A/N: It's been quite some time, huh? I apologize it took me so long omg. Keeping this as short as possible, my life has just been busy and stressful. I'm going to try to write more I seriously am. I love writing this story and I have so many things in store for those who are still reading and I just really want to write it all and finish it up for you guys while I finally have a bit of time. I'm now on spring break and summer vacation starts in a few months so let's see how it goes! Right now I have the next two chapters after this one written.
Warnings: Pretty dialogue-heavy. Nothing major.
Ciel was forced from his slumber when the heat nearby him disappeared. The king, he had come to learn, was not a very graceful sleeper. Their limbs—namely their legs—were all tangled up for the majority of the night. So when Sebastian had unraveled himself from Ciel, the boy was bound to be awoken.
His eyes cracked open to seek out the warmth once again, but all he could see was a dark blob moving about the room. In his half-asleep state, the teen mumbled something incoherently, momentarily catching the blob's attention. Ciel stared at the king as he made his way over to the bed. The blankets around him shifted so that he was fully covered again, and he closed his eyes in contentment. With a tired sigh, Ciel curled up and buried his face in the king's pillow, unable to fall asleep again.
Hours passed by before Ciel deemed it late enough to rise. He tossed and turned on the bed uncomfortably until then, sore and weak from his night with the king. And his damned heart wouldn't stop fluttering at the thought of the feast and plan and Sebastian and everything.
Ciel knew what he wanted and what he didn't want. He was always sure of himself in that way. What he wanted had not changed; he wanted to be free. What he didn't want was to be locked in the dungeon again. And he didn't want to betray the king. Much so his displeasure, the king had grown on him. He didn't hate the king like he should have; like Beatrice of Freckles did.
It took him several minutes to finally bring himself to creep out of bed like an imp out of hell and trudge to the washroom. On the way there, he practiced walking normally regardless of his aching body, which proved to be quite difficult. The bath was already drawn for him, but it felt unpleasant. It must have been later than he'd thought. After stripping and throwing the articles of clothing aside haphazardly, he gradually lowered himself into the lukewarm water with a shudder.
He truly had become spoiled living in the castle. Back in his village, cold water was not uncommon. In fact, nobody had a choice besides bathing in icy water. And now he could barely stand bathing in lukewarm water, which would have been considered a blessing in his village. Living in the castle, there was never questioning whether he would become ill or starve or freeze to death during the winter. In the castle, he always ate at least two large meals each day and he always had blankets and warm fires to keep him satisfied. With there being no travel inside or outside of the castle, illness was barely ever an issue.
Reminiscing made his stomach churn. His family, who had cared for and treasured him since he was born, was still living in that filth. His mother and father had lost their only son. Elizabeth had lost her best friend. None of them were aware of Ciel's fate. He truly missed all of them, but he would never wish himself back in that life.
The adolescent swallowed the lump in his throat and forced himself to think of other things. After he washed himself, he took his time getting dressed in the servant's attire that had been left at the foot of the king's bed for him, and washed his teeth. William still must have been quite busy with preparations, Ciel mused, since he hadn't come to wake him earlier.
The boy retraced his steps back into the washroom to look at himself in the mirror. He looked clean and well fed and his hair was nicely trimmed. He leaned in closer to himself and squinted into the fuzzy reflection and focused on his neck. His blemish-free neck. His hands pulled down the collar of his shirt. He turned this way and that, looking for any sign of a mark, but there was nothing.
The plan. He almost forgot all about his end of the plan. He felt relieved, but there was also a tinge of shame. He had failed. He couldn't be a witness, a victim, anymore.
He let his gaze linger on the mirror for just a little longer and rubbed his temples in frustration before he left the room. The area was vacant, presumably because the entire host of servants was in the dining hall and kitchen. The teen made his way over to that area, praying that he wouldn't be spotted by a select few people.
"Ciel," a voice called over the buzz. It was William, who was conveniently one of those people.
Ciel turned on his heels to look at the black-haired man. William looked just like his old self from a distance, but up close he looked like a different person. He was stressed. He was lacking sleep. He was sick.
"You have work to do."
The time of the feast had come, and the castle was nearly unrecognizable. Candles were everywhere, brightening the place tenfold. The massive fireplace in the dining hall was also lit. Colorful cloth, golden beads, and pearls lined the walls and hung from the ceiling. The table was festooned with various centerpieces and exotic flowers. There were performers off to the side getting ready, warming up, or practicing. The lords and ladies were there, drifting around the castle and admiring the festive embellishments. Some stood still and mingled in the ballroom. Some danced.
