I was walking down to the lawn - where breakfast was served - with Paller and Rayla, when lady Lady Northing approached us.
"Evening Princess Zigra," Northing said as she fell into a courtesy in front of me. I nodded my head at her in acknowledgement, but didn't pause. I went on walking as she quickly scrambled to follow after me. "I was wondering if you would honor us by breaking your fast with me and the other ladies of the court." She asked, making her voice humble.
I looked across the lawn.
Breakfast with Imogen and dad sure wasn't anything to look forward to and Rion was breaking his fast with the knights he had befriended by hanging around so much by there practice area.
But breaking fast with the young ladies wasn't appealing either.
One look at the pretry lady next to me was all I needed to know.
It was easy seeing the hostility she his behind her fake smiles and potile courtesies. Then again, there was nothing for met lose by breakind fast with them so I nodded my head in consent.
"Very well, lead the way." I said, motioning her front.
"You are too kind princess." She thrilled, with a beaming smile that his the venom within well.
I didn't comment, rather following her without a word.
She led me over to a table with four other ladies already sitted. Seeing me approaching with Lady Northing, they exchanged smug, victorious smirks amoung themselves. One lady even went as far as to discreetly nod her head at Lady Northing with a 'good-job' look in her face.
Lady Northing smiled smuggly in return, looking proud of herself.
Hmm... so they had an ulterio motive by inviting me to break fast with them. Now all I had to do was patiently wait for them to reveal so themselves. They wouldn't have asked me here if the weren't about to tell me what they wanted. Ladies were predictable than way.
"Princess Zigra," the four ladies tittered, rising to courtesy to me.
I nodded my head at them and we seated around the table.
"Let me introduce everyone to you princess. I'm Selda Northing of Northinghall mansion. And this is my little sister Hellena Northing. She just turned Eighteen, such as yourself. " Lady Northing, the same lady who had invited me to break fast with them introduced.
"Then there is Lady Melissa Quintin of Quintin acres. They own mostly all the farms in easy Vensilvania." She next introduced a brunette lady with pale skin and faded denim blue eyes.
"And this is Lady Arvena Felderman of Felderman mines." She finally introduced the last lady sitting with us. With pale blonde hair and ash colored eyes, she wasn't the kind of person who stood out from a crowd much. And surprisingly, though her father owned the mines that gave Vensilvania half of it's vast fortune of jewels, she wasn't wearing a lot of it.
At each person Lady Northing introduced, I only nodded my head at them in acknowledgement not uttering a word until she was done.
I already knew that Lady Northing's father was a part of the royal court and that's where she gets her noble status from, so I didn't bother asking - though it was obvious she wanted me to ask her.
"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, princess." Lady Felderman said with a polite smile but her eyes weren't very friendly.
"As is mine." I replied out of politeness because I didn't truly mean it. It was obvious they didn't find it a pleasure to make my acquaintance.
With introductions done we dug into out meals, keeping apolite conversation flowing. They talked about the other ladies gowns and jewels, about thenp scandals that had broken out during the two days we had all been here for the gala. Pointless chatter that I didn't bother partaking in.
I was content in silently listeningnto everything they had say, listening to the rumormill spread it's vicious lies and half-truths. The ladies didn't seem to realise that I wasn't partaking in their conversation or they just didn't care.
"It's sad that Princess Zigra is the only one lucky enough to get to anve with Sir Vincent." Lady Quintin said making every lady their finally look at me. She sounded wistful, but when her eyes looked at me, they told quite a different story. She looked like she was ready to start a cat-fight right there if it wasn't so improper.
And there if was, the reason why these ladies were even bothering to befriend me. So pitiful.
"Yes my lady, how ever did you manage to accuire a dance with the roughish knight?" Lady Northing asked me point blank, making her voice sound sweetly interested and curious, but the venom in her eyes made the picture of innocence she was aiming for useless.
"I don't think I quite get what you mean." I said slowly, wiping my mouth with the napkin, before lifting my gaze to meet their ones.
Almost everyone sropped their gaze from mine, not ablento meet mine head on. A silence fell as no one braved to meet my gaze or to answer my question.
