‘King of spades,’ Damia announced as she laid her card on the table, her expression cool, calm and collected. Her dark hair was pulled back tightly, away from her face, in an intricate knot. Across the table from her, Rowena sat with her hair falling loosely over her shoulders and down towards her waist. She studied her cards closely before taking from her hand and laying it on top of Damia’s.
‘Three of spades.’ They’d been playing for a good few hours and Rowena was currently winning seven games to five, but she didn’t think Damia was trying very hard. People weren’t meant to beat royalty, and those that did usually paid for it. Damia put down the three of clubs, rapping the table with her knuckles as she did so.
It was raining outside, the raindrops beating heavily against the stone walls and the roof of the tower. The constant beat was very reassuring to Rowena, whose nerves only just seemed to be recovering from her break down a few weeks before. For one of these rare occasions, the Princess was feeling safe within her prison. Safe from the weather outside and from anything else that might hurt her.
‘Who do you have at home Damia?’ Rowena asked as she put down the three of hearts.
‘I’m not sure I understand what you mean my lady.’
‘It’s just that I’ve grown up with you and you’ve been around for as long as I can remember, but I know very little about you.’
‘That’s not true Crown Princess.’ Damia avoided eye contact as she reached down to pick up another card. ‘It’s just that there isn’t much of a story to tell.’
‘I’ve got time,’ Rowena said firmly, putting her cards face down on the table. ‘Tell me about your parents, I don’t think I’ve ever met them.’
‘My mother was a lady’s maid to your late mother, the Queen, God rest her soul. My father worked as the head of the stables, looking after the King’s horses.’ It was clear from Damia’s tensed shoulders and unusually shy body language, bending her head so she was facing the ground and twisting her fingers together, that she was uncomfortable speaking about this.
‘They sound like wonderful people,’ Rowena said kindly, smiling at her maid. ‘I would love to meet them one day. Do they still work at the palace?’
‘No,’ Damia said plainly. ‘My mother died a year or so after the Queen passed away and my father is now too old for manual labour. He has a very good pension from his majesty, for which we are very grateful, and he lives on that.’
‘I’m sorry to hear about your mother,’ Rowena said softly, realizing she’d pried too far.
‘Are you?’ Damia’s voice was suddenly strong and accusing as she whipped her head up to face the Princess’s gaze defiantly. ‘How can you be sorry if you didn’t even know her?’
‘But I know you,’ Rowena said carefully. ‘And she clearly meant a lot to you, so I’m sorry for your loss. I know what it’s like to lose a parent and know exactly how you feel.’
No you don’t, Damia thought, venom dripping from every word. How could you possibly know what life is like for me.
‘I’m sorry, I was putting my nose in where it wasn’t wanted,’ the Princess apologized.
‘It’s alright Crown Princess,’ Damia replied, readjusting the invisible mask over her emotions. ‘You have a right to be interested in where your servants come from.’
‘You’re not just my servant Damia. You mean so much more to me than that.’ Rowena leant across the table and clasped Damia’s hand in hers. She tried not to shiver as she realized how ice cold her friend’s hands were.
There was a creaking as the door opened and Vincent, covered in a black waterproof, entered the room. Damia immediately snatched her hand away from Rowena’s and stood bolt upright, her eyes darkening at the sight of Narcissa’s son.
‘Were you not brought up to knock when you enter a room?’ She barked. Vincent looked at Damia, speechless, his mouth opening and closing like a goldfish. ‘I would expect at least common courtesy from our captors if nothing else. Well? Why are you here?’
When Vincent was still unable to reply, Rowena stood as well, ready to defend him. ‘Do you have a message for me Vincent?’ He nodded, regaining his senses and remembering why he had been sent out in the pouring rain to visit the Princess.
‘Well, out with it. Don’t keep the Crown Princess waiting.’
‘Be gentle with him Damia,’ Rowena whispered as she saw Vincent struggling to find the right words. ‘If you scare him we’ll never get the message.’ She turned to Vincent and smiled reassuringly. ‘In your own time.’
‘M-my mother,’ he said, stuttering a little under Damia’s scrutiny. ‘She wants to see you.’
‘She can’t expect the Crown Princess to go out in this sort of weather,’ Damia said indignantly, wrinkling her nose in disgust.
‘I’ve b-brought a spare w-waterproof,’ Vincent said, trying to be helpful by holding out the shiny material.
‘It’s out of the question,’ Damia protested. Rowena looked down at her dress, made of a beautiful cream silk, with a skirt that trailed along the floor. The bodice was embroidered with patterns of butterflies, their wings fluttering elegantly as they landed on flowers.
‘It’s alright Damia. I’ll go.’ She turned towards her wardrobe. ‘I just need to change out of this dress first.’