Something was happening in the castle, and Estellise Sidos Heurassein didn't know what. That was a problem, she always knew what was going on in the castle and what was going on was usually nothing. But if something did happen, she would know, because the wet-nurse or the knights would tell her, or she would find out herself. There was only so much reading a young child could do in a day before they began to get bored and wander.
Maids and butlers were scurrying about, running up and down the halls, some were cleaning and organizing, some were shouting orders, tidying as if someone had greased all the hallways with butter. A greasy castle would be fun, Estellise could slide everywhere easily... No wait, focus! The young princess hsook her head, banishing the thoughts as she continued to wander the halls, catching snippets of conversation;
"He was kidnapped..."
"Like a baby..."
It all sounded so exciting! Like something out of a book. So the young princess pushed onward. She felt like a ghost, invisible to the grown ups around her who were gossiping just as furiously as they were cleaning.
Someone was coming to the castle, her new ghostly powers allowed her to gather. Someone important. Were they more important than Ioder? There was certainly a fuss when he turned up, but who could be that important?
She ducked around the servants, working her way to the front of the crowd that had gathered outside as stealthily as she could, feeling like an assassin! The closer she got, the more knights there were. All in red, they were Alexei's men! How cool! And they had such big swords and shiny armor. Bigger and shinier than her instructors. She vaguely wondered if she could lift one?
Estellise was almost at the front of the crowd, sneakily trying to get a closer look at a sword that she saw a carriage. It was big and shiny, with wavy designs, like a music sheet. The knights all suddenly stood straighter as the doors opened. The princess ducked behind the knights, going further into the crowd to hide and discreetly peek out.
"You know, you shouldn't be here Princess." a familiar voice whispered next to her.
"Captain Schwann ssh! Please don't tell Alexei I'm here , I just want to see." she said, before quickly remembering what her tutors said, and politely curtsied, "Please? I won't be any trouble."
He appeared to think for a moment, "As long as you promise to be good... Leblanc, keep an eye on her."
The knight beside her began to tremble, so Estellise held his hand saying "It's okay, I promise to be good."
She couldn't see the shocked expression under his helmet as he nodded. He's never had to take care of royalty personally before.
The knights were doing their usual show of pleasantries when two people stepped out, the first was a man with long black hair in a dark robe, he had a really grumpy expression on his face, reminding the young princess of some of the council members, had someone not given him dessert, that would make her angry. Next to him was a woman, her face was soft, gentle and sad? Kinda like Schwann did. When she said this to Leblanc the man chuckled. He had a good laugh. Estellise liked him. When the man looked their way she ducked behind Leblanc, hoping she was as sneaky as before.
When she gathered the courage to peek out again, the man and Alexei were talking, with Schwann at his side. She didn't even see Schwann leave how did he do that? It was a shame that she couldn't quite hear, but as she inched forward, Leblanc pulled her back. So she settle on listening close.
"Duke Fabre, it has certainly been a while." Alexei greeted, as smile on his face.
"It certainly has," the Duke agreed, "I see you have managed to buffer the ranks since we last met."
"Please, after the last war the men came flocking looking for glory. All of them spineless, except for Schwann here."
Captain Schwann merely nodded his head, but said nothing.
"Excuse me Commandant?" The Duchess spoke up from behind her husband, forcing herself forward, "I apologise for interrupting, but I have to make sure we are on the same page."
"Ah, Lady Fabre, pardon my rudeness, what is it that you want to make sure of?"
She glared at him, a fierce thing that had some of the knights shocked "Will my son be safe here?"
A grin spread across Alexei's face "Of course, we already have one of the Empire's heir here, and they have been kept very safe within these walls."
"Of course, but what of my son?"
Estellise watched in fascination, no one ever talked like this to Alexei before, and no one was stopping her.
That was until her husband and the commander laughed.
"May who ever wronged us be safe from your wrath. Yes, the boy will be safe here until the culprit has been caught Suzanne." the Duke said, putting an end to his wife's interrogation.
"Fear not my lady, he risks nothing here. Princess Estellise is currently the only royal heir on these grounds, Prince Ioder having gone to another location a few months ago, and nothing has happened to her." Alexei reassured the duchess.
She did not seem reassured "Good, because if harm came to a single hair to his head-"
"Now now, Suzanne no need to cause a scene."
The duchess sighed "I am sorry Crimson, you are right. Forgive me commander, these past few months have been rather, trying, for everyone."
"I can believe that. Now if both of you could come this way."
The two followed the Commandant, Estellise noticed a blond boy holding the hand of another young boy, probably the Duke's son judging his red hair. He was looking left and right, his eyes bright as he drank in the scenery.
