Chapter 17

Spen was in the council room being talked at by two of the members of the Royal Council. He had already told them once that the moon was already up and he needed to get to the portal room to go over to Tercel. But they had not listened and kept talking on and on about how important their position was to council. He was out of patience and was about to snap at them when they fell quiet and looked behind him.

Confused Spen turned around to see Ali there in a simple blue dress, hands on her hips with an annoyed look. "Here I am all the way from Tercel and all you are doing is standing here talking."

"I am sorry about that; I was just telling these gentlemen that I needed to go." Spen said very solemnly, "Princess Alihandra may I introduce you to Duke Tamon, and Duke Samuel." He turned to the two Dukes and said, "Duke Tamon and Duke Samuel, this is Princess Alihandra from Tercel."

They made the proper greetings before Spen offered his elbow to her and said, "I imagine that our fathers are waiting for us somewhere. We will continue this discussion some other time." Spen said to the two Dukes as he led Ali out of the room.

Ali looked up at him curiously before asking, "Have you always been so diplomatic?"

Spen smiled down at her as they walked, "I believe that I have been. Although with you I am not usually that way."

Shaking her head at him, Ali pushed him a bit for his joke, and commented, "I thought that you would be by the portal when I came through, why were you with them?"

"I was trapped by them, they were trying to show me how important they were on the council."

"Why do they feel the need to do that?" Ali broke in.

Chuckling Spen went on, "I believe they are trying to make up for lost time. Unlike your brother who everybody has known that he will be the next king, I have only been here for a month. They feel like they have to hurry and get on my good side."

Ali thought about this for a moment before asking, "How has the last month gone for you?"

Letting out a long sigh, he replied, "Well the first part of it was full of doubts and suspicions as they did all there tests and spells to see if I was really King Jeneth's son. Once it had been confirmed, I have been trying to show them that I am capable of this position. Some are supportive, others are not, while there are still some fence sitters." He paused for a moment before leading her out onto a little veranda that looked over a moonlight garden. "How about you? How has the last month gone?"

Screwing her face up in mock thought, she replied, "If I have to sum it up in one word, I would say boring."

Spen just started to laugh, "I should have known." He said shaking his head.

"What?!" Ali said acting surprised at his reaction, "I was! At first everybody wanted to hear about my journey and then they wanted to hear about you. Then I was left to think about how much I missed you. I even tried to distract myself with some pranks but it is not that much fun without you there to yell at me."

Spen leaned back on the railing of the veranda. Smiling at her he responded, "Here I was thinking how quiet it was over here, not having to worry about who is going to come complain to me about one of your little pranks."

Ali scoffed at him and reached out her hand to playfully push his shoulder, but one of his hands caught it first. With one smooth motion he pulled Ali close to him where he whispered in her ear, "I have missed you, princess."

"I missed you as well, my Encyclopedia." Ali murmured back.

He lightly kissed her neck and slowly moved up in soft touches until their lips touched. They stood like that clinging to each other for a long time before Spen slowly moved back, "We should go find our fathers and see what they are doing." He said reluctantly.

"Oh, did I forget to tell you?" Ali asked with a gleam in her eye. "My father came here to work out the marriage contract. He told me to worry about getting settled in, while he took care of that."

"Settled in?" Spen looked at her sharply, "Settled in …. As in moving here?"

"Yep," Ali said triumphantly.

"How did you convince your father of that?" Spen asked, "I recall him saying that he wasn't going to let you do that until we had the wedding."

"Well he seemed to think that me coming over here would show an act of good faith. Some of the Nobles are still outraged over the kidnapping scheme. He thought that it would show that he was serious about keeping our relations good. Also he mentioned something about me needing your guidance or something." Ali finished with a shrug.

"Was it one of the pranks that you pulled that made him think that?" Spen asked trying to hold in a smile.

"Maybe…." Ali said dismissively. She looked away at the moonlit garden for a moment before turning back, "Anyway, my things are being carted through the portal right now. Also your mother packed up the rest of your things and they are being sent over as well. We should go see how the progress is going."

"Yes, we should." He offered his elbow to her and they started walking back down the hallway. After several moments of silence, Spen asked, "Is there any other surprises for me that I should know about?"

Ali shook her head, "I can't think of any at the moment." She paused for a moment before asking him, "Isn't the portal this way?" As she pointed to a hallway to her left.

"No, that leads to the council room." Spen answered, "The portal is this way. I am surprised that you don't remember your way back."

