The Lord Wrampage entered Queen Kit’s personal quarters in the same way that she’d become accustomed to in the past 200 years – without permission.
Kit’s jaw tightened as her door opened without any prior warning, but she said nothing, choosing instead to welcome her old friend with open arms. The Queen slapped away the hands of the maid who was buttoning the back of her dress and turned to embrace Wrampage with a warm smile.
“Page, dear,” she said, squeezing her tightly. “And Toga! What a pleasant surprise,” she said, holding the guard in her arms for a brief moment, as well. When the two had greeted her, she then drew back and twirled. “What do you think of my dress, Page?”
Lord Wrampage barely glanced up, instead surveying the room. Kit’s lips tightened as she awaited her reply. “Lovely, Your Highness,” Page said finally, dismissing Kit’s maid with a wave of her hand. The maid exited silently.
The Queen, annoyed with her advisor, turned also to Wrampage’s personal guard. “And what do you think, Toga?”
Toga stared at the dress in open envy. This pleased the Queen. “Your Highness, that is the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen.” Kit gave a pointed glance to Wrampage, who, predictably, didn’t catch it.
“Now that is how you compliment a Queen! Take note, Page!” Kit laughed. “So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your presence, my dear?”
“Are certain that you’d like to attend this ball, Your Highness?” Wrampage asked bluntly.
Kit narrowed her eyes. This had been a point of contention for a number of days already. “Yes,” she said sharply, and then regretted losing her temper. Kit cleared her throat politely and softened her tone. “And why wouldn’t I?” The question was asked lightly. There was no point in offending her dear friend.
“Of course, Your Highness, of course,” Page said finally, after an uncomfortable moment of hesitation.
There was more silence following her words. “Well?” the Queen asked finally.
Page cleared her throat, searching her brain for a reasonable explanation. “Your health-”
“Is fine, and has been that way for months. What’s all of this about?” Kit asked suspiciously.
“I look forward to seeing you at the ball then, Your Highness,” Page said finally, as if she had dropped the line inquiry, and turned for the door, motioning for Toga to follow. Toga hurriedly bowed to the Queen, remembering her etiquette. Wrampage, however, didn’t. The Queen, offended but choosing not to say a word, dipped her head in dismissal as they left.
As the door shut behind them, Wrampage looked over at her guard. “This will be the Queen’s first ball in ninety years,” Wrampage hissed. “And I have a very important meeting during it. You’re to be sure that nothing goes wrong. If so, your head will roll.”
A ball was a grand occasion in Nirvana, the type Kit had always enjoyed throwing. So when she saw that the decorations had been put on perfectly, in varying shades of the kingdom’s patriotic color, red, and that most of her guests had arrived, she smiled warmly. There were few greater pleasures in life than throwing a successful ball.
Iker was her personal guard and escort for the night. He was one of her favorites, a man of very few words, with a strong jaw and unruly hair. He offered the Queen his arm and led her to the floor. It was there that Kit was met by Wrampage, who shooed Iker to one side and seized the queen’s arm.
“Where are the others?” Kit asked through tightened lips.
“What do you mean, Your Majesty?” the Lord Wrampage asked, feigning confusion, although she knew exactly what the queen was talking about. “All of your guests have previously arrived.”
“And where are the other Royals?” she asked, referring to the leaders of the other countries. “They should be here.”
“They’ve been delayed,” she said simply.
“They couldn’t have been delayed on the way, Wrampage,” Kit said sharply. “There is absolutely no way they could have. The invitations were sent out ages ago, the guards were told to let the Royals through with the swiftest of haste. They’re Royalty. Where are they?” she asked. Something was wrong.
And the more that Kit thought more about it, the more things didn’t seem to add up. The ballroom, though filled with the lords and ladies of her own court, seemed to be possessed of an unusual mood. Like a song that was off by a note, or a forest that was silent of sound. In fact, there were many faces at the ball there she’d never even seen before.
Too many new faces.
Kit stepped away from her advisor, withdrawing her arm and narrowing her eyes. “What have you done, Page?”
Page sighed. “Your Highness, your imagination is going out of control, and your behaviour isn’t very becoming. I’m sure the Royals will arrive soon, or will have a perfectly reasonable excuse for being unable to attend.”
Annoyed at being spoken to like a child, the Queen turned and walked away from Wrampage, twisting her way through the crowd in a way that allowed her to disappear from Wrampage’s gaze. Furious, she turned her attentions to the ball, and worried only about it, smiling at all of her lords and ladies of the court and dancing with all of the esteemed bachelors and widowers. Before too long, Iker returned to her side, and Queen Kit offered to grace even him with a dance. Ever stoic, however, he politely dismissed such a proposal. “It would be inappropriate,” he explained.
At some point during the festivities, when the absence of the Royalty from the other kingdoms were long forgotten in her mind amidst the pleasantries of the evening, the Queen looked about for Wrampage, intending to apologize for her behaviour and for the way she treated her. Kit was sure that Wrampage was merely doing her best to keep her together, and keep her image as strong and impeccable as ever.
