I was awake by a knock on my door. “Enter.” I answered as I stretched.
The door opened as I sat down slowly. It was Cristina, one of my handmaidens.
“Good morning, Cristina.” I smiled, rubbing my eyes.
“Good morning, milady.” She bowed. “I hope I did not bother your sleep too much.” She apologized.
“It’s alright, Cristina.” I reassured. “Is anything the matter?” I enquired.
“It’s eight in the morning, Your Grace,” She started. “And we are currently preparing your breakfast but we do not know whether you want it in bed or in the dining room.” She continued.
“I’d like to have breakfast with Charles.” I smiled as I looked to the couch on the foot of my bed, hoping I would find Charles sleeping… but I was disappointed.
“Where is Charles?” I quickly questioned, baffled and worried.
“Oh, he’s in the garden with Lord Antoine.” She informed. Lord Antoine?! He’s already here?!
“Lord Antoine is already here in the castle?” I asked.
“Yes, milady, he arrived very early.” She answered. “Prince Charles attended to him as he arrived.” She continued.
That was very… welcoming of Charles. I then stood up and started to fix my bed.
“Oh, Your Grace, let me do that.” Cristina quickly attempted to stop me from fixing my own bed. Seriously, do they think I’m that’s spoiled?
“No, it’s alright, Cristina.” I answered, reassuring her. “I make my own bed in Ireland so there’s nothing to worry about.” I continued. “On the other hand, please send my breakfast to the garden. I will be joining Prince Charles and Lord Antoine.”
“Understood, milady.” She bowed. “Would there be anything else? Would you like to have a bath before breakfast?” she asked.
Hm, a nice bath would do. I wouldn’t want to smell like a dirty sewer rat in front of a guest. “Of course. Lemon suds, please.” I requested.
“As you wish, Your Grace.” She bowed. She went on her way. After fixing my bed, I decided to look out the window, seeing the beautiful mountains beyond. I once wished I would climb that mountain. And I’m still wishing I would.
I heard a sudden thud on the wall. I looked around to see nothing. But that loud thud came from my room, on the right corner by the painting of our castle. I walked to that wall, put the painting aside and put my ear against it, hoping maybe the thud came from there.
And I wasn’t mistaken! I heard it again! Here, in this very wall! I touched everywhere in the wall, hoping I could find a secret entrance… and it looks like I did. At one part of the wall, it felt like it was lighter. I knocked and it sounded like a wood. I pushed with a little force and the piece of wood opened.
It showed a secret passageway. Could someone be using this tunnel? Could this secret passageway be made and used by our enemies? To kill me? To destroy my family? Oh, the things our enemies could do with this passageway!
Or… it can be used… by me…
“Milady?” someone started knocking on my door. It’s my handmaidens! They must not discover this passageway.
“One moment, please.” I quickly replied to their call. I quickly closed the wooden door and hung the painting back to its place on the wall. I fixed myself and said, “You may come in.”
The door opened and my list of handmaidens headed to my bathroom to prepare for me.
“Milady, are you alright?” Cristina walked towards me. “You sounded like you panicked when you heard us arrive.”
“I am alright.” I lied. “I was just… startled because I was doing my morning ritual.” I continued. I may not be a good liar but I do hope my reasoning is effective.
“You are easy to scare then.” She replied. I sense like she’s thinking of something bad.
“Not that easily. Just when someone interrupts my time alone.” I answered.
“Your Grace?” a handmaiden called from the bathroom. I looked to her. “Your bath is ready now.” She informed.
I nodded. “Thank you.”
Well, we wouldn’t want to keep Charles and Lord Antoine waiting.
As I walk down the steps to the garden, I sighted Charles with Lord Antoine, engaged in what it seems like a very happy and light conversation. That means they get along quite well, which is a good thing. As I got nearer, Charles finally turns his head and sees me.
He then stood up to greet me. I can see him he excused himself for a moment to attend to me. “Good morning, lovely.” He greeted with a smile as he walked towards me.
I giggled. “And good morning to you, early bird.” I replied. We then shared a hug. “I see you have attended to our guest and it’s very kind of you to wake up early to accommodate him.” I continued, praising Charles.
He chuckled. “Well, the guards knocked too early and I didn’t want to disturb you so I took the liberty of attending to Lord Antoine myself.” He explained. “Thank you for the compliment, as well.” He quickly added.
