The Princess’ Ward

Princess Margaret did her best to leave the loud, ruckus party without anyone noticing. She spent a moment hanging out near the large, glass doors that led out onto the balcony. She smiled and made small talk with some of the other local nobles. But once she saw her chance, she took it. She politely excused herself and slipped away. Margaret opened one of the doors and closed it behind her.

Instantly her spirits lifted. She dropped the fake pleasant smile and took a deep breath. The crisp fall air clung to her as she walked away from the party and stood by the balcony’s stone railing. The whole thing was decorated with small paper lanterns and flowers. No one was even out here, but it didn’t matter. The whole place had to be decorated from head to toe. Even rooms that nobles would never visit were deep cleaned by the servants in the weeks leading up to the event. Everyone was here to see the new Princess and she had enough of it.

Margaret placed her hand on the stone and let out a deep sigh.

“They actually let you get away for a moment?”

Margaret turned to see a familiar person. Her personal ward, Kora.

“Well I’m not truly alone if you’re here, am I? Margaret asked, as she turned and looked back out at the city.

“I wouldn’t be a good ward if I let you wander by yourself,” Kora said.

Margaret looked back over at her. She was well dressed for the occasion. This was one of the rare moments where Kora actually slipped out of her armor and into something more fashionable. Kora wore dark black fabric which let her go unnoticed on the edges of the ballroom. She also wore her white mask which vaguely resembles the face of an owl. It seemed to match the black fabric, but in reality Margaret knew that Kora never took it off.

Once Margaret asked if she took it off to sleep or bathe and Kora just told her that they’d have to be a lot closer for Kora to tell her that.

Kora had been her ward since she was a small girl. Kora was assigned to her and she never complained. Or at least Margaret had never heard her complain in the decade they had known each other. Kora rarely spoke unless spoken too. Especially at a party like this. Kora would go hours without speaking to anyone. She just kept her eyes on Margaret.

“Do you ever wish you could just not be here?” Margaret asked as she turned back to her view of the city. “Like, do you wish you were out there?”

Kora approached the railing and stood next to Margaret, looking out at the city.

“The city might look like a beautiful jewel from up here, Princess. But down there on the streets, it’s not as shiny or elegant,” Kora said.

“Why do you talk like that?”

“Like what?”

“Why do you think everything that comes out of your mouth has to be a riddle or deep rooted question or something. Don’t you ever get tired of being…you…”

Kora let out a small huff that could be mistaken for a laugh.

“No, Princess. I don’t,” Kora said. “And I say these things because you often forget about where you are.”

“Yeah and where am I?” Margaret asked.

“The royal palace,” Kora said, flatly.

“Well I know that. I didn’t hit my head.”

“You are at the royal palace, at a ball thrown in your honor. Royals and merchants and lords from all over the kingdom are here to celebrate you and your eighteenth birthday. Yet you can only stand here and wish you were in the city.”

“Yeah well maybe I don’t want a fancy ball thrown in my honor,” Margaret said.

“Well it’s a little late to protest the event now,” Kora said.

“Yeah I guess you’re right,” Margaret let out a heavy sigh.

Kora placed her hand on top of Margaret’s.

“You know. The people out there could only dream to be here in your position. The bright lights. The music. The feast. All of that is way outside their possibilities. But here you are getting to enjoy all three and much more,” Kora said.

“And what? I should be grateful?”

“Well yes. But more than that you have the chance to make some real change in the kingdom. Maybe you see this event as just some dumb party. But in reality this is a place where lords come to make deals and talk business. They are trying to decide who will be close to the royal family and see their power grow. They are all trying to vie for something. As the Princess you are one of the most important people here. You can make those deals happen. You can shape the future of the kingdom. You can use your position here to make everyone’s life out there better. Understand?”

Margaret nodded.

“Is this your way of telling me that I should take my responsibilities seriously?”

“Well it’s my way of telling you that you have to go back in there. If you are gone too long, people will start panicking. And while you are in there, you can do some good.”

“Yeah fine,” Margaret said. “But after tonight I’m not wearing this fancy dress for months.”

Kora leaned her head in and touched the top of the mask to Margaret’s forehead.

“Whatever you wish, Princess,” Kora said.

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