Chapter 1: The Hidden Gem
“Aeryn, hurry up. You’re getting late!” A voice called, pulling me away from my sleep and into reality. I pretended as though I hadn’t heard anything as I pulled the covers over me and closed my eyes. I should have known that it wouldn’t have lasted for very long. “Aeryn! You’re going to be late. Get up!” The voice called again, this time pulling the covers away from me as I shivered.
“What’s wrong now?” I asked as I sat up, looking at my 14-year-old sister with annoyance.
“Get ready. The maids are coming to clean your room, you need to get dressed, have breakfast, and head for your tutoring,” Amelia said as I scrunched my eyebrows in confusion. I got out of my bed as I fluttered my eyes to get used to the sunshine seeping through the curtain. I looked around, still in a sleepy state until my mind started to process my sisters’ words. I instantly jumped out of bed, heading for the bathroom as I splashed my face with cold water to wake myself up. I had so much stuff to do. Usually, I woke up an hour earlier to get everything ready. I can’t believe I slept in on a working day. I mean, I don’t work or do anything but I do study and have to put in extra effort to hide from people, except my siblings.
“Is Esme awake?” I asked my sister who was in my room, fixing the sheets.
“Yeah, she’s going to check on mother’s shop. She said that she’s going to spend the day there and help out. I already asked brother and he allowed me to take a leave of absence from tutoring since I’m going to be helping Mrs. Felstead today,” Amelia spoke as she turned to me.
“Has Esme already gone?” I asked, turning to face my sister.
“She left as soon as the dawn broke,” Amelia answered.
“What about breakfast? Didn’t she have anything?” I continued to question my sister.
“She left way too early and the cooks are setting up the table so you better hurry up before brother gets mad at your tardiness,” She said with a small chuckle as I grabbed a broom from the corner of my room and started sweeping around my bed since it looked dusty. I know that we have maids and servants do the cleaning for us but I prefer doing it myself and I would if it wasn’t for my older brother scoldings.
“What about...” I was going to ask Amelia another question but she put his hand up to stop me from babbling. I was a natural as babbling and overthinking stuff, not only that but the pressure put on me from my brother did make me a mess and now I was a mess. I was going to be late for breakfast and my brother would surely be mad at me for my tardiness, as Amelia said. Compared to my sister, I was a slob and quite imperfect.
“Don’t worry about anything for now and hurriedly get dressed up,” Amelia said as I nodded hesitantly. With that my sister gave a light bow of her head and lifted her gown slightly before she headed out of the room, walking most gracefully.
I took a deep breath to calm myself as I headed back tot he bathroom and looked at my reflection in the small mirror. My hair was going everywhere, making me look like a total mess. My hair was neither straight, neither curly, they were just plain messy unlike both my sisters who had straight brown colored hair. I was naturally a brunette but now my hair was red which I guess made me a redhead which was surprising since no one in my family had that hair color.
My skin was pale, almost deathly pale but it was a family thing. I also had dark shadows under my eyes that never seemed to disappear. I picked up the brush, rushing to brush my tangled hair. After I was done I headed to my room and searched cupboard to see what I would be wearing today. I looked through my many gowns and dresses as I decided on what to wear. I was glad that I had managed to convince my brother into letting me get dressed by myself without getting the help of a handmaiden. It made me uncomfortable and surprisingly my brother didn’t seem to mind allowing me to do something freely.
“Come on. You got this Aeryn...you can do it. Stop stressing, take a deep breath. Everything will be okay. I just gotta get through the daily classes and stay alert, no problem there,” I whispered to myself as I remembered what mother used to say whenever she was stressed. I couldn’t help but remember my mother right now. She always used to do things so perfectly and she was just amazing with taking care of everything and everyone.
Two years ago, about to be three, our parents died. It was because of me that my mother and father had to give up their lives. It was my fault, to begin with, and until this day I can never forget that fateful night that changed the course of everyone’s lives. The memory of why my father, the King, and my mother, the Queen died on my behalf was still livid in my mind as if it had happened just yesterday or the day before.
My father and mother were the King and Queen of Coastillon, the Capital of all the surrounding kingdoms. Our castle or more like our home lay on a steep but firm hill just next to the village. Outside our kingdom, stood a forest, that was called Cabrera. It was the boundary of our kingdom and everyone in the village was prohibited from going any further than the Castille River that flowed throughout the forest. Even going near the Castille River was prohibited.
It wasn’t a dark or very scary forest but it went on for miles and miles connecting us to the other kingdoms. The forest was a place where bandits usually came and evil lurked around every corner. Above the boundaries lay a very different and dangerous world, according to my parents. They told us all sorts of stories that said stuff about creatures and magical beings inhabiting the forests. My parents told my siblings and me to never go across the river but I disobeyed them.