“Thank you very much for that, Charles.” I thanked, holding his hands. “You have such a good heart. You’re born to be a ruler, a ruler with compassion.”
He smiled a big smile. I can feel he melted with my words. “You just woke up and flowery words already have entered my ears.” He responded, trying to contain his smile. “Thank you for completing my day.”
We shared a small giggle together.
“Anyways, why don’t we introduce you to Lord Antoine now?” he offered. “He’s been very anxious and excited to meet you.”
I sighed, going along with the game.
As we reached the table, Charles called him. “Lord Antoine?”
As Lord Antoine stood up, he turned to us. He has a slight beard all over his cheek, chin and under his nose. He looks quite old for me.
“May I present to you the lovely Princess Ameira of Scotland.” Charles introduced.
Lord Antoine then walked to me and game a kiss on my hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Princess Ameira.” He smiled.
“Please, do call me Ameira only. I don’t like being called as a ‘princess’.” I smiled as I pulled back my hand slightly.
He chuckled. “That’s very… humble of you, Princess Ameira. No wonder the people of Scotland adores you.” He replied.
“That is a very generous compliment of yours, Lord Antoine.” I thanked. “It has been my custom and promise to life that I shall be a queen of compassion, not just law and order.” I continued.
“A very well put heir.” Lord Antoine then turned to Charles. “Her parents have raised her well.”
“That is a fact.” Charles agreed. “Growing up with Ameira, I knew she would grow up to be a lovely person and a very powerful queen indeed.”
Charles then turned to me. “Want to sit?”
I nodded with a smile.
Charles lend me his seat as he stood behind me. Lord Antoine then sits down once more.
“I heard you’ve just come home from the Irish courts.” Lord Antoine started the conversation.
“Um, yes. I’ve spent quite some time there to learn the ways of parliament and court.” I started. “It was the way of my parents for me to learn the cunning ways of people in power.” I continued.
“And have you enjoyed your time there?” he enquired.
“Of course. Seeing lovely places is what I enjoyed most in Ireland.” I smiled. “I am planning on bringing my family their for a vacation some time.”
“Have you been Ireland, my lord?” I asked.
“Yes. I visited Ireland last week for selling of resources.” He answered with quite an arrogant attitude.
“Really?” I showed a little hint of interest even though I am not.
“Yes. Surely you must’ve seen me there.”
“Oh, I do apologize but last week, I was in court watching how they sentence justice to criminals.” I responded.
“And how do they serve justice?” he questioned another one.
“Some are light, some have a little weight and some are… dreadful.” I explained. “It’s a worst comes to worst basis in their court.” I continued.
Some of the guards suddenly walked to Charles and I.
“Your Highnesses,” one of the guards started. “We have updates on the case of Prince Alexander. Perhaps you would like to talk about it.”
Charles and I then looked to each other. We both know how important this case is to us but we cannot abandon our guest. That would be rude of us. He then holds my hand and gives me a reassuring smile.
“I’ll go.” He said, turning to the guards. “I will be right back, I promise.” He replied, turning back to me. He then gives my hand a kiss.
“Pardon me for a moment, Lord Antoine. There is one business that I have to attend to.” He smiled to Antoine.
“It’s alright, Charles. Just be sure you’ll return before I leave.” Lord Antoine reminded Charles.
“Of course.” He gave a slight bow. He smiled to me once more and headed on his way with the guards. I hate it when he leaves me in cases like this. I’m not very good in handling guests. I did not develop my social skills that much.
“So,” Lord Antoine started. “Since Charles is gone, perhaps we can converse on a more serious matter.” He continued.
“What do you mean?” I answered, needing verification on what he means.
“About our marriage.”
He already knows?! Did Charles tell him about it?! “I’m sorry?”
“You must be told that we are bound to be wed.” Lord Antoine responded. “Your father has told me about it. Surely, he brought this subject to you.”
“He did.” I said. “But… the decision is still in my hands… and I’m still choosing Charles to be my husband.” I continued.
“So, feelings first before country?” he smirked.
“Wisdom without words and love is nothing.” I replied. “Is there a problem with that?”
“You may following your heart but… is it the right move for your country and your people?” he asked back.
