Petyr Morova trudged along the muddy streets of East Forella. The rain was coming down in sheets, each drop stinging like a bullet against the skin of anyone brave enough to face it. Although, it wasn’t bravery that was pushing Petyr Morova; it was furious determination.
It had been a full year since he had escaped from Cetique. He had been framed for a crime he did not commit. He hadn’t written any of those letters that Princess Raisa had received. However, one glance at the letters would not only prove that they were written in his hand, but that they bore his signature and his family seal. Petyr had begged King Alphonse to believe him, but he knew that there was no chance of it. It was then that Petyr knew what he needed to do.
The night that his sentence was announced, Petyr used the last few coins that he had on him to pay a guard to look the other way for fifteen minutes. It only took him ten to make it all the way out of the dungeons and up through the castle. Under the midnight sky, Petyr had managed to steal a horse and make his way to the docks just in time to catch a ride on a passing barge. During the long ride, Petyr decided to find the person or persons who had framed him and prove his innocence. Since looking in Cetique was out of the question, Petyr chose to trace his footsteps in all of the neighboring kingdoms where he had done business. He had made any rivals in the shipping industry, and he knew that any of them could be behind the false letters. Luckily for Petyr, the barge docked in the last place that he had visited – West Forella.
Petyr had crudely cut his dark beard with a shard of glass that he had found when he first docked. It would do him no good to be recognized. He then spent the next six months finding a job that would hire someone without a past, a very cheap living space, and the beginnings of search for any clues that could lead him to the ones who framed him. He had spent another six months following up on any leads that he found, all of which led to dead ends. All except this one.
The rain had begun to lighten up some, enough for Petyr to see the three familiar tapered candles in the window of the boarding house behind the dilapidated bakery shop. To anyone who hadn’t been there before, the candles would mean nothing. To an experienced Forellian traveler, however, it could only mean one thing: whore house. Petyr had often sought the company of the ladies of Melanie’s, the best that Forella could provide.
After pounding loudly on the wooden door, a woman of medium height with a slim frame answered, her face ghostlike against the flame of the candle that she held. She only cracked the door, making it difficult to see the inside.
“I am sorry, sir, but, due to the storm, we are unable to offer any educational services tonight,” she said. Petyr sighed. Most places of pleasure had a pretty decent cover story. Melanie’s, on the other hand, posed as an educational tutorial center for young women of lower status who wished to learn the finer aspects of becoming a maid or servant. Petyr was almost certain that the reason this particular house hadn’t been discovered was because much of the police force took part in the pleasures they had to offer.
“Cut it, Melanie,” Petyr snapped. The woman’s eyebrows rose and she opened the door slightly wider.
“Petyr?” she asked. Her voice was unsteady with surprise.
“The one and only. Now let me in. I have some questions for you.”
Henry Rennier grazed the top of his future crown. He had retreated to his father’s study after the coronation announcement. The king had a habit of leaving important royal relics where they didn’t belong. In this case, it was the crown of the upcoming king. Henry chuckled slightly. His father could duel with the best of them and could turn a criminal into stone with one icy glance, but Heaven forbid that he would ever remember where he placed anything important. Luckily for the king, there were palace aides and advisors to keep things organized.
Henry turned to leave, but caught movement out of the corner of his eye. He whipped around, only to find his own reflection in the floor length mirror that hung on the wall. As he looked at his reflection, Henry felt the weight of the entire kingdom on his shoulders. Soon, he would rule over all of Cetique, and everything would be different. He sighed. Everything would be different.
Henry thought of Luce. Her bright disposition and her unique way of making him laugh. Despite the fact that he was the future king, there never seemed to be any secrets or distance between them, and he loved that. Henry knew that once he was king, it would all change, and he desperately wanted it to be the same. But there was no way for that to happen. The prince looked at his reflection, staring into his own eyes. He often wondered how many secrets he showed through those eyes. He could always read Luce’s eyes. Could she do the same with him? Suddenly, he laughed a hard, crisp laugh. ‘No,’ Henry thought, ‘Luce can’t read my eyes. If she could, she would already know that I’m in love with her.’