About three years ago, I was foolish enough to venture too far into the forest during the night. I was just curious and didn’t take my parent’s warning at value. I left the castle a little before midnight through a secret chamber and decided to see for myself if the stories were true or not. I had been roaming around for quite long until I realized that it had gotten too late, way past midnight and I had lost my way.
I moved around, trying to find my way back but to no success did I find anything. That was until I heard shouting and the sound of horses approaching. I didn’t know who was nearing the area I was at but my gut told me that they weren’t the people who could guide me back home. I ran a bit and hid behind a bush, hoping that they would pass by without noticing my presence. The sound of the horse’s hooves against the ground neared until it was right near me. I held my hand over my mouth as I waited for them to leave. Soon there was silence and I couldn’t help but feel relieved as I let out a sigh. Unfortunately, it was just my thoughts, and the next thing I knew I was being dragged out.
The person who dragged me out didn’t care if I was a girl as he pulled me by my arm, rather roughly. He pulled me out from behind the bush and threw me on the ground in front of someone, who I assumed was their leader. I looked up at the man, trying to hide my fear, noticing the few many men standing beside him. The man, supposedly their leader was dressed in richer rags than the rest of them, his eyes dark and his stare piercing. His face was bruised with a huge cut on the side of his face, he had a long beard and a sword tucked away in his buckle. I didn’t say anything and kept silent, glaring at the guy.
“Throw her in the cart. She’ll be a great addition.” The man snarled as a huge looking guy from his side came over and grabbed my arms, dragging me off.
“Hey! Stop! Let me go!” I screamed as I thrashed and moved to get out of the man’s grip but he was too strong for me to evade. It didn’t help that I was wearing a large and puffy gown that only made it difficult for me as I struggled and tried my best to escape. It was to no effort as I was thrown inside a large cart. I tried to run for the door but it was quickly shut closed as I was left banging on it. “Let me out! Let me out of here! Somebody help! If my father finds out about this, he’ll have you hanged” I shouted, banging against the door. I knew that these people would only use me to their advantage if they knew I was the princess so I decided to not disclose anything.
“I found her boss. I should get the money they pay for her.” The guy who had found me from behind the bush spoke with a smug look on his face.
“Let me out of here!” I continued to make noise to get some attention in case anyone other than these people was out here. I wanted to go home and wherever and whatever they were going to do me wasn’t going to be good. I didn’t want to be here. Oh, why didn’t I listen to mother and father when they told me never to come here venturing in the night or anytime. I was wrong, it was my fault but please I don’t want to die. Please someone save me, please.
“Shut up!” The man ordered. I continued to make noise despite the harsh tone of his voice frightening me more than ever. I had never been in this type of situation and being the princess I was only ever spoiled and never had to go through any hardship. The man who I think was their leader unlocked the door as I stepped back instinctively, falling over my back. He took out a dagger from his buckle and moved it towards me as I crawled backward, hitting the wall behind me. The man stepped forward toward me and moved his hand swiftly. I screamed as a huge cut started to form on my lower leg, the blood started to seep out, my favorite gown getting all bloody on top of being muddy plus torn. It was my favorite gown since my mother had made and designed it for me.
“Now if you’re a smart girl, you’ll learn to stay quiet unless you want to bleed to death.” The man sneered, a smirk on his face. I felt tears and dread filling me as I nodded forcefully. The man left closing the door as I instantly broke out into tears. I wanted to be home with mother, father, Kael, Esme, and Amelia. I wanted to be with my family. I wish I could tell them just how much they mean to me and how much I love them. What if I never get to see them again? The tears kept flowing as I kept my hand on the cut, which was now bleeding profusely. My leg hurt so much right now but I could only cry silently and pleaded for someone to help me.
After about five minutes the cart started to move as I lay on the floor of it, helplessly. I might have been a princess and might’ve been a bit or maybe a huge brat but I was smart. I wasn’t very ladylike, graceful, or pleasant but I did know many tricks and I had knowledge about things since I read many books. One thing I did know was that to stop the bleeding, I had to put pressure on the wound so I tore the bottom hemline of my gown, even though it broke me to do so. Wrapping it around the wound on my leg, I hissed, leaning against the backside of the cart.
I wasn’t sure how many days past with me still trapped in that cart. I was allowed food and water but I was being guarded by a large man so there was no way for me to ever escape. Not only that but the door was locked very tightly from the out so I had no chance. The thing that truly haunted me until today was all the abuse I had to take during those few days. I don’t know what it was with those guys but even though I stayed quiet and complied with everything I was ordered, they would still beat me. Those guys got some kind of pleasure out of beating me and it hurt but I was told that if I dare tried anything, I would be killed on the spot.
One day, it was nighttime and I was sitting in the back of the cart, huddled up as I looked at my bruised body. I was so used to be clear-skinned, fair, and beautiful so seeing myself with the cuts, dried blood, mud, and bruises made me gag and feel disgusted. I wanted to be back and the castle in my nightgown and I wanted to look and feel pretty again.