"It's just that Sir Vincent isn't much for festives. Every lady in court have tried to get the man to dance but none have sucsseded, until you came along." Lady Northing - the elder one - finally took the courage of meeting my gaze to reply to my question.
I nodded my head, turning my attention back to my plate.
The reason for this sudden invite became that much clearer. But there were still peices missing from completing this puzzle that presented itself. They were either truly curious about what I did to get Sir Dwayne to dance with me or they were spiteful about it so much that they were trying to befriend me with the thought that it'll make him notice them.
"I'm not sure it's anything I did that was reason enough to make him dance with me, unless you count him helping me out." Was all I said in answer to them, puzzling all of them. I didn't need to look at them to see them exchanging puzzled looks with each other.
With that said, I kept my form and spoon back on the plate. Taking a sip of water from the glass beside me, I dabbed my lips with the napkin. "Thankyou for the invitation for breakfast." I said as I stood up to leave.
The ladies scrambled to finish their own break fast as my two ladies-in-waiting hurried over to me. Paller handed me my fan while Rayla drapped a shawl around my shoulder and bent down smoothing the wrinkles from my gown.
"We were about to join Lady Felderman's brother for a round of croquet, would you care to join us?" The elder Lady Northing quipped hurriedly, a forced smile on her lips as she stood up with me.
"I'm afraid I'm not much of one for croquet." I said dismissively, then nodding my head started away from them.
"I was about to go riding in the nature trail on the back of the Castle, would you care to join?" Lady Quintin hurriedly caught up with me to ask, hooking her hand through mine - like we were good friends.
Gently prying my hand out of her grasp I put some distance between the two of us, giving her a very blank stare until she looked at the ground. "Please refain yourself from being so forward next time." I told her, just a hint of coldness slipping into my otherwise emotionless voice. "I have a previous engaement I won't be able to get out of, now if you will please excuse me." I said firmly, the dismissal clear though my voice remained apathic.
I brushed past her as she stopped on her track at my words, not even a bow as I walked away.
"Paller fetch my parasole, I'll be by the stables." I ordered, as I continued on my way. Last night at the ball Prince Vasilios had pulled me aside to the corner Sir Dwayne had been hiding in and informed me that himself and Vince - as the prince called Sir Dwayne - had gotten permission from his parents to leave the Castle for another day.
Prince Vasilios had in fact been rather excited to tell me that today we'll could go find for the ornamant maker in the outskirts of Vensilvania. Only he had asked me to keep our roaming around a secret as his parents didn't know that we will actually be leaving the kingdom to go find or this ornamant maker.
This would work perfectly for me as I too didn't want Imogen from finding out about my leaving the Castle grounds to g sight-seeing, even if I would be with the prince and the most skilled knight in the whole kingdom.
That is why, just to be sure, in case I was being followed, took a detour to hurry up and catch up with Rion as he too left the lawn with his new knightly friends.
"Rion, a word." I said as I finally caught up with them.
The men with him bowed at me with smiles, varying from polite to cheeky, while Rion stopped to talk with me.
"What can I do for you this fine morning Zee?" Rion asked as he held out his hand for me to take.
Accepting his offered hand, I fell into step with him. "Prince Vasilios asked to meet him at the stables after breaking out fast, or did you forget?' I questioned my brother - for after telling me, the prince had dragged aside my brother to deliver there news to him as well.
"I was rather hoping you'd have foregotten it by now. Why must you insist I accompany you?" He asked shooting me an annoyed look.
"Because it would be inappropriate for me to be seen leaving the Castle grounds with not one but two men, both of whom aren't my gaurds or brother." I replied, looking up at him.
He sighed. "Right, right. URGH! Zee can't you ask something enjoyable for once? We are going to have to trek up an impossible to climb hill." He grumbled, but put up no further arguement.
I patted his hand, the same one I had my hand hooked on. I knew saying anything won't help because there was nothing I could say to make the situation any better for him.
"URGH! Zee!" Rion groaned when I didn't say anything. "I can't even say no to you because you never ask favours, but when you ask for favours you ask the most 'honest-to-goodness' ones." He went on grumbling, mostly to himself than to me.
