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Fozhan raised her hand as she stepped towards Waltraud. Waltraud suddenly covered her face however and gave a choked laugh.

"Even then he didn't-!" she sighed and dropped her hands. She grinned manically for a few seconds and Fozhan wondered if the sudden stress had not coaxed some burst of insanity.

"Lady Waltraud?" Fozhan called her back to reality. The other woman exhaled and turned towards Fozhan with a grin that was now sardonic.

"Don't let any of this upset you, my lady." Her eyes hardened. "This is all a personal matter."

Fozhan shook her head. "You troubles are mine now."

"We are not yet wed." Waltraud argued.

"A betrothal is nearly the same thing," Fozhan narrowed her eyes, "save for one thing, and it is ultimately a paltry matter."

Waltraud scoffed at her licentiousness and shook her head.

"You are more of a fool than I thought." Waltraud tilted her head to give her a wary side-glance. "You could still marry Prince Franz or someone else, you know, if something happens to me."

"Never. Never." Fozhan cried vehemently. "I'll never marry anyone else!"

Waltraud continued to look at her out of one golden eye for a few seconds but at last turned on her heel. "All the same, it is a personal matter."

"Wait." Fozhan said. Waltraud ignored her. "Wait!"

As the other woman moved away Fozhan clenched her fists, wildly desperate to get her to stay and speak with her. Waltraud could walk away from her whenever she liked and Fozhan hated this. She would not have it!

"I order you to stop!" She yelled at last in pathetic agony. It worked, Waltraud stopped at opening the door, just as she was about to be reabsorbed into the shadows of the castle.

"You order me to stop?" The golden eye narrowed as the rest of her face was concealed by the open door. It shut to reveal an expression of amusement. Waltraud laid a hand on her chest. "Do you think I am one of your handmaidens that will come running when you snap a finger?"

"No, I think you are an arrogant fool taking on something that is far too great for you alone." Waltraud bristled at the remark.

"You have no idea-!" She quickly dodged the dagger that had been thrown to embed itself in Waltraud's shoulder, to hopefully pin her to the door. As if Fozhan had ever really thought Waltraud would listen to her by the force of her words alone.

"Damn." Fozhan sighed; if her shoulder had not been lanced she may have been able to hit her target. As it was Waltraud merely tore the dagger out of the door and lightly tossed it to Roozbeh. She shielded herself behind the door when he caught it. Waltraud narrowed her eyes at the grimacing princess.

"All the same, my lady, don't worry about me who will not come when she is called by you. Worry about yourself, in a foreign land surrounded by those who envy your country's wealth and stature." The door was shut softly, mockingly. Fozhan tore at her shirt in outrage.

"She is such an idiot! Why is it so hard for her to accept any help?!" Fozhan gasped.

"My lady I seek permission to remind you that you have chosen this husband." Roozbeh said. "You may well indeed take her actions into your consideration that she is worthy of the title."

"She doesn't trust me, how could she?" Fozhan was ready to jump to Waltraud's defense. She narrowed her eyes. "This was surely something of a coup. The king is challenging Lady Röselein through Waltraud. I am sure of it."

"My lady," Roozbeh hissed in Parsi. Fozhan nodded, well aware the palace was full of spies. She held out her hand and allowed Roozbeh to escort her back to her room. They walked in silence down the winding corridors, leaving an almost tangible void behind them as many snickered as the Shah's daughter walked by.

"Engaged to that disgraceful pet of Lady Röselein's!" She heard one woman chortle behind her veil.

"I wonder if her father knows what she's done," the man besides her scoffed.

"Both of their heads should be on the chopping block," An old man hissed from a corner. Fozhan ignored them all and held her head high. Her jaw clenched, let them say whatever they so wished. She was the heir of the great and powerful Imitiyazid dynasty; and she would survive this dreadful place. She would forever be a bright and mighty bloom amongst these wretched weeds with bent spines and twisted hearts. And she would shelter Waltraud in her leaves.

"She won't allow him to be executed." Fozhan continued when they reached the room. She stood still and allowed her maidens to wash her feet and hands. "'Even then, he didn't', he didn't allow something to be given away; he's still loyal."

"Even if he is, that doesn't mean she won't allow him to take the fall for her." Roozbeh countered. "That boy is a servant; it is his place to anyway."

"No, he is her son." Fozhan countered.

"A lie so she would not have to watch him be executed," Roozbeh snorted.

"Because she loves him! That's why she can't stand to watch him be killed! Why else would she allow herself to be so degraded in the eyes of her peers by claiming a slave as blood?!" Fozhan snapped and Roozbeh glowered at her. She held his gaze for a long time, knowing he had heard those whispers as well. Roozbeh however had no grand ambitions to bloom and would prefer to remain close to the ground in this snarl of thorns.

She dismissed her shocked women with a hand wave. She had never quarreled with Roozbeh in all of her life, but she had also never done anything he had considered ill advised. She exhaled and regained her countenance before continuing. She must never lose her temper for too long, and must never allow emotion alone to guide her.

"Or, she claimed him in order to save him," Fozhan mused. "If she doesn't have to be at the execution she can disguise herself and attack."

"And if she does, the king means to catch her and execute her as well," Roozbeh frowned.

"Yes, and that's why she was warning me. They mean to kill her and force me to marry the prince." Fozhan sat down in a small shock of awe. Her fist knotted, why had she ever thought this would be so simple? Of course Ludwig would not stand the insult of his son being rejected and allow such an honor to pass onto a misaligned branch of his family. Had she really been so enchanted by Waltraud she had not even seen what the other woman had surely seen coming?

"My lady, it is best if we leave Alemannia right now." Roozbeh stepped up to put a hand on her shoulder. Fozhan shook her head.

"I can't leave Waltraud." Not even when she had chosen another over her.

"If she saves that boy she has thrown away her life." Roozbeh tightened his grip. "And I think she knows it."

Fozhan smiled slowly. "Well then, we'll just have to save her, now, won't we?"

Roozbeh sighed and said the expected words. "My lady I must advise this is not a wise course of action."

And Fozhan answered in kind. "And while I respect your wisdom, I must follow my own inclinations."

Roozbeh sat next to her and with their voices hushed they discussed how to counter a coup in a foreign court, and most of all how Fozhan would at last win the trust of the aloof Lady Waltraud. For she would have that place in Waltraud's sun, if only she could show her she was worthy of such a light. And if they died together, it had been Allah's will all along.

She and Roozbeh both wondered what secret it was that Ernst had protected even within the depths of torture, but neither one of them could imagine it. They only knew whatever it was; it had proven Ernst worthy of Waltraud's undying devotion. If only Fozhan had that knowledge, if only she could see whatever glimpse it was of Waltraud's soul that only those nearest to her knew.

She was certain then if only she knew that secret, of only she could see Waltraud's true form, she would be happy forever.