Ciel had yet to face Beatrice and Freckles, though he'd seen them around. William and the other servants were working them to the bone.
The boy learned that when the king had woken him up that morning, he had been getting ready to go hunting, and had later returned with animals (presumably boars or deer). They would be saved for a later day.
Ciel wondered what it was like to go hunting. He could hunt with a bow or daggers, or command dogs and hunting birds. He wished he could go with the king; to get out of the castle and feel the rush and satisfaction of the sport. Whether it was for food or for fun, he wished to go someday. Perhaps that could be his one request that king had promised him…
"Ciel, come on."
The words were whispered in his ear and before he could react he was pulled away by the wrist. The two of them did a sort of dance as they wove their way through people, careful not to bump into anyone. At last, he was led down a way that was less condensed with guests, and then into an empty room. Apparently this would always be her strategy. The room was unlit and Ciel could barely see a thing.
"Ciel, are you ready? Did you hold up your end of the plan?"
Ciel looked Beatrice dead in the eye (or at least he hoped he did). "No, I didn't. He didn't leave any marks on me last night."
It was quiet as she seemed to mull something over in her head. "That's alright; we'll make do. When the time comes, be sure to think of something good to say, okay?"
She was about to turn and leave, when Ciel stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.
"Beatrice, I don't think we should go through with this plan."
"Why not?" she demanded.
"I don't know what village you came from, but in my village everyone revered the king unconditionally. The people of this land were raised to believe the king is equivalent to a god. I highly doubt these people are any different. In fact, they're probably worse. They aren't going to believe a word we say."
She seemed taken aback by his words, and suddenly Ciel could tell she was about to get defensive.
"Well we could get more people to join in. Everyone that lives in this castle knows what the king really does. What he's really like. Besides, I have marks on me. That's proof enough, isn't it?"
Ciel shook his head. "For all they know, any other servant here could have done this to you." He gestured to her neck. "I saw all the flaws in your plan much earlier, but I was so desperate to get back to my family that I didn't care. And I can tell that you're the same."
"It doesn't matter. I won't stay here and be a prisoner any longer. I don't want to be used anymore. I just want to go home." There were tears in her eyes now, but she was frantically holding them back.
"This isn't the answer," Ciel pleaded with her, "We can think of another way."
"You're wrong! You have to help us. I need to go home!" She grabbed his shoulders and brought her face close to his, effectively conveying her desperation. "You have to help!"
"Why do you want to leave so badly?"
"I just need to see my baby again before she's gone." Now she let the tears fall. Her face crumpled into something pathetic-looking.
Ciel's head tilted and he looked at her questioningly.
"When I was taken away," she murmured sadly, "my daughter, Wendy, was ill. It was late at night and they would not let me say goodbye. I don't even know whether she died from the illness or if she got better."
Ciel kept quiet, waiting for her to continue. His mouth was set into a frown as he put all the pieces together.
"When the knight came to our house, my husband stood up to the knights. So as one knight forced me onto the horse and began to ride away, the other stayed behind and beat him. Cut off his hand with his sword."
Now Ciel understood. The reason for her nasty demeanor throughout their entire stay at the castle was rooted in bitter water. It was much deeper than resentment for taking her away from her home. Her husband and child needed her and she wasn't allowed to go back to them.
"It doesn't matter if I get in trouble. What else have I got to lose?" With that, she turned away from him, her curls bouncing as she started toward the door.
"You fool," Ciel murmured as she left him alone in the room. He sat down on the bed and put his head in his hands.
Ciel returned to his position later on and watched the lords and ladies chatter and eat and dance the night away. His stomach wouldn't stay quiet as he watched them eat course after course and his feet began to ache from standing on them for too long. And if it hadn't been for the dancers and acrobats, he would have been bored to death. His only job, after all, was to pour drinks and wait around until someone asked him for something.
Ciel found the acrobats especially remarkable. He had never seen anything like them before. There were festive musical performances done by troubadours. Most interestingly of all, Irene was asked to sing several songs for everyone. Ciel vaguely remembered the night she had sung him to sleep after his nightmare, but he never fully recognized what a strong and lovely voice she had.
Everything was going quite smoothly until the king's advisor stepped in to address everyone. "May I have your attention please?"
It took a moment for the room to quiet down, but once everyone's attention was on the old man, he continued.