Curiouser and curiouser.
The princess would have stayed longer, but that was before she heard the wet-nurse looking for her. She thanked Leblanc and quickly made her way inside.
"Lady Estellise! Where are you?" she sounded mad. Uh oh, that wasn't good. She didn't want to be locked out of the library again.
The maid found Estellise in her little book nook, even though the maid could have sworn she had looked there earlier.
"There you are! Come quickly, you have a very important meeting to attend."
The princess put on her best smile, trying to radiate innocence like she had been in her nook the whole time, "Really? But I thought today was my day off."
"It was supoosed to be, but the Fabres are here a few days early. Come on, I suppose that dress will have to do, I hope they won't see it as an insult...."
The wet-nurse continued on, as she often tended to. She did love to talk, so Estellise politely waited for a pause so she could speak.
"Excuse me, but I must know, why are the, uh, Fabres here?"
The wet-nurse jumped out of her speech. Estellise must have become a ghost again, what an awesome power!
"Well..." the wet-nurse looked left and right, "You're not supposed to know, but Luke their son, was apparently kidnapped from his home, and now he's become a re- um, I mean very forgetful."
"And now he's here?"
"To heal yes. They thought putting him with you away from Baticul might do him some good."
"I could heal him! Then he would be okay!" Estellise exclaimed as she began skipping down the corridors. She could help him, like a powerful sage!
"It would be a mircale if you could."
In the drawing room, the Fabres and Alexei were already sat, the Commandant at one end of the table, the Duke at the other, with his wife at his side, and next to her was the aformentioned Luke. All eyes turned to here as she entered, so remembering her etiquette lessons she curtsied, feeling her cheeks heat up as she did.
"Estellise there you are, I would like to introduce you to the Duke and Duchess Fabre, as well as their son Luke." Alexei said, standing up from his seat.
"Good afternoon, I am Princess Estellise Sidos Heurrasein, pleased to meet you."
The Duchess smiled, "Hello Estellise, you may call me Suzanne." she said before turning towards her son, "Say hello Luke."
Luke looked at the princess, then his mother, then back at Estellise, but otherwise stayed silent.
"Can't he talk?" she asked, inching closer and remaining oblivious to the way the Duke glared at his son. His wife on the other hand just looked on sadly.
"Not yet he cannot," she explained, "he has been through a lot as of late."
Luke fidgeted in his seat, as if unused to being the centre of attention. So the princess came up with an idea.
"May he come play then?"
The Duke spoke up "What an excellent idea, why don't you take it outside for a while, we adults must talk."
His mother gently nudged him, "Luke, go play I will be with you later."
Luke opened his mouth a few times, hands clutching at his clothes. His knuckles were going white. Seeing this, Estellise took his hands and pulled him away.
"It's okay" she said "I'll show you my secret spot where we won't be bothered."
Slowly he stood up on wobbly legs and stumbled after the princess as she dragged him along.
He stared at the library with big round eyes. Estellise was excited to see him glancing around.
"There are lot's of boring books around here, but my favourite are over here." she explained. Luke looked up at rhe books, then back down at her, with his fingers near his mouth.
He was so cute!
"Here, come sit next to me, we can read together." she patted the ground next to her, and Luke plonked down.
He watched the princess intently as she read. She could occasionally see him moving his mouth after her. She didn't know what was wrong with him, maybe he forgot how to talk, but that was okay, she would take care of him.
The wet nurse found them asleep in the library a few hours later, surrounded by books.
After that, the days seemed to go by so fast for the young princess. She quickly learned that Luke had forgotten just about everything, even how to read which nearly made her cry. How could he not read?! Against his will she forced him to sit down with her and she slowly taught him. Even if it meant chasing Luke when he decided to make an escape. He did that a lot.
"Etel no! Don't wanna!' he said as he ran from her.
"Luke! Come back here! You'll learn how to read, it will be great!"
Nu-uh! It's boring."
They ran outside, through the gardens, eventually after jumping through the shrubbery and skidding in the grass, the two were circling each other around a tree. Both were a mess but neither really cared at the moment, Luke far too busy trying to escape, and Estellise was too insulted by his blatant refusal of all things book related.
"It's not boring! You're the one that's boring!"
Luke just stuck his tongue out before ducking behind the tree. The princess sighed but still gave chase, which quickly devolved into a game of tag until Estellise spotted something yellow out of the corner of her eye and grinned. Luke wouldn't escape this time.
