The Style and Grace of Ashley Royce

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Summary

The fate of her people rests on Ashley's pretty shoulders.

Genre:
Romance / Drama
Author:
Preston Tucker
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
4
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Chapter 1

Rosie Point of View

Main Street has been cleared for the parade route, thousands of Smithsonian’s gather to watch the Ladies of the Court pass. They are all young and beautiful, Rosie is twelve, she and her friend Marie push through the crowd, they find a good spot to watch the floats passing by.

“Look there is Rebecca Timmons, I hear she is dating Kiren Kyser.” Says Marie.

Rosie sees the handsome face of Kiren, he is 19 years old. He has just gotten released from the army after serving his mandatory 4 years. He is tall with a strong looking jawline; he wraps his strong arm around Lady Timmons. He kisses her on the cheek. Rebecca is tall and stands nearly six feet tall, Kiren is taller but not by much. Rebecca waves to the crowd and gets loud roar from her supporters, Marie and Rosie were among those shouting for Rebecca.

The next float features minor nobles from smaller houses, as such they are not as well known, however, the float after that features the most famous Lady in Smithtown! Her hair is black, her eyes so blue they appear purple, the sun shines down on her and seems to make her sparkle...

Rosie looks on in awe. Lady Ashley Royce is her favorites of the Ruling Families. She loves her style, grace and her one liners. Ashley is very vocal on the talk shows. She always stands up for what she believes in, to Rosie that makes Ashley her favorite, the ability to say and do what she wants...

As Lady Ashley passes she looks directly at Rosie and Marie, Ashley waves to them, then she whispers into her aids ear. The float soon passes but the staff member Ashley whispered too, steps off the float and walks towards the barrier where the girls stood. She wears a pantsuit that many of the professional woman of the age wore.

“Hello there, Lady Royce saw you and she would like to meet you.” Rosie and her friend jump up and down and yell in each other’s faces. Rosie says. “Yes, we would love to meet her.” Says Rosie.

The two girls follow the aid, they were standing at the end of the parade route, they only had to walk one block over, soon they stood before the Prime Ministers home. The large building is simple and square, it features no towers like the Castles that the Ruling Lords lived in. Rosie is from the Village of the Branch, the Ruling Lord from her District his Lord James Royce, he is Ashley’s father.

The Entrance Hall gives Rosie a moment to pause, not because the room is posh or grand. It is fancy, but Rosie’s boarding school had better floors and woodwork. What gave Rosie pause is her idol standing at the foot of the marble staircase. She is taller than Rosie would have guessed in real life, Rosie has hundreds of magazine clippings of her and her brothers, her brothers were handsome and gallant, where she was so regal and stunning.

“There you two are...” Says Ashley crossing the room, she soon stood mere feet away from Roise. “You two attend Hanson?” Asks Ashley seeing Rosie and Marie’s boarding school uniforms. Since it was a Friday and the parade of the nobles was scheduled at noon, they had gotten leave to enter the city when classes had been suspended for the day.

“Um, Um yes Ma’am” Says Rosie nervously.

“There is no reason to be frightened of me child.” Says Ashley, her voice sounds elegant and pleasant. “I went to Hanson too, I know who you are, your name is Rosie McElroy, that means you are Harrison McElroy’s daughter aren’t you?”

Rosie is blown away; how did she know so much about her. The Village of the Branch is a tight knit community, but still never in her wildest dreams would she expect the Lady of her Village to know her. “Yes, my Lady.”

“Rosie I wonder if I could borrow you for a moment, you wouldn’t mind would you?” she asks Rosie's friend Marie. Who looks just as star struck, then she about faints as Ashley hands Marie a velvet drawstring bag, it jingles with gold.

When they leave the Entrance Hall, Ashley leads Rosie to a small room with a tea table, two cups and complete with a pot and tray of biscuits waits for them.

Ashley didn’t bother to ask Rosie how she likes her tea, Ashley pours some tea into a cup with a splash of milk and a single sugar cube. Ashley takes her tea the same way as she made Rosie’s.

