As I gazed at the garden of roses spread out before me, all I could see was Bancroft lying on the delicate flowers as his body bled out with the knife I embedded deep in his heart. He looked at me with shock and betrayal in his eyes as they slowly lost their sparkle and allowed death to take over.
The need for vengeance blazed in my soul and I knew nothing but Bancroft’s pain could extinguish the fire. Was there anything else that could make me feel better? I didn’t think so. Nothing could compare to the pain and misery the King standing beside me had caused, and on the evening of the ball, I would make him understand that.
“Just what is going on in that mind of yours, my dear rose?” He asked, taking a hold of my hand and pulling me closer. How could he be so kind to me one minute and a ruthless monster the next? He was thinking about punishing me and then he decided against it. Why did he change his mind? Was it because of me and what I said or was it something else?
I glanced at him and smiled. It was a shame that I would have to bring harm to such a beautiful man. If he wasn’t so cruel, I would never have done what I was about to do.
“Nothing, my Lord. The beauty of this garden astounds me. The flowers are purely magnificent,” I commented. The red petals would soon bathe in the blood of the King who ordered them to live in this castle. Would they mourn the loss of their King? Did I care?
“The flowers are nothing compared to the woman standing before me.” My heart stopped as I listened to his words. Lord Bancroft tilted my face up so that he could capture me with his intense gaze. “Her beauty puts these flowers to shame. She, herself, puts the whole world to shame. Her strength, her courage and bravery, vouch for the goddess I know her to be.”
I listened to each and every word that left his lips, searching for even a hint of a lie, of deceit, but found nothing. His words dripped with sincerity, which left me puzzled and bewildered. Was he really telling the truth? It seemed he was, but then why did he cause me so much pain? If he really believed me to be a goddess, then why did he try to end my life in Quopia? What was he trying to prove? What had I done that was so heinous as to push him to the point of nearly killing me?
“Forgive me, my Lord, but your words contradict your actions, if the past is to be considered,” I said, forcing myself to speak the truth and not be afraid of the man who held all the power.
Lord Bancroft sighed and his eyes visibly shuttered. “The past is a cruel beast which ruins everything that the future has to offer.”
“Even so, one cannot forget it, because it ties to everything that we are and all that we will be,” I argued, as I gazed into his eyes, trying not to lose myself in his viridian depths. The way he was looking at me did something to my heart, and I realized that my heart’s reaction to this man was dangerous.
“I disagree, dear nymph. The past does not define us. We are much more than our prior actions.” He pulled me closer, wrapping his arms around me.
“Yes, it does, my Lord. You may refuse to see the importance of the past but for some of us, it is what molds our future,” I stated, wondering if he could sense my intentions. What if somehow, he found out what I was about to do to him, what would he do?
Are you sure you want to harm him?
The words whispered by my heart shocked me into momentary paralysis. How could I even think about such a thing? This man ruined me and my life and my heart was having second thoughts? Oh no, this was what I was afraid of; me having a change of heart only when I was a few days away from taking my revenge.
“Your present molds your future. What you sow now will be what you reap in the future,” he said, but I was no longer listening, my heart and mind waging a war that could potentially make or break me.
I had to seek vengeance. I had to make Bancroft realize what he had done to me. I wanted him to beg me for mercy. My heart and mind were supposed to agree, but my heart betrayed me by whispering such loathsome words.
“Your words just proved my statement, my Lord. The past does matter, and I will make sure you realize the importance of the time that is no longer with us.” I told him, making sure to look him in the eyes. Could he sense the threat in my words? If so, was he afraid? The woman he claimed would be the one to destroy him, and if I were in his place I would prepare myself to fight the battle of my life.
Lord Bancroft smiled and shook his head. “You put too much value in all that is gone. If you continue to do this, you shall never find happiness that is standing at your threshold.”
If his words meant that I put too much value in the woman that I lost, then he was right. I lost myself as I tried to escape. I lost Ethel all because of him. I lost my home, my new friends at the village at Pran. I lost my independence when he captured me and brought me to Sodora.
So yes, I did mourn the loss of all that was no longer with me, and he needed to know just how important all those things were to me. My friends in Pran and Ethel were people I would probably never see again and that made my heart ache.
If you knew all that I lost, you wouldn’t have said such a thing.
Mayhap harming Lord Bancroft would not be as beneficial as stealing from him just like he stole from me. He snatched my independence and took me away from the people that were dear to me. Perhaps, I could steal something from him, something that was dear to him. But what would a King like him hold dear? He was cruel; there was nothing that he did not have, and if he wished for anything all he had to do was say the words and it would be his.
They all have a weakness; you just have to find it.
My mind refused to lose hope and knew that there were options other than death. But I would have to be clever if I were to steal anything from him. I would have to watch him closely and find out what was important to him and what wasn’t.
“I must say, I am curious to know what you are thinking about. You have been awfully silent,” Lord Bancroft remarked, pulling me out of my thoughts. I had to be more careful about my thoughts, I did wish for Lord Bancroft to become suspicious of me.
“Nothing that would be of value to you, my Lord.” I eyed the roses, fascinated by the crimson blooms that helped me become a stronger woman. “If it is not a problem, I would like some flowers in the bed chamber.”