Just when Luke thought he had made it, someone grabbed him by the scruff of his collar, he instinctively tried to fight back, but his limbs were uncoordinated, and no longer on the ground. He found himself tucked under someones arm.
Estellise was glad for the second addition to the household as Guy, Luke's personal, servant was very good at wrangling him whenever he didn't want to cooperate. It was a shame Estellise couldn't get close enough to thank him. Some of the older maids thought it was a shame too. Still, as fun as it was, the princess was glad the game was over, she was going to get all sweaty now.
"Your highness, if you don't mind master Oswald has asked for Luke to be present for his lessons today." Guy said slowly inching away.
"No, you can take him."
Luke looked hurt and betrayed as he looked at the two of them, "But Guy!" he whined, trying harder to get free. His servant didn't budge.
Estellise giggled, "Now Luke, be a good biy and go have fun."
The scariest thing that happened was almost a year after Luke had come to live in the castle. The two royals had a free day which meant no lessons or tutors, before Estellise would have spent these days in the library, but today she was enjoying the sunshine watching Luke trying to swing his practice sword around, having forced Guy to help him. It was a rather comical sight. He was definitely better than before, but his grip was still shakey, and the princess bet that she would still have to heal his wounds afterwards. Still, she couldn't focus on her book, something had been bothering her all day, and she couldn't put a finger on it. She decided to focus on the boys for a little while, watching Luke attack with reckless abandon, while Guy parried without even breaking a sweat. He continually pushed back, blocking every swing from his liege, but he also had a frown on his face, something was bothering him too, maybe she should ask?
Then Luke doubled over in pain.
She was at his side, healing circle under her feet before she even knew what she was doing. There was something wrong, there had to be something wrong or he wouldn't be like this, but no mater how much the princess searched she couldn't find what was causing him pain. Tears of frustration and fear and other big words she could not explain began to fill her eyes. What was wrong? Why was her friend on the ground writhing in pain? In the end she couldn't find out, as the two royals passed out.
The bed was soft, but not as soft as the princess was used to. That was odd. And she wasn't in her night clothes. What had -
She sprung from the bed alarmed, looking around before settling on her friend in the bed next to her, Guy on his other side, in a chair, his face strangely pale when he looked up at her.
"You're awake." he said, he sounded strangely relieved.
"What happened? Is Luke okay?" Estellise couldn't help the string of questions and worry that left her mouth. Her healing magic usually worked, usually it was alright. She didn't like this, not one bit.
"He appears to be fine, doctors say that it was most likely due to trauma."
Estellise felt herself sink into the pillow, so he was fine, sort of. "Guy," she started "What do you think happened to Luke to make him like this?"
The famed kidnapping was somewhat of a taboo, no one talked about it, and Luke certainly couldn't remember. All the news the princess got was from the kitchen staff who were always the biggest gossips. Guy also seemed somewhat uncomfortable, as he shuffled in his chair.
"I don't know. To hurt someone to this extent, I didn't think...." he paused, taking a deep breath before continuing, "You know that Luke had a brother right?"
"He had a brother?"
"Yes, only a few minutes older. They found Luke but not Asch."
The idea was horrible to Estellise, losing someone so dear. She didn't know how much he'd been through. Didn't stop him from causing mischief however. Hopefully he would wake up and be his usual self.
"Yes your Highness?"
"Could I have a, a hug. Please.
She knew she shouldn't ask, she knew that Guy was funny around women, but right now she was scared and tired, and just really wanted a hug. And she could never hug her mother, and Luke was unconscious. There was only Guy left.
Guy blanched as he weighed his options, he really, really didnt' want to hug her, or be near her. But also he felt so much pity, he hated how much pity he felt for the Kimlascan and Zaphian nobility at that moment. It wasn't fair, why couldn't he just stay angry! He squeezed his eyes shut and held out two trembling arms towards the princess, hoping he wouldn't scream or throw her off
She didn't stay in his arms very long.
One thing that had Luke excited after he had proper coordination was the prospect of sword training. When Estellise's instructor n that she would finally start learning on her ninth birthday how to wield a sword, of course Luke wanted in. His justification was that he was almost 12, he should be learning too. Estellise always enjoyed the company so she woudn't refuse. And where Luke went Guy was sure to follow.
"I could be a really cool knight!" he proclaimed wavung around a twig he found in the garden. Next to him, Guy moved out of the way chuckling :
"It's a lot harder than you think to properly swing a sword."
"Oh yeah? And how would you know?"
"You would be surprised at what I know Luke, how do you think I got all those travel guides."
"Well come on! Pick up a twig."
As soon as those words left Luke's mouth, Estellise knew it wasn't going to end well, and would probably require some magic.
