Quick few words to start.
Not as pleased with this as with the rest of it. I find writing kids difficult (even those not much younger than myself) and I evidently find writing scenes like this even harder.
Anyways, hope you enjoy it anyways.
Robert leaned on the balcony and looked down over the gardens.
He had made the choice as to which three to entertain for the week for two reasons. One, of all the women he had met he liked Marie, Delilah, and Madison best. And two, it made his parents angry.
They had bent the rules of the agreement, and so he would as well. He did not intend to marry any of the three.
Madison was Madison. They’d been friends for so long, even with the time apart, that it would be odd like marrying the sister he did not have.
They were just that, friends, and neither of them wished for more. And Madison had her own life to live; she did not need to always be chained to him.
Delilah was an interesting woman. She was strong, and unique, but not interested in marriage. He also saw her as a friend, and someone who he could, and had, talked to Sketching about for hours at a time.
And Marie was just a child. She should have been more interested in learning, playing still, than in getting married.
But here she was, trying to look beautiful every day to impress him.
It had been three days so far, and he had spent one day with each. There were three more days before the next party and the next three women.
He hated this. He hated it, hated it, hated it.
He didn’t want to keep on meeting new women, or choosing three to talk to for a week with the intent of marrying them.
It was all so…wrong.
He did have the power that he craved. He had the power to break a woman’s heart with a few short words, to ruin her chances with him, and her emotional stability. He had the power to make her heart soar by offering her a chance to spend time with him for the next week. And he had the power to revoke that joy when he sent her away at the end of that week if he did not do it in a kind way.
It was not something that he enjoyed.
He didn’t want this, had never wanted this kind of power. He didn’t want power over hearts and minds, he had wanted the power to make others do what he wanted, which was for the most part to leave him alone when he asked for it. And to stop his parents from controlling his life.
He had not wanted this, not when he didn’t even know what he was doing. The worst part of the situation was that he could break someone’s heart by accident, without meaning to. And odds were he would never even know what he said.
Like with Marie.
His head sunk into his hands as he remembered.
He had spent the first day with Madison since it was her birthday. He had had the chefs bake her a cake and they had gone riding and talked in the gardens like they used to. It had been such a relaxing and easy day.
Two days ago he had spent the afternoon with Delilah. They had at first sparred and then discussed Sketching while they hiked up to the top of a mountain.
It had been a very different day than the first, but no less enjoyable.
He had not known what to do with Marie. He had started by walking with her in the gardens while they talked, and then they had had a mid afternoon lunch.
After the lunch they had, at Marie’s request, gone back to walking through the gardens and talking. Robert had been more than happy to oblige, but had wanted to do more than just walk the gardens that he could see everyday.
So he had requested that Castle Destria be flown to a nearby location that he knew of, a small lake on the edge of a mountain. It was a beautiful place to both go swimming and to watch the sunset from.
Somehow, something had gone wrong. Marie had not wanted to swim, and had instead watched as he engaged in his favourite sport. After a time he had realized that he was being a poor host and so had gotten out and dried off before returning to Marie.
They had begun to talk, and Marie had brought up romance and love and marriage.
Robert had said something about disliking the idea of it, or perhaps that she shouldn’t be concerned with that yet.
He had continued on, talking about the water, the area, the types of shrubbery that grew up there, and the historical significance which was why he had originally visited the area.
And then Marie had burst into tears and run off back to the Castle.
She had refused to talk to, or even see him since.
He had no idea what to do now. His history books had definitely not helped him with this, nor had anything he had learned from his teachers. Nothing in his experience would serve him now, not the often fake and over-exaggerated gentility that he used in formal situations nor an overabundance of compliments.
And he could not turn to his parents since they were angry at him for bending the rules himself. The servants may be of some help, but most were too nervous or concerned about being punished to be candid and treat him as they would a friend. Although, at least with him they would talk directly to him if he asked. They seemed to trust him to be fair more than they trusted his parents, which pleased him.
However, he was still no further towards a solution about Marie.
He turned and saw Madison standing in the doorway.
“You’re pretty upset about what happened with Marie”
The statement did not merit a response.
