Nicole grunted as the corset was pulled tighter around her.
“Is this really necessary?” she said, turning to her handmaid, Sariah. The old woman looked at her from under her eyebrows as she tied the knot.
“Yes. And you better get used to it,” she puffed, standing up straighter and brushed her greying hair back, “Because you are a Lady, Nicole, that’s why.” Nicole pouted her lips. “Don’t give me that, girl.”
She laughed and pulled on an undershirt over her corset, and asked, “What dress will I be wearing?” Nicole wandered over to the side of her bed and pulled a book out from under her pillow.
“You, my dear, will be wearing this,” Sariah pulled a bright red dress from the closet and hung it on a hook, “I think it would be perfect for your celebration!”
Nicole exaggerated a groan and fell stiffly onto her bed, “That’s a ghastly shade. My color is blue.”
“Don’t whine, girl, a friend requested it.”
She sighed, “I’d bet five gold pieces for who.”
Adam snapped his pocket watch shut as Nicole strode into the ballroom with a defiant look on her face as she spotted him at his table. He stood as she neared.
“My Lady,” Adam said, sweeping off his hat and bowing low, “You look mightily ravishing,” he noted. Nicole squinted her eyes at him.
“We both know it’s your fault I’m wearing this death trap,” she snapped her fingers at him.
“Well, you’ll definitely get yourself noticed,” he said, looking her up and down. She was wearing a sleeveless red dress with a V neckline, and white gloves that ended a few inches above her elbow. Her dark brown hair was done up in a loose bun with a purple feather in it. Probably a poisoned hair pin, he thought to himself. The dress went all the way to the floor, so a knife was more than likely strapped to her leg.
“What is it?” she asked, bringing him back to the present. Nicole rolled her shoulders as he answered, “Nothing, but better pick up your manners, because here comes the His Majesty and his giggling parade.”
Nicole straightened herself as the King approached, leaning heavily on a cane, with a huge grin on his face, four princesses following close behind.
Nicole curtsied, and Adam bowed low as the King greeted them, “Hello Lady Skalnik, and Sir Nightingale. I’m sure you two have met my daughter,” he gestured to a woman in a tight, covering violet dress, “Penelope, and my nieces, Andrea,” she had red hair and an orange dress, “Nattilee,” she had dark skin and black hair in a pink dress, “And Katie,” Katie was very blonde and wearing a baby blue dress with a generous amount of lace and frills, giggled as she stared at Adam.
“I have met the the princesses, Your Highness, ” He bent and kissed their hands, “They each in turn look more and more beautiful than last I saw them.” As the women giggled, Nicole mentally rolled her eyes. Adam stepped back from the princesses, bowed to the King once more, and turned, intertwining his arm in Nicole’s, and strode back to their table.
“Nice job,” whispered Nicole as she adjusted herself into a chair, pulling her soup bowl closer. Adam placed his elbow on the table and stared at her, stirring his soup slowly. They sat in silence, ignoring the clamor of people talking and laughing, as they ate.
“Do you know how to dance, Nicole?” he asked, his eyebrows coming together. Nicole lifted her eyes and said hesitantly, “Yes, but I don’t usually dance because I’m not good at it.” Nicole looked back down at her meal, her cheeks turning light pink. Adam smiled.
“Well, you’ll never get better until you practice,” he stood and walked over to Nicole’s side of the table, holding his hand out to her, “Shall we dance?”
Nicole looked into Adam’s eyes and lightly took his hand, letting him lead her to the dancefloor. The music for the waltz began. As the two danced, they just stared at each other, expressionless. The music seemed to melt away, and the motions seamless. As the waltz ended, Adam said, “And you said you couldn’t dance very good,” Nicole couldn’t help but reveal a small smile.
“I wasn’t doing the actual steps,” Nicole mumbled. Adam chuckled to himself.
“Looks like the dress did come in handy,” He joked, extending his hand out to her. Escorting her back to the table was a chore. Not many people had sat down to eat, or finished dancing. In the distance, the princesses all giggled as one while a charming group of gentlemen attended to them. The smell of sweat and perfume hung in the air, although the doors to the atrium were wide open, letting in the cool night air.
Hiking up her bright dress, Nicole hustled to the chill of the doors. Adam followed as best he could through the warm crowd.
“Nicole,” he called, finally finding her in a balcony chair with her dress pulled up above her knees, “That’s very inappropriate.”
