Bjorn woke from a pleasant dream.
Not one that he could remember, but the feeling of it remained as an after image.
The feeling of warmth from a fireplace, or sunlight streaming in through a crack in the curtains.
Or….feathers brushing his neck.

   The sensation of feathers was all too real and when Bjorn twisted his head to see what it was, he found Erna snuggled in close.
Her breath blew across his neck and gave the tingling sensation.

   ‘I will never make your bed uncomfortable.’

   Erna had made that promise when they decided to walk the thorny road together.
She curled up at the very end of the bed as they went to sleep, then, little by little, she edged her way closer, until she was right up against Bjorn.

   Bjorn carefully sat up and looked down at the resting angel.
She looked so innocent in her slumber, like she knew nothing of the world’s troubles, or her own.
When did she put her nightgown back on? Even the ribbon was tied with a neat little bow.

   Confirming that he still had time to meet his morning schedule, Bjorn rested back against the headboard and closed his eyes.
It was a little uncomfortable, but nowhere near as bad as he suspected.

   The first night he had a little difficulty, but that was mostly due to the unfamiliarity of it.
As the nights went by, he found he was getting more and more comfortable with it and now, apparently, he was starting to have good dreams, even with Erna laid up against him.

   After a little time had passed, Bjorn opened his eyes again and looked down at Erna.
She was still sleeping soundly.
He took her all in, from the thin shadows of her eyelashes and the narrow shape of her delicate face and to the small hand rested on the pillow by her face.

   It was such a small looking hand.
She was a petite woman, but he had never really stopped to properly study how small she really looked.

   A moment later, Bjorn could hear the maid dropping off the tea into the next room.

   “Erna,” Bjorn spoke softly.

   Slowly, Erna opened her eyes and as she looked up at Bjorn, a welcome smile spread across her face.
It was one of those moments that made walking the thorny path worth it.

   “Good morning, Bjorn,” she said softly.

   “Good morning, Erna.”




  Lisa quietly closed the door to the suite and stomped her feet in joy.
She didn’t know how many times she pursed her lips to stop herself from calling.

   Two drinks!

   She felt like she wanted to shout to the whole world.

   “Look, those who despise the Grand Duchess, two cups on the tray today.

   Lisa could barely contain her excitement as she raced away down the halls, looking for someone to share this news with.

   The first time she knew the two had woken together in the morning, was when the little serving bell had been rung.
She went to the bedchamber, expecting to see the Grand Duchess, instead, it was Bjorn, sat up on the bed and half naked.
Erna was still asleep beside him.

   When Lisa told the head maid that there would be two lots of tea prepared for the Grand Duchess’ bedchamber, she was dumbfounded.

   Isn’t it only natural for married couples to share the same bed?

   It seemed that this was a very special event, to have the Prince wake up in another’s bed.
The servants that had been working for the Prince for a long time were the most shocked.

   “Good morning Head Maid.” Lisa said to Karen.
Her enthusiasm stunned the head maid, who looked at her incredulously.

   “You don’t have to take His Highness’s  tea this morning.
I just brought his morning tea along with the Grand Duchess’, to her bedroom.” Lisa smiled.
“The two of them have become so close, my heart has become so satisfied, is yours Head Maid?”

   “How many times have I told you not to waste your energy on this?” Karen replied to the young maids’ provocation.

   Lisa only answered with a raised eyebrow and a formal curtsey, before turning from the head maid and scampering away with a frivolous gait.

   Karen’s head throbbed at the thought of all the change the country bumpkin had brought to the Royal Family.
She endured it only because her pride at serving the next king had collapsed.
This was starting to feel like a bottomless pit of disgrace.

   She missed Princess Gladys with each passing day, especially because she had been denied everything she strived for.
Maybe it was nostalgia for the glory days, but they won’t come again.

   Karen let out a sigh as she continued with her duties.
Just as she was checking over the breakfast menu, Princess Gladys’ maid came knocking at the kitchen door.
Jade came with a letter from the Princess.

