The Inherited

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Chapter Four

I was up on a pedestal covered in gossamer. The stupid fabric scratched at my legs and made it very awkward to move. Mme. LeBeche was making me some sort of big ball gown, as far as I could gather, but I wasn’t quite sure what for. “Am I going to have to do this every time I need a dress?” I sighed, turning to M. Arsnault. The needles in the fabric pricked at my skin.

“No, Mademoiselle. Mme. DeBeche is just unfamiliar with your measurements so she is using this as a reference point. Now may I continue?” said my guard. He was in charge of my lessons today. I was learning history because some important governor from France was coming for dinner to meet me soon. The problem was that by now most of the facts were going in one ear and out the other. There were too many names and dates. Besides, how can I be expected to learn when I was being tortured by little pin pricks of pain every time I moved?

“I guess so,” I told him.

“La Grande Rébellion occurred from 1523 jusqu’a 1545 when Leopold I was in power. The French had already captured most of Arcadis at this time and where planning on over taking Solis next. The Solisians fought hard to help and protect their neighboring country but Arcadis was, in the end, lost and the Royal Family fled. The first battle that took place on the Islands was in 1540 when the French, led by…”

The door suddenly flew open, cutting off M. Arsnault. Mme. DeBeche jabbed my in the ribs with a pin, apologizing profusely. Leopold walked in, and began talking to M. Arsnault.

“Mademoiselle, the Prince requests your presence; we will resume our lessons later,” M. Arsnault told me. I frowned, not completely sure how I should feel about this. I could either stay and be assaulted by pins and bored to death by lessons or go to an unknown location with my not entirely mentally stable prince. Then again, I wasn’t sure if I could refuse. At least it got me out of this room.

Mme. DeBeche freed me from the gossamer and I skipped out of the room on Leopold’s heels. He took me to my room, stopping in front of the door.

“I presume you are tired of all of these lessons, correct?” asked Leopold.

I nodded.

“Can you get to the foyer without anyone noticing?”

I frowned but nodded again, unsure of where he was taking this.

“Meet me there in ten minutes. Change into some ratty clothing and try to appear normal.” With that he turned leaving me standing in my doorway.

With the briefest moment of contemplation and confusion I decided to trust Leopold and changed into an old pair of torn jeans and a t-shirt, wrapping a scarf around my neck.

As quietly as possible, I made my way through the corridors and slipped into the tourist filled halls. It was a long weekend for the locals and the main floor of the castle had been opened to the public for viewing. I pulled my scarf up to cover part of my face and allowed my dark hair to curtain my face, trying to blend in with the crowd.

I searched through the rooms for my prince. Looking for his curls, his tall lean form, and his perfect posture worried when I didn’t find him. I would have expected something to announce his arrival. A scream, a bow? Nothing.

I felt a warm hand wrap around my wrist and whipped around swallowing a gasp. A tall boy stood in front me. He looked like an average teenager with poor posture. He wore baggy jeans that hung low off his hips and a black band t-shirt covered by a hunter green military styled jacked. A black toque covered his hair, his eyes hidden behind huge aviator sunglasses and a scruffy pair off boots on his feet. He was handsome but not who I was looking for. “Can I help you?” I asked when he didn’t release my arm. I was hoping for dear God that he hadn’t recognized me and that I wasn’t going to have to scream bloody murder, alerting the guards to my presence and foiling whatever Leopold had been planning.

The boy reached up with chipped fingernails, the leather bracelets on his wrist sliding into the depths of his sleeve, and pulled the glasses down his nose revealing one green eye and one gold. “No worries, it’s just me.”

I sighed in relief. “Here,” Leopold said handing me a bundle of clothes, “put these on.”

Without hesitation I jabbed my arms through the arms of the leather aviator jacket and put the glasses on.

