A Slave and the Unruly Prince
Chocolate colored hair swayed in the afternoon wind as a soothing breeze drifted by. The sun had risen to its peak. The second princess of the Emerald Empire walked before her slave, her posture graceful and unlike any other royal the slave-girl had ever seen. Her gown was the color emerald as the Empire’s namesake revealed. Her hair was a natural blond and it ran to her mid-back in soft curls.
“Ember,” the princess called out to her servant, knowing she was walking silently behind her.
“Yes, Princess Katherine?” she addressed her, as any slave should address their master.
They walked along the path outside of the castle as the slave escorted the princess around the castle grounds. “Do you think if a person is in love they should... follow their hearts?” Princess Katherine questioned her; her behavior was strange for her usual cool demeanor.
The slave-girl blinked. The princess had the tendency to stun her with her strange questions. “I fear I do not understand my princess.” the slave-girl admitted.
She sighed heavily. The princess stopped in her tracks and her slave halted in her step. She turned around and walked towards her slave, stopping mere inches from her frame. The slave-girl bowed her face towards the ground. The princess glanced in every direction to make sure she would not be overheard.
“I have to admit something,” she placed a delicate hand on her slave's chin to lift her eyes to meet her own gaze. The slave-girl could see a new found gleam in the princess's usually stoic eyes. “On a recent adventure I met a man and have fallen deeply in love with him.”
“But princess-” her slave tried to protest, knowing it’s not exactly her place, but was also not able to hold her tongue.
“Yes, Ember,” she started in defeat “I know that I am about to be shipped off to the Kingdom of Azeroth to meet my soon-to-be fiance, but my heart cannot help but yearn for this new love.”
Princess Katherine gripped Ember's arms tightly in desperation. “Ember, I beg of you to tell no one!” she was earnest in her plea.
“Of course, Princess, if that is your wish.” Ember answered in all honesty.
“After all, I’m not allowed to say anything out of my station. I’m just a slave.” the slave-girl thought bitterly.
“Does this mean you will help me?” she asked, her grip on Ember's arms tightening slightly in an attempt to convince her.
“Princess?” Ember was confused as to what the princess wanted from her. She knew that her station as a slave did not allow her to do much, but none the less the princess's cheeks shined red with happiness as if she knew that Ember would not go against her wishes.
“Will you go to Azeroth in my place?” she clarified, the smile not leaving her face.
The slave-girl's mouth opened a fraction as her eyes widened in utter surprise at the request. Princess Katherine's excitement bubbled and she nearly couldn’t stand still. “I can’t Princess, that’s breaking the law.” Ember told her immediately, hoping she would listen to reason.
“Please Ember, you have to help me!” Katherine whispered harshly, Ember could hear the way she was begging her and see it clearly in her eyes that she was the only one that could possibly help her.
“Princess, I am only a slave.” Ember replied, hoping beyond hope that she would understand that her ruse would be impossible. A slave could never pretend to be royalty, in any country the penalty for such treason was death by hanging.
Her expression changed to one of a sorrowful widow before a light flashed in her eyes. She looked at Ember with renewed strength and the slave-girl knew she was not going to like what the princess was about to say.
“Then,” she started and Ember waited patiently for her world to come tumbling. “I order you to go in my stead as Princess Katherine Darrington.”
“As you wish, Princess.”
Ember's answer was immediate. She knew she could not decline an order from the princess of the Ermerald Empire. Her life was bound to the royals, or in this case to Princess Katherine Darrington. Ember decided that the Princess’ plan will probably not succeed.
“Thank you, Ember, I will not forget this.” The princess composed herself and returned to her spot a few paces in front of her slave and started walking once again. Ember thought that the princess will simply forget about this new lover before she is to meet the Prince of Azeroth, but after their conversation Ember noticed a spring in the princess's step as she bounded forward, happily.
The people in Azeroth bustled around in the streets and market place peacefully. Azeroth was known for its prosperous lands and scenic beauty. The third prince of Azeroth looked at the moving people, following their daily routines, who were soon to be under his reign.
Tristan Vanderbilt aimlessly walked among the crowd in a disguise, wearing a dark cloak over his person to hide his true identity from the citizens around him. Next to him walked a friend of many years, Nicholas Greene, also walking in disguise.
“What did you want to leave the castle for, Tristan?” Nicholas wanted to know, he glanced at his best friend and wondered what the prince was thinking.
