Chapter 2 & Special thanks to Elizabeth Boyle

Concept art for the book by Elizabeth Boyle. She is so talented! I am so grateful for her help in editing, writing, and creating beautiful art for Evesland. This piece here is called Angel on The Lake. Read the Prestory to learn more about this scene from the story.

Chapter 2 – The Festival

We reached the palace gates and found a guard. My father explained we were supposed to be meeting with the royal family. The guard, looking confused, sent for a royal advisor. I guess they don’t welcome many commoners into the palace. Just a few minutes later a gentleman appeared and began to usher us inside the castle walls. 

“Now which of you lovely ladies is gifted with the special ability to heal?” he asked, leading us in. 

I glanced at my father, who nodded that it was okay to say, “I am, Sir.”

“Oh, wonderful. My name is Stephen and I must say, what a marvelous blessing you have, to be gifted with Magic. Evesland is very lucky to have you. The royal family is very eager to meet you. We have heard all about the wonderful healings you have performed. Oh, and you are a beauty too. Just wait until the king’s sons see you. Oh, you must feel so honored to have her.” he said, looking at my parents. 

“Oh, yes. She is quite special. Selfless and always willing to help others.” responded my mother. This man sure liked to talk a lot, I thought. I remained quiet, my hands shaking and my palms sweaty. I was so nervous to meet the royal family. Ada however was beaming, eyes wide, taking in the castle. I glanced around as we quickly moved down a long hall, it was beautiful. The ceilings were so high and they were painted too with pictures. Candles lit our way down the hall to two large doors. 

“Ready miss, to be introduced?” asked the gentleman. 

“Ahh, I think so.” I responded, shaking. 

“Your name then, miss?” he asked.

“Esme.” I answered. 

Two guards opened the doors, simultaneously. The gentleman took my arm over his and led us inside. 

 “May I present to your majesty, Miss Esme, The Healing One.” He walked me in, and once in front of the King and Queen I bowed. I realized I should probably be curtsying, so I quickly lowered myself and remained in my curtsy until the King spoke. 

“Rise, my darling child. Esme, on behalf of Evesland and the royal family, I would like to personally thank you for your sacrifice. I have heard of all you have done and the price you pay. I trust you are well today and that you and your family had a good journey here?” he asked me.

“Yes, your majesty, and thank you. It is an honor to be before you and your family.” I replied. 

“Of course, child. Now allow me to introduce us all to you. I am King Phillip Eves. My wife, Queen Angelise. My children, Prince Fredrick, Prince Derek, and my youngest Princess Annalise.” he announced, all standing when he called on them. 

“Why don’t you introduce us to your family?” the Queen asked, smiling at me. 

“Thank you, your majesties. My father Henry Smit, my mother Mary Anne, and my little sister, Adelaide.” I announced. I glanced at Ada and she had the biggest grin and was clearly admiring the royal family. The Queen was beautiful, she stood with such grace and spoke with such poise. 

“It is wonderful to meet you all. Now Esme, are you ready to be introduced tonight? My own son Prince Derek will be introduced as well. It would be my family’s great honor to present you together. I know you have kept your identity a secret, but now we feel you deserve to be honored. Would that be alright with you, my child?” the King asked me. I glanced over at Prince Derek who was smiling at me. He was so handsome and it would be rude to refuse a King, I thought. I looked once again to my father for approval, he nodded his approval hesitantly.

“The honor would be mine, your majesty.” I responded. 

“Your majesty, if I may?” asked my father, seeking the King’s approval to continue. 

“Yes, of course.” he answered.

“It is a great honor. I just worry for my daughter’s safety, if she is known amongst everyone, well, everyone will then seek her out, demanding her help.” he explained, concerned. 

“You are very right. That is why we plan to have Esme move here, to the castle to be protected. That way we can monitor who seeks her help. Of course you would always be welcomed to visit and it need not be immediately, but sometime after the festival.” the King explained. I looked at my mother, now grasping my father’s hand. She looked worried. I did not want to live here, but I did want to be safe. I knew I probably did not have a choice, if the King wanted me here.
“That is a generous proposition, your majesty. I will need to speak to my family about this first, before any final arrangement is made. But if you can assure her safety, then it is fine that she be revealed to the people.” he responded. 

“Wonderful, and of course, we can talk and figure the rest out, father to father. Esme, if you will follow the Queen, she would like to help you get ready.” the King said. My eyes probably popped out of my head a bit hearing this. I was to go with the Queen to get ready. 