Then Leopold took my hand and led me through the crowd that was gathered around various pieces of art and furniture. “Where are we going?” I asked but Leopold didn’t answer, just pulled me towards the front door. We made it outside, past the guards at the door and the guides and the parking attendants. We went down the giant white steps and across the cobblestone over to a motorcycle.

I felt a smile stretching across my lips. “No way, a motorcycle?” I asked as he passed me a helmet.

“Please just get on, and do not refuse. I will explain soon,” he ordered. I did as he said and jumped onto the bike behind him. There was no way I was going to say no to motorcycles or finally getting out of the castle for a while. I had been trapped in there for days now. Ever since the interview I had been held up in various lessons.

Leopold put the bike in gear and took off. I grabbed hold of his belt, feeling the usual rush of adrenalin that I associated with being on a motorcycle. We drove through the square and across the bridge, whipping though the twisting streets of what I presumed to be the Old Town.

I reveled in the feel of the sun against my skin and the wind whipping through my hair. This was the most fun I’d had in days. After a few minutes, we slowed down and Leopold parked the bike. We seemed to be in some sort of market. It was a big, open square surrounded by shops. There was a church at one end, an elaborate fountain in the middle and there were a whole bunch of stands and venders dispersed across the space.

“It isn’t much,” said Leopold, “But I though you might like to walk around for a bit. I remember how boring lessons used to be. Just don’t mention it to anybody, they won’t be happy I took you away from Mme. DuBeche and history with M. Arsnault.”

“You kidnapped me?” I asked surprised.

Leopold smiled, “I just have to get you back before dinner or they will begin to get suspicious.”

This was strange but at least I was out of the castle. We began to weave through the stands, looking at the different scarves, jewelry and flowers that were on display.

“You must go in here,” said Leopold directing me to a store whose windows were filled with chocolate. The inside was even better. There were millions of pastries, candies and chocolates covering every inch of the store. There was chocolate in every form conceivable: bars, truffles, cupcakes, drinks, ice cream, the list went on. We went up to the counter and Leopold ordered.

“Have you tried the famous Solisian chocolate pastry yet?” he asked handing me a gooey square. I shook my head and took a bite.

“This is fantastic!” I told him. The outside was honey coated and flaky, kind of like a croissant. There was sugary powder on the top and chocolate drizzle. The inside was warm, milk chocolate that melted across my tongue.

We continued walking as I ate, looking into the different shops. “So,” I said after I had managed to work up the courage, “What made you want to break me out?”

Leopold chuckled slightly, kicking a stone across the sidewalk. “My way of apologizing, I suppose. I have not been very welcoming to you, Winifred, and I realized that that was not right. You are here to try and help me and it is not fair to treat you so badly. I wanted to start again, from another foot this time. Would that be alright?”

I smiled and stuck out my hand, “I would love that. Hello my name is Winifred, but I prefer Fred.”

Leopold smiled, contemplating my hand for a moment. I realized, in horror, that I had broken one of Phillipa’s rules and may have just ruined the new friendship Leopold had just offered. But then Leopold pulled his hand out of his pocket and took mine, shaking gently.

“It is lovely to meet you Fred, my name is Leopold.”

I liked the progress we were making here and decided to see if I could keep him talking. “So Leopold, what’s your favorite color?”

“I am increasingly finding myself attracted to the color brown,” he told me. “How about you, Fred?”

“It changes daily, but right now, I think it’s green.”

Leopold nodded, thinking this over, “And how are you liking it in Solis so far?”

“I haven’t seen very much of it, but it seems very beautiful.”

“I suppose you didn’t get to see to much when you were screaming bloody murder on the cheval,” he smiled cheekily.

I blushed. “Thanks for that. Where did you learn to ride so well?”

Leopold shrugged, “I’ve always enjoyed it. Comes naturally, I suppose. I play Canette as well.”

I frowned, “What’s that?”

“Canette? It is a sport. A little like, what you would call, football and polo together. You may see me play sometime; there is a game bientôt.”