That night, as I frowned upon the sight of myself, I was able to hear the sound of shouting, yelling, and swords clashing outside. I managed to push myself up as I made my way towards the small window but before I could reach it, the cart fell over. I felt the cart roll about twice before stopping as I grunted before looking out. My eyes widened as I was surprised to see my father in his gear fighting a bunch of men with his sword. All I could think about was why was he here? He couldn’t be here, he had to be back at the castle, at the kingdom. Didn’t he know of all the danger out here? Why would he come here even if it was for me? His life could be in danger.
Father had come to save me and I couldn’t be happier but I didn’t want him to be here. He was putting himself in danger and the kingdom in jeopardy. He couldn’t leave the castle and what if something happened, mom would be devasted and bad things happen. I was too busy staring at my father using his skillful sword-fighting skills to overpower the many people attacking him that I didn’t notice the door opening. I let out a small scream as my arm was tightly grasped and I was harshly pulled out and away from the scene, into the forest.
“Father! Father!” I tried calling for my father’s attention but he was too busy fending off the men attacking him as he turned to glance my way but was unable to do anything as I was dragged off. I tried digging my feet in the ground as I was pulled behind some bushes and trees hidden from the view of my father as I cried and struggled against the grip on my arm.
“I’ve been waiting to get you alone. Now you’re mine.” I was pushed onto the ground roughly as I pushed myself up and looked up at the man who had dragged me here. The menacing grin on his face made me feel disgusted as I tried to back away, the man inching closer, a terrifying feeling taking me over. The man drew closer as he pushed my back on the ground, holding my arms above me as tears started making their way down my cheeks, realization dawning upon me. He moved as he got over me and a cry escaped my lips.
“Father!” I screamed as I felt my gown getting torn from the top. I let out a shrill scream, tears cascading down my cheeks and just as I was about to let out another scream, I heard a loud thud as the man above me fell sideways. I pushed myself up, holding my gown to cover myself as I looked up to see my mother standing with a stick in her hand.
“Come on. We must hurry, darling.” Mother whispered, trying not to attract attention as she held out her hand. I grabbed her hand and got on my feet, holding the top my gown as it was completely torn. I hissed as my leg made contact with the ground but mother pulled my hand as we started to run away from the fight, leaving father behind to fight those bandits alone. I couldn’t help but notice my mother wearing a normal villager styled gown, probably so that she wouldn’t attract attention as the Queen.
“What about father, we can’t leave him,” I asked, turning to look behind us while running. I saw one of the men landing a hit of dad’s side as he doubled over lightly only to recover immediately and continue to fight, bravely. Tears clouded my vision as I held them back.
“Don’t worry. He’ll find us.” I couldn’t help but notice the crack in my mother’s voice. I was able to get a clear look at her face through the light of the moon and I was surprised to tears in her eyes, that she was holding back. That was when I heard a very unmistakable shout, I knew why mother was on the verge of the tears as I felt tears filling my own eyes, holding the sobs back. All I could do was hope that I was somehow mistaken and father had made it out fo there alive and it wasn’t his shout we had heard. We ran for a bit almost making it to safety but just then mother tripped on a rock and fell, hitting her leg as a small gasp escaped her lips.
“Get them!” A sound was heard from behind us. The bandits or whoever they were nearing us as fear bubbled in my stomach. I crouched down as I tried to help mom get up but her leg was weighing her down. I think her leg was broken but I couldn’t be sure.
“You have to leave, Aeryn,” My mother said as she placed her hand on my arms.
“No! No! I’m not going to leave you.” I said as the sound of the bandits drew closer to us.
“Go, Aeryn! You must leave! Take this with you.” Mother ordered sternly as she quickly took off her necklace and handed it to me as I looked at it wide-eyed. Tears rolled freely down my mother’s cheek as she grasped my shoulders tightly and looked at me in a way that I couldn’t say no to. I turned to run away only to stop and look back at her. “Take good care of your sibling and never let them suffer. The kingdom is in your brother’s hands now and I know he’ll be the best king to ever exist. Know this, that none of this was your fault. Remember that your father and I will always love you. Now run! And don’t look back...” Mom whispered as she gave me a teary smile. I didn’t smile as tears filled my eyes and I turned my back on my mother before I could disobey her again, running, as far as I possibly could.
I made it far enough to be safe only to hear a loud piercing scream of the mother I loved so dearly. Tears made there down my cheeks uncontrollably as sobs racketed my body. I let go of my gown as I ran and ran, loud wails escaping me unknowingly. I was so close to the Castille River, bawling my eyes only to slip on a twig and roll down the steep hill. My head hit a rock as I landed on the bottom, on my back. I took deep raspy breaths as dark clouds invaded my vision before my eyes closed shut and I drifted off into unconsciousness.