“Seeing you Roise, must have been the world's biggest coincidence. You know in 24 hours I and several of our countrymen will be traveling to the Empire’s capital city for a diplomatic goodwill mission. We are bringing one member of each ruling family. 30 other nobles of high ranking will also accompany us. It just so happens I need a ladies maid. Mine has decided to leave service. I want someone from my hometown, your mother was a famous seamstress, ever learn any tricks of her trade?” Presses Ashley.

“Lady Royce are you asking me to be your handmaid, this is all so sudden.”

“Well to tell you the truth you are part of a short list, did you know there are only 5 girls from the Village of the Branch that currently attend Hanson. I want someone from my home that I can trust. I trust your family and this will be a wonderful opportunity for you to see the world.”

“Isn’t the Empire dangerous?” Asks Roise.

“Yes it is, every ruling family is allowed to bring 200 guards. This is very important for our nation, the hope is that several of our single nobles will catch the eye of their ruling class. After all marriage is the best way to solidify an alliance.” Answers Ashley.

“My mind is spinning Lady Royce, will I have a chance to say goodbye to my parents?”

“Yes they will see us off tomorrow before our flight.”

“Wait we will be flying?”

“Yes it is a five hour flight, otherwise it would take us five months to reach it by horse.”

“May I have time to think about this.”

“Unfortunately, I cannot risk spies from the other houses compromising your position, you will have five minutes to think of this, this also will pay 2,000 gold for the assignment?

Rosie didn’t know what to do, her family were well off, it was a high honor to be a Lady’s maid to the daughter of a Ruling Lord, heck some nobles would covet this position just for the chance of riding the coattails of the Ruling Families. Rosie looks at Ashley, her purple eyes sparkle onto Rosie's, Ashley feels so trusting. Rosie asks Ashley a question.

“Will you look out for me?” She looks up at Ashley with hopeful and trusting eyes.

“Of course, I will never let a thing hurt you. I will even give you, your own bodyguard if you so wish.” Says Ashley.

“I am in.” Says Rosie.

“Excellent. Clair!” Calls Ashley. The pretty aid wearing the pantsuit enters the room, Roise notices that she wears her black hair similar to Ashley's.

“Yes, My Lady.”

“Rosie is in, take her to SIA for fingerprints and familiarize her with my belongings.”

“At once Lady Royce, Captain Juarez is outside and would like to have a word with you.” Says Clair.

“Ryan come in.” Calls Ashley. Rosie follows Clair as a tall muscular man in a pressed suit walks into the sitting room.

Lady Ashley.

“You think it is wise to bring in a girl with no training?” Asks Ryan.

“Rosie goes to Hanson; etiquette is drilled into them, the purpose is in case the girls marry well after graduation, but her talents will suit me. I like Alison and would rather her not be tormented or approached.” Ashley is referring to her ladies maid that wasn’t coming with her. “I know how these goodwill missions work, I will not have a person who knows all my secrets in the Empire, the Empire would pick that low hanging fruit, Rosie knows nothing about me save what she has read in the tabloids.”

“We still need to discuss your security arrangements for your trip.” As you know each ruling family is able to bring 200 men for their details. We will be staying in a 140-room villa in their Senatorial district.” Says Ryan sitting down. Ryan is very striking, he has an olive complexion and a hulkish figure, his eyes are blue and hands the size of dinner plates.

Ashley looks at the map Ryan has rolled out, their villa has a garden that overlooks the Pacific Ocean, but other than that they were crammed between other villa’s on either side. “We are in luck they have allowed noble families to bring small details. With 30 of them joining plus the 11 ruling representatives. That will give us 2800 soldiers in the capital. Counting grooms, footmen and other staff. We should be able to add 250-300 extra men.”

“You are in charge of my detail, who is in charge of the envoy’s security?”

“Chief Inspector Phil George will be the commanding officer over the 11 details. Seven nobles however will be staying in the villa your father purchased. Given the extra men we will get an added layer of security. Now I need to go over several rules with you. 1. Anytime you leave the Villa you will have at least 20 men at your side or at the very least me. 2. No males from the Empire are to spend the night in the villa, nor are you or any of the nobles in our charge to spend the night at their home. There is a mandatory 1 am curfew. That means at one you are all to be on the Villa’s grounds. 3. If it is illegal in Smithtown consider it illegal in Smithtown. The Empire is made up of 75 percent slaves, they have customs that we do not condone. No pay for play or throw up orgies.” Ashley’s looks at him disgusted yet confused.