Thunder rumbled through the sky suddenly. Leopold looked up, scrunching his nose. “We should leave.”

We started weaving our way through stands again, heading towards the motorcycle. “Eww, I hate rain,” I muttered at the first few drops began to fall.

“You will adjust. There is much in Solis,” said Leopold. The rain was falling heavily now and I was very glad for the leather jacket I was wearing.

We made it back to the bike and took off towards the castle. I pulled myself close to Leopold, trying to hide behind his body so that I didn’t get hit as hard by the offensive wet and cold.

Leopold parked and I quickly dismounted. We ran back up the steps hand in hand as he pulled me through the crowd that was leaving. Like fish swimming up stream we broke through into the foyer sprinting past the statues and paintings and up flights of stairs. We didn’t stop until we made it to our hall. I was surprised when Leopold pulled me into his bedroom.

I looked around as I leaned on my knees trying to catch my breath. It was very similar to my room, with all of the ornate furniture, it was slightly bigger though, and on the far wall had a door that led to a large balcony that overlooked the gardens. It smelled spicy but vaguely of smoke.

Leopold was running around the room mumbling in French. “Here,” he said pushing clothed into my wet arms, “Go shower. Leave your clothes on the floor I will deal with them.”

“I could just use my room,” I offered as I tried not to drip on his carpet.

Leopold shook his head, “Angela will be there and see you like this. We can not have anyone finding out about our excursion.”

I decided to do as he said and went to his bathroom. Peeling the wet clothes of my body, I stepped into the shower letting the hot water sooth my muscles. I washed my hair with his spicy shampoo getting out all of the rainwater. Finally I stepped out of the shower and toweled off, pulling on the dark pants and cream sweater he had given me.

I was beginning to realize that it was just better not to question Leopold’s direction.

Leopold was waiting for me when I came out, already showered and changed into a pair of chinos and a button down. The soaked clothes had disappeared. “Fini?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Excellent, car we must be…” Leopold was interrupted by a knock on his door. “Oui, entrez,” he called.

The door was pushed open to reveal a concerned looking M. Arsnault and M. Lefevre. “Monsieur, nous cherchons Winifred,” M. Arsnault began as he and his partner bowed. They glanced up, relief and confusion filling their eyes. “There you are, Mademoiselle. We were wondering where you had wondered off to.”

“She was with me, as I told you earlier,” Leopold told them.

“Of course, Monsieur, I apologize. La Princess is waiting for you in the dinning room. She wishes to practice banquet behavior during dinner tonight as the King and Queen are occupied.”

“D’accord, nous partons maintenant,” Leopold assured them.

“There you are,” cried Phillipa when we entered the dinning room. I balked at the table. It was covered in countless kinds of plates, glasses and cutlery. Phillipa was sitting at the seat on the left of where Felip usually sat. There was a blond man in the seat next to her. Both stood when we entered.

“Fred and I were occupied and just got news of your dinner now,” Leopold explained.

Phillipa pursed her lips, eyeing our wet hair.

“Fred, this is Sir Hugo Hale,” Leopold said, indicating the blond man, “Phillipa’s boyfriend. Hugo, this is Winifred.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you,” said Hugo, kissing my knuckles.

“Please sit down, everyone is almost here,” Phillipa told us.

Leopold walked to the far side of the room and pulled out the chair across from Phillipa’s, indicating for me to sit. I thanked him and took my seat. Leopold took the head of the table.

“Why did we all change chairs?” I asked him, confused.

“I think that Phillipa will tell you in a moment, but I believe she is trying to create a real life situation. In a formal setting the most powerful person,” he said indicating himself, “sits at the head of the table and the procession decreases from there. The second most important sits opposite him followed by lesser positions. The people with the least power situated in the center. Regularly this leaves Felip and the rest of us at one end and the Prime Minister and the rest of the governors at the other.”