“What are you trying to implement on me?” I snapped. “That I am a foolish future ruler of Scotland? That I cannot take care of my people? That my country will not be safe in my hands?” I continued throwing conclusions. He is insulting my capability to rule Scotland, my home.
“All I’m saying is that a queen must be ruthless and cunning, even more than her future king.” Lord Antoine answered. “Yes, a queen with a heart is loved. But will love help your country survive especially at these times when everyone is at war? To be a queen at this era, you must be smart. Brains are needed now, not hearts.” He continued.
“And who are you to dictate what I should do? Are you my king?”
“I am your future husband. And as my future queen, you must follow me in everything that I tell you.” Ha! How brave of him to say that he’s my future king. Never will I let Scotland be in the hands of this no-good lord.
“May I remind you, Lord Antoine, that you are in my home and you have no right to dictate what I am supposed to do.” I started as I stood up. “And also, only my father wants me to be wed to you but that doesn’t mean it’s final.”
“He’s the king. Whatever he says goes.”
“Not in Scotland.” I responded. “My father consults with my mother and I before he makes any decisions. And that is a sign of a true rule.”
I don’t want to boast about my father but it is but the truth. Being a ruler isn’t just about power and all the material things you’ll have. It’s always about your country and your people. It’s always about the welfare of my country. Brains are needed but like what I said: wisdom without heart is completely useless.
He then takes a quick sip from his tea. “I can see why your father’s having a hard time controlling you. I assume that when we marry, you will take over me rather than me take over you.”
“Then I guess Scotland isn’t for you, Lord Antoine.” I answered.
“Do you honestly think that I am to give up that easily?” he replied, arrogantly. “You may be in control today but once we are husband and wife, I’ll break your backbone and you’ll surrender to me for the rest of your life.” He continued as he walked to me, his voice changed from nice to absolute darkness.
“If you think that you can scare me with your threats, you’re wrong.” I answered, trying to contain my fear in my body.
“Is that so?” he asked with the smile of the devil.
I nodded, trying to keep a brave face against this demon in front of me.
“Then why is your breath shaking?” Oh no, he noticed. “Even a future queen such as you has a weakness and I’m seeing you are not as strong as you think you are.” He continued.
“I am stronger than you think.” I answered, feeling anger rush into my veins.
“Oh, I would love to see that… and then crush it like a piece of grain.” He growled.
“Ameira.” Charles’ voice finally rescued me from the darkness I feel with Lord Antoine. I will not marry this bastard. My country would not be taken care of if he was king.
“Ameira,” Charles finally reached me. “I have something very important to tell y–” he stopped talking when he held my hand. He must’ve felt me shaking.
“Well, I must retire now to my room.” Antoine then switches back to his costume of goodness. “Thank you for the wonderful breakfast, Charles.” He smiled at Charles. “Your Highness…” he bowed to me and walked away.
As Lord Antoine disappeared from our sight, I started to panic, trying to push Charles away from me.
“Don’t push me away, Ameira.” Charles comforted me. “Sit down.”
He helped me sit down, holding me gently like I’m something very fragile. He then knelt in front of me, holding my hand.
“Why are you shaking?” Charles started to ask. “What did he say to you? Did he hurt you?”
“He… he didn’t hurt me…” I replied softly, still shaking.
“Okay, calm down, Ameira.” He continued to comfort me, rubbing my hands. “What happened when I was gone?”
“He… he cannot be the king of Scotland. He has no heart.” I started. “He said he will make me surrender to him no matter how he does it. I don’t think he’ll take care of my people. I fear, I fear the worst.” I continued, starting to panic and burst into tears.
“Sshh, sshh, Ameira.” Charles then pulled me into his arms. “It’s alright, I am here now. He will not hurt you.” He continued.
We then stopped hugging. “Ameira, do you honestly believe that your father would let you marry this man if he knows he’s going to hurt you?” he asked.
“I don’t think my father cares about my safety anymore. All he cares for now is what Scotland needs.” I sniffled.
Charles then wiped some of the tears that are starting to fall down on my cheeks. “Well, do you think I would let that bastard hurt you?” he asked.
I looked to him, finding comfort with just the sight of his honey brown eyes.
“Ameira…” He started, cupping my face gently in his hands. “Even if your father wants you to marry Lord Antoine and if you two get married, I will never let him hurt you. He will die with my hand if he tries to.” He continued.
