After wandering around the palace for several hours, though carefully avoiding anyone that might be aware he was shirking his princely duties, he decided that it had been enough freedom for today and that he should return to his chambers. Hopefully Arfur or one of his other friends would stop by later, perhaps with some alcohol and a whore.
As he turned around and made for the direction of his room, a voice of an old woman stopped him in his tracks and he took a detour towards where it came from. It wasn't directed at him, but instead a group sat around an hunched figure.
Leopold recognised the old woman to be the palace's storyteller, as she had been too old and frail to be useful at much else, yet nobody at the palace could bring themselves to force her out onto the streets. He remembered that not so many years ago he was one of the children sat at her feet, entranced in her tales.
She seemed to notice him, standing awkwardly by one of the nearby archways, though she had always been blind for as long as he had known her. Blank, empty eyes fixed on him, the whiteness of the eyeballs had a hue of grey. Beneath the wrinkles a smile began to form, revealing her last three rotten teeth.
"Ah, your royal highness. So good of you to join us," she crooked her finger and Leopold's feet move of their own accord closer to the group. "Sit." Leopold sat. "I was just telling the children the tale of Yuna Wiah the Witch of the Mirror. Do you remember that one, your highness?"
Leopold relaxed a little and smiled. He remembered that story, though one of the more frightening of her tales. The prince had avoided mirrors for a week after he first heard the story, and it had been months after that that he could look at his reflection and not be startled by a sudden stirring in the corner of the mirror.
Furthermore, it had brought back another memory of her - over the past few hours he couldn't seem to get Iris out his mind, though it had been almost a year since he had last properly thought of her.
One evening, three years ago, whilst he was stretched out on his bed with nothing but his sheets to cover him, she was sat on the edge of it, wearing a thin robe and staring deep into an ornate mirror at her reflection.
"Be careful," he warned her jokingly. He sat up and maneuvered himself so that his lips were by her neck. "If you stare into the mirror for too long, Yuna Wiah will appear by your reflection and steal away your soul to maintain her eternal youth."
She laughed in response and shoved him away playfully. "Children stories for children, and I am not a child."
He blinked and found himself back in the present. The storyteller had long since finished the tale of Yuna Wiah and was in the middle of the next. He took his leave.
It was only when Arfur entered Leopold's bedchamber an hour after the prince had flung himself onto his bed that he noticed the portrait of his betrothed hanging on one of the walls.
"Is that Lady Nieneve?" asked Arfur, pointing at the painting.
"What... What is that doing here?" He reached up and took it off the wall. "I honestly don't know how that got there."
"Sure," said Arfur, drawing out the word as a grin spread across his face. "You like her."
Leopold fought the urge to fling it across the room and instead shut it away in one of the chest of drawers.
"No I don't. Someone put it there. Probably a servant acting upon my uncle's orders if I didn't know any better."