“What the fuck is a throw up orgy.”

“It is where the upper class segregate themselves by gender, they hold up in a airy room with alcohol, food and slaves. They eat and drink until full then vomit the spoils into a bronze bowl, then they indulge on their slaves in between purging.” Replies Ryan.

“Why on earth would you tell me something like that, it is vital, why would their slaves stand for that?”

“They don’t have a choice which is why it is taboo. You need to keep an eye on our nobles, any to break from our traditions to partake in the Empire’s practices is to be sent home immediately.” There is a knock on the door.

The person at the door is Ashley’s newly appointed Chief of Staff. Her name is Peggy, she had been on her Ashley’s mother Betty’s staff for many years. Peggy is middle aged, her hair is in a tight bun, if she didn’t wear stockings with her professional attire, you could see the blue veins in her legs, she had several grey hairs and bags under her eyes. She isn’t ugly but over a decade of being a workaholic has taken its toll.

“My Lady I just spoke to Clair, I know I left the choice of Ladies maid to you; but pulling a commoner from the rope line is dangerous. You cannot do that once we leave Smithtown is that understood?”

“Yes Ma’am.” Ashley may be able to push around her staff and guards, but her Chief of Staff reigns supreme. She controls Ashley’s life and is given the respect her title commands.

“Now, Jane will be taking over as your aid for the evening. You have a dinner with the Prime Minister and the other Ruling Representatives. You have a 15-minute, interview slot with Terrance Spaulding.” Spaulding was a television reporter for the Smithtown News Network, I would like you to do the interview now if you can, that will just be that much more sleep you will get for our journey.

“Send him in, then I will go and dress for dinner.” Says Ashley

Peggy stays in the room, Jane enters with the reporter, like Clair and Peggy, Jane is dressed professionally. Her blonde hair is held in a conservative ponytail, her curves are hidden but she is alert. Jane had been a lawyer before entering Ashley’s service.

While the camera crew sets up and Ashley is mic’d up Jane gives the reporter her usual spiel. It was custom for each Smithsonian Ruling family to have their own film crews. They are used push positive propaganda to the commoners. This way if a reporter asks a question not included in the transcript given in advance, than the film crew could simply elect to cut the feed or not give the tape over. Ashley’s interview today is supposed to be a fluff piece that will air several days following her departure.

“Please keep all questions to her visit with the Empire, her brothers are not to be discussed, nor is the Red Castle incident to be mentioned. Keep your questions short and your tone respectful." Just then the red light of the Camera clicks on silencing Jane. Two seconds later the Green light let's Ashley know she is being recorded.

Good Evening Lady Ashley. How do you feel about your upcoming trip to the Empire are you nervous?”

“Mr. Spaulding, I would say I am more excited than nervous, there are some butterflies there for sure but this will be a wonderful way to expand our relationship. We have had seven years of peace on the continent, there have been a few armed conflicts to be sure, but no large-scale wars or Genocide.”

“When you get to the Empire, what is the first thing your going to do?”

“We will be staying on the Beach in Malibu I really want to learn to surf.”

“Will your father be going with you, and is the Sultan sending someone personally?” Asks Mr. Spaulding.

“No, we will have Lord Garret Dyna, the Sultan’s son speaking for the Smithsonian’s and my Aunt Cali Kruger, as my Father’s sister she will be speaking for house Royce in his absence. My father will be dealing with business abroad for the Sultan, and my brother Thomas will be fulfilling his duties while he is absent.”

“Do you think your brother’s qualified to take your father council seat for the next half year. He will have voting rights on the council and will have the power to effect the very day to day running of our nation.” Ashely answers right away, if she paused and waits for Jane to intervene than she risks looking indifferent or unsure.

“Mr. Spaulding, I have full confidence in Thomas, I think it is about time he starts having a say. You should see the wonderful work he and his wife have done in the Village of the Branch; Thomas has had a tremendous impact on the lives of our commoners."

