Rowena looked around in panic as she saw armed guards enter the hall from every available door. There was nowhere for her to run, and although some of the councilors stood up to protect her, she doubted they would last long in a fight. She saw Damia’s eyes, sparkling with triumph as she saw the guards advance on Rowena, who looked like a trapped animal, eyes wide with fear, not knowing which way to turn. Why isn’t my father helping me? She looked back at her father, sitting in his throne, a look of helplessness in his eyes. She knew he wouldn’t act. A guard reached out to grab Rowena’s arm and she resigned herself to her fate.
‘Stand down!’ A sword appeared across the guard’s neck, making him stop in his tracks. ‘Everyone put down your weapons.’ On Prince Felipe’s orders, the guards all put their swords on the ground, putting their hands up in surrender. ‘Are you alright?’ He asked, looking at Rowena with a concerned gaze. She managed to nod, not trusting herself to speak. ‘Good.’ He then turned to the rest of the room. ‘I would like you all to leave. I need to speak to this girl alone.’
‘Your highness I really don’t think-‘
‘I didn’t ask for your opinion Phedio. Now would you please leave us alone for ten minutes.’ The council stood up and reluctantly began to leave the room. ‘Not you my dear,’ he said, taking Damia’s hand. ‘I’d like you to be with me.’ Rowena’s heart sank. With the Prince on his own there was a small chance she would be able to convince him of her true identity. But with Damia in the room her chances were getting slimmer and slimmer. The room emptied, leaving just the three of them alone in the room. ‘Sit down,’ the Prince said kindly directing Rowena towards a chair.
‘What are you doing Felipe?’ Damia asked. ‘This girl is ruining our perfect day.’.
‘She has a right to be heard darling. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for all this.’ He knelt down beside Rowena, looking up kindly into her face. ‘What is your name?’
‘I am Rowena,’ she replied simply. ‘I am the woman you are meant to be marrying.’
‘You lie,’ Damia said fiercely, using all her strength to stop her from attacking Rowena. ‘How can you listen to this Felipe?’
‘In the same way he can listen to your lies Damia,’ Rowena said coolly. ‘I just don’t know which of us he believes.’
‘He believes his future wife. Don’t you sweetie?’
‘Can I please here the whole story before I start deciding who I am going to believe.’ There was a sharpness to the Prince’s voice that neither of the women had expected. ‘I want to hear your story,’ he said more gently to Rowena.
‘I was locked away in a tower, I’m not sure where, somewhere south of the Wild Lands.’
There was a snort from Damia. ‘Everyone knows that’s where Princess Rowena was kept.’
‘Let her finish,’ Felipe said firmly. ‘Go on.’
‘One day, I saw someone riding towards the tower, a man in full armour and riding a chestnut coloured horse. He was a fine rider. My maid prepared me so I could leave the tower; she even brought me up some food so I would be able to survive longer on the journey. But the tea she gave me was laced with a sleeping potion. I fell asleep and when I woke up hours later there was no sign of Damia, or my Prince. That was the day you found her Felipe, the day she told you your future bride was dead.’
‘How can you be listening to this?’ Damia shouted, frustrated that things weren’t going her way. ‘Can’t you see she is lying?’
‘Damia?’ Felipe turned to her, his eyes wide with shock. ‘Where is this all coming from? This isn’t the woman I know.’
‘I’m sure there are a lot of things you don’t know about Damia,’ Rowena said. ‘I’m positive there are plenty of things she hasn’t told you.’
‘How dare you speak out of place,’ Damia said, advancing on Rowena. ‘You are a serving girl, you are nothing compared to me.’
‘I think you will find it’s the other way around,’ Rowena retaliated. ‘It is you who are nothing compared to me. I am a princess. You are nothing more than an imposter, cheating, lying and betraying anyone who is in your way in order for you to get what you want.’ The side of Damia’s hand met Rowena’s cheek, sending a loud crack echoing around the hall. Rowena’s hand immediately went to the place where Damia’s hand had made contact with her face. It was stinging but she was otherwise alright.
‘What has got into you Damia? The woman I know would never hit anyone, least of all someone less fortunate than herself.’ Felipe held her back so she couldn’t attack Rowena again.
‘But she’s not less fortunate than me is she,’ she said, her mouth foaming as she strained against Felipe’s grip. ‘She’s just a spoilt little brat who doesn’t know when she’s got something worth keeping.’
‘So you admit that I am Rowena?’ The Crown Princess stood up, walking over to where Felipe was holding her.
‘You might have the name Rowena Octavia Sarema Oriata, but it doesn’t give you the right to be a princess.’