I mentally smiled at his rumbling. I knew he'd could never say 'no' to me, hence the reason I even bothered to ask. This was the reason Rion made such a good partner in crime. Especially for me. He could balantly lied to his mother and she wouldn't guess a thing. So I'm with Rion my punishment could be decreed by a large margine in case we are caught today - which is highly unlikely, but why take a chance?
Prince Vasilios and Sir Dwayne were already present by the time we reached the stables, their horses saddled and ready to go.
"Princess Zigra, Lord Ilarion." Prince Vasilios greeted us with a cheery smile, taking my hand and placing a kiss in greeting. I nodded my head as Rion bowed - he was still the crowned prince and a status higher than Rion, it was only respectful to bow.
"I have a surprise for you." Prince Vasilios informed me excitedly as Rion left me with the two men to get Serene saddled up for our journey. He nodded his head at Sir Dwayne, who instantly followed Rion inside the stables and came put leading a beautiful show white mare with the most startling blue eyes and silky pale blonde mans. She truly was a beauty.
"This is Serinity, she came here only a fortnight ago and is the calmest horse I've had the pleasure of meeting. She instantly reminded me of you." Prince Vasilios said as Sir Dwayne led the horse over to us.
I looked at the prince at his words, to see he was already looking at me nervously. I blinked at him, confused.
"She is a beauty." I finally said, looking back at the horse appraisingly. I stepped closer to Serinity on the opposite side of Sir Dwayne. Reaching out a gloved hand I gently rubbed her nose and she snorted through her nose. Since she didn't pull away I went around, patting her and rubbing her down.
I didn't see Sir Dwayne hand still on Serinity's back and accidentally rubbed his hand as well.
"Do you like her?" Prince Vasilios asked at the same time both mine and Sir Dwayne's eyes met over the horse's back. I quickly looked back at the prince who was looking at me in anticipation.
Pretending nothing happened, I looked back at the horse. "Oh, she's beyond beautiful." I told him and a look of pure relief flooded Prince Vasilios' face as he grinned really widely.
"Don't let Frivour hear you say so, he'll be really offended." Rion laughed as he led out Serene.
"Good thing Frivour will never meet this beauty then." I shot back, my tone and my expression blank, but I knew Rion would understand the smugness hidden within.
He rolled his eyes and mounted on Serene's back. Before I could start towards him - as I had not brought a horse on my own I'd have to share with Rion today as well, for I had forgotten to ask the stables master to burrow a horse for today - Prince Vasilios gently grabbed my hand stopping me.
I raised an perfectly archrd eyebrow at him in question, though my face remaind blank.
"Lord Ilarion told me you love horses. Will you accept Serinity as a gift from me?" He asked, his look pleading as he gazed into my eyes.
My gaze snapped up to Rion - I had a responce he had a hand in picking up the horse for me. Rion just smiled sweetly and said, "Looks like Frivour is going to meet her after all." With that said, he pressed his heel into the horse's side and galloped away.
I blinked after him, before slowly looking at Sir Dwayne - who was still holding on to Serinity's reins - then to the horse and finally back at the prince. No one - who wasn't immediately related to me - had ever given me such a precious gift.
Jewels and gowns, sure, but they weren't as worthy to me as a horse, speacially one as beautiful and peaceful as Serinity . I felt tears building in my eyes at the gesture. Taking a deep breath to keep my cool, I unconsciouslu ran my hand through her mane. "Let's see how fast this beauty can run." I said, leaning my own forehead against her.
I heard a relived sigh from beside me and looked to see Prince Vasilios grinning widely at me.
"Shall we get going then?" Sir Dwayne asked when the prince didn't say anything. Both of us nodded our heads and Sir Dwayne left us to mounted his own horse. I noticed the saddle already in the horse was side saddle. As much as I didn't want to ride side saddle on my own, I was wearing riding gear under my gown to ride astride.
I mounted her without Prince Vasilios help, which seem to interest him. Once mounted I looked down at the prince and he grinnes at me one last time before he left my side to mount his own horse.
We caught up to Rion pretty soon, since he was waitinf do rush by the Castle gates. All that was left was an three hour ride to mount Saamon and we'd reach our destination.