“I’ve talked to her, and she is as well. She’s sobbing Robert. She thinks that you hate her, or that you only chose her in order to spite your parents. Or for some other strange reason that makes no sense to me, and less to her. Is any of that true? Because if so then I will not help you, no matter how bad you feel about it”
“I didn’t choose her, or any of you, to spite my parents. I chose the three of you because out of the women at the dinner I liked you three best. However, I’m not interested in marrying any of you. I thought that would be obvious when I chose you, and the woman who told me to my face that she did not want to marry me. Marie is happy and has a refreshing honesty about her, which is why I like her. But she is only thirteen. She is too young to be worried about marriage!”
“Robert. Some people are betrothed at the age of three. It is never too young. You have been sheltered, being royalty. You have been afforded a barrier between yourself and the real world.
“My father has been turning away suitors since I returned from being fostered here Robert. Because he hoped that my being fostered here would lead to our marriage, despite our feelings for each other. Most marriages are for political gain, not for emotions. You are lucky to even have a chance to have a part in the process.
“So, no, Marie is not ‘too young’ and you offended her greatly by saying that. Now, I am not going to explain this, so you will have to. And try and make sure that you don’t insult her further, will you?”
Robert nodded slowly, trying to absorb what he had just heard. He really did live in a different world. He had never before really understood the gap even between himself and the others of the nobility, let alone between himself and the average citizens.
He resolved to, when he had the time, learn more about how the country really worked.
But for now he had to fix things with Marie.
Robert took a deep breath and nodded again.
“I’ll do my best Madison. And thank you. You’ve always been a good friend to me”
“And nothing more”
“You had better talk to your father about giving up on the two of us”
“I already have before I came. That was why he did not want me to come”
“Well. I had best be going. Do you know where she is?”
“The lower wing, furthest tower. Near the top, one of the sitting rooms”
He buttoned his jacket as he walked, his uniform now complete. He wanted to look his best, although why he did not know. It just felt like something he should do.
He paused to talk with a few servants, to try and both get advice from those he knew, and get the others opinions of himself, and Marie.
It seemed that the general mood in the palace was that he must have done something terribly wrong, but that they couldn’t see him being so cruel to her.
They figured that either she was overreacting, or he had done something accidentally. He didn’t think he would ever know why they trusted him so much, but he supposed that it was something he should be grateful for.
But he knew that he was delaying. Hurrying down the steps to the lower wing he motioned for one of the butlers to fall in beside him.
“I apologize, I don’t remember your name”
“Mister Vance, would you have some maids standing by outside Lady Angel’s rooms? I’m not sure if I can fix things, so I’d like there to be someone there for her to talk to.
“And if I do manage to fix things there should be someone there to help her with whatever she needs help with. I’m told she hasn’t been eating either, so if they could bring something cold for her to eat that would be excellent. Can you manage that?”
“Of course sir”
“Excellent, thank you”
His footsteps clattering on the steps he finally emerged into the sloping hallway of the top floor of the lower wing.
Because Castle Destria was flying it had an unusual construction. Unlike most castles it was not restricted to four wings at the compass points. It did have those, but it also had others.
There was the north-east wing, slightly offset from the others and above the north and east wings that was used as a dock for any of the border towers and any beast-riders whose mounts could fly.
There was not an actual west or south wing. Instead that part of the castle was a large circle. It had originally been designed to be a tower, but the masons had changed their minds partway through.
Knocking large holes in the wall they had made five spokes radiating out from that place. Each of these spokes contained guest quarters, chambers, washrooms, kitchens, everything. They were all individual, if much smaller, wings. Only one was open now as there were not enough people in the Castle. However, if there was to be a gathering of the dukes all the wings would be opened in order to hold their entourages.
The peculiar design of the area made these wings much narrower, and at the base they were interconnected in odd ways, but at the ends they widened out to become more normal sized. A curving catwalk connected the ends of the five in order to save time if someone at the end of one wanted to go to the end of another.
But the oddest looking wing by far was the Lower wing.
Emerging from below the rounded area it could only be accessed by a maze of corridors and hanging bridges that ran along the underside of the Castle.
It was also the reason that the Castle could never land.
It stuck out, descending at an angle. The design of it made it so that every thirty or forty feet of hallway there was a staircase going down a few steps. This allowed for the floors to be only slightly sloped.
