To Rule a Kingdom – Ch. 3

Art by Celeste Jamneck

Chapter 3
Teas of War

“Tea parties are war zones, Elena.” Remi stated as he folded five-year-old Elena’s hands onto her lap, left hand over right. “A teacup acts as your shield. A pastry is your ammunition. This is why we make sure we are dressed for battle and we never run out of cucumber sandwiches. The ladies in elaborate hats and garden dresses are the enemies, they seek weakness and use it to their advantage. The trick is to present a warfront so solid that not even the hardest of scones could break down.” Remi’s words replayed in her head as she walked around the garden tea arrangements. 

Eight different kinds of tea were being served today; One origin tea from each other suitor’s kingdoms. Elena inspected each tea and thought how, in their own way, each one of the teas revealed something about the Prince it came with. Prince Roderic was a dark tea with earthy tones explaining his love of nature and constant stern expression. Prince Stephan was a lighter leafy tea suiting his smooth, cool personality. Prince Lazlo was more of a bean than a tea; it had a foamy texture and was slightly bitter, but enjoyable, this made Elena understand his love of politics. Alex had a spicy, red tea that definitely suited his constant search for new experiences. Prince Lothar brought a dehydrated fruit tea which gave a slightly orange color, It was served cold topped with fresh peaches, he was refreshingly humorous and didn’t walk on eggshells around her like the other Princes. Prince John presented a berry rea that had a subtle taste, he was just as shy as the tea was and couldn’t form words around Elena, or anyone else for that matter. Prince Demetry had a very bitter tea black tea that was served with a sweet biscuit, the combination was interesting, she could see how he had a secret soft side behind the hard exterior. That just left Prince Gareth, a mixture of green Teas, that she had never had before, it gave a sweet after-taste, This explained his many talents, from cooking to combat, carpentry to art. He was an interesting character.

Each of the suitors was challenging to understand, except of course for Alex. She knew he and her would forever be the closest of friends and She had no doubt that He would never settle, He lived to travel. She laughed at the very notion of him being restricted to the throne of North Althezaar for the rest of his life. She could already see him complaining of boredom. Each of the teas was on their own round table surrounded by finger foods that even the likes of Mindelia would find impressive. She was the worst of the ladies at court. Elena referred to her as ‘Mind’ in her thoughts because she never minded her own business. 

Elena made her way around the tables, they were placed in a ring around the garden area where the introduction would be held. There were exactly two meters between each table and there were exactly five meters between each table. The servants brought out chairs and game tables which were placed between the tea tables, Elena stepped back inspecting the layout, looking at it from a distance it gave Elena the impression of a stronghold, which made her smile as Remi’s words once again played in her mind. Tea parties are war zones.

“How mad would you be with me,” came a familiar voice from behind her “If I said that I stole a treat or two?” Elena smiled and turned to see Alex holding up two cupcakes. Chocolate for him and Vanilla for her. He was taller than the last time she saw him. He had a noticeable tan, his hair was scruffy but he was cleanly shaved and wearing a loose-fitting shirt with a sailor jacket. “Not as mad as I am about you not returning any of my letters.” She said accepting the cupcake. Alex ruffled his hair and blushed, “Sorry about that. You know what it’s like when I travel.” She rolled her eyes but dropped the subject. “So where were you this time?” She asked and immediately Alex loosened up and radiated happy energy. “I went to the Scattered Isles, Elena you would have loved it!” Alex always thought Elena would love every place he traveled to. “They have fruit there that are as big as my head, I brought some for you to try. I spent every day exploring the Isles with Doctor Rogue and every night we were entertained with traditional dances and stories of hunts and food so rich in flavor you could taste the island with each bite. I would go back there in a heartbeat.” He always glowed when he spoke of his journeys and Elena lived vicariously through his adventures. He took a breath then turned to Elena. “I heard you looked amazing last night and that you had a great time. Mindelia said she hardly recognized you.” He smiled at her. She groaned internally; of course, Mindelia would have her eye out for Alex. He was handsome, with his set jawline, dark eyes and strong build that came with hard labor on ships, he was every girl’s fantasy but she would rather tear her eyes out than watch Mindelia trap Alex in her evil web. 

She felt him nudge her with his arm and she was brought back to the world. “Are you okay Lena? You were in your own world for a moment.” She shook her head and said, “I’m considering more snacks.” She lied. Alex scoffed “More? Elena, there is enough food there to feed a Village, and trust me I’ve lived it. The Princes will be more than impressed, I sure was.” He shook her by her shoulders trying to loosen her up. They laughed together but the mood was dampened when she saw Alex’s expression turn from happiness to frustration. He was looking behind her, where her tea was stationed, waiting for the enemy to attack, and sure enough, there was a spy sneaking into the beautifully decorated fortress. Elena recognized Emily’s white-blond hair and made her way to her. All the food stations had been covered with lace netting to protect it from the heat and bugs, Emily was making her way to the fruit table with the peach fruity tea from Prince Lothar. “Emily.” Said Elena, making Emily jump and turn so fast she almost fell. “The tea isn’t for another hour, What are you doing here?” Emily straightened her soft yellow summer dress and smiled nervously at Elena. 

“Oh Princess Elena, Prince Alex. I was walking passed and noticed no one was here, so I came to make sure everything was okay.” Emily wasn’t a horrible person. She was sweet and usually would do selfless acts like this out of her own accord but this time Elena was not convinced. 

“Thank you for your concern, I was just standing a little way away to see how the whole outlook tied together, I quite like it, what do you think?” Elena heard the challenge in her own voice and it made Emily shrink slightly. “Oh yes Majesty, it’s unique. I like how open it is, it isn’t clustered and the different colors really compliment each other.” She said it all in one breath. “Yes I feel so too, I love your dress. Is that what you are wearing to the tea?” This made Emily smile a real smile. “Yes, it’s new, I designed it. Majesty I really must go, I feel my make-up could use a touch-up.” She made a slight curtsey and sped away from Elena and Alex, to report back to Mindelia. Elena and Alex shared a questioning look “You don’t think Mind is up to something, do you?” He asked, offering his arm to her. She took a deep breath, took his arm, and said “I’m hoping not but I wouldn’t hold my breath, Mind’s preparing for battle. She can give it her best shot.” They made their way to the castle and Elena hoped that her defenses were stronger than her nerves.

Wordsmith: Larouchelle Leveuvre

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