Regal

In a world full of princes and girls fighting for the crown, Fayre seems to finally have everything under control. She is going to win Regal Court and Prince Rhys' hand in marriage. Fayre knows she will become queen. But suddenly, everything comes crashing down as one of the princes is shot dead at the ball. In a battle between right and wrong, truth and lies, Fayre must uncover the truth that lead to the prince's death before another ends with the same fate. And that is easier said than done, because lies are more convincing coming from your allies.

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3. Chapter Three

CHAPTER THREE

 

    Light from the window flickered in front of my eyes. In the groggy state of sleep, I wondered if I should have been able to see the window from where I was laying. Surely not, I thought to myself. The warmth that encased me squeezed tighter making my eyes opened wide in panic. I was being carried.

    My worry dissolved as Caden placed me onto the bed, still warm from his body heat. The layers from last night’s dress surrounded my ankles. I closed my eyes before he noticed that I was awake, but he gently pulled the fluffy blanket over me. A few seconds passed before my bedroom door creaked open and then shut softly. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

My heart swelled with gratitude and my chest was tight. I groaned knowing I needed to take off the dress. I shouldn’t have kept it on for as long as I had. Carefully, I slipped out from underneath the covers and reached behind me to get a grip at the strings. With each string loosened, I found I could breathe normally again. The dark red gown dropped to the floor with a satistfying plop. I stepped over to the closet, not bothering to pick up the dress.

My favorite outfit was in a pile right where I had left it yesterday before the ball. It consisted of dark, skin tight jeans made from a tough material and a sky blue, flowy top. After slipping into the worn clothes, I pulled on black leather ankle boots. Hoping my hair looked presentable, I made my way out of the room and into the kitchens. I hoped that the royal family would be there and would be able to tell me what was happening with Prince Rhys.

The click of my boots on the marble floor was the only noise that I could hear. It seemed as though the castle was empty, devoid of life. Part of my mind told me Prince Rhys would come out of this alright. Another part believed him to already be dead. I pushed the latter to the back of my head. Even if I didn’t love the prince, he was still more of a friend than I had ever had in my whole life, and I wasn’t ready to lose that. Plus, he was my ticket to the life I was born for. Prince Rhys needed to survive this.

As I rounded the corner into the kitchens, I ran face first into Prince Gael. His under eyes were dark and his hair was a mess. He looked as though he hadn’t slept for days. In one hand the prince held a half-eaten muffin and in the other a familiar chalice. Instantly I knew the leftover wine was in it. Narrowing my eyes, I swiped it out of the prince’s hands before he could protest.

“I think you’re a little too young for that…” I muttered under my breath. His face reddened trying not to lose his temper.

“Whatever you’re trying to do, Fayre, it’s not working on me. It hasn’t since you walked in here, and it certainly won’t now,” Prince Gael sneered. “I can see right through you. It’s obvious your end goal is the crown.” He lifted the muffin to his mouth, but continued to glare at me with his slitted eyes.

“What else am I here for?” I spat back.

It wasn’t uncommon for the youngest prince and I to get into arguments. He was headstrong and just wanted the best person for his brothers. But that moment was not the right time to talk about the matter.

“You’ve been raised to live, breathe, and partake in the Regal Court! You know everything there is to know about this! You know just as well as the rest of us why I’m here. I don’t think I have to tell you that,” I went on.

“Yeah?” the prince hissed. “Look how well that’s working out for you! Look how well it’s going for everybody!” Prince Gael took a step back, slamming his empty hand on the wall. Ripping the chalice out of my hands, he screamed, “For god’s sake, Fayre! He’s dead! Go home! Just leave already!” Before I processed his words, he stormed away, leaving the cries hanging in the air.

With a gulp, I steadied my shaking body by pushing up against the wall. The words rung in my ears, confirming my biggest fear.

 

———————❖———————

 

“One of the first things to note about the Court, is that you will have no friends. But you must treat them as friends, for they will be the key to your success,” Baroness Val recited to me on the first day of lessons. I learned very early on to not interrupt her for her words were very important. She rarely told anything but the truth.

Baroness Val was quite old. Almost so old that one would think she might drop dead at any given second. But she was as sharp as a needle. If you messed with the Baroness, she would rip your teeth out without a second thought. She was my favorite from the aristocracy.

“As they say, keep your enemies closer than your friends…” she went on. “I’m sure that won’t be difficult for you, Fayre. As I take it, you don’t have friends. Or do you?” The thin, white-haired lady looked at me with her laser eyes. I did my best to smile and shake my head no.

