Chapter Thirty-Five

The wedding dress was gorgeous, yet heavy. There were five skirts layered onto of one another, each made of a different fabric, with wool on the bottom and lace on the top. The silk top covered all of the scars on my body. The skirts were still a little long and I stood still as Ellis put pins in them so she could hem it. She was chattering of the other girls dresses, how they were not nearly extravagant as the one I was wearing, yet they were all gorgeous and looked perfect on each of the girls despite them not having picked it out.

Perhaps that was why the queen kept Ellis as her seamstress and dressmaker. She could look at a girl and her body and pick the perfect dress without fail. Of course, the woman had made hundreds of dresses in her life for girls from the Bycgan. It was not even the first time that she had made a dress for a princess. She had made Freya's dress when she had married Austen, despite the wedding being in Agroden. Perhaps it was to keep the peace, and the traditions, between the two families.

I did not know. I only did what I was told, which was to stand still so that I did not get a needle accidentally thrust into my leg.

Freya was still in the sitting room, watching curiously as she and Ellis caught up. Ellis had made most of Freya's dresses when she had been in Etuch. Freya had often played with Ellis' daughter while Ellis created the queen's dresses. I wondered if Ellis' daughter had been subjected to the Bycgan, but I was afraid to ask, mostly because I feared that the answer was worse than the Bycgan.

Miriam entered with a note from Piers for me, explaining that he had taken care of the issue with the servants and with Shamus for me.

I was thankful that Piers seemed to have put the investigation into Shamus' whereabouts on hold for the time being. There were more important matters at hand, in my opinion, than looking for my believed to be, but not actually missing brother.

"Okay, you can step out of the dress, dear, and I shall work on hemming it. We will try it on again and see if it fits before I leave for the day," Ellis said as she untied the back. Freya held out her hand to help me out of the dress and Miriam helped me into my robe.

I tied the sash tightly around me before I sat down on a chair, watching Ellis set to work on hemming the dress. "Have you ever done any work for the king, Ellis?"

She nodded, smiling softly, but not looking up from her work. "Oh, I've done a lot of work for the king, just as I have for your fiancé. He is…He is a tough man to deal with, but I never had any issues with him."

"No?" I asked. She nodded, glancing up at me and then back down at the dress. "So, your daughter was spared from the Bycgan?"

"Yes, it was a conflict of interest since she was so well-known within the royal court," Ellis replied. "She currently works as a mistress for some children of the court judges."

"You don't say," I mused, pursing my lips. Perhaps one of those children was Fergus' son. "Would you happen to know if any of them were adopted?"

Freya glanced at me, arching an eyebrow. I gave her a small shrug, and kept my eyes on Ellis. Ellis stopped, looking up in thought.

"I believe that one of them was adopted when he was born. His parents were unable to care for him for some reason."

"Would you happen to know his name?" I asked. She bent back over the dress.

"I believe that his name was Andres," she said. "My daughter just adores him. I think he is about seven years old. His parents were young when he was born, if I remember correctly."

"Intriguing," I murmured. Freya was watching me more carefully now. "Well, I am glad to hear that he is in a good home."

"Yes, he is in a splendid home indeed," she replied with a smile.

"Why do you want to know?" Freya whispered in my ear.

"I was asking for a friend," I murmured, smiling softly at her.

I didn't know how much it would please Fergus to know that his son was in good hands, but I felt as though it would be a small comfort to know that he was well cared for. It was a wonder that Fergus had not seen Andres since he was born, but then again, Fergus was often only permitted to go where the prince needed him.

I had not realized until then that the guards and the servants were just as trapped as I was. I had known that they were held to certain standards and had certain obligations, but I always believed that the guards had more freedom than we did. They were given their own quarters and often had their own families and homes, but when they were guards to the members of the royal court, they were not allowed such freedom.

How I had not thought of that before that moment, I did not know. I had just been focused on the servants and the girls of the Bycgan that the thought of the guards being oppressed had slipped my mind. There were those who were supported by the king because they were his spies, but many of them were trapped just as we were. Be it Archie because he had lost both his sisters or Fergus whose son was being used against him. Even those who were spies for the king were most likely being threatened into submission and the benefits did not come without consequences.

"I am going to see if the kitchen has our lunch ready," Miriam said. "I shall return shortly."

"Thank you, Miriam," I said. She bowed slightly before she slipped out of the sitting room, closing the door softly behind her. I turned towards Freya. "I must say that I truly am grateful that you and Austen extended your stay in order to be here for the wedding."

"It is my honor. We were going to return for the wedding, but after Piers decided to change the date, we thought it would be best to just remain here. Austen has splendid people to take his place while he is gone," she replied with a smile. "I would not miss the wedding of my only brother for anything."

"I'm sure that it shall be one that you will not forget for a very long time," I assured her.

She laughed, shaking her head. "I agree. It seems as though the Bycgan weddings get to be more and more lavish each year. I can only imagine what yours shall be like seeing as though you are to be the queen one day."

