The Fox of the Valley - [Collab - Jay & Lily]
“My Queen!” A masculine half-witted voice stuttered from outside the door of the receiving hall. They call her ‘Queen’ already for she was already acting like it.
Clover replied in her authoritative voice: “Come in.” She then looked at the manservant on her left. Clover was sitting on her throne while the stuttering man came in. She said to the manservant: “Bring me some ale, I am thirsty.”
The manservant replied: “Yes. your highness.” He left after a bow through a backdoor.
Clover then looked back at the man who was fiddling with impatience. This man must’ve been waiting for ages, she thought. The man waited for Clover to initiate, for it was rude. She took some time studying the man, looking at him with suspicious eyes. The man became a little bit restless, but he held composure despite still fiddling with his impatient hands on the hem of his tunic. A green tunic, faded in color, probably for its age. It must be another land problem, she thought. She looked the man in the eye who was startled by her gaze, she finally said: “What is your reason for your visit today?”
“My Queen!” He said, looking at her with troubled eyes. He then introduced himself: “I am the baron of Dameshill, William of Dameshill, my Queen.”
“That, I know. Baron William. What is the reason for your visit today, I asked.”
“Forgive me, my Queen.” William bowed in apology and continued: “I am here for I have encountered trouble. The prior of Winstonshire Priory commenced with starting a Fleece Fair, my Queen.”
“And how exactly is that a problem, Baron William?”
“My Queen!” He looked at her eyes, but he jerked them away soon after. Her eyes were too scary for him to stare at. “As you have probably known, Dameshill also organizes such a Fleece Fair, my Queen. I am afraid that Dameshill will suffer great financial losses. I have heard that the prior has issued lower taxes. It’s too unfair!”
“Are you half-witted, Baron William?” She asked.
William looked shocked, he couldn’t believe what she just said. He tried saying: “Excuse me?” But Clover raised her hand and silenced him. At last, the manservant came back in from the backdoor. He gave her the ale she wanted and drank from it. Slowly. She looked at the agony William had in his eyes. It delighted her to see how much power she had over people.
She finally spoke: “Didn’t you hear what I said, Baron William?” But before he could reply, she gave the long-awaited answer to his problem: “Why don’t you just lower the taxes of your own Fleece Fair? Or is that too much to ask for?”
It wasn’t really the answer he was looking for, for he replied: “But my Queen! That’s not possible. With how much Dameshill is spending per year. If we lower the taxes any more, we’ll be in debt! We have to stop Winstonshire Priory!” He said it finally, she thought, what he wanted to ask for. He wanted to stop Winstonshire Priory from running their own Fleece Fair.
“I remember you have a Quarry, Baron William. And it is quite famous for its high-quality stones. Don’t you earn from this?” She said.
Clover had to think about an alternative. She couldn’t just cease the operations of Winstonshire Priory. Everyone would be losing money then. She knew that the Fleece Fair in Winstonshire attracted a lot of people from all over; Wool merchants from Italy, Silk from the far east, linen from the southern colonies, and of course since the Fleece fair doesn’t only mean textile, spices from all over the world. Although Dameshill Fleece Fair attracted people as well, but because of Winstonshire’s tax being lower, it enticed more people to come. Clover knew she could not stop such a thing. She knew the kingdom would earn from it as well.
William replied: “You are not wrong, my Queen. But then, our Fleece Fair!”
“Then just sell more stone,” she said bluntly. “There are tons of people wanting stone. People have lost lots recently, people have to rebuild.”
“That’s not my problem, my Queen!”
“Then what is!?” She turned red and angry, William’s suppressed shriek gushed out. He was surprised that he angered the Queen. William looked scared. After a while, Clover figured he had said what he wanted. He wanted the Fleece Fair at Winstonshire to cease operations, but she can’t possibly do that. She had to think of something, so she decided: “I’ll think of something. Come back tomorrow.”
But truth is, she would just ignore him and let Winstonshire continue their preparations for the Fleece Fair.
William looked devastated, he cannot possibly wait another day. But he had no choice and the Queen left no room for discussion. So he replied: “Thank you, my Queen.” And he left the hall slumping.