“Sorry, we’re late,” called Hector as he burst into the room followed my Rose. We all stood, except Leopold who glared at the latecomers. I thought that was hardly fair since we too had been late because we had been involved in unsanctioned activities. Hector nodded at Leopold and Rose curtsied. They took their seats; Hector across from Leopold and Rose beside me.

“Alright,” said Phillipa standing, “instead of me talking all the way through dinner I think that this will work better if we just have at it and one of us four will yell at you if you do something wrong.” She sat back down and a bunch of cooks, in white, came through the door. They placed plates of leafy salad in front of us.

I looked down at the insane amount of forks and spoons in front of me, utterly perplexed. I glanced up at Leopold, hoping for help. He held up one of the forks, “Start outside and work in.”

“Thanks,” I muttered, blushing, and seized the correct utensil.

“So where were you two all day,” asked Phillipa curiously, “M. Arsnault told me that you stole Winifred from her History class and dress sizing today and then disappeared. You really shouldn’t keep her from the Lessons Leopold. And what was with the wet hair?”

I became absorbed in my salad, deciding to let Leopold deal with this one.

“Can I not spend time with my betrothed, alone?” asked Leopold. I blushed furiously at the implications. Maybe I should have spoken up.

“I didn’t say that, I’m glad you are showing interest in a decent girl for once, just try not to corrupt her.”

“You were with him, alone, all day?” said Rose beside me, holding her fork in a death grip.

“Rose,” Hector warned.

“Yes, why?” I asked confused. Wasn’t I supposed to be bonding with him?

“Yes Rose,” Leopold sneered, “do tell me what you are confused about.”

“You had to do it, didn’t you,” Rose asked Leopold, “you had to pull her into this?”

“Don’t do this, Rose,” pleaded Hector.

“No, it’s about time someone confronted Leopold about this. Just because everyone else is scared of him and has to walk on egg shells because you might upset him or God forbid anger him. I won’t take it any longer; he has gone to far this time.”

“How dare you speak to me like that!” roared Leopold, “You insolent girl, how dare you question me? You don’t even know me or why I act the way I do.”

“I don’t have too, I know all about men like you.”

“Men like me? Tell me what I am Rose, and if it is anything but good, it is out of your actions that I am that way. You are the reason that I am in this position, that Fred is even here, so don’t you dare go throwing accusations at me and blaming me for bringing someone innocent into this. If there is anyone to blame, it is you.”

Leopold rose to his feet, the rest of us with him. He threw the glass that he had been holding and it smashed to pieces against the wall. Phillipa flinched, hiding in Hugo’s side.

They were being absurd and Leopold far too volatile. He had been so kind this afternoon, what had changed?

Leopold was standing at his spot, cheeks flushed and chest heaving. I approached him carefully placing my hand on his chest as if I could hold him back. “Hey,” I told him, “you need to calm down.”

Leopold paused for a moment, glancing down at my hand, and then stormed out of the dinning room.

I turned to face the rest of the room, only to find them staring at me, wide eyed, in shock. “May I be excused for a moment?” I murmured. Phillipa nodded slowly, so I bowed briefly and ducked out of the room.

Leopold was in the hall outside, pacing furiously, the bridge of his nose pinched between his thumb and finger.

“What was that all about?” I asked softly.

“Leopold sighed, running a hand through his hair, “Rose and I don’t exactly see eye to eye.”

“Well I could tell that much.”

“Has anyone told you why I am in line to be king and not Hector?” asked Leopold, looking me in the eyes.

“Not really,” I admitted.

Leopold slid down the wall until he was sitting on the ground. I followed his lead and sat next to him.