I was brought back into reality as the sound of a door closing across the hall reached my ears. I shook my head and put everything aside as I went through the cupboard. I picked out a pale embroidered lavender dress. My wardrobe was full of gowns and corsets some that I made by myself, some that my sisters made, and many that the castles official seamstress made. I didn’t want to brag but I was a skilled seamstress. I sewed some of my youngest sister’s gowns but my other sister preferred to buy her gown, not that I minded. Esme was independent and even though she was a princess, she didn’t let it stop her.
She earned her own money so she could buy whatever she wanted. She wasn’t selfish though, she had bought our youngest sister, Amelia, a brand new gown that Amelia loved. Esme was always buying Amelia stuff whether she was using her own money or the royal family’s money. She was fine spending her earned money on Amelia and even my brother Kael. She just didn’t like to spend her money buying stuff for me, which is a long story.
I got dressed quickly and tied my hair in a french braid before heading to the dining room. My brother and sister sat there as they waited for me, the maids only bringing their breakfast as I entered. As soon as I entered and took my seat, the maids brought me a plate of my breakfast consisting of eggs and boiled chicken as I dug in. My brother turned to me with a glare as I pretended to not notice him.
“You’re late again, Aeryn,” Kael said as I sighed and rolled my eyes. “Your tutor is already here and waiting and we had to delay breakfast because of you. How many times do I have to remind you that you’re the princess and next in line in case anything happens? You have to be prepared and ready and that’s never going to happen if you keep going about your ways.” My brother lectured me as I rolled my eyes once again.
“Spare me the same lecture again, Kael,” I spoke, taking a sip of water from the goblet.
“Then stop making me repeat myself. You’re the princess and you have to make an impression and make an example for the people. How am I supposed to be a good King and rule over the kingdom when I can’t even get my sister to be serious and be a proper lady,” Kael said as he looked at his plate and not at me. Meanwhile, I was mouthing everything he said as Amelia grinned at me and gestured for me to stop mimicking our brother. I had heard this lecture way too many times to not know it by heart.
Kael looked up as I shut my mouth and gave him an innocent smile as he narrowed his eyes on me before continuing his breakfast. I silently ate my breakfast as I looked up at my siblings and smiled at the view of them as my mind started to wander off.
Kael was the oldest out of us four siblings and the only male. I couldn’t be any prouder of my older brother since dealing with three sisters while ruling an entire kingdom isn’t a child’s play. At the time our parents died, Kael had only been nineteen and was already given the job of ruling the kingdom of Coastillon. Even though he was heartbroken by the news about our parents he tried to hide it but he could only do so much. With the council pushing Kael to take the position of King way sooner than expected and the villagers demanding to know the whereabouts of their King and Queen, Kael was overwhelmed.
He wouldn’t eat for days, shut himself up, and pretended like he didn’t care about anything. About two months after he recovered, he started to bury himself into work. He hid his true feelings and pretended as if he was ready and without further ado in a month, he was crowned King. He started to get busier by each passing day since there were sheets to go over, alliances to honor. On the day of his crowning, all the surrounding kingdoms Kings and families came to visit and Kael had to keep good relations with them and be diplomatic which wasn’t quite his nature. He was only nineteen and he was trained for these circumstances but Kael wasn’t confident in himself and Amelia, Esme, and I had to do a lot of work to help him believe in himself. Kael changed after becoming King and he wasn’t able to enjoy time to himself anymore. Things were hard for the first year but slowly Kael started getting the hang of things and fell in love with being the King.
The kingdom couldn’t be any happier with the fact that Kael was King since he was doing a marvelous job at ruling everyone. He held banquets, ballroom dances, and even though many councilmen disagreed Kael held separate parties for all the villagers to attend, including children. The good thing was that Kael had his best friend, Desmond by his side as his advisor, and Desmond is the best friend anyone could ever have.
Kael did enjoy everything and was making things better, entering into more alliances, earning the approval of the villagers, he was doing impressive for his age and lack of knowledge on running an kingdom. He was learning but it did get stressful for him and he’d often remember our parents which made him sad and then he’d distance himself from us. So whenever that happened, Kael would go and practice how to fight with a sword every day in the forest. It was a thing between father and Alex. They would head to their secret place in the forest and train daily. Our father might have been King but he made enough time to work and spend with us.
Esme was the third child in our family, the second daughter after me. She was only a year younger than me but she was far more graceful and knowledgable than any of us. Esme was the most elegant, well-mannered, and the kindest out of us four siblings. She wasn’t a fan of puffy gowns, like me and Amelia so she always wore renaissance floor-length dresses that were nowhere near to being puffy in the slightest. Esme was a fan of all colors whether they be eye-gorging bright or dead-like dull. Esme had fair, pale skin and her blue eyes accented her brown hair perfectly that were always styled elaborately by herself.
