A brief recap- Saphina recently left her village of Gredsford, leaving behind a little brother, a distant mother, and a mean aunt. She departed in the company of the Kelynds, who were bringing her to their village in the Faevera Mountains as a bride for their son. However, on the second night of the journey, the travelers were attacked in the mountains by shadow demons, with only Saphina escaping. After stumbling about in the cold barren mountains for a day with a firebird as her guide, she fell into the path of Corina, the housekeeper for the royal family; the same royal family which had not been seen in two years, leaving the country in turmoil. After surviving sickness, Saphina awakes to find herself in the kitchen of the royal family's summer home in the Faeveras. She is properly introduced to Corina, as well as Welliem, the crown prince, and Fhen, the royal wizard. After telling Corina she wished to return to Gredsford, she changed her mind and decided to stay at the castle as a maid.

Saphina muttered angrily under her breath as Corina strode on ahead of her, the older woman's strides echoing in the empty hallways. The bucket of soapy water Saphina was dragging along hit her leg constantly, and the disgruntled girl could tell she would have a bruise there the next day.

"Corina! Could you possibly slow down a bit?"

"If you would walk faster, we would not have this problem. Hurry up!"

Saphina let out a sigh and continued after the housekeeper. Today was her first day out of the kitchens, and while Saphina was grateful to be done with dishwashing duty, she had not expected the royal family's summer home to be quite so big. Her feet were already aching from having been given a tour this morning; while she had thoroughly enjoyed Welliem's company, that did not stop the stairs from being quite so numerous, nor the rooms from being quite so many.

Saphina nearly ran into Corina's back as the housekeeper stopped in front of a large wooden door. The new maid recognized it as one of the two ballrooms Welliem had shown her in the morning; she quickly prayed to Calanthia that it was the empty one with the slightly dirty floor. A groan escaped her as the opening of the door revealed an extravagant ballroom filled with ancient dusty furniture.

"Right," Corina said, turning to view her new maid. "I have been meaning to clean these pieces of furniture for a while now. They haven't had a good dusting in ages. Obviously, I don't expect you to get this all done today. However, I do expect you to get it done in a timely fashion. Any ornaments found on the furniture will have to be cleaned as well. I suggest you try getting through those this afternoon. Any questions?"

"Um, how am I supposed to get back to the kitchen? I need a map to get from one end of this blasted castle to the other," Saphina grumbled.

"I will send someone to get you when it is time for dinner. If that is it, I have to be going. I told Thaelina I would make her a new dress. Gatu knows what she needs it for, though." Corina shook her head, and with a nod in the direction of Saphina, the woman left.

Saphina turned to look at the room. The crowds of furniture glared back at her, their masses forbidding in the dim light that came from the mostly covered windows lining the walls. With a shrug of her shoulders, Saphina walked over to the nearest piece, which happened to be a set of drawers. The top of the set was covered in a fair amount of dust, but it looked as if an intricate design had been etched around the edges. Saphina absentmindedly traced the pattern with a finger, ignoring the pile of dust she accumulated as she went. Flowers grew from a vine which twisted its way along; the new maid smiled to herself, for they reminded her of the plants which bloomed alongside her creek in Gredsford.

Her finger reached its starting point, and Saphina knelt to the ground to examine the rest of the piece of furniture. The drawers looked as if they had been glued shut with years worth of grime, and the knobs were speckled with rust. The kneeling girl grimaced as she pulled open the first drawer. A groan echoed throughout the room as the dresser let go of the wooden box it had held for so long. Saphina peered into the drawer and, to her great disappointment, found dirt. A thin layer of dust lay upon the bottom, but other than that, the drawer contained nothing but air. She closed it and moved onto the second drawer. To her delight, that one contained an aged mirror and brush set. Made of elegantly carved wood and sparkling with tiny precious jewels, the set had obviously belonged to a member of the household. Saphina eagerly moved onto the next drawer, and in no time at all, she had amassed quite a collection. A box of jewelry had joined the brush and mirror, along with a pile of once colorful scarves, a couple of journals which were too smudged to read, a stack of aged parchment, a few delicate bottles which looked as if they had held scents at one point, and several pressed flowers.

The girl, a delighted smile on her face, eagerly began sorting through her newfound treasures. When Welliem strolled in twenty minutes later, he found her sitting on the floor, hair covered by a red and gold scarf, neck encircled by a dozen different necklaces, and attempting to read one of the poorly preserved journals.

"Well, it's good to know you're getting some work done," he called out in a joking tone.

Saphina jumped to her feet, startled, and the book fell to the floor. The prince lunged forward and grabbed the journal as she began to stutter out an apology.

