‘Why are you so hard on Vincent?’ Rowena asked as she gratefully ate the grapes Vincent had stolen for her. ‘He’s only trying to be kind.’
‘You don’t understand Crown Princess. He’s only trying to win your favour so he can prove himself to his mother. In fact, I’m not even sure what he’s told us about Narcissa is true at all,’ she said cutting into her apple very delicately.
‘But he is so genuine Damia, and look at what he’s done for us, both of us. Getting us nice things to eat and beautiful clothes to wear, just like we were back at home.’
‘There are a lot of people who appear to be something they’re not Crown Princess,’ Damia said softly, putting her hand on Rowena’s shoulder in a comforting manner. They resumed eating in silence, Rowena only picking at bits of her food, but making sure she ate all the grapes. Friend or not, Vincent had been right about Rowena’s love for soft fruit. ‘Have you heard from your father my lady?’ Damia asked conversationally.
‘Not since last month when he told me a prince had been sent to rescue me.’
‘Well at least that’s something,’ Damia said encouragingly. ‘He hasn’t forgotten you.’
‘Yes, but that was over a month ago. What’s taking him so long to get here?’ Rowena’s gorgeous blue eyes filled up with tears, some spilling over and trickling down her porcelain cheeks. ‘Somehow I don’t think he wants me to be rescued.’
‘Now don’t be silly my lady.’ Damia moved and knelt by her mistress’s feet, clasping her hands tightly in her own. ‘The King loves you; there is no doubt about that. And your prince is taking so long because it is a long way to travel from Fersere.’ Damia handed the Princess a handkerchief as Rowena sniffed helplessly. ‘I know it’s hard,’ Damia said as sincerely as she could, ‘but you must be patient a little longer Crown Princess. Everything will come out right in the end.’ Rowena managed a small smile before standing.
‘Thank you for being so good to me. I think it’s being locked away up here that’s sending my brain crazy.’ She wandered past Damia and over to the window. The view was spectacular. To the left, miles and miles of open countryside for as far as the eye could see. To the right, the beginnings of one of the biggest forests in the Known World that led into the Wild Lands. Rowena felt shivers whenever she looked at it. Forests weren’t places that appealed to her; they seemed too dark and dangerous for her liking. There were so many things she couldn’t see.
‘I think I’ll rest for a while,’ Rowena said, stepping away from the window and towards her bed. It was a beautiful piece of furniture; a giant four-poster bed with deep purple drapes hanging from the dark oak frame. The wood was carved with intricate patterns of flowers and vines, all weaving in and out of each other, delicate leaves covering every empty space. The bedspread was as luxurious as the drapes; the same deep purple colour, and made of the finest dyed cotton money could buy, they felt so soft and comforting against the skin as Rowena lay down on top of her covers.
‘I’ll be in the next room if you need me my lady.’
‘Thank you so much Damia,’ Rowena said, smiling gratefully at her friend. Damia dropped into a low curtsy before turning to another door, a quarter of the way round the circular room from the one Vincent had left by, which led into the small room where she spent all her time when she wasn’t with the Princess. She closed the door quietly behind her and sat on the edge of her cold, hard bed.
Damia’s room was nothing like the Crown Princess’s. There was only one small window, high up near the ceiling, and the room was almost permanently dark because of this. Her bed was a simple wooden frame and her mattress was so thin you could feel the boards underneath through it. The sheets were thin and scratched at her skin when she pulled them over her. The only other furniture in the room was a small chest, which held all of Damia’s clothes, and there wasn’t space in the room for anything else.
If Damia had been a weaker person she would have cried. Her situation seemed even worse than the Princess’s. She was stuck in a tower with no escape, and she didn’t have the comfort of a soft bed and a nice room to get her through the ordeal. And when it was all over, she would return to her normal life at home, still serving the Princess, who would marry whichever handsome prince came to rescue her and would live happily ever after and Damia would remain hidden in the shadows. Rowena thought Damia had a choice whether she stayed with her or not, but the truth was that if Damia returned home alone, she would be in a lot of trouble for abandoning the Crown Princess, more trouble than she could handle.
But even now, the cogs were whirring in Damia’s brain. She wasn’t going to go back to her old life. She wanted something better. She wanted to show the Princess she’d had to endure for the last seventeen years of her life how lucky she was. And the only way to do that was to take everything away from her.