"I have a happy announcement to make on behalf of His Majesty. In order to form an alliance with our neighboring kingdom, King Sebastian will be wed to Princess Angelina in a few short weeks. May God bless their engagement and wedding."
Ciel took a short glimpse around the room and noted the many different reactions. The lords and ladies applauded and cheered, or just seemed intrigued. The "servants" on the other hand, seemed horrified or less than thrilled as they looked around at each other. The boy then saw Sebastian, who looked intensely uninterested. But he could tell by the lack of that insufferable smirk that he was displeased.
Ciel snorted, amused.
Someone laughed over the uproar of the crowd. Everyone was, once again, quiet and turned around to glare at her. The lot of them was shocked that a woman—and a servant at that—would make such an outburst. It was Beatrice. "Is he also getting married to produce an heir? He has already taken care of that with one of his servants."
Confused murmurs rose from the crowd and heads turned in the direction of Beatrice's pointed finger. Head turned and gazes fell upon a stunned Irene. Nobody besides Ciel noticed Sebastian's advisor whispering frantically to the knights and pointing at Beatrice. Sebastian, on the other hand, didn't look away from Irene.
"It's true!" Freckles exclaimed, stepping out from her assigned position. "King Sebastian has slept with many of his servants. Even the men and young boys! Ask him!" Ciel's heart jumped out of his chest when he realized that one stubby finger was pointing directly at him.
The adrenaline pumped through his body, and he wanted to open his mouth and say something but he didn't have the words. Gasps could be heard throughout the entire room. Ciel could feel his face and ears heat up. He glanced at Sebastian, and their eyes met for a brief moment before the king turned his head away completely.
"Please calm down," Sebastian's advisor hollered above the continuous whisper and gossip. "We've known about this plot against King Sebastian for quite some time now. You have all been witnesses of this crime and they will be taken to the dungeon for their treachery."
Several knights approached Beatrice, who stood there with a vacant expression. Her lips formed two words over and over again. 'It's true.' A few knights approached Freckles, but she put up a fight, swinging her arms around and screaming about how the king is a liar. When three knights approached Ciel as well, he could feel his heart plummet. His body moved instinctively and he tried to flee from the knights.
"Get your hands off of me!" he screamed. He kicked and put up a struggle that could have rivaled Freckles'. He was overwhelmed with visions of his previous experience in the dungeon, and that caused him to struggle harder.
The hallucinations, the misery, the fear. He couldn't do it again. He could already hear the screams and smell his waste-filled cell. He imagined The Undertaker mocking him. "I told you so, I told you so," he would sing in glee.
"Sir Charles, wait!" the king shouted over the slight chaos that had erupted among the guests. He zigzagged carelessly through the crowd toward the place where Ciel and the knights were tangled. The king's voice drew Ciel out of his panicked state, and his fruitless resistance ceased.
"Your Majesty?" answered one of the knights that were helping restrain the boy. He released Ciel, and stood at attention.
The king leaned in close to the knight to whisper. His mouth moved so rapidly that Ciel couldn't quite make out what was being exchanged. The knight nodded at every single word. The order King Sebastian had given was obeyed immediately when the other knights let go and the teen was tugged in the opposite direction as Beatrice and Freckles. Relief for his own well-being blasted through his veins.
Eventually, Sir Charles and Ciel made it to his quarters. Upon entering, the door was shut and the knight faced Ciel with a piercing, gray stare.
"Tell the truth. Did you have anything to do with that scheme?"
"No, I didn't," he lied.
"Did you know about it?"
It was quiet for a long time. There was only the crickets' anthem trespassing through the window and the slight drone of voices coming from downstairs. Ciel took a seat on his bed and inhaled deeply. He felt like sleeping, but he knew he would have a lot to say to the king after the night was over.
"Do you know if it was true? What she said about Irene."
Ciel recalled Beatrice's accusation. If Irene truly did carry the heir to the throne in her womb, the upcoming marriage and alliance would not pull through well. Ciel was sure Sebastian would find some way to cover it up though.
"Probably," Ciel said, "Though she might have just said it to prove a point."
"That may be so, but everything else she said was the truth."
Ciel nodded, but didn't say anything more on the subject. Instead he said, "I need to speak with the king as soon as he's available."
"We'll see. King Sebastian might be too upset to see anyone tonight after what happened."
It didn't matter. He needed to make everything right as soon as possible. He owed Beatrice and Freckles that much. The two of them did not deserve to rot in prison.
"Just let me speak with him. I can handle his wrath.
A/N: Please tell me about any mistakes that you see!