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.


2. Chapter Two



    Blood. Everywhere. Prince Rhys’ blood.

    “It’s okay, it’s okay,” Pierre’s voice echoed in my ears. Time slowed down in that moment. There had been an attack on the castle, on the prince. And they had succeeded. My stomach constricted as I tried not to throw up. His blood was all over my hands and most likely my dress. Thankful that nobody would be able to tell from the color of my ball gown, I shoved Pierre off of me. He rolled over to the ground next to me.

    “Fayre,” he started. There was so much fear in his eyes.

    “I’m fine,” I whispered, my words still slurred.

    “You’re shaking,” he hissed. “You’re not fine!” Ignoring him, I got to my feet. Sentinels were running around making sure everyone was okay. They neglected coming to the dessert table.

“Over here!” I screamed, hoping somebody would hear me. Prince Rhys wasn’t dead. He couldn’t be. He needed to live.

Something salty dripped over my lips. Tears. I hadn’t realized I was crying. I should have felt embarrassed, but a few tears were minor compared to the look on Prince Caden’s face.

He had heard me shouting and came running over. Prince Caden, always so organized and orderly, was running. His face betrayed his fear and scaredness.
    “What’s wrong?” he trembled. “Are you al-” Prince Caden’s words cut out as his eyes flickered to his brother laying in a pool of blood. Something dark crossed his face and remained in his eyes. A single drop of water escaped his tear ducts as he fell to the ground.

“No, no, no!” he cried. He picked up Prince Rhys’ limp body and set it on his lap. Shaking, Prince Caden held his older brother like a toy that had been lost for months that was just found. How could something so terrible happened in a matter of mere seconds?

A sentinel soon followed Prince Caden over to us. His eyes grew wide as he took a small step back on instinct. “Oh, my god,” he murmured. The next second, “Over here! NOW!” A flock of soldiers and nurses rushed over to the boy being held by his brother. It looked like something from a nightmare. I couldn’t believe that anything like this would ever happen.

“Get everyone out of here!” grumbled one.

“The King and Queen as well as Prince Gael have already been sent to the safe room,” another responded. “We told them the other princes would be following shortly once we found them.”

“Your majesty,” one of the kind-looking nurses bent down to be eye level with Prince Caden. “You must go to the safe room. You’re family is waiting for you. Everything will be okay. You have to trust me. You must go now, okay?” But the prince just looked past the nurse, his eyes clouded with pain. They landed on me.

“Fayre,” Prince Caden’s voice was racked with grief.

Stepping out of Pierre’s grip and past the nurse, I took the prince’s hand. “Come with me, please?” I murmured. He needed to get away from the body. Pierre shot over to me as he gave an encouraging look. Who it was directed at, I had no clue.

Blood was dripping from the poor boy’s chin. He was covered in it. Reluctantly, Prince Caden loosened his grip on Prince Rhys. Quickly, before he changed his mind, the nurse and a sentinel picked up the body and put it on a makeshift stretcher. They carried him away in a blink of an eye.

The eyes of the prince held a distant, foggy, painful look. This was the worst I had even seen the near perfect prince look. I gave a tight squeeze to the hand in mine as he pulled himself to his shakey feet. Almost falling over multiple times, Pierre and I managed to walk him out of the ballroom.

“Where’s the safe room?” I was trying to keep my voice steading, but it wasn’t working. There was a shakiness in it that I was not familiar with.

“I’ll lead,” Pierre murmured, sensing that the prince was in no condition to think enough for this small task.

“Okay,” I sighed. Even my sigh had a slight quiver to it.

This couldn’t be true. I was in a dream. No, a nightmare. That’s all this was, I told myself. I repeated it in my head until I was almost certain I believed it.

If Prince Rhys died, I wasn’t sure what would happen. Would the Regal Court of Rhys be terminated, no longer a thing, or would Amara and I become the Regal Court of Caden? There were endless possibilities crossing through my mind like a wildfire. Many of them weren’t pleasant.

