"Mr Vadichi, a pleasure to see you again."
"And you, Lady Dracarys." Artorus bowed and smiled at Nieneve. "What may I do for you this morning?"
"I would like another dress to be made. And I came to order a present, for Lania."
"Lania is to be married. My present to her is a dress."
"A wedding dress?" He asked, already measuring Lania with his eyes. Lania shook her head and bowed.
"No sir, I could not accept..."
"Lania." Nieneve stopped her. "If you would allow me, I would like this honour. But if you do not wish it, truly, I cannot take the honour away from whomever shall be presenting you with your dress."
"My lady I could not accept... It would be a great honour but my mother and father should have it I believe."
Nieneve smiled at her.
"Of course. Just a day dress, for special occasions then. Such as my wedding perhaps?" She turned back before any arguments could be made. "A dress for Lania then, and one more for myself."
"And what type of dress do you desire this time my lady?"
"Something I might wear while riding. I have a desire to see the country, and I fear that any of my old riding clothes would not suit, considering the company I would be keeping."
"Very well. And what colour would you like this dress to be in?"
"I think I will change my usual style. Plum purple. And I want a different, interesting design. Something eye-catching."
"I assume it is the Prince's eye you will be catching?" He said slowly.
"I have no one else to dress up for Artorus." She smiled. "Except perhaps myself."
"Very well. And what sort of design did you have in mind?"
"May I?" She pointed towards a piece of paper and pencil.
She took up the pencil and began sketching. A long dress flowed from the pencil, with a top that was fitted and had many small buttons to fasten it from the nape of the neck to the bottom of the back. The neckline was droplet like, curving round the neck and dropping to just before the breasts.
"Ah, you have an eye for detail Lady Nieneve! But surely all those buttons, would take so long to do up!" Lania murmured over her shoulder. Nieneve laughed lightly.
"The front would be where it was fastened, the back for show. Perhaps some clasps, like on the red dress?" She turned to Artorus.
"Yes... I believe I can do this. Lania is right, you have an eye for detail."
"I should have liked to perfect my drawing but it was not considered a worthy skill to my brother. Besides, I am not gifted. I know better artists than I, yourself included Monsieur." She gave him a small bow and allowed herself to think of Xander's skill at drawing for a moment. She had not allowed herself to think of him since she had mentioned him to the Prince; she was concerned that mentioning him too often would put him in danger, as he had been in danger from her brother all those years ago. He was the only secret she had ever kept.
"Well then my lady, I shall set to work immediately. And for Lania?" He mentioned.
"She may choose her own design. I want her to be comfortable. But I don't want it to be an every day dress. Something that is still modest; I would not want people thinking I am favouring you over them Lania, I hope you will forgive me." Lania bowed, smiling as though she could not believe Nieneve was being so generous. "But something special for her. A colour that she loves, something that will make her feel as beautiful as she is."
Nieneve smiled and left the two to discuss. She turned to the window and peered out at the guard which had escorted here. And most of all she looked at the strange servant who Apophis had assigned to her; who had originally been the Prince's. Something about him, besides his marks, made her feel like he was more than a usual servant. While the others shifted around, enjoying their freedom, he stood and watched everything, without moving. The guards would occasionally look at the building, or the surrounding ones, but he stood as still as a statue, and yet she knew he was watching her. She pretended not to notice him, and moved her eyes from the group to the view across the city. She was on the top floor of the building and so could see the buildings as they stretched against the skyline. This would one day be hers.
She shrank from the window as she shrank from the thought and turned to face her companions.
"How are we getting on?" She asked and they showed her the drawing. It was modest but had a beauty in it that showed it was skilfully made. "Perfect. What colour?"
"I thought I should have green my lady. It is my favourite colour and reminds me of your dress in that picture."
"Picture? My portrait? You have seen it?" Nieneve was momentarily shocked. "Where?"
"My lady, my Lord Apophis had me take it to the Prince's room, this morning."
"What did the Prince say?"
"He was not there."
"What of Apophis, what did he say?"
"Only that I must take the picture to the Prince's room so that he might reflect on his future. Have I done something wrong my lady?"
"No. No of course not. I am merely surprised. I did not know that the picture was being kept." She smiled at Lania. "I think the gown will look very well on you Lania. Green will suit you."
"Thank you my lady."
"Shall I fit Lania before we begin on your dress my lady?" Artorus asked.
"Please, measure Lania. I shall pour us some tea."
"I can do that my lady..." Lania began.
"No, you be measured. I should like to do it."
Nieneve went to pour some water in to the kettle, thinking. Apophis had said the Prince must reflect on his future. To Nieneve that sounded all to like he was aware of the Prince's flirtations and was stopping him from doing anything rash. But then if he had wanted to leave the message, he would have had Lania write it. So he was putting the painting in the Prince's room to surprise him. Nieneve frowned. Apophis was dangerous, that she knew, but she realised now that he had more control over the palace than the King did himself. And he had his claws in to the Prince as well. She must watch him carefully.
If there were anything standing in her brother's way, it would be Apophis, not the Royals.