Clover sank a little bit on her chair. She was not only tired but also annoyed. She had to hear petitions from people all over the Kolan kingdom. At the beginning of the day, it was just normal problems: theft, an accusation of murder, forced slavery, rape, and more. Often, the punishments would be beheading, hanging, and amputation.
Clover would sentence these criminals without knowing what these punishments actually were. Although she had an idea, she never really saw a beheading, hanging, or amputation or how they take place. She didn’t care. What mattered for her is that these criminals were punished. It doesn’t matter if they lived, or not. They needed to be punished.
Clover sat up a little, trying to stretch herself. She was sitting on that chair for almost three hours now, and her annoyance doesn’t really help. She ordered for a servant, which came to her side right away.
“My Queen,” the manservant said.
“Get my bath ready. I need one.”
“Of course, my Queen.”
As the manservant left from the backdoor, Clover was yet again visited by another servant. A maid, this time.
“My Queen, I have prepared the accommodations for our guests, Prince Edgar Chapman, and Princess Eleanor Chapman.”
“Good. Did you do as I say and put their quarters as far away from mine?” Clover asked.
“Yes, my Queen. And I shall not tell anyone.”
“Good. Dismissed.” She waved her away, but then she realized something. “Wait, take my ale.”
The maid turned back. She handed her the ale she was drinking.
“Now, go away. I need some time alone.”
“Of course, my Queen.”
The maid left rushingly through the backdoor as well. Clover slacked back again and thought of what to do. Heating the bath will take around thirty minutes, she thought. She doesn’t like waiting, so sometimes she’d waste time thinking about what to do for the kingdom.
This is all according to plan, she thought. That half-witted Edgar would soon be in her power. He’d be the stepping stone to destroy the Kingdom of Cagia from inside out. Once she had him married, no one could stop her from taking revenge. Her long-awaited revenge for the death of her parents. How the Chapmans have plotted against her family and the entire Kingdom of Kolan. Although, no one knew. She knew. She thought about it very hard and came to the conclusion that those Chapmans were the reason for the death of her parents. And now, they were probably thinking that they’d get my throne as well through Edgar? No, they can’t, she thought. They’d be making a fool of themselves. They shouldn’t underestimate her. Her power mustn’t be underestimated. She had a powerful ally no one would’ve expected.
Her ramblings of miscellaneous thought went on, she’d laugh a little at the thought of taking over the Cagian throne. She found herself to be holding up the sword next to her seat and stabbing it in the air, as if imagining the king of Cagia, king Gerold, to be stabbed right in the heart. His lifeless body hanging on the point of her sword. His eyes bulging out as if ready to burst. His limbs swinging lifelessly around as he sways her from right to left. His tongue hanging out from his mouth swollen with blood gushing out of it. She laughed again. Then she found herself thinking out loud: “You heathen bitches, I will make sure to burn you and your entire kingdom to ashes.”
She looked around if someone heard her. But to her delight, no one was near. She was alone. Alone with her thoughts. Alone with her plans. Alone with her dead family.
She put the sword down, and began to cry. Reality struck her in the most harshest way. It was like a punch in the stomach. She knew she can’t possibly live this way, but she also knew that she needed to take this chance to get revenge but also remind everyone that the death of her family needed justice.
No one knew what happened, she thought. They said it was just a travel accident. But for Clover, it was a scheme of the Chapmans because they had conflicting opinions about the war in the eastern mainland near France. The French fought the German Emperor, but the lying conflict was how to split the borders. The Kolan and Cagian Kingdom were part of the deciding panel, but they found themselves at a disagreement. Gerold proposed that the Rhineland should be for the Germans. He reasoned that it was historically proven to be by the Germans. But the French won the war, said Clover’s parents, they deserved the Rhineland as part of their victory. So, that bastard, Gerold, must’ve plotted to kill my parents, she thought. Her argument was only strengthened because the Rhineland was given to the German Emperor in the end.
Her crying stopped, but the thought of what happened left her in anger.
There was knocking on the door behind her. She responded: “What is it?”
A feminine voice replied: “The bath is ready, my Queen.”
She stood up and left the receiving hall. Before she went through the back door, she looked back and smiled. Seemingly smiling back at her previous musings.
The maid was waiting outside to assist her in the bath. She said: “My Queen. This way, please.”
