A/N: First of all, I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to Julia (InfatuatedCritic) for creating some really awesome and beautiful Love's Status fanart. She made two sets of virtual dolls at DollDivine.com of Lila, Karmella, and Giselle. You can follow the links to view them! <3
A/N 2: So, here we are. This story is drawing to a close, and I'm happy and sad about it. Although this is NOT the last chapter, I'm already missing these characters. I want to thank you all so much for reading and sticking with this story!
Lila and Dimitrius were roughly thrust inside the cell. The door slammed loudly, the sound reverberating off of the walls. Ulric leered at them both while the light from his candle cast shadows across his face. He appeared more monstrous than usual.
"One muskrat down, one to go," he sneered. Without any warning, Lila plunged her arms through the bars of the door, scratching at Ulric's face. He yelped in surprise, but quickly gained his composure. Dimitrius pulled Lila away from the bars before the overseer could hurt her.
"You watch yourself, little Lila, or I might slash your pretty neck as well!" Ulric shouted. Lila pulled against Dimitrius' arms.
"You're an ungodly excuse for a man, and I hope you rot!" she screamed. Ulric simply grinned and made his way out of the dungeons, taking the only source of light with him. As the dungeons faded into darkness, Lila made her way to the corner of the cell. She sank to the ground, tears spilling over her cheeks. Dimitrius sat beside her, wrapping her in his arms. He was silent, and the only clear sounds were Lila's sobs.
"I'm so sorry, Dimitrius," she said after some time, her voice cracking. The prince sighed.
"Lila, this isn't your fault. Don't be sorry," he whispered.
"How can you say that? All of this is my fault! I've lied to Giselle, I'm responsible for what happened to Karmella, and now I'll be responsible for what happens to you. Everything that has happened has been my fault, and only now am I realizing what harm I've caused," Lila cried.
"You listen to me, Lila Brede," Dimitrius started, the gruffness of his voice catching the handmaiden off guard, "You don't get to take that blame. What happened to Karmella is not your fault; it is the fault of a heartless man who knows only cruelty. As for me, I made my own choices regarding you and Giselle. I knew what I was risking, and I would do it all over again if it meant I could spend one more day with you. So don't take more than your fair share of guilt. Those crosses are not yours to bear."
A moment of silence passed between the two as Lila processed the prince's words. After a few minutes, she took her turn to speak.
"In spite of everything, even with all that has happened, I am glad that I've been given the chance to know you," she said softly. Though she could not see him, Lila knew that the prince was facing her. She clasped his hand. He did not pull away.
"I truly mean it, Dimitrius. I only wish that things had turned out differently, and that Karmella…," Lila trailed off. She felt more tears fall. Dimitrius squeezed Lila's hand. It was then that a distant glow of candlelight appeared in the corner of the dungeons. Someone was coming. As the light grew closer, the figure carrying it became clearer. Giselle approached the cell, and Lila stood to meet her.
"Lila, I've only come to tell you that I have persuaded father to wait to enforce your execution," the princess said, her voice cracking on the last word. Lila gazed at her. Her long hair was pulled onto one shoulder, and her normally rosy cheeks were splotchy and stained with tears.
"Father says that once we hear back from Prince Dimitrius' kingdom, then we will proceed. It is the best that I could do," Giselle finished, her voice hollow. Lila could only stare at the princess, who did nothing but return her gaze. They stayed like that for some time before Giselle turned to go.
"Thank you, Giselle," Lila said softly. The princess stiffened. She turned back around.
"I am Giselle Hugh, Princess of Nouvelle, and you are a servant. My station is far above yours, and you will address me as such," she said coldly. She turned on her heel and left the dungeons. Lila could only stare after her before returning to her seat by Dimitrius.
The next week was mostly quiet. Lila and Dimitrius were beginning to grow used to life inside the dungeons. It was almost impossible to tell what the exact time was, so the days and nights began to blend together. Occasionally, they would be provided with scraps of bread and water, but for the most part, they went hungry. What was the point in feeding someone who was going to die anyway? Finally, after many days, a response from Dimitrius' kingdom arrived. It gave Ulric and Fendrel great pleasure to deliver the news to the prisoners.
