The grief that flooded the castle over the death of Lucia's baby was quickly dissipated when Queen Solea bore yet another son on a frigid winter's morning. She called for her entire gaggle of Ladies in Waiting, the royal physician, and Princess Lucia, who was in no shape to witness another birth after experiencing the horrors of it for herself. She was put in charge of wiping Solea's brow when she sweat, and holding her hand when needed.
Solea was propped up in bed with the finest goose-feather filled pillows the kingdom could provide, and the softest down quilts. She was radiant, her face had been freshly powdered and painted, and her golden-red locks had been brushed into a neat braid. She scarcely gave Lucia a smile when she made her entrance into the packed chamber, but was welcomed by the ladies-in-waiting.
"Your Highness..you look wonderful, like the Goddess Demeter, might I add." Lucia complimented the Queen. Who..smiled, not because of the gracious compliment given, but because Lucia had lost all of her spark. She was dressed in a simple blue shift, slippers, and her hair was in a ponytail, but her hair had no shape to it. It was simply just a brown, oily waterfall. her face was gaunt and pale, her cheeks sunken in from lack of proper nourishment, or water, even.
"Thank you, my darling. Now come here and sit by your dear Mother's side, hm?" She patted the hard, varnish-worn wooden stool by her side. Lucia obeyed, and dipped her hand into the water bowl she was given, and wrung out the rag that floated within it.
Patiently, she sat for hours and hours as the queen struggled through labor. Finally, the next morning, when the world was covered in fresh powder, her son was set her Highness's arms. He was a sweet little cherub, with big iridescent green eyes and blonde curls that stuck to his forehead. He let out a wail, one of a future king, the physician commented.
"You did..splendidly, my Queen." Lucia commented as she swayed back and forth on her stool, hungry from lack of food. Her stomach growled monstrously. Solea grimaced. "..Please get something to eat, girl. And take a bath as well. Your husband and the King will be arriving soon."
Lucia did just that. She stumbled to the chamber door and wobbled out just as King Alejandro was walking in. His eyes widened when he saw her emaciated frame. His brown eyes flicked over to the door, then back to the princess. Carefully, he took Lucia by the hand and led her down the hall.
"Your Highness, I..I can manage myself..please go and..be with your wife and new son." Lucia squeaked, her face crumpled as she spoke. King Alejandro let out a heaving sigh and simply held his daughter-in-law close as she wept.
"I think you are more important in this very moment, my dear." He told her solemnly as he eyed the black armband she wore on her sleeve. "Prince Ezra has taken the news very hard, but I'm afraid he won't be home for a few more days. The weather over in Vedron is worsening by the minute. It would be unsafe for him to travel in such conditions."
Lucia gulped, took in a breath, and nodded. "Thank you for telling me as such."
King Alejandro smiled, reached into the pocket of his fur-lined cloak, pulled out a scone, and handed it to the famished princess who took it graciously. "Take care, darling."
Once he turned around, the smile Lucia had forced onto her face slipped off in an instant. She shoved a chunk of the scone in her mouth and gagged. Raisins. She hated them. Perhaps the stallions in the stable would enjoy it more than she. Hastily, she climbed the rickety, spindly staircase to her chamber, grabbed a cloak from the hook next to the door, and set on her way. The stables were not far from the garden, but the frozen-over dirt path proved to be quite the challenge to get across without falling. Somehow, she made it, and found that the doors to the stable hung wide open, the air swinging them to and fro ominously. The stallions whinnied..happily. Curious, Lucia shuffled in, to find Orion petting the snout of a black-haired pony whilst feeding it a carrot. His eyes widened when he saw Lucia, and he bowed so quickly, he almost fell over.
"Your Highness, I didn't think you..would be coming..here..now." His pale cheeks went red. Lucia felt her lips curl up into a grin, she let out a little giggle. "You've earned the right to call me Lucia."
"L-Lucia, I-I'll be..g-going.." Orion's gaze was glued to the dirt floor. Just as he was nearing the entrance, Lucia's thin fingers wrapped around his forearm. "Stay, please."
Orion seemed to relax a little. He took in a little breath and grinned at her. "If you're certain, Your High-I mean, Lucia."
Lucia smiled and made her way over to a white stallion, who exhaled out his wide nostrils as she pet his snout. "Hello, Maximus." She whispered as she pulled the scone from her pocket. "I've brought you something." The stallion sniffed at the treat before snatching it up from the Princess's hand. Lucia let out a little peal of laughter as she wiped her slobber-covered hand on her skirt. "I assume that you've kept my goodies safe, yeah?" She unlatched the stable door and stepped inside, making sure to be wary of manure piles. The horse stepped off to the side, revealing a wooden chest. Carefully, Lucia opened it, and pulled out a flowy, gauzy white dress, and veiled sunhat. Her White Nymph costume.
Oh, how she missed secretly roaming about her own kingdom, feeling freedom, whilst still being a secret.
She could do it all over again. She slipped on the dress and reached in the pocket for the pins. Were they there? Yes, they were! Quickly, she pinned her hair to her head and slipped on the hat. The veil turned the world white, clean and crisp. Orion's eyes went wide. "Princess, what are you doing?" He asked, incredulous.
Lucia smiled, grabbed a satchel from the bottom of the trunk and slung it over her shoulder. She fastened Maximus's saddle onto him and swung her tiny legs over his sides. She pulled on his reins, and carefully, he trotted out of his stable and neared the door, snorting. Lucia turned to Orion and grinned. His mouth hung wide open; his face was completely scarlet.
"Let down your hair and grab that black cloak from the trunk," She told him.
"Why?" He asked, his voice cracking.
"You're going to need a disguise if we're going into the city together."
Orion obeyed, letting down his straight auburn hair from its hold, and threw the dark, lacy cloak over his shoulders. He carefully mounted Maximus, and held on for dear life as the three of them went down a narrowly traveled path to the right of the stable. It was quite literally a road lesser traveled; the trees hung over them like the weight of the Earth beneath them was too much for them to bear. Thorny bushes brushed their talons against Maximus's mane as he tore down the road. At the end, a bright light beaconed upon them and showed..a messy, puddle-laden alleyway.
Nimbly, the petite princess swung off of Maximus, whilst Orion stumbled and pitched back into a foul-smelling puddle. He grimaced. Lucia smirked to herself. She grabbed the sorcerer by the hand and pulled him up to his feet. "Maximus, stay." She reached into her satchel, pulled out an apple and paring knife. With a few quick slices, she had cut the fruit into six slices, and fed them to him one by one. "Good boy." She whispered.
Before Orion could protest, Lucia pulled him into the throngs of people bustling in the town square, everyone from the bumbling drunks to the highest lords and ladies were celebrating the birth of the King and Queen's newborn son. Lucia immediately was at peace, and felt all the anxious air she had filled her lungs with escape in a single breath. The sweet music of mandolins and harps filled the air. Orion bowed and offered her his hand. "May I have this dance, my lady?"
Lucia accepted, and was surprised by the flourish and smoothness of his moves. They spun about the throngs of merry men and women until the sun dropped and the moon made itself known to the world. In between dancing, they drank bitter cider and bumbled around like the drunks that lined the stools at the pubs and such. Orion stumbled over to the Princess, a goofy grin on his face. a shot glass of amber in his hand.
"Y-you're..so pretty in the light, Lucia.." He whispered. Before she could react, he pushed away her veil and pressed his lips to hers.
"..I think I love you." He murmured as he pulled away.