She looked annoyed. She said: “I know where the bath is.”
The maid bowed and apologized: “I’m sorry, my Queen.” Then she started to walk.
Clover soon followed. Her head was still all over the place. Edgar and Eleanor would be arriving later today. They left a day ago, and they should be arriving soon. It was a day’s travel to the Kolan kingdom.
She knew Edgar, they have been friends ever since they were children. Although she had always seen him as stupid, she forced herself to bear with him. Because Father, the King of the Kolan Kingdom, said so. He’d order Clover to be close with him because it will be good for the relations of the two kingdoms.
To her delight, Father’s orders came to her advantage. She grinned a little.
The maid probably didn’t notice her grin, because she was ahead of Clover. They were close to the bath, and she now thought of the comfort of the bath touching her bare body. She’d need one after an exhausting workday.
As she entered the bath, another maidservant was waiting for her. The bath was steaming with hot steamy air, and the marbled flooring made it a little dangerous to run around, but it is still beautiful to look at. The bath was big enough for a party of people to bath together, and as kids, they’d often do so. But now, Clover was alone.
The maidservants started undressing her. She took out her shoes herself. Her dress was getting unbuttoned from behind, and as she put her hands up, the maidservants hoisted her dress and revealed her striking body. She whipped her hair as if they were already wet, and she looked at the maids who were busy putting her dress somewhere.
She waited for a while, it was dangerous to walk alone. The marbled flooring was too slippery.
But not only that. She could see herself on the reflection of the floor. She looked at herself for a moment. Then started admiring her hourglass figure, perfectly shaped breasts, strong legs, and her proud posture.
She was turning twenty-three in a few months. She knew that her body is at its peak, and she’d need to bear at least a child to be on the throne. But she didn’t like the thought of bearing Edgar’s children.
She walked slowly towards the bath, the maidservants holding her at each side, making sure she won’t accidentally fall.
Once she stepped her foot in the warm water, she felt a surge of pleasure trickle up her spine. She needed this. A comforting bath, she thought, let your problems steam away. She then continued putting her whole body in the warmth of the bath. She sighed in comfort as she finally put her body in the bath’s warm embrace.
She turned her head towards the maids who were anxiously waiting for commands. She said: “Get me some wine. The good one. From Italy.”
The maids looked at each other, probably not knowing what wine she meant, but they nodded towards Clover and left.
Now that she was alone, she could relax a little bit more. She hated the constant appearance of the servants. They seemed like bugs to her, zooming around annoyingly. But she knew she needed them. To take her orders. To cook her food. To give her what she needed. To give her what she wanted.
She frowned at the thought of her dependency. She wanted to be independent. Although she'd be marrying Edgar, she’d still want to rule over the kingdom. The way a man does. She hated it that she was a woman. She had better be a man. They were freer, she thought. They were more accepted. They can do whatever they want and not be judged. If you’re a man, and you’d kill a person, you can say you’re the king, and everyone would accept it as a punishment. Punishment for what? For existing. The king was always above the law, although it might’ve struck a rebellion, it was unlikely.
Although a queen was also above the law, people still judged them. They still should be womanly: bearing children, being married, and doing all those womanly stuff Clover didn’t care about. What mattered for her was that she could take her revenge. She didn’t care about everything else. Yes, she wanted an heir to the throne: her child. But the thought didn’t sit well with her. She didn’t want to be pregnant. It’s a period of vulnerability, kindness, openness, and most of all, weakness.
The maids finally came back. They brought with them a wine glass and a bottle of imported wine. They poured the wine on the glass once the other maid put it on the floor next to Clover. She was watching them during the whole process. She was sitting by the edge of the bath.
She took a sip of the wine and ordered: “You can leave me alone now.”
The maids said in unison: “Thank you, my Queen.”
As they left the room, she slacked back by the edge of the bath. She seemed to be enjoying the steaminess sensation over the skin of her face. She took a bar of soap from the ledge. Then when she stood up, she started scrubbing her body. She liked the sensation of her hands embracing her body. She’d take a while doing this. She loved herself. But she also hated herself. She hated the fact that she was alone. But she loved the fact that she was alive.
It gave her a sense that God had given her this chance for revenge.