"I was led by a servant when I was looking for you. And in my defense I haven't been in this castle for very long. Give me a week." She scoffed back at him.

"A week for what?"

"A week to learn the layout of the castle." Ali replied.

"And if you don't?" Spen asked a smile creeping up on his face.

"Are you turning this into a bet?" Ali asked.

"Why not? It has been quite a while since we have had a good bet." Spen shrugged.

"That it has…." Ali thought about it for a moment before asking, "What do we get if we win?"

Spen didn't even pause before saying, "An afternoon of whatever the winner wants to do."

"I will accept your challenge then, but be prepared to spend an afternoon my way." Ali exclaimed.

Spen just shook his head and commented on how confusing this castle was.

Ali scoffed at him for not having any confidence in her and finished walking into the portal room to help with the moving of boxes and bags.

Ali yawned as she looked around her new room. Because she had come so suddenly, there was no way for them to have a room prepared for her. Ali had just talked briefly with the head women, Carissa, in order to determine where her rooms were. She had also told Carissa that she didn't want to wake up any of the servants to help unpack last night so everything was still in boxes or in piles around the room.

Although Ali had been awake all night she still couldn't go to sleep quite yet, she needed to find Carissa and figure out what was going to happen next. Making her way down to the kitchen she asked everybody she came across if they knew where Carissa was. Finally she was told that Carissa was looking for her and had gone to her room. Retracing her steps from the kitchen to her rooms, Ali found Carissa in them with four other women busily working.

"There you are, Princess." Carissa said, "We didn't know where you had wandered off to, so we decided to start."

Laughing Ali responded, "I was actually looking for you. I was going to try to find out your plans."

"We thought that we could at least get your clothes unpacked and maybe some of the other boxes." Carissa explained, "Although I know you didn't get any sleep last night. So we will try to do this fast."

Thanking them for their help, Ali then helped them unpack the boxes. And just as Carissa said they were done within an hour. Carissa said that she would come wake up Ali just after lunch, and they would discuss some more business and then left her to try and get some sleep.

Looking around the room at the still packed boxes, Ali sighed and fell into the bed. She would first get some sleep and then deal with the boxes.

"Princess Alihandra." Came a quiet voice, "Princess, it is time to wake up."

Ali groaned and opened her eyes very slowly. Carissa was standing there, looking expectantly at her.

"It feels like I just laid down." Ali complained, "It is really time to get up?"

"Yes, my child. It is just after lunch." Was the reply, "I have lunch waiting for you. We have much to discuss."

Ali pushed herself out of bed and brushed the wrinkles out her dress. Then quickly finger combing through her hair, she plaited it into a braid and sat down at the table where a covered tray was.

Lifting up the cover, Ali smiled at the potato soup and bread. She looked up at Carissa and asked, "Will you be joining me for lunch?"

"I have already eaten. But while you eat I do want to talk with you about something."

Ali motioned for Carissa to sit across from her and asked, "What is it?"

Carissa didn't sit down but shifted nervously from foot to foot, "I have a favor to ask." She finally said, "I have a niece who lives here with me, and she has been a maid for several of the Noble Ladies that reside here. But it seems that she has angered them in some way and now none of them want her. If she can't find work here, I don't know what she will do."

"So you want me to take her on as one of my maids?" Ali asked.

"You don't have any maids yet, and you can take her on for a trail biases if you want. If you want someone else after two weeks, I will understand." Carissa hurriedly said.

"How did she anger the Noble Ladies?" Ali asked while buttering her bread.

Sighing Carissa answered, "Kali kept getting nosy about their lives. She doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut."

Holding back a chuckle, Ali strived for a straight face, "I can see how that would make my peers angry. So why do you think that she and I would get along better?"

"I don't. But I have heard that you are not like our Noble Ladies here and so I hope that it might work."

Ali looked up at Carissa's hopeful face and remarked, "You may put her in as my head maid. I realize also that it is customary for me to have more than one, but I would like to have the least number possible. Pick out one more for that purpose."

Carissa's face shone as she nodded, "I will see to it at once." And she turned to leave the room.

"Wait a moment, Carissa." Ali said, "Do you know where Spen is?"

"The Prince is currently in a meeting with his father." Carissa said with a bow, "In his study."

"Thank you." Ali gave her a nod and went back to finishing her meal.

Several days later, while they were in the study, "Who are you expecting?" King Jeneth said with a slight grin, looking at his new-found son.

"What?" Spen looked over at the King startled.

