The next morning, the queen called for a mandatory meeting in the courtyard, located at the center of the palace. All of the castle's residents and the surviving villagers were to attend.
The beauty of the courtyard was hidden by the hundreds of people mingling and moving about. Rose bushes and fountains were scattered here and there, and stone walls rose above the heads of the attendants, making the area seem even larger than it was. It lacked a roof, however, so rain could easily interrupt the meeting if it came. Luckily, it was a sunny day with only a few clouds scattered across the sky.
The queen took her place on the balcony overlooking the crowded grounds. She could barely make out some of the confused and anxious conversations taking place below. As more people noticed her peering down at them, the volume lessened until it reached dead silence.
Scott timidly paced onto the balcony to join his mother. The feeling of hundreds of eyes staring at him made him feel even more out of place than he already did. He could still smell the smoke lingering in the morning air. His mother even chocked on it before she spoke to the motionless audience peering up at them.
"Hello, everyone: Our council, staff, other residents, and surviving villagers." She began after clearing her throat. "As you all know, a horrible disaster occurred yesterday- the nearby village of Tashnia was destroyed by a meteorite."
Scott glared at his mother as she spoke. "She knows exactly how to sell her ‘sympathy' to a crowd." He thought. She cleared her throat once more before continuing.
"Many lives were lost due to this tragic event," Her deafening voice echoed across the grounds of the courtyard. He had no doubt that she was heard clearly by everyone. "but we were lucky enough to have a few lives spared.. The council and I have graciously decided to grant these survivors residency in our palace-"
Applause erupted from the villagers in the crowd. Scott could make out a few angry faces from the nobles of the castle. He sighed with relief at this news. It was nice to know that Annabelle would have a safe place to stay until the village was rebuilt.
"HOWEVER," she snapped after being interrupted by the clapping, "the only option for them is to sleep in the west wing with the servants. They will assist them with their daily tasks and chores during their stay in the palace."
The noble's angry faces seemed to light up at these words. Their satisfied smirks made Scott sick inside. He hated the nobles.
"Now," she continued, "I will call out the names of each surviving villager and their position of work, starting with Charles Addison. Charles, you will assist our cooks by cooking and cleaning the kitchen after each meal."
Scott found Annabelle in the crowd, patiently waiting for her named to be called. The sunlight beamed down on her dirty-blonde hair, causing a shine to reflect off the tip of her head. She looked up at him and their gazes met. His heart seemed to melt at the sight of her bright blue eyes staring up at him. They smiled at each other until the connection was interrupted by the calling of her name-
"Annabelle McFeirson. Annabelle, you will be the maid and servant to the royal family."
"Oh no.." Scott thought. Annabelle would be serving and tending to he, his mother, and his little sister.
He looked down again to find her awkwardly staring up at him. Scott knew this would make it even more difficult for them together.
The queen finished assigning positions for the villagers and ordered them to begin working immediately. Scott raced to the West wing to have a word with Annabelle before she began working.
"Annabelle!" he called out when he found her strolling down one of the hallways, "Hey, can we talk for just a minute?"
"You know this doesn't change anything, Scott." She smiled as their eyes met, "I'll be fine tending to you and your family until we can move back to the village-"
She was interrupted by the voice of an elderly man emerging from the shadows of a nearby corridor.
"Have we two lovers here?" his scratchy voice questioned.
"Uhh.. we were just-"
"No need to lie to me, Boy.. I can keep a secret.. "He smirked at them. His short, wrinkly body swayed left to right with every step he took. " But yeh do know what happened to the last servant that fell for royalty... don't yeh?"
He moved uncomfortably close to them and looked Scott in the eyes.
"Don't yeh, Boy..?
Scott could only stare blankly at the man's elderly face. He wasn't sure that he wanted to hear the man's story, but he knew it was coming.
"Well.. My grandfather shared it with my father and he shared it with me, so I shall share it with the two of yeh..." the old man began.
"Over two centries years ago, the cook's son, David developed a secret romance with the King's daughter, Holly.." He examined Annabelle as he continued with the story. "They thought they had it made, they did... remaining in their own social classes by day, and sneaking off fer secret meetings by night.... Well eventually, one of the other servants found out about their little meetings, and offered to tell the king where he could catch ‘em in the act.. for a hefty price, o' course.."
It was then that Scott noticed Annabelle was trembling and inching closer to him. He took her hand and attempted to back away from the old man, but he followed closely after them, still not allowing Scott to break eye-contact.
"Well the king paid his dues to the servant, and hid in the trees over the spot where he was told they would meet.. He waited fer the two lovers to come, and shockingly interrupted their date... Do yeh know what he did next..? Do yeh, boy?"
Scott couldn't speak, so he nervously shook his head. He tried to run away, but he felt as if his feet were glued to the hard floor.
"He hung ‘im! He took him to the top of the highest hill and hung ‘im!"
Scott immediately found his courage and tore off down the eerie hallway with Annabelle.
"Be careful, Boy!" the man's shaky voice called after him, "You wouldn't want yer precious dame to end up like young David!"
He couldn't turn his head to see if the old man followed them. All he could think about was keeping Annabelle safe in his arms.