After a while of relaxation, she heard footsteps from behind her. It startled her, but she knew who it was. The hard and heavy footsteps of a man. The man was Knut Haraldsen.
He said: “You look lovely today.”
She replied bitterly: “Just because I am naked.”
She turned her head towards him. Unlike her, he wasn’t naked. But his strong build and prominent muscles might as well be bulging out of his tunic. His blonde hair, long and braided. His beard knotted in the way his ancestors also used to do.
He lifted the sleeves of his pants and soaked his feet in the warm water of the bath. She didn’t look at him, she found him disgusting, so she looked the other way. But she needed him. Not for love, but for something else.
To her surprise, a hand reached its way from behind her, between her right arm, and groped her breast. His sudden act surprised her, but she collected herself.
“Your skin is soft. Must’ve been the steam,” he said while fondling her. She didn’t like it. She despised it, but she reminded herself: I need him, he’s part of the plan. He’s just a stepping stone. This is a small price to pay for something big.
She didn’t answer.
He pressed on: “Look at me.”
No one else was in the bath. Might as well look at him, she thought. She couldn’t afford to anger him. He was the reason why she was still on the throne. He held the power she didn’t have. Her deal with the devil.
As she looked at him, she felt the fondling of her breast even more, as if he aroused himself more. He said: “Now. That’s the Clover I like.”
“Not here,” she said.
“I know.” Then with a smile drawn over his face: “Later. At night.”
“I don’t know. Edgar is visiting.”
“So? You said that their rooms will be on the opposite end of the palace, right?”
“Yes. But the risk.” His hand squeezed her breast. It hurt her. She knew he was pissed. She gave into him and said: “As long as we’re quiet.”
He smiled and said: “That’s for you to do.”
As she rolled her eyes away from him, his hand let go of her breast. She felt a weight off of her. She didn’t like him.
She finally asked: “So, why are you here? Surely, not to just fondle me?”
“Well, that’s one.” He smiled. Then he finally became serious, to her delight, and said: “I am here to inform you that I have started moving my troops over to the border of Cagia. We can start once we’re all ready.”
She said: “That’s all good. Anything else you need?”
She looked disgusted at him. He laughed hysterically and said: “I know, Clover, dear. Our relationship is a secret.”
“And it better be kept that way.”
He scooched himself over to her direction, touching her shoulders with his knee. Clover stood up and started kissing him, putting her body between his legs. She didn’t want to, but she must show him a form of reward. Men are so simple, she thought. Just give them your body, and they’ll give you the world.
She felt his hands moving all over her body. At first, he was holding her waist, then her butt, although when she felt him going between her legs, she pulled himself away from him. “Later,” she said.
He looked disappointed, but as she turned her head away from him, her gaze went from a facade of love to actual anger. She saw a maidservant coming in that saw them both embracing each other.
Knut jerked his head towards the entrance, Clover was still between his legs, her arms around him. Clover was scared at first, fearing that they’d be found out, but when she realized her power, she knew what to do.
The maid said startled: “Oh! I am sorry. I am here to bring your towel, my Queen.”
“Just put it down and leave. You saw nothing,” Clover said.
“Yes, my Queen.” She turned and left hurriedly, silently closing the door.
Clover turned her head towards Knut, who was equally dumbified. She said: “Do something about her. Make her shut up. I don’t care. Flog her.”
“You can count on me. I saw her face.”
She looked at him in the eye and rewarded him again with a kiss. More like a smooch this time, though. She didn’t bother to kiss him again like what she did earlier. His beard stung her face. Very uncomfortable, she said. And the fact that she didn’t like him was still lingering. But she said: “Thanks.”
“Alright, I have to go. Before anyone else comes in,” he said, to her delight. And he stood up and walked slowly to the door, making sure he didn't fall accidentally.
Clover, herself, might as well leave as well. So, she did. She stood up and slowly walked to the marble bench where her towel was placed earlier. She patted herself dry and took out the bell placed under some rags in a basket.
She rang the bell. And a few moments later, two maids came hurriedly to her assistance.
They patted her dry even more with towels they took themselves. They patted her back, her thighs, her legs, her arms, but as they came to her chest, she said: “You can stop. I can do the rest myself.”
The maids knew this already, so they stopped. They knew that she didn’t like being touched upfront.