Tristan intently glanced around at every shop and person around him. “I am to rule over these people one day, Nick, isn’t that right?” the prince questioned, though the answer was obvious to both him and his friend.
The King had decreed long ago that the first of his three sons to get married would be given the throne. His first two sons have had no luck with the ladies, for they were both not very soft on the eyes. Ladies these days were all about the looks and money, but for some reason a woman does not want to marry into money if there was not a handsome face sitting on the other side.
Tristan was lucky to have gotten his mother’s soft features and royal women threw themselves at him whenever they got the chance, but he was not so dim-witted as to marry the first pretty face that asked him to her bed. He wanted so much more in a bride and he was hoping to find it in the second princess of the Emerald Empire, Princess Katherine Darrington.
“That is true,” Nicholas started, “But do you even want to marry Princess Katherine.”
“If she is a level-headed woman who cares more for her people then for her beauty then I might consider it.” Tristan replied easily.
“Here you are talking about consideration, but you’re talking as if it’s already a done deal.” Nicholas said. He wished that he could see the prince’s expression at that very moment so that he could find a clue as to what his feelings were. The wind gushed about as the two of them neared the gates of the palace of Azeroth, their trip through town reaching its end.
“We have returned.” Tristan said obviously, stating that their conversation was over. He looked up at the large gates that lead to the palace gardens.
“So we have.” Nicholas replied with a bitter taste in his mouth, he was clearly not satisfied with the way their conversation ended.
Blond hair danced in the wind as Prince Tristan removed his cloak before entering his future kingdom.
The ship rocked the persons aboard. Princess Katherine rummaged around her things while her slave merely watched her. “Here, Ember, you’ll have to wear this.” She pulled out a perfectly made, light emerald dress with embroidered gold and held it out to her slave.
“Princess, you haven’t changed your mind?” Ember asked somewhat shocked. Never has the princess done anything so wild in the entire years that Ember has served her. She was almost certain the princess's resolve would crumble.
“Of course I haven’t, Ember.” Princess Katherine replied with a serious expression, the one that people knew her for.
“This will never work, Princess.” Ember stated the obvious, hoping the princess would reconsider.
She walked forward, since Ember would not, and draped the dress in her slave's arms. “It will work.” She insisted, “The third prince of Azeroth has never met me before, he only knows me by name. All you have to do is be yourself, Ember, soon he will realize that he doesn’t want to marry Princess Katherine Darrington and I’ll be free to marry my new love.”
Ember did feel a bit insulted that the princess thought the prince wouldn’t want to marry her just because of her personality, but then she decided the princess was probably right in thinking that. Ember knew she didn’t have the mannerisms of a lady so of course acting like a true princess was out of the question.
“Princess, please reconsider, the King of Azeroth and the prince will not take kindly to being mislead.” Ember explained tersely.
“Princess Katherine gave her slave-girl a glance, a smile spreading across her porcelain face. “You worry too much. “The prince will never notice the difference.”
A certain dread fell over Ember at the thought of this ruse falling to pieces. She knew she would be killed for such dishonesty. A slave must not pretend to be higher than their station.
“Why not just tell the prince that you do not wish to marry him, Princess, then you wouldn’t have to go through all this trouble.” Ember asked her as she played with the soft material of the dress.
“I was invited as a guest to the Kingdom, but I knew that the King had an ulterior motive and I soon learned that he wanted to pawn me off to his youngest son.” She explained with bitterness lacing her tone. “I have no choice but to stay in the King’s castle for three months, whether I decide to marry his youngest son, or return home.”
“Princess...” Ember started uncertainly. Her eyes looked downcast as she thought of being hanged publicly by the King to make an example out of her.
“Ember, you said you would help me.” Princess Katherine reminded her, the princess's eyes pleading her not to change her mind.
“I did, Princess.” Ember replied, her voice steady, but her mind reeling with the gory truth if they found her out.
“I love him.” She gazed at Katherine’s face with surprise at her sudden confession. “And I can’t possibly stop loving him. I need to follow my heart and be with the man that I love.”
Her determined eyes had Ember wishing that she knew what love felt like. It seemed like such a joy to be in love and to be loved. “Then I shall do this for you, Princess.”
Ember knew that she had already signed her death warrant, because if she was found out it would be her own fault for being in this mess in the first place. Katherine's face brightened with happiness. “Thank you so much!” the princess beamed.
