“Dem, it’s time.”
“One moment please, Raphael.” I answered, straightening my robes and tightening the chain clips. The last touch was my crown, which I placed at a jaunty angle atop my head. Checking myself in the mirror, I took notice of the sleeplessness appearing on my face in the form of dark, sunken circles around my eyes. Anger had also taken toll on me, but I was able to hide it much better than fatigue. I looked to be on the brink of collapse, but it was not the time to do so.
“I’m coming.” I finally faced Raphael, who cradled a book in his hand. He fixed his wired glasses perched on his hawk nose and tapped his foot until I got myself out of the room.
“Everyone’s likely at the throne room now, we have to make haste,” Raphael urged as we hurried down the hall.
“Do you know if my father will be there?”
“He will not, unfortunately. He’s in his bed chambers.”
“I see. . .” I sighed, concluding that it was best for him to rest rather than to be overwhelmed with the kingdom’s recent events.
When we made it to the hall, my family was sitting on the west side while Lord Caius was on the east. Adrian was sitting on the throne while in the center of the room was Lady Faye. Shackles bound her hands. She wore a plain white dress that was a far contrast to her extravagant wedding dress, and her hair was undone. Lady Faye’s hair was so long that it fell all the way to the floor like a murky stream.
There was an empty chair across from her which I took reluctantly, refusing to make eye contact. Anger returned to boil my blood but I remained calm and focused my attention on the back wall. Raphael sat next to me and placed the book on his lap. Lord Caius sat down next to his daughter, looking surprisingly calm. His usually stern face was relaxed and his stature assertive as he took control of his posture.
After we all settled, Adrian stood up and raised a hand to get our attention. “While my father can’t be here, I shall lead the trial today as judge. In this court room, it is expected that every word that’s spoken is the truth. If this rule is broken, there will be consequences. Despite that I was present during the night, I will not state my claims for I am judge and will not intervene unless necessary. I will allow my brother, Prince Demetrius to speak on my behalf. Beside him is our cousin, Sir Raphael who will help support his claims.
“On the opposite party is Lady Faye Purnella Caius who’s been accused of stealing the family ring, attacking my brother and attempted murder on Lady Suzette Montgomery. She and her family wish to have a fair trial and so here we are. Lady Faye will be supported by her father, Lord Acel Caius. I now offer Sir Raphael to speak and I to be silent. Let us be quiet and be respectful to one another please. Let the trail begin,” Adrian instructed solemnly and sat back on the throne.
Raphael cleared his throat and stood up. “Two days ago, on the night of Prince Adrian’s and Lady Faye’s wedding, Lady Faye snuck into His Majesty’s chambers and stole his ring. Upon wearing the ring, a storm had formed and did not stop until the ring had returned to His Majesty. Stealing the ring from His Majesty is the utmost treason in this kingdom, but not only that; Lady Faye attacked the prince and nearly killed Lady Suzette who is still recovering from her injury. I am not sure how you can defend any of that.”
“I believe we can,” Lord Caius said, standing quickly. “You see, upon wearing the ring, my dear daughter was influenced by some strange force within the ring that caused her to act abnormally. The actions weren’t hers, it was the ring. It’s cursed.”
“What?” I shouted; there was loud commotion in the room until Adrian commanded: “Order in the court!” But even he looked as bewildered as the rest of us. It was quite obvious he wanted to speak, his mouth twitching, but he stuck to his vow. It was a stupid vow but he had to carry out tradition.
“The ring isn’t cursed,” I said. “That’s utter nonsense. Besides, Lady Faye didn’t even have the ring on when she attacked Suzette and I.”
“The ring still had control over me,” Lady Faye said. “I felt its presence linger inside me, forcing me to do such terrible acts. It was out of my control.”
“That ring is dangerous,” Lord Caius added with firmness.
“As I recalled from the audience a week ago you wanted to borrow the ring,” I pointed out. “Besides, this has nothing to do with it. Lady Faye intentionally attacked me and Suzette!”
Lady Faye opened her mouth in surprise and said, “What had happened was a misunderstanding!”
“You’re bluffing!” I exclaimed and turned to Adrian. “She’s bluffing, Adrian and you know it!”
Adrian clenched his teeth and finally raised his hand. “Order in the court, Demetrius.”
“Hogwash!” I snapped.
“My prince,” Lord Caius intervened, “please allow my daughter to speak, I understand that you are in denial, but if you listen to Lady Faye—your future queen’s story, you will know that this was indeed a misunderstanding.”
I grimaced and reluctantly held back. I turned to Adrian who solemnly nodded to me, an indication for me to listen though both of us were about to explode with rage.
“Alright. I’ll allow you to talk,” I said, crossing my arms.
“Thank you, my prince,” Lady Faye said. “First I want to apologize for hurting you.”
“An apology isn’t going to heal what you did,” I argued.
“Dem,” Raphael shushed.
“An apology isn’t good enough, I know,” Lady Faye said. “But. . .I swear that I am telling the truth, that it wasn’t I who committed those terrible deeds.”
I still couldn’t look at her in the eyes, instead I focused on Adrian whom I noticed was tapping his foot uneasily.
“It was foolish for me to take the ring,” Lady Faye said, “I . . . I should’ve known better, but temptation drew me in so easily. I admit, I wanted power. I wanted to gain access to that power and it was too much for me. I understand why only your father’s line can hold the ring because it is a curse for those who don’t share the bloodline. And so, when and after I had the ring, a strange feeling erupted inside me. It was like I was being taken over and it was something else that performed those heinous acts.
“Apology won’t be enough, but I want you to understand that I am innocent. I am at fault for taking the ring, but it wasn’t I who assaulted the prince and hurt Lady Suzette.”