After our parents died, Esme blamed me and she didn’t intend to hide it. She had been sixteen at that time but she didn’t care if I was older or if my feelings were hurt. Esme used to shout at me. She didn’t shout or yell now but instead, she completely blocked me out. She pretended like I didn’t exist. She would get up and leave early even if it meant skipping breakfast, she would get stay away the whole day and then go straight to her room when she returned. She avoided me at all costs, staying cooped up her room. I didn’t mind because even though our mother said not to blame myself, I did. It had been my fault. If only I had listened to my parents they wouldn’t have come to rescue me and they would be alive even now.
Anyway, Esme had been sixteen then and she had taken over our mother’s flower shop. Just like father, our mother was Queen and was very busy most fo the time but she did have a lot of free time, unlike father. Before our mother became Queen, she used to work at her self made flower shop and that was where and how she met our father, who was only a prince at that time. Our parents always told us the story about hows flowers, especially gardenia brought them together.
Our mother agreed to our father’s proposal only after he agreed to let her continue to run her flower shop. The days when our mother wasn’t busy at the castle, she would always come to the flower shop and take over from the worker there. The villagers loved our mother for her sincerity and kindness and the fact that our mother was the Queen and still worked at the flower shop only impressed more people. There were jealous people and our mother did feel like her being there meant she was showing off but father helped her finish her insecurities.
Esme and our mother always had a special bond with flowers. Our mother’s shop was quite famous in the village because it was the only flower shop there. Our mother would always go to the forest with Esme when they were both free and they would return carrying baskets of various beautiful flowers. Father was worried about them being on their own in the forest and the village but mother was the king in their relationship so father had no say and it was rather amusing to see our father cower from our mother.
After mother was gone along with father, Esme had told me rather bluntly that the shop was going to be her’s and I wouldn’t even be allowed to enter. She talked to Kael who was advised by the councilmen to take down the flower shop and hat it was too dangerous for a young princess like Esme to go there and work at the flower shop. Kael considered it but just the thought of taking away our mother’s life work made him gag and he allowed Esme to continue our mother’s legacy and keep the shop going.
At first, I wanted to argue with both Kael and Esme since I also wanted to run mother’s flower shop and help but then I realized that Esme just wanted to be closer to our mother and that she was suffering internally at the loss just like the rest of us. What would happen if I let her own the shop? I let Esme have the shop and stayed away from it even though it internally hurt.
Esme was the perfect princess, the perfect lady, and she could even be the perfect queen, neither of which I was. She had finished all her tutoring that included how to take care of the management of the household, socially acceptable ways of dispensing charity, take part in public affairs, and vice versa. She was well aware and she knew a lot more than she put on. She had finished her studies earlier than me and got highly praised as being the perfect example. Kael let her work at the shop whenever she wanted but sometimes when Esme was needed at court or in the council room she always did her job and impressed everyone.
Spending all that time helping mother in the flower shop taught Esme loads and she’s the master of selling flowers, much better than I could ever be. She even knows how to craft flower crowns so, it’s a great help. She earns fair enough money, which she gives to the worker at the shop, sometimes she helps the poor and buys stuff for them and whenever some money is left, she uses it on Amelia. She’s not selfish in one bit, more like selfless and I love her for that.
We might not be as close as we used to be but I make sure to always look after her, even if it’s far away from the window of the shop, where I can see her and she can’t see me. I don’t blame Esme for her behavior because I deserve it. I took away her parents from her. I took away our parents from my siblings. I made them suffer, I brought this calamity over all my siblings.
Amelia is the youngest of the royal family. She was only eleven when our parents died and I would forever be tortured by the fact that she didn’t get to spend enough time with our parents. When Kael and Esme were visibly suffering, Amelia wasn’t. She would try to cheer everyone up but I could see the pain that swirled deep in her eyes. She would try to end the conflict between me and Esme and beg us to not fight during dinner. We stopped fighting in front of her and instead had our arguments in the many different rooms of the castle, not that Amelia couldn’t hear us from her room. I know that she thought the death of our parents tore us apart and she was right. She didn’t show her emotions and instead wanted all of us siblings to stay together and support each other but that was very hard to happen.
We could only wait and see if time would mend us.
Amelia is fourteen now and she doesn’t have a set job or anything. She studies and is learning about how to handle things in the court and be an exemplary princess. She’s still too young to do anything major and doesn’t have any expectations set on her so instead, she helps the villagers. When she’s not busy with her lessons, she goes around offering a hand to the villagers. Whether they be old, young, or children, Amelia helps everyone with any work. She makes sure to wear work-friendly clothes and even though the villagers were hesitant to make the princess work, they soon realized that Amelia wasn’t one to give up and step down. If they wouldn’t allow her to help them, she would start doing hard stuff on her own and they’d have to comply so everyone gave in, and instead, now anyone who needs helps always asks for Amelia.
