I woke up in the morning with a looming sense of dread. Today was the day of the first elimination ceremony. The past few days, I had quietly hated every second of the ticking clock while knowing there was nothing I could do to stop it.
Even now, as I dressed and prepared to meet my family for breakfast, I tried to be regal, but inwardly I
was torn to pieces.
Despite my every effort not to, I had come to care for Piper and Elva. I had as little doubt as Piper seemed to, about how quickly they would be sent away. And I worried.
Would they be alright on their own? They had been, up until now. But Piper herself had told me how they struggled more often than not. Would that persist? What if Elva’s sickness worsened and Piper wasn’t
able to afford care? What would become of them?
I hated that I wouldn’t be able to know. My duty to the throne would keep me from checking on them as I
would like. And my loyalty to my future wife would limit how much I could even ask after them.
My future wife deserved to have my full heart. If I continued to care for Elva and Piper, my heart would
always be divided.
Yet I wasn’t sure, now, having seen Piper again, that I could forget her and Elva enough to fully move on. I would try, but I doubted my potential success.
Perhaps there was some way I could continue to make sure they were comfortable, even if I never got to
I see them again. Mark could be my intermediary, perhaps. Or someone else I trusted, though there was no one I trusted as much as Mark.
If I could keep tabs on Piper and Elva without anyone knowing about it even them that would be ideal. It would all have to be very secretive.
In my father’s personal rooms, I found my family tucked around a smaller dining table.
Stacks of pancakes and bowls of fruits and eggs were set on the table. A servant was pouring coffee for my father. Joyce had his nose in a paper. Julian, biting into a crunchy apple, was watching the television on the other side of the room.
Julian was the only one to glance at me when I walked in. Unfortunately, the only opened seat was at his side.
Look what the cat dragged in he teased: “Brother, you look temble,
I lowered myself into the seat and tried to ignore him.
1 bet I know what has you so down.”
“Don’t start,” I grumbled.
I glanced up the table, but fortunately no one else seemed to be paying attention. The Luna was scrolling through something on her phone. The King was berating the servant for adding too much sugar to his
“My question for you,” Julian continued, “is what makes you so certain she is leaving?
“I’m in no mood for games.”
The servant poured my coffee next. His hands were shaky from my father’s tirade, so he spilled a few drops onto the table. I didn’t mention it.
Julian cleared his throat. Loud enough to draw everyone’s attention, he said, “Surely, Piper will be asked to stay. Hasn’t she exceeded at all of the events? She won the Ambassador’s favor, don’t forget. And then, of course, she bagged the boar.”
I glared daggers at him, but he just smiled wider.
The King sipped his coffee. “Everyone knows that one of you two killed the boar. No one truly believes it was her doing, no matter what you claim.”
His denial annoyed me. Piper could have easily hunted that boar alone had she not been set up to fail. Yet, to appease him, I kept my mouth firmly closed.
an watched me. When I didn’t say anything, a hint of disappointment crossed his face.
The Queen spoke next, “I would argue that Piper’s many disciplinary failings counteract those achievements”
“None of those disciplinary measures were allowed to be broadcast on television, don’t forget,” I said,
no longer able to keep quiet. The reasons my mother had created to discipline her at all had been outrageous. Even now, my anger made my hands clench.