Scarlet Dusk

Caso Fornax has been given the most important mission of her life. In a move to seize power from the oppressive Kaiser Draco Cetus and his daughter Princess Virgo, the rebel organization Scarlet Dusk sends her into the palace to pose as a maid. Caso's job is simple: find out how to get the organization around the security and into the palace to assassinate Kaiser Draco and his daughter on her wedding day. This is one of the easiest missions Caso has ever been given, but everything starts to go wrong when she starts to fall in love with someone destined to die. As the wedding day quickly approaches, Caso must choose whether she should stay loyal to Scarlet Dusk or follow her heart no matter where it takes her.

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3. Chapter Two

 

CH. 2

 

    The application process took three hours. I had to be searched, examined by a palace doctor to made sure I was in good health, measured for a uniform, interviewed by an off duty guard, and then put in a room to wait with five other girls while we filled out paper applications for the job. We weren’t allowed to talk to each other, so we gave each other nervous smiles instead. There was no clock in the room, so there was no way to tell how much time had gone by.

Eventually, a woman in the standard palace maid uniform came into the room. She gestured for us to pass her our papers.

    “Good afternoon, ladies,” she greeted us cheerfully. “I’m Sagitta Camelopardalis, the head maid. You girls will be taking instructions from me. Now, if you would please—”

    Suddenly, the door slammed open and a girl stormed in. Her dark hair was braided loosely over her shoulder and her brown eyes were tinged with red. She rubbed her head like it hurt, grabbed the stack of application from the head maid, and waved for her to leave the room.

    “Princess!” she hissed, “You’re not well today! You should be resting in your room!”

    The girl moaned and clutched her head. “I’m fine.”

    “You’re obviously not, Virgo!”

    Virgo straightened up and gave the maid a pissed off look. “I’m doing the new arrivals, Sagitta. Go fuck a broomstick or whatever it is you do in your free time.”

    We were stunned into silence. This was Princess Virgo, our future queen? I didn’t realize she was so...badass. At the same time, I could tell this girl should never be in charge of a kingdom.

    Virgo turned to us, looking us all up and down.

“Alright, bitches, let’s get started,” She said as she started thumbing through the stack of applications.

The girl next to me leaned over and whispered in horror, “Is she hungover?”

I didn’t answer, but it was obvious to me that our Princess had a few too many drinks the night before. I almost wished Sagitta would come back and handle our orientation.

Virgo looked up. “Who the hell is Cassiopeia Kornephoros Fornax?”

I raised my hand slightly. “That’s me.”

“Your name is a mouthful,” she said.

“Blame my parents,” I responded.

She cracked a smile. “Mine’s worse. Princess Virgo Terebellum Zosma Cetus of Pagonia. I’m the definition of a shitload of names.”

One of the girls on the other room whispered, “I wish she wouldn’t swear so much.”

We all heard her and Virgo’s head snapped around to glare at her.

“Who the fuck are you?” the princess demanded.

The girl went pale. “L-Lyra.”

Virgo pulled out her application and tore it in half. “Get the fuck out of my house and don’t let the door hit your ass as you leave.”

The girl ran out of the room, tears already falling before she reached the door.

“Anyone else got any complaints?” Virgo asked, narrowing her eyes at us. She held my gaze a few seconds longer than she did with the other girls. No one said a word. I couldn’t believe that our princess behaved this way. It was so...unexpected. She was actually kind of awesome, but I could already tell she would never be fit to rule.

“Who’s Vega Triangulum?” Virgo asked.

The girl next to me slowly raised her hand.

“This says you’re from Penbrook Estates.”

“I am,” Vega confirmed. That was one of the old mansions. I didn’t know anyone could still afford to live there.

Virgo whistled. “Damn that’s almost as nice as my house. What do you want to be a maid for?”

“It’s a good job,” Vega said quietly.

“Hell yeah it is,” Virgo said. She shifted her focus to me. “What about you Cassiopeia? Why the fuck are you here?”

“Everyone back home wanted to bone me and I needed a break.”

The room went dead silent, the other girls staring at me in shock like they couldn’t believe I would say something like that to the princess. Virgo, however, burst out laughing.

“I wish I had that problem!” she grinned. That seemed like an odd thing for a person to say when they were about to get married, but Virgo was clearly far from normal. “Can I call you like Cassie or something? Your name is a fucking tongue contortion act.”

“People call me Caso,” I said.

“I like that. It suits you. That’s it, that’s all I have to say to you girls. Someone will come deal with you soon. Caso, I’m appointing you as my new maid, so you can come with me,” Virgo announced.

