42 Chapter 42 A Ball Gown
"Do I have to wear this?" she asked in quiet horror.
Joseph turned his head sideways, to see the dress from a different angle. He couldn't see what was wrong with it.
"Is something wrong?"
"It's…It's so pink!"
"But, don't girls like pink? It was really hard to get the fabric in that color."
"It will be fine." Her voice was strained.
The dress was beautiful, if overly pink. There was a layer of pink that was covered by a sheer layer with white and baby blue flowers and butterflies scattered throughout it. It had cost him a lot to get it, but his father didn't mind. If she didn't like it though…
"What color would you like it to be?" he asked, puzzled.
She chewed on her lip, as if she knew what she wanted, but wasn't sure if she could say.
"Stella, whatever you want, you just have to say it. We still have plenty of time to get a new dress made. I want you to be as comfortable as possible."
"Okay," she finally nodded.
"I want it to be blue. Blues and greens, I think."
She went into great detail, describing the dress. The seamstress was looking back and forth between the two of them, with a confused, horrified look in her eyes. There would be a dark navy-blue bodice, with matching undersleeves. Then a lighter cobalt blue for the over sleeves that tied into a collar around the neck. The underskirt would be a darker cobalt with a lighter cobalt overskirt matching the sleeves. Woven throughout the lighter cobalt pieces there would be green ivy on the back mostly, with small flowers only on the back of every color.
The seamstress almost dropped her pins.
"Do you have any idea how much work that would take?" she asked, dismayed.
"You have enough time, right?" asked Joseph. This may take a large chunk of the money his father had left, but he agreed it would be beautiful.
"Yes, of course. Do you have a moment to discuss the pay?"
After an hour of hashing things out, Joseph, Stella, and their guards were on their way back from the seamstress to the castle. Spying a market stall selling what looked like chicken on a stick, Joseph steered them over, knowing that his guards, at least, needed to eat, and possibly Stella too. He was thinking of buying reduced consumption so he didn't have to eat as often, but the system wouldn't let him get less then two meals a day. If he couldn't go for days without eating, what was the point?
With fresh meat sticks in hand, they headed towards the castle again, dodging the droppings of horses, and the crazy drivers of carriages and wagons. None of the normal street kids bothered them, because they were just kids, themselves. Hardly a worthy target.
Ahead, they saw the crown prince step out of a carriage, and turn up his nose at something. They paused to watch as he forced several people who were nearby to kneel, smirking when they kneeled too quickly to avoid the 'mud'.
Reginald Oxalum was an insufferable prick that they had spied only once so far, this entire time. He was ten years old, and if he didn't straighten up, the rumors claimed the kingdom was doomed.
The waitresses at the restaurant were shaking in fear as he was seated at a table on the outside verandah. Joseph kept his distance, watching discreetly as he ate his meat on a stick.
They could barely hear him screaming at the waitresses for not addressing him clearly, and several running off in tears as he threatened to have them thrown in the dungeons. An older man rushed out, and quickly took his order, pouring him a large glass of wine for him to drink while he waited.
The prince took one sip of the wine, then spit it out, all over the man. He complained some more, throwing the glass over the verandah wall, and almost hitting some children who were trying to spy a peak of what was going on. The two ran off with one spilling blood down his arm.
The man rushed back inside, leaving the prince alone. Everyone else had abandoned the area as quickly as they could when the prince had first arrived. A poor man, carrying a bird cage with a beautiful golden feathered song bird, came around the corner, and the prince spied him before he could turn around and flee.
He 'acquired' the bird, much to the poor man's anguish, then, after manhandling the poor thing, released it into the air and threw the cage at the previous owner in disgust, because 'his' bird got away. Taking the cage, the man slunk away, bleeding from a cut to his forehead, when the restaurant owner returned, carrying several plates of food. Several trips later, five tables were covered in plates of different food.
"The brat ordered one of everything," muttered a man who was watching beside them. He grimaced in disgust, spitting on the ground in front of him.
"Yeah, and if you watch long enough, he's going to take a few bites then complain and leave without paying. He's done it to every other place in town. The king refuses to do anything about it, merely sends a small payment to the owners, far less then what was actually owed, but no one's going to cross the king," complained an old woman. She sniffed in revulsion, then turned and left, pulling a small hand wagon behind her.
Joseph couldn't understand why the king would let his son be so wild. If this is what he had to look forward to when the current king handed over the throne, he needed to make sure he was long gone, along with everyone he cared about.
"Master Joseph, let's leave before the prince notices us. The rumors among the servants are that he's been keen to meet you, and I'm not comfortable with that here."
Stella looked fearful of the prince, so Joseph agreed to head back to the castle by a different route. He knew she still had bad memories, but the last couple of days things had calmed down a lot.
As they took a less traveled road, they spied another royal carriage. It was stopped at another tailor, and out stepped the second crown prince Victor. He was known as 'the pretender." No matter how much he prepared to be the king, he could only pretend until something happened to Reginald. Joseph paused again, to see him acting appropriate for his station, nothing like his older brother. Victor was 8, just like Stella, and he had several servants, who knew how to act properly, escorting him about.
As it pulled away, they followed it at a much slower pace. This seemed to be a good route if the prince was taking it.
Later that evening, Joseph was almost ready to start his sword practice, up in his rooms, so no one could see, when Stella returned from running an errand.
"Master Joseph, I have a secret mission that will make Prince Reginald very unhappy."
"I'm listening," he said, perking up.
As she started explaining her idea, his smile got wider and wider. This would be great!