Ella felt silly for all her hopelessness and worries as she followed after the King's servant, who she had found standing outside her door when she'd finished dressing. The emissary was nowhere in sight, but she didn't mind.
Why had she let a mere setback get her so down? Of course there would be another hope, another way to see if the path she most desired was the right path - and then to walk down it.
The appealing scents of various cooked meats and breads grew stronger as they came closer to the dining room and made Ella aware that she had skipped supper the night before. Her stomach let out a growl and she smiled sheepishly at the servant, who kindly smiled back in return.
"What is your name?" she asked the man, suddenly curious.
"I am Liam, miss."
"That's a good strong name, Liam."
"Thank you, miss."
She smiled, and then realized that they had passed the dining room and were headed onward, toward the King's wing of the palace. "Why did we pass the dining room?"
Liam chuckled softly. "His majesty wishes to dine with you in his quarters, I imagine it is for the sake of avoiding your step-family, if it does not offend for me to say so, miss."
Ella smiled at the thought of the King avoiding Amelia. What had she said to drive him off so soon? They;d only had maybe two or three meals together thus far.
They finally came to the ornate door that marked the entrance to the King's quarters and Ella found herself intimidated. The door itself was so large, it looked almost too heavy for a normal person to move.
Liam knocked heavily three times, and then opened the door with apparent ease and announced her.
"The young lady, your Highness."
Liam stepped aside and Ella cautiously moved into the room. She located the King in the room, and dropped a curtsey to him.
"That's all, Liam," the King called out. "You can leave now. Do keep those women away from here, though. I can't handle the lot of them."
Liam nodded and left the room, silently closing the door behind him. Ella found herself nervous at being alone with the King, until he was overcome by a coughing fit. She hadn't heard of the King being sick, especially not with a bad cough. Forgetting her manners, she rushed to his side to support him as the cough racked his body and doubled the big man over. When it had finally subsided, he patted her hand on his shoulder and smiled at her.
"Thank you, sweet Ellandria."
Elle drew back in surprise. "How...How do you know my name, Highness."
The king waved as though dismissing something. "Call me Albert, please. Your father was a dear friend of mine, many years ago. Did anyone ever tell you who you were named after?"
Ella shook her head. Come to think of it, that was a very good question. Ellandria wasn't exactly a common name in the area, how had her father come up with it?
"Sit, dear," the King instructed, gesturing to a nearby chair, "and have some food. I'll tell you stories about your parents."
"Somebody's in trouble."
Amelia resisted the urge to cringe at the grating sound of the singsonged words. She slowly turned in her chair to look at the culprit. "Whatever do you mean, Altheus?"
"Just that, miss. You're in trouble. Or Priscilla is, depending on how you look at it."
Amelia straightened her spine slightly. "Priscilla? What has that child done now?"
"More like what she hasn't done." The fae answered, grinning that horrible, jagged-toothed grin of his. "Which would be gaining a private audience with the King to win his favor."
Amelia sniffed in disdain. "The King is weakening by the moment, his favor won't matter much longer. Aside from that, he won't grant an audience to anyone, not a private one anyway."
"If I were you, Altheus whispered, "I'd find a way."
Amelia's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Why?"
The fae smiled that revolting smile again, making her stomach feel uneasy at once. He really was a horrible creature, and if he hadn't been so useful to her up to this point, she'd certainly have had him killed by now for that crime alone. But he was useful, and seclusion was hard to find, and she was afraid of losing the fellow anyway. It was his magic that had re-sized Elle's precious glass slippers, which her ridiculous mother had worn on her wedding day. Amelia needed to move up in the world again, and Altheus was the way she was going to do it. All she had to do was convince her dolt of a daughter to kill the prince mere days after they were wed. Timing was, of course, going to be the key in that mission. Priscilla was an impressionable girl, easily guided by anonymous whispers from the shadows. The timing would most certainly be the challenge.
Nevertheless, it would work. It had to. She couldn't stay as Hillshire's Lady anymore. She needed something more, something bigger, something....powerful.
'Queen' was right up her alley.
"An audience with the King, you say? Well, that shouldn't be too hard."
Philip slept far into the day and attributed that to the fact that he'd been talking with Priscilla far into the night. She had proven more interesting than he'd expected, having quite a calm personality when she was not around the other one - Anastasia was it? They were like amplifiers of each other, each one feeding back the nothingness at less and less ignorable volumes.
But when she was not with Anastasia, Priscilla could be herself, as she had been the night before. He'd learned that she loved books, especially the love stories like Romeo and Juliet. When he'd asked her why, finding it a particularly morose and macabre piece himself, she'd simply said that it was her dream to be loved like that. He asked if she had ever been loved, suspecting after meeting the woman that her mother was not very giving in her affections toward her daughters. Priscilla had wept, telling him of her father and how much she missed him, how she resented her mother for killing him and everyone else for not believing her. She clung to him, with her head rested on his shoulder, and wept for her loss for a little while before they moved on to discuss other things.
This morning, he was to take a walk with her and learn about her favorite things to see in a garden. Perhaps he'd learn enough that this cruel fate which had robbed him of the woman he truly wanted, would not feel so cruel after all. Perhaps he could grow to like her, learn her interests and hobbies, and perhaps one day he would even love her.
Yes, he thought to himself as he pulled his boots on, he may even come to love her. Then this whole blasted mess wouldn't be so bad anyway.