The maids looked awkwardly on as they saw Clover patting the rest of herself dry. Then when she was done, the maids helped her put on a new dress on top of her undergarments. This one, a red dress with a white collar. She chose this dress for a reason. This was the dress made from the textile Edgar gave her the last time they met. She thought it might arouse him a little.
The maids opened the door for her and they started walking into the dining hall. The hall was well-lit with candles, the dining table was big as well. It was generally made for a whole family, but now she was alone. She didn’t like eating with Knut or anyone, really. Ever since her parents died, she would eat alone and sob.
Her midday snack was already prepared for her by her seat on the head of the table. It was steamed lobster with Mediterranean spices. An expensive dish. All of the ingredients are imported from other countries.
Although she would eat again later, she always would eat after her duties as the queen.
She sat down and began eating in silence.
A maid came by serving her water, but she said: “I want wine instead.”
The maid bowed and took off silently, only to reappear later with a wine bottle.
She swirled the wine before taking a sip, then flushed it all with a bite of lobster.
A manservant came in the room from the main door, he seemed to be in urgent business as he was speaking in a hurried manner. “My Queen, our guests have arrived! The prince, your fiancée, and the princess of Cagia have arrived!”
Then she replied after swallowing her lobster: “I am eating, don’t you see?” She looked at the manservant with hostile eyes. He understood what she meant, but he didn’t dare say anything. She finally said: “Take them to their quarters. I’ll tend to them soon. Make sure to bring them to the main hall.”
“Of course, my Queen,” the manservant bowed and left in a polite manner.
She continued eating until she was done. Now that Edgar and Eleanor were here, she wondered how to entertain them. Knut was also in the palace. How could she put them all away from each other? If Edgar, or even Eleanor, see Knut, she thought, then they might become suspicious. This is the worst timing ever.
She felt annoyed, but she thought of a way that might be good. If only Knut would listen to her. But he didn’t. So, she had to ask nicely and give him what he wanted so that she could get what she wanted.
She hated that kind of relationship with him, but she had no choice. For her, it was only a small price to pay for something big. It was part of her bigger plan to conquer and finally occupy Cagia. A plan so flawless. A plan that will finally satisfy her long-awaited revenge.
She stopped by the kitchen before going out to the main hall.
The laborers working in the kitchen stopped what they were doing and looked at her. The man at the stove, Ulysses, is the head of the kitchen staff. He ordered for a younger man, perhaps an apprentice: “Jacob, take over for a second.” And Jacob took over by the stove immediately.
Ulysses came to Clover by the door, he stopped right in front of her and bowed regally. “Lift your head, Ulysses,” she said.
“My Queen, it’s rare to see you on this side of the palace,” he replied once he lifted his head.
Clover was nice to Ulysses, he had been the head of the kitchen laborers for as long as she could remember. He was turning around fifty years this year, she thought. The wrinkles on Ulysses’ face were apparent. She said: “I need you to do me a favor, Ulysses.”
Ulysses raised an eyebrow and he said respectfully: “What is it, my Queen?”
She turned into a whisper, she cannot afford people to hear her: “Remember that tea you served me when I was sick? To make me sleep?”
He quickly followed her into a whisper: “Yes, my Queen. I remember. What about it?”
“Honestly speaking, Ulysses. I am quite tired today. You know that Edgar and Eleanor are coming today, right?”
“Yes, my Queen.”
“Can you serve them the tea you made me?”
Ulysses looked at her in the eye studying her motives. Though, he said simply: “Are you sure, my Queen?”
“Yes, Ulysses. Do me a favor. Thank you.”
“Of course, my Queen. As you wish,” he said and continued working back to the stove. He appeared to be already preparing for dinner. Ulysses turned to his laborers that still appeared to have stopped working and he said: “Okay, back to work! Chop chop!”
The sun was about to go down as well. It was showing that orange hue which reminded Clover of something. As she stepped outside the hallway, she could see the sun lowering down the horizon. Just above the mountain range. How did it create that orange hue? She wondered. It reminded her of her sister, Helene. But she shrugged this off. She shouldn’t think about her. No, she didn’t want to think about her. She’s history. Gone.