“Hector was always meant to be king, has all of the training and tittles. I was always second, the spare. I could do whatever I wanted and no one cared because I was just an extra. One night, in the fall last year, Hector came home with Rose on his arm declaring that he had fallen in love with her and was renouncing his title so that they could get married. This threw everything into a downwards spiral. You see, Rose has no royal blood and therefore they cannot be wed if Hector wanted to be king. He said he didn’t care; he was enraptured with Rose, in love, and would rather have that then rule. My parents decided to let him do it because they are bloody romantics, imprisoning me with the new honor. But the plan wasn’t flawless, I have no training to rule, I was raised as a traditional second son is, I am to be the commander of the army. It also came apparent that I had tainted my reputation with all of my reckless behavior and that the people didn’t want me to be King. That’s why they called you in, as a distraction, to improve my appeal.”

“So you blame Rose for putting you in this position because she tempted Hector?” I verified.

“Yes,” Leopold admitted.

“Why is she so angry at you though?” I asked. I mean she can’t just be mad at him because of some stupid things he did. If she didn’t want him to be King that bad she could just not marry Hector.

“That’s the thing, you see, Hector and Rose had a convincingly heartbreaking story on their side. Hector and Rose met when he saved her from her abusive fiancée.”

“Pardon?” I balked, shocked at his words.

“Exactement. Rose was engaged to a horrible man who got drunk one night and raped her with a bunch of his friends in an alley. Hector found them in the act, and scared them off. He helped her through healing and getting them arrested, all without our family noticing. They fell in love during the process. How can you argue with that, right? I mean how can I not give them that after what Rose has been through? Anyway, Rose attributes many of my behaviours with those of her ex-fiancée’s, despises me for how much I remind her of him. She doesn’t trust me and thinks that I am going to harm you. Yet her appearance is the reason for your being here.”

I sighed, trying to decide how to respond. “I understand where you are coming from Leopold, and I realize that you are frustrated but I don’t think that it is really fair that you blame Rose for what happened.” Leopold opened his mouth to protest but I held up my hand stopping him. “That being said, I don’t think that she is treating you fairly either. I get that you won’t be able to meet on common ground for a while, if ever, but do you think you could at least try to be civil with each other? It would mean a lot to me if you would come back inside and finish the meal. I have had a good time with you today and would hate to have it end on such a bad note.”

Leopold pursed his lips, “For you, I will.” Leopold stood and then offered me his hand and pulled me to my feet.

Without releasing my hand, we walked back into the dinning room. The others were still sitting in front of their now limp salad but rose when we entered. The confusion on their faces was evident. Leopold and I took our places and the chefs returned, replacing the salad with soup. The glass had been cleaned up. Leopold indicated the spoon I should use.

I looked across the table to find Phillipa staring at me. She raised one of her thin eyebrows in question. I simply shrugged and smiled.

Leopold walked me back to my room after dinner. The rest of the meal had passed without incident. We stopped at my door and I leaned against the carved wood, looking up at the Prince. “Thanks so much for kidnapping me today, I had a blast.”

“I am glad, I had fun too,” smiled Leopold and then raised my hand to his lips, placing the lightest of kisses across my knuckles. A blush spread across my cheekbones. For some reason the gesture seemed much more intimate and important when he did it.

Leopold pulled back, turning, and disappeared through his door.

“No way, there is no way Phillipa!” I said crossing my arms over my chest in what I hoped to be a defiant action.

“Oh come on, Winifred, everything will be fine.”

“No, it won’t. Didn’t you hear about what happened last time?”

Phillipa cringed, “Yeah, I might have heard something. But its tradition and Hugo and Hector are going to be there to help. It will be perfectly safe.”

“Phillipa there is no way you could get me back on a horse. I don’t care if I am supposed to be in the parade. I will walk or better yet, back out. I can watch from the safety of the castle where there are none of those monsters.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” she insisted crossing her arms to imitate my position. We stood there, at a standstill, until something flashed behind Phillipa’s eyes and she smiled wickedly. “Would you do it if Leopold was there?“|

I contemplated this for a moment. Leopold seemed to have this way with horses, and he had rescued me the first time. I was sure he would protect me again if it became necessary. I nodded, “Yes, I think I would.”