“We will see you after you are announced then.” said my mother, hugging me. I could tell she was shaken. I knew she would not want me to live so far away. 

“Okay mom… Ada, have fun and make some friends tonight. Will you make me a pretty craft for my room?” I asked, hugging her. 

“Sure. Esme, are you going to leave us?” she asked me. 

Leaning down, hugging her I responded, “I could never truly leave you. I’ll see you after the festival. Behave.”

Lastly, I hugged my father. He kissed my forehead and told me, “I’m proud of you…” and whispered into my ear, “Everything will be okay.” With that I followed the Queen out a side door of the throne room. 

“It truly is an honor to have you here with us. There has not been anyone gifted with magic in the land, well, in a very long time. I have personally never met anyone gifted before, though I have heard stories.” the Queen shared. She took my hand and walked me down a long corridor. We finally arrived into a room filled with dresses, crowns, and jewels. A lady rushed over and began measuring me. 

“Umm, what is this for?” I asked. 

“For your dress. This dress you have is very pretty, but we want you to match the royal family’s attire tonight.” the Queen explained. 

“Oh, thank you.” I responded, politely.

“Well I will leave you with some of my ladies. They will help you get ready. See you soon… Esme, don’t be worried, by the way. You will love living here. You will never have to be hungry and you’ll have beautiful dresses all the time.” the queen explained, smiling. She then walked away with a couple more of her ladies. Her ladies who stayed behind with me worked quickly removing my old dress and fitting me into one they had been preparing. The dress was silver, made of soft velvet fabric, with little white beads on the neckline, and sheer lace sleeves. The dress slipped on and fit me like a soft glove. It was much easier to breathe in surprisingly, no corset. They then played with my hair a bit and applied some make up to my eyes and cheeks. They brought me silver slippers that laced up. Lastly they placed little white beads through my hair. When they brought me before a mirror, I barely recognized myself. They all awed over me and expressed their satisfaction about what a wonderful transformation they had given me. They told me I was so lucky and that I would be able to wear dresses like this all the time now. 

One lady said, laughing “Maybe the Queen will even let you wear a tiara from time to time.” I tried to picture myself with a tiara. I kind of liked the idea, but I still preferred the little white flower my father placed in my hair. The ladies walked me out of the room and back to the throne room. 

“Prince Derek will meet you in here shortly.” a guard announced upon my arrival. 

“The Prince… Oh ah, Thank you.” I replied, then turning and thanking the ladies who helped me prepare. Just shortly after the ladies went on their way, Prince Derek had arrived. He paused upon entering the room. He was looking at me, up and down. I feared he found me ugly. I could not imagine a Prince wanting to be announced with a commoner. He smiled though and began walking my way. 

He took my hands and said, “I can not believe they made you even more beautiful. You are simply breathtaking.” He complimented me. 

“Thank you, your majesty. Is that the proper name that I should be calling you by?” I asked, shyly, slightly embarrassed.  

“Yes, technically. But no one else is around or listening. Please, just call me Derek. I have never been a fan of formalities.” he said, laughing. 

I smiled and whispered, “Alright. Derek.” 

“So how do you feel about living here?” he asked me.

“Honestly, I was about to ask you the same…” I said, betraying a nervous laugh, “the ladies kept mentioning the pretty dresses and the good food, but…what is it really like? I’ve never been away from home before.” I responded. He laughed at that. He began walking us out of the throne room, continuing to talk. 

“They would mention the dresses…” he first commented, rolling his eyes and laughing some more. “Well, for me I think it’s been a bit of a different experience. My father keeps my brother and I busy studying, practicing fighting; preparing us to take his place. But you would have your own studies, someone could teach you how to play instruments even. Annaliese is learning the violin right now, though she is already pretty good on the piano. You also need not be worried about homesickness. Your family is always welcomed. Also I will be more than willing to keep you company. You’d be actually doing me a favor, my older brother is quite boring if I am honest, and my little sister mostly wants to play dress up or with her dolls.” he shared, laughing. 

“I suppose I could also use a friend. Ada also enjoys mostly doll playing…” I hesitated, as my mind drifted again to the uncertainty of my future and the suddenness of beginning my new life. “I know it won’t be safe anyway after everyone knows who I am and what I can do. I am thankful for your family’s protection.” I replied. 