"Do you ever wish that you could have been the princess?"

"Of course I do. But that is not allowed and if would mean that Piers would have to die before I could take the throne, which is not something that I want to happen, so I am happy in Agroden. Austen is a truly magnificent man and I am lucky to have him," she replied. "I hope that you and Piers have the happiness that Austen and I do one day."

"As do I," I replied with a sigh as I looked back at Ellis. "As do I."

x.x.x

Miss. Dolloway felt that it was important to keep up our lessons. I spent many hours of the days leading up to the wedding working on learning everything that she felt would be important to know when the time came. Emergency procedures. How to walk down the aisle. Where the royal family would be located. What vows to say. The guards I was to trust. What traditions were involved in the ceremony.

It was very overwhelming, but we kept working through it all. We had less time than originally planned with Piers moving up the wedding date. There was also the tea party to prepare for, which was to take place two days before the wedding. The poor cooks had so much work to do in a short amount of time, but most were glad to do it if it meant that they would be granted their freedom eventually. I intended to do just that once Piers was king.

My greatest fear was that the king would decide at the last minute to not attend the wedding. He disliked me greatly as it was and he and Piers did not have the greatest relationship. I assumed that he would not back out because he needed to put on a good act for the court, but that did not mean that an emergency could arise. Fergus was keeping us all updated on the king's plans and so far there had been no mention of the king not attending, but there was still three days before the wedding. That was more than enough time for a person to change his mind.

I had hardly seen Piers over the past several days. He had been in and out of meetings at the capital and at the castle. The king was getting closer to being able to pass his law while it felt as though we were slowing down in our progress of finding ways to prevent it. Each day it was becoming more and more clear that we had no choice but to follow through with the assassination. It would be too late if we did not.

Even if I were to marry Piers, we would be expected to have as many children as possible in order to ensure that as many strong ancestors were created as possible. The king may have been blind to the fact that by creating such a strong lineage, he was creating strong men and women who were going to inevitably rebel against him. If our plans failed, I believed that our future children would not.

Even if I were to marry Piers, we would be expected to have as many children as possible in order to ensure that as many strong ancestors were created as possible. The king may have been blind to the fact that by creating such a strong lineage, he was creating strong men and women who were going to inevitably rebel against him. If our plans failed, I believed that our future children would not.

"What are you thinking about?" Lysander asked as he walked into the library. I shrugged, looking up from the etiquette book Miss. Dolloway had given me before she retired to her room.

"Everything," I replied as he sat down on the couch beside me.

"Are you nervous about tomorrow?" he asked softly.

I shook my head and closed the book, tossing it onto the coffee table. "Not at all, actually. I think I am just ready for it to all be done."

"Well, come Sunday, it shall be just that," Lysander replied as he nudged his knee against mine. "Be it the king or us."

"It's frightening no matter the outcome," I murmured.

He nodded. "Can I come see you tomorrow night?"

"Yes," I told him, smiling up at him. "Piers and I shall be in different rooms, so that should not be an issue."

"Good," he replied. "It may be the last chance we have for a very long time."

"Just because Piers and I are married in terms of the law does not mean that I have to give him everything that I have," I told him. "I am still my own person."

"And I pray that you never forget that," he replied, squeezing my hand tightly. "I am afraid of the person that you would be if you were to forget that."

I prayed that I would be able to find the person that I used to be. I was slowly moving towards that girl, but I wondered if that girl would ever exist again. With everything that had happened to me, I had changed. Not only because I was forced to by the facility, but because I had seen things that no one should have to see. I had watched so many people die, so many people be tortured. One does not see such things and not feel the effects of them, rather they be good or bad.

"I just hope that everything goes according to plan," I told him with a sigh. "I would hate to think that all of the time we have spent on this would have been for nothing. And not the assassination, but all of the time spent studying laws and lying to Piers."

"Everyone who is involved hopes that everything works out as it should," Lysander replied. "It is important that we remember, no matter the outcome, that we did everything that we could."

I nodded. "Indeed it is."

"And no matter what, we have one another," Lysander replied, "even if we are married to other people."

"It shall be no different than how it is now," I told him, smiling softly. "I just may have to host more tea parties than I do now."

Lysander chuckled, shaking his head. "I do not think it will pain me to miss the tea parties."

"Really? I think it would be a marvelous learning experience for you," I replied. He shook his head, casting his eyes to the ceiling with a hint of a smile on his face.

"May the Lord help me to never succumb to such an atrocity."

I laughed, gently shoving him with a shake of my head. "Do you not have work to do, Secretary Smythe?"

"I do indeed and if the prince questions me as to why it has not been completed, I shall tell him to ask you," he replied as he stood up. "Get some rest tonight, princess, because you have a challenge ahead of you tomorrow."

I nodded, watching as he left the room. Indeed I did. It was not going to be easy to inform the girls as to what their future may hold.