“Excellent! He is in a meeting right now, with the Governors, but I will go spring him.”

Phillipa danced out of my room before I could protest. I didn’t want to have Leopold pulled from some important meeting because I was scared to go near a horse.

Angela appeared from inside of my closet carrying a cream colored knit sweater and a floor length, brown skirt. I eyed the clothes skeptically. How was I supposed to ride a horse in a skirt?

“This is what I was instructed to give you,” Angela told me.

I got dressed quickly, deciding it was best not to question Phillipa. I was just tying my boot’s laces when there was a knock on the door. “Entrez,” I called.

Leopold popped his head in, smiling, “I believe my presence was requested?”

I blushed, standing, “Sorry, I tried to stop Phillipa from interrupting you but she was too quick.”

“Never apologize for asking for help. Besides, those meeting are terrible. I would rather watch you try to ride a horse again,” Leopold replied cockily leaning against my door frame. I looked him over. He was in black dress pants, a white button up, grey tie and shinny black leather shoes.

“Pret?” he asked. I nodded. “Phillipa sent me to bring you to the stables.”

We trekked across the property until we reached the monster’s den. I was wringing my hands together nervously, as we approached. Leopold took hold of my hands, gently stopping their movement. “I won’t let the horses hurt you, Fred,” he promised.

The others were already there when we arrived. Everyone was in riding gear and Phillipa and Rose both had long skirts on that were similar to mine. We all gathered around Phillipa, waiting for instruction.

“Okay everyone, as most of us know, it is traditional for the entire Royal family to participate in the Royal Guard Parade. Felip and Beatrice will be riding in a carriage and we will be following on horseback. Unfortunately, Rose, you are not permitted to ride with us, but you may as well learn now so that you are prepared. Now, you may have been wondering about the skirts? For the girls, the ride must be done side saddle.”

I gasped openly at the small princess, “Side saddle? I can barely ride a horse front saddle!”

Leopold snickered beside me.

Phillipa rolled her eyes, “Oh hush, Winifred, it will be fine. Hugo, can you get my horse please?”

Hugo ducked into one of the stalls and lead out a white beast. I took a step closer to Leopold. Phillipa mounted the horse and arranged herself so that both of her legs and skirt were draped elegantly over the left side of her horse. Then they began to walk, making a small circle. “See ladies, easy as pie. Rose you can borrow my horse. Leopold, will you get Winifred’s? I’ve had him prepared.”

Edwards disappeared inside on of the stalls. My horse, she couldn’t possible mean the crazy brown one? Sure enough that’s exactly who Leopold lead around the corner. “Oh no, there is no way I will get back on that one,” I told him.

Leopold just kept coming towards me though. “Don’t worry Fred, you just had a rocky start to your relationship, Olivier, is a very good horse.”

Leopold stopped the horse in front of me, releasing the reins. He undid his tie, throwing it off to the side somewhere, loosened his collar and rolled his sleeves to his elbows.

“Okay, girls, let’s start with just sitting in the saddle to get you comfortable,” directed

Phillipa. Rose was up in the saddle in a flash, Hector clapping encouragingly from the

ground beside her.

“Common,” said Leopold, pulling me closer to Olivier. I felt a rush of determination fill

me. If Rose and Phillipa could do it, than I would too.

I went over to Leopold who wrapped his hands around my waist, lifting me into the

saddle. He smelled of cigars and the same spicy sent that was in his room. To my relief,

Olivier didn’t move, just gnawed on his bit. Maybe Leopold was right. Maybe the last

time had just been miscommunication. “Good, horse,” I purred happily.

“Great,” said Phillipa, “Now it is easier if you shift your weight and wrap your knee around

the top of the saddle. This should give you the proper position, posture and balance.”

Cautiously, I moved as she told be and wrapped my led around the saddle.