“Yes, everyone will want to use your gift. Does it tire you or pain you terribly? I have heard a few stories.” he asked me. 

“Well most times I can tolerate the feeling well enough. But some ailments prove harder to heal and have been quite painful. Last summer a neighbor’s son fell from the roof of his barn, and he was torn up badly. He had a couple broken ribs and a broken arm, cuts all over. When I laid my hands on him to heal him, I felt his pain acutely in my own body. It was dreadful.  But some injuries I still can’t fix…once a woman was sick and was not responding. Her doctor said she should have awakened when the fever broke. When I reached to heal her, I got dizzy and unaware of my surroundings. I became so disoriented, I couldn’t help her. Her family was very upset…it burdened me so much to disappoint them in their hour of desperate need. ” I told Derek, sadly. 

Derek was looking at me with respect and concern in his eyes. “Here we can protect you, make a way for you to safely heal people, and prevent you from exhausting yourself.  I can’t imagine having to share in the pain of those you heal. You must be very strong.” he replied. 

“Mostly just strong willed, so says my mother. I’d help everyone, if I could.” I replied. Just then we reached a balcony that was covered by curtains. I could hear the music of instruments being played beyond them. 

“Everyone is nearly gathered, your Majesty. We will announce you both shortly.” said the same gentleman who announced me earlier before the whole royal family. 

“Thank you Stephen.” said Derek to the man. He must have noticed me shaking, again, because he turned and put his hands on my shoulders, rubbing them. 

“Don’t be afraid. They are going to love you.” he told me, trying to calm and assure me. I smiled back at him and nodded. Just then the music stopped and Stephen was speaking loudly to the crowd,

“Welcome all. Once again we gather together to celebrate our great country’s birth. We know that the past year has been very hard on everyone. The royal family would like to thank everyone for pulling together and offering wonderful gifts to be shared amongst friends, family, and neighbors at tonight’s grand feast. Your beloved king and queen truly believe that our best years are just ahead of us, thanks to the strength and dedication of this kingdom’s people. Now as always we will begin tonight’s festivities by introducing our kingdom’s young people to the society of Evesland. In the next few years they will choose a path to become hard-working citizens, helping to provide and make the land plentiful. The king and queen are especially pleased tonight that their own son, Prince Derek, will be amongst them. As is tradition, each child of Evesland who has turned sixteen will be announced and asked to share the path they hope to pursue. Well, let’s begin!” The crowd cheered in anticipation and pride. “To begin, it gives me great honor to announce his majesty, Prince Derek and Lady Esme.” The curtains opened wide and Derek led us out, waving gallantly to the people. I followed suit, trying to be graceful like Queen Angelise. 

Derek began speaking, “Thank you! Thank you! I look forward to the glorious years to come. It is my honor to serve the kingdom. I will be learning from my father and if in any case my brother Prince Frederick is unable, I will serve my country as king. I pray for good health for my brother and hope I will continue to serve in the King’s guard.” The crowd clapped and cheered thunderously for his speech. Girls in the crowd starred in adoration at Prince Derek. I felt lucky to be beside him. 

Stephen began to speak again, “Wonderful. Thank you, Prince Derek. We are so blessed to have your service. Now, people of Eavesland, I am sure you are all wondering, who is this beautiful lady on Prince Derek’s arm? May I present Lady Esme. She is soon to be adopted, so to speak, into the royal family’s household, for she is blessed with an incredible gift. I should say we are blessed to have her. Lady Esme, why don’t you share your path with your fellow people.” Derek smiled at me and nodded, gently pushing me forward. 

I grabbed the balcony’s edge for support and began to speak, “Hello all, I too wish to serve my people and my beautiful home, Evesland. When I was just a girl, I discovered my gift. Some of you may even have experienced it…”, whispers began to fill the crowd… “I used to hide it, wear a mask. But no longer. I will serve my homeland through my gift of healing.” The crowd also clapped and cheered for me, shouting my name and proclaiming that the country had at last been blessed. Derek came and stood by my side, clapping as well. I turned and smiled at him. Just then, loud shouting came from within the crowd. 

“How do we know she is telling the truth? Not all of us have seen this healing done.” an older man shouted. 

“He’s right. What if it’s a trick?” another woman said. I felt sharp panic beginning to grip me. The thought raced through my mind, why would I want to trick my own people about this?

“She’s not lying. She healed my own son from his wounds and broken bones.” said my neighbor, whom I recognized. 