He smiled. “They have struck your fancy to such an extent that you wish to have some in our bed chamber?”
“Yes, I do.” I caressed a delicate petal with my finger, relishing in the softness of the flower.
“Very well then. I shall order the servants to have fresh blooms present every morning before you wake up. I wish for you to see fresh roses every morning,” he declared, his voice dropping down to a sensual whisper at the end, causing my heart to shudder with delight.
Mayhap I needed some time away from Lord Bancroft in order to get my feelings under control, otherwise I would not be able to seek vengeance and he would win and rule over everything just like he was used to. He would never understand the pain I had to go through because of him. I could not allow that. I would not let him forget the past as if it never happened. He would have to pay.
“Thank you, my Lord. Fresh flowers every morning in our bed chamber would be pleasant,” I said.
“As long as they are pleasant for you, they shall be in our chamber.” He paused. “Now, I believe, it is time for us to head back inside the castle, as there are important matters that require my immediate attention.”
I smiled and nodded. “Very well, my Lord.”
Without letting go of my hand, Lord Bancroft led me back inside the palace. We passed a lot of guards and maids on our way, each stopping to bow deeply to Lord Bancroft before going about their business. I hoped he would leave me alone while he dealt with all the matters that required his attention, so I could think about what to do next.
The ball was in seven days and that was a long time; I could not just sit and do nothing for so many days. I had to make these days the worst in the life of Lord Bancroft. He would regret bringing me here and forcing me to let go of the life and people I knew.
“Would you like to accompany me as I listen to what the people of my Kingdom have to say to me?” Lord Bancroft asked as we continued walking. “You might as well learn how to understand and handle people as soon as possible.”
“Thank you for the offer, my Lord, but mayhap it would be better if I accompany you some other day. This palace is still new to me and I would like to explore it some more. There are chambers I would like to see, and so far you have only shown me one area of the castle that is forbidden to me,” I answered. I wanted to look around and see if I could find something that could be of value to the King. Something that would make him feel the pain of loss.
King Bancroft cupped the side of my face before planting a tender kiss on my lips. “Very well. You may roam around the palace but do not go down to the dungeons. The area is strictly prohibited to you.”
I nodded. “Yes, my Lord. I will be careful. I shall not venture down to the dungeons.” There was another place I was curious to see, but I wondered if it even existed.
“Good. Then you have nothing to worry about. I shall see you at lunch.” With a gentle caress, he walked away, leaving me standing in the silent pathway.
Once I was sure that Lord Bancroft was no longer present, I headed up the stairs that spiraled upwards to God knows what. How high did these stairs go, and what was present on the top floors? I would have to explore if I was going to find the answer to my questions. But what I really wanted to know was where was the former Queen’s bed chamber.
The thought of Bancroft’s mother came to me when he called me a goddess and behaved as if I had never been a common whore. I wished to see the room where the former Queen resided; mayhap there was a painting of her in there. But the problem was, I did not know where to look. There were hundreds of rooms in this castle, hers could be any one of the locked ones; it would take me a long time to find her room.
Why don’t you ask Lord Bancroft where her room is?
Lord Bancroft would never reveal the location of his mother’s chambers. I was sure that place was sacred to him, and therefore would be guarded by many. I was certain that he would forbid me to go in his mother’s chamber had I asked.
However, I was not one to accept defeat and sit idle. If that were the case, I would not be plotting my revenge against the King who was already turning my heart against me.
Taking a deep breath, I continued climbing the stairs, hoping I would find her chamber in a short time. If I failed to find it by lunch time, then I would have no choice but to leave it to the next day.
“Have you noticed the King smiling?” I stopped when I heard what seemed to be a maid’s voice. I hid inside the alcove to listen in on what they were talking about.
“He does look happy indeed. The entire Kingdom is at peace now that the King has returned and is happy,” another female voice replied, only this new voice was softer, as if the woman was shy and did not wish to discuss the King so openly.
“Do you think it is because of the woman who came with him?” The first woman asked.
“It seems so. The King is always with her and she even sleeps in his bed chambers,” the second one replied.
“Surely you jest!” The first one exclaimed.
“No, I most certainly do not. I heard the King’s chamber maids talking, and I even asked them to confirm which they did,” the second maid answered.
“But then, she must be no ordinary woman. The only woman who is allowed to enter the King’s chambers, apart from the servants, is the one who is going to be his bride,” the first one said.
My heart stopped as my knees weakened upon hearing her words. Good God, no, she could not be telling the truth. This was falsehood, there was no truth to her words.
No, no, no. Lord Bancroft could not do this. He would not make me his bride; I would never let that happen. I was here to destroy him not marry him. No, these maids were lying; I was not sleeping in his chambers because I was his bride.
“The King’s chamber maids did say that Lord Bancroft would be taking the woman as his bride in a few days,” the maid said. I did not know if it was the first one or the second one, I had the lost the ability to distinguish between the voices as my world begun to spin.
No, this could not be possible. Lord Bancroft would not do this. There was no way he would take me—a common whore—as a bride to rule his Kingdom alongside him.
But the words had been said and the damage had been done as I slid down to the floor, clutching my heart as it continued to beat erratically, with only one thought running through my mind…
What was I going to do?