Another feast, this one in celebration of a good jousting tournament. Even if it was bad, there would have still been a feast. The people of Phareasia do not have very many chances for large dinings such as these, but will grasp at any opportunity to do so.
Fortunately the king decided to give the jousting feast a miss too, yet the tension was still running high as most of the room's attention was focused on Leopold and Apophis Vyper. Though most of the noblemen, the ones who had not been competing, had felt rather proud of the prince that day, they were unsure as to whether they should congratulate him on his victory. If was no secret that his uncle, the Hand of the king was furious.
Apophis' mean green eyes were fixed on his nephew the whole night. His stare was sharper than the knife that they used to cut into the feast's gigantic turkey, brought from the Giants' Islands, which was so far west of Phareasia that fools who believed the world to be round said that the Islands almost lay east.
Leopold sat quiet, avoiding meeting his uncle's gaze and mulling over the heated argument they had earlier. He had never seen Apophis angry before. He was always cold and composed. Neither could he believe that his uncle had ordered someone to practically baby-sit him, especially someone as odd and creepy as Silver the Shadow, as Leopold had nicknamed him.
Didn't his uncle trust him? Apophis trusts no one but himself, he thought to himself.
Perhaps he'll eventually discover a way to lose the Shadow. Maybe bribe him to disappear and leave him alone for a while. Or distract him with a pretty young whore. Silver the Shadow seemed like he hadn't been with a woman in a while. Leopold could always tell these things.
Nieneve's voice interrupted his internal dialogue.
"I fear if there's another feast tomorrow that I may grow fat, your royal highness." She smiled, but it was as hollow and forced as her joke. From beside her Leopold noticed that her brother watched his sister with the same intensity that Apophis was watching him. When Pharneus saw that the prince had noticed, he tore his gaze away from Nieneve and made a half-hearted attempt to converse with the slightly drunken nobleman on the other side of him.
"As long as you have enough room left for the wedding feast," replied Leopold to Nieneve, equally forced. That was the end of their short conversation. Neither attempted to start another conversation with each other or anyone else during the rest of the meal.
After the feast was over, Leopold returned to his bedchamber, but he wasn't there long before he decided to walk around the palace for a bit to calm the restlessness that had suddenly came over him.
He had not reached the end of the corridor before he sensed that Silver the Shadow trailing was behind him.
"Lovely day for a walk?" He called over his shoulder. The Shadow didn't respond but Leopold knew he was listening.
Then an idea came to the prince. Not far from where he was, in the same direction that he was walking, was a narrow corridor that was mostly hidden from view. Unless one knew where it was, it could easily be overlooked. Leopold had even missed it the first several times that he had searched for it.
If he was to stealthily slip down it, being a few paces ahead of Silver and in low lighting, there was a high possibility that he would disappear right before the Shadow's ever watchful eyes. If he was lucky, maybe the Shadow could fear it an act of black magic and flee from the castle fleeing, never to step foot in this kingdom again.
That would be too much to hope for, he thought, sighing. His escape route came into sight and he saw his chance and took it.
Soon he was out of the narrow passageway and back to walking down the wide halls. This time alone, he hoped.
Several minutes later, he was walking towards where Nieneve's bedchamber was. Perhaps she could cure his... restlessness, but just as he was about to turn the corner he heard a man's voice. Though it was hushed, it's tone was still angry and acidic.
"... If you don't ... We'll lose all that I've worked for ... And I'll never be ..." Even though Leopold was quite close, the voice kept drifting in and out of his hearing. Although he did recognised the voice as belonging to Pharneus Dracarys.
His sister responded. Though she sounded strong, her voice wavered slightly.
"I will not disappoint you, brother."
"You better not or you are now better than a common whore."
There was a pause. Then Leopold heard her say, "do not call me a whore."
Leopold heard something move quickly through the air and then collide with something else. He was sure she had hit him, but didn't move to investigate until he heard the quick footsteps storm off in the other direction.
When he finally thought it safe, he walked around and saw Nieneve standing there clutching her cheek, her eyes welling up with tears but she didn't dare cry. As he got closer, he noticed it was red and swelling.
She saw him and turned away, opening the door to enter her bedchamber.
"Wait!" He called after her, grabbing on to her wrist so she couldn't enter. She tried to pull away, but he held on to her.
Silver materialised from the shadows and placed a hand lightly on the prince's shoulder.
"I think the Lady Nieneve would rather be on her own at the moment."
Leopold nodded. He let go of her, but gently put her hand on her cheek. It felt hot where the blood had come the surface.
"When we are married, I promise that no man shall ever strike you again," he told her.