I was seated in Sebastian’s study waiting for the tea to arrive. Sebastian had collected more books over the years than I could have imagined, I scrolled through each shelf one at a time, science, history, medicine, math and then family. A whole shelf was labeled family, quite intriguing if you ask me, a whole shelf for family. I selected one book that caught my eye, it was a hardcover book, thick as my hand and had an intricate cover. I placed it on the desk gently, took the seat again and opened it.
The first page had one sentence “IN LOVING MEMORY…”. The next page had a photograph then another photograph, the entire book was filled with pictures. I hadn’t noticed it until I had arrived in the middle of the book but these pictures were of my family. The picture I stopped at was of Sebastian himself when he was in his twenties.
“What is this?” I asked without looking up from the pictures.
Sebastian had walked into the study like a cat, unknowing to him I could sense him even if was on the other side of the house.
“That is a photograph album. Since mechanical photographs can be made this is a new way to store them.” the maid knocked and brought the tea in, “Finally” Sebastian answered and shooed the maid away.
“I should be in here, I should have aged and died,” I say without realizing my stupidity.
“You promised I would find her if I came back this time” I slammed my hand on the desk, got up and pushed the chair back. My voice was louder than a lion’s roar.
“You would but we need time, we need connections, we need the people she was in contact with. We can’t just get up and start investigating her. After so long she might even be dead, who knows. The hell you don’t even know her name.” He paused for a second, ran his fingers through his hair and spoke again. “I am the last last Rigal, I don't have any children who I could pass this on to, I am your last hope after me there is no one, the Rigal line ends with me.” The tea tray head toppled over while Sebastian was yelling.
“Her name was Lidia,” I murmured.
“So who was the young lady?” he placed his hands on his hips, trying to avoid the previous topic.
“Someone who overheard us in the gardens tonight, just wanted to see how much she heard.” I flip through the pages taking in each photograph.
“I told you we shouldn’t meet at the ball tonight, but you don't listen. You had to see the ball and all the amusement,” he placed his tea cup back on the tray and paced around the study, “How much did she hear? Is she going to be a problem to us?”
“No, she thinks we are a peculiar family, talking about secret family matters at a ball. Also she thanked me for saving her and wishes we never meet again.”
“That’s good, that’s really good. Now off to bed shall we, we have a long day ahead tomorrow.”
He wasn’t wrong, Sebastian showed me the ropes of the work and all of my new responsibilities. We went into town, I learned the ways of trade from him, and met the loyal traders who kept Sebastian informed. Sebastian made me walk and talk and learn for hours and finally after what seemed like an eternity of walking, I should know, Sebastian let me go. He met up with some old friends of his, I said my greetings to them and left. As the 15th in line for the throne I had to keep my image in front of the public. That’s probably the only reason why I stayed around Sebastian's friends as long as I did.
After I left him I walked to a familiar place. As far as I remember, it was a lush field that went on for Kilometers but what I came to had me question my own memory. I’d been gone for far too long, I could hardly recognize the place I stood at. The fields weren’t as lush as I used to remember, there weren’t many trees, all the flowers were gone and there were more people around than I could imagine. I strolled further into the field, avoiding all the unfamiliar faces without being rude. The stares of people as I crossed them increased my restlessness and I walked faster. I came to the point where I was almost running. The further I went the fewer people I saw which was able to calm the tornado inside of me just a little. At the edge of the field I saw no one, it was clear void of any human touch. The breeze here was fresh and cool enough to dry the tiny sweat droplets forming on my brows. I closed my eyes and for the first time in a long time heard the comfort of silence.
“Nathan” my silence was broken by an enquiring voice. I slowly opened my eyes and took a step back. As I turned I noticed not just one but around 10 people coming towards me. The one who called me came into focus, he was the crowned prince, the first in line for the throne.
“Henry” I kept my face straight trying to hide my annoyance.