The three of us were at a wooden door, the same Pierre had brought me to the first day I’d arrived. The family must’ve not trusted me right away as much as they had let on.

The heavy door creaked as Pierre shoved it open. Not even a foot open, Prince Gael raced out of the safe room. At the sight of the blood all over his brother, he took in a sharp breath.

“What’s happening?” the king’s voice sounded from the room. “All of you, get in here now!” The door shut behind us with a satisfying clunk. I was disappointed to see that Pierre no longer accompanied us.

“Rhys,” Prince Caden managed to choke out. King Felix’s half grin vanished instantaneously. He looked down at his feet. Queen Melanie let out a whimper or a cry, everything was a blur at this point.

“Is he alright?” his brother proded. Prince Caden didn’t answer, so I did.

“He was shot. I was right in front of him when it happened,” I breathed.

“It’s my favorite! Open up!” my cruel brain replayed the painful memory. Prince Rhys’ happy face. The fudge I never got to try. His death wish: for me to try the fudge. I almost laughed at the abursity of it. Prince Rhys was such a straightforward boy. So innocent and pure, so loveable.

No, I thought as my heart constricted. I don’t love him! I don’t, I don’t! My mind and heart were at war. Something in my heart gave up for I no longer felt the tightness in my chest. I don’t love him, I thought one last time. I focused on the room.

It was a small, dark room full of books. I assumed it was the castle’s library. There were no windows so an arrangement of candles was placed all over the room. Five  soft looking chairs sat around a brick fireplace full of blackened coals. It was an eerie room with a sad purpose.

“Oh!” Queen Melanie put her hand over her mouth to silence herself. For the first time ever, King Felix put his arms around his shaking wife to comfort her. A look of anger flashed over Prince Gael’s face. I couldn’t imagine the pain the family was feeling. Their oldest son or brother was most likely dead. Poor Prince Gael. He was only fifteen. Prince Caden being so close to seventeen meant that he had been extremely close to Prince Rhys.

“You need to leave,” Prince Gael snapped under his breath. His sudden hostility made me jump. I knew deep down I didn’t belong here, in the middle of a grieving family, but something told me his harshness wasn’t about that.

“I swear I didn’t have anything to do with this,” I whispered into his ear. If he cared, he didn’t show it. Instead, he opened the door and pointed me out. I shot a quick glance at Prince Caden, who was now laying on the floor curled into a ball with his arms wrapped around himself. That sight alone almost made me burst into tears. This wasn’t right. We should be at the Regal Ball right now, dancing the night away. Not worrying about if Prince Rhys would survive.

Tentatively I shuffled out of the doorway, shutting it behind me. The hall in front of me was not as empty as I remembered it. Maids and servants were dashing between every door, trying to make sure everyone of importance was alright. One maid that saw me rushed over.

“Lady Fayre! Everyone’s been worrying about where you went!” She grabbed my arm and starting pulling me along with her. “All the Regal Court members are in here,” she softly said, ushering me into a bigger room down the hallway. All the court members’ heads shot up at the sound of an opening door. Looks of disappointment crossed Amara and Camilla’s faces. I tried to ignore it.

Only Tarren and Evelyn jumped up and ran over to me. Encapsulating me into her tight embrace, Tarren whispered, “We were so worried about you.” I pulled away from her and grimaced. The rest of them didn’t care about me. But I didn’t care about them either. The Regal Court was not about making friends. Tarren had failed to see that.

At the sound of the door closing, I realized I was now alone with a bunch of girls that I hated, and most of them felt the same towards me.

“What’s going on?” Camilla glared at me as though I was the one causing this.

“Maybe if you weren’t such a bull headed snitch, I’d tell you!” I spat back. My brain urged me to say more, embarrass her further, but I didn’t. I knew I had already caused enough trouble by saying what I did. Her face flushed red as her eyes narrowed.