“Speaking of your brother and his wife, what do you think she will be having in September?” Asks Spaulding. He is referring to Ashley’s sister in-law named Ann. In the five years since marrying Thomas, Ann had become something of a baby factory, she has two children with her brother Thomas, and they are currently waiting on their third.

In addition to their two children, Ann raises Thomas’s child from his first marriage. The ages of the children are as follows. Robbie is seven and half, Joy is five, Peter is the heir and is three, then was the baby to be determined.

“I think Ann will have a boy, he will be an intellectual and a source of pride for our nation.” Says Ashley. Out of the corner of her eye Ashley watches Jane give cut sign, drawing her finger under her throat.

“Lady Ashley I wish you the best on your trip and know you are most definitely the pride of our nation.” That statement sent shivers down her spine; she felt the pressure of this mission with his statement.” Then the light on the camera cut off.

Peggy holds the door for Ashley as she glides from the room without another word, at the entrance she hears Jane beginning to dress down Mr. Spaulding. But the words are inaudible as Ashley enters the hall fully. Making her way to the end of the passage, they climb some stairs.

“You will be sitting next to Chief Inspector George; Thomas will be here to escort you to dinner at 7:15 sharp.” Peggy stops short at a doorway, she opens it, Ashley hardly ever has to open doors. Inside the room, her new maid Rosie steams Ashley’s dress.

“My Lady” Says the girl with a curtsy.

“Rosie, please bring me a glass of water with ice. Please set it on the counter, I am going to have a sauna. Says Ashley. She always had to have a sauna close on hand, how else is she supposed to get rid of the impurities in her body that are consumed from food and drink.

The Prime minister had given her a room to sleep in that would allow her to keep this favored amenity. Entering the bathroom, she finds the sauna is at its maximum temperature. Shedding her clothes she looks into the mirror, she thinks her body is flawless, no marks, her only piercings were two holes in her earlobes.

Ashley looks at her teeth when she was face to face with the mirror, white and straight, being a Lady of the Sultan’s court is very demanding on her body. Ashley needs to be a source of inspiration for her nation and a distraction from the chaos of a war-torn world. As such her body always needs to be at its best to be photographed and admired.

After rinsing off her body Ashely steps into the sauna for her steam. Closing her eyes, she breaths the heat in through her nose, the hot air feels like it could almost singe her nose hairs, the hot breath is held in her lungs for several seconds, exhaling provides a warm and relaxing feeling that spreads through Ashley’s body.

All too soon the time inside the sauna goes off and it is time to get out, the cold air of the bathroom grips her body, but the sauna heat keeps the chill off, she sees that Rosie had drawn the bath for Ashley, she crosses the bathroom.

Sinking into the large tub felt like ecstasy, she doesn’t linger, she quickly soaps up and washes her hair. Dunking herself under she gets all the oils and sweat of the day off her body. From there Ashley enters the dressing room from the bathroom entrance. Only clothes of hers hanging in the dressing room are her pajamas, and her blue dress for the evening. Once slipping the dress on over her underwear. Ashley gets into her heels, there is a knock at the dressing room door. It is Clair and Rosie.”

Rosie helps Ashley with her shoes and hair. Rosie does an excellent job, then again Ashley wore it straightened and it didn’t require that much attention. “Rosie let Clair do my make up this time.” Clair had been with Lady Ashley just as long as Jane. Both of them knew exactly how to provide Ashley with her look. In time and with Clair's help, Ashley had become a Lady of Court again.

A knock on her bedroom door registers that her brother is going to take her to dinner. His knock sends nerves throughout her body, or did the nerves come about because his knock, signifies that she would be leaving him, and maybe she would be leaving for ever. She might become engaged, in that case she would never return, Ashley holds back her tears, no one cries for princesses, least of all a princess shouldn’t cry over herself. Gathering her strength, she adjusts the gloves on her arms, he brother greets her with his dashing smile and kind expression.

Taking his arm, they walk through the mansion to the dining hall. Two guards open the doors and every one stands as she and ten other ruling representatives are led into the hall for what could be their final night ever in Smithtown.

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