pretty freaked out right now. I had never danced with a man before, but it wasn’t too hard to catch on. It was actually kind of fun too! Not to mention how ecstatic I was about my plan coming through! As we moved back and forth to the music, thoughts flooded my head about my new castle life. All the butlers and maids that I’d have at my command, all the money I would have to spend at my disposal at any given time, all the delicious food hand prepared by professional chefs every day– For once in my life I was finally getting everything I’ve ever wanted!
“What are you smiling about? You’re not falling for me now, are you?” The Prince sarcastically remarked.
“I was just thinking of whether I’d like a room facing the town or the ocean more, and then I thought, why not both?” I replied. He gave a short, dry laugh as he spun me underneath his arm. We continued to dance until the music came to a stop. The crowd cheered and applauded as our dance came to a conclusion. That was when Nievan came back.
“Sire, the king and queen would like to speak with you for a moment.” He announced. Prince Kurt nodded, then looked my way.
“I’ll be back in but a moment, my dear.” He said.
“I’ll be counting each second until you return!” I replied. When Nievan had faced the opposite way towards their destination, Kurt shot me an ‘are you serious’ look. Too much ham, I guess? I shrugged a little but played it off as nothing. When the prince went to follow his steward, both Daniel and Flora came rushing up towards me.
“Maerwynn, what– What was that?” Daniel panicked.
“…Um… True love?” I answered.
“Do you know who that was? That was the prince!” Flora cried.
“Yes, I’m aware.”
“Why would you dance with him? You know what this party is! What if he wants to marry you now? You can’t settle down, we have places to go! People to see!” She squealed.
“I know but… sometimes things change.”
“Maerwynn, what are you saying?” Daniel asked.
“Well… The prince has already proposed and… I accepted.” I stated.
“What!?” The two simultaneously yelped.
“Why? Why would you do that? You just met him! This isn’t like you to do something so– Irresponsible!” Daniel scolded.
“Well, why did you dance with a girl tonight?”
“Because you made me!”
“Yes, but you enjoyed yourself, didn’t you?”
“Yes, but it didn’t end with me proposing to her!”
“Well, you know what?” I huffed, “Maybe I… Maybe I always wanted this! Maybe I’ve secretly always dreamed of coming to a ball like this and being whisked away by the man of my dreams like in a fairytale, did you ever think of that? It’s all coming true, and I’m going to take that chance!” Ugh, I can’t believe I just said that. It actually pained me to say it. I did sound convincing, though, but I think that made it all the more frightening.
“Fairytales are fairytales for a reason, Maerwynn.” He remarked.
“Look, this is my life and my decision. Believe me, I think I’m making the right choice, and not just for me, but for you guys too. I didn’t leave you out of this!”
“What do you mean?”
“I asked Prince Kurt, and he said you two could live at the castle with us! Just like a family!”
“W-what?” Flora stuttered.
“You two will live with us! Isn’t that great?”
“But… But what about our travels? That all just ends here? What about our performances?”
“We can still do that! It’s not like we’ll be locked inside! We can go to the town plaza whenever we’d feel up to it!”
“It’s not the same!”
“It doesn’t have to be! We don’t have to travel!” I shouted, “We could just… be together. That’s all that really matters, doesn’t it?”
“Well… I… Yes, but…” Flora became very quiet. I took her hands and looked her in the eyes.
“Flora, just… Give this a chance. Please.”
“… I… I suppose…” She didn’t look at me when she said this. I knew she was upset, but I know that once she see’s what the castle has to offer, she’d change her mind.
“This is insane!” Daniel hollered.
“Daniel, don’t you trust me?” I asked.
“I do! I mean, I did… I mean… What are you doing? I just… Can’t understand.”
“Then don’t understand. Just… stay with me. Please.” There was dead silence between the three of us. Before he could say another word, the prince returned.
“Good evening,” He said with a bow, “I take it you are Lady Maerwynn’s siblings?”
“That’s… correct.” Daniel slowly replied.
“Pleasure to meet you. I suppose she already told you about your new living arrangements?”
“Perfect. You will be able to move in tomorrow, along with my beautiful bride-to-be.”
“Oh, you!” I giggled. Oh man, it was tough to keep up this sweetness, but I’ll get used to it.
“My parents would like to meet you now if you wouldn’t mind, my dear.”
“Oh, yeah! Sure! I mean, I would love to.” I answered, “Be right back, guys. You’ll see. This will be great.” Prince Kurt led me away from the two, who both still seemed in shock. They’ll just have to trust me. I know I’m doing the right thing for us.
“Alright, so let me do most of the talking, but if you have to say anything, make sure you’re as formal as possible. I don’t know how my mother would react if she knew I was marrying a vagabond.”
“Don’t sweat it, Princey, you want a princess, you’ve got a princess.”
Author’s Notes Thank you for taking the time to read this! This was my story for National Novel Writing month, and though I did not complete the entire story before the deadline, I got a chapter done and the story is starting to take off. I will continue to post chapters as I write them, but without the progress in between such as I have done before for NNWM. This is my “final copy”, but I’m sure that I’ve made mistakes or could improve, so please, if you have any constructive criticism, I am happy to hear you out! Again, thank you so much for taking the time to read this. It really brings joy to my heart that I can share these stories with you, I hope that you enjoyed reading them as much as I did writing them!