“You too could be lying. We want proof!” said the same old man. I looked at Derek who seemed startled by the crowd’s agitation. 

“I should have expected this…they want proof.” I told him, frowning. 

“Then proof we shall give them.” he said. He walked back behind the curtain and emerged shortly with a dagger. 

“You want proof?” He shouted, “I shall use this dagger and make my own hand bleed, then she shall heal me.” Derek pressed the blade against his palm for all to see. I looked at him, concerned and then turned to see the king and queen, who kept their silence, but also looked slightly alarmed. 

“Wait!” said the woman who had fueled the old man’s suspicion. “I have a son who she could heal. He has been sick for a week now. Send a guard to fetch him.” At that the king himself finally rose. 

“No, my son’s demonstration will be enough proof. From now on, if you have a need for healing, it will be requested through my court first. Now my son, as you so kindly offered to demonstrate.” he announced. sternly looking down at the crowd. 

“Yes. Thank you father.” he replied, taking the dagger and trailing it across the skin of his palm. He grimaced as he made the cut. He then lifted his hand so the whole crowd could see the blood. 

Then he turned to me, whispering, “It appears you are at risk. I’m sorry you have to do this today.” He held out his hand to me. 

I looked him in the eyes and smiled, saying “You can repay me with a dance tonight.” Thankfully it was just a cut and would not take much of me at all to heal. Taking his bleeding hand, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I held his hand in both of mine, breathing until I had tuned out every sound, the crowd’s agitated chatter, the soft clinking of the china the servants were laying out, even the rustle of the leaves in the trees. In the silence I focused my attention and willed the wound to mend and close itself. My hands grew warm and I felt the familiar sense of compassion rise in my chest. I opened my eyes. The world flooded back to me, and I saw the newly unbroken flesh of my prince’s hand. Once it was healed, he wiped away the blood with a handkerchief in his pocket and showed it to the people, raising his arm high for all to see.  Most of the crowd began to cheer, but some still seemed to doubt what I had done. The king noticed and nodded to some guards on the ground, they quickly and discreetly removed those people from the festival. 

The King rose again, saying, “Now that this little demonstration is over. Let us continue to welcome the other new members of Evesland, and then on to the great feast!”. Stephen had brought two silver chairs and invited us to sit while the other sixteen year olds were welcomed. I tried to focus on the names announced and clap for them, a pair of eyes in the crowd kept catching at my gaze, distracting me. A young man was staring at me. He did not seem to be in a state of disbelief or anger, like some others who had been removed. He seemed to almost be studying me. I tried to not make it obvious that I noticed him looking. Prince Derek noticed however. 

“You are safe. I promise. You can relax. Nothing will happen, especially not with me by your side.” he told me, taking my hand in his. 

“Thank you.” I replied, giving his hand a little squeeze. I looked down at the line of sixteen year olds, some did not have shoes or were in clothes that did not fit them quite right. I realize the expense my parents probably went to for the dress that they made. I felt guilty. Most of my fellow sixteen year olds said they would work in the fields to feed our people. There was one who wanted to be a doctor and another who offered himself to the king’s guard. The king smiled at that. A couple girls who offered themselves to be maids in the palace. I found myself searching the crowd once more for the eyes that had been watching me, but they had disappeared.

Once the welcoming ceremony was over, Stephen ushered us into the banquet hall. 

“Esme, you and your family will sit up here, near the royal family themselves.” he said, pointing out and guiding me to my exact seat. 

“Thank you.” I said, taking in the beautiful lanterns on the table and seeing the array of food. There was not much variety, but still it was much better than any meals at home. There was roast chicken and ham, gravy, potatoes, corn, and warm buttered bread. In the corners of the room were smaller dessert tables which held small cakes, fruit, and chocolates. 

“You may wait here. Prince Derek may wait with you until your family arrives. Guests will enter and be seated first and then the king, queen, and Prince Frederick will be announced in.” he explained, and then quickly headed to a grand set of doors on the other end of the room. He waved for the guards to open them. My parents were at the front of the crowd and rushed over to see me. They hugged me.
“Nice speech.” said my Dad, with a nervously joking tone. 

“Thanks. Guess the big secret’s out forever now.” I said, laughing nervously as well. Derek shook my father’s hand and they began to chat, admiring the feast. Typical men. The spread of food was their main priority now, and there would be no tearing them away until they were satisfied. 