Nicole looked at him from under her eyebrows, “It’s my knighting party.”
“Right,” He rolled his eyes large enough for her to see. Adam folded his arms behind his back, and stood on the edge of the balcony and fondled with a flower hidden in his waistcoat pocket. He looked back at Nicole, she had quite transformed from the twig she was when they had met as children. She pushed her radiant dress back down to the floor and tried her best to slouch in the wiry chair.
A sudden quietness swept over the congregation. The King stood on a raised platform, with the princesses sitting behind him, to address the whole of the room. Everyone quieted down as he began to speak.
“I hope everyone has had a wonderful evening,” He paused to smile at everyone, “I’m sure we would all like to congratulate our very own Lady Nicole Skilnik,” he pause for everyone to applaud, “And so now we get to the emotional part,” Some people laughed and the princesses giggled, “ Lady Nicole Skilnik, I have known her since the -” he was interrupted by a slamming of doors. Everyone looked over at the large entrance as it burst open, guards tripping over themselves as they were kicked into the room. A very tall man in a black robe entered, the sound of electricity snapping and crackling as he calmly strode up to the platform, everyone too stunned to do anything about it.
“Obviously, you’re protection could use some work,” he said, his deep voice booming silence to everyone elses, “Your most esteemed Highness,” the figure spat. Nicole and Adam casually split up to opposite sides of the room and made their way closer to the platform.
“What is the meaning of this?” demanded the King, gesturing the princesses to stay a safe distance away.
“I thought I might join the party, dance a little, and have a jolly good time,” mocked the cloak, “You know what the meaning of this is,” he whispered darkly, “Just hand them over, and no one has to die tonight, “ he paused, “Except for those who must die.”
The King stood his ground as the dark form towered over him, “Only one has to die,” he whispered, staring hard at the man. The King then pulled a thin sword from inside the cane he had, and held it to the cloaked person’s throat.
Adam looked over at Nicole, casually reaching underneath her dress, and carefully pulled out a knife. Holding it behind her back, she advanced further to the platform. The man in the black robe ripped back his hood, revealing a cold, hard face with no hair in sight on his slimy countenance. To put it plainly, he was ugly in every sense of the word.
“You honestly think, that you can cut me with that small foil?” he put a finger on the tip of the sword, and it shattered. Adam, standing behind the King, lunged at the man with his own hidden sword. He seemingly dodged with ease, then flames danced from his fingertips, flying at Adam and the King.
Nicole made her move. Only a few feet from the platform, she ran as hard as she could in the restrictive outfit up to the podium. Switching out her knife in front of herself as she dived at the bald man.
He grabbed her arm, Adam didn’t see where or how he had got there. Twisting it behind her, she relaxed her muscles and waited. He addressed the whole room, eyeing the ready guards at the door ways and waiting for his move.
“Is this another princess?” If the greasy man had eyebrows, they would have been raised, seeing from the wrinkles on his forehead. Adam, padding down the King, made eye contact with Nicole, then with the dark robed man.
“No,” grunted Nicole as he pulled up on her arm.
“Are you a ‘toy’ to the King then?” He sneered. All the women who hadn’t fainted when he first entered, fainted then. Nicole sneered at him. Grabbing a handful of her hair, he yanked her up to his tall level and breathed in her ear.
“You’re pretty enough to be one, whore.” Nicole shook her head free from the hand holding it. His breath stank like rotting flesh, and his teeth were stained yellow from who knows what. She faced forward, staring at Adam. She might die for what she would do next.
Stabbing his foot with her heel, she flung her head forward, then back into his face. Nicole could feel his nose collapse beneath her skull, and warm wetness oozed down her hair onto her back. Feeling the release of her arm, she leaped towards Adam.
He broke her fall. A small buzzing went on relentless in her ears as the hairless beast clutched at his face and screamed. Dark smoke filled the small space on the floor where he stood. The King, using his cane for it’s intended purpose, stood close to Adam and Nicole.
A low, rumbling laugh came from the ball of unnatural magic.
“Think that was a fun trick, darlin’,” the white head came from from the black sphere, and seemed taller than before. His nose completely healed, and no trace that it ever broke, “But I must be taking my leave. And a few other things.” A creepy smile crept across his face as smokey tentacles seized the fallen princesses and all five disappeared in a white flash.
After everyone, but the ladies, had recovered from the blindness, the King dropped his cane in wide shock, sank to his knees and whispered, “Damien.”