"You keep looking over at the door. Are you expecting someone?" He asked again.

"Ali said she would come to this." Spen answered.

"Why would the Princess want to come to one of your lessons about how to rule the kingdom?" King Jeneth asked surprised.

"She likes to know what is going on, and be a part of things." Spen said a little confused about the Kings reaction.

With a perplexed look on his face, King Jeneth asked, "Doesn't she want to spend the day with the Queen and her ladies?"

Spen started laughing, "Good luck getting her to do that!" His face grew serious and then he continued, "You also have to realize that Ali's mother always helped her father with running the kingdom. It is how she grew up. I doubt you are going to be able to keep her away."

As if on cue Ali finally walked through the door, "I am sorry I am late, I made a wrong turn at one of the corridors and ended up in the kitchen. I did bring up some scones though."

Spen shook his head at her and asked, "You only have until the end of the week, do you really think that you can learn the whole castles layout by then?"

Without even pausing Ali responded, "Yes. Don't get your hopes up, Encyclopedia."

King Jeneth with a studious look on his face, interrupted their arguing by telling them to sit down.

Later in the day, when her maid Kali came into her room to clean, Ali swept her out into the hall and said, "I need your help. Just pretend that you cleaned my room and instead show me around."

"Are you sure?" Kali asked timidly.

"I am positive." Ali replied, "I will talk Carissa if you think you might get in trouble."

"Why do you need my help?" the girl asked curious.

"I made a bet with Spen." Ali explained. "He thinks that I can't learn my way around the castle by the end of the week. I am going to prove him wrong." After a long pause as they walked down the hallway, Ali said, "I haven't had much of a chance to talk with you. You are Carissa's niece right?

Kali nodded.

"I hear that you can be a little nosy." Ali said with a smile, "But I haven't seen that part of you yet."

Looking nervous Kali shook her head.

"Well, don't worry about it so much." Laughing Ali said, "Unless you're really annoying I won't dismiss you. Now then Kali. I can find my way to the kitchens, and also to the portal room. But I have a hard time with everywhere else in this place." Ali stopped at in the middle of a junction and pointed to the hallway on her right, "That leads to the west wing, correct?" Waiting for Kali's nod, Ali then pointed to the left, "Then this way leads to the east wing. What is in the East wing?" she asked.

Kali looked down the corridor and said, "Many of the guest chambers, also some of the councilmen have rooms down that way."

Ali nodded and hooked elbows with the girl and led her off down the west wing.

At the end of the appointed time, Ali found herself at the same intersection of hallways, this time with her hand on Spen's arm.

"What is in this direction?" Spen asked as he pointed down the East wing.

"Guest chambers and some councilmen rooms." Ali confidently answered.

Spen led her around asking her questions about where was this? Take me to this place and so on. After an hour he finally admitted defeat.

"You learned your way around here haven't you."

"Yes, I did." Ali proudly exclaimed, "Which means I won the bet! What should we do for a whole afternoon?" she asked.

"If I had to guess you already have it all planned out." Spen said glumly.

Ali laughed at him and tugged him towards the throne room. "Let's go ask the King, which afternoon he can spare us."

Leaning back into the chair, Ali was surprised that she had been here for almost a month. In two days was the next full moon and her parents were coming over for a big engagement party and dance. She reflected on how easily she had picked up a routine here. There was morning sword practice with the palace guard, morning tea spent with the Queen and/or the Noble Ladies (not her favorite time of the day) Lessons with the King and Spen in the afternoons. Nighttime activities varied. She looked up at Kali as she walked in the door carrying a tray of tea.

After putting the tray on the table, Kali crossed her arms and stared at Ali. "What?" Ali asked surprised.

"Why haven't you prepared a ballgown for the engagement party?" Kali asked bluntly.

"I hate those gowns." Ali complained, "Why do I need one anyways? I can just wear that frilly blue gown I have."

Looking up at the ceiling for patience, Kali responded, "Do you know what the rumors are saying?" She paused, looking over at Ali's startled face, "No, of course you don't. You don't listen to them. Well I am going to tell you what they are saying." She paused for dramatic effect, "They say that our Prince is marrying a crude ugly human from Tercel." Kali starts to pace around the room as she talks, "That is the tame one. The others are not so nice to you or to the Prince. It is bad enough that you go to the practices in the mornings but you don't care about the current fashions. Everybody is talking about it!" Kali stopped when she saw Ali grinning at her. "This is nothing to be grinning at!" she proclaimed.

