¤ Chapter One: A Cunning Backstabber ¤
Of course, the beginning is heart shaped-- making me want to puke. I mentally gag, sighing as my eyes exam all the guys flitting about; some were dancing, chattering away or drinking from what I could see. I glance down at my chest, hating my step-mother for forcing me to wear a corset which made my breasts nearly expose themselves.
"I utterly hate this," I mindlessly say aloud. I was sat where my father-- the King should have been. I went in search for the man, needing to tell him to call this off. I didn't want a suitor or true love. "I cannot wait for it to be over."
"Casper, don't be too hard on yourself. We all want what's best for yourself and the kingdom." Molly clears her throat from beside me. She's a girl with strawberry blonde hair, a pale complexion, a thin, rockin' body with freckles dancing across her facial features. Her eyes were hazel green with her being two inches shorter than me.
"How can marrying me off be good for me?" I ask, hardly fishing for an answer.
"It's mostly for the kingdom. The Sinclair Kingdom." Molly gently reminds, straightening her pale green ball gown which fit her snugly. She didn't appear to be wearing a corset.
You could say, I was pretty bummed about the fact. I didn't know many women our age who weren't forced to wear the death traps known as corsets. "I refuse to keep doing this forever."
"Princess-- ahem, I meant Prince, you got your way. Remember?" Molly turns to me in all smiles.
I roll my eyes at Molly. We were childhood best friends, but unlike her; I had been unable to explore the realm outside of the castle. I didn't get to have a life where so called fairytales came to life. I fought for the title of Prince Charming to prove to my father that women could have the title just the same. There was solely one problem.
My father was the biggest sap-- I could have met in a guy. He believed anything was possible-- if you were willing to test it out. Of course, he was much chipper before my mother took off. I still didn't learn of the reasoning behind that one.
"Molly, you always get invited to different places. I have nothing to show for. I'd like an adventure of my own." I grind my teeth, so I don't snap at her. I swear I think I might have outgrown my childhood best friend.
Did I even know her anymore?
"Casper, you don't have to be so--?" Molly has her hands on her hips, but she gets cut off.
"Ma'lady, would you care to dance?" A nervous looking lad inquires with striking blue eyes on me. He had a head of jet black hair with pale features, and a nice grin. He wore brown leather pants with a long sleeve white shirt tucked partially into the front with brown leather boots.
I took a liking to the belt, hanging a bit loose around his thin frame. I also made a mental note of him being around six foot. I might have an old soul, but I would never grow old. I place my hand in his, feeling a smirk tug at my lips.
"Arty, I don't usually dance." I inform him as he pulls me onto the dance floor. I feel my second best friend tense after the words left my lips. Yes, I had recognized him when I saw him-- he was the one helping to plan for my departure in the dusk of the following morning.
Arty gives a gentle nod, pulling me down a well lit corridor.
I caught sight of the torches lining the castle wall, filling me up with a gleeful feeling. I wait for the out of breath male to catch his breath. I could tell by the worry in his eyes that this couldn't be good news.
Arty grasps my shoulders, "He's dead. I saw her slit his throat."
I furrow my dark eyebrows in confusion.
The stars were the best part of the pitch black sky, twinkling to show off just how beautiful they were. A beautiful night always did ensure the more dangerous of happenings.
I shake my head at the news, "Who's dead?"
"The King. She killed him." Arty replies as my eyes finally lock with his.
My breathing is harsh, "My step-mom?"
"No, but if I give away who then I lose the love of my life." Arty gently tells me, averting his gaze to the grey brick cobblestone flooring.
My nostrils flare, "I cannot leave until this crisis is cleared up."
"Otherwise, they'll think you killed him." Arty understands the gist of my thoughts, nodding in confirmation.
I grew to have my suspicions during the night. However, I did trust Arty more than Molly. I pinch the bridge of my nose as an oncoming headache starts at the base of my neck. The following days were going to be rough.
"Arthur, I trust your word. We shan't be seen until further notice." I cringe at the use of the word 'shan't' coming from my plump, pink lips. I purse my lips together, keeping in my frustration for the time being. I was about to raise some Hell.
"Alright, my sweet friend." Arty softly says, planting a light kiss on my cheek.
I watch him walk away. I watch as he mingles with Molly. I had this gut wrenching feeling that I slowly began to dwell on.
"Casper, dear! There you are!" Anna shouts, withholding some of her red ball gown in one hand while waving at me. She is in a rush with her elegant dirty blonde curls flapping about. Her sea green eyes were lit with excitement as she hurries over.
The short, frail woman so happens to be my dreadful step-mother.
Do I believe she's evil? On some level, yes, I do. Then again, she could be a lot worse than forcing me to do feminine activities. "Anna, have you heard?"
Anna stops in her tracks upon gripping my upper arm in her grasp. An eager smile showcases her clean, perfect white teeth. Another thing-- I despise her for.
"We can talk news later. I want you to meet someone. I think you should agree to marry him." Anna said, soon gesturing to a tall, blonde male in a beige tuxedo.
His eyes were the color of teal blue with a fair complexion. He looked to be lean with a bit of muscles to me. He wore a soft grin, proving he might be gentle for such a slender male. His eyes perk up, drinking me in as lust fills his gaze.
A scowl comes into play on my face. I would never agree to be with someone who took me for looks or money. I couldn't obsess over material objects like everybody else.
"Who might you be, mister cocky?" I playfully ask, wanting to get to the pressing matter at hand. Without my permission, he takes my hand pressing his pink lips to the back of my svelte hand. I cringe as no feelings of any kind arise in me. I would occasionally feel a tiny spark of joy when something excited me.
Was I feeling my tiny spark? I think you can take a good guess for yourself.
"Don't be so rude, Casper!" Anna scolds, briefly fanning herself. Her eyes are too busy studying the good looking male before us.
"Sorry," I'm reluctant to be nice, but choose to push through my mood. I stifle a bored yawn, "What is your name?"
"Jeffrey Slade." He says, waving away my apology. He does a bow whereas I don't curtsy.
How does one curtsy without breaking a rib? I mentally make fun of his name, "Jeffrey Slade? Is that even a real name?"
"Yes, madame." Says Jeffrey, moving closer into my personal space.
"Oh." I backup, allowing for my bare back to touch the cool cobblestone wall. I shiver which causes goosebumps to arise all over my body. I didn't realize how freezing it is out.
"You can tell me whatever it is you wanted later, Casper." Anna says, turning to go, but I can't let it go until the following morning.
I call out, "The King is dead!" which starts whispers among the people. I grimace, wincing as some went silent.
Anna shakes off my words, "Carry on, everybody! Casper is joking!"
I grow confused. I'm a bit furious. I'm more suspicious of my step-mom now. Until I meet her gaze which tells another story. "A--"
"Casper, we shall talk about this later. You don't know the entire story. Somebody told you a fable." Said Anna, leaving me to bask in my humiliation in front of Jeffrey.
"I prefer for you to call me Slade. I like the name better. I don't see how Jeffrey and Slade go together. You feel me?" Jeffrey begins to ramble, tinging rosy pink.
I'm more than annoyed. I want to figure out what is going on-- once and for all. I was about to search the castle, but remembered Slade. "You a prince or princess then Slade?"
He looks at me taken aback by my comment, "Do I look like a woman to you?"
"Yes." I reply, watching him fall flat. I roll my eyes to the night sky, choosing to shake my head. I return to the swarm of people. I hadn't got around to asking my father what this all was for. The man had been vague.
"I've been told by plenty of women how manly I look!" Jeffrey calls after me. He messes with his tie, standing straighter than a toothpick.
I allow my gaze to fully drink in the coward. I highly doubt-- Jeffrey Slade is manly. "It ain't about how you look, honey."
Jeffrey gawks at me. He shakes his head, registering my choice of wording. "You sound as if you're from the south. I know that cannot be accurate."
My blood boils. I already want to lay my hand across his face, and watch the color drain from his pale cheeks. I release a sigh, wringing out my hands.
"You can't possibly know where I'm from." I hiss, gritting my teeth. I did want to be everywhere else, but here. I needed to know who killed my father and why. I was ready to make them pay.
"Your royalty. No royalty ever comes from the dirt poor south. Think about it, sweet cheeks." Jeffrey adds, continuing to dig his own grave.
I clench my fists, feeling my fingernails dig into the palm of my skin. I manage to stifle my temper long enough to create a diversion. I need to get away from this joke of a man beside me. I dislike how he follows me around like he's got to be stuck up me.
"One, don't call me sweet cheeks. It is not your place. Two, you can forget my hand in marriage or anything for that matter." I rattle off, never making it easy for the poor sap who wished to torment me with the basic idea.
"What am I supposed to call you then?" Jeffrey upholds his hands as I once again, pinch the bridge of my nose.
My eyes find Molly as relief uncoils in my heart. The idea growing stronger in my head, "Molly!"
The redhead looks up, scanning the sea of people until her green eyes land on me. A curiosity rings in her features as she pushes her way through the crowd.
"Casper, I was looking everywhere for you. Who's your friend?" Molly doesn't skip a beat as she takes note of Jeffrey.
"Molly, I'd like you to meet Jeffrey. Jeffrey, I'd like you to meet Molly." I inform the pair as they gaze curiously at each other. I turn on my heel to get far away from them-- grateful for the fact that I don't wear shoes underneath my gown. For shoes always did bother my feet for whatever reason.
I was going to get to the bottom of this tonight. If I wait another day then there's no telling what could come of it. I take strides down different corridors with some exactly the same in appearance. Only, I knew exactly where I was heading. I come to a bed chamber with oak double doors-- you could only see in the dark thanks to the flicker of the orange glow coming from the torch on the wall.
I very much love my father, but he was more feminine than I ever could be. I played dirty, especially in sports. I hesitate to enter the bed chamber, casting my gaze around the empty yet silent corridor. If he is truly dead, wouldn't the murderer return? I also knew that if the alleged murderer was in a hurry then they wouldn't be so dimwitted to return.
I couldn't believe Anna had anything to do with the murder of my father. I saw the love and adoration in her eyes each time she glanced his way. In fact, the woman was his saving grace from giving up entirely after my mother ran out. I, too, was on the brink of giving up when the woman known as my step-mother came into our lives. I'm actually very grateful for the woman who saved our lives so I couldn't see her murdering my father.
The look she gave me tonight, spoke another story. She said we would talk about it later.
I do believe she had some idea as to what was happening around us. However, one cannot simply call a murderer out in the midst of people-- if there wasn't fear in the accused. So, how do you obtain a killer? I guess, it's a question we're all asking ourselves. I inhale sharply and slowly exhale due to my racing heart.
I reluctantly creak open the door, sliding into the bed chamber as quiet as a mouse. I always did get away with being sneaky. It's why I hardly got caught up in whatever Hell I might have brought. I softly force the door shut behind me, slinking over to where my father should have been, but I find no body. My eyebrows knit together in confusion as the warpath inside me stirs up.
Who lies about the death of a beloved King? None of this was making any sense to me.
The only light entering the bed chamber came from the oval shaped window with brass around the frame. The crescent moon was a soft blue, providing the right amount of light to see where someone had been lying on the King's side.
I squint my eyes as they trail into the corner of the shadows. I gnaw on the inside of my lip, unsure of what to do. I silently release a squeal as a hand wraps around my mouth while another tugs me into the shadows. A sense of fear overrode my better judgement.
"Daughter, be still." The voice of my father causes me to tense. His deep voice held a bit of comfort with reassurance. His scratchy beard, grazed my shoulder as he held me still.
As soon as my racing heart began to calm, he removed his hand from my mouth. I inhale then exhale for a few seconds, "Father, how are you not dead?"
A chuckle erupts from my father who if I could see-- I was sure would be shaking his head at my silly question.
"This entire night was a setup. I didn't want to alarm you or Anna, but somebody has been sending me death threats." My father whispers in a low voice.
"What?" I ask as a sting of pain, radiates in my heart. I shake it off, reminding myself; I wasn't soft or weak.
"I wanted to find out who wanted me dead so badly. I found out exactly who it is. There has been a traitor among us for years. Now, I know." My father informs me, continuing to whisper in the dark.
Heck, I'm surprised my ears caught a lick of what he was saying. I could hear my heart pounding frantically in my ears. My entire body is ringing at the crucial news, "Father, who wants you dead?"
"You'll find out, come the morrow. For now, we must keep this on the downlow. Do you understand me?" My father turns me around, gently gripping my shoulders.
Through the dark, I can see the pride in his candy apple green eyes. I could imagine the man with his tan complexion, short dirty blonde hair, and short stature. A smile lit up my features in the dark of the chamber, "I understand, father."
My father grunts, but soon wraps me in a loving embrace. He always got emotional, compared to the woman who birthed me.
I couldn't shake the ominous feeling that-- whatever took place this night was simply the beginning of the end.
"Casper, you must return to your step-mother. I need you to stay by her side. Whoever wanted me dead, I'm sure will make an attempt on her life." My father grows strict as he releases me from his arms.
I give a curt nod, before slinking from the bed chamber. The eerie silence is like a shiver, creeping up my spine to the base of my neck to where it would paralyze me. I roll my shoulders, hoping to get rid of the feeling as I make my way to where the party is. I barely made it in time to see an arrow pierce the middle of Anna's forehead.
Shock fills the chilly night air as gasps come from those around as the woman drops dead in her spot.
My gaze flickers around, attempting to find the person responsible. My eyes lock on Arty who was high up, holding a bow and arrow. I should have known no one could be trusted. I did not want to believe what took place that very night. I don't think I could.
Warnings: Rated Mature for various reasons. If you are mature or 18 + older then proceed with caution.