"With all due respect Luke-" Guy barely got through the words before a red blur charged at him.
"Come on Guy, bet I could beat you with one hand."
The princess watched Guy push up his sleeves and stomp forward. Oh dear.
Luke did not in fact beat Guy one handed. He didn't beat Guy at all. Luke ended up with bruises and knocked flat on his arse. Estellise was kneeling over him, glyphs shining underfoot as her golden glow quickly healed him. Guy hovered nearby, looking very guilty and worried, until Luke fully healed sprang up, with the biggest grin plastered on his face.
"That was so cool! Guy!" he whipped around to face him, "How did you do that, you have to teach me, please teach me!"
And thus began the begging, the whining, and the pleading. Now if only Luke could put as much effort in his studies.
Some of the best days where when Lady Suzanne visited. Estellise had never had a mother, but she imagined this is what a mother should be like. She was nice, kind and patient. She would put up with Luke's whining far better than anyone else, always gently shushing him to get to the bottom of his whims. And the castle seemed to relax when she was here.
They were sitting in a small private room, having afternoon teas while Luke was studying, or just dying as he said. The sun was filtering through the windows, giving everything a warm glow that just made Estellise feel comfortable.
"So," Lady Suzanne said, "Living with Luke isn't too difficult?"
"Oh no, not at all. He has made the palace fun." Estellise replied, carefully sipping her tea, "He is very willful, it's nice to have someone around like that."
"I am glad. Ever since the... incident, I worry he will never be safe again, but it is nice to see him so relaxed when compared to before." The Duchess glanced out of the window to where Luke was studying under Guy's supervision. The two seemed to be bickering again.
"What about you my dear? How are you doing these days?"
The princess looked up from her cup in surprise, before she remembered her etiquette lessons and gathered her composure. "I am doing fine, my studies are going well, though I have less time to read than before. Luke is very demanding when it comes to sword practice."
"As you said, very willful." Lady Suzanne smiled at the though, Luke was finally being given a chance to live. And apparently, so was the princess, solitude no longer being so prominent in her life, "Princess, I would like to thank you for keeping my son company and aiding him as you have, he is very lucky you are here, as am I."
Estellise could feel a blush crawling up her face at those words, which she adamantly tried to refute, she wasn't doing it for praise or gratitude, she was just helping, she didn't need anyone to acknowledge it when it was the right thing to do. But Suzanne very calmly shushed her, with a hand on her arm, and a warm smile,
"While it may be the right thing, you have helped save my son, and for that I will be forever grateful. You should learn to accept kindness more, people give it quite easily."
"Please do not look so downcast, it is merely advice from one person to another. You are a gentle soul, do not downplay your gift."
Estellise gripped her cup a little tighter, letting the warmth seep into her hands, grounding her when she did not know what to do with such praise, Suzanne never chided her, or scolded her, or said she wasn't working hard enough. She gave praise where she saw fit, and Estellise was a little lost. As if sensing this, Suzanne put her cup down and stood up,
"Well, I think we have enough tea for the time being, don't you? Luke will be busy a little longer, so how about you show me that dress you were mentioning earlier? I do miss having other ladies around with whom I can actually speak?"
Estellise eagerly followed, as she began to talk. It was nice to have someone who would just listen sometimes.
The princess waited, with her shield lifted for Luke to make the first move, the two circled around each other, before Luke rushed forward, the princess managed to block, but was struggling to push him away, so she riposted thrusting her blade forward, Luke was hit forcing him to move back, putting them in the same position as before. Drake watched the two circle each other, as did Schwann, the pressure could be felt, before the two went back to trading blows.
Alexei had ordered Schwann to help with their instruction, and while Drake said nothing, he knew that Drake didn't always appreciate him being there. It didn't matter to Schwann, not much did. However he was surprised at how well the two managed to fight, having only had classes. Estellise was surprisingly sturdy, and her natural healing only boosted this, while Luke was scrappy, stronger yes, but also faster, his blows were more deadly. They were rather evenly matched, but the princess was pulling ahead.
"Halt!" Drake called, holding up his hand. Luke and Estellise lowered their weapons, huffing and puffing, "You both did very well today, Luke you should work on making your strikes more precise, it's pointless to attack your enemies shield, and try to surprise your opponent more. Estellise, focus on moving faster, and being more flexible in combat, don't only block with your shield, you can knock an enely back as well."
The two nodded, good.
Schwann and Drake dismissed the two as they went to talk, probably about lesson plans and other such things, and as soon as they were out of sight, Estellise and Luke collapsed on the floor.