"I am just grinning at you. I am finally seeing the pushy Kali that everybody has been warning me about." Ali responded.

"You're not listening to what I am saying!" Kali protested. "People are going to be coming to this engagement party expecting to see a dirty, crude human. And you are going to go that way!"

"The dress I am planning on wearing is not dirty so I don't know what everyone is complaining about." Ali remarked. When she heard this Kali threw her hands up in the air and stormed out of the room. Leaving Ali shaking her head in wonder.

The next morning Ali was out in the practice grounds stretching her muscles as she watched some of the guards practicing with each other. Spen came up to her and smiled. "Would you mind a wager this early in the morning?"

Looking over at him curious, Ali asked, "Depends on what you have in mind."

"I would like to challenge you to a mage battle." Spen responded in a light tone.

"What are the stakes?" Ali asked.

"The winner gets to dictate how the loser dresses at the Engagement party tomorrow." He answered in the same light tone.

Suspicious Ali asked, "Why are you challenging me? I seem to remember that I have won the last mage battles we have done together."

Shrugging his shoulders he replied, "We haven't fought in a mage battle since before you were kidnapped. I just thought it would be fun."

Ali thought for a long moment, Spen was up to something but she had a good record of beating him, so she accepted his challenge and went back to the armory to get the magicked sword that was used in these matches. When she came back he was already in the ring waiting and a crowd of palace soldiers had emerged.

Taking a deep breath Ali stepped into the ring and gave the customary bow to Spen. The soldiers cheered as the match started. The match started out well for Ali. She knew Spen and his habits. Knocking aside spells and reflecting them back as they came one after another. She braced herself to reflect an approaching spell, when she suddenly found herself staring up at the blue of the sky. Sword was laying on the ground several feet away from her. Surprised at the sudden turn of events, Ali just laid there while the crowd was going wild with their cheers for Spen. Sitting up, Ali was still shocked. She looked up at Spen who was coming to give her a hand up.

As she took it she asked, "How did you do that? I didn't even see it coming."

Smiling Spen told her, "I am just trying to keep you humble."

Shaking her head, she dusted herself off and went over to get her sword. She picked it up and stopped mid-motion, "You knew you were going to win with that spell."

He shrugged and smiled evilly at her, "You need to report to the seamstress just after lunch for a fitting of your dress for the party tomorrow."

Ali just nodded, defeated. She knew that he won and that she didn't go back on her wagers.

Her afternoon was spent fitting a dress that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. Kali was grinning from ear to ear as she helped the seamstress and Ali kept thinking about how Spen had won the match. She was going to have to figure it out if she was ever to spar against him again.

The next afternoon was spent getting ready. Her hair had to be pulled this way and that. Her face scrubbed till it hurt, and then the layers of the gown went on. Just before dusk she was declared ready to go. Spen came and picked her up, but instead of leading her down to the ballroom where she was to meet her parents, he lead her out to the same little veranda that they had been on her first night here.

Smiling down at her, he commented on how beautiful she looked. Ali made a face at him and asked if he had heard the rumors.

"I may have heard one or two of them," he replied with a shrug of his shoulders, "But after seeing you tonight. I don't think that any of them with be believed anymore."

"You did this on purpose!" Ali exclaimed.

"Maybe, maybe not. I could contest it either way." Was his reply.

"Humph." Ali was annoyed at him, and asked, "Why did we come here aways? My parents are probably waiting."

Spen looked a little nervous as he searched for words, "I realized that I forgot to ask you something very very important."

Confused at his behavior and what he had just said, Ali just cocked her head at him.

Clearing his throat and fumbling in his pocket for a moment, He finally looked into her eyes and said, "I forgot to ask you this." He pulled out a little box and opened it. Inside was a beautiful diamond ring. "Will you marry me, Ali?"

Ali stared at him as she realized that those words had actually never been spoken. She smiled at him and answered, "That is a definite affirmative, Encyclopedia."

Grinning foolishly Spen slide the ring onto her hand and pulled her in for a kiss. Reluctantly after a moment Ali pulled away. "Sorry, but after all that work they did on my hair and makeup I don't want it to get messed up."

Spen sighed as he held out his arm for her, "Yes, you need to go stun all your non-believers. There will be time afterwards."

"In fact our whole lives." Ali answered.

"Yes, and that is a thing to look forward too."

The End

Author's note- I am so sorry that it took so long to get this last chapter up. But I wanted to finish the story and my excuses could go on and on. I hoped you enjoyed this last chapter!