I refuse to be the royal buffoon.
I am the Captain of the Guard, eldest heir to the Havas name (albeit only by a few minutes), a master swordsman, one of Estella’s most trusted courtiers, and… and…
And a complete wreck around my queen.
“Your Majesty,” I stammer, “I… I mean, I would… haaaaaaaah.” I can see her trying not to laugh. At least she’s not annoyed. “My apologies, m’lady. I apparently cannot talk today.”
“Your eloquence is undeniable,” she teases. “Now, breathe and tell me what it is you want.”
I follow her instructions and the noise in my ears quiets down. I didn’t realise how fast my heart was beating.
I need my brother’s advice. Moral support. And, conveniently, a sword upgrade.
“Lukas!” I call. “I have a job for you!”
He gulps. “Full name. This… isn’t a normal commission, is it?”
“It isn’t, no. The sword upgrade is – just whip me up something pointy – but I also need your advice.” I sigh. “I can’t talk around the queen. The queen! How in the abyss am I supposed to keep my status as one of her most trusted courtiers if I break down every time I go near her? Not to mention the way my heart thumps around her.”
My heart sinks roughly in time with my brother’s expression. “Queen Estella? The Queen Estella? Sweet Watcher, Vince, I’m not sure whether you’re the luckiest man in the world or the unluckiest.”
“What… what do you mean?”
“Oh, you’ll understand soon enough. Anyway, about that sword…”
The next one happens about a week later. Estella is talking with her advisor about some personal matter. I try not to overhear, but somehow the conversation seems directed at me.
“But what of our allies?”
“What of our allies, my Queen? Would you anger one to please another? They may all be vying for your hand, but remember: this will not affect the loyalties of the victor, but the losers.” Estella’s advisor winks and I feel a strange lurching in my stomach. I knew that meat was bad. “Can you really afford to anger every ally but one?”
Estella’s face brightens and my stomach settles down. “No. No, I cannot. I shall simply have to court a member of my own kingdom.” She laughs triumphantly and thanks her advisor before practically skipping out of the palace. I follow her with my eyes, lost in a dream. The fog only lifts when I feel someone gently shaking me. “Captain? Captain! Are you alright?”
“I… have completely forgotten what I was doing.”
It doesn’t get any better. I’m so distracted I walk into trees, walls, people… even my Queen. “Oh! My deepest apologies, my lady.”
“No need, no need. In fact, this is quite the serendipitous meeting.”
“It is. I need to talk to you about something important to both me personally and the future of this kingdom as a whole. You may already have heard me discuss it with my advisor.” She sighs. “I’m not getting any younger. I shall need to attach myself at some point, simply to keep my bloodline going. And yet, I cannot simply marry an ally, as so often suggested. I have too many. Imagine if I gave my heart to one prince to have a dozen others sharpening their swords!”
“The abyss has no fury,” I mutter in understanding.
“Indeed. You see why I must speak with you.”
“Respectfully, my lady, no. No, I don’t. Am I somehow more trustworthy than the rest of your court?”
“Yes,” she says a little bluntly. “You are. I would trust dear Bradley with my life, but you are the only man I can trust with my…” She trails off and looks troubled. “Please, hold my sword. I need you to answer freely.”
I gulp and take the sword. “Answer what freely?”
“Captain… Vincent. I… I mean, you… would you… I have… argh! It seems it is my turn to be unable to talk!”
I have a dawning epiphany, and it sets my heart on fire. Kassi was right; I’m the luckiest man in the world. “If I may, perhaps, speak for you?”
I step forward, closing the gap between us. “Estella. Do you feel the same way about us? Do you… wish to court?”
“Then you do too?”
I nod. “I’m supposed to be the calm and eloquent one. But put me in front of you, and my heart thumps and my words disappear.”
“A terrible affliction for a courtier.”
“But not for a courtee.”
She giggles. “You, Vincent, are the worst.” She sweeps me into her arms and kisses me with all her might. “You need to stop talking.”
As our lips part, I look into her eyes and laugh. I still refuse to be the royal buffoon, but being the royal fool suits me just fine.
(814 words of a 900 maximum, which was really bloomin’ hard! Also 8 screenshots of a maximum 12. Go read the rest!)