Chapter 7.3

When she woke late the next day, Artem had already dressed and left.  She reluctantly dragged herself out of the warmth of the covers on her bed and forced herself to get dressed into the new dress Artem had bought for her.  She stood in front of the mirror, looking intently at her reflection.  Even in the short time of just over a week, she looked so much different.  Her hair had more of a ‘just rolled out of bed’ look to it, her cheeks were slightly rounder and flushed with colour and her eyes sparkled a brighter shade of blue than she had ever seen.  Picking up a comb from her bed, Rowena began to pull it through her hair, pulling it back and braiding it into a tight plait, which hung down her back to her hips.

Let’s hope I can blend in now she thought as she turned to disappear downstairs.  The guys were sitting at the same table they had occupied last night and as Rowena got closer she noticed they were all looking very rough.

‘Good night was it?’  She asked as she took a seat next to Hans.

‘Don’t talk so loud,’ Erik moaned, clutching his head.  ‘I don’t understand why everyone insists on speaking so loudly.’  Rowena would have laughed at him if she thought he would be able to take it, but she knew he wasn’t Ena’s biggest fan, so Rowena thought it best to stay on his good side.

‘So where’s Artem this morning?’

‘He’s in conference with Oska,’ Ishak said.  He was the only one who looked like he hadn’t drunk too much the night before and had had a decent night’s rest.  ‘He’ll probably be gone all day.’

‘So what are the rest of us doing?  We can’t sit around here all day.’

‘Well we can’t,’ Erik said, indicating the men, ‘but you aren’t allowed out of the building.’  A smug smile crept onto Erik’s ugly face.  ‘His majesty’s orders.’

‘That is not strictly true Erik,’ Jem cut in.

‘I have been given the task of looking after you for today,’ Ishak informed me in his very matter-of-fact voice.  Rowena was slightly disappointed she’d been given Ishak as her bodyguard for the day; she would have preferred Jem or Hans, who were much more fun to be around.  But anyone was better than Erik who made her feel very uncomfortable with the way he looked at her and his attitude towards her as a second-class citizen because she was a woman and a captive.

She sat and watched as the others left for a day exploring the town without the crowds that flooded it on market day.  Ishak remained at the table, studying a newspaper that had been left on the bar.  On the front cover was the headline, King Increases Taxes.  This was of no interest to Rowena; taxes rose and fell daily so for her this was hardly front-page news.  Then as she turned her focus away from the paper, her name caught her eye from the corner of the page.

King Fredrik of Fersere falls dangerously ill.

‘May I borrow that?’  She asked, trying to stay as calm as possible.  Ishak nodded and handed the paper over to Rowena, who took it eagerly and scanned the page until she found the relevant article.

It has been reported that his royal highness King Fredrik of Fersere fell ill earlier this week and is now unable to leave his bed.  The physicians have said that things are not looking positive for the King and they would be surprised if he made it to the end of the year.

This shocking news, so shortly after the country lost its heir to the throne, Crown Princess Rowena Octavia Sarema Oriata, could be a real blow to the country if the line of succession is not properly sorted out before the King’s death.  The favourite to become the next ruler of Fersere is Queen Jechia’s nephew, Prince Felipe Henrik of Madrimar, who recently returned from the unsuccessful mission to rescue the late Crown Princess.

The Prince is due to marry Damia Veridian, the faithful maid of Crown Princess Rowena, whom the Prince fell in love with when he rescued her from the clutches of the notoriously evil fairy, Narcissa Malheur, by the end of the month.  Although this match may be deemed unsuitable for the third son of a King, Prince Felipe is determined that nothing will stop him from following his heart.

At this point Rowena lost it, screwing up the paper into as small a ball as she could manage and hurling it across the room.  Ishak watched all this with wide eyes and a questioning face.

‘Sorry,’ Rowena said hurriedly, realizing what she’d just done.  ‘Really bad article.’  She could have cried at the pathetic nature of her excuse, and felt sure that Ishak would know she was making it up.  Whether he did or not, she was not going to find out, as Ishak only shrugged and turned back to his breakfast.

Within half an hour of sitting with Ishak in silence, Rowena was bored out of her mind and pleading to go and do something.  ‘Artem won’t mind if you’re with me,’ she insisted.  ‘And it’s just a small walk around the town, just to get some fresh air, I promise Ishak.’

‘I’m sorry, Artem has trusted me with you and I’m not going to deviate from his orders.’  His voice was firm and his tone final.  As far as he was concerned there was no other option.  Groaning, Rowena slumped back in her chair in a very unladylike fashion.

‘Well can we at least do something,’ she complained.  Looking across the room, she saw a group of men gathered around the table to watch two men playing some sort of board game.  ‘Ishak?  Can you teach me how to play that?’  She indicated the gathering in the other corner, not wanting to point in case she caused offence.

‘You’re telling me you’ve never played chess before?’  Ishak said, stunned.  Rowena shook her head.

‘Games aren’t suitable past time for a p-‘ she stopped herself just in time, ‘for a lady.’

‘OK then Ena that is settled.  Today I’m going to teach you the honorable game of chess.’  

The End

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