We always made sure to clean the hallways that seem to go on forever in one direction and again in the other. Every small spot of the palace was to be left in an order that is fit to be clean and able to reflect some manner of light. Thus making the maintenance of the building that much more long and arduous, but because we have a large workforce, the work can be completed in a day, and done again every first day of the second week. This included sweeping the halls, dusting the shelves, watering and caring for the garden and many other small details that should not be overlooked. This also meant that the newer servants, like myself, had a chance to get to know the building better as we cleaned. Otherwise, it would take months or years to get used to the long maze like hallways that some of us would instinctively avoid. As beautiful as the palace is, the one aspect missing for such a castle would be its ruler… the Prince.
“We have finished for today,” said Lilia to the group of ten servants. We are are made up of five groups throughout the castle, and along with one leader of per group, we have fifty-five servants all living in the castle. No one showed their displeasure when they finished their chores, as exhausting as it was, since it would be unsightly and an offense to the ruler of the castle… even if there wasn’t one.
“What is the next order of business?” I asked.
“Like always, we standby and wait,” said Lilia, our group leader. This was the norm ever since a few years ago. We all scattered around and went our separate ways to meet up with our friends in other groups, or returned to our rooms to continue with our studies. In my case, I just roamed the halls to a certain place in mind. If we hear a bell ringing, then that means that we have a guest and that we should act accordingly. This bell can only be heard by wearing a special earring worn only by us servants. I then made it to my destination after about a good ten minutes.
It was a garden full of Talica’s most famous and rare plants, an area created to please royalty. I sat on the grass and kept myself closer to the flowers that were just planted not even a week ago. Calla Lily, as I recalled, were the name of these flowers that somewhat seemingly swirl out from its core in beautiful colors of red, pink and purple, but most dominantly white. Just looking at them makes time go by as I lose myself in their construct.
“Are these new?” asked a voice from behind me, and taking me mildly by surprise.
“Yes, these were imported a while ago,” I said, and I looked back to the person and if only she did not see the horror in my eyes I had showed her. I get up immediately and bow deeply to apologize to the young girl now in front of me as she makes her way to the flowers.
“Your Royal Highness Princess of Talica, please forgive me,” I said, still bowing in a curtsy manner. I was caught off guard. “I did not know you were in the Prince’s castle, and I’ve let your Highness see an unsightly side of me.”
“Stop,” she said, and I did so before I continued to apologize and embarrass myself any further. She didn’t wear a dress and would often wear common clothing that always seemed to please her very much. No frilly dress, just pants and a very nice shirt because otherwise Her Majesty the Queen would be troubled. She lowered herself to smell the flowers. “Where is Lili?”
“She should be with the other servants,” I said. “Shall I go fetch her?”
“No,” said the princess. “You will keep me company.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” I followed the princess around the garden without uttering a word to her. She checks on every small detail of the flowers and smells their fragrance once in a while.
I tried keeping myself in check even as I stare at her shadow. It follows her, as do I, but its shape changes routinely even when the princess stands still. I’ve heard before that this is her guardian, a royal beast of the family and a constant vigilance to protect her highness from incident.
We then walk to a room separated from the garden and into a larger hallway. It is an open hallway with the garden in its view and I’m afraid we aren’t allowed here, that is, us servants. I followed her highness to a room I knew full well that we were not allowed near from or entering. It was his room, the room of our missing Prince. The Princess paced herself towards it, and out of sheer habit I stopped for a moment, hesitating and reminding myself of the words repeating in my head that I am not allowed here. Then I look to our Princess, who could not be more than ten years old, and she did not hesitate once to turn the knob.
It was dark inside with what seemed to be a window now shut out from the outside world, brick by brick carefully placed where the opening should have been. The young princess lifts her hand and turns on the few candles in the room that melted near their core and now drip hot wax around themselves. Fire, our princess used a basic element she mastered at such a young age to turn the candles on at the lift of her hand, where many would fail and incinerate the room with lack of control.
As expected. The room was covered in dust except for a few foot steps that appeared recent. The young princess looked around, as if to reminisce of her younger brother, Prince Liel, who is about three years her junior. She then raised her arm to the bricked in window and it began to glow brightly, almost blindingly. Before I knew what happened, I was laying down on the floor, covered by her guardian shadow and could not hear or see what was going around me. It was complete darkness for no more than a second. Then the shadow removes itself from me and I began hearing a breeze entering the room from the outside. The window had been opened forcefully and yet it seemed as if nothing had been disturbed except for the bricks that once shut the window tightly.
The princess walked to the window and pressed herself against it to take a look outside. We were on the tenth floor of the castle, so I couldn’t help but near myself to her in case something happened.