She would do things like help plant seeds, look after children when their mothers would be away, get water and buy food for the elderly, mostly using the royal family’s money to require everyone’s needs. If anyone in the town needed help with small titbits like cooking, running errands, and cleaning, they all knew that Amelia was the best, even though she was a princess. Amelia was never the bratty type but instead, she was the kindest, sweetest, and most adorable soul to ever exist. Unlike me, Amelia hadn’t ever been a spoilt brat and she was thankful for whatever. In the whole village, the only person everyone knew personally and loved was Amelia. Kael and Esme were well-known for their good deeds but Amelia was loved by everyone.
She didn’t get paid but some people who were very pleased with her determination would pay her with a few sickles and when Amelia would refuse to take their money, they people would get very cross. They didn’t like Amelia helping them for free since she put in a lot of hard work and the people only felt it reasonable so Amelia was forced to accept the money.
Amelia still was the youngest in our family and she was a royal so Kael never allowed her to go anywhere quite freely. He had one guard follow her everywhere and at first Amelia minded but after she got to know the guard following her, she was ecstatic.
The guard, Nathan was the sixteen-year-old son of one of our knights who had died in a battle seven years ago when Nathan had just been a little tyke. Our father took Nathan in since his mother had passed away when he was born and he was lone. Nathan always lived in the castle and after he grew older, he wanted to help and become a knight. He was a bit young yet so instead Kael assigned him with looking after our sister.
The reason that made Amelia so happy was that she was fond of Nathan and she rather enjoyed his company over anyone else. Nathan was also quite fond of our little sister but Kael wasn’t aware of that otherwise he would have made sure they were as far away as all the kingdoms. Kael was a bit overprotective and he didn’t know of Amelia or Nathan’s fondness for each other. Nathan was a darling and the sweetest person ever, he was like family and whenever he went with Amelia, he always helped her and made sure that she never tired herself out. Nathan was trustworthy and he looked after our sister very carefully. I trusted Nathan with looking after Amelia and don’t tell anyone but I even wanted Amelia and Nathan to confess to their feelings.
My baby sister was fourteen and Nathan was sixteen but they were both adorable, the way they flushed around each other and their interactions were the cutest. Without even knowing, the two would often flirt with each other and have no idea of reality.
Unlike my siblings who worked so hard on ruling the kingdom, selling flowers, and helping the villagers, I didn’t work anywhere or do anything. I would take my daily tutoring and then either read a book or something. Sometimes just to pass time I would do work here and there keeping myself well hidden. I would sometimes order for the chief maids to give me a job or something. Sometimes I’d clean the dishes, prepare a gigantic meal for myself, dust the paintings, sweep the corridor, feed the horses. I didn’t have a specific job or anythign to do so I would do whatever I could get the chance to do.
I wasn’t allowed to leave the castle during day time so it was awful and I was bored to the point of dying. The reason I was trapped inside the castle was because of my brother’s order to keep me tucked away and hidden. The villagers knew I existed and many had seen me but ever since our parents passed away, Kael has me locked away in the castle and I have specific order to stay in the castle grounds. The guards that were protecting the door were also aware and I was trapped inside the castle for three years. I didn’t like it and I hated being left behind, trapped, feeling useless but I knew that my brother meant well and had a point.
The night that incident killed my parents, something happened. I can’t go into the full story yet but...something happened and because of that my long luscious brunette colored hair changed color. Instead of the family’s natural hair color, I had bright reddish-orange hair. It almost seemed natural although it wasn’t and my brother tried to find a way to change it back but I was forever stuck as a redhead, not that I minded. The color rather suited me and I liked the change.
Kael was scared that some people would think I was a witch and was using sorcery or something so he trapped me in the castle. It’s very abnormal and rare for someone to just change hair colors like that and even though I know how and why it happened, my brother and sisters are unaware. Not only that but my parent’s death took a toll on me as well and the guilt I felt was killing me. I stopped paying attention to tutoring and started fooling around, although I changed my bratty ways. I wasn’t a perfect ruler like Kael, I wasn’t the perfect princess as Esme, I wasn’t the outgoing princess as Amelia, I was the messed up princess.
I couldn’t help myself from messing everything up and even though I tried to help, I always ended up as a failure. I was a great seamstress, I was crafty, I was a good reader, I knew stuff but whenever the time came to prove myself, I only proved myself to be a failure. I was marvelous and good in my opinion but I wasn’t good enough to measure up to my sibling’s deeds. I could never be as good as Kael, Esme, or Amelia.
I was the unknown princess to the people. I was known as the hidden away princess, the hidden jewel, the secluded one, the masked princess. No one in the village knew me or how I looked. I wasn’t allowed to attend whenever there was a huge announcement from my brother, I wasn’t allowed to be free and go to the village without staying hidden, I wasn’t allowed to be known. I wanted to help just as much as my siblings, I wanted recognition, I wanted to be of some use but no one knew who I was. I blamed Kael but I realized that he was right.