Ember moved behind the dressing screen and started to get dressed in the lavishing emerald dress the princess gave to her. “What should I do if he asks to marry you?” She wondered loudly.
“You may do as you wish when you have my identity in Azeroth. Since I was invited personally by the King himself no one from Emerald will be escorting you. If you can, try to dissuade him from wanting to marry me by any means necessary.” Katherine explained shortly.
“How long do you intend to be gone for, Princess?” Ember questioned as she slipped the dress over her head.
“I shall return the day before the ship arrives to take us home to the Emerald Empire.” She heard the princess reply from somewhere in the room.
Ember finished up and moved from behind the screen and the princess instantly smiled at her figure. “You look wonderful.” She said. Ember could not help her discomfort as she tried to shy away from her stare. “Let me fix your hair.”
The princess pulled her slave onto the chair in front of the mirror and made a loose bun with her natural chocolate brown hair and placed a shiny hair stick in her hair for moderate decoration. “Your hair is a bit shorter than mine so this will have to do.” She said as she stared at her slave.
A loud knock resonated from the door. Both their heads swiveled towards the sound. “Yes.” The princess called to the person on the other side.
“We will be arriving in Azeroth shortly, Princess.” A man’s voice replied.
“Very well.” Katherine called back.
Ember heard the footsteps of the man as he left the door and headed back upstairs to the deck. She stared at herself in the mirror and thought briefly that she did look like royalty when she wore Princess Katherine’s dress.
“I wonder what the third Prince of Azeroth looks like; will he even think I am pretty enough to be Princess Katherine?” she thought for a moment before their ship pulled in at the dock.
The ship will arrive at any given moment my Prince.” An older gentleman told Tristan.
Tristan pulled a hand through his golden locks before he stood. “Have someone escort the princess to the palace once she arrives.”
The man bowed deeply. “Certainly.” The man left Tristan to his musings.
“I wonder what the princess is like.” He thought briefly. “I suppose I should go find out.”
“And remember, Ember, you are a princess so don’t forget to speak your mind sometimes.” Princess Katherine added as she helped Ember into a matching pair of shoes for the dress she was wearing. “But not in the King’s presence.”
“How will you find the man you are in love with?” Ember asked, forgetting her station as the questioned ebbed away at her. She bowed deeply after realizing her mistake. “Forgive me, Princess, it is none of my business.”
“It’s alright, Ember.” She smiled, lightly, her face showing her maturity. “After you are escorted from the ship I will slip off and find him here at the docks. I had sent him a message three days ago before we left the Emerald Empire and he promised to meet me here on this very day with his own ship.”
“Then I shall see you when you return, Princess.” A fraction of a smile played on Ember's lips for the princess’ happiness.
Tristan stared at the ship as it was docked at the harbour. His cloak easily hid him from prying eyes. He noticed a young woman with chocolate brown hair being lead off the ship by a man from his father’s castle. He decided that she was easy on the eyes, but not exactly what he had expected the refined daughter of an emperor to look like.
She looked a bit nervous to him and uncomfortable in her own dress. His eyes followed the princess and her escort till he could not see them anymore. He sighed as he decided that the show was over and he needed to head to the castle to greet his father’s guest.
He stopped when his eyes caught sight of a sudden movement on board.
"What?" he thought.
Tristan immediately noticed the woman's beauty. Her curly blond hair bounced as she tried running in her heels towards another ship that was docked a few feet from the one she had just ran from.
There she met a man with dark hair and a tan. Tristan frowned at the scene and wondered what was going on. He prided himself in his intellect and if he didn't know any better he would say the woman that was gently caressing that man's face was the actual Princess of the Emerald Empire.
Ember fidgeted with her fingers as she was escorted to the palace. Her eyes followed the towns people and she noticed instantly how happy they all seemed.
Some might have been overworked, but none seemed bothered, they were all happy, cheerful even. Children ran around, playing pretend,when one suddenly ran into her by accident. He fell backwards and in surprise looked up at her.
He was small and very filthy. No one moved to claim him and apologize on his behalf. A guard walked towards them, pulled off the whip that hung from his waste.
"You filthy riffraff," the guard sneered, "Let me teach you some discipline." He readied his whip, but Ember quickly intervened.
"That won't be necessary." She knelt before the child and helped him to his feet.
"Are you alright?" He nodded, shyly. He was quite possibly scared as well.
"What is your name?" Ember tried again, hoping he would answer her.
