Nieneve leant against the door and touched the place where he had kissed her cheek. How dare he, she thought, take such a liberty. She was grateful that he had come in to hide from the guard, but to kiss her...! She frowned and looked down at the rose. A speck of her own blood lay on one of the petals; a small blemish on an otherwise pure flower. She picked it up and sniffed the perfume once more. So sweet. It reminded her of home, of the roses near the swing... Xander... she should not have mentioned Xander. Anyone as tricky as the Prince would seize upon any leverage to get his way. She would have to tread carefully.
She undressed, taking care this time to close her windows in case anyone saw anything. Then she lay in bed and thought. She thought hard about Leopold, about his life, about his desires. She would have to find out about how he treated women, not the women of the court, but the women of the street whom he no doubt visited. But she would not be able to visit a brothel without causing a stir... unless...
The sudden thought in her head she drifted to sleep smiling.
The blinds were drawn, and Nieneve awoke to sunlight.
"My lady, good morning."
"Good morning." She smiled and stood, making her way over to Lania. "You look happy."
"My beau proposed to me last night my lady."
"Congratulations!" Nieneve grinned and hugged Lania who, after a shocked moment, returned the hug.
"Thank you my lady."
"I must get you an engagement gift."
"Oh no, my lady..."
"I insist!" Nieneve pondered as Lania helped her with her hair. "What would you like?"
"My lady I want nothing. But I almost forgot, here, Vadichi sent your dresses to the palace this morning."
"Oh... how quickly! Where are they?"
"Here my lady." Lania unfolded a parcel and three dresses were displayed, folded lovingly by their maker.
"Beautiful..." Nieneve whispered in awe as the dresses spilled over her inquisitive fingers. There was one in green, another in blue, and one a little more daring, in a wine red.
"They are my lady." Lania's voice was filled with awe, and Nieneve smiled.
"I shall have Vadichi make you a dress as my gift!"
"No!" Lania was shocked; such a gift would be more than any woman of her status had ever received. "You should not my lady."
"I shall. The next time I visit him, we shall have him make something for you. No arguments. Now, which dress shall I wear?"
Lania looked as though she wanted to argue but bit her tongue.
"The blue my lady. You always wear green, and the red is a little too... dramatic for daily use. I would save that until an important occasion."
"I agree. Very well, the blue. Thank you Lania."
She dressed and then made her way in to the gardens for a walk. The memory of the previous night was still fresh in her mind. Her plan was formulated, and she knew exactly how to find out the Prince's weakness.
"Sister, are you enjoying your walk?" Pharneus joined her at a bend in the path near the rose bushes.
"Pharneus, I need your help."
"I know how to get him to a position where he's not going to damage my reputation, no matter what. it's imperative if I am to be married and carry out your plan."
"What is it?"
"I need to talk to a whore."
Pharneus stared at her, and then began to laugh.
"You are joking?"
"No Pharneus. I need to speak to a whore that he has used, to see how he treats them. I want to know him, so I can keep him at bay. I want to know if he will use force when he does not get his way before the wedding."
"Alright, I see your logic. But how am I supposed to get a whore to speak with you?"
"You must know how to get one. And then before you have your way, I talk to her. Although I would rather think that you would not do anything with whores at all."
"You do not judge me, do you sister?" His tone chilled.
"No brother. Of course not. So can you organise for a whore, one that he has had, to come to the palace?"
"Finding one he has had might be difficult. Then again, if his reputation is correct, it might not. I shall try, for the sake of the plan sister."
"Now, another new dress? Are you attempting to displease the King on purpose?"
"No Pharneus. Vadichi was already making these before the King saw the first dress. I like it."
"Well it does show off your curves sister, but there is no... desirability to it. The dress you wore in your portrait..."
"Brother I feel that the Prince is already trying to bed me. I have to make myself as innocent as possible to both stop him, and make him think."
"I do not care about the politics of your relationship, as long as you are a virgin when you are married."
Pharneus spotted a friend he had made in the court and left without a goodbye to join him. Nieneve stopped at the seat which herself and the Prince had sat on last night. She wondered if he had thought of her afterwards, whether he was obsessing over touching her. She looked down at the dress she wore. It was a beautiful blue, almost identical to her eyes, and was trimmed with delicate silver thread. She had placed the silver belt she owned around her waist, and she thought this made her look pretty, although she could never hope to be as beautiful as people told her she was. She preferred this neckline too; although a small part of her shoulders were on show the neckline did not dip or plunge, just bowed gracefully so as not to show too much skin. Something as demure and innocent as this dress would do one or both of two things to the Prince. Firstly, it might make him desire her more, missing the low cuts of the previous dresses enough to make him wish to see her skin again. Something like this would make him slip up, act wrongly in public so that she could be seen as the forgiving girl who gave the bad prince a second chance, one which he would not take likely. Secondly, it might make him stop acting so brashly; with her more decent clothing covering her it might make him remember that she was innocent and not to be tampered with. Either way, she would and could use that to her advantage.
"My lady Nieneve." She turned and saw Leopold in front of her.
"Good morning your highness." She smiled, a genuine smile because she was actually happy to see him, but only to see which effect her dress had upon his behaviour. "Did you sleep well?"
"Very well. I find late night exercise rather sweetens the sleep, don't you?"
"I wouldn't know your highness."
"Ah of course." He smiled, and his eyes flicked to her dress. "You look... different today."
"A new dress your highness. Do you like it?" She span slowly, allowing him the full picture.