For nearly five years D'Hir, Hetta and I lived in the court of Queen Dophe and King Neopar without much ado. Other than the absence of D'Hir's parents, our lives were pretty much the same. At least mine was. I had grown accustomed the feeling of abandonment; however, D'Hir missed his family terribly.
After fulfilling our rigorous daily academic and artistic agendas D'Hir and I overlooked no opportunity to escape into the countryside. We always said that each time we would go just a little bit farther until at last we would find ourselves all the way to the sea where we could stow away on a ship and explore a world far removed from our pampered, dictated and confining existence. It was at the seaside were Roarke and Adelaide took their last holiday in Belaurii with us before their baby son was born. The sea always made D'Hir feel closer to his family.
On one hand, it was a great relief to me when dear little D'Hir finally surpassed me in height. Before that time he had the dreadfully annoying habit of staring at my breasts as we danced in court events. But now that he was becoming a young man, the fondness and familiarity we shared for so long seemed to vanish into awkwardness. Another four years and we would marry as arranged my guardian and his parents long ago in some great alliance the details of which neither one of us seemed to be privy. I now looked for any opportunity not to be alone with him. There were my dalliances with men around court which I managed to keep from him, but not from the watchful and vengeful eyes of Queen Dophe.
I had become lady in waiting to Queen Dophe when I turned twenty even though she had never liked me. My guardian Burgi had humiliated her by refusing to act as proxy and honor the alliance of marriage. She had been set to marry his cousin Drezi before his untimely and unfortunate demise at the hand, actually the ass, of the Lane. Dophe made sure that the minds of the women of the court were set against me, which is probably why I found the company of its men so alluring.
My mornings were generally consumed with the arduous task of dressing the Queen and perfecting her coiffure, all the while biting my tongue as she found countless things for which to chide me. If she was feeling particularly malicious she would offer me the opportunity to play a game of cards with her. I had grown very good at devising strategies that ensured her victory. Even though I owed her a king's ransom already, I could not imagine the misery that would beset me should I dare defeat her.
One particular morning, despite my noblest efforts to feign amusement and joviality, the Queen saw through me to my utter boredom and disgust. The games went on and on. We didn't stop to eat and I dared not ask even to get up to stretch my legs which kept falling asleep. A grueling eternity passed as my stomach growled and eyes blurred. Evening came and went. Finally the tedium was interrupted by a knock on the door. For the first time in many months I was truly delighted to see D'Hir when the Queen invited him into her parlor. I started to sort through the cards of the interrupted game when I was curtly dismissed. If I was at first confused by her move, the bawdy ruckus that ensured quickly dispelled any misconceptions. I knocked on the door, and was ignored. I knocked harder. The Queen's only response was to move the action closer to the door.
While I stood in my astonishment, I was joined by the only person in court that the Queen despised more than I.
"There there, poppet," King Neopar said as he patted me on the shoulder, "She'll give him back when she's done with him."
"Two things I need you to know before you leave," Prince Roarke told me before D'Hir, Hetta and I left for our stay in Belaurii. "Keep an eye on D'Hir. I'm counting on you to keep him out of trouble." He made an uneasy sigh and looked my squarely in the eyes. "And whatever you do, keep your distance from King Neopar." I did my best to honor those two requests, and was quite successful up until that night.