“Now your outside foot should rest in the stirrup,” Phillipa said.

I smiled contently when I realised that I had already put my foot in the stirrup.

“Awesome, now take hold of the reigns and advance when you are ready.”

I looked over at Rose, who took off immediately, looking like royalty seated on Phillipa’s white horse.

I glanced down at Leopold sceptically, “How do I control this thing?”

“To move forward, nudge Olivier on the ribs with your heel. To go left, pull on the left side of the reigns, to go right on the right side and most importantly to stop, pull back hard on the reigns,” said Leopold. I nodded and reached for the reigns but pitched sideways, loosing my balance. Leopold caught my waist, correcting my position again.

“Maybe we should start slower, yes?” he said and placed my hands on his broad shoulders. I could feel his muscle through the thin fabric of the shirt.

Leopold began walking sideways, and Olivier went with him, slowly. I managed to stay on, keeping balance with my hands on his shoulders.

“There you go,” he said smiling up at me, “ready to try it on your own?”

“Okay,” I agreed. This wasn’t so bad after all.

Leopold handed me Olivier’s reigns and, reluctantly, I released his shoulders. There was a

brief flash of panic as I realised that I was on my own but then excitement took over

when I didn’t fall off immediately. I was ridding a horse freakin’ sideways!

I made a circle, just as Phillipa had done, and then made my way back to Phillipa, Hugo and

Leopold. I turned a freakin’ horse, now I just had to remember how to stop. I pulled back

on the reigns, hard, just like Leopold had said. I must have gone a little overboard though,

or Olivier’s crazy instincts’ were returning because instead of just stopping, my damn

horse sopped and did a little hop, lifting his front feet of the ground and sending me out

of the saddle.

I braced myself, expecting the hard impact of the ground, confused when I was met with

something softer.

“Fred, Fred, are you alright?” came the heavily accented voice and concerned voice of

Leopold. I opened my eyes to meet Edwards; one green and one gold. I realised, to my

embarrassment that I was laying in his lap on the ground. He must have caught me.

“Yes, I’m fine. Thanks for catching me.”

Leopold smiled, relieved, and helped me to my feet.

“No worries, Winifred, just brush it off and try again,” encouraged Phillipa. I looked at her

disbelievingly.

“No, I think Fred is done for today,” said Leopold firmly.

Phillipa’s face fell into a pout, “Fine, but if she isn’t ready tomorrow, you cant blame me.”

Leopold and I left then, leaving the others behind and stupid Olivier munching on some hay.

“Thanks again.” I told Leopold.

He glanced down at me concerned, “You sure you are not injured?”

“Only my pride,” I assured him.

We came to a halt when we reached the castle doors. “Will you be alright from here?” asked Leopold. “I really should get back to the meeting if possible.”

“I’ll be fine. Have fun.”

“Oh yeah, it’s like a party up there,” said Leopold rolling his eyes. Then he kissed my knuckles and left.

The Castle DuMont was in a flurry of action the next morning. Angela who me up, force

fed me some breakfast and the got me ready for the parade. I was dressed in almost

Victorian styled clothes, with a long royal blue skirt, lace shirt with a high necked collar

and a royal blue blazer. Angela pinned back my hair and managed to balance a very

ornate and flowery blue hat on my head. She helped me into my ridding boots and

handed me a pair of white lace gloves. The over all affect was quite lovely.

“You are assembling together in the foyer,” Angela told me as we headed through the

halls.

I was the first to arrive. There were a few other maids and security guards, standing near

the walls. Angela straightened my hat and then went to join them. Phillipa and Hugo came

down the stairs a few minutes later. Phillipa was dressed similar to me, but completely in

white. Hugo was in his usual chinos, dress shirt and jacket. He kissed his girlfriend on

the cheek and then took a step off to the side. Phillipa came jumping over to me.

“You look great, Winifred! Aren’t you excited?” she chirped excitedly.

