The Winner's Crown

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Chapter 11

It seems as if I wait in my cell for another couple of days. But it was probably only one, before someone finally enters the dungeon again. I have been thinking hard since talking with Carolyn. She seemed like such a nice person, and but I can only imagine from my place in the bottom of the palace, what has happened to her. I hope she is alright. But that kind of hope, it makes me afraid. Afraid that something bad has happened to her, and that all sense of hope from here on out, will be broken.

I think of Kenneth as well. And my family. So many memories surround me as I sit, silent for hours. It is not boring, even though I am not talking to anyone, and am barely amused, I find myself lost in my thoughts. Richard came back a little while after Carolyn had been taken away. He had only tossed me a handful of grapes and walked away. That was all. But it was enough to make me think he may have a heart after all. It’s clear he has emotions, if only a little. But it is still there.

“You shouldn’t be here.” A voice say’s from the corner of the dungeon. I twist my head around slowly, to tired to care who it is that is now speaking to me. But the person that stands before me in the shadows of the room sparks my attention quickly. He is still in the stupid suit and cape of a prince. We probably look so odd. Me in a puffy purple gown behind bars, and him in a suit watching me from the darkness.

“Why not? After all, you were the one who put me here.” I speak the words slowly, lazily. But he keeps his cool, walking towards me and kneeling down right next to me. His arm grazes mine from the other side of the bars, and I shiver softly. He doesn’t notice though, but if he did, he sure is good at keeping a straight face.

“How am I the one who did this to you?” I look away after he asks the question, only answering after thinking it over for a few moments.

“The king said so. You are the main reason why I am here.” I answer slowly, my lips chapped and a cough rising. Probably from the dust that surrounds me.

“And you believe him?” Desmond looks surprised by this and I smirk at his incredulousness.

“I have no reason not to.”

“Exactly my point. You have no reason not to trust me either.” He grins at me then, and I almost roll my eyes as I realize he is so used to charming all the ladies. But not me. I am different.

“If you are so great, then get me out of here.” I challenge him, and I can see the wheels turning in his brain as he asseses my intelligience.

“What else did you think I was here for darling?” He smiles widely at me, dangling a key in front of my face before getting up from his knees and unlocking the door. My heart pounds quickly and I immediately run out of the jail cell. But I do not leave Desmond and sprint out the dungeon alone. I must be foolish because I do believe him. I do think he is a good person. I’ve seen enough good in the hearts of these supposedly wicked rulers to know that they are acceptable beings.

“Shall we?” Desmond extends his arm out for me. I don’t hesitate, taking it lightly in mine before we walk out the prison and into the castle. Sweat makes it’s way down my forehead as I realize what we are doing. He shouldn’t have let me go. We will both be in so much trouble. But I let my interest in finding Carolyn and making sure Kenneth is alright carry my weight as I put my feet down one after the other.

And then something I had heard the King say as I was taken to the dungeon rings loudly in my head.

“Don’t you worry, you won’t be gone forever.”

What did that even mean? I let the question bounce in my head as I concentrate on the things happening right in the moment.

The prince is walking beside me but as we emerge from the dungeon, no one comes after us. And by no one, I mean no guards stop us. I even see the princess Venus pass us by in the hall with another girl dressed in a pink gown. She must be the princess Sara. I have heard of her in my village. The kindest ruler in the palace. The one who takes the most after her mother’s generosity and love.

Neither of them pay us any attention, instead walking along to the gardens outside, fanning their faces delicately as they glide gracefully across the floor. I try not to let my thoughts carry me away again, but it is hard not to. There is so much I need to know, and yet I have no idea how I will ever be able to. Everything around me is a mess, and I can never seem to sort anything out any longer.

“Where are we going? And why am I no longer a prisoner?” I whisper as we continue on walking. Desmond looks at me from the side of his vision before responding to my question.

“I don’t quite know Leontios.”

“Why don’t you ever know?” I know it’s a bold question, but it had to be asked. But he doesn’t look offended, if anything he looks entertained.

“Is it wrong not to know the answers to everyone’s questions?” He asks back, avoiding the question by asking another one. And now I am the one entertained.

“I suppose not.” I let the question drop, trying not to push my luck today. I will try again soon, but today I want to lay a little lower inside the palace. I do not want to be a prisoner, and I certainly don’t want to be known as the girl who asks all the questions. I am not stupid, and I do not want to be treated like one. Our feet tap against the marble floor as we continue on pacing the palace to a location I do not know and I haven’t the slightest idea if the prince knows either.

We pass by door after door, and statue after statue. The palace really is a bedazzled place, and yet such a maze to maneuver through. It almost seems as though the walls taunt me everywhere we walk, making me think we are walking only in circles. But luckily, the prince has lived here all his life, and knows exactly how to get to wherever it is that he is taking me.

“What happened to Carolyn?” I ask, my feet getting tired now. I wish I had never put on these useless heels. After I can take these off, I will never wear shoes with heels again.

