Chapter 16 - The Crown Prince
A maid came and dressed Alice, picking out a dress that would be suitable to meet Prince Hal. And then she spent what felt like ages braiding Alice’s hair in an elaborate plait that hung down her back.
By the time she walked out of her dressing room she felt she’d look right at home in Versailles right next to Marie Antoinette though she kept the opinion to herself. Fain walked through the connecting door, wearing similar clothes to his usual attire, though these were evidently a finer fabric. He looked her up and down noting how the rich material clung to her figure but it seemed odd to see her dressed so.
“Do I pass the test?” She asked with a slight smirk.
“You look beautiful.” He said and she felt herself flush. “Perfect for meeting the Crown Prince.”
“Why do you frown then?”
“Maybe it’s just me but I think I prefer you less done up, more natural.” He shrugged and she grinned.
“Good. Because this isn’t really me.”
“No but you carry it well.”
She dropped a deep curtsey and he couldn’t help but look at where the dress scooped over her breasts and exposed her cleavage. “Thank you Prince Fain.” She said.
“Almost as well as the dresses King Calin put you in.” He added and she shot him a look making him laugh.
“Come on. Prince Hal won’t wait forever.” He said taking her hand and leading her out of her room.
They walked down the corridors and she noted that he seemed as much at home here as he had in Montefore.
“Have you been here often?” She asked.
“You just seem to know your way around really well.”
“I should think so. This is my castle.” He replied.
“Your castle? This is your castle?” She stopped and looked at him.
“You seem surprised…”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“What that I wanted to whisk you away to my own castle in the forest…”
“What if you’d refused?”
“Why would I have?”
He shrugged and led her on down the corridor.
“So you decided to bring me here under false pretences?” She teased.
“I said I wanted to bring you here, that the Crown Prince was here and that you’d be safe here.” He said and a smile crept on his face. “Would you have really said yes if I’d added that it was my castle, and that I had an ulterior motive in bringing you here…?”
“What ulterior motive?” She asked as they stopped outside a large door with a guard either side.
“You’ll have to wait to find that out.” He said with a wry smile before he nodded to the guards who opened the doors for them. Alice shook her head slightly knowing that he’d played her and there was nothing she could do but wait.
A servant announced them as they walked through the doors and Alice saw the same boy she had seen months previously back in Montefore asleep in Fain’s arms now sat in a large chair in the centre of the room surrounded by people, while obviously in the middle of what looked like a game of chess.
Fain bowed and Alice curtsied and a man to the left of the boy beckoned them forward. Prince Hal looked up and saw Fain and his whole face changed. He practically jumped off the chair and ran to his uncle.
Fain caught him in a big bear hug and swung him round. Around him a few people tutted and others smiled but Fain ignored them all focussing all his attention on Prince Hal.
“How’s my little Princeling?” He asked as the boy laughed.
“I’m not little anymore. I’m all grown now.” Prince Hal said.
“Is that right?”
“I have a new horse too. A real horse now, not even a pony.”
“You are all grown then.” Fain said and he laughed.
Then he looked at Alice and frowned.
“Who are you?” He said.
“This is Alice. She’s Fae.” Fain said and Alice smiled unsure if she was meant to curtsey again or what any of the etiquette for meeting the heir to the throne was.
“Fae?” His eyes widened as he looked at her “So you can do Magic?” He asked.
“Yes.” Alice said smiling.
“Do something now.”
“Er…” Alice glanced at Fain.
“Careful or she might turn you into a frog.” He warned.
“Ha, she can’t do that. Can she?” He asked looking between them.
“Hmm maybe not a frog.” Alice said and Prince Hal burst out laughing.
“Come play with me Uncle Fain. Lord Lucas is rubbish at Udo.” He said grabbing Fain’s hand and dragging him back to where the game board was.
“I’m not sure how Lord Lucas feels about that...” Fain replied while pretending to put up a fight.
“It’s fine Prince Fain. I was about to lose anyway.” The old man said standing up and looking like he was more than pleased to relinquish his seat to him.
Alice followed them and a servant placed a stool down for her to sit on. She watched as Prince Hal rearranged all the pieces.
“Do you know this game?” He asked her and she frowned.
“Perhaps. It looks like a game from my world called Chess.”
“Chessss.” He repeated the strange word. “I can teach you it if you want but you have to promise not to use Magic to win.”
“You drive a hard bargain...” She said. “But you’ve got yourself a deal.”
He grinned at her and then looked back at his uncle who was pretending to be engrossed in the game before him.
“He goes first because he’s red...” He said and then started to explain the rules to her while Fain played a delicate game of letting him win while not letting him win at the same time.
When the game was over they got up to go and Prince Hal pouted.
“But you’ve only just arrived.” He said.
“We’ll be back.” Fain said.
“Before you even notice we’re gone.”
“No, come back tomorrow please.” He said looking at them both and Fain pretended to consider it.
“Maybe if you’re a good Princeling and study hard then we might see you tomorrow.”
“But studying is boring. My lessons are boring.”
“You will be King one day Prince Hal, you need to study so that you will be a good King.” Fain said kneeling down so that their faces were level.
“I want to be a good King.” Prince Hal said looking very serious. Fain squeezed his shoulder and then they left.
They walked back to Prince Fain’s rooms and to Alice it felt like she was seeing it all in a different light. Like she was seeing everything around her in a different light. This was his castle, his home. He’d brought her to his home. She watched him as he unpacked and sorted some of his things.
“What did you think of the Crown Prince?” Fain asked after a few moments.
“He seems very sweet.” She said.
“He’s been through a lot.”
“He obviously loves you a lot.”
“That’s because I don’t pander to him the way everyone else does. They all seem to see him as simply a King in waiting, someone they can try to curry favour with already and not the child that he is.”
“Does he see High King Uther much?”
“No, not as much as either of them would like. He always spends Wintertide with him and some weeks over the summer if he can spare it but most of the time my brother is too busy. When he is a bit older I imagine Uther will have him beside him, if it’s safe. He will want to groom him, to guide him on how to be King.”
“Did Queen Indyra never…” She trailed off not really sure of what she was asking.
“No, she never saw him if she could help it. Though Cait has started spoiling him a lot. I think she’s been more of a mother to him in the last few months than Indyra ever was.”
“My brother’s mistress.” He said frowning. “Did you not know…”
“No, I heard that he had one, Indyra told me herself. I just didn’t know her name.”
“Well she’s here somewhere if you want to meet her.”
“Yes, Uther didn’t want to put her in danger by dragging her off to war so they decided she could at least keep the Crown Prince company.”
“It sounds like you prefer her to Indyra…”
“Indyra was a bitch.” He stated bluntly. “I don’t know why my brother married her but he regretted it almost immediately. And then we’ve all been stuck with her ever since. She put a good show on to the people and everyone outside the immediate family loved her. But we hated her.”
“Why? What did she do?”
“It’s not one thing she did, it was lots of little things, she spent her whole time playing games, manipulating people, only ever doing what served herself.”
“You really hated her didn’t you?” Alice said hearing the tone in his voice.
“Yes. One of her escapades put Prince Hal’s life in danger and I could never forgive her for that. And then she pulled that stunt with you.”
Alice looked at him and he sighed.
“Enough about her and Prince Hal for one day. Let me show you the rest of the castle.”
“Your castle...” She teased.
“My castle.” He said with a glint in his eye and he kissed her before leading her back out and on a tour.