“Then why did you try to run?” I asked.
“I was afraid,” Lady Faye answered. “I was so, so afraid of what I’d done.” She sniffled and her cheeks turned scarlet as tears fell from her eyes. Lady Faye hiccupped and tried to cover her face with the cuffs restraining her wrists. “I’m sorry,” she whimpered. “I am so, so sorry.” Lady Faye dropped to her knees and cupped her hands in prayer. She faced Adrian with wide, exhausted eyes.
“Please forgive me, I beg of you my prince, my beloved!” she cried. “Remember your father’s words at the altar, ’love triumphs over the inevitable troubles in life for no life is perfect! Everyone makes rash decisions, everyone does! Including your wife, the future queen! But eventually there is light, eventually all will be forgiven! So please, forgive me for my sins. Please.”
I wasn’t seeing it, I wasn’t seeing it at all. She was playing a game that I didn’t want to partake in anymore, but Adrian was trapped and couldn’t get out as easily as I. He sat there stiff, his eyes bearing confusion and anger within. His lips were sealed shut and his posture stayed proper to preserve his authority.
“In the span of only an hour you committed three heinous crimes,” Adrian begun, taking a breath. “You stole the ring, but you claim that it caused you to act out of your control. I am still uncertain if the ring really does have such power, however, you repent for your misgivings and called back the words at the altar. If my father was here listening, he would be easier to forgive you, but at this moment I can’t.
“If you truly want to be forgiven, you will have to speak to Lady Suzette when she fully recovers. We will have another trial where you can do so. After that, you are forbidden to speak to her or go anywhere near her. Are these terms suitable for you?”
“Yes, thank you.” Lady Faye bowed her head in respect and kept her head low until Adrian spoke again.
“You may rise, my lady.”
Lady Faye rose to her feet with a tear-stained face. “Thank you, I am honored to have a chance and even more so to be your queen. You will make a wonderful king—Your Majesty.” Lady Faye bowed her head once more.
I sat there quietly as I watched her sob story unravel. I still wasn’t settling in and turned to Raphael who also had uncertainty washed over his face. He was jotting down notes in the book, I assumed he was recording the trial but I liked to imagine him jotting on how much of a liar Lady Faye was. I was at least grateful that Adrian wasn’t going to forgive her yet, but I hope he never did.
My fist slammed against Adrian’s bedroom door over and over until I was invited in. Adrian was at his desk, slouched over as he was briskly working on several parchments of paper. An oil lamp sat at the edge of his desk and offered an orange-brown light that aided to illuminate the papers. The fireplace behind him was lit as well, and above that was a portrait of our family when we were much younger.
“I’m busy, Dem, what is it?”
I shut the door and stepped into the room. “You’re aware that she’s playing with you, right?”
Adrian froze his writing for merely a second but continued onward. He didn’t even bother looking up at me. “I’m well aware, I’m not stupid.”
“You acted stupid back there,” I muttered.
“Pardon, I didn’t hear that correctly?”
“I said—you acted stupid!”
Adrian slapped his hands on the desk and shot up. “I acted stupid? You were making a commotion at the trial when I clearly said not to!”
“She attempted to kill Suzette, you don’t think I’m upset about that!?” I exclaimed, throwing out my arms. “What are you trying to accomplish here, Adrian? Do you want Faye as your queen?”
“After what she did, no, but it will make father happy.”
“Father wouldn’t be happy knowing that his daughter-in-law stole his ring and was almost a murderer!”
“He will never know about that.”
I was taken aback. “Wh—what do you mean by that? He doesn’t know!?”
Adrian fell back in the chair and answered quietly, “Father doesn’t have much time, you know that, and I don’t want his final days to be riddled with these problems. At the wedding ceremony, he was unbelievably happy, so happy that I couldn’t bear bringing the news of what Faye had done. It would break him. I don’t want his last moments to consist of knowing that his last happy day ended in tragedy. He has gone through enough pain, Demetrius. I only want him to rest in peace.”
I pinched my nose in frustration and ended up pacing the chamber. I stopped at the portrait above the fireplace and looked up at my baby face that smiled down at me. I sat on father’s lap while Adrian stood next to him. Adrian’s attire and stature was so regal that it was easy to forget that he was only ten there.
I still couldn’t make up a good response for his explanation and instead moved back to the door
“Keep a close eye on your bride,” I said before leaving.
A few more days passed and every day I spent my time at Suzette’s sick bed. Azure was also at her side, curled right next to the bed while I sat on the other side. To make the atmosphere more cheerful, Azure told me stories of her adventures with Suzette and it caused me to smile. “So, ships in the sky. . .how does that work?”
“I’m not sure actually, perhaps it’s magic.”
“That would make sense,” I said. “I enjoy studying it from time to time but never thought about using it. I always worried I would mess it up and cause something to explode.” I shrugged and looked over at Suzette. She slept peacefully under a white blanket. The hairpin I had given her was resting on the nightstand. I picked it up to examine it and then I heard Azure say,
“It was very sweet of you to give that to her. What made you want to do that?”
“I thought it would’ve been a nice gift, that’s all,” I answered a bit timidly before returning it to the table.
“I believe Miss. Suzette needed another friend,” Azure said. “During the time that she and her sister have been separated, Miss. Suzette has been so upset. She needed someone else besides me to cheer her up, so I thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” I smiled slightly and turned back to Suzette. We talked some more until we heard the door swinging open. Raphael burst in, startling us both. His hair was in a frenzy and his glasses were slipping off his nose.
I stood up from the chair. “Is something wrong?”