"Oh, I'm sorry! I was just, well- It was just that-um…" She trailed off uncertainly, gazing upon the curly haired prince as he turned the pages of the journal. He looked up when she stopped.

"Done apologizing? Where did you find all this stuff?"

Saphina pointed to the dresser in front of them.

"In the name of Feria, that thing is in need of some cleaning!" Welliem's green eyes turned to the masses of unclean furniture crowding the ballroom. "I don't blame you for getting distracted."

Saphina smiled hesitantly at the prince, still waiting for some sort of punishment to come down upon her. Welliem smiled back and plopped down on the floor in front of the pile of odds and ends. He motioned for her to sit next to him, and Saphina went down as well, albeit in a slightly more graceful fashion.

The prince picked up the brush and mirror set. "Phew! I haven't seen this in years! My father gave this to my mother on their fifth anniversary." Saphina noticed a sad look in Welliem's eyes, before it was shoved away as he picked up the box of jewelry.

"Aha!" He cried out, holding up a gaudy emerald necklace. "My Aunt Derithia's cursed necklace!"

"Her cursed necklace?" Saphina asked curiously as she inched closer to Welliem to get a better look at the seemingly innocent piece of jewelry.

" Yeah, Aunt Derithia always blamed it on her husband's infidelity. But the truth is, he was sleeping with the maids beforehand, felt guilty about it, and bought her this necklace. She became suspicious afterwards, and the next week, found him with one of the kitchen maids. She always blamed it on the necklace, though."

Welliem laughed to himself and put the necklace aside. He reached for a delicate looking ring.

"Ah, now this was my grandmother's. Believe it or not, she actually won it in a bet..."

Three hours later, Welliem lay sprawled on a bench Saphina had specifically dusted for him. His eyes were closed and he hummed softly to himself. Saphina stood a few feet away, finally dusting the dresser she had emptied earlier that afternoon.

"It looks like you have been busy." A sarcastic voice entered the room. Saphina turned to see Fhen leaning against the wall by the doors. He was surveying the room with his cool grey eyes, and he shook his head when he found Welliem.

"Well, you slug, I should have known you would be distracting the new maid."

"Just because you lock yourself away, doesn't mean the rest of us have to," Welliem replied without opening his eyes. Fhen grinned slightly, and walked quietly over to his friend. Welliem continued humming to himself, unaware of the wizard who was creeping towards his bench. Once Fhen was only a few feet away, he stopped and whispered to himself. He cupped his hand and gently blew towards the lazy prince. Saphina felt a gust of wind rush past her, but Welliem received the bulk of it. With a yelp, he fell off the wooden bench.

"Fhen! No fair!" Fhen laughed at the indignant expression on the fallen royal's face. Saphina stared; she had never seen him smile, let alone laugh. That laugh turned him from something cool and untouchable to a breathtakingly beautiful, mortal man. Fhen's mirth was quickly cut off, however, as his vengeful friend tackled him to the ground. The two young men were soon rolling around the room in a fashion comparable to two young boys fighting over a scrap of cake. Saphina giggled and leaned against the dresser so as to more comfortably enjoy the spectacle.

It was not long, however, before the group was interrupted.

"I was wondering what had happened to the messenger I sent," Corina said disapprovingly from the entrance.

Fhen and Welliem quickly bounced to their feet, hurrying to straighten their clothes. Saphina tried to stop herself from laughing as the two men put a look on their faces akin to children who have been caught stealing sweets before supper. A snort escaped her, despite her efforts.

"As for you," Corina turned to her new maid. "I did not expect you to get the whole room done, but I expected a little more than a bench." She stared coldly at Saphina, and the girl shifted her feet nervously, laughter forgotten.

Corina shook her head. "Since you seemed unable to do the job, Fhen, I suppose I must tell you lot that supper is ready. Come along now." Corina watched Welliem, Fhen, and Saphina file out of the room; Saphina could not help but notice the housekeeper's eyes softened slightly when they fell upon the royal wizard. The girl had noticed the housekeeper had a soft spot where the blue-haired man was concerned, and she had asked Corina about it just the day before.

"I suppose I just feel bad for him. He came into the royal house at the age of five with no mother and no father but with a great talent for magic. He never really fit in; sure, he had the prince for company, and they are great friends, but Welliem was not always there. Fhen spent a lot of time alone as a child. I guess I have always felt the need to care for the lad; he certainly had to grow up fast enough. Now enough of that, girl; finish cleaning the dishes."