“And who may I ask is Carolyn?” The prince questions back, and I turn to find him looking at me. He seems confused, genuinely confused. And I have no reason to suspect him lying or acting this way purposely. I open my mouth to respond, when someone grabs my hair, twisting me around forcefully. I squeal in pain as my hairs rips at the root and Desmond looks around quickly. I cannot see who is gripping my hair so tightly, but Desmond does. And his reaction makes me sick to my stomach.

“Father? What are you doing? Get your hands off her!” Desmond lunges forward, and I can feel him wrench the Kings hands off of my hair. I breathe a sigh of relief as the pressure on my head ceases.

“You fool! You weren’t supposed to take her until tomorrow!” The king shouts, putting his hand on his head exasperated.

“Well what difference does it make? The ball doesn’t take place until tomorrow anyways.” Desmond locks his teeth together, trying to keep his calm.

“You have no idea what...” The king cuts his sentence as the queen strides into the hall. Her hand instantly reaches for her husband, and she gently strokes his arm. His face falls and he breathes in a long breath of much needed air.

“I’m sorry son. I didn’t mean to...overreact.” Desmond nods to his fathers apology, and the queen leads her husband away from us, smiling beautifully at me as they walk away. The king looks back too, reminding his son one more thing before disappearing around the corner.

“You know where to go, correct?” The king asks, and Desmond hesitates for a second before nodding. I look up at him, shocked and as the queen and king leave the hall, I hit my fist against his chest in a fuss.

“You said you didn’t know! I trusted you!” I yell as quiet as I can.

“I know, I’m sorry. But I wasn’t really lying. I do not know all the answers, and I knew my father wanted me to take you to the ballroom tomorrow. But I couldn’t wait that long. I had to get you now.” He holds my hands, but I let go. I regret it as his face falls by the action.

“And where were you planning on hiding me? Your father, as you saw right there, wasn’t quite pleased with your little plan you know.” His eyes drop as I remind him of the incident that happened just seconds before.

“I wasn’t thinking straight. I...had a little to drink last night. And I never usually do so.” He admits, holding his head with one hand as his vision goes lopsided.

“You seem fine to me Desmond.” I place my hands across my chest, unbelieving of his words.

“I swear. I had just a little wine last night. And it must have kicked in harder just now. It’s morning, maybe I could just be having a reaction to it.” I nod, deciding to take the easy way out and just let him have this.

“Fine. But what now?” His eyes go bright as he has an idea.

“I really don’t know about this...” I start as Desmond walks me to where his sisters sit.

They are bathed in sunlight which illuminates their beauty, and I feel my insecurities reach levels I didn’t even know were possible. Sara is fanning her face as she sits in her chair, looking upon the mountains in the distance and Venus is right beside her talking. From here, I can definitely see the older to younger sister bond. Sara is seven years younger than Venus. I still remember the news breaking out in my village. I was only six years old when Sara was born.

And yet as Sara sits before me, I realize that in her mere 13 years of life, she must have accomplished far greater deeds than I could ever imagine to. Rumors have spread around, and I have added gossip to each and every one of them regarding if Sara is really such a kind princess. And I can tell right now, that she is. She has those kind of crinkles by her eyes that you can only get if you smile and laugh a lot. The princesses look up at us as we walk to them.

Sara smiles and it feels as though the sun gets a little brighter. I can tell that she takes after her mother personality wise. She looks completely different than her sister though. With light brown hair, olive skin, and freckles all across her face, she looks the opposite of every other family member. The only thing she shares with the other’s, is her piercing blue eyes with gold flecks dazzled all around them. But somehow on her, they look kind and forgiving. Nothing like the kings. She reminds me similarly of her mother even though she looks not too much the same.

Her mother has clean pale skin, deep blue eyes, and dark brown hair. But the queen also has features that make her look kind and generous. Something Richard and Venus did not quite inherit. They instead inherited the serious looks of their father.

“Will you be joining us?” Sara asks politely, motioning to the chair right across from her and I look back at Desmond panicking slightly at the kind gesture.

“Yes, she will be.” Desmond guides me with a hand along my back and sits me down on the cool white seat adjacent to the princesses. Venus stares at me gently, blinking as she takes a sip of her tea. I am fearful for a second, thinking that no one will talk, but Sara blows my fright right out of the air.

“Desmond, please! Leave us girls alone, we need to discuss tomorrows party.” Desmond leans his head down, planting a kiss on his youngest sister’s cheek.

“As you wish Sara.” Sara smiles as he leaves with a huge smirk on his face. But as he leaves, Sara’s face grows serious.

“I need to tell you something.” Sara announces, and Venus’s eyes go wide.

“No! We are forbidden to talk about it!” Venus is alert, placing her dainty tea cup back down on her plate with a clatter. Sara looks at her sister, and they share a look only sister’s can understand before Venus nods.

“I think you should be aware, that at the ball tomorrow, there is going to be some news. Don’t be shocked when you hear about it, it is strictly royal business.” Her words chip away at me as I wonder what she means. News about what?

And then it hits me. The ball could be the thing that ties everything together. Tomorrow, I might get the answer to why I was sent here. And after the night of the ball, just like always, the final part of the competition would occur. And Kenneth would either live or die.

“Don’t you worry, you won’t be gone forever.” The words sound in my head yet again.

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