Chapter Two, Part II - Realisation:

Katherine knocked once, as she had been instructed, and let herself in. She bowed immediately, and through her lashes saw only the sovereign sitting in her throne, as yesterday, all alone.

"I'm... supposed to see the Belledevere Court" Katherine said awkwardly, making sure to keep her eyes down.

"You may rise" the Sovereign said in a commanding voice.

Katherine did so, and drank in her surroundings once more. The twin fires were lit, giving the window-less room its only source of light, and today the Sovereign was wearing a dark blue dress, impeccably placed so it fell around her elegantly, without a single crease, and covered the length of her legs, only the tips of her matching shoes peeking out.

The silence was getting uncomfortable, so Katherine spoke again. "So... The court...?" she didn't finish her sentence but knew she had been understood.

"I am the court" the woman said simply, and though Katherine hated to do so, she had to ask.

"But... You are... The Sovereign, my lady."

"Obviously." There was no hint of amusement in her tone, and Katherine squirmed inside.

"I... may be wrong, but it was my understanding that there are three courtiers."

"Indeed, you understand correctly" the Sovereign held her gaze deliberately before she spoke again, as if testing her. "Unfortunately, all three died last week."

Katherine gaped, unable to speak, and suddenly she was extremely aware again of just how tight her corset was, and for a moment she thought she might faint again.

The nausea passed after a moment, but realisation then creeped up, and her skin crawled at the calmness with which the Sovereign had announced the death of the Court members.

She wondered briefly if the population of Belledevere knew about this, an image of the town square flashing in her memory, of the preparations for the coronation, the whole town counting down the days until the ceremony.

"How did they die?" the question escaped her lips before she could stop herself, and she almost flinched, aware of the mistake even before she got her answer.

"That knowledge has no relevance to your situation, and is therefore unimportant." The Sovereign's eyes were impassible as she spoke. "So, now that you have been informed of it, we must look past this... inconvenience, and get to work."

Inconvenience? Katherine thought silently, horrified once more at the Sovereign's reaction, but this time she kept her mouth closed, and listened.

"We must begin preparations for your coronation as soon as possible, and time is scarce, so we have much to do, and you" she shot her another look "have much to learn."