I went to the village without a cloak and all people could do was stare at me and my hair. They were rather curly and messy, the color was odd and people didn’t exactly know who I was. I was treated as though I was from a different kingdom and no one even knew my name, which only made me want to cry. My hair was catching way too much attention and people were staring at me wondering who I was so I went back to the castle glum.
My brother didn’t want my feelings to be hurt and he tried his best to be there with me and cure my boredom but being the king, he’s always needed for something. My hair wasn’t the only reason I was secluded and trapped in the castle but another reason was that I was scared. The first year, I never left the castle afraid that the people who had killed our parents would find me. I was the one who wanted to hide from everyone including the people working in the castle but Kael realized that I was too insecure to do anything, that I was failing my tutoring, that I had nothing to offer or any way to help. He didn’t want me to have a bad image so he hired the best tutor he could to help me study and perfect myself but I couldn’t be helped.
I only defied my brother and acted like a brat, not ready to take the lessons. I only wanted mother to be the one to teach me since I had always been taught by her and it felt odd to have a random tutor. I didn’t know how to prove myself to my brother or how to help the kingdom in any way so finally, Kael decided it would be better to just keep me hidden away. He decided that I would stay in the castle forever till I could either find something to do or till a prince from another kingdom could come and...I could be send-off.
It’s not like Kael wanted to do this or wanted to use me to form alliances in the term of marriage but it was the advisors other than Desmond who thought it better. Seeing my hair and my uselessness in everything, the councilmen told my brother that it would be safer and better to keep me hidden. Kael didn’t want that but in the end, it was the only solution since no one had any idea on what lies to tell about the sudden change in my hair color.
Our family has always had brown colored hair whether it be brunette, dark brown, mahogany or chestnut, the royal family always had brown hair and then whoop! Here comes Princess Aeryn who had red hair and where in the world did she come from? No one has any idea. What if she isn’t a princess? What if she was taken in when she was little? What if she isn’t of the royal bloodline? There were so many questions that couldn’t be answered. Therefore, I was trapped in the castle, to keep myself hidden from the guards, from the maids, from the servants, cooks, villagers, kings, the prince’s and simply everyone until I could be of some use.
I didn’t have any knowledge of how I could help with the kingdom or the villager’s affairs. I never had any solutions, unlike Esme. I didn’t know how to help the villagers with work and stuff since I had no clue how to do anything related to work. I used to be a brat who complained about everything and only changed after my parent’s deaths. I couldn’t help the villagers like Amelia since I wasn’t used to doing work or anything like Amelia did. I was the spoilt princess, sitting in the castle like a queen doing nothing all day long. Kael thought it would be better for me if I just stayed hidden and stopped trying to be known so even though I disagreed with him, I couldn’t say no to him and ended up being a cloaked figure going around the castle.
All the workers in the castle had been informed by the king, Kael himself to not bother about the cloaked figure going about the castle so whenever I passed by anyone, they’d stare, wonder who I was but never interfered. They knew I was the princess do they didn’t put any effort into looking at me because that could be punishable and they had all these stories made up of me. I was a hidden figure so I knew all the rumors, some that said I was a ghost, an ugly hag, a witch. It was ridiculous but I got a good laugh out of it even though it hurt.
Kael and Amelia made sure to spend time with me and make me happy since they both knew the fear I had of being alone. They both would always spend their free time with me so that I wouldn’t feel left out or ignored. I had been there the night our parents died and I didn’t tell any of my siblings the whole story but they knew that I was traumatized. Kael had witnessed firsthand how scared I was of people approaching me when he happened to come into my room while I reading a book. The memories of those men beating me that day entered my mind and I had cowered away from my brother, telling him to not hurt me. Frankly, I didn’t remember it very clearly since I passed out after that episode but my brother wanted me to feel safe and he worked with me to help me ease myself around people.
Kael had told Amelia and Esme about the episode I had and Esme ignored me but Amelia was there to cheer me up and bring me her rag dolls and her handmade wooden crafts. Amelia had a talent for making wooden things. She played me and entertained me but one day, my ugly side was even revealed to her. We had been dancing and pretending as if we were dancing with handsome suitors but I suddenly screamed, freaking out and backing away into the corner. I kept my hands on my ears as I tried to calm myself. Amelia tried to approach me and help but that only made me scream louder as she ran to get Kael.
Kael was in an important meeting but he immediately left everything and came to me. Kael was the only person who could calm me down and I was glad that he put me before his work. I remembered that incident but I also remember passing out after I had calmed down and waking up with a cloth on my forehead and Nathan there to tend to me.
