A prince, a playmate and a pawn of royal conquest hold three distinct pasts that have shaped their present. Their stories intertwine in a tale of loyalty, love and redemption that call into question everything they've sacrificed for a better future.


2. The Entertainers from the Wisteria Woods

“Alright everyone: do you have any questions?” Rosario asked, hushed. Detonae, Alaqua, Zulma, and I shook our heads in synchronization. Rosario then smiled before placing a turban on his head and walking out in front of the royals. I snuck a glance for myself, and spied the king and queen of Levitia, along with their children, two girls and one boy, all dressed up in fine silks. I was pleased with my life, as everything had finally evened out.


        “Please welcome the entertainers of the Wisteria Woods!” Rosario proclaimed to the royal court, as he drew back towards us. Alaqua came out first with her reed flute and Detonae with his medium sized drum. Together, they wove a steady beat, intertwining to a song Zulma could dance to. She waved two scarves, one of red and pink, as she gracefully danced to the fast paced song. I loved Zulma’s outfit; she was modeling a new fashion we were trying to set: short skirts of many colors and long tops that wore loose. Rosario and I came out at the same time; he stepped to the right doing a jig he had learned in his home country of Adolia. I stepped to the right and lit my batons on fire, eventually juggling them rhythmically, without being burned. Princess Nadia clapped all the way through, smiling at me and Zulma.


        As we finished the tune, everyone was grinning, siding from the king, who seemed to glare my way. Queen Lavetta could not take her eyes of me either. Had I done something wrong? When our performance concluded, a caller directed us to our two bedrooms in the castle, where our things had already been placed. 


        “Did I do something wrong? Did sparks fly and burn someone?” I asked, as Alaqua laid her head on her pillow, and Zulma unfastened the buckle of her shoe. Rosario and Detonae, had left for their bedroom, but they hadn’t seen a problem with the royal’s staring.


        “Well,” Zulma said, unfastening the buckle to her other shoe. “The young royals looked pleased. If they liked it, we will probably be back.” Alaqua nodded in agreement.


        “Are you hungry? I packed bread and cheese,” Alaqua pulled out a hand-woven basket and gazed inside. “I might even have-wait- I do! A canteen of water.” Zulma sat next to me, rubbing her sore feet, as we ate and talked. We had started to get to the topic of Marase being seized by Chasten, when Detonae barged into our room. Without knocking! How rude!


        “King Braven called Rosario an audience to him, urgently.” Detonae said, as he eyed the picnic basket. He sat down and took a piece of cheese, chewing vigorously. “And even more importantly he- is this cheese still good?” He looked at the cheese in disgust, before putting it back in the basket.


        “Even more importantly what?” Zulma kept on, drawing closer to Rosario. Even Alaqua, who had never favored Detonae, was filled with anticipation.


        “We have been thieved from,” Detonae finished, breaking his daze. “All our money has disappeared, and was stolen. We will not be able to leave the kingdom without the proper immigration fee, and our due time is in three days.” We were all shocked from the news, as unemployment in the kingdom was rising, so our chances of getting a job in the next three days were slim. If we could not pay the proper immigration fee, we would likely be tossed in the dungeon.


        We were silent for some minutes, unsure of what to say. Alaqua was the first to excuse her to use the restroom. Zulma then busied herself with her clothes, mending a tear that she had been hoping to fix for the last few days, though she couldn’t due to rehearsals. While Alaqua relieved herself and Zulma mended, Detonae and I were left in an uncomfortable silence, each of us trying to think of a last resort.


        Could we sell our clothes, with Zulma using embroidery to heighten the price? What about the worst thought: escaping illegally? I then remembered the guard patrol monitoring the kingdom walls and examining the carriages entering and exiting the village. Someone knocked on the door, and I rushed to it, opening it slightly to see who it was.


        It was Rosario, looking down, and eyeing me wearily with eyes of sorrow. I let him in, and he sat on the bed, head in his hands, his face grim. Alaqua brought him some food, the good cheese and fresh-as-it-could-be bread, ruffling his dark, curly hair as she sat beside him. Rosario glanced up at me twice as he sat on the bed, not touching his food or thanking Alaqua. Finally, he heaved a sigh and took a bite of the bread, chewing it slowly… too slowly.


        “I have bad news and good news,” Rosario swallowed and stood up. “King Braven refuses to pay us, as he is upset with the tune we played. It was a Chasten war song, apparently, from many eons ago, not very pleasing to the royals, though Cree’s fire did remove the grim mood.” He smiled at us, as if that was the best part of all. “He will pay us double though if…” Rosario scratched the back of his neck. “Princess Nadia is in need of a handler or nanny if you will. The king, spoiling her, said any person of her choosing would be the destined person. Unfortunately, one of us caught her eye, and the king, thinking I am the master, is asking me to “sell” one of my slaves.”


        “Are we really looking as such fools with the strongest of us as a leader?” Alaqua said, standing beside Rosario, as she was deeply infuriated. “Detonae may be thin and feeble, drawing no attention to you exterior, Detonae.” Detonae nodded, not feeling the casual offense. “What of us being strong, independent women? Our rights may be sunken but we still call this offensive.” Zulma calmed Alaqua, having her sit.


        “Who was chosen?” I asked, though, in the pit of my stomach, I already knew.


        Rosario sighed before looking at me woefully. “You, Cree, were chosen.  Detonae and I will leave the three of you in peace. We are not expecting you to make such a huge sacrifice. Choose what you will.” Rosario and Detonae left, leaving me stunned. I stayed sitting in my position for the rest of the day, not eating when Zulma coaxed me with fresh bread or when Alaqua offered me the down bed, instead of the cot. I stayed there the entire night, thinking about what I should do, as I couldn’t sleep.  Should I save my friends from life-long suffering, or give up my life to set them free? I thought the entire night, and wouldn’t move until Zulma had awakened and made mint tea.

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