The meal passed in a blur, everything laying heavy in my stomach as I envisioned a lifetime of enslavement to the mad kings whim. I could not decide which would be worse- a short lifetime, or a long one. The entertainments may have been entertaining to me, before- but not that night. To this day I cannot remember who performed, or what- only that I did my best to applaud when everyone else did.
The king introduced many nobles to me- my legs quickly grew fatigued with the almost incessant curtseying in such a heavy gown. All of the splendidly dressed lords and ladies wanted to make small talk, now that I was so obviously in his majesty’s favor, and I did my best to keep up. Part of me wanted desperately to impress these people, in the hopes that one or more might take pity on me, and rescue me. The other, larger part recognized that for the impossible dream it was. No one here had more power than the king- and so far none of them even seemed to have influence over him.
Through it all the king remained by my side, his arm placed proprietarily on my waist, or hip, or shoulder, or elbow. It could not have been more obvious that I was his possession, his new toy to be lorded over his richest subjects. Not a one of them mentioned gold or spinning to me- to the point where I realized it must have been quite deliberate, for surely at least one person would have remarked upon my quite remarkable gown. Games, I thought uneasily. Games within games. Had they been told not to bring up those subjects? Or was there a point to everyone pretending they didn’t know why I was there.
It lasted for hours- long, painful hours that undid any good my bath and nap might have done for refreshing my body. And the music and laughing and dancing were all still going when the king purposefully guided me out into one of the gardens, where he managed to slip the two of us away without anyone the wiser.
He lead me through row after row of beautiful rose hedges, speckled in a glorious variety of pink, red, orange, and lavender buds. The whole thing gave the impression of a sunrise reflected in dew. The actual sun, however, was slipping towards the horizon, and our shadows stretched out ahead of us as the king walked me towards an outbuilding.
I stared at it dully, knowing that it wouldn’t be a mere chamber, this time.