“You have some nerve talking to me like that!” she hissed. I had gone to far, but I couldn’t stop.

“More nerve than you!” my unnaturally devilish voice sneered back. Camilla jumped up at the jab. The other girls jumped as well. Not because of what I said, but because they didn’t want to explain why Camilla and I had fought.

“Stop!” Maire’s quiet voice somehow raised over all the others. I’d forgotten she was even there. So did the others for they flinched. “Stop!” she repeated. “We don’t need anyone getting hurt over a conversation! Please, Fayre, tell us what’s going on.”

Tarren nodded. “Yeah, none of us know what happened. We were rushed out of the ballroom as soon as possible after the gunshot went off.”I drew in a shaky breath recalling the tender memory. His happy smile, the fudge, the gunshot, the blood…

I stood a little straighter and spoke clearly. “Prince Rhys was shot. I don’t know if he’s okay.” Amara’s gaze flickered to the ground as she processed what this meant. I was sure that the same thoughts were going through her head as well as mine. The rest of the girls just stood there, shocked. But Camilla looked affected for only a second.

“What a pity,” she marveled. Her lips curled into a smile. “That mustn't be good for you or Amara, now. Is it?” she wondered out loud. Camilla would’ve eaten alive if she knew I was frightened by the recent incident.

“Camilla, this isn’t about the Regal Court anymore,” Evelyn started. She was quickly shut down.

“But it always was, dear Evelyn. You just didn’t have the brains to see it,” Camilla snarked. “It doesn’t matter the horrors we endure. This game, this life, will always be about Regal Court,” she paused adding dramatic effect. “And to survive we must play the game.” The way she said it made it seem as simple as the alphabet, or counting to ten. But I knew deep down the Regal Court was much too complicated to put into words.

“Ahem.” A maid’s head around the door. I hoped she hadn’t been there long enough to hear our argument. “I will escort all of you to your rooms now.” Confusion rang in my head. So after this trama, we were just going to sleep?

“How’s Prince Rhys?” I pried, wishing desperately that she give some form of an answer.

“I can’t say. I, personally, haven’t been informed, but even if I had, I would not be allowed to tell anyone.”

“Not even the royal family?” I raised an eyebrow.

“Well, yes. Of course the royal family would be the first to know. Even before the maids or servants,” the maid was hiding something. I believed she did know the condition of the prince. But I knew from first hand experience that if someone said they didn’t know anything, it meant they didn’t want to talk. So I let it go. We would know soon enough.

The maid lead us through the front of the castle to the back, where the living quarters were. My room was in the farthest back corner, away from all the other girls. I guess that is one of the perks of coming to the castle early, apart from the fact that the family never docked me points. I had made such a good impression that they refused to take points away from a sweet, innocent girl. If only they had seen through the mask.

“Thank you,” I said as sweetly as I could. Finally, the maid and I had gotten to my bedroom door.

“You are most welcome, Lady Fayre.” She dropped into a curtsy. I smiled at her until her back was facing me. My fakeness ended as soon as nobody was watching. I was putting on a show for everyone to prove I was the most worthy of winning Prince Rhys’ hand. I suppose it didn’t really matter anymore. He might have been dead already.

I pushed open the bulky door with great difficulty. It was never an easy task for me. More muscular people could open the castle doors without batting an eye. I wasn’t that muscular though.

I sat down on my queen size bed with a huff. My bedroom was quite comfortable. It was big enough not to feel claustrophobic, but still small and cozy. There was even a grand picture window just above my bed in the middle of the wall. I saw the lush, green forest in the backyard of the palace. My queen bed was bigger than the one I had had at my mother’s house. The house never felt like home to me, therefore, I refused to call that house my home.

Suddenly, I realized I would have to squirm my way out of the beautiful dress I was wearing. With no maids to help. After telling myself I could do it on my own, I started by loosening the back lacey strings that pinched it all together. Once a few of the strings slacked, I knew I had the hang of it.

