Nieneve knew she would not be allowed out on a horse on her own; she must make that an advantage. As the group returned to the castle she and her maid slipped back up to her room with their dresses.
"Thank you my lady..." Lania began.
"Lania, you should try it on. I want to see it."
"Very well my lady."
There was a knock on the door which interrupted them.
"Who is it?" Nieneve asked.
"Sister, let me in."
Nieneve paused, sighed, and then motioned to Lania that she should let Pharneus inside.
"Sister! We need to speak." Pharneus strode in to the room, and gestured that Lania should leave them.
"Leave the dress Lania. It will be here later." Nieneve said, trying to disguise the fact she had bought a dress for Lania from her brother.
"Yes my lady." Lania seemed to understand and left immediately.
"More dresses?" Pharneus frowned.
"A riding dress brother."
"And why would you need a riding dress?"
Nieneve bit her lip. She felt an unmistakable urge to be sarcastic but knew that she might receive another slap to the face.
"I thought that taking a ride out with the Prince would distract Apophis. In case you needed to do anything that you would not like him sneaking around for."
"Sister, every day I believe more and more of my cunning rubs off on you." He smirked but then his eyes darkened. "But of course, this dress will be as boring as the others you wore. I do not believe that you know how badly this will make the Prince lose desire for you. He may simply call off the wedding and then-"
"He will not brother. He had no say in the marriage. And besides, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with it." Nieneve went to the bag and drew open the covers. The dress was more beautiful than she had drawn. The long plum purple skirt of it spilled from the bag, but it was the top she was most proud of. Fitted, corset like, with elbow length sleeves, the buttons were exactly how she had drawn it. It fitted with clasps at the front, and Artorus had added black velvet adornments to the sides of the dress where it curved inwards to surround her slim waist. They curled around like they were clasping her in their hands.
Nieneve glanced at her brother and saw his eyes were firey. It disturbed her slightly.
"Excellent sister. He will struggle to keep his hands from the buttons on your dress."
"That is where my protection comes brother. It is not with the buttons that the dress fastens. They are for show although they look working. That way if he does try anything before the wedding I shall have warning."
Pharneus' face showed her he did not care.
"I do have some business I would rather he knew not of. I would like to look through some papers, see how my kingdom stands financially."
"Of course." Nieneve curtseyed to him.
"Ah sister." He hooked her chin with his finger and brought her close. She smelt the alcohol on his breath and fought the wince that threatened her face. "You will be my salvation. Your brat will be my key to the kingdom. And you will be free to live as you wish under my rule, as I promised."
"Thank you brother. Your kindness to me as always, overwhelms me."
"Sister. When do you intend to ride?"
"Tomorrow. It will be dinner soon and I do not believe they will allow me out when it is beginning to get dark. Tomorrow will be much more suitable. I will broach the subject to Vyper tomorrow."
"Yes, you will." His fingers scraped along her cheek and in to her hair. "If you were not my sister, and the Prince's virgin bride..."
Nieneve stepped away and went to cover the dress up.
"Brother, I must dress for dinner."
"Of course. I shall see you in the dining hall. Wear a new dress. It enrages the old bastard and makes the Prince stare like a virgin." He laughed and left the room. Nieneve covered her face and breathed slowly, steadying herself. Sometimes her brother was a little forward. Her nurse had told her he was undoubtedly different considering all the tragedy he had witnessed, and how quickly he had been made to become an adult.
"My lady?" Lania stood in the doorway.
"Oh, good, you're here." Nieneve returned briskly to normal. "I think I should wear the new blue, don't you?"
"It is almost two weeks till my wedding. I think I shall save my red dress for any occasions that my arise before that time."
"Of course my lady."
Lania helped Nieneve dress and as she looked at herself in the mirror she smiled. Two and a half weeks. She would become the Princess, and then her only task would be to bear a son. Then she would be free.