Saphina sighed as Corina's hard glance fell upon her. She smiled tentatively at the older woman, but the housekeeper's face did not soften. She resignedly stepped through the doorway and followed Fhen and Welliem down to the kitchen.

"Wash up," Corina snapped as she came down the stairs behind the younger people. The three obediently went to the tub of water to clean their hands as Corina placed meat and vegetables onto plates. Fhen, Welliem, and Saphina took their seats quietly and muttered a soft, "thank you," as Corina placed the food in front of them. Silence continued for the next few minutes until Welliem finally opened his mouth.

"Corina, my sweet, you are not seriously mad at us, are you? I know a reasonable woman such as yourself will understand the boredom induced by being trapped in a castle atop a mountain. Surely you will not begrudge me an afternoon's enjoyment?" He smiled winningly at the disapproving woman.

"Humph. You are the one who wanted Saphina as a maid, and yet you spent the entire afternoon distracting her. If you wanted her as your personal entertainer, you should have hired her as such."

"Corina!" Welliem fell to his knees, clutching at Corina's worn skirt. Saphina heard a snort, and she turned to see Fhen trying to hold in his laugh while he was eating. He caught her glancing at him, and he smiled slightly before turning his attention to his food. The girl looked back to Welliem and Corina.

"My dearest, most beautiful woman! If I were but a poet, how many tales I would write of you! Tales of your wisdom, tales of your sweetness, tales of the beauty of your eyes! But highest of all these tales would be the tales of your compassion and forgiveness! For you are the most magnanimous of woman, barring, of course, the great goddesses themselves!"

Saphina could see Corina struggling to hold a straight face; the older woman eventually turned away, moving to another table to clean the mess she had made while preparing dinner. "Oh, go finish your dinner, you." Saphina could hear the smile in Corina's voice. It seemed Welliem did as well, for he grinned and returned to his seat. Fhen rolled his eyes at his friend's antics. Saphina was surprised by Fhen's mood; the few times she had seen him, he had always been taciturn. Tonight, however, he seemed downright jovial.

It seemed Welliem had finally recognized that as well. "All right, Fhen, you're obviously bursting with self-satisfaction. What brilliant task did you do now?"

Fhen put down his knife, and a smile he was unable to contain spread across his face. "I," he paused for dramatic effect, "found that cove of wind demons we have been looking for this past year. I can safely say there are no more demons from that group who will trouble us anymore." He sat back, looking immensely proud of himself.

"Really?" Saphina questioned, excited. "All of them are gone?"

"Mmhm," Fhen nodded. "Every single, godforsaken one of them."

"That's wonderful!" The girl laughed in pleasure.

Corina halted her attempts to remain angry with the wizard and rushed over to wrap him in her arms. "Fhen, you darling wizard, is that what you have been up to these past few days? I can't believe you took on a whole cove of them by yourself! That was extremely foolish." She glared disapprovingly at the young man before tightening her hold on him. "But thanks be to Gatu there are less demons in the world! How many were there?"

Saphina was surprised to see Fhen blushing from Corina's attention, but he answered the question. "There were seven. Two were too old to really fight and a few were obviously only a couple hundred years old. Made some completely juvenile moves. But the last two were nasty pieces of work."

Saphina turned to Welliem, who had not yet said anything. "What about that, Welliem? A cove of wind demons gone!"

Welliem looked slightly confused. "I don't remember hearing about wind demons."

"Remember, we got a report from the general about the demon attacks on the border to the north? It was that cove which caused all the trouble." Fhen looked expectantly at his friend, waiting for him to recall the letter.

"I don't remember ever getting a report about demon attacks." Welliem shook his head.

The royal wizard looked frustrated. "Maybe you should try reading the letters Grenadair sends, instead of throwing them on that catastrophe you call a desk."

Welliem shrugged, smiling his charming smile at Fhen. "Oh come, Fhen, why should I read them when you are the one who has the ability to take care of the demons?"

"Has it ever occurred to you that it is your kingdom, and it might be a good idea to pay some attention to it?" Fhen asked, all trace of good cheer erased from his voice.

Welliem sighed. "And again, I say to you Fhen, has it ever occurred to you that I am not yet twenty and am therefore much too young to rule a kingdom?"

"Like I've said before, no one is asking you to do it alone! Grenadair will be there, and the lords will be willing to support you. Even they realize we need a king again!"

"If they are so concerned about it, why don't they just appoint one of themselves as king?" Welliem yawned and leaned back in his chair.

"I don't know why I even bother with you," Fhen muttered angrily. The table fell quiet, and dinner passed in a tense silence. Corina gathered a platter for herself before heading out to share it in the stable with the groundskeeper. The trio at the table stared at their plates, either unable or unwilling to think of anything to say. Welliem finally stood up.

