There was silence all around as the cooks brought out plate after plate of rich food and everyone dished it out onto their plate. The only noise that rang out was the sound of forks scraping against plates. Elijah cut straight to the chase, "Please tell me why this dinner was so important to have." The king looked up at him, "We have come to discuss the matter of Clara and bringing her back to our castle to be prosecuted for her crimes." he said, calmly. Elijah sighed and opened his mouth to speak, "How is Mary? Why did she not come to dine with us?" I blurted out and interrupted him, anxiety making my voice quiver. The queen looked over at me suddenly, the sound of the bones in her neck snapping because of how frail she was and her eyes as wide as saucers. The king slowly looked back up from the mountain of food on his plate, "You dare speak to us after all you have done? We fed and housed you since your worthless parents died and the only way you can repay us is by running away with your newest fling? You had everything you could have ever wanted in our palace but you chose to defy us and send our two kingdoms into a war." He spat at me; his eyes filled with hatred. I sunk into my chair and pushed my plate away from me with tears welling in my eyes, my appetite long gone. I did not know I had caused so much strife by leaving, I had only wanted a better life than the one I previously had. "If you do not give Clara back to us, we will declare war on your kingdom. You are harboring a fugitive. She is a witch and needs to be executed." The king stated. "Clara did not cause any war as there will be no war," Elijah spoke up in a hard voice. The king narrowed his beady eyes, "How are you so sure there will be no war?" "There will be no war or I will shut the trade channels down between our kingdoms. My kingdom provides most of your necessities, you provide us nothing. It would not be a loss in the slightest." Elijah said, shrugging nonchalantly. The kings jaw dropped and an audible growl escaped him. "You would not do that." Elijah nodded slowly, "I would, and as long as you are in my home, you will not disrespect Clara that way again. She has also been pardoned for any crimes she may have committed. So, she is no longer a fugitive." I looked between the two men, both of them furious with the other. The king was at a standstill and there was nothing he could do to change the circumstances. I wondered what the ramifications of all of this would be for his poor kingdom. Throughout all of this exchange, the queen had not touched any food. She had been staring at it with a look of intense hunger but had not reached for it. I stood up from my seat and took my full plate over and sat it in front of her. She looked up at me with a look I could not describe and still did not touch it. I was better than the way they treated me and I would show them that. I would no longer cower in their presence; I was stronger now. I stood up straighter, "Go ahead and eat it. The king holds no power over you while you are in our home." I confidently said. I did not miss the smirk on Johns face at my show of confidence. Everyone had gone back to eating, the king smug about something I did not know about. The queen reached her hand out tentatively towards the food and immediately pulled it back with a gasp of pain. It was as if it had hit an invisible wall. I looked at her puzzled and she shot me a desperate look in return. I sat down in the chair next to her and helped her push her hands toward the plate, energy humming around her as they snapped back once again. My eyes widened as I realized she was under an enchantment and a cruel one at that. That is why she had lost weight and looked dreadful. I searched my brain for the instructions Mabel had given me regarding breaking an enchantment. I put my hands under the table and called the green light to my palms, pushing it into the queen and feeling it hit the barrier of power within her body. The witch who had placed the enchantment was strong and it was a well-crafted enchantment but I was stronger. I slowly closed my hands, focusing on breaking the power barrier. It snapped almost immediately and the queen slumped in her chair with a sigh. Suddenly she was furiously shoving food into her mouth and I sympathized with that feeling. She continued eating until I was sure she was going to make herself sick. She would have a sore tummy later since she was stretching it with the amount of food she had consumed. The king was furiously staring in our direction, but I knew he would not say anything. He would confess to his wrongdoings in working with a witch if he were to say anything about what had just taken place. The queen sat back, satisfied with her full belly. Then she blinked quickly as if she was trying to remember something. I felt her hand brush my knee under the table as she quickly slipped a small piece of paper into the pocket of my dress. I raised my eyebrows at her and she nodded at me in response. The cooks had started bringing out fruits and baked goods for dessert, the queen smiled happily. I smiled for her; I was happy that she was not going to go hungry tonight even despite the way I did for years. I went back over to my seat, grabbed a plate from one of the empty seats, and put a mountain of desserts on it. Dessert was my favorite part of every meal.