“You are beautiful, darling.” my mother said, hugging me again. I could tell she was very nervous and trying to hold it together. 

“Thank you, and I’m okay mom.” I said, trying to reassure her. She smiled and hugged me again. Everyone began to stand by their seats as Stephen started to see to the seating arrangements, rather manhandling the task. Derek pulled out my chair for me and helped me in. Then he kissed my hand as he left for his seat. 

“He is clearly quite charmed with you.” said my father to me. 

“And I am with him.” I whispered back, admittedly. My father smiled, laughing quietly at me. Just then Stephen began to announce the entrance of the royal family. Once they had been seated we too were invited to sit. The king blessed the feast and we all began to eat. It was the most delicious meal I had ever had. The food was so scrumptious I almost failed to notice the set of eyes on me again. Directly  across the room at another table, sat the same man who had been watching me in the crowd. I tried to tell myself I was just being paranoid. 

After the banquet was cleared we were all ushered out to the courtyard. There were beautiful lanterns all around and music playing. My father bowed to my mother and asked her for her first dance. She giggled and accepted. I made my way over to a fountain that had flowers and little candles floating on it. I had been studying the way they gently bobbed atop the water when I was stopped by Prince Derek.  

“Good evening, my Lady.” he said bowing to me. 

“Good evening, my Prince.” I replied, curtsying. 

He took up my hand and said, “I believe I owe you a dance.” I smiled, giggling a little at his charm. I followed him out and we began the next dance together. The music was upbeat and lively, and the dancers spun and switched partners. I quickly picked it up, careful not to trip on my dress. Somehow, through the dance, despite switching partners, I maintained eye contact with Derek for a long while until a hop, skip and a few twirls carried me away. I was shocked that when I ended the dance, it was no longer Derek looking across at me, but the young man who had been watching me earlier from the crowd. We made eye contact and he smiled, bowing at the end of the dance. I curtsied in return. Quickly Derek was by side again and whisked me away. 

“I have a surprise for you.” he told me. I tried to muster some excitement, but all I could think of was that man, those haunting eyes watching me. 

“Derek, did you know that man who was facing me at the end of the dance?” I asked him. He looked at me, a little confused by my question. 

“No. I admittedly do not get out or socialize with many outside of the castle. Why do you ask? You didn’t find him more handsome than I am?” He asked with a wink and a twinkle in his eye. 

“Ahhaha, of course not.” I replied, sharing in his joke. I tried to ignore the questions in my head as Derek led me back into the castle. I wondered now where he was taking me. 

“Now I am probably not supposed to show you this, but I couldn’t wait.” he said, motioning for our guard to open a door. He led me inside of a large room. The room had a fancy bed with a canopy. It also had a fireplace and windows with stained glass. The room was filled with beautiful art, books, lanterns hung off the wall, and there was a fur rug in front of the fireplace. It was the most beautiful room I had ever seen.

“Is this your room?” I asked Derek. 

Laughing, he responded, “No. It’s yours. Apparently my parents were planning on asking you to stay, so they had the maids prepare a room just for you. Do you like it?”

“It is the most beautiful room I think I have ever seen.” I responded, smiling. I tried to picture myself needing such a large room. It was basically the size of my house. 

“There’s a bit more.” he explained, heading to two doors on the opposite side of the room. He opened up a door and it was filled with fabrics for dresses. Then he opened another door, revealing a lovely washroom. Then he led me back towards the large canopy bed. He pushed on a panel on the wall and a secret door popped open. 

“Follow me.” he said, grabbing a lantern from off the wall. It was dark and the path was narrow. But after walking down a hall and up a small flight of stairs, he pushed on the wall and it opened into another room. It also had a large bed, some art, books, and some beast’s head above the fireplace. There was also a beautiful sword resting on the mantle,with jewels shining in its hilt. 

“Oh my.” I said, running my fingers over the blade.
“I’m glad you approve. This is my room. That was the servants tunnel, so our rooms are connected. So you never need to feel alone while you’re here. I will always be nearby.” he told me, grinning. 

I smiled back at him, replying, “Honestly, I will probably still get lost in that tunnel.” 

He laughed at me, saying, “Well, we will have to work on that. I suppose I should probably return you to the festivities. It would probably be frowned upon if we were found here…alone together. Though someday, it may not be deemed inappropriate.” he said, winking at me. I tried to ignore his flirting for my own sake. He was handsome, but I couldn’t imagine the king and queen approving of a relationship with me, a commoner. 