   “Did the Princess really give this order?” Karen said, eyes wide after reading the letter.

   “Yes, of course, can’t you see, it’s Princess’s handwriting.” Jade said.
“Then, I will trust you and wait.”

   Karen waited until Jade left the back door and could no longer be seen before turning her eyes to the letter again.
She read it through again and again, committing it to memory before chucking it on the fire.

   She felt bad about being a spy, but if there was anything she could do to help the Princess, who still had feelings for the Prince, she would do much worse.
She only needed to inform Gladys of the Grand Duchess’ schedule and considering she spent all day behind the fence of the palace, it wasn’t an overly difficult chore.

   Princess Gladys had given Karen orders to make sure the Grand Duchess would come out to the lake behind Manster Palace.

   While Karen was hovering about the place, the Grand Duke and Duchess came into the breakfast room.

   “Good morning, Karen,” Erna greeted the head maid with a smile.

   Karen looked at the pair with despair as they sat across from one other, talking in low tones.
It was mostly Erna doing the talking, with Bjorn giving the odd, short answer.
It might have been the amber autumn light, but the pair looked so warm and friendly together.
Karen couldn’t take her eyes off them.



   As the time for Bjorn to be heading off to his first rendezvous, the servants all gathered together to see the Prince off.
Erna was there too, to wish her husband a pleasant day.

   “Will you be returning late today?” Erna said.

   She didn’t want to seem like she was begging, or whining and spoke with a clear voice.
She also didn’t forget to smile.

   “Maybe,” Bjorn said.

   He went through the day’s events in his head and dismissed Erna’s expectations with a clear, concise answer.

   “Ah, I see,” Erna muttered

   She played with the corsage brooch, tied to a lace shawl.
Gladys’ words springing to the forefront of her mind.

   Bjorn’s tastes are in the simpler, more elegant things.

   Feeling intimidated, she looked up at the Prince, who was still standing beside her and sighed with a sullen face.
Bjorn looked at her and their eyes locked.
She felt compelled to speak.

   “Am I too old fashioned, for liking pretty little things, like flowers and lace?” She decided to be open and honest.


   “I want to know what you think.” She fiddled with the flower petals.

   She prided herself in getting better, thanks to Mrs Fitz and she was willing to let go of her stubbornness.
She felt like she was falling short still.
Even to Erna, who was not familiar with these things, Gladys felt like the pinnacle of grace and sophistication.

   “Why are you asking me that?” Bjorn frowned.
“It might be out of fashion, but it’s fine as long as you look pretty.”

   “Really?” Erna’s eyes went wide.
“Am I really pretty?”

   “I feel like you’re not asking because you didn’t know, are you trying to be boastful?”

   “No, not at all…” Erna didn’t know how to explain.

   Erna never really knew what other people truly thought of her, outside the gossip circles.
Her Grandmother had told her that only shallow and vulgar people put so much emphasis on their outward appearance and Erna had lived by that teaching.

   “Well, each person has a different standard of beauty, so, I mean, in your eyes…”

   “Your pretty.” Bjorn said, cutting her off.
“Anyone with eyes would say the same thing, so you can wear whatever you please, my wife.”

   His tone was so casual, but a soft smile pulled at the corners of his lips.
Erna tried to enforce the teaching about a lady always being graceful, but she had no chance at holding back the smile.


   Her heart swelled like a balloon at that short, simple word and she felt like she was going to float away into the sky.

   “Thank you.” Erna said.
“You are really handsome too.”

   “I know.” Bjorn replied.

   Before she could think of any way to respond, Bjorn climbed into the carriage.
Erna waved a hand that had been rubbing her hot cheeks.
When she saw Bjorn’s grinning face look out to her, her heart pounded so loud, she was sure he could hear it. 

As the carriage departed, Erna was left to her feelings of happiness mixed with regret.
An aftertaste to the sweet words.


   Erna chewed on the word with every step.
When she stood at her window and when Lisa brushed her hair.
Just when she thought the day was going to be a lonely one with that word, a knock came to the door.

   It was Karen.

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