In the meeting room, every chair is occupied except the one at the front and the one to its left. To the center’s right is the captain of the guard, Kristoff. Beside him is the royal adviser Rowan. He has been teaching Cobalt politics and diplomacy. Beside him is the head servant, Eleanor. She’s in charge of the cleaning staff, the kitchen, and other housekeeping affairs.
They talk amongst themselves while waiting for the king and the royal spy. “I hope his majesty is ready to look for potential suitors,” Rowan says.
“I think he’s too young to be thinking about that. He should be focusing on keeping kingdom morale with the death of the old king still fresh,” says Eleanor.
“This is more than marriage. This is a chance for political alliance. With the nature of the king’s death, there might be a potential war. We need allies.” Kristoff joins in.
“Where are those two?” Eleanor asks impatiently.
Right on cue, the door opens. Cobalt and Siobhan enter and take their rightful places on the table. Neither say a word about where they have been. “Let’s start,” Cobalt proclaims.
“Right,” Rowan stands. “We plan to hold a ball and invite potential suitors all over the land. We have prepared a list of invites. First is Princess Caeda of Castanho Kingdom. Then Princess Evelyn of the Odisodian Empire. There are also ladies from different houses and daughters of Marquesses and Dukes but we can go into detail on that later. I assume the priority is with these two princesses.”
Cobalt thinks one of those princesses belongs to the kingdom that planned his father’s assassination. He has to choose wisely. Of course, he has to invite them both, engage with them, charm them. In his mind, the goal is to find intel.
As a spy, Siobhan must attend the ball but must not be seen. She us used to being invisible even in a crowded place. She will guard Cobalt as usual and gather other information as ordered. She doesn’t think of the other girls Cobalt will be entertaining. She doesn’t think of the other girls Cobalt will be dancing with. She doesn’t want to.
“Remember: the point of this ball is for the king to meet a potential queen. We need this gathering to be as grand as possible.” Kristoff says.
“We’ll leave the technicalities to Eleanor,” Rowan says.
“I’ll make the necessary preparations,” Eleanor echoes.
“If there is nothing more to discuss, then this meeting is adjourned.” Cobalt rises.
He’s the first one to leave and Kristoff is about to follow him but he sees Siobhan stride to his side. To him, it looks like they have something to talk about and he decides it’s none of his business. He’ll have a word with the king later.
“You seem troubled,” Siobhan remarks.
“This morning’s events has not sit well with me,” Cobalt answers.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“You’ve seen and killed more deaths than I could possibly imagine. How do you sleep at night?”
Cobalt stops and turns to Siobhan with a worried look. The hallway always seems to be empty when they’re alone. Maybe he does it on purpose. But that’s not the issue on hand right now.
“I’ve had my share of nightmares. And don’t forget the possibility of going to war. You will see more bloodshed. You were trained to be a warrior-king.”
“But I’d rather settle things diplomatically.”
“Even if it involves your father’s killer?”
Cobalt remains quiet, unable to give an answer. He took the meeting earlier as seriously as he could but with his morals in question, there’s more to add to his plate.
“I don’t want to think about that right now. I have a ball to think about.”
“So you’re finally open to seeing other women?”
“No. That’s the thing. I’m only thinking about who’s related to my father’s death. I can’t think of marriage when vengeance is in my head and-“
Cobalt wants to say more. He wants to tell her that she’s in his heart but he can’t. He shouldn’t. She wouldn’t allow it. Unable to express his thoughts in words he takes a step forward towards Siobhan.
He gives her a longing look. She sighs in response, knowing what’s on his mind. She decides to indulge him, even just this once for a little bit. She caresses his cheek and he leans into her touch.
“There are some things more important than you and me right now,” she says.
Then she takes a step back and when she turns the corner Cobalt couldn’t feel her presence anymore. He hopes he doesn’t have to miss her at all.