I was a little bit stunned; I hadn’t expected it to be this easy to get close to the princess. Vega smiled and handed me my bag. I gave the girls a small wave as I followed Virgo out into the corridor. She was fanning herself with the stack of papers and her face was flushed.

“Are you okay, Your Highness?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she mumbled and then she promptly collapsed. The papers went flying and I was quick to grab them as I knelt on the floor by the princess’s side. Her eyes were fluttering. She tried to say something, but I couldn’t make out any words.

“Last night must’ve been a little too much fun,” I commented, helping her into a sitting position.

Virgo moaned, cradling her head in her hands.

“Help me up,” she mumbled and I pulled her to her feet. She started swaying again, so I let her lean on me for support.

“Which way to your room, Your Highness?” I asked.

She pointed weakly down the hallway. “Second hallway on the right. Go all the way down and we’ll take the back staircase.”

I draped Virgo’s arm over my shoulders and wrapped an arm around her waist. Half dragging her, we made our way to the base of the staircase. There was no one in sight, which must’ve been good for Virgo’s reputation. She was about to be assassinated, so she might as well not have rumors going around about her having a drinking problem.

“Can you climb the stairs?” I asked her.

She nodded and gripped the rail tightly. We took it one step at a time all the way up to the fifth floor where the royal suites were. Only staff with special permission could be on this floor.

“Third door,” she said so faintly, I almost didn’t hear her at all.

I pushed the door open and dumped the princess on her bed a little more roughly than intended before whirling around to close the door. On then did I have a moment to take in the grandeur of the princess’s suite. Lush carpeting, heavy drapes, a bed to big to fit in any of the rooms in Crux’s house. The room had an attached sitting area the size of two regular sitting rooms. It had large sofas and a fireplace that might’ve been fake. The closet doors had been open revealing a storage space the size of the room I shared with Leo. I couldn’t see all the way into Virgo’s private bathroom, but I was pretty sure I saw something that looked like a hot tub.

Everything was done up in various shades of blue and gold. It was breathtakingly beautiful and it made me so angry. Here our princess was, basking in piles of money, when most of the people in the towns were homeless or could barely afford food. It was terribly unfair that Kaiser Draco treated himself to syuck luxury while his people were suffering in poverty. I wanted to tear the whole place down brick by brick and watch the palace burn.

Calm down, Caso, I thought. You’ll get your chance soon enough.

Virgo was out cold, so I took the opportunity to look through the stuff on her desk. I didn’t want to disturb her by going through the drawers or accidently put something out of place, so I didn’t touch anything. Her room was neater than I expected from someone so disorganized with her life. Then I remembered the palace was full of people who were paid to clean up after her.

There was a stack of some documents hidden under a closed notebook. I set the applications on top where Virgo could find them when she was more sober. Other than that, there wasn’t much on the desk except for some books, a phone plugged into the wall, a cup of pens, and some framed photographs. The one in the middle was turned down. Curiosity got the best of me and I flipped it up. Virgo was younger in the picture. Her dark hair was shorter and streaked with blond. She was laughing and she had her arm around some boy the same age. He looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure who he was. I put the photo back, wondering why it was down in the first place.

The other pictures showed Virgo in various stages of her life. She was with her father in most of them. I drifted over to the photos on the mantle. These ones were different. Virgo was much younger in them with a woman I barely recognized. The woman was Queen Lynx Cetus. She had gone missing so many years before, I had forgotten she ever existed. Clearly that wasn’t the case for Virgo. Her entire mantle was a shrine to her mother.

My fingers lingered on one of the frames for a moment too long and I heard Virgo groan from behind me, “What the hell are you doing?”

I shrank away from the photos and turned around. “Just looking, sorry.”

She was laying on her side facing towards me. “Well you can stop. Do something useful, why don’t you?”

Princess or not, I wasn’t going to let Virgo talk to me that way. “What exactly do you want me to do? You’re the one who dragged me out of the room before I got any training. For fuck’s sake, I don’t even know my way around this place!”

Virgo sighed and rolled away from me. “Open the frame on that picture you were just looking at and you’ll find a key.”

Confused, I went back over to the mantle and picked up the photo. It was an old portrait of the queen from when she was around the same age Virgo was. I flipped it open and pried the back open. As promised, I found a small silver key.

“It goes to the cabinet behind the mirror in the bathroom. Put the frame back together, you can just leave the key on the sink counter and I’ll put it away later,” Virgo instructed.