Lessons were only fun if they were individual days. On group days, I would rather have slept. I hated being stuck in a room full of boy-obsessed girls. The ruthless Baroness was a much better option in my opinion.

She let out a small laugh. “Those going for the eldest son typically don’t. Just between you and me,” she had a twinkle in her eye, “I was in the Regal Court of Felix, back when he was just a prince.”

I gasped. “The king? Aren’t you a little old for him? What was it like? What was the queen like?” I had a million questions but deep down I knew she would answer none.

As I assumed, she waved off my questions. “Fayre, now, I wanted to be queen. I didn’t care about a number, an age.” She sat down across from me. “Back to you. You seem like an alright person, but with time, you will be the one all the princes are looking at. Then and only then, will you be able to be crowned queen. All three princes must agree on it.”

I lifted my head to meet her eyes. “I already know Prince Gael won’t agree. He hates me. Anybody can tell immediately!”

“Well, dear, you’re going to have to make him believe in you. Make him believe you can be queen. Make him believe he likes you.”

 

———————❖———————

 

“Prince!” I called after him within a second of piecing the puzzle together. The young boy turned a corner so I followed. And then I tripped.

“For god’s sake, Fayre,” Prince Gael said, softer this time. He sat next to the wall with his knees drawn to his chest. He seemed smaller in that position, almost childlike. His eyes followed me as I pulled myself over to him.
    “What’s going to happen?” I asked quietly. Nothing like this had ever happened before.

“That castle’s on lockdown. Anybody that was here last night can’t leave. Father says he won’t rest until he finds the one that…” Prince Gael’s pain-filled voice trailed off.

“Will there be a trial?”

“Why wouldn’t there be? It’s a murder mystery. And so far, there aren’t any leads.” He turned his head to face me. Tears started to pool in his dark eyes. “Things change so quick, don’t they?”

“It’s one thing you learn as you grow up,” I murmured, leaning my head on his shoulder. “It’s one thing that won’t get any easier as time goes on either. Things will always change according to time’s wishes.”

The prince pulled away from me. “Just because we’re not arguing right now, doesn’t mean that I still don’t hate you,” he snarled. “And I meant it when I said to leave. I don’t want you here.” Prince Gael pushed himself to his feet and wandered away.

I stayed on the floor until a maid found me. “Get up!” she screeched. “You still have duties, Lady Fayre! Get up!” Reluctantly, I followed her. She lead me to the throne room.

The throne room was the oldest room in the whole castle. Instead of marble, it was constructed of pale, gray stone. Pillars held up the high ceilings. I felt as though I could fly whenever in the large room.

All eyes were on me as I entered.The king and queen sat at the head of the long table that had been set up just for this. The rest of the Regal Court was already present. Caden sat to his father’s left. Prince Gael was nowhere to be seen. I took a seat next to Amara.

“As I was saying,” King Felix went on. “There is a monster on the loose and I won’t, can’t, rest easy until I know they have been found! This is unacceptable!” His voice cracked under the stress and sadness. “We have been questioning the staff since midnight, and we’ve found nothing. Nothing,” he repeated, emphasizing the word.

“How do you know the culprit didn’t already escape?” Camilla’s voice spoke over the king’s.
    “Pardon?” he squeaked out.

“How. Do. You. Know. The. Culprit. Didn’t. Already. Escape?” she said every word by itself. I would’ve slapped her right there for the rudeness but sadly, she was just out of my reach.

“Well, um,” King Felix stammered.

“There is only one way in and out of the castle, Lady Camilla,” Caden took over for his father. “There were guards by the entrance. They were given orders not to let anyone out, and they did just that.”

Rolling her eyes, Camilla responded, “If it was an inside job-”

“Don’t call my son’s murder a job, young lady!” the king roared, making me jump. “This is nothing close to a job! This is a crime! And if you think anything different, I will ask you to leave the castle right now!” Slumping back in her chair, Camilla remained silent. Caden also went back to looking down at the table.

“What about the aristocracy and gentry?” I spoke for the first time since entering.

“We’ll soon start questioning them as well, Lady Fayre,” the king spoke, only slightly calmer. “Everyone present at the ball will have to be. I refuse to let any stone go unturned. I will find who did this, and they will pay.” His haunted eyes drilled into everyone’s souls. “You are all dismissed.”

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