✍️✍️✍️✍️ The Crown's Obsession Chapter 21 - 30 ✍️✍️✍️✍️


The King

He smiled at everyone in the room, a smile which was just enough for his subjects, and he walked forward to his seat which was plush and had decorated metal and wood on it. He smiled at the Harris' family, except for the elder daughter. Beth who was utterly charmed by the handsome man who was not seated in front of them didn't notice it. Mr. and Mrs. Harris smiled back at the man, but it was a smile of caution.

He leaned back against the chair, raising his hand to say, "Sit."

His voice deep that had Madeline internally frown as the voice sounded familiar, but then it was hard to catch with a single word the King had spoken. The Harris who were standing took their seats on the King's words.

Mr. Harris was the one to speak, "Thank you for inviting us for lunch, milord," he bowed his head to show respect.

"Lunch is a small gathering. I am hoping we have good ties in the future, Mr. Harris. After all, it would be a shame not to share good relations with the family of the woman, who I would like to have next to me, who is your daughter."

Madeline's eyebrows now furrowed even further until she realized who she had danced in the Grand ball of the Hallow. There were only two people Madeline had danced, and it wasn't possible that this person was Mr. Hane. It was the first person she had danced in the Ball, the man with a silver mask who had cornered her was none other than the King.

It was barely a minute since she met the King, and she was already feeling anxious in her chest, that she wanted to go back home. He had danced with her, and he must have danced with Beth too. So it was possible the King didn't mean her. After all, she had been away from the ballroom for many minutes. Right? No, she was having her doubts.

"Of course, milord," Mrs. Harris bowed her head, "We were stunned. Therefore, we didn't have time to pick suitable dresses to come here in," the way they had dressed for the ball, and the way they were dressed in had a sharp contrast.

Calhoun noticed it. But he saw more than that. Though his eyes didn't linger too long on the girl he was looking forward to meeting, he had picked up every single detail. Unlike her elder sister, Madeline had braided her hair to make her look like a simplistic.

His eyes glanced to look at her. From where he sat, he could sense the breathlessness from her as if she had figured out who she had danced with. Her skin looked pale, and her eyes not meeting his, she gulped, and his eyes followed the action of her throat.

His eyes moved back to look at the parents and then Beth. In comparison to Madeline, her sister was dressed, and her hair was let down to show the womanly appeal. He could see the eagerness in the girl's eyes, and he cocked his head.

Calhoun was not a King for no reason, did they think that they would pass the eager one to him by hiding the younger girl who he was interested in? A soft chuckle escaped his lips that had everyone look at him in wonderment of what he had found to be amusing.

"I heard that you have deal with wood work, Mr. Harris," he said turning to look at Mr. Harris, "How do you manage it? If I am not wrong you need manpower for it."

Madeline who sat between her mother and Beth, looked at the man who now questioned her father's work.

His voice was reminding her of the time where it was just him and her in the corridor. He sat in a relaxed manner with his legs crossed, his red eyes shifting to look at Madeline that had her dart eyes away from him. The King and her father spoke about his work, a question or two to her mother before it shifted back to her father.

"I would like to offer my help in setting up a shop so that you can work in ease while also two men shall be assigned to help you in bringing the logs back from the forest," the King's generous words made everyone happy and it included Madeline. She knew how hard it was for her father to work single-handedly, he was turning old and he lacked the strength he once used to possess.

"That is very generous of, my King," her father stood up and bowed his head to show his appreciation and the rest of the Harris bowed their head.

"It is the least I can do," said Calhoun with a smile reaching up to his lips, "Why don't we have lunch. I am sure you must be starving," he looked at Theodore who bowed his head.

"Please follow me," said Theodore walking towards the door and opening it stepped outside the room. The servant man who stood outside held the door for them to pass. Mr. and Mrs. Harris were the first one to step outside the room. Followed by Beth as if she was the diligent daughter out of the two when it came to her and Madeline.

Madeline by mistake had sat on her dress and therefore she ended up late in getting out of the room. She was following Beth, almost walking past through the door when she felt the King place his hand on her back.

Her body froze along with her heart leaping up in her throat, startled by his action.

She then heard him laugh and felt him move his hand away, one side of his lips pulled up as he walked past her to chat up with her sister, Beth.

Grand Table

Madeline had started to walk after he had let go of her side, walking forward to talk to Beth, inquiring about their family more. Her heart was beating loudly in her chest and she tried to will it down but the anxiousness she felt in her throat didn't settle down no matter how many times she tried to calm it.

From behind, she noticed the man's frame. He was tall, his shoulders broad from behind and the shirt that he wore along with the vest fit his body well enough to show his body structure. His hair from behind was short while the front was long that had been combed back. Even Beth who often was prideful the way she walked and talked now listened and spoke only when she was needed to.

Her brown eyes continued to look at the man, following them to the large dining room which was not the one they had been to two days ago.

While Madeline was behind, her footsteps careful, Beth, on the other hand, kept up a calm and composed, feminine composure around her. Smiling only when needed and her words polite but one could tell that she was confident with what she spoke.

"Madeline and I teach the children from the village. Basic words for them to learn," Beth said during her conversation with the King.

"It is always good for women to occupy themselves with work than idle chatter," said the King, a man who stood above all the people she had ever met.

She had never seen a man this handsome until now. Beth did not know why she was unable to recollect her time talking to him. His deep voice could do wonders to anyone. She came to the conclusion that it was perhaps because she was asked to dance by several men and their voices happened to mix along with the music which was why she didn't remember. With him talking to her and paying attention, Beth finally felt that God had answered her prayers to receive the attention of a man she was worthy of.

"I love children. It is much easier to teach them," attributed Beth, subtly pushing the information that she was ready for children.

"How about you?" Calhoun turned his head just enough to the side, letting Madeline know he was talking to her.

Madeline who had started to look at the paintings again felt like she had been caught off-guard and she asked, "Pardon me, I wasn't listening to the conversation," she bowed her head. Beth's eyes glared to chid at her sister's lack of attention.

"Do you enjoy teaching, Madeline?" the way he called her name. Even Beth noticed the difