PLEASE NOTE: This is a ROUGH DRAFT. It is the VERY FIRST DRAFT OF THE STORY. YOU are the very first person to read it – I haven’t even read it in its entirety yet!
You WILL come across numerous issues including:
- spelling mistakes;
- grammar issues;
- weak sentence structure;
- repeated words;
- unnecessary words;
- missing words;
- lack of details/descriptions;
- confusing details/descriptions;
Critiques/criticisms, while appreciated, most likely will be discarded at this stage! Thank you.
Additional Note: Doodles, Sketches, and Artwork may be added over time. These are not the story illustrations! They do feature characters and places within the story, however.
Bedelia stood, hands folded, with bated breath. Her eyes stared at the most horrifying scene she had ever witenessed unfolding: the brand new servant boy, holding the hands of the princess – the ONLY child to the King & Queen. Not only that, the young boy proudly declared the princess to be his future wife!
And EVEN WORSE – the Princess agreed!
Bedelia watched Lillian, the brand new servant who brought her only son along, immeditately jump and grab the young boys shoulders, pulling him back. “I am SO sorry!” Lillian deeply bowed her head. “I apologize for my son’s rudeness…”
Bedelia slowly let her breath escape from a small parting between her lips as she pushed up her glasses. Good. She understands her place. She turned her face torwards the King and Queen. Now, what of the boy?
Images of a stern face king and his quiet, but equally as stern queen demanding retribution for such rudeness flashed across her mind as she turned towards the King and Queen. Her brows furrowed seeing a scene that conflicted with her own expectations. Instead of sternness, the King and Queen looked like they were about to melt.
“There is no need to apologize,” assured King Engelbert. “He’s just a child.”
“Ooooh!” cooed Queen Pleasance. “And an adorable one at that!”
Bedelia gawked, watching as Queen Pleasance reached over to King Engelbert, pulling him closer. The Queen, was in fact, melting. “They’re so cute,” Queen Pleasance whispered.
Giddy?! She’s GIDDY?!
“No, no! I am so sorry! My son shouldn’t have done that – Brent, don’t do that!”
“But she’s going to be my wife,” replied back Brent, pointing to Princess Angelica, who seemed to swoon just as much. Princess Angelica trotted over to Brent, grabbing his hand.
“I have a husband!”
“Oh, Princess, I do not mean to be rude, but you don’t need to entertain my son’s –” started Lillian.
Bedelia tightened her folded hands, turning her attention back from Brent and Princess Angelica, back to the King and Queen. She widened hr eyes at them. Do something! This peasant is being extremely rude!
King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance appeared to not even see Bedelia’s silent begging. She followed their gaze back to Princess Angelica who began chatting up with Brent, holding his hand, and then back to them.
“Yes, that is my name.” Lillian stood up straight.
“Your son and our daughter seems to have taken a liking to each other,” said the King.
Will they address the issue? Bedelia’s brow sliglhtly bent.
“Y-yes. I am so, so sorry for his rudeness.”
“I would aruge you are being rude to us by ignoring us saying no apologies necessary.”
Bedelia watched Lillian flinch.
“Your son is absolutely wonderful!” commented Queen Pleasance. Bedelia watched the Queen lay her head on the King’s shoulder.
The King nodded. “We can already see how much they love each other.”
Bedelia’s chest tightened. Do not….do not…tell me…
King Engelbert stepped off from the throne and walked over to Brent.
Bedelia’s shoulders relaxed. Good. He’s going to put the child in his place.
King Engelbert knelt down to Brent. “Hello, Brent. I’m King Engelbert. Welcome to castle.” He extended his hands out at Brent.
Bedelia felt parts of her upper arms and parts of her legs began to heat up and tense up. She grasped her index finger and squeezed it, attempting to reroute the memories of pain shooting up from her skin. Put him in his place, King Engelbert. She briefly cast her gaze down. In the next moment she looked up, she saw Brent shaking the King’s hand.
“Thank you for letting my mom and me work here, King Engelbert! I love Princess Angelica!”
“Will you protect her?”
Brent leaned back and placed both of his hands over his heart. “Of course! I would give my life for the Princess!”
“And will you be her friend?”
“Yes! With all my heart!”
King Engelbert then patted Brent’s head and turned to Lillian. “I will have Bedelia arrange playtime for the two of them.”
Bedelia slightly stumbled backwards. No…hitting? She gasped and straightened herself up. She pushed up the rim of her glasses and nodded. “Yes, I will be able to make the arrangements.” Surely there must be a more approrpriate child for the Princess to play with.
“We will make living arrangements for the two of you. Welcome to the castle.”
Lillian curetsied. “Yes. Thank you for welcoming us.”
“Brent, come on now, let’s go to the servant quarters that we were shown yesterday.”
“Okay…bye Princess Angelica!”
She watched the two children blow kisses in the air at each other as Lillian dragged Brent out of the room. Bedelia let out a small sigh. King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance are far too kind, sparing that boy. She watched Lillian quietly nag Brent as the turned the corner out of the throneroom. At least Lillian knows her place and promptly reacted. She must not discipline her son enough if he thinks it’s okay to proopose to the Princess of Astral Isles like that.
“Yes, your highness?” asked Bedelia. She stepped into the middle of the carpet, facing the King and Queen.
Queen Pleasance pouted, leaning onto the side of her throne. “Why didn’t you tell us that she had such an adorable child?!”
“Was it necessary for the job?”
“Queen Pleasance, I apologize I had not informed you more about the child.”
King Engelbert laughed. “Now, now, it’s fine. It’s not a job requirement for a child to be ‘cute’.”
Princess Angelica stood beside her father. “Father, when will I be able to see Brent again?”
Bedelia watched Kign Engelbert turn his attention back to her with a smile that Bedelia could only interpret as being entertained. She cocked her head.
“You may want to take out some paper.”
“Yes,” replied Bedelia. She whipped out a small, tattered brown notebook and a pen. She flipped open to a blank page and nodded at King Engelbert.
“Prepare one of the connected rooms for Lillian and Brent. I do not want them sleeping in the servant quarters.”
“What?” Connected rooms?
King Engelbert folded his hands into his lap. “I would like to keep parent and child together. Set up one of the connected rooms.”
Bedelia lifted up her finger. But they’re SERVANTS! Before she could say anything more, King Engelbert gazed at her knowingly. “We have plenty of space for it.”
“Y-yes, your highness.”
“Please also prepare their schedules. At least three hours of playtime with Princess Angelica.”
Bedelia nodded, although inside she was screaming. Separate rooms from the rest of the servants? PLAYTIME? With the PRINCESS? They are far too kind. Far, far too lenient.
“And that should be all for now.”
“Yes, your highness.”
Bedelia placed her notebook back in her pocket. “Anything else, your highness?”
“No, that will be all. You are dismissed.”
Bedelia bowed and headed off. Underneath her skin, she fumed. Her neck felt hot, as did her upper arms and various spots on her legs. Parts of her adomen seemed to pulse with pain she had long forgotten about. Why didn’t they hit him?
She balled her fist and held her breath. She shoved the feelings down as much as she could. No, no, they’re not King Siegbert. She stopped walking, looking down at the textured carpet underneath her feet. No…even if they are not, it’s still not acceptable. She looked up to the foryer. I’m only a servant. I’m here to serve the King and Queen. My opinions do not matter. But I can still do what I can.
“It has been a long time since we hired a child,” said Bedelia, handing Lillian the schedule. Her eyes observed the gracefulness that Lillian embodied. “I know that King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance, as well as Princess Angelica, have taken a strong liking to him, but please remind Brent of his place.”
Lillian tucked her pin-straight hair behind her ear. Bedelia watched as Lillian’s black hair’s purple sheen shifted in the candlelight. What unique hair. She eyed Brent, who was playing with some wooden dolls on the ground, noticing his wavy black hair with a dark blue sheen. Both unique.
“I do apologize for my son’s behaviour today. I did not expect him to do anything to the Princess, let alone a proposal.”
Bedelia forced a smile. What 6 year old says such strange things? “He is a child.”
Bedelia observe Lillian carefully go through the schedule, her long, slender fingers running across the dried ink.
“You and your son shall start working next week,” explained Bedelia. “Brent will be given scrubbing duties up until 3 PM, after Princess Angelica’s lessons. From 3 PM to 6 PM, you are to take Brent and supervise their playtime.”
“Your schedule varies from week to week, other than the 3 hour block. Brent’s schedule will not vary until he is old.”
“Would you like some paper to mark down your schedule?” asked Bedelia, standing up. “Most servants have to check back regularly the first few weeks.”
“No,” replied Lillian. Bedelia’s eyes followed a plum purple glow sparking from her index & middle finger and thumb. She watched Lillian tap them together a few times before touching the paper. The paper faintly glowed a plum purple and just as quickly faded.
Bedelia jumped. Magic?! “W-what was that?” Bedelia took off her classes and wiped them with a cloth.
Lillian gasped. “Is magic not allowed?”
“N-no,” replied Bedelia. Magic! MAGIC! I haven’t seen anyone other than the royals and teachers use it before. And even then, it’s not used all that often. “It’s not. I apologize for my…sudden reaction. It’s not too often I see magic being used.”
“It’s not?” asked Lillian.
How does she not…oh yes, she is not from here, is she? “You said you were from the planet, Magirery, yes?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“If I am not mistaken, on Magirery. magic is a regular occurance.”
“That would be correct.”
Such oddity. Bedelia crinkled her nose. “While magic isn’t illegal, per se, it’s not widely used here, at least in Astral Isles. Please refrain from using it, at least in front of other servants.”
Lillian deeply bowed. “I apologize. I was not aware.” She sat back up. “I don’t…have much access to my magic in the first place, but the bits I do have make life more convinent. I’ll make sure to conceal it.”
Bedelia paused for a moment. ‘Conceal’? “Y-yes, very well.”
A knock sounded on the door. Bedelia stood up and walked over to it. What now? She opened the door, seeing a servant about a decade younger than her standing there.
“Yes, Esma?” asked Bedelia. Out with it.
“The rooms are ready,”
Bedelia felt herself heat up in anger once more. And once more, she stiffled it. “Thank you, Esma. You are dismissed.”
Esma bowed her head and walked off.
“Lillian,” called Bedelia.
“Your rooms are ready. Let me take you there.”
Bedelia closed her eyes and took a deep breath – this is the King and Queen’s orders. This is the King and Queens orders. This is the King and Queens orders…
“They’re the same age as me?!” exclaimed 8-year-old Bedelia. She pointed at the princess twins, Alida and Alina, who had just nonchalantly walked into the room up to the side of the throne. Her mother, Mona, had whispered the fact they were the same age as Bedelia, without getting to finish her sentence.
Bedelia’s eyes glittered. I can make friends! Before she could swoon at finally being able to achieve her biggest wish of all, her eyes caught her mother’s pale face becoming even paler. “Mother?”
A dark shadow suddenly hovered over Bedelia. She jumped back a foot, looking up. Towering over her was King Siegbert – the King who was ruling over Astral Isles when she and her mother arrived.
Bedelia watched the king’s large hand raise high up in the air and come down, almost in slow motion, across her mother’s face.
“Mother!” cried Bedelia, watching Mona hit the ground with a hard thud. Mona sat up, her head hanging.
“Loose mother! What folly you have commited, allowing your child to exclaim in the presence of us!”
“HEY!” snapped Bedelia. “DON’T HIT MY MO–”
Bedelia was no longer looking up at the king, but the intricately decorated ceiling of the throneroom. Her mouth tasted of copper and she felt a tooth swimming around. Her cheek was stinging so bad, half her face was numb from the pain.
“Baadur, you were the one who hired these imbeciles, yes?”
“…yes, your highness.”
Bedelia heard Baadur gasp. Then there was a disgusting sound that was a mixture of squishing and breaking for a brief moment. Bedelia ever so slightly turned her gaze towards the lifeless head staring back at her.
She held back her desire to vomit. Instead, she silently cried.
It’s my fault.
Bedelia held her head, standing in the door way as Lillian and Brent explored the rooms. Her hand moved to her cheek, the same one she had gotten hit with as a child. How did I…almost forget about that? It’s rude to speak to royalty and become friendly when we’re just servants. We can’t…. Her chest tightened. A scream stared to call up from the depths of her being. ‘I do not want anyone else to get hurt! It was my fault! It was all my fault!’
Bedelia jumped. She straightened herself out. “Yes, Lillian?”
“Are you alright? You look sick.”
“Yes, I am fine. Just a bit tired.”
She forced a smile upon her face. The child and his mother are cursed. “Do you have any other questions?”
“No, I do not. But may I request an opportunity to thank the King and Queen for their generosity?”
Bedelia nodded. “Yes, of course.” Far too generous for measly servants. “I will make…arrangements.”
Bedelia watched Lillian curtsey, followed by calling to Brent. “Brent, thank Ms. Bedelia too.”
Brent scurred next to his mother’s side and saluted Bedelai, just before bowing. “Thank you, Ms. Bedelia!”
Bedelia simply bowed her head, directing her attention back to Lillian. “Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Cecily will be here tomorrow to take you around the castle.”
With that, Bedelia turned on her heel and quietly shut the door. She walked a few feet down the hallway and stopped just before one of the lamps hanging on the wall. She held her chest and glanced around, before huffing. Her mind went back to Brent and Lillian. Lillian’s grace and Brent’s innonence just…made her blood boil. Her stomach clenched. She balled up her hand that was holding on the wall and she slightly bent. The flickering light of the lamps only amplified the intensity of her leer.
She wasn’t even leering at anything in reality – just down the long hallway partly illuminated by the mid-afternoon sun. Instead, it was herself. As she looked down, to the ground, she could almost see herself as a child staring up and back to her.
Her eyes narrowed.
Had I stood here before? She asked, looking down at her child self. Tattered and ragged, bruised and cut, her child self looked up at her. The coldness in her own eyes only fueled the rage she was feeling. Her mind drifted back to Brent in comparison. His eyes were so bright and warm. Her own, just slightly older than he was, had lost its own wonder.
“Why…” escaped from her lips.
She pulled herself up straight and grasped the fabric over her heart. King Engelbert is not King Siegbert nor is he King Wilibald, King Gerhardt or King Leberecht. He is just far too kind. He’s a romantic. His goal is for happiness and fulfillment of the kingdom, is it not? Yes…yes. There’s no need for me to get jealous over a child. Who am I to do such a thing? I’m in my in my sixties…goodness me. Am I child?
Bedelia jumped. She quickly shifted over to her usual stance and turned around, seeing one of the servants standing there. “Yes, Thomas?”
“There’s a water leak in the kitchen. There are repairers working on it, but it’s really bad…”
Bedelia’s stomach unclenched. A smile rose to her face. “Thank you for letting me know. Let me go access the damage. Have all the works left the kitchen?”
“Good. Please inform the King and Queen dinner will be delayed while we access the damage.”
Thomas bowed. “Yes, right way.”
Bedelia straighted out her top and looked over her shoulder. Her child self was gone.
Bedelia sat at her oak desk, sorting through her reports. She lifted up a small rag from the corner of her desk, from the one almost-clear spot and wiped her glasses. She placed them back upon her nose and flipped through the various size papers.
Every week, the servants report back to her. Not all of them, of course, but many of them report back to her in written form. She carefully read and every report that went through her desk and inside of a small notebook that she had stashed inside of a drawer, she went through and made a list of everything that needed to be addressed within each letter.
Manure is running low once more…fertilzer needed…problems with the hose systems… she read in her head, skritching down each concern. She paused for a moment. It’s almost time to redo the gardens, yes? She glanced over at her calendar with numerous mark-ups and highlights. Yes…yes…better order extra…
She finished reading off the note – torn at the edges and lightly dirty with dried soil that had once been wet and sat back. She reached over to her right and pressed down a stamp that had been sitting ontop of an open ink pad. She then lifted it up and stamped the letter in a bright red ink. The stamp was of a large circle with the words “DONE” written in the middle of it. Surrounding the word “DONE” was numerous decorations of vines and flowers.
She placed the stamp back over the ink and picked up the rest of the letter.
“Head Servan Bedelia, the King and Queen have requested your prescence.”
Bedelia looked up, seeing a young man holding out a letter sealed with wax. Bedelia stood up and leaned over, lightly grasping the high-quality envelope. Her fingers felt the woven texture as she sat back down. “Thank you, Antonius.”
Antonius nodded in acknowledgement and exited the room.
Bedelia sat back in her wooden chair, neatly cushioned with red crushed velvet. She opened up the wax-sealed letter careful as not to rip it. She could feel the wax was still moderately warm – cool enough not to get on her fingers, but warm enough to tell that it was sealed not too long again.
Head Servant Bedelia,
We request your prescence tonight in the royal study to discuss scheduling details at 8 PM.
King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance
Bedelia nodded as she read the note. A special request? She smiled softly to herself. “I don’t get these too often.”
She taced the letter up on the wall beside her and got back to work.
Bedelia walked down the dimly lit halls and up to two large, dark wood doors. she knocked firmly. “It is Head Servant Bedelia.”
“Yes, come in!” replied the voice of King Engelbert.
Bedelia opened the door and stepped inside. She quietly closed the door behind her. She smoothed out her skirt and walked inside, greeting the King and Queen with the bow of her head.
While most of the room was dark, the King and Queen were illuminated brightly by the crackling fire dancing around in the fireplace. Queen Pleasance was seated on a chair, her legs propped up with a foot rest. King Engelbert, on the other hand, had been pacing around. His faced seemed to glow just as brightly as the fireplace.
“Thank you so much for coming, Bedelia!”
“Of course, as it’s my job,” said Bedelia.
The King and Queen both laughed.
Bedelia pulled out a notebook from her skirt’s pocket, along with a pen. The cover was more intact than some of the other ones she kept. This particular notebook was a dark teal color with a contrasting red strap that kept it closed. Little tabs hung out from the book, but not too many of them. Bedelia removed the strap and opened the notebook up to a blank page that had been marked by a red bookmark. “What would you like to discuss today about scheduling?” she asked, very matter-of-factly. The smile on her face was calm, although she was just brimming with delight. Oh, how I love serving the royal family.
Bedelia watched King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance exchange looks. Bedelia could feel her own smile dropping a few notches. Her swelling chest full of delight started to sink. They seem far too giddy for an event.
King Engelbert pressed his palms together. “We both have discussed and agreed…”
Bedelia bit the inside of her lip. staring at the King in anticipation. Oh no.
“We want Brent’s schedule to be reduced further,” said both King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance.
Bedelia gawked. “Wha…w-why?”
Queen Pleasance stood up from her seat and walked over to King Engelbert, wrapping her arm around his. The dreamy, delighted smile pricked Bedelia all over. The giggle coming from the Queen’s mouth almost seemed like it was mocking Bedelia – before Bedelia could even finish such a foolish thought, she shoved it away and focused on the royals right in front of her.
“We want Brent’s duties to be reduced to 3 hours in order to increase studies and playtime,” replied King Engelbert. The King and Queen exchanged romantic grins with each other before they looked back to Bedelia. Bedelia could feel herself tensing up in anger once more. Only a brief, quiet deep breath seemed to keep it at bay.
“You would like me to reduce is hours…?”
Bedelia folded her hands and stood up straight. “Your highness, the child has only been here for a little over two months. He is doing well enough as is, is he not?”
“The poor child keeps falling asleep while doing schoolwork,” replied Queen Pleasance. She rested her head on King Engelbert’s arm.
“We’ve received feedback from numerous servants, including Lillian, as well as feedback from Princess Angelica and witnessing with our own eyes. Brent does an outstanding job serving as well throughout the castle, but a child ought to spend more time on play and learning.”
Bedelia’s head briefly shook and she stared at the two wide-eyed. Learning? Learning what? “What does he need to learn?” He has all his duties down, so there’s nothing left to learn for now, is there?
Queen Pleasance cocked her head. “The same education as all the other children in the Kingdom.”
Bedelia gasped. Yes, that’s right, they passed a law regarding education shortly after King Engelbert became king, didn’t they? Bedelia deeply bowed. “I apologize for my rudeness.”
Clip clop clip clop
Bedelia felt a warm hand on her shoulder. She looked up, seeing King Engelbert warmly smiling down at her. “It’s okay, Bedelia. You’ve been with us for a very long time and we don’t normally have children other than royals in the castle. It isn’t necessarily your job to remember every law we create.”
Bedelia touched his hand. “Thank you so much for your grace, your highness.”
King Engelbert nodded.
Bedelia lifted up her notebook as King Engelbert removed his hand from her shoulder. “You would like Brent’s schedule to be reduced to 3-hours, correct?”
“Should I keep playtime as is?”
King Engelbert glanced at Pleasance. “Keep playtime with Princess Angelica the same, but allow him time to play and explore for himself…so perhaps another 3-hours.”
“Alright. And what should I increase his lessons to?”
“Make it 6-hours for now.”
“Would you like me to make arrangements with Ms. Hendry for extended tutoring hours?”
Bedelia drew back her head in shock.
‘We would like you to arrange Taliesin to take over his lessons.”
The teacher of THE ROYALS?!
“W-when would you like Taliesin teach Brent?” asked Bedelia. She could feel herself starting to shake. Don’t tell me.
King Engelbert’s smile grew. Bedelia could see love and delight radiating from it. For her, however, it seemed to yank her gut down.
“At the same time as Angelica,” responded King Engelbert.
Bedelia mantained her smile. Inside, anger started to seep through the cracks in her calm demenor. “Will that be all?” she asked, listening to her voice crack ever so slightly.
“No, that will be all.”
Bedelia bowed. “I will make the arrangements right away.” She scribbled down the notes, put a tab on the page, and turned towards the door.
She quickly opened the door. Within the door way, her hand still on the knob, she wished the King and Queen good night and shut it as quietly as her body would allow…which was a quiet slam.
She walked at top speed down the hallway and back to her own study, where she collapsed on a couch by the window. She looked out into the moonlit night and the illuminated star grass – grass with bioluminense that looked like the stars were being reflect on the Earth (the very reason why Astral Isles has its name). She pulled the notebook out of her pocket and briefly glanced over the notes she had taken.
How improper of me…I was quite rude to the King and Queen…
She gently tossed the notebook off to the free seat beside her and sighed. How I wish I could scream. She swallowed, tasting complete bitterness. How dare a SERVANT child learn! Learn with the Princess! And the royal teacher! She pressed her fingers to her forehead. I agree that children ought to have a proper education, but is it really necessary to have the royal teacher teach a child who is just going to serve all his life. Goodness me, I know that King Engelbert married a peasant woman, but he was third in line…is he so much of a romantic that he is truly entertaining the idea of his only daughter, his only heir to the throne, marrying a SERVANT?
She glared at the notebook. And he’s going to be learning with the royal family’s teacher.
A thought bubbled to the surface from the depths of her body and into her head: “You don’t need an education. You’re just a servant.”
Young Bedelia, 14-years-old, was in charge of cleaning the royal library that day. She carefully dusted each and every book on the shelves, plus washed each and every bookcase in the whole room. She celaned th efloors, the desks, the lamps – literally everything – until there was nothing left. The room seemed to be shining and new again thanks to her thorough cleaning. Her chest welled up in pride, but she just as quickly stuffed it back down. This is just my job, I have nothing to be proud about.
Bedelia turned to the very first bookshelf in the room – the one staring right at you when you walk through the door – and pulled off the top most book. She laid it on a desk and flipped through each page carefully one-by-one, remove little bits of dusty and crumbs and unfolding pages that were bent dog-eared. Her fingers brushed over every paragraph on the page. She could feel the slightly raised print of every paragraph on the page tickling her fingertips. She smiled at the pleasant sensation, but her shoulders revealed another emotion: sadness. I wonder what this all says…
Bedelia jumped looking over her shoulder, seeing Princess Johanne struting into the library. Bedelia quickly stood up straight and curtsied. “Good day, Princess Johanne.”
Princess Johanne returned an obligated smile. “Good afternoon.”
“Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Yes, I am looking for ––” Princess Johanne started, just before walking over to the book Bedelia was in the midst of cleaning out. She lifted it up and looked at the cover. “Oh, yes! This is exactly what I was looking for.”
“I was in the middle of cleaning out the book,” stated Bedelia. watching Princess Johanne flip through it.
“’tis fine – I am just here to look up a paragraph for study.”
Bedelia watched Princess Johanne sit down in the chair at the study desk, going to the beginning of books to a list of spaced out words and numbers. Princess Johanne then flipped to the back of the book and started going through numerous pages of smaller font with words and numbers mixed together.
“What are those?” asked Bedelia.
Princess Johanne jerked her head, then laughed. “You don’t need to know.”
Bedelia’s stomach tensed up. She immeditately hung her head. “I apologize for my rudeness. My curiousity got the better of me.”
“You are fine,” replied Princess Johanne, flipping the book to another page. “I won’t tell my father.” She then rolled her eyes. “His punishments are too severe anyway. I’m waiting for Willibald to ascend the throne.”
Bedelia curled her lips inward, looking at the book with curiousity. She inched in slightly closer to Princess Johanne. “If it is okay with you, may I asked what the words say?”
Princess Johanne laughed again. “You are a curious one, aren’t you? What is your name again?”
“Bedelia, I appreciate your curiousity, but it’s not welcome here.”
Bedelia cast her gaze downward. “I apologize, I was out of line.”
“As I keep saying, you are fine. You are keeping me entertained.” Princess Johanne pulled out a notebook and began to copy down some notes. “The homework this time around is rather dull and I would rather not do it, but you know – politics!”
Bedelia nodded. She watched Princess Johanne pull over an ink bottle and a pen and she began to write. Bedelia’s heart fluttered at the beautiful calligraphy that was being painted onto the pages of the notebook the Princess was using. A quiet, but audible gasp escaped her mouth.
“Is there something wrong?” inquired Princess Johanne.
“No, your highness,” replied Bedelia. “It’s just that your handwriting is most beautiful.”
“Did you never learn how to write?”
“No, your highness. Never. I never learned how to read either.” Bedelia frowned. “I would love to learn though, if given the chance.”
The next giggled from the Princess cut into Bedelia’s skin unlike the previous ones before. Her stomach nodded. Princess Johanne replaced the pen into the ink jar for a brief moment and turned to Bedelia. “You don’t need an educationt,” she said. “You’re just a servant.”
Bedelia felt as if King Siegbert slapped her again like the first day she had arrived. Her hands jerked to touch her face, but she held them back – she wasn’t actually slapped, not physically, at least.
The Princess turned back to her notebook to write. “I, on the other hand, have a duty to become educated – must be perfect, you know? Whether to prevent my future husband from embarassment or ascend the throne if none of my siblings before me bear heirs before they pass.” She began to skritch in her notebook.
Bedelia’s eyes glossed over. “Do you need anything, Princess Johanne?”
“Just for you to clean up the crumbs.”
Bedelia nodded her head. “Yes, right away” and began cleaning.
Bedelia’s face was stained with tears. If anyone heard her, they were certainly being quiet about it. Her heart – no, her whole chest – felt like it was in pieces. Her shoulders jerked and she sniffled, muffling her sounds with her pillow. I want to learn…why can’t I have an education as a servant? Is the only reason I exist is to work and do nothing else?
She slightly moved the pillow to glance over at her mother, a woman she hadn’t talked to for almost as long as she had been in the castle. Is it such a terrible thing that I desire more than this? she asked herself.
Unable to sleep and wanting to cry even louder, she got up from her bed and through on her day clothes. She placed her coin pouch into her belt and wiped her tears with her sleeves. She made her way quietly out of the room and down the corridors, out to one of the many doors to the castle yards.
She walked out into the partially moonlit night and walked down the long cobble walkway towards the gates. She waved to one of the guards who waved back at her and within a few minutes, the gate had opened and she walked out beyond it.
She ventured past the lantern-illuminated, treelined streets leading to the castle and went down into the village. It was relatively quiet, but she could hear the faint sounds of insturments being played from one of the many pubs in the village.
She took in the damp air and spread out her arms. Maybe I can just run away, she thought. She saw herself in her mind, leaving Astral Isles and going across the water, into another land. Something, however, kept her wanting to turn back to the castle. I…I don’t know much else, do I?
She stopped in front of an illuminated pub and collapsed on one of the benches, hiding her eyes that were filling with tears once again. “What am I doing?” she whispered. I can’t run away…what if he kills mother? Bedelia paused for a moment. Is that woman even ‘mother’ anymore?
“Hey, girlie, why you so sad?”
Bedelia looked up, seeing a middle-aged man – clearly drunk – looking down at her. He was squinting his eyes at her. Who…? Bedelia squinted back at him, notiicng his face.
“Ah! I know you!” said the man. He sat down on the bench next to her. “You’re that, uh, girl, Bedelia!”
Bedelia froze and backed slightly away from the strench of alcohol. “Y-yes?”
The man snapped his fingers. “You’re one of the servants in the castle! I’m one of the gardners!”
Bedelia breathed a sigh of relief.
“Whatcha doin’ out here?” asked the man.
Bedelia shurgged. “Nothing…”
“Doesn’t look like nothing!”
“Bernard!” came a voice. Bedelia and the man looked up and over, seeing a thinner, younger man peering out from the pub. The young man had a scowl on his face. Bedelia turned to see Bernard giving him a loving, but goofy smile
Bernard, the middle-aged gardner, waved and began to point at Bedelia. “Hey, hey, Henry! Look! It’s Bedelia.”
Henry looked surprised. Bedelia watched him hop over the pub steps and peer into her face. “Well, look at that, it is!”
Bedelia could feel her face starting to blush. Why do they both know my name?
Henry frown. “Are you alright? You look like you’ve been crying.” He then galred over at Bernard. “What did he do to you?!”
Bedelia waved her hand. “H-he didn’t do anything. he was just asking why I was so sad.”
Henry sat down beside Bedelia on the other side. Bedelia leaned slightly closer to Henry, who seemed to be free from the stench of alcohol. “What happened tonight?”
“I sometimes see you wandering around here, but not usually crying. Did something happen while you were exploring?”
Bedelia shook her head.
Bedelia kept her mouth shut. I really don’t want to tell anyone.
“If someone hurt you, I’ll beat ’em up!” announced Bernard. He stood up quickly, nearly falling over. He swung his fist forward and began to punch the air repeatedly. “I’ll beat ’em up! Makin’ anyone cry for no good reason….”
Bedelia looked between Henry and Bernard. Henry was rolling his eyes. “Ignore him. Unless you want him to get beat up.”
“There’s a smile!” Henry pointed out.
Bedelia nodded and sat back. The brokenness she was feeling seemed to slowly float away, but she was definitely still left with such heaviness that was almost comparable to the time she got Baadur killed simply because he hired her and her mother,
“So, what would the Great Bedelia like to drink tonight?”
Bedelia tilted her head, looking at Henry. Not alcohol.
“Non-alcoholic, of course,” he replied.
Bedelia pasued for a moment. Wait…“did you just call me ‘great Bedelia’?”
Bedelia looked at him confused.
Henry light punched her arm. “Oh, come on, like you don’t know your nickname.”
Bedelia slowly shook her head. I have a nickname?
“The Great Bedelia, Cleaner Extradoniare! The most resilient servant of them all!”
Bedelia gawked. “I…I am…what?”
Henry nodded and folded his arms. “You win for the most abused servant who comes back stronger than ever. Even your abusers are impressed. You should just hear the Head Servant!” Henry held out his hand into the air in front of his face and began to flick it open and close with every word he spoke. “‘Bedelia – that girl just keeps getting better and better and brighter and brighter.'”
“From what I hear, you’re the most resilent, he’s ever witnessed over the past few decades.”
Bedelia blushed. “There’s no way…”
“You’re really well known.”
“But Princess Johanne didn’t even know my name.”
Henry raised an eyebrow. “Oooh, you got to talk to the elusive Princess Johanne?”
“Yes, she came into the library while I was cleaning.”
Bedelia could feel her face heating up more, with Henry’s eyes boring into them. She felt herself to shiver in embarassment. “W-what?”
“Did…the Princess say something to you?”
All of a sudden, tears burst forth from her eyes once more. No, no! Don’t cry now! Her shoulders trembled and her voice crackled with wailing. She clasped her skirt tightly between her fingers to try and negate the pain that was coming up.
“HENRY! WHAT DID YOU DO?! I’m gonna beat you ––”
“Bernard, no, wait! I think it was Princess Johanne!”
“Princess Johanne?” Bernard looked down at his balled fist. He frowned. “I can’t hit the princess. I don’t wanna get killed.” He began to sulk.
Henry placed his hands on Bedelia’s shoulders. Bedelia covered her face with her hands. “What did she say to you?”
Bedelia bit her lip and shook her head. “I-I c-can’t say it. I-I can’t!”
“Was it a secret?”
Bedelia pulled her hands over her face, dragging her tears along with them. She looked into Henry’s calm brown eyes and took in a deep breath. She then exhaled. She took in one more breath and said: “She told me I don’t need an education because I’m a servant.”
Bernard and Henry went silent. Bedelia casted her gaze down towards the cobblestone and looked away in shame.
Bedelia pulled a cloth from her skirt, removed her glasses, and wiped the tears that had started raining down her face. “I…I had forgotten about that.” She picked up the teal-colored notebook from beside her and lifted it up, looking at her own scribbles of writing.
Henry ended up finding me a tutor that I could meet at night who taught me to read and write and I took advantage of the castle’s library to educate myself in other subjects. She closed the notebook and stood back up, softly smiling to herself. In the end, the education I received lead me to be where I am right now – the Head Servant. She looked forward to her oak desk, covered in papers.
She walked over to it, carefully touching the desk with the tips of her fingers. She chuckled to herself. “How could I forget my own rebellion helped me get to where I am today?” She placed the notebook onto the desk.
“Perhaps the best thing for Brent would be the education…who knows, perhaps he could be the next head servant?”
Although a smile was on her face, her heart ached even at that thought. Her stomach twisted. When she looked over into the dark corner of the room, she could see herself as a child once more, staring at her with cold eyes.
She flicked her wrist as if she was flicking off water.
What is with me? Feeling jealous a child? I’m beyond that, am I not?
Bedelia carefully checked over the work of the servant walking two feet behind her. She dragged her finger periodically against each nook and cranny. She looked down at it and rubbed it on her thumb. Good, she thought. She turned the corner and checked the parameter of the wall. Her eyes looked up and over the window frame.
Did they get it up here? Bedelia turned to the younger person behind her. She jestered at the step stool sitting folded beside the door. “Please.”
The servant nodded. “Right away. Ms. Bedelia!”
Bedelia folded her hands and watched the servant awkwardly scurry over the wooden step stool, bringing it over besides the window. The servant unfolded it and locked all of its pieces into place. Bedelia nodded at the servant in thanks.
She slightly lifted up her skirt, just above her ankles, and stepped up onto the step stool. She very carefully traced the top of the window frame. She drew back her finger, feeling it just a smidge drier than it should be. Bedelia cracked a smile. She glanced over her shoulder at the servant, who stood rigidly in place. “Lilac?”
“Y-yes, Ms. Bedelia?”
“You were almost perfect.” Bedelia looked at her fingers, seeing specks of dust. “I am aware of how difficult it is to get to these spots. May I ask what tools you used to clean this window?”
“Y-yes, r-right away!”
Bedelia nodded. She watched Lilac step out of the room. She turned back to the window frame and continued to trace down it. It really is almost perfect. Was this carelessness or improper use of equipment?
Bedelia stepped down from the stool. She bent at her knees and folded the stool back up. She grabbed it with both her hands and stood straight back up.
And then her eyes locked to two giggling figures playing away in the garden, holding hands.
The sight was like a large knife being dragged quickly down her chest. Her muscles tightened and her eyes narrowed.
“I-I g-got the supplies, M-Ms. Bedelia.”
Bedelia shoved the stool into Lilac’s chest, who could barely grasp it with their arms. She didn’t even look at Lilac – her eyes were too occupied at the giggling children outside the window. “Stay here and do not move – I will be back within 20 minutes.”
She barely heard Lilac respond “okay” as she rushed from the room and down the corridors.
She made her way down flights of stairs. She could vaguely hear people’s voices directed at her, but she didn’t hear a word they said – it didn’t matter. There was a far more pressing matter to attend to!
She finally hit the ground floor and cut through the kitchen, shoving each and every person occupying the space out of the way. She left through the side door and followed the long, outdoor patio hallway into the central courtyard where the largest garden in the whole castle was located.
She trudged past the vibrant green bushes and the fruity colored flowers towards the giggles and delighted chatter. She turned the corner and walked into a wider clearing in the middle of the garden, where she saw Lillian sitting straight up in a chair, carefully observing Brent and Princess Angelica, who were sitting down next to each other, holding hands and sharing tea.
“Lillian!” snapped Bedelia.
Lillian immeditately stood up and she curtesied. “Good day, Head Servant Bedelia.”
Bedelia’s eyes locked into Lillian’s. Inside of Lillian’s deep purple eyes seemed to be a layer of nervousness combined with the unnatural elegance Bedelia still could not lay her finger on. Bedelia glanced over at the children, who were staring at the both of them.
Bedelia could feel her rage expand and just as quickly lose all momentum. She glanced over her shoulder and gestured to Lillian. “Come around the corner – I must talk to you at once.”
Lillian nodded. Bedelia walked around the corner, feeling Lillian closesly behind.
Just around the corner and out of sight of the children, but still at an angle where Bedelia and Lillian could watch them themselves, Rage returned to her body once more. She briefly wondered if her face was red with the amount of heat it was producing. “I thought I told you not to let Brent get too close to the Princess!”
Lillian flinched. “Yes.”
“Then what. is. THIS,” hissed Bedelia. They are FAR too close. “They are holding hands. They are leaning in on each other. They are GIGGLING! What part of this do you think is acceptable?!”
Bedelia watched Lillian lower her head slightly, however, she could see the rest of her body remained perfectly calm. Bedelia put her hands on her hips. “Do you think this is a joke? This behavior is completely unacceptable! They are meant to be playing, as in a form of exercise, not having a date!”
Bedelia watched a flame flicker in Lillian’s eyes. Bedelia leered.
Lillian lifted her head and raised her hand.
“What?” spat Bedelia. “What is it?”
Lillian flinched once more.
“I had been following your orders exactly as you had requested them. However…”
Bedelia’s stomach dropped.
“…the King and Queen ordered that I allow the children to do as they please, including holding hands and leaning on each other.”
Bedelia’s face completely drained of color.
“The only thing they requested is that they do not kiss or consumate.”
Bedelia burst into the King and Queen’s study, her face changing from almost green to a bright red. Her jaw was clenched and se couldn’t help but sared intensely at the king and queen, who had looked at the door suddenly, clearly startled. Bedelia watched King Engelbert stand up from his chair, facing her with a sternness that reminded her of his grandfather, King Siegbert. Something akin to an electric jolt ran its way down the left side of her back, snaking its way down just short of her leg.
Bedelia was brought back to the reality of her own actions. She curtsied. “I apologize, your highness for my rudeness, but I really must discuss this issue with the both of you! You surely will agree that it is most urgent!”
“What may it be, Bedelia?” asked King Engelbert.
Bedelia watched the king’s face relax. All traces of King Siegbert were instantly wiped away. Her shoulders dropped. I am not talking to King Siegbert.
Bedelia lightly held her hands together. She lifted her sternum and her chin, looking at the king with her own brand of sternness. “I was doing my cleaning checks when I witnessed Princess Angelica and that servant boy playing in the garden in a way most unacceptable! They were loud and giggling.”
Bedelia paused for a moment as a chuckle came from the King and Queen themselves. King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance both smiled. King Engelbert extended out his hand. “Bedelia, they are children. It is expected that they are loud and that their playing will produce giggles full of joy.”
Bedelia’s lips pursed a bit more. “They were holding hands!”
Queen Pleasance placed her cheek on her hand. “We are both aware they do that,” she sighed. Bedelia could feel a pinch in her upper gut.
Did she romantically sigh? Goodness, goodness me…
“And they were leaning against each other,” stated Bedelia.
The King and Queen exchanged glances. King Engelbert took a step forward, entering into Bedelia’s space. “Bedelia, I appreciate your concern,” he said. “However, we have already informed Lillian that these behaviors were perfectly acceptable. It was a decision that Queen Pleasance and I have made jointly for the continued well-being of our only daughter and for the only young child in the castle.”
Bedelia lowered her head, keeping her eyes locked onto King Engelbert’s. “I am aware that you are both supportive of the development of their relationship. I am highly concerned about the servant boy’s behavior towards the princess – it may seem innocent and harmless right now, but what about when they are older? What about when the Princess reaches the age of marriage? They are servant and master – not friends! If the boy does not know his boundaries now, how will he know them later? How will the princess be able to separate herself from him when the time comes when she needs to do that?”
Queen Pleasance appeared out from behind King Engelbert, wrapping her arm around his. “Bedelia, thank you so much for your ongoing concern – however, the behavior is quite alright by us.”
King Engelbert placed his hand over Queen Pleasance’s hand. Bedelia looked at the warm, loving exchanges in their eyes. Her heart, on the other hand, felt like it was being crushed under a bolder. “We have no intention of separating them, even as they age.”
Bedelia shifted her hands to clasp them tightly together. If her fingernails had been long enough, she would have dug them into her skin.
King Engelbert softly smiled at Bedelia. “Once again, thank you very much for your concern. However, this is perfectly acceptable behavior. They are not allowed to kiss nor consumate – everything else is fine.”
Bedelia’s eyes widened and glazed over.
“You may return back to your duties.”
Bedelia took in a deep breath and gave him a nod. She curtsied. “Yes, right away, your highness.”
She turned around and walked out the large doors, shutting them behind her with both hands.
Her throat seemed to ball up in her neck. ‘Acceptable’? What about their actions are ACCEPTABLE! I am so very frightened that the boy will cross boundaries in ways that are irreiverable!
She let her arms fall to her sides, off from the door handles. Her bottom lip quivered. I do not understand why they let them be so close – yes, they are children and I am aware the kingdom’s outlooks have changed, However, has it really changed so much so that a servant and a princess can be friends? That they can fall in love without any serious repercussions?
She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath through her nose. No… she thought. The King and Queen are simply far too soft, far too lenient. Is it because King Engelbert married purely out of love, rather than duty? Or is it simply because they have only succeeded with bringing a single child into this world?
She exhaled, bringing her hand to her heart. Water slowly dripped from her eyes and glided down her cheek and dripped onto the floor in spots you could barely see. Lady Johanne…
Bedelia excitedly made her way to library once more for clean up duty. Hanging over her shoulder was the bag of cleaning supplies and behind her was the trash cart, which she dragged quickly down the hallway. She slipped into the library when dawn was barely peeking through the top-most windows of the room. She lit the gaslights next to the entrance way and pulled the trash cart further inside, placing it beside a desk.
She made her way around the library, turning on each and every gaslight there was that wasn’t hooked up to the few study desks that had them (most of them had candles instead). She soon returned back to the trash cart and clapped her hands together. A large grin spread across her face and her eyes lit up brighter than any of the gaslights flickering away. No one should come in this early.
She whipped out her duster as if it was a sword and got to work, carefully, but quickly working her way around the room. Her eyes honed in on each speck of dust they could spot and each rub she did, the more vibrant the bookshelves and the books themselves seemed to come. She read each and every one of the spines at a glance – her heart swelled with pride. It may have taken her almost two years, but she could read.
She could read with ease.
And she could read complicated things. And understand them.
She whipped out an even smaller duster and scrubbed in between everything and the normally hard-to-reach corners. She blinked hard with delight, fully smiling at the tiny duster. Who would have thought a book would have directions for such a wonderful tool? She kept going down the shelves, all the way to the floor.
The room was soon flooded with sunlight from the dawn and just as fast, Bedelia had finished with the dusting. She grabbed went to grab the broom and dustpan from the trash cart, only to hear the sounds of ever-elegant footsteps step through the doorway. She turned her head, her face lighting up.
She curtesied. “Good morning, Princess Johanne.”
Princess Johanne seemed to light up just as much as Bedelia. “Good morning, Bedelia.”
“I apologize for the —”
Princess Johanne lifted her hand up. “No need. I catch you more often than not cleaning – you do not need to apologize.”
Bedelia bowed her head. “Yes.”
Bedelia watched Princess Johanne place her hand underneath her chin. The fingers slightly bent except for the index finger, her limp wrist, the way her right elbow rest ontop of her left hand, and even the crossing of her legs…there was a certain alluring air Bedelia struggled to put into adequate wording. Her mouth couldn’t produce anything more than a quite exhale as she stood mesmerised by the Princess.
“I’m here for just another book today – do you suppose you can help me get it down?”
“Absolutely. Will I be needing the ladder?” asked Bedelia, beginning to walk over to the book ladder hanging off the wall.
Bedelia grabbed the ladder with a bit of a skip in her step. “What book?” she asked.
“Archedukes of the Valley. Some stuff old book we must read, as always. It’s on the top shelf, near…”
Archedukes of the Valley by Simon Cheshire! Oh goodness me, that was such an interesting read! Who would have known how many archdukes from beyond the isles influenced Astral Isles so much? Bedelia laid the ladder against a bookshelf nearby a large oak desk where the royal teacher would often lecture in front of. She climbed up it and after a brief scan of her eyes, she picked up the book.
Bedelia turned to Princess Johanne with a large smile. “Archdukes of the Valley: the Outside Influences that Shaped Astral Isles by Simon Cheshire!”
Then she froze.
The princess was staring at her funny. Bedelia maintained the smile on her face, even though her heart began to beat so hard, she felt like it was about to hurt her. Did I do…something wrong?
“…I thought you couldn’t read?”
Bedelia’s eyebrows raised and her smile disappeared. Her eyes shifted around nervously. Her body tensed up. Oh no. I didn’t when she spoke to me the first time….
Bedelia slowly climbed down from the ladder with the book underneath her arm. She hung her head. How I wish I had bangs to hide my embarassment…please, please, do not get me in trouble…
Bedelia extended the book out with both arms to the princess. She bowed her head. “Here you are, Princess Joanne – the book you requested.”
Bedelia stood there, bowing her head, her arms extended with this heavy book in front of her and waited. And waited. And waited. Even though she waited, nothing seemed to move. Her arms were istarting to get sore in that position! I must have done something wrong…. “Please forgive me, your highness.”
Bedelia felt the book and her arms being pushed back into her chest. A pair of cool hands with long nails meticilliously manicured and painted grabbed her cheeks. Bedelia hugged the book to her chest as she shivered, her eyes meeting Princess Johanne’s. She doesn’t look mad. She felt the tips of Princess Johanne’s long, pointed fingernails brush against her bottom lip. To Bedelia, Johanne’s eyes looked like a gemstone polished by the Gods.
“Bedelia, dear, you didn’t do anything wrong,” assured Princess Johanne. Her eyes lowered into a curious leer. “Now tell me…” she said in a breathy whisper. “are you able to read?”
Bedelia blushed. Her head wanted to turn to tear her gaze away from Princess Johanne’s eyes – but she could not with the princess’s hands caressing her face. “Y-yes, your highness.”
Princess Johanne’s hands moved from Bedelia’s face and onto the dark green, fabric-covered book with gold lettering. Bedelia could hear the sounds of the princess’s nails lightly clacking against the book. Soon. she felt the weight lift off her arms and chest and finally noticed her mouth was gapping. The princess’s smile seemed to be on the verge of a giggle.
“How did you learn?” inquired Princess Johanne.
Bedelia flinched briefly before standing up straight. “I had lessons after work was over for the day.”
“‘Had’? You are no longer taking them?”
Bedelia shook her head. “No, your highness.”
Bedelia watched Princess Johanne look down at the book and run her fingers over the cover. “Have you read this before?”
Bedelia hung her head. “…yes.”
There was a brief moment of silence before Princess Johanne’s voice cut through: “Good! You can help me with my studies in the future then.”
Bedelia cocked her head. “Huh?”
Princess Johanne stepped into Bedelia’s space once more, looking at her in the eye. Bedelia took half a step back.
‘You know,” said Princess Johanne. “I never thought a servant needed to read.”
Bedelia’s stomach flipped.
“But just knowing you have read something like this —” Princess Johanne held up the book just below her chin. “— I am starting to believe I am wrong about that.”
Wrong? Bedelia placed a hand over her heart. There is no way Princess Johanne could be wrong…
Princess Johanne turned around. Bedelia watched the shifting of the princess’s long hair as her head lifted. “Oh yes…thank you for grabbing the book.”
Bedelia’s lips cracked a small smile.
Princess Johanne looked over her shoulder. “It’s almost a shame you are cleaning at the moment. I would have had you help me otherwise.”
Bedelia gasped and looked at the bag still hanging across her body, then over to the trash cart with the broom and dustpan.
Bedelia found herself summoned later that night by the Head Servant that night. Her body trembled and her breaths were short. It’s not time for schedule changes yet, is it? Her eyes whirled around. She pressed her palms against her forehead and threw her head back, feeling the sticky sweat the covered it. Her throat seemed to be swelling with each step she took.
She turned the corridor and walked straight to the end of the hall. There stood two fairly large doors in a dark wood. She grasped the handles and pulled them open, hoping her own nervousness wasn’t going to tear them off the door itself. (Even if that was probably impossible for her.)
Bedelia entered into the room as quietly as her body could muster and shut the door behind her. Her eyes glanced up at the man standing in front of the fireplace, only for her to lower them back to the ground a second later.
The man turned to her. “Ah, Bedelia. As expected, you’ve finished your duties in a timely manner.”
Bedelia curtesied. “Y-yes, Head Servant Roldan. Y-you r-requested me?” Be still, my trembling voice!
Roldan turned away from the fireplace and walked over to his desk. He lifted up a piece of paper and tapped it with the back of his hand. “It seems you’ve earned favour with the elusive Princess.”
Bedelia folded her hands and stood up straight. I’m not in trouble?
Roldan laughed. “I’m not going to hit you this time. You haven’t done anything wrong.”
Bedelia fllinched as soon as her ears heard “hit” leave Roldan’s mouth. Her stomach tightened and the places where her bruises had long since disappeared heated up. Her heart went to scream, but her lips kept it sealed. Instead, Bedelia simply nodded her head into the silence.
Roldan walked up to Bedelia and handed her the letter. Bedelia face scrunched, unsure what she was looking at. Her eyes gave a quick glance over the letter. Head Servant Roldan….Bedelia has been pleasant to interact with…smart servant…request to serve me exclusively….Princess Johanne of Astral Isles…
Bedelia’s head slightly cocked. Her eyes re-read the words: ‘request to serve me exclusively’.
Request…to…serve her…exclusively? Bedelia’s eyes slowly began to widen and her head straightened. Bedelia opened her mouth to speak, but the words became stuck in her throat. All she could do is blush and look up at Roldan.
Roldan nodded his head up. “She’s requesting you to serve her and her alone.”
The firewood cackled with delight behind him just like Bedelia’s heart. She couldn’t help but place her hand upon it in a futile attempt to quiet it down. She wants me to serve her…just me? She could feel her cheeks turn hotter than the fireplace behind Roldan. Can I do that?
Bedelia raised her hand.
“D-don’t I have to be approved by King Siegbert, i-if I am to serve a member of the r-royal family ex-exclusively?”
“That is correct.”
Bedelia’s heart sunk.
“But you have already been approved.”
Bedelia gasped, covering her mouth as the air left it. Her eyes began to well up with tears. Don’t cry….don’t cry…you don’t want to get hit…
“You are to finish your duties for the week. Starting the first day next week, you now exclusively serve Princess Johanne. Galiena will explain your new duties to you.”
Bedelia. nodded enhustatically. “Yes! Yes! I will serve Princess Johanne until she needs me no more.” She held the letter out to Roldan, who took it back from her. He folded up neatly and placed it back on the desk.
“Serving the Princess, eh? You’ve come along way, Bedelia.”
Bedelia had been serving Princess Johanne for quite a few months by then. She stood behind the princess, carefully combing her hair to keep her curls intact. There was something pleasant buzzing around in the atmosphere and Bedelia couldn’t help but lift her sternum full of delight. She loved feeling the princess’s hair – it was thin and silky, but she had a lot of it. It was almost like the highest of high quality doll hair. Heck, Princess Johanne herself looked almost like a doll of an adult in a lot of ways.
Bedelia peered out from beside Princess Johanne’s head, watching the princess’s calm gaze shift over to the small prayer book on the corner of the vanity. Princess Johanne’s long, slender fingers reached over and pulled the book towards her. Bedelia moved her own gaze back to Princess Johanne’s hair.
“Have you read this before?” inquired Princess Johanne. She lifted the book over her head and into Bedelia’s view.
“Princess Johanne, please don’t move!”
Princess Johanne’s hair pulled out from the comb that had been pampering it and over her shoulder. Bedelia and Princess Johanne’s eyes met. Johanne’s eyes seemed to glisten with mischevious intent to Bedelia. And that playful grin that arose across the princess’s face reinforced it.
“Do you really like my hair that much?” asked Princess Johanne.
Bedelia blushed. “Yes, your highness. It is beautiful.”
Bedelia’s eyes followed Princess Johanne’s right hand reach out to her own hair. Bedelia’s cinnamon brown locks were slowly being stroked between Princess Johanne’s fingers. The princess twirled Bedelia’s slightly thicker strands and slightly drier locks. Princess Johanne brought Bedelia’s lock of hair up to her mouth. “I think yours is quite beautiful too.”
Bedelia’s face heated up. She hugged the curl comb to her chest and stared at Princess Johanne.
KNOCK KNOCK click
Bedelia’s attentioned turned to the door. It was then she realized that she had been holding her breath the entire time Princess Johanne had been touching her hair….no…even before that. When they had caught each other’s eyes. She bowed in the presence of the woman a few years older than Princess Johanne. “Good morning, Lady Clotilda.”
Bedelia flinched under the gaze of Lady Clotilda’s leer.
“Good morning, my dear sister,” said Princess Johanne. Bedelia glanced over her shoulder, seeing all traces of playfulness removed from the princess’s face. In its place was pure unamusement.
“What do you think you’re doing?” asked Lady Clotilda.
All sense of safety began to drain out from Bedelia. Her gaze lowered to the floor. I don’t want to be hit…I was just doing her hair…
“Discuss hair with my personal servant.”
“…yes. What else would we be doing?”
“If it was just discussing hair, why are you holding your servant’s?” Lady Clotilda pointed at the lock of Bedelia’s hair still held between Princess Johanne’s fingers.
“Can I not enjoy the hair of someone else’s?”
Bedelia could feel the lock of her hair that was still being held move again. She didn’t dare look behind her.
“She’s a servant, Johanne.”
“Does that matter?”
Lady Clotilda clicked her tongue. “I’m telling father what you are doing.”
Bedelia managed to stifle her own gasps as Lady Clotilda went to close the door and Princess Johanne sprung forth to stop her. She watched Princess Johanne grab Lady Clotilda’s wrist and yank her back.
“Don’t. You. Dare.”
Lady Clotilda yanked her wrist away. She rubbed it, glaring at Princess Johanne. “…just remember she’s a servant and you are her master. You are not friends. Understand your place and her’s and I won’t say a word. Do not let me catch you again.”
Lady Clotilda disappeared down the hallway and Princess Johanne slammed the door behind her and locked it shut. Bedelia jumped at the sudden noise.
Princess Johanne’s hands grabbed Bedelia’s cheeks and she placed her forehead on Bedelia’s. “She’s right, you know…”
Bedelia’s body began to tremble, feeling the warmth of tears streaming out of Princess Johanne’s eyes and down both of their cheeks. She took in a deep, shaky breath, listening to the rest of Princess Johanne’s words. “…you and I are just servant and master…”
Bedelia couldn’t tell whose tears were who and who was actually shaking. Nor could she understand why it felt like someone just shattered her heart.
In between the quiet sobs of the two young woman, Princess Johanne whispered, “I am going to protect you.”.
Bedelia gently squeezed the princess’s hands without even considering their position.
Bedelia was halfway down the hallway, far away enough from the king and queen’s study, to sob and pull out her hankerchef. She wiped her tears away and promptly began to shoved back down everything she had feeling surfacing. Why I must I remember such a thing now?
She sniffled. And how did I forget it?
Her hand rested over the slightest bump in her multi-layered shirt. She could just about feel the shape of the pendant that laid layers underneath. Lady Johanne…
Bedelia placed her hands together and silently recited an old prayer from the book Lady Johanne had once asked her if she had read. She hadn’t at the time, but ended up reading it shortly.
=== NOTE TO SELF: This might be a part 2 section….but I’ll write it in here just for now ===
- Bedelia hears a scream. She chooses to ignore it, but is promptly grabbed by one of the other servants, saying Lillian is dead. She goes to the scene and after trying to dismiss the King & Queen, is shocked at their decision to continue letting Brent stay at the castle and continue as normal. Bedelia is told to assign him caretakers;
Bedelia was carefully combing over the paperwork of requests and events when a bloodcurling scream echoed throughout the castle. She cringed just as the screams faded back into the distance. She exhaled, as if that was going to stop her beating heart. What was that? She stood up for a brief moment, staring at her door, but quickly sat down again.
if it is something important, someone will inform me. She took in a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm her nerves. Soon enough, she was back skimming through the requests loaded up on her desk. She meticliously copied each request – clear, concise, and all the important details listed – to a notebook for further review.
Bedelia found herself holding her breath as she stood up from her desk. “Come in,” she called.
A middle-aged servant, several years younger than Bedelia, stumbled into the room, completely pale. Bedelia looked at him, feeling her heartbeat speed up again. She took a deep breath. “Jaan, what is it?”
“Lillian is dead.”
If Jaan wasn’t on the other side of the room, Bedelia honestly would have thought he had slapped her with a bag of bricks. She hadn’t even noticed she had stumbled backwards from the shock of the sudden news, lightly bumping against her desk. She grasped onto the edges for support – otherwise, she was pretty sure her legs would have given out.
Bedelia glanced up at Jaan, seeing the man tremble in his boots. A strange calmness washed over Bedelia and she stood up straight. She bowed her head. “Thank you for informing me. Who else is there on the scene?”
“Aubrey and Lamech a-are investigating what h-happened. Mx. Taylor is d-directing everything. Helix i-is m-making s-sure Brent is s-safe.”
Bedelia paused for a moment. Oh, yes…the boy…something will have to be done about him.
“Please let the King and Queen know that Lillian has died and they will need to decide what to do with her child in the morning.”
“Y-yes, Ms. Bedelia!” Jaan saluted Bedelia and walked out of the room.
She let out an annoyed sigh. It cannot be helped. She walked over to her wall where the premade schedules hung up on the wall. She tore them off and threw them onto her desk. She grabbed a brightly colored piece of paper — different from the others she normally wrote on — and wrote a note to herself: remove Lillian from schedule.
Her eyes narrowed for a brief moment before writing down another note: remove the boy from the schedule (?).
She replaced her pen into its holder, pushed in her chair, and walked out the door.
She walked up the nearby staircase and down a corridor, firmly knocking on a powder blue door close to the end of the hallway on the right hand side.
She took a step back and waited.
Bedelia looked up at the woman smiling down at her. “Ah, Ms. Bedelia! Good evening!”
“Good evening, Dr. Allard.”
“What brings you here at this time of night?”
Bedelia pursed her lips. Dr. Allard’s curled. “Ah…the scream. Wowee, that was sure a loud scream…who got hurt?”
“According to one of my servants,” said Bedelia, folding her hands. “the servant, Lillian, is dead.”
Dr. Allard gasped. “Elegant Lily?!”
Dr. Allard covered her mouth. She turned away from the door. Bedelia couldn’t see what face she was making, but seeing the doctor’s stance made her pretty certain it was of disbelief.
“Isn’t…isn’t her son only 13?”
“I do not know.”
“Wow…13 years old…only family member known to him…dead!” Dr. Allard gasped and turned back to Bedelia. “How’d she die?”
Bedelia raised an eyebrow. “I am here to ask you to figure that out.”
Dr. Allard’s eyes popped. She then awkwardly smiled and scratched the back of her head. “Ah…right…right. I’m the royal physican. For both the servants and the royal family….right…”
“Let me get some of my equipment and I’ll be right there.”
Bedelia nodded. “Yes. I will see you there.”
Dr. Allard waved her hand and disappeared into the examination room.
Bedelia turned away from the doctor’s room and took a brief look into the air with thought. Who else shall I reach out to before I see the scene for myself?
TICK TICK TICK TICK
Bedelia’s head turned to the clock hanging above the office. Goodness, it’s half past 3 in the morning? She pushed up her glasses. There is no more time waste. I must get…
Bedelia felt into her pockets. She patted around, quickly realizing something important to her was missing — my notebook!
Bedelia rushed off back to her quarters to fetch the notebook, fully well aware that it was just sitting on her desk, wide open, waiting to be written in.
Bedelia fixed her postured and took in a deep breath as she entered the proximitiy of Lillian and Brent’s rooms. She could hear the buzzing noises of the castle staff investigating and taking care of Lillian’s only child.
She also heard 3 voices she hadn’t been expecting, at least, not so soon.
Staying calm and collected on the outside, frantic and panicking on the inside, Bedelia walked into the room. Standing in front of her, facing the bed where Brent sat was the King and Queen. Bedelia’s stomach flipped, seeing the only Princess to the Kingdom sobbing and holding onto the servant boy, as if they were friends.
The only thing more horrifying than seeing the princess hugging the boy around her age was seeing the King of Astral Isles gently stroking the boy’s head. With kindness! Bedelia’s stomach knotted up. It didn’t help either the Queen was hugging him as well.
Bedelia took a deep breath as quietly as she could, stepping within the vacinity of the royals and the boy. She could feel the eyes of the servants around the room on her. She acknowledged their gazes before turning her attention back to the royals and the servant boy.
“Your highness,” said Bedelia. Anger started surging up the sides of her body, but she managed to mentally shove it back down into the depths of her being. “neither one of you had to be here.”
King Engelbert, his hand still on Brent’s head,, turned to Bedelia. “Bedelia, this child just lost his mother.”
Bedelia stuck up her nose. “We simply asked you to decide what to do with him in the morning.”
Bedelia watched as the Queen let go of Brent and placed a hand on his back. Queen Pleasance and King Engelbert exchanged glances, before King Engelbert removed his hand from Brent’s head. He extended out his arms, giving Bedelia a small smile. “We have already made a decision.”
Bedelia’s lip quivered as she lowered her nose, peering up from behind her glasses right into the eyes of the King. “Oh?”
King Engelbert lifted up his arms higher into the air. “Brent shall stay in this castle. He shall continue his studies as is and will be assigned caretakers until he turns 16. From there, his duties as a servant will be increased, although he is free to continue his studies in his open hours.”
If she wasn’t where she was standing, Bedelia was fairly certain she would have vomitted in that exactly moment – the King, announcing that Brent the Servant Boy was just going to simply continue almost as nothing had happened. She tightly squeezed her folded hands together. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH, she could hear herself scream in her head. Or at least, a younger part of her did.
Bedelia quickly forced a smile on her face, hiding the agony the best that she could. She had far too much of an audience around her to act the way she was inside. It is like he had done a speech for the people! His own father would never have done this. She lifted up her head a bit and pushed her glasses up the brim of her nose. “Are you sure, your highness?”
King Engelbert’s leer shot Bedelia right in the center of her being and slashed across her like a sword. Bedelia’s whole body tensed and her mouth gapped open. In the split moment, King Siegbert seemed to be in the room with her, staring her down, threatening to kill her for incomptience. She could feel her 8-year-old self quake.
“Are you questions me, Bedelia?” snapped King Engelbert.
Bedelia held up her hands just below her chest. “Ah…I apologize, your highness.” Bedelia quickly bowed forward, creating an almost perfect 90 degree angle. “I spoke out of line.”
“Please pick the best servants for the job.”
King Engelbert’s kind smile she was used to seeing had returned to his face, but Bedelia couldn’t help but truly see King Siegbert – his grandfather – behind those eyes. How…how dare I think kindly King Engelbert is King Siegbert. Bedelia, dear, you must be far too exhausted…yes…that must be it.
Bedelia bit the inside of her lip, nodding to King Engelbert’s request. “Yes, your highness. I shall assign him them in the morning.”
She glanced over at Brent, who she could feel was staring her down in a way she hadn’t seen in years. It was the same look of disgust the Princesses had given her when she had attempted to speak to them on her first day at the castle. Her heart completely sunk and she couldn’t help but wince a little.
She gave everyone in the room a small curtesy and began to leave.
The second she was out the door, her body began to tremble controllably.
Only shifting her thoughts over to who could watch after the 13-year-old boy stopped the old hurts from surfacing.
Bedelia finished scribbling in Brent’s caretakers – Lilac, Jaan, Peter, and Timothy. She let out a huff, folding the last letter and slipping it inside of an off-white envelope. She wet her fingers inside a shallow glass dish of water and sealed the evelope up. She took all four and slapped them on her opposite palm, stood up, and walked over to the servant, standing at the door.
“Take the letter to the receipient on the envelope,” instructed Bedelia.
“Yes, right away, Ms. Bedelia.”
The servant opened the door and got about halfway through it before Bedelia yelped. “Lalana!”
Lalana jumped. “Y-yes, Ms. Bedelia?”
Bedelia folded her hands. “Please make sure that they come see me tomorrow – many of us need the extra rest.”
Lalana nodded. “I will deliver the message.”
“Very well – you may go.”
Bedelia gently closed the door behind Lalana, locking it quietly. Everything about her demenor appeared calm – from the way she closed the door, to her light footsteps to other side of the room near the window. Her heart was calm, but something deep inside of her was bubbling.
She sat down on the brown armchair nearby the window, looking out to the fields surrounding the castle. The morning sun was just peeking over the horizon. The sky was still mostly a dark blue with hints of twinkling stars slowly fading into the background of the lighter blue horizon. The clouds in the sky were beginning to be dyed a light orange. Below on the ground, the biolumensent grass of Astral Isles (mostly where it got its name sake, besides from its North Star location) continued to twinkle brighter than the stars above. Bedelia couldn’t hear it, but she could definitely see a soft breeze rolling over the grass. Each time she could see the evidence of the breeze upon the grass, she let out her own gentle sigh – it was just enough to lessen the anger attempting to surface.
She removed her glasses from her face and rubber her eyes. She let her hips sink into the cushions as she placed her glasses on the table. She sat back and leaned her head on the back of the chair. She let go and her body slouched.
Do I hire someone new to replace Lillian? It is not time yet…I suppose King Engelbert will inform me if it is needed…
Bedelia’s heart jumped and she lifted up her head. “I need to redo the schedule!” Her attention quickly shifted from the thought of redoing the schedule to her eyes. She rubbed them in an attempt to clear the extra blurriness from her eyes, but to no avail. Ah…I must sleep…must sleep. It’s no good if I cannot even see, let alone think.
She lifted herself off slowly from the armchair and slipped behind her partition. She quickly slipped into a cozy white nightgown with lace-like embrodiery around the edges. The clothes she had been wearing were neatly drapped on the rack beside her and her skirt over the top of the partition. She smoothed everything out, gave herself an affirming nod of a job well done, and made her way over to her bed.
She pulled her covers up to her chin. Her eyes started to flutter close the more her head sunk into the pillow. Lillian’s dead and all we have is her son, Brent.
Her mind went back to King Engelbert, who declared what he and the Queen had decided on for Brent – their decision to keep him there and continue his studies. But why?
Far too kind…they are far too kind…
“I’m worried about the princess,” she mumbled, dozing off.
The boy is treated far, far, far too well for a servant. Anger bubbled up as she drifted off into sleep.
Bedelia lifted up the box, raising an eyebrow. “And what might this be?”
“From my understanding, it’s letters from Brent’s father,” replied Nakisha, one of the servants from the night before.
“…from your understanding?” Bedelia’s lips pursed. She watched Nakisha every so slightly flinched.
Nakisha paused for a moment, extending their hand to the box. “I briefly looked over a few of the letters. It’s pretty clear that they are from Brent’s father.”
Bedelia placed the box of neatly opened envelopes onto her desk and pulled out one letter. She randomly picked one from the pile – a light pink envelope on high-quality woven paper with gorgeous calligraphy on the front reading “Lillian”. She flipped ran her thumb over the raised textures and flipped it over, pulling out the letter. The letter inside was also written on high-quality cream-colored paper and ink Bedelia could just tell was of the upt most quality.
Her eyes narrowed curiously at the quality of the papers and the handwriting. Who IS this man?
“From what I can gather, his name is Kegan. He has been in contact with Lillian this whole time. Brent is often mentioned, but it looks like it’s in reply to something Lillian had said.”
Bedelia scanned the letter briefly. Indeed, it was signed by someone named “Kegan” and throughout the whole letter were sprinkles of love and fatherly pride towards Brent, as well as a much deeper love for Lillian. Where…is he from?
“Did you find anything about his location?”
Nakisha squinted. “Huh?”
“Where’s Brent’s father?”
“I saw him mention moving into his villa, as well as something about Magirery?”
“Magirery…” mumbled Bedelia. Isn’t that…one of the neighboring planets? “Did any of the letters say where in Magirery?”
“Not that I saw, but I only looked at a handful of them.”
Bedelia placed the letter back into the envelope and put it back in the box. I suppose I will have to take a look…it’d be much better to send that boy somewhere far away from the Princess. “Thank you, Nakisha.”
“My pleasure. Is there anything else?”
“No, you are dismissed.”
Nakisha bowed her head and slipped out the door.
Bedelia took the box and placed into one of her drawers. She then took out her notebook and skritched into “read letters sent to Lillian”.
What was Lillian doing with a man of such high status? Bedelia paused for a moment, replacing the notebook back into her skirt pocket. I suppose all of Magirery could just write on paper such as that…something so high quality for a peasant or a servant would be proposterious… Bedelia grasped her chin. Unless Magirery does not have a class system? She let out a sigh. I truly do not know much about the other planets out there – it could very well be that way. Or perhaps it’s similar to us…maybe Lillian had been his mistress?
Bedelia’s mind quickly flashed images of Lillian’s gestures and postures, her way of speaking when she was just simply talking and not attempting to cater to those around her. Her eyes slowly opened and a cold, sinking feeling ran down her spine and in her stomach. She…no…no.
Bedelia cleared her throat. No point in digging deeper into a dead woman. I’ll put someone onto digging deeper…but whom?
Bedelia glared at the door unintentionally. “Come in.”
The door opened and in bumbled in a short, stout man with rosy cheeks. “Uh, Ms. Bedelia?” His clothing and body were dusted with dirt and his overalls in particular looked oddly damp.
“The sprinklers broke.”
Bedelia slapped her forehead. “Again?!”
Gerald quietly nodded.
“I’ll be right there,” said Bedelia.
Gerald quietly slipped back out the door. As soon as he was gone, she let out a loud groan and went to the door herself.
**TO BE CONTINUED**