Other than Kael, Esme, and Amelia no one knew what I looked like at first but soon that changed. I didn’t like being unknown so I went to see Nathan and Desmond in their separate chambers. They were both surprised at seeing me and didn’t believe I was Aeryn until I told them their most embarrassing secrets. They didn’t mind it and didn’t think I was odd. They stayed with my friends and treated me as they always had. Nathan and Desmond were the only ones I trusted other than my siblings.
“I’m heading out then!” Amelia stood up as I fixed her dress and spoke to Kael.
“So, you’re going to the village to help around?” I asked turning to Amelia.
“Yeah, Mrs. Felstead needs help with picking herbals in the forest,” Amelia answered with a smile on her face. She loved going to the forest and in simple words, all of us siblings are lovers of nature. Our mother loved flowers and we all inherited it from her, even Kael.
“Don’t go too far and stay in sight,” Kael instructed.
“I know that.” Amelia rolled her eyes with a grin. “Besides I’m gonna be with Mrs. Felsted and Nathan is going to be there too. Also, Mrs. Felstead said that she’ll even pay me, although I told her it was unnecessary.” She added, looking between us.
“Why would you say that? You shouldn’t let her pay but if she’s offering you the money then why not.” Kael said with a grin as Amelia smacked her brother’s arm.
“That would be rude of me. I’m not as shameless as you to take all the money I can get, you greedy cat.” Amelia said to her brother as he glared at her. Amelia tended to be a bit too humble and gentle while Kael tended to be a bit greedy and was more of a ‘take it’ kind of guy. If somebody offered Kael money for free, he wouldn’t question it and take it and if someone offered Amelia money, she would refuse it, saying she has no right. It doesn’t matter though since we have enough money but I’m just saying hypothetically. If Kael got an opportunity or something he’d take it while Amelia would question it and wonder.
“It wouldn’t be rude and I am not a greedy cat. I might be a bit greedy but I’m not a cat.” Kael argued as I smiled, watching them joke around. I quickly gobbled up the remaining of my breakfast and stood up as I grabbed my cloak from the stand in the corner and smiled.
“I’m leaving. Be safe, Amelia, and don’t go too far into the forest, don’t injure yourself and stay in Nathan’s vision. Kael please don’t overwork yourself and please send someone formidable to clean my room properly. All the maids like to do is go through my stuff.” I said as my sister nodded, grabbing her cloak as Kael just sighed, shaking his head.
“Be careful yourself and remember to stay alert,” My brother said. I waved and opened the door only to be stopped by Kael as he called out. “Wait! Give this to Esme on your way. She didn’t have breakfast and please don’t argue in the store. It’s bad for business as well as suspicious,” Kael said, making it sound more firm as an order while I dully nodded. I might be the oldest out of the sisters but Kael, Esme, and even Amelia all had the right to scold me, order me and tell me off. I nodded as I grabbed the nicely set package that had Amelia’s lunch and set off.
With that, I set off leaving the castle. I know I said I wasn’t allowed to leave the castle and that’s true but Kael said that if I’m careful and hide well, I am allowed to go. Besides, my new tutor lives in the village and is a normal villager who just has a lot of knowledge on everything related to the castle, the affairs, how to handle the housework, and be the perfect lady.
She wasn’t keen on leaving her house so she and my brother made the deal of allowing me to go to her house to get tutored. She was also the only tutor so far to make some progress with me and that was only because she was simply the sweetest person alive, other than Amelia. And I lowkey wanted her and my brother to meet more and admit they like each other but that’s for another time. I’m kind of the person in the family who observes and knows secrets and stuff.
I pulled the hood of the cloak over my head as I clutched my book close my chest and ran down the hill that our castle stood up. I made my way through the village, no one mainly noticing me as I spotted the big sign that read ‘Euphoria’ and headed towards it. Euphoria was the flower shop’s name that our mother had owned and now Esme owned it. I liked the sound of the words personally. Esme didn’t plan on changing anything about the shop and kept it the same from the name to the inside, to the flowers, and the cheap pricing. I hadn’t been to the shop in some time and seeing it again brought back painful and happy memories.
I entered the shop, the smell of different flowers instantly hitting my nose. Nothing as good as the smell of fresh flowers, just like mother used to say. Esme who was sitting on a stool and making a flower crown turned around at the sound of the bell that rang as I entered.
“Welcome to...oh, it’s you. Didn’t I tell you to never set foot in here.” She said with disinterest as she went back to crafting the crown. I walked over to her and placed the package, containing her breakfast on the counter. I didn’t say anything in reply as I left the store without another word.
As soon as I stepped out, I regretted leaving without saying anything and was going to turn back but remembered that I was going to be late today if I didn’t hurry. I turned and looked at Esme through the window, who was already staring at me. I smiled at her widely but she turned her head away as I frowned and ‘humphed’. I turned my back on the store as I started running as fast as I could towards the house at the end of the village, where my tutor lived.