Rowena was silent for a moment while Adrianna ate a few dainty mouthfuls of the food on her plate, which had been sitting, untouched for a good ten minutes. “I’d like to meet Matteo,” Rowena said suddenly, looking thoughtfully into the room.
“The Prince wouldn’t dare let you anywhere near him. He knows Matteo’s political views and would be terrified that he would convince you that Verenia is an oppressive country and ruin whatever friendship that is trying to be build between our two countries.”
“What if Prince Niccolo weren’t to know?”
“I don’t understand what you mean?”
“I assume that such a charismatic man as I imagine Matteo to be is a member of a revolutionary group.”
“Yes,” Adrianna said warily, unsure where the Queen was taking this point. “But it’s not a place where you would want to go.”
“I thought you knew the stories about me,” Rowena said with a smile. “Have you not heard about how I met my husband? Or how I crossed entire countries to save him? I’ve been in much worse places than you would imagine.”
“All the same, I don’t think you’d be able to get away without the Prince finding out.”
“You forget that my husband used to be the King of Thieves,” Rowena said with a sly smile. “He knows many tricks that will help us escape from any castle.”
“And even if you could leave the castle without the Prince discovering you, I wouldn’t be able to get out of my house to escort you there. I’m not allowed out of the house unless my presence is requested by the Prince and even then he must accompany me.”
Rowena stared thoughtfully out into space for a minute, the wheels in her brain clicking as she thought of a plan.
“I think I have an idea,” she eventually declared, her head leaning close to Adrianna’s so she could whisper in her ear.
“I suppose that could work,” Adrianna said, considering the Queen’s suggestion. “But would Artem agree to do that?”
“As much as he pretends that he is perfectly happy as my spy master, I know he misses the old days when he would break the law at least ten times a day. He’ll be more than happy to take part in our plan.” Rowena’s gleeful smile reminded Adrianna so much of a small child who has thought of something truly naughty to do. She hadn’t even realised how young the Queen really was.
“How old are you?” Adrianna asked, not thinking and prompting a laugh from Rowena. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“I love your bluntness,” Rowena said, grinning madly. “I will be twenty-four after the next full moon.”
“You are so young,” Adrianna said in wonderment.
“And yet I am married with a beautiful daughter and the Queen of my homeland.”
“Tell me about Fersere,” Adrianna said, leaning closer to the Queen. “I want to know about the place where women can inherit before men.”
“To me Fersere doesn’t seem that exotic. Our capital city Genata was my home for many years but I never saw outside the palace walls. My father didn’t want me to be exposed to the rest of the world. Then when I was abducted and taken south by Narcissa Malheur I ended up seeing more of the world than I had ever done before.”
“Tell me about how you escaped the evil fairy,” Adrianna said eagerly, almost like a small child begging their parent for a story at bedtime.
“Well it wasn’t easy,” Rowena said, playing the part of the mother, soothing her small child. “I was locked away in a high tower with my maid and closest friend Damia.”
“I remember, the woman who betrayed you.”
“Yes, she ran off with my Prince, telling him that I was dead. But luckily for me I had another friend, the son of Narcissa, Vincent. He is still with me today and helps me manage my affairs. He helped me trick Narcissa and escape from the tower.”
“And that’s when you met Artem,” Adrianna said smiling excitedly.
“I don’t know why I’m telling you this story,” Rowena laughed, “you clearly know it very well already.”
“I was told it a few years ago by a dear friend of mine who used to know my mother. I wanted to be like you. A princess taking control of her own destiny.”
“You make it sound so glorious,” Rowena laughed.
“But it was glorious, just like the tales of knights of old but better because it was happening in my lifetime. It gave me hope that one day I could have my own happily ever after, just like you and the princesses in the stories I’d been told as a little girl.”
“I can promise you that it felt a lot less than glorious,” Rowena said earnestly. “When I thought Artem and his friends were all dead I thought my heart was torn in two and I would die alone and helpless on the roadside. It was one of the darkest moments of my entire life.”
“But that’s the wonderful things about stories like yours; they always have happy endings.”
“You will have your own happy ending,” Rowena said, clasping Adrianna’s hand under the table, “and it will be far more glorious and wonderful than mine because it’s your own and no one else’s.”