“Do not worry yourself,” she said. “If you get too close, Dane will take you for an enemy.” I heed her words and back myself a few steps.
“What’s going on?” asked a voice from the door. I look back to see Lilia and others with lances and staffs at the read, but then Lilia signals them to stop and back away.
“Your Royal Highness,” said Lilia. She bows and waits for the princess to speak. Lilia normally escorts and keeps guests accompanied should they need anything during their visit in the castle. Lilia then looks to me and I shrug because I was the one accompanying the princess.
“I want this room cleaned,” said the princess, and from outside a group of the servants enter and began to follow orders. The princess then leaves with myself following behind because she did not dismiss me. “You too, Lili, come with me.”
“Ma’am,” said Lilia, “we were not aware of your visit.” Lilia made sure to place herself between myself and the princess. “I also have certain qualms about letting the room be cleaned as it is an order directly from the Queen herself to keep all away.”
“Then let me ask you,” said the young princess. “Who is your ruler? Who is it that you must obey every command even should this person’s order go against another monarch?”
I would imagine that to be the Queen?
“The Prince, your Highness,” said Lilia.
“Then do not bother yourself with such matters. If mother is angered by this, then I will see to it that I am the one held responsible.”
We remain walking in good distance to the princess, following her to the garden from before. Then moments later a large dark figure appears from above and with quick speed as it makes its way to us. I brought my arms up to protect out of habit to fend off against the unnaturally strong wind, and I notice that this did no faze Lilia and the princess as I squinted my eyes to see them. Then it became clear as day.
It was a giant bird, a phoenix to be exact and one of five remaining in this world. It looks to me, and lets out a soft cry that calms and soothes my mind. It was ability known to only the phoenix. From behind the bird, a young girl leaps from its back and lands near the princess. Both Lilia and I bow in a curtsy manner knowing full well who has appeared before us.
“Sister,” said Her Royal Highness First Princess of Talica, Princess Nes. “I saw a large explosion from my castle–” she looks at the Prince’s room that isn’t too far away, where many servants were currently cleaning. “Don’t tell me I am looking straight at the culprit.” Her long and beautiful hair was of the darkest hues, almost a blood red but visibly a dark purple also because of the light that shined above us.
“…Well, I can’t say I’m surprised,” Said Nes, she walks to Lilia and I and she offers her hand. We shake it and Lilia goes to bring the two somewhere to seat themselves. Before long, we had established a table in the garden and seating for two with the help of other servants. The phoenix lay down and a few of the servants bring the bird some food for it and it happily chows it down.
In the mean time, the two Princesses converse far from our ears, as requested.
“What do you think they are talking about?” I asked Lilia.
“Aren’t you curious?”
Our group leader was like this, always one to follow rules and we admired her for that. However, she might sometimes take her job too seriously, that it almost seems to be draining her of what truly makes her the person standing beside me.
“Do you think Our Prince is alive and well?”
“We can only hope so,” she said. Lilia began walking off to the two and I follow after.
“I’m off, then,” said Princess Nes. Her phoenix bird lays down its neck and the princess climbs on and leaves waving goodbye. We bow. And now we remain with the youngest of the sisters.
“Where is she being housed?”
“Who might you be referring to, Ma’am?” I asked, but before the princess answered, Lilia cut in.
“She’s being jailed on the basement floor,” said Lilia.
“How is her health?”
“Her magic stones did their work on impact but there is still some damage to her back,” explained Lilia, and I’m here wondering who she might be talking about. “I’ve already received permission to let you see her.”
“And the young man?”
“He has been moved to her Majesty’s castle dome, and is being guarded as we speak,” said Lilia.
“Very well, take me to the basement jail cells,” ordered the young Princess.
This would be an odd thing to do, as we follow the young princess around now that we head to the lowest floors of the castle. What is strange is that we follow someone who is not the royal who we have sworn oath of fealty and no one else, not even her Majesty the Queen, something I had momentarily forgotten. However, this is a special occasion to house and obey within reason another royal different from our own… should ours be missing.
We finally reach a flight of stairs that will lead us many floors down and into the jail cells specially made for magic users to keep them restrained. After about ten minutes, we reach the lowest floors where a hallway of jails could be seen. We could hear every bit of contact that our shoes made against the hard stone and the echoes that came along with it. It was dark here, and hard to see ahead of us, but that didn’t seem to be a problem for the princess and so I kept following with confidence as she lead the way.
We suddenly stop. Someone lay down on a bed in a jail cell in front of us. The very small openings of light on the wall to let ventilation in barely shed any light on the person. From what I could see, she wore this black dress, almost as if mourning.
Who is this?