“I’m glad to have caught you. I did want to speak with you at the ball but I was surrounded by my people.”
“I understand, as the crown prince you have to entertain certain people,” I pointed at his companions who seemed to be more women than men.
“You must join us” his face went from me to his companions and back to me. He gave me the same charming smile he gives to everyone but there was something different; a twitch in his eye and the constant fidgeting. “We are all friends here, come join us.” He pulled me into the group and I reluctantly joined them. He then introduced me to them one by one. Frankly speaking I lost interest after the first two but just to amuse myself I tried to give them all new names in my head by which I could remember them. There was Mr. Arrogant, two Mr. Snoopy, a few Mr. Only here to be Crown Prince's lackey, Miss Pretentious, there were more than enough of those, Miss I can’t breathe because my clothes are too tight, Miss Mother of the group, Miss I only have eyes for the Prince and then there was Miss Adriana.
Her presence brought me out of my thought bubble. She was sandwiched between four ladies with similar features as hers. She glared at me for a full 3 seconds before turning away to listen to one of the ladies to her left. Henry and his group invited me to their picnic which I went along with. We walked a little further from where we had met, baskets were brought, champagne glasses were passed around, everyone broke into pairs or smaller groups and separated from the group. I had taken a seat near us and decided to stay there for the remaining time. I sipped my champagne and ate my small piece of pie that was forced upon me by one of Miss Pretentious. As I observed this group of nobles migrating, a thought crossed my mind. Did they ever think of life without luxury, what if they were all stripped of their wealth how long would they survive. Imagining each of these individuals being penniless was quite amusing and without knowing a smile had taken place on my face.
“You look rather unnatural with that smile” I hadn't noticed when Miss Adriana had arrived.
“I didn’t expect to have a conversation with you after last night’s ball” I ignored her rather foolish comment.
“I wouldn’t want to either but standing alone attracts some unpleasant conversations” she points at the ladies she was with before and the men around them including Henry.
“Don’t you want to get the Prince’s attention?”
“I would if my brain was reduced to a peanut” that made me chuckle which got me another glare from Miss Adriana.
“And conversing with me is better?”
“Not particularly but pretending to talk with you will get my sisters of my back”
“Yes the 4 ladies in that group are my sisters, two of the men with the green and blue coats are husbands to my elder sisters and my younger sisters the one in the floral dresses, they are trying so hard to get the Prince’s attention” she sips her champagne.
“And you may I ask?”
“Me? I’m forced to be here. Mother expects me to marry soon, find a rich husband, she told me.”
“That’s not what you want?”
“Why would I, being a trophy isn’t what I want,” she sipped the last of her champagne. I got up from my seating position but found that even though I towered over her she wasn’t intimidated. “Enough about me, what was your reason to join the group? You did seem a bit annoyed when you were asked.”
“I have to keep good relations with the Prince. As a grand duke I do shoulder some responsibilities.”
“Can’t you just say you’re as pretentious as everyone here.” I couldn’t tell if she was drunk or serious.
“Aren’t you pretending as well?”
“No, I’ve made my intentions clear. These men,” she points at all of them “I’m playing with them, they think they’re courting me when I’m actually buying time until I can escape.”
“Wise plan” I mocked her foolishness.
“Really? What would you have done in my place then?”
“Probably married a rich man, pretended to be a good wife for a while then I would poison him and take his money.” this conversation turned fruitful, it was in a sense better than the conversations from earlier.
“Hmmm...I do like that plan better, I might just follow through.” With that she walked back to her sisters.
Around dusk I parted ways with the group and met Sebastian. From there we took the carriage home. It was around 8 when we arrived at the isolated road that led to our Mansion. I stared out into the darkness leading up to the mansion. My eyes were getting heavy and were slowly closing when I saw a dark figure, the only thing visible was a star pendant. My eyes widened at the sight of the pendant, I rubbed my eyes and I took another look but there was no one there.
-- To be Continued--