With my arms twisted around to reach my back, a soft knock sounded on the outside of my door. Cursing under my breath, I let go of my grip on the string and walked to the large wooden door. Pulling it into my room a few inches, I peeped out into the corridor. Illuminated by the dim glow of candlelight, I saw Prince Caden. At my bedroom door.

“Um… hello… Prince Caden…” I stumbled over my words. Why was he here? His blue eyes were rimmed with veins of red and his hair was no longer slicked perfectly back. Prince Caden was breaking. I opened the door more. The dress was still hanging on to my body tight enough so that it wasn’t slipping.

“Just Caden, please,” he whispered.

“Oh, okay. Caden.” The name left a weird feeling in my mouth. I had never called any of the princes by just their names.

“I know this is weird. I’m not stupid,” he had the decency to say. “I just need to be around somebody. Gael is too worked up and Mother and Father are heartbroken. And well, the other girls didn’t see what happened…” Caden’s voice trailed off.

My head buzzed with what I should do. Turning him away in such a time of hurt went against even my morals. But it was also unacceptable to be in the same room as a prince unsupervised.

“Come on in.” Surprised at hearing myself say that, I pinched my hand hard. This time I felt nothing. The prince walked into my room, looking around. His eyes landed on the large window.

“That’s a beautiful view. I didn’t know you could see the forest from the castle.” It was clear he was looking for a distraction.

“Yeah, the view is what drew me to this room. All the other rooms had nice views but the forest called out to me.” The hint of a smile played at his otherwise sullen face.

“But I’m sure your room has a much more royal view. One fit for a prince,” I continued. There was the smile. I graciously took it as a win.

“Sadly, no,” Caden gingerly chuckled. “I don’t have a window. For my safety, apparently.”

“Oh,” was all I could think to say.

He pointed to the bed. “Could I sit?” he asked. I nodded as he took a seat. Caden pulled his legs to his chest and set his chin onto his knees.

Sighing, he murmured, “I wish I could’ve stopped this.”

“There’s nothing anybody could have done,” I replied, taking a seat next to him. Giving him a hug in this situation seemed like a scandalous move to me. I hugged him. “There was no way of knowing this would happen…”

“The castle’s on lock down,” Caden told me. I started at the news. I shouldn’t have been shocked though. The only way to catch the attacker was to imprison him. “The nurse doesn’t know if he’ll survive this. It was a shot through the spine.” He picked his head up and looked me in the eyes. Tears were forming as he kept talking. Soon, they spilled onto his contorted face. Between raspy breathes, he cried, “I don’t know what I’ll do if he dies! He’s my best friend! I can’t lose him!”

The salty water came to me in a rush of emotions. There we were, crying in the middle of the night on the same bed. But I wasn’t crying for Prince Rhys. I was crying for the pain felt by his brother. Caden meticulously wiped his finger under my eye, and then the other.

“Don’t cry, please. Rhys wouldn’t want you to cry for him.”

“I’m not crying for him,” I stammered. “I’m crying because you’re crying!”

Abruptly, he was laughing. I pulled away as though I had seen a ghost. Caden had a severe case of mood swings. It was in its own way funny. All of a sudden, I was giggling along with him.

Time passed quickly that night. The two of us stayed up late into the night, telling each other childhood stories, or the latest Regal Court gossip. I liked the latter very much.

We both gradually fell into a sea of grogginess. The prince laid his tired head down on a pillow, snuggling into the bed. I stayed next to Caden until his breathing became consistent and slowed. Only when I was positive he slept did I carefully get off the bed. I walked over to him and pulled the fluffy comforter over his body. Trying not to let any of the floorboards creak, I crept over to the foot of the bed and sat down. I might have been there, staring into the darkness for an hour, or maybe it was only a minute. But soon I let myself be taken by the hands of sleep.


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