Later on, the king and Elijah excused John and me from the table so they could continue to work out the agreement between them. As we walked down the corridor, John was still giving me the cold shoulder. I had some adrenaline and confidence left over from dinner, so I stopped and stepped in front of him blocking his path. He raised his eyebrows at me and crossed his arms. "Let us go Clara." He said in a well-controlled voice, but I could still tell he was angry. I crossed my arms and planted my feet in place. "No. Not until we talk about why you have been avoiding and ignoring me." He sighed, "You know why I do not want to talk to you. You insulted me after everything I have done for you. I do not feel as if you appreciate anything that my family and I are risking for you." My stomach dropped at his words and tears threatened to fall. "I only spoke the truth; it was not an insult. I do appreciate the things you and your family have done for me. I would not be alive if it were not for you. You do not want to be seen with me publicly, enough that you sneak around behind closed doors to see me. It is heartbreaking and it makes me feel as though I am back where I came from. My entire life I have been hidden away and told I was nobody. So, for the person whom I care for the most to hide me away as well is hurtful." I managed to say to him through my tears. He stopped for a moment and rubbed the stubble on his chin thoughtfully and replied, "I did not think of it like that. I was not hiding you intentionally, you were just pardoned of being a witch this morning Clara. For me to have been seen with you before then, I would have had to have been pardoned as well and you know if that had happened, I would not be able to take the throne." "Well since I am pardoned now, you can stop hiding me. I am yours and you are mine." I reached up to wrap my arms around his neck and he reached down to hug my waist. Pressing my lips to his, butterflies swirled in my belly and I smiled. "I had missed your kisses. It is hard staying mad at you, you know." John said, lifting me and starting down the corridor as I wrapped my legs around his waist and he continued to kiss me.
I woke up in my fluffy cloud bed to Mabel ripping the covers off of John and me in the morning. "AH. I will not do that again." She exclaimed as she covered her eyes and turned around. "Yes, we are normal people and do not sleep all dressed up in our day clothes, you know." I teased her as I got up and slipped into my dress. John was still snoring away and had not awoken to the blanket being flung. I rolled my eyes, "He could sleep through a tornado." I bumped into Mabel as I walked past her and I heard the sound of rustling paper. Remembering the note the queen had slipped into my pocket I was suddenly eager to read it. "Hey Mabel, I need to freshen up. Can I meet you in the ballroom?" I asked her. "Yes, you can meet me, but meet me in the courtyard instead." She said, her eyes alight with excitement. She bounced out of the room, "Hurry up!" she called in farewell. I immediately ran over, shutting and locking the heavy door. I pulled the crisp parchment out of my pocket and unfolded it. I looked at it in shock, the handwriting was scrawled and barely legible. I knew the queens handwriting and this was nowhere near hers, I was intrigued.
I hope that this message finds you in a good place, do not read this with anyone you do not trust around you. I am not who you think I am, I am not who I have been to you these past years. I am your aunt and your mothers sister. I loved her dearly. I love you dearly. The king has had me under his control for some time now, none of my actions have been my own. They have been enchantments put upon me by the kings mistress who is a powerful witch. I have never wanted to hurt you, sweet girl. If I had it my way you would have been loved and cherished as much as Mary, the way your mother wanted. The king is an evil man, do not underestimate him. I will most likely be put under more enchantments now that you are not around for him to abuse. I know that with your immense powers, you will be able to help me and the entire kingdom. I must go now; it is incredibly painful to write words I have been enchanted not to say.
I stared at the note speechless, there was no way any of this was true. She had treated me horribly as I grew up. The writing was terrible because she had been writhing in pain as she wrote her truth. But as I internalized it, I realized that she had risked her life to give me that note, all for her to tell me she loved me and believed in my power. Tears leaked from my eyes at the realization that I had been loved by someone other than Mary and that the queen cared about me. John was stirring in bed so I shoved the note under the mattress quickly so he would not see it. I would confide in Mabel during our training, it seemed as though we needed to learn things more quickly as there was a large battle coming. A battle that everyone needed me to win to survive it.