"C-Christopher," he stuttered, "I'm sorry for running into you." Ember shook her head.
"Oh no, don't apologize. I'm just glad you weren't hurt." She smiled kindly as she thought of a time when she used to play in the streets as a child.
The boy's cheeks turned red at the kind smile he was receiving as he noticed how beautiful the woman in front of him looked when she smiled.
"Tell me, what were you and your friends playing?" she wondered.
"We were playing pretend, I'm a notorious thief and they are the King's knights sent to capture me." he explained, his mood brightening.
"And tell me, notorious thief Christopher, what did you steel? The Kings jewels?" The little boy shook his head and a cheeky grin spread across his face.
"I stole the Prince's princess from under his nose." His answered made Ember giggle with delight. She knew this child was probably and orphan from the slums, but there was no greed in his heart.
"Please, don't let me keep you, I will be rooting for you Christopher." The boy gave her a grin and started running once again, his friend easily jumping from their hiding spots trying to capture their friend.
A small smile remained on Ember's face as they started their trek towards the castle once again.
Tristan was slightly impressed with the girl, even though he thought that she was not the true princess of the Empire. He then slipped away from the scene and took endless shortcuts to the palace.
He pulled off his black cloak and quickly straightened himself up before entering the throne room and giving a bow to his father.
"Father." he greeted.
"Tristan." The King nodded. He looked up at his father and wondered if he should tell him about the girl that was going to arrive at any moment, that she was not Princess Katherine.
Tristan had always been close with his father and he almost never kept secrets from him, they talked about anything and everything. Tristan sighed.
He had decided. "Father, the girl arriving today is not Princess Katherine." He stated. The King frowned. Tristan new his father was a patient man, but he did not like it when people lied to him.
"And pray tell how you have come to know this?" Tristan explained to his father that he had left the palace to set his eyes on the princess from afar, but saw something else entirely.The King stroked his chin in thought.
"My son, you will most probably be next in line for the throne, as this duty will fall to you I am giving you this chance to decide what fate will befall our new guest."
"Yes, father." Tristan answered immediately. He was surprised, but ready to accept any challenge. He took a moment to think about it an came to a decision easily.
"Father, I wish for her to stay the full three months as Princess Katherine of the Emerald Empire."
"You do not wish to hang a girl who thought she could ruse the both of us?" the King inquired.
"I saw something in town today and wish to learn more about the girl, also I want to know the reason behind the ruse." Tristan explained.
"Very well, I shall allow it." The King replied. "I am proud that you do not wish to kill needlessly, but if people find out about this ruse then the girl will have to be hanged, you understand?"
"Yes, Father." Tristan nodded.
Ember didn't have much time to enjoy the interior of the castle because it took no time at all for her to be presented in front of the King.
"Good evening, Princess Katherine, I am pleased that you have accepted my invitation to stay in my Kingdom." The King thanked.
Ember decided that the King seemed kind and he definitely looked kingly. He was dressed in fine clothing and presented himself with authority.
Ember bowed deeply. She was nervous and took a breath before speaking, hoping that the following words she had thought up on the way here were eloquent enough.
"Your Majesty, it is truly an honor to be invited to your kingdom. On my way to your castle I saw such beauty and the people were all genuinely happy, I could not have asked to be invited to a lovelier kingdom than yours." Ember replied, hoping she spoke as a princess would.
The King smiled, genuinely. "I am happy to hear that, but surely there is room for some improvement?"
"There will always be room for improvement, Your Majesty." Ember answered.
"You speak wisely for a young woman such as yourself." The King told her.
"The world is the best teacher, you just have to be willing to endure, Your Majesty." Ember told the King.
He nodded. "Yes, I agree." Suddenly a door to the King's left opened and through it walked the most handsome man Ember has ever set eyes on. He had unruly golden blond hair and his defined facial features took her breath away.
"This is my youngest son, Tristan Alexander Vanderbilt. I have asked him to show you around and escort you to your room, you had a long trip." Tristan walked forward and Ember gave a curtsy while he bowed.
"It is a pleasure."
"Likewise." Ember replied. Their eyes met and it was like a clash between fire and water.
"Shall I show you around before you retire for the evening?" he asked, holding out his hand. Ember placed her hand in his.
"That would be delightful." she smiled. Ember decided she quite liked playing pretend and for a moment she completely forgot about her predicament or that she was...is a slave.