"Drake and Captain Schwann really are drill instructors. I can't feel my arms anymore." She couldn't even muster the strength to wipe away the sweat from her brow.
"Yeah, but we're getting stonger, so that's good."
Estellise looked over at Luke, he was lying next to her, like a starfish and while he was as sweaty as she was he seemed happy? Content? It made her curious, "Why do you want to get stronger?"
"So we can finally leave."
"If we're strong enough to protect ourselves we could finally leave, not be stuck in a boring castme all day."
She wiggled over to be next to him, watching the sly above and the clouds gently float by. "That would be nice. If we left where would you go?"
"I want to see the ocean. Guy tried to explain it, but I still can't imagine it."
"Water as far as the eye can see. That would be fun! Maybe we could see some pirates!"
"And find some hidden treasure!"
"That would be cool."
They lapped into silence, listening to the sounds drifting up from the the cities other quarters. There were always so many people bustling about, it was never quite, the princess never noticed how quite the palace was until she came outside, it was probably even louder beyond the gates. The world outside was probably never silent.
"Luke."she asked, hearing him humm a reply, "Luke, when we get out of the castle, and the barrier together, lets go see the ocean."
"We will, promise?"
"Pinkie promise." she giggled at Luke's light blush. When he was younger, he used to make these sort of promises all the time. The pinkie oath was sacred to him. Still he he pushed his hand towards her and they swore, before the princess stood up, brushing her clothes off.
"Hey where are you going?" Luke asked, begining to sit up
"To take a bath, It's not very lady like to go around being sweaty."
Luke's eyes widened, "No! I go first!" he yelled scrambling to his feet.
"No you don't!" Estellise yelled back before running off.
"Estellise you take forever!"
"Best you ran fast then!"
The sound of their laughter could be heard throughout the castle halls. Estellise still beat Luke however.
A storm was raging outside, the sky lighting up occasionally as the rain pelted the windows. Estellise loved reading during nights like this, the candle providing a small warmth and the weather giving the best atmosphere for scarier stories. The way the wind rattled omniously, and the sudden chill was perfect, and definately not the reason why she had read the same paragraph three times!
Then a small knock on her door made her jump hard, throwing the book at the offending noise with an eep!
"Uh, Estellise? Are you okay?" Luke asked, poking his head in, and spying the princess covers drawn high, and the book next to the door, "What are you doing?"
"N-nothing! I was just reading."
He looked again at said book, which was closer to him than the princess, "Why is it here?"
"Because I put it there." she quickly said, hating when Luke began to question things. He knew the answer and was just being coy, "But that is neither here nor there, how can I help you?"
"I, uh couldn't sleep and was wondering if you could, uh read a story to me, like before?"
Oh he was blushing! Sometimes he could be such a child. Estellise knew she was spoiling him, but she couldn't say no, especially when he was going to be leaving soon. It would be lonely without him. She sighed, "Come on then. Really Luke you shouldn't need me to read to you anymore."
He scoffed, flooping down next to her, wincing when he hit the bed. Oh dear, maybe he had another headache.
"Shut up and get on with it." he said, his words slightly muffled by the pillows.
"Should I read or shut up then?"
A pillow softly hit her, and she giggled quietly, it was so easy to poke fun at him. He always bit back. She went and got the book before the two got comfortable. She was about to start when she heard another mumble.
"What was that?"
"Sorry I'm leaving before you." he said, before hiding his face again.
"Aw Luke, it's okay I don't mind."
"You always say that."
"You are allowed to be mad you know."
"But I'm not, I'm happy for you Luke, you're going to be a knight! It's what you always wanted."
"But we promised-"
"We did, the same way you promised you wouldn't eat all the cake."
"We were thirteen!"
"But you did it anyway" she sighed, her fingers turing the pages back and forth, "I know what we promised, I'm not going outside the barrier yet, so you haven't broken anything."
He made a small noise in complaint.
"You become a strong knight, and when you comeback, we can go to see the ocean together okay?"
"Okay. Still wish you could be there as well."
"So do I. Now go to sleep, Captain Schwann wants to test you, he isn't going to go easy."
"He never does."
She turned to the right page and began reading, know Luke wasn't actually listening instead just letting the words wash over him, still she decided that instead of some of the creepier fairy tales she would read something nicer, reading the tales of Vesperia and the Child of the Full Moon, lulling him into a peaceful sleep. Was it bad that she wanted him to stay a little longer?
Three months later, the day after Luke's sixteenth birthday, he left the castle, and suddenly Princess Estellise was alone in the castle all over again.