She told the maidservant walking beside her: “Tell Knut not to disturb us during dinner. Also, tell everyone not to call me Queen in front of our guests. They probably don’t know yet.”
The maid bowed and stopped walking. Then when the maid was out of sight, she walked off to Knut’s quarters off on the other side of the palace.
The palace was huge. It was built by Clover’s ancestors around a few hundred years ago. She knew the hallways. She grew up in this palace. She knew all the corners and all the rooms. Just like how her parents showed it all to her when she was young.
She looked around and imagined her father walking beside her when she was young. How she would hold his hand and walk together to the receiving hall. They’d be talking to guests while she was on Father’s lap, fiddling with a porcelain doll. Her father loved her more. Helene was more loved by her mother. Maybe because Helene was more like her mother. Clover was sweeter, clingier, and overall lovelier than her little sister. A true father’s doll.
She found herself crying again. She was no stranger to these tears. Sometimes, she’d cry. She knew she was depressed. She knew she was lonely. But she also knew that she had no one she could trust. She was all alone. Alone in this kingdom. No one else would help her. Her sister is gone, probably dead by now. So, she didn’t have anyone anymore.
Her aunts and uncles are also dead. They never liked her, she thought. So, she had no choice but to kill them. Killed them secretly through Knut’s army. No one knew this, of course. They thought it was another siege by the nordic Vikings. They played it all too well. Now, Knut was staying in her palace. What a turn of events, she thought.
She entered the washing room. Washed her face clean. Looked at her pathetic face in the mirror. She was crying obviously, so she had no choice but to wash it all off again. She continued this until she was satisfied. And when she was all done, she slapped herself, making that fake blush. Then slapped herself again on the other side. Then patted herself dry. Looked at herself again in the mirror. She looked beautiful now. Her blonde hair, curly. Nicely trimmed eyebrows, then her lips smacked with imported red lipstick.
She felt ready now.
When she left the washing room, she saw that the sun was fully down. The darkness was set. It was a clear night sky, and from the looks of it, the stars were all visible. She looked at them for a while. This is also another thing her father did with her: looking at the night sky. Taught her constellations of the stars.
Then there she saw: the Vulpecula constellation. Bright. Under the constellation family of Hercules.
The constellation of the little Fox.
She shook her head and moved onto the main hall.
This hall is for receiving guests. It featured a dining table with many chairs. Around eighteen chairs around the long rectangular table. Then a giant chandelier of glass hanging on it, well lit. The floor was carpeted with smooth animal skins and imported rugs. Overall it was very cozy despite it being a big hall.
As Clover came in, she saw Edgar and Eleanor sitting next to each other on the seats. They saw her immediately when she came in and they both smiled. Edgar stood up ecstatically, she noted. Then she also saw Eleanor tugging him back on his chair. Clover returned their smiles. She said: “Welcome! It’s been a long time since we saw each other.”
Edgar opened his mouth, but Eleanor spoke first: “Good evening, princess.”
She probably didn’t know that she was already acting as the queen, Clover thought. She simply replied: “To you too, princess. And how’s my fiancée?” She gave Edgar a smile.
He flushed red and said: “I’m alright! I brought you some gifts!”
“Really,” Clover said. “Where?”
“They’re bringing it in later,” he replied. “I brought some French chocolates, also some textiles.” Then he noticed what she was wearing and said: “Oh! Is that the other textile I gave you last time? You turned it into a splendid dress, Clover! You look lovely!”
She smiled again at Edgar as she pulled a seat for herself on the opposite side where they were sitting. “Thank you.”
An awkward silence took over. Edgar was looking at her, probably not sensing the awkwardness. But Eleanor did sense, so she broke it by saying: “Princess, what will we relish for dinner?”
“I don’t know, sweetheart. I trust my chef, Ulysses, with that. Is there anything you’d like?”
“Ah, no, princess. I think that we are just getting hungry.”
“Oh, my excuses,” she said. Then she called for a maid through a bell. “Can you hurry up Ulysses, or make him serve us some appetizers?”
The maid replied: “Of course, myー”
Clover gave a hostile gaze towards the maid.
The maid corrected herself: “Of course, princess.”
Clover turned back to Eleanor and gave her a smile. Edgar was still smiling half-wittedly at her. He looked like a dog in heat, she thought. Disgusting.