“So, don’t you worry too much. I won’t let anything happen to you.” He smiled. “Now, don’t cry.” He started to wipe my tears away.
“I am here.” He then gives me a soft peck on my forehead.
Never did I felt I wasn’t safe in Charles’ arms. He knows how to comfort me and assure me that everything will be alright. And everything he says is always true. I know Charles can protect me from whatever danger that may surface. And I am thankful for his presence.
“Thank you, Charles.” I thanked as I caressed his face. “You always know how to assure me I will be fine.” I continued.
“Anyways, what is it that you wanted to tell me? How did it go with the guards’ reports?” I changed the subject and the mood.
“The guards have investigated your incident with Prince Alexander. And a witness surfaced.” He said, his voice sounding very triumphant.
“A witness??” I asked in bewilderment. “What did the witness say?” I quickly asked more.
“It’s confirmed that… my mother did pay Prince Alexander… to take your virtue so you would not be wed to me.” Charles replied, disappointed.
“Oh… I am sorry to hear that, Charles.” I answered.
“You’re sorry?” he questioned, baffled.
“I know how your mother means so much to you.” I started. “And for you to know that she’s the one behind Alexander’s attempts, I know it’s disappointing for you. You would forgive your mother, right?” I continued.
“Forgive her? After what she did to you, you want me to forgive her?” he responded. I think he’s starting to grow mad at me.
“Well, what she did is unacceptable but Charles, she’s your mother still.” I protested. “I know what she did was wrong but I know she only did that because she loves you and she doesn’t want your future to be ruined.” I explained.
“Ameira, she may be my mother but what she did to you is highly unacceptable.” He replied. “She just put your life at risk and you’re expecting me to forgive her for what she did?”
“You may not forgive her now but in the near future.” I answered, trying to convince him.
I don’t want Charles’ relationship with his mother be torn by what she did to me. She will still end up blaming me for that and that may cause her to hate me more than she already does now.
The trumpets suddenly started their fanfare. My family as back.
Charles and I head to the gates to welcome my family home from their journey. As the carriage stopped, my family came out one by one.
“Hello there, lovelies.” I happily greeted my sisters as they ran to my arms. “Did you have fun on your little sleepover?” I enquired.
“Yes, we did.” Iris said.
“Look, Ameira, I found this shiny marble in my room this morning. Auntie said I could keep it.” Anny intervened as she showed me a big blue marble.
“Wow, that is a jewel. Did you thank Auntie for that?” I asked.
“Yes and she said it’s okay for me to take it home.” Anny answered happily.
“Marvelous. Why don’t you two go to your rooms and take a rest? I’ve asked the handmaidens to prepare your meal for today.” I smiled. They quickly ran inside, more than happy to be home.
“Mother.” I smiled as I walked to Mother and hugged her.
“Good morning, darling. Are you alright?” she checked.
“Yes, Mother. Charles was more than happy to babysit.” I giggled.
Charles giggled as well. “Well, your daughter isn’t that hard to guard.”
“Ameira.” Father greeted me with a hug. I hugged slightly. “Did Lord Antoine arrive already?”
“Father, the first thing you can think about when you arrive is the bastard you want me to marry.” I snapped.
Charles walked to my side, calming me down. “Yes, Your Majesty. He arrived early this morning. I took the liberty of entertaining him while Ameira was still sleeping. They met already.” Charles reported like a knight. He’s not supposed to do that. It’s not what he’s here for.
“Fantastic!” Father exclaimed. “How do you find him?” he asked me with a smile, a smile hoping that I would like him.
“I do not want to marry him, Father.” I replied.
“I can sense danger in him. You may be blind to see it but I felt and saw it.” I continued. “Scotland will not be safe in his hands. I’d rather marry Charles than that bastard.” I added.
“You’re thinking of his negative side only, child.” Father stopped my claims.
“And what is more important to you: your country or your daughter?” I asked.
“Of course, it’s you, Ameira. It’s just–”
“There we go.” I stopped him. “There is always a ‘but’ or ‘it’s just’.” I snapped. Silence came upon us as my rage entered my whole body.
“Choose: if you push my wedding with Lord Antoine… I’ll leave Scotland. If you let me marry Charles as I want to… Scotland will be stronger.” I gave my ultimatum. If he chooses Scotland over me… it’s set then.