I sighed as I pulled myself out of the steaming tub. It had been nearly an hour and I had had to refill the tub 3 times to keep the water scalding hot. Not that I didn’t mind cold water but I wanted to wash away the memories of my ‘Encounter’ with the King. I understand traditions I understand that Royalty is screwed up I just didn’t think it was screwed up this bad. Expecting someone to… I shook my head violently as I dried off. The pleasant thing about the bath is that I got to soak for longer than I ever have, the drawn water at home always cools off, and I got to play with the pipe systems. It’s ingenious really, there is a hole drilled into the floor of the tub which can be stopped up. Then there is a pipe system that pulls up water from where it is heated in a vast boiler under the palace somewhere. There are two handles on the edge of the tub that control how much and what tempter of water I get. I finish drying off and pull on a big fluffy blue robe and cast one last glance and the invention, I would LOVE to be able to take it apart and play with it but, as it is, it’s a wonder the servants haven’t come barging in to make sure I’m still alive.
I exit the Bathroom and steel myself up for the coming debate of explaining to the Servants that I AM capable of dressing myself. It’s an ‘oddity’ of mine, at least as far as “Nobility” thinks, that I bath myself, dress myself, and I can even cook for myself. Nothing fancy or exotic but if I had something to work with I wouldn’t starve. To my great surprise none of the servants are in the main room as I enter. Odd. But I shrug it off and stalk into the closet. It’s big. Bigger that the bathroom even, and that’s saying something. It’s already full of dresses and gowns and sparkling things. Luckily the chest with the things I brought with me is still unopened. I quickly go over to it and pop the top up. In moments I have a simple sky blue gown on. I then take a moment to pop the false bottom in the trunk up and pull out a pair of Black leggings. I put the false bottom back into place over my other ‘forbidden’ and ‘improper’ articles of clothing and pull the leggings on making sure to smooth out wrinkles and check my dress for and telltale signs. I had just finished my inspection when a voice causes me to start and swing around.
“Miss,” one of the African girls said, head bowed, “I hope you are not displeased but we were told that you preferred to robe yourself in privacy.”
I nodded quickly before realizing that with her head down she couldn’t see me. “Yes,” I spluttered still slightly off balance from how close I was to being caught, “you were told correctly.”
“That is good,” she said daring to glance up at me, “We were afraid we had inconvenienced you in some way.”
“N, No I’m fine.” I stuttered. She was so polite it was kind of unnerving. We stood in awkward silence for a moment before I spoke up again. “What’s your name?” Her head shot up and she looked at me as if I’d grown a second head. “I, I mean,” I stuttered, “I need something to call you and that would preferably be your name but if you’d rather I use something else…” I trailed off.
“My name is Ababuo.” Seeing my confusion she elaborated, in my native tong it means ‘Child that returns’.”
I nodded slowly before daring to speak, “Di, did they, your parents, name you that knowing you’d…” I trailed off again awkwardly.
Ababuo looked at me quizzically before asking, “Might I speak plainly with you Miss?”
“Of course,” I replied, “I would hope you never felt the need to hide things from me.”
“And that’s part of it,” She said. I just looked at her confusedly. “You, you’re different.” She stated. Seeing my look of panic she quickly elaborated, “I can usually tell a person’s character and every person that comes here is usually a piece of work but you, your different. You’re not a stick up spoiled little brat who thinks they own the world.”
“Um, Thank you?” I said tentatively. She just laughed and shook her head.
“I like you; I think the others will like you as well. Come on,” she gestured for me to follow her, “I need to properly introduce you to the others without the royal guard breathing down everyone’s necks.” I giggled as that and followed her out of the closet and to ANOTHER door leading off from the main room. Ababuo passed in front of it. I looked at her questioningly. She just smiled and put a finger to her lips before slamming the Door open. Two of the boys freaked and went tumbling out the doorway rolling to a stop in front of Ababuo.
“OWWW,” she sandy haired Boy groaned, “Did you have to do that?”
“Ya Aba,” the other boy piped in, “You KNOW we’re going to be standing there.”
“Well maybe that will teach you two to knock it off,” Ababuo shot down at them, “And how many times have I told you not to call me Aba. I aint your father and I certainly aint your Grandfather.” I just stood there trying my hardest not to bust up laughing. The African boy walked through the doorway and shot a questioning look at Ababuo before pointedly looking at me. “Oh Right,” Ababuo said slightly flustered, “This is…”
“Diana” I supplied still giggling at the boys in the floor who were trying to pull themselves up.
“This is Diana. She’s nice so I expect,” She glared and the two boy son the floor, “There won’t be any ‘Accidents’ happening while she’s here. Will there be any ‘accidents’, Jager, Hubrecht?”
“No Mam.” The two boys said giving a mock salute. Ababuo just rolled her eyes at them. Then the boy with the straw colored hair came bouncing up to me. “Hi,” he started, “My names Jager, it’s nice to meet you, nice, like you, well Aba says your nice and Aba’s never been wrong but everyone can be wrong occasionally but I hope you are nice because I think you look nice and…”
He was cut off from his rambling by the other boy, the one with the blondish brown hair, putting a hand over his mouth. “Hello, my name is Hubrecht. Please excuse my brother he’s a little excitable.”
“N, No it’s fine.” I said still on a bit of a sensory overload, “It’s nice to meet you.” The other African girl soon bounded up to me. I noticed she seemed younger that the others.
“Hi,” she said, “My names Nkiruka. I like your name it’s really pretty.”
“Thank you.” I said, “Your name sounds beautiful.”
Nkiruka flushed before snapping her fingers and grabbing the arm of the Brown haired girl and pulling her forward. “This is Crina,” she said, “She doesn’t talk much but she’s really, really fun and nice.” Crina turned to the side trying to hide the blush creeping onto her face. She was saved when the African boy stood forward and Nkiruka allowed Crina to pull them off to the side.
“I am Kayode.” He said simply. From his proud and powerful stance I knew he was someone to be respected and while I was ‘technically’ in charge of them, I was in no way going to be seen as a superior being. I immediately knew I liked Kayode.
“You already know my name,” I said rising to his challenge, “So I guess the only thing left to do is ask if there is anything I should know before we have to go face the Peacocks.”
Jager immediately started to laugh at my comment which made me smile. “Pea, Peaco, oh you nailed it right on the head” her spluttered. I could see Hubrecht also fighting to keep his laughter under control.
“There’s not much,” Ababuo said smiling, “Just make sure your sarcasm levels are up, Peacocks are notorious for having small brains, if it’s not am obvious statement they usually won’t understand it.”
I smirked at that statement, “Don’t worry. I’ve had plenty of practice making sure things fly over their heads.”
Nkiruka giggled at this. “We should take you to meet Keller he would love you…” Nkiruka slapped a hand over her mouth, “Oops.”
“Who’s Keller?” I asked curious, did he worl in the palace to or…
“We’re not supposed to talk about people in the Vill-UMPH” Hubrecht had slapped his hand over Jager’s mouth but it was too late, the ‘damage’ had been done.
“You can get out of the palace?” I asked shocked. It they could and I could convince them to show me how, all of my vague ideas and plan would quickly turn into reality.
Ababuo and Kayode exchanged glances and seemed to have a silent conversation before Kayode spoke, “We might be in possession of knowledge of secret ways in the Palace.”
“Would you be willing to aid one in search of an education?” I said carefully. It all rested with this, I might be able to find my own way out but who knows how long that might take it could be too late to actually do anything to stop the wedding and… My frantic thoughts were cut off when I noticed a grin on Crina’s face. She gave me a slow deliberate nod that told me all I needed to know.