The sun was rising. The east had shown a bright shade of yellow mixed with a hint of orange, looking up, it was nothing but a messy blue. The Prince, personally, liked blue but not as much as he liked orange, it reminded of someone he had loved many years ago.
He always liked the way how the sky bore the sun every day and let her die at night, and the mountains allowed the moon to change her shape every time she followed the sun. Every day and every night were the same repeat of themselves. Joshua found adequate relaxation inside the very idea of how things were always in a cycle, a repetition.
Fortnight, then he was to be married.
Being the only heir to the throne came with great responsibilities, it seemed. His father, the King, was depressively ill and he only attended the court during times where he felt he wouldn’t cough up blood or pass out. For when he couldn’t feel like it, Prince Joshua William became the substitute for the throne and listened to the folk. For some reason, people liked the Prince. He wasn’t as heartless as his father was. But the Prince knew it was the side-effect of trying to be just and fair. A quality that wouldn’t forgive negligence.
The Prince touched his wrist, to feel the sapphire bracelet. He found it quite symbolic. The bracelet was given to him by the King during his becoming ceramony. To announce that he was officially an heir. But that was also a resemblance to handcuffs, that he still had to follow his father’s orders and that every decision he made was his father’s. His life wasn’t in his control. He hated that bracalet.
Sun was seeing through Joshua’s skin, she was seeing his heart. And Joshua knew that if they were to meet, she’d cry for hours.
Joshua sighed. He had to summon the congress in twenty minutes at least. He hadn’t even dressed properly. He wasn’t exactly the King, did he need the etiquette? Nevertheless, he picked his own outift from the great wardrobe. His whole dress was a mix of blue and black, he looked kind and humble but at the same time elegant and attractive.
A knock on the door was heard.
A maid entered, her hair wasn’t seen inside the scarf she was wearing. She had a pin on her dress that made it known that she was working at this château. Joshua allowed her in. She did a small curtsy.
“Your Royal Highness,” she greeted. “Beautiful morning, aye?”
Joshua smiled at her. “It is indeed,” he said and bowed. “Your Grace.”
She giggled at the chivalry. “I was sent here to remind you your congress awaits and to direct a specific order from the King himself.”
Joshua frowned immediately and stepped closer. “Tell me, Ashley, what is it?”
The maid gulped, as if what she was about to say was a matter of life and death. And perhaps that was. “He said,” she said, and lowered her tone of speaking. “Regardless of what he says, Duke of Sloutown is not a man to be trusted and it is dire needed, his execution.”
“What? I... I shan’t execute an innocent self. That’s father’s to do!”
Ashley shrugged. “I’m just the deliverer, Your Highness.”
“I am aware, my maid,” Joshua said, and stepped even closer. “Did my mother say anything about this?”
“Nay. She was just staring at the window. Hard to figure what’s going through her mind lately.”
Joshua considered the situation for a minute. So, that was it? He didn’t even wear a crown but he was going to kill someone, not even knowing why? He had to do something. He couldn’t disobey his father, for certain. But he couldn’t commit a murder neither. Instead, he nodded.
“Correct,” he whispered and placed a kiss to the young maid’s temple. “Now, would one be kind enough to lead me to the Great Hall?” He offered his arm.
The maid took it. “Gladly,” she said and smiled.
Most people would not approve of Joshua and Ashley’s friendship. They’d call it innapropriate. But Joshua felt like Ashley was his sister, he felt as if he had to protect her. And she was the only one who made him forget everything, that he was a prince, and she taught him to live like there was no tomorrow. Ashley reminded him of Deborah, the one and only woman he had ever loved.
Her bewitching hair and charming eyes, magical voice and silvertongue. By God, had he missed her.
“Are you alright, Josh?” Ashley asked.
Joshua nodded immediately he heard her concerned voice. “Why on earth wouldn’t I be?”
“You seemed distracted,” she squeezes his hand that was holding her arm. “Are you thinking about Countess Deborah again?”
Joshua nodded. “Quite so, my maid,” he sighed afterwards. “I can’t help myself missing her.”
Ashley showed him a warm, intense and sincere smile. “I know you loved her, and you still do. But sometimes we have to let go of the things we think if their memory does nothing but haunts us.”
“As always,” he kissed her cheek. “Speaking the words of wisdom.”
Ashley giggled. “Tryin’ to be worthy to my Prince.”
“You already are.”
Arriving at the Great Hall, Ashley had to get further from the Prince to maintain her place. After all, she was nothing but a servant. Ready to be replaced at any point. She had to know where she stood. Or next day the King’s order’s wouldn’t be for the Duke of Sloutown but for her.
Just before he went inside, someone announced his entrance. That way everyone in the Hall stood up and saluted him by bowing. Ashley was following him three steps behind, eyes meeting the ground. Not only that she had no place in that Hall, but she was also a female. Slight disrespectful comments were already being heard. Ashley ignored.
But the thing the Prince heard was the last straw.
“No wonder how many times that courtesan let the Prince fuck her to be standing next to him. Shame, he’s going to married one of the Bishops’ daughter soon–“
He cut his talking. “His Grace, the Duke of Sloutown, Sir Leopold–“ Joshua said after sitting at the throne and allowing Ashley by his side. “What is it that you would like to share with the other consultants and me?”
Leopold got up slowly. “I- I- I said...”
“Wh- wh- what did you say?” Joshua mocked him. Consultants laughed.
“I said how lovely that you brought your servant with you, Your Royal Highness.”
Joshua stroked his chin. “Is that so?” he said, still mocking. “Because I clearly remember your calling her a ‘courtesan’ and that she let me fuck her to be in that position. Evidently, anyone who says a word to my family, says a word to me. Anyone who dares to say a word to me, says a word to the King. Do you want yourself beheaded?”
“No- no- n- no... I have a wife at home and six infants! They need me to be taken care of! Please, sire, show mercy.”
That was good, actually. Joshua was already ordered to kill this man, and now he had the chance for it.
He raised his hand. “Off with his head,” he announced. Nobody said a word, only two guards came and dragged Leopold out of everybody’s sight.
“Anybody has a question?” Nobody said a word. “Good.”
Seconds later, another consultant raised his hand and Joshua turned to him, allowing him to speak. “Your Royal Highness, I am the Lieutenant General of Nico, my name is Percival Amoul. I am taking care of the safety and security of Bishop Nico’ district. The number of theft and murder rise everyday and it worries the humble folk.”
“If you do take care of the safety, then you are not doing great of a job. I can, of course, send Force Units to Nico’s district but given the already raised percentage of misdeed, I’m afraid the kind people of the town might think it as a curfew or a- a state of emergency. We needn’t chaos as if it is not enough we get.”
The Lt. General bowed. “Completely correct, My Prince.”
“But,” Joshua said and stood up. “I will go there myself and see what is the situation there. I will, personally, converse with the folk. Then shall we see if the town needs complete amendments or a force to figure it out. Until next week, dismissed.”
The guards opened the doors and waited until everyone got out after they bowed. Only Joshua and Ashley stayed inside. Ashley leaned on to Joshua and put her head to his shoulder.
“Will you really go there?”
“Do you not want me to?”
“Not my place to say that, but I find it incredibly dangerous. I know why crime rate is so high there, there is nothing you can do to fight them,” Ashley said and placed a kiss to his shoulder, then to his neck.
“Don’t withhold information,” Joshua whispered calmly.
“I don’t know much. But I know that the Bishops cannot be trusted. And there is an underground mob in Nico’s district. If they recognise you, they might kill you,” Ashley explained. “Please don’t go.”
Well, of course, Joshua had to go.