"Well, I think I will retire early. Busy day, you know." He grinned at Saphina, before turning to the stairs. Saphina pushed back her chair with a sigh and began gathering Welliem's dishes as well as her own. Fhen remained seated, still staring at his empty plate.

Saphina scrubbed at the stubborn clay plates, trying to erase the leftover tension from the argument as well as her own nervousness around Fhen. Even though she had been around the wizard a few times, the girl still felt a bit apprehensive about him. It was not as if he were rude, but he just made her nervous. He did not go out of his way to talk to her, and his appearance was often standoffish.

She was therefore surprised when he came to stand next to her with a dry rag, apparently waiting to dry off the dish she was currently scrubbing. Mutely, she handed it to him. He dried it with a ferocity equal to her washing. In silence they continued until the dishes, as well as the items Corina had not yet cleaned, were erased of all traces of food. Saphina felt she could ignore him no longer, and she turned to face Fhen.

"Uh, thanks for the help." She mentally smacked her self. 'Uh, thanks for the help?' Uh? That came out completely wrong; now he's going to hate me even more than he already does! I can't believe how completely wrong-

"It was no trouble." Fhen attempted a smile, but it did not have the brilliancy of his earlier one; he once more looked coolly inhuman.

"Um, you know, Welliem doesn't mean half the things he says. He'll probably realize that come morning, and everything will be good and…" she trailed off uncertainly.

"Ha," Fhen let out a bitter laugh. "Oh no, Saphina, he means every word he says on that subject. He is completely against taking up the kingship."

"But surely he will eventually come round…"

"Not very likely."


"I believe I know Welliem better than you. And I can safely say the gods will have to interfere for Welliem to change his mind."

"Maybe if you just tried reasoning with him?"

"Reasoning with him? There is no reasoning with him. He refuses to listen."

"Maybe if you didn't yell at him?" Saphina raised an eyebrow.

"I've tried talking, I've tried yelling, I've tried shoving Grenadair's letters at him. Don't you understand, nothing works!" Fhen glared at the girl standing beside him.

"Well, if this is how you talk to him, I can see why nothing sinks in."

Fhen opened his mouth, looking as if he were about to argue back. However, it seemed as if he thought better of it, and he took a deep breath instead, shutting down his emotions. "You, as a maid, and a maid who has just recently arrived at that, should not presume to argue about subjects which have such importance to the country. You cannot be expected to be taken seriously. It would be better for all if you would just keep your mouth shut."

Saphina stared at the royal wizard, furious at his disregard for her. "How dare you-" she stopped herself, unable to think of anything to say. Fhen nodded, as if confirming he had been right in what he had said, and with a curt, "good night," he left the room.

Calanthia, please stop me from raiding that arrogant ass' room and taking one of his potions to shove down his rude throat! I'm afraid if I do that, I will become hopelessly lost and will starve to death because I won't be able to make it back to the kitchen!

Saphina threw herself down in a chair and began plotting Fhen's demise in a gleeful fashion.

AN- I'm sorry that took so long to get up. Things got busy with classes, and then I had a serious case of writer's block. I hope you liked the chapter, though!

confuzzled-anin- I'm glad you've liked all the chapters so far; I hope this one lived up to your expectations!

Avelseth- I'm happy you like it so far!

Robyn Wayne- Thanks for the tip. As for the gods, well, they're going to be sticking around. I love Greek and Roman mythology, and so even though I wasn't thinking about it when I came up with this story, I'm not surprised the gods are ending up a little similar to the Olympians. I'm actually taking a Greco Roman mythology class right now, and I think Welliem's speech indicates I've been reading a little too much epic poetry :)

Teh Ham Kitteh- Thanks for the dialogue compliment; I'm pretty happy myself with how it's shaping up.

Mazzie- Once more, I loved reading your theories. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if any of them are right ;)

Angel of Ink- I love blue, too; I've always thought it would be kind of awesome to have blue hair, but I would never dye my hair, so I decided to bestow it on one of my characters instead. Thanks for the tip about the reviewers; I went ahead and did that :)

Minoan Ferret- I was wondering where you'd gone :) Thanks for the great review! As for the criticism, I understand completely. I pretty much hated writing that chapter because it was all Saphina, which made it hard to mix things up. I was SO happy when Welliem, Corina, and Fhen came into the story. If I ever get around to redoing this, that will be one chapter that will get plenty of attention!

Thanks again to everybody who reviewed; I love you all! And to everybody who's read this, once more, please please review! :)