Once back at the festival I found my father talking to the king. He seemed to be reassuring him of something, yet my father still looked worried. My mother was mingling with some of our neighbors. I decided to join her. 

“Hello dear, you have spent a lot of time with Prince Derek today? Is he nice to you?” she asked me, smiling but with an air of concern. 

“Yes, he is quite a gentleman. Very handsome too.” I answered, blushing. Shaking hands now with some of our neighbors I had not seen in years. After I shared my gift with my parents they had tried to keep me close to home, but I recognized some faces. 

“It’s wonderful to see you again, Esme. We honestly worried that you had gotten sick when your parents never traveled anywhere with you anymore. It all makes sense now. You truly are blessed and so also is Evesland.” one lady told me. 

“Thank you. I suppose things will be easier now that I don’t have to hide.” I replied. Just then my father appeared by my side. 

“Esme honey, I need to talk to you and your mother alone.” he said, pulling us from the crowd and taking us to an empty garden off the courtyard. 

“What is it, father?” I asked.

“You will be returning to the palace in a week to stay. I tried to ask the King to send guards to our home instead to protect you, but the King wished for you to be here. He believes you can benefit much from a life here. He says you will even have a tutor. He believes with the help of the elders, you can learn more on how to control your gift. Also Esme, he hinted at a union between you and Prince Derek. I must be honest, I fear the king wants to control your gift more than protect it. You will have to be careful from this point on. The king will offer protection, but that does not mean you are not in danger.” my father explained, sadly. 

“Well, you do seem to like Prince Derek. Maybe this won’t be so bad for you. You will learn more than either of us could teach you.” my mom said, as always trying to find the silver lining. 

“Esme, how are you feeling about all of this?” my father asked me. 

Looking at my father, I tried to find words, but nothing much was coming out. My eyes began to water. 

“I’ll miss you all so much.” I finally managed to choke out those words. I sat down on a bench and my parents sat on either side of me, hugging me. We began to hear Stephen delivering a speech, announcing the night coming to an end soon. My mother helped dry my cheeks. We all slowly made our way back to the courtyard to join everyone. Just then I realized we had not been alone, but my stalker had been listening from a distance the whole time. 

“Let’s say our goodbyes and go home.” said my father to my mother. 

“Yes dear. Esme, will you go to fetch your sister?” my mother asked of me. 

“Of course, mother.” I responded. I saw the King and Queen as I was leaving and they waved and smiled at me. I smiled back,curtsying goodbye. Derek must have seen me leaving because he ran over to me. 

“Leaving now?” he asked. 

“Yes. Just going to fetch my little sister.” I answered back. He was handsome and kind, but I hated the idea of an arrangement being forced between us. I wondered if he already knew. 

“It was lovely meeting you Esme. I enjoyed our time together very much. I will eagerly await your return.” he said, bowing, he took my hand and kissed it once again. It sent butterflies through my stomach when he did that, maybe marrying a Prince would not be so bad. 

I continued out of the courtyard and to the room where the children were taken care of during the festival.

I heard a voice echo as I walked down the hall by myself, “Lovely meeting you Esme.” it said. 

“Who is there?” I asked, turning quickly, looking in all directions for someone the voice may belong to. I found no one, but I was pretty certain whose voice it was. My strange stalker. “Leave me alone. Whoever you are, I know you have been watching me. Leave me alone!” I shouted into the empty hallway. All the lanterns near me blew out upon me shouting. I wondered if I had done that. I quickly made my way down the hallway and to the next. I opened the door to where my sister and the other children were, most were fast asleep, not Ada though. I was still shaking from what had just happened when Ada ran and jumped into my arms, nearly knocking me over. 

“You look like a Princess.” she exclaimed. 

I laughed, saying, “I suppose I do. Time to go home.” She hugged me close as I carried her out to meet our parents in our buggy. She rambled on about the fun she had and asked me lots of questions about the festival. I did not have the heart to tell her yet that I would soon return to the castle to live. It broke my heart thinking about leaving family to live with one I barely knew. I knew that within the castle there would be lots of rules for me to follow and expectations of how to behave. It would not be an easy transition and I so longed to not go. When we made it home we all quickly went to bed. It was so late and the sun would soon be rising again. I would be returning to the castle before the week’s end.