“Princess. I have a question.”
“Of course, what is it? By the way, just call me Clover. Or Sister. If you know what I mean.” She gave her a smile and a wink. Eleanor took this nicely.
Eleanor’s tone changed. She said: “Sister, about Helene.” Clover was taken aback. She was holding in a face of shock. But she didn’t let it out, fortunately.
Edgar broke in the best timing, for Clover’s delight. He said: “Let’s not talk about that now, Ellie.” Then he turned to Clover. “How have you been? I hear you are ruling over the kingdom. I was worried about you.”
Clover answered: “I am doing fine.” She had to be careful with her words. “People have accepted me as their leader.”
Then Edgar said: “I am glad, Clover. Are you sure you’re fine? You are alone now. I heard that your relatives were killed by a skirmish. From the Nordic Vikings. Those barbaric bastards.” Eleanor was shocked by this piece of information, Clover noticed. It was as if she never heard of it.
Clover feigned a sad face. “Yes. I am now alone. I am the last person alive in this family.” She looked at Edgar with puppy eyes, and said seductively: “I am to bear the children who’ll carry on our legacy as the Kolan rulers.”
He blushed at the thought.
Eleanor faked a cough and said: “I think our food has arrived.”
She was right. A couple of menservants came carrying the appetizers of fresh salads and set them silently and politely to each person. They left soon after.
Clover initiated eating and soon followed by Eleanor and Edgar. The food was good. It was fresh and all the fruits were locally grown. Eleanor seemed to eat it with good manners, Edgar too.
While eating, Clover asked Eleanor: “I hear you haven’t gotten anybody to engage with yet?”
“Yes, sister. I haven’t. I want to choose whomever I want to marry.”
“Does your father support that?”
Edgar filled in: “Oh, Father loves her. He’d do anything to make her happy, Clover.”
Clover simply said: “Oh. That’s good to hear.” Despite what she said, she thought bitterly about it. Jealousy perhaps. She compared herself with Eleanor. How she’d offer her body for something, and how Eleanor can give it to whomever she would like.
They continued eating in silence. The second course came in. Freshwater fish caught by local fishermen. All of them relished it as they went through it with appetizing haste. Eleanor gave Ulysses a compliment through Clover: “Sister, tell the cook who made this that it was good!”
Clover smiled and said: “I will. No problem.”
When the servants came to get dishes for the second course of the dinner, they also carried the third and final course. Clover relayed the compliment Eleanor gave to Ulysses through a maidservant.
They continued eating their dessert. Vanilla ice cream with fresh fruits. Eleanor seemed to like this one exceptionally, Clover thought. She said: “You like it, Eleanor?”
Edgar answered for her, he said: “Yes, she likes ice cream a lot. Right, Ellie?”
Eleanor answered by nodding her head. Her mouth was busy eating ice cream. She really did like them.
Once done, they all moved to more comfortable chairs around a coffee table in the same room. Here, they started talking about the situation of the Kolan Kingdom.
This is the part of the conversation where Clover had to be careful. She didn’t want to leak out information that would give her plans away. That’d ruin all that she had worked hard for.
Eleanor said: “I have a question I’ve been meaning to ask, sister.”
Clover knew what it was, but she still asked: “What is it?” Just to be polite.
Edgar relaxed on the chair. He didn’t say anything to stop Eleanor. He probably knew what she was going to ask too.
“It’s about Helene, sister. I want to know what happened to her.”
Clover feigned to be shocked. Also sad. She said: “My dear little sister. I am still missing her.”
Eleanor seemed to buy this. “Do you know what happened to her?”
“She disappeared. My dear little sister disappeared. I don’t know how it all happened. Some say she’s dead. Some say she’s just gone. I don’t know. I am all alone in this family now. I can’t deal with all these things. I don’t know, Eleanor. But I really do want to know.”
“How don’t you know?” Eleanor pressed on. She seemed to be very eager to know, to Clover’s annoyance.
“I wasn’t in the palace at the time. It all happened when I was finding out about what happened to my parents.” As Clover said her last sentence, she began to cry.
Edgar finally interrupted: “Ellie, be careful with what you ask.”
Clover collected herself after a while and said: “I can tell you a secret about Helene, though. I don’t know if it will help.”
Edgar and Eleanor looked at her intently, Eleanor said: “What is it, sister?”
Eleanor said: “She’s an illegitimate child of my mother.”
It took a while for both Eleanor and Edgar to process this. Their mouths were wide opened, but they also looked like they knew this already. Edgar said: “That explained her hair-color.”
“Yes,” Clover replied. “It’s an outsider’s hair-color. I don’t know how that happened, but I found out about this when I was looking for clues about what caused the death of my parents. After some digging, I read some of my mother’s letters to an unknown person in France. Maybe that’s connected to their death. I don’t know” She lied. She knew but didn’t want to say. The cause of their death is from the family in front of her. She wanted to stand up and grab a sword and hack them both dead. But she couldn’t do that now. Not now. She had to wait.
Eleanor couldn’t speak. This newfound information was taking a toll on her head. Her hand was on her open mouth. And her eyes seem to move left and right as if trying to read some text in the air. She looked to be processing all of it. But she couldn’t. It was too much for her.
Clover finally interrupted: “Do you want tea? It’ll help you all relax. And it’s getting late already.” She had to make sure they all sleep nicely and deeply. Clover didn’t want them wandering around the palace without her supervision.
Edgar nodded. Eleanor didn’t react, she was still in her mind.
She ordered for a maid and said: “Tell Ulysses to serve us the tea. I want the regular.”=
The maid bowed and left.
Eleanor finally broke free off of her mind, she finally said: “Thank you. For the tea. I need one.” Her speech was broken.
“No problem, sweetie. It’s my pleasure.” It was indeed her pleasure, she thought.
Edgar smiled, but Eleanor continued to think, seemingly ignoring everything else.
When the maid finally came back with the tea, Clover said: “Thank you.”
She had to make sure that she won’t get the sleeping tea. But the maid already knew this. She had said she wanted the regular one, so the maid had set this aside for her. So far, the plan was going well, she thought.
They all drank tea.
Clover was waiting for the effects. And soon enough, she saw them both yawning already. It was taking effect. She should give Ulysses some kind of reward later. She made a mental note of this. Next, she needs them to move to their rooms before they fall asleep.
“Are you all sleepy? It must be the travels,” Clover asked.
Eleanor answered: “Ah. Yes.”
Clover called for a maid and she said towards the maid: “Please bring the guests to their quarters. Make sure they are all comfortable. Please.”
The maid said: “Yes, my Queen.”
Then the maid realized she had said wrong. But to Clover’s delight, the guests are half-asleep already, so they probably didn’t hear too well. She said to the maid in a quiet tone: “If you say that again in front of them, I’ll flog you.”
The maid walked Edgar and Eleanor, fearfully, to their quarters on the other side of the palace.
Now, Eleanor thought, she had to deal with Knut. She needed to somehow please him with her body, and also get her wishes.
When she entered her quarters, he was already there. Naked. On her bed. His muscular body was flexed up and he held his head with his hand while he was showing off his body to her. She was surprised to see him like this. It wasn’t the first time, though. But every time he did this, she’d be taken aback.
He said invitingly: “Now, shall we start?”
She looked at him in disgust and said: “Hear me out first.”
He said: “What?” He wasn’t expecting her to say that. This much she knew, of course. Whenever they did it, she’d just get into it. In a way that she’d just want to get rid of it and then continue what she was doing. It felt like a chore to her. Her body was just an object.
“Don’t come near me during daylight.”
“Now, that’s cold, Clover.”
She gave him a penetrating gaze of hostility and said: “Just do this one. Once they’re gone, we can do whatever we want. I promise.” She had no choice.
He gave in. “Alright. As long as you keep your promise. Or else.”
“Or else I will no longer be your ally.”
“I know that much, Knut.” It was the harsh truth. She won’t have the power to back her for her claim of the throne without him. She won’t be in her position with him. She wouldn’t have killed her relatives without him. She wouldn’t have the respect everyone had without him. And she wouldn’t have gotten rid of Helene without him.
He said invitingly again: “Now, shall we start?”
She took off her clothes over her head, the red dress made from Edgar’s textile. And braced herself to give her body to the man giving her the power.