I pushed the door to the bathroom open and went to the mirror above the sink. It looked like a normal mirror until I felt around the sides and found a keyhole. I was a little worried about what the princess could possibly be hiding, but came to the conclusion that it couldn’t be something that would cause a scandal or she would never let me see it. The key slid into the lock and the mirror swung open to reveal bottle of pills. At first, I was horrified. A drinking problem was bad enough, how could our princess be a druggie too? Then I noticed the labels.

“Are you in yet?” Virgo yelled from the other room. “Get me some aspirin!”

I found the bottle and knocked two pills out into my hand. I locked the cabinet and left the key on the counter just like Virgo asked. When I got back into her room, she was sitting on the edge of the bed with her head in her hands.

“Do you want some water?” I asked. She didn’t answer, taking the pills from me and swallowing them dry.

I shifted nervously. “Why do you have medicine locked up in your room?”

“It’s easier to get to them when I need them. I had to steal them from the palace doctor. This way I don’t have to go to him every single time I need a fucking pain killer. Also my dad won’t allow Dr. Hadar to give me any kind of medication without his permission,” Virgo explained.

“Why not?”

“To keep tabs on me, I guess. He thinks it’s a foolproof way to always know what’s going on with me,” she said bitterly.

I got the feeling she wasn’t telling me something, but I had already gotten farther in a few hours than I had expected to get in a few days. It could wait for another day or she’d be dead before I found everything else.

“You’re dismissed,” Virgo said, flopping back over on the bed.

“I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.”

She waved me off. “Find Sagitta and she’ll take you to her room.”

I slipped out of her room, already beyond lost. I was wandering down the hall trying to find the stairs when someone came flying out of the room on my left, nearly running me down.

“Ack!” he shouted, stumbling back. He narrowed his eyes at me. “Who exactly are you? This floor is only for royalty and advisors.”

“Oh, I’m a new maid. The princess pulled me out of orientation and assigned me the position of her personal maid,” I explained.

“My apologies. I’m Pavo Grus, Kaiser Draco’s personal advisor.”

He stuck out his hand and I shook it.

“Caso Fornax,” I said. I didn’t have my father’s last name, so I didn’t need to worry about people finding out I was the daughter of a criminal.

“Lovely to meet you, Miss Fornax. I would introduce myself better, but I’m in the middle of an important task for the Kaiser,” Pavo apologize. He’s not in the best mood today, so I suggest you avoid this floor. He’ll call the guards without asking for an explanation. You can never be too careful with rebel groups like Scarlet Dusk on the prowl.”

I laughed. “That’s true. I’m just trying to find the stairs.”

“On the left,” he said.

“Thank you!” I called out, but he already speeding away his mission for the Kaiser.

I followed his instructions to find the stairs and went down to the third floor where the orientation was held. It took me awhile, but I found my way back to the room we were in. Naturally, everyone was gone already.

“Shit,” I muttered.

I whirled around and there Sagitta was, coming down the hallway towards me. She was carrying a stack of folded laundry. When she saw me, she stopped.

“Ah, Miss Fornax. I’ve been looking for you,” she said.

“Yeah, sorry, I was with the princess. She—”

“Yes, I’ve heard,” Sagitta interrupted. “I apologize for her behavior today. Princess Virgo usually holds herself to a higher standard. It’s just stress from the upcoming wedding.”

“I understand,” I said.

“Good. I have your uniforms here. By tomorrow afternoon you should have other clothes in your closet for when you accompany the princess to parties and other events. Your room is this way.”

I followed her to the servant’s wing and down a long hallway to the room at the end. Sagitta pushed the door open and gestured for me to go inside. She set my uniforms on the bed and turned to me.

“I’ll leave this here and let you get settled in. The phone on your desk is connected to the one in the princess’s room so that she can call you whenever she needs something. You’ve been made an ID card. This will help people identify you around the palace and it gives you access to the private elevator. If you have any questions, my room is at the other end of the hall.”

Sagitta left me alone and I flopped over onto the bed. I decided to rest and explore the room later. Reaching over, I grabbed the ID off the stack of clothes. I’m not sure when they took the picture of me on the card, but I liked my title of Official Main Assistant To Her Royal Highness. It would be cooler to have the title Liberator of the Pagonian people, but that would be coming soon enough.

I wasn’t sure what to think of the princess. She was nothing like I had expected. This mission was so much easier than I had been expecting. Everything was going better than we had planned. I curled up on the bed, closed my eyes, and let myself relax. Tomorrow the real work would begin.

 
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