When he found the truth of what happened here, he would act accordingly. Seeing his anger, I could trust
Yet whatever happened, from now on, I would be much more careful who I left my child with.
“Prince Nicholas?” came a soft feminine voice from behind us. His date stood there. She twisted her
fingers together like she was shy, but annoyance marred her face. “Are we continuing our date?”
Nicholas turned to her. “I’m sorry, but –”
The Luna herself approached us then, her own features sharp with anger. At first, I thought she might be
upset on Elva’s behalf, but she only glared at the child in my arms before looking again to her son.
“You will return to your date.”
Nicholas straightened. A direct order from the Queen wasn’t something to be taken lightly, even, I
supposed, when you were the prince.
When he hesitated, her eyes narrowed. “Do you not see the games that are at play here? Can you not
understand that the child was never in any danger? This whole farce was orchestrated to ruin your date.”
I was so shocked, I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. Surely, she couldn’t be serious? Yet she stood
there firmly, glowering at me like I was the monster here.
“I would never endanger my child! And for such a petty reason!” I couldn’t keep the incredulity from my voice. It never occurred to me that I should maybe keep my voice down when speaking to the Luna, not
when she was insinuating such a terrible thing.
For a moment, everyone looked at me with a wide–eyed gaze, except Nicholas, who had moved a little closer to me and Elva. All too quickly, the Queen recovered, glaring again. This time her glare zeroed in
on the closeness of Nicholas to me.
“Your date, Nicholas. Now.” The Luna’s voice held ultimate authority. Nicholas wouldn’t be able to disobey
stepped away from us, heading toward his date. Once he was out of the Queen’s line of vision, he
back at me. Though his face was emotionless, I could have sworn I saw concern in his gaze.
into my shoulder
“As for you.” The Queen returned her attention to me. “I have been patient with you. I have been kind. I have waived punishment which would have otherwise been perfectly reasonable. But you have continued
to disrespect me.”
She waved her hand toward my window. “Between this debacle and your raised voice, as well as your previous incidents, I would be well within my rights to expel you from this competition. However…
She sighed, like her next words weighed on her heavily. “As your presence is… a necessity, presently. I shall not be able to execute the deserved punishment. Instead, you will sustain the one previously suggested, that I had waived.”
She couldn’t mean….
“Piper, on the next stormy day, you will kneel in the rain from dawn until dusk, and reflect on all the atrocities you have committed here. Hopefully, then, you will learn some manners.”
I had no idea how she could be so blasé in the face of my child’s near–death. Had she no empathy at all?
this whole thing?
Or did she truly believe, outlandishly, that I had somehow?
What kind of goings–on occurred in this palace for that to be considered the norm?
Yet as outrageous as it was, I had no power here. I had to respect the judgement of the Luna, even if I disagreed with it. To fail to do so would result in the worst punishment imaginable.
Behind the Queen, Nicholas took a step toward us. I wasn’t sure what he was planning to do or say, but I
wouldn’t let him interfere. If he did, he might be punished too.
Subtly, I shook my head and he paused.
With a chill in my heart, I held my ground and lifted my head.
“I understand,” I said, and accepted my fate.