The wing had three levels, and three towers, spread along its length.
The first two were on opposite sides and close to the middle, but the last was at the very end.
It acted as a gate-house, and this was the part of the castle that touched the ground.
When people were going to be visiting the castle it would lower until the gate to this tower was touching the ground. The great drawbridge with its anchoring spikes would then be lowered, and those wishing to enter could do so.
While in flight the gates were guarded by a full contingent of guards and had locks, bars, and bolts that would take ten men to move. Nobody was going to be falling out the doors by accident.
The upper floors of the tower were reserved for those who were preparing to leave, and so were mostly sitting rooms and the like, although there were chambers for any who wished to sleep there, as well as barracks for the guards on the lower levels of it.
He was coming up to the balcony above the gate now. Looking down he made sure that the guards were still on duty then hurried up the stairs.
He could tell which room Marie was in as it was the only one with the door open.
He knocked on the doorframe as he poked his head inside.
She was sitting curled up on one of the chairs looking off the balcony.
“Go away. Your majesty”
“I cannot, Lady Angel”
“Don’t call me that”
She turned and he could see that her eyes were red from crying. At least she appeared to have stopped.
“Well, if you are going to be formal and call my ‘your majesty’ then I am going to be formal back. I don’t like it when my friends are formal when they don’t need to be. And there is nobody else around, so you don’t need to be”
“Then go away Robert”
“Marie, I told you, I cannot. I’ve made you sad and I did not mean to”
He stepped into the room and sat down in a chair some distance from her.
“I’m sorry, first of all. I didn’t know that you were really serious about wanting to marry me, or else I would never have said that. But, knowing that I would have thought it but not said it isn’t much help.
“I want to explain why I thought that. Do you mind if I do?”
She shook her head as she turned to face him fully.
“I said that because of how I was raised. I really didn’t know that other people start getting married or betrothed as young as thirteen”
“Or even younger. My brother was betrothed since he was six”
Robert’s eyebrows rose but he kept talking.
“Or as young as six. My parents have not made me even consider marriage until about a month ago. That was the first time I had seriously considered it. Thats why I thought that you were too young.
“Because when I was your age, I was too young. I was still learning just how to be who I am, and had no time to think about marriage or the politics behind it, or any of that. All I knew was that it would be best for me to follow my parents instructions and try and pay attention to my lessons, but that it was more fun to shirk them”
That brought a small smile and laugh. He was perhaps on the right track.
“So thats why I said what I said. I wasn’t trying to say that you couldn’t be married, that you were not beautiful, that nobody would want to marry you or that you were not mature enough. I was just speaking from my own experience, not knowing that you would have had a different one”
He stopped and smiled nervously. The only good thing was that Marie was smiling back at him.
“Does that mean that you might marry me?”
Oh. Thats why she was smiling.
“Marie, I see you as a friend, not really as someone I’d want to marry. But I don’t know. I’ve only met the three of you so far, and so I don’t know what other people are like. I don’t know really. I don’t know if our friendship could become love, or anything like that. I’ve never had to think about this kind of thing before now, and so am woefully underprepared.
“But even if I don’t end up marrying you, its not the end of the world. You’re one of the first three people I chose to spend a week with, so that makes you better than everyone else at the party. And you’ll be my friend, no matter what, which nobody can take away from you.
“I’m not really sure what else I can say, except that I’m sorry again”
He looked around the room, then back to Marie.
“Why did you come down here anyways?”
“I wanted to be able to leave as soon as I could, as soon as I was allowed to”
“Ah. Makes sense”
The two sat in silence for a few minutes, Marie turning to look out the window again and Robert just waiting.
Finally, Marie spoke.
“I did want to marry you Robert. You seemed like such a nice person, so wonderful and kind and brilliant, funny, and amazing. I still do, but I don’t think you want to marry me. But if you say we can be friends, then that will be good enough I guess”
“Well, I’m glad of that. Now, I heard you weren’t eating, so I had the maids bring you some food. Would you like to eat it now, or maybe later?”
“Now for sure!”
As she got up and rushed past him to find the maids with the food he breathed a sigh of relief. One more thing that he could do, one less thing to fail at.
That would have to do for now.