"So it appears that your ever loving family has been so embarrassed and hurt by your actions that they have decided to leave you in our care. Congratulations, Prince Dimitrius, you'll be able to lose your head with your lover tomorrow morning," Ulric sneered. Fendrel grinned as the two overseers left the dungeons. Lila couldn't believe what she had heard.
"How could that be? Dimitrius, this can't be right - you're a prince!" she cried.
"Apparently, not anymore," he replied, oddly calm.
"But who will run your kingdom?" Lila countered. Dimitrius smiled grimly, though Lila could not see it.
"What else are brothers for?" he whispered. Lila felt tears prickling behind her eyes. She wrapped Dimitrius in a large hug, and for the first time since they had been imprisoned, it was his turn to cry.
Hours later, Lila and Dimitrius tossed and turned in their sleep, knowing that come morning light, they would be dead. As they slept, two figures approached their cell. A shuffle of robes and a soft beam of light caused Lila to stir in her sleep. She opened her eyes and was met with blurry vision.
"Who's there?" she asked, her voice trembling. Before the figures had a chance to reply, a burst of light blasted through the bars of the cell door, waking Dimitrius in the process. Shielding their eyes, the captives only heard two words.
The crowd that had gathered outside of the castle was monstrously big. Once word hit the kingdom that Prince Dimitrius Cane had had an affair with a servant, much of the population of Nouvelle had been shocked, to say the least. Never in the history of the monarchy had anything so scandalous and unbelievable happened. The astonishment bled through to the magical realms, as well. Interspersed with the humans in the crowd were ethereal creatures that seemed to share the same amount of alarm that had settled in among the human citizens.
The sun had risen almost an hour ago, and the crowd was becoming disquieted. The execution had been set for sunrise, and yet, nothing had happened. The crowd stood, watching the empty stage and guillotines. A mixture of discontent and blood lust set in. Finally, a large man dressed in black found his way onto the stage. The hood on his face concealed all but his eyes. The man gathered attention as the crowd quieted.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he began in a deep, grim voice, "As you have clearly heard the former, now dethroned, prince Dimitrius Cane has been found to be in an inappropriate relationship with one Lila Brede - a handmaiden to Her Highness Princess Giselle Hugh."
The crowd immediately began shouting and cursing at the mention of the traitors. The executioner held up his hands, clearly enjoying his role and ringleader.
"That is why we, the proud kingdom of Nouvelle, and a few supporters from neighboring Enderth"- the corner where those from Enderth stood erupted into cheers - "have gathered here on this morning to show what happens to those who do not learn their place! We will set an example for anyone who believes that they are above the law! Bring out the prisoners!"
The crowd exploded into a mixture of cheers, curses, and boos. Off to the side, some guards dragged two very filthy captives onto the stage. They each had a brown bag over their heads and their hands tied behind their backs. The noise from the crowd was deafening as the guards wrenched the bags off of their heads. There, on the stage, stood Lila and Dimitrius.
Their mouths were gagged, but they desperately tried to scream. The two attempted to pull or push their way free from the guards, but to no avail. The crowd had gone insane, many of the people throwing rocks at the stage. Without hesitation, the executioner waved his hands at the guards, and they brought Lila and Dimitrius to the guillotines, forcing them down onto their knees.
With tears flowing from their eyes, the pair looked up toward the king, queen, and Princess Giselle, all of whom were safely watching from one of the castle's many towers. Giselle did not blink.
The guards forced Lila and Dimitrius into the guillotine; their heads sat on a blood stained block of wood. The executioner stood between each guillotine, his hands steady on the ropes. The crowd screamed even louder, and with one powerful yank on the ropes, the blades of the guillotine rushed downward.
The crowd cheered in excitement as the blade sliced through bone and flesh, spraying blood on those closest to the stage. The heads of Lila Brede and Dimtrius Cane plunged into the wicker basket awaiting their fall.
In the tower where the king, queen, and princess stood, Queen Dana gasped. King Andres grasped her hand, assuring her that it was for the best. As they stared down at the headless remains of the former princes and handmaiden, the crowd cheered.
Giselle, however, did not follow her parents' gaze. She looked, instead, at the endless horizon, wishing, with all of her might, for a happy ending.