“Where is Wrampage?” Kit asked Iker.
It was at that point when Iker, a man who had worked with the Queen all of his very long life (for he had a bit of Royal blood on his mother’s side) and had grown up in this very castle, made a decision. No longer would he bend to a tyrant’s will; and the tyrant was Lord Wrampage.
He didn’t say a word, but took the Queen’s arm and led her away. There was something that she needed to see.
It was in silence that Iker led the Queen through many twists and turns in parts of the castle that even she had never seen before. “Where are we going?” Kit would attempt to ask, but Iker would just shake his head and press a finger to his lips, willing her to say quiet.
“Iker, how do you know these passageways?”
“I grew up here, Your Highness,” he said after a moment, so softly that she had to lean in closer to hear it. “Could you please be silent? We’re almost there…”
Iker stopped abruptly and motioned for the Queen to look. “Wha-” Kit began.
Iker clamped a hand over her mouth, silencing her in an in extremely offensive manner. Indignantly, she pushed away his hand, but stayed silent, peering through the small air vent into a chamber that she’d never seen before. And inside the chamber was Kit’s dearest friend, amidst people whose names she couldn’t quite place, but recognized as nobles.
“…If we attack the Northern side of Salvatore, Melly’s kingdom won’t even see us coming, as all of the arson attacks from the others have been in the West and Southwest. I can send in my troops, or I can continue to follow suit and allow it be arson once again.”
Kit noticed the little things that her advisor implied. Wrampage’d said ‘my troops’ almost as though she were in charge of them. Sure, Kit had made allowances for Wrampage’s behaviour in the past, seeing as they had been best friends. But this was taking things a bit far!
“And what says the Queen?” one of the men asked.
“It doesn’t matter what the Queen says,” Page snapped.
“Why isn’t the Queen present?” another asked. “Does she not know of this meeting?”
Page sighed, and Kit’s eyes narrowed, awaiting her response. “The Queen has denounced Nirvana,” Page said finally, and she said it with so much conviction that Queen Kit herself almost believed her. “It must be kept a secret, at least until the Queen can come back to her senses. Until then, I will be in charge of the kingdom.”
There were murmurs, but Wrampage silenced them with a raised hand. “No one is to speak with the Queen of this. In fact, no one in this room is to speak to the Queen, period. Is that understood?”
“Why has she denounced the kingdom?” another man asked.
“She was afraid of the war that she started. She thinks she may lose, and she thought it better to have no more affiliation.” What war? What, exactly, is she talking about?
“She is a fool,” spat one.
“A coward!” cried another.
“You will all hush,” Wrampage said. “She is Queen only in title now, but a Queen she is, and we do not speak ill of the Queen, as cowardly as she may be.”
By this point, Kit was outraged. But, contrary to what her advisor believed, she was a Queen, and even a queen who was fond of celebrations and social gatherings had a level head.
“Your Highness,” Iker said, almost silently, startling Kit. “Let’s get you back to your room. I’ll explain what we just saw when we have a private moment.”
Once the secret gathering had concluded, the Lord Wrampage found Toga under the stairway in the North Hall. Full of rage, she pulled Toga by the ends of her hair away from the boy that she was with – a boy, Wrampage noticed, disgusted, who was supposed to be in the meeting with her and had never shown up.
She didn’t bother yelling at him for this. There were far more pressing matters at hand.
Pressing her face close to Toga’s ear, she shouted at the now crying girl. “WHERE IS THE QUEEN?”
Kit sat alone in her quarters, her candle already blown out, feeling safe only because she knew that Iker was guarding her door.
Betrayal wasn’t a new experience for her – the only thing that stung was that it was betrayal her best friend, the only person who’d been there for every big event in her life, the ex-servant girl that’d been named the godmother of the Queen’s child.
The Queen’s now dead child. She shuddered, almost wishing that Iker hadn’t mentioned that particular part.
There was so much hate inside of her heart, and it would be so easy to let those feelings run through her veins, colour her thoughts. But Kit was a Queen, and Queens? They never let their feelings get out of hand. Kit would do whatever was best for her kingdom. And that would be the only thing to keep her going.
There was a commotion outside of her room, and shortly afterwards Wrampage burst in, followed by an unusually subdued Toga. “Your Highness, what are you doing in here?” Wrampage asked, relief in her voice.
Kit faked a tired smile. “I had a bit too much to drink,” she admitted. “I thought it best to retire early before I made a fool of myself. I was almost asleep…”
“Of course,” Wrampage said, glad that nothing was amiss. “Goodnight, Your Highness.”
“Goodnight, dear,” the Queen said, pretending to be the woman that she was just a few hours ago, although she knew she wouldn’t be that person ever again. “My dearest friend, may you have the sweetest of dreams.”
Wrampage smiled at the familiar line. “My sweet queen, may you be extended the same kindness.”