Don't Push The Red Button
In the shadow of an arranged marriage a lifetime in the making, Prince Dolonic is at war with himself. If he marries Princess Andraline, he will become King of both their countries, and therefore be able to make a meaningful difference in the lives of his long-suffering subjects. On the other hand, he's madly in love with her younger sister, Princess Caradin. The law states that only the eldest is eligible for the throne, so Prince Dolonic must keep his love a secret if he hopes to become King.
Dolonic has resigned himself to his fate when, six months before his wedding, Princess Caradin vanishes in the night. A note is left behind, saying that she's gone to visit the Outskirt Villages. As Dolonic reads it, he's sure that the note is not in her handwriting. No one listens to him when he insists repeatedly that the note was not written by Caradin, and that she may be in danger.
With little time to search and nothing but a forged note to go on, Dolonic must decide what is more important: his love, or his kingdom.
The Princesses, along with their ladies-in-waiting, often took their leisure time in the Splendid Garden, a gigantic, glittering greenhouse adjacent to the Palace. Set atop the highest point of the Mountain, the Splendid Garden offered the most possible sunlight, and as such was able to house the most exotic of plants and some aesthetically pleasing glitterbugs. Some plants I recognized from my home in Pagichem, like the beautiful golden Star Flower tree, its long, slender branches dangling over a small irrigation channel.
I knew I would find Princess Caradin here somewhere, probably reading or studying maps of Rhoyachem, planning her next charity route. She loved to find a corner over in the Maze to keep from being bothered. I stepped into the entrance of the Maze, brushing my hand along the tall, soft featherleaf hedges. After a few turns, moving toward the middle of the Maze, I heard girlish giggling. I stopped in my tracks, listening. Two voices, hushed, but moving closer to me.
A high-pitched voice rang out, "I didn't believe it either, but it's true! Having a baby, she is!" More giggling.
"Aiva, keep your voice down! You can't possibly be sure of that. How do you know?" This voice was quiet, older.
"From her very lips, I heard it! Arguing with the father, she was, right out of sorts. Can't blame her though, can you?"
I recognized the voices. The younger girl was Lady Aiva, lady-in-waiting to Andraline, and the older one was that of Lady Isa, lady-in-waiting to the Queen. They were so close at this point that I feared being discovered, and quickly moved on to try and find Caradin.