I was more nervous and or horrified than excited but agreed with her anyway, “Can’t wait.”

“Great, the other are just going to arrive and then we will get ourselves all lined up and

head off,” She pursed her lips at my hat, reaching up to adjust it. Apparently my hat was

having self esteem issues and was refusing to stay in place.

Hector and Rose came next and I had to hold back a bit off laughter. Hector was

wearing white pants with a dark blue stripe up the sides. His jacket was dark blue as well

and had a bunch of complicated white detailing, silver buttons and shoulder pads with

white fringe. There were a series of colourful medals gleaming on his chest. He had white

gloves and shoes on and something tucked beneath his arm. Rose joined Hugo and

Hector made his way over to Phillipa and I.

“Don’t you two look all fancy,” he said smiling.

“Not too bad yourself Hector,” I told him.

’You haven’t even seen the best part yet,” he said as he pulled out the thing from under his arm. It turned out to be a very big, blur had with an extravagant white plume hanging down the front, into his eyes.

I couldn’t help the giggle that escaped my lips as he shook his head, “Very dashing.”

Leopold joined us a few moment later in the same clothes as Hector except the sword that was belted to his waist. What did he need that for, crowd control? I though M. Arsnault said there wasn’t a death penalty.

Leopold caught me staring and offered up an explanation, “Part of the costume.”

“Is it real?” I wondered.

“Very,” he said pulling it out of the sheath slightly so that I could se the blade.

“Do you know how to use it?”

“I was trained how to fight with over twenty different kinds of blades.”

I whistled, “Wouldn’t want to get in your way in a kitchen.”

He laughed but then his face turned serious, “You look very nice, Fred. Blue looks lovely with your complexion.”

I blushed, looking down at his pearly shoes, “Thanks.”

Everyone suddenly snapped to attention as the King and Queen appeared at the top of the stairs. Felip was dressed similar to his sons, but completely in blue, more medals and no funny hat. Beatrice was in a beautiful, creamy pantsuit. We all bowed accordingly.

Finally all here, we exited the castle. Leopold offered me his arm as we made our way down the white steps. The beasts were at the bottom, being held in place by various guards and stable hands. A group of the Royal Guard was standing beside their own horses waiting to mount and guide us through the streets.

Felip and Beatrice took their seats in a beautiful horse drawn carriage towards the rear. Leopold directed me to where our horses waited, side by side, in front of the carriage. Leopold, lifted me into my saddle and then mounted his own black steed, Jacqueline.

Phillipa and Hector saddled up in front of us, then there was the piping of a horn, the click of heels and the guards where up and we where off.

I cringed, waiting for something to happen or something terrible to go wrong, but it never did. It turns out that Oliver likes to show off and look all pretty so was on his best behavior. I think it helped that he had to follow the horses in front of us so I didn’t even need to give him direction.

I could hear cheering as we approached the castle gates. There were people lining the streets, waving flags, screaming and holding up signs. Some of them were crying or belting out what I presumed to be the Solisian National Anthem. This was ridiculous, it was like we were famous or something. Not knowing what else to do, I plastered a smile across my face and waved trying to keep my butt firmly in place on Olivier.

We rode around through the Old Town until about noon. At some point, people had started throwing flowers at our procession and Leopold had caught one, handing it to me. I smiled in thanks and fastened it to my lapel.

We made it back to the castle and, without hesitation; I jumped out of the saddle and threw my arms around Leopold neck, “I did it!”

Leopold was stiff for a moment, but the wrapped his arms around me. “Je suis très fière de toi,” he murmured.

Someone cleared their throat and I was brought back to reality. I blushed furiously, stepping away from Leopold. I had just made a very bad faux pas. Most of the guard and the Royal Family were staring at us, luckily, they didn’t seem angry. Minus Hector, who was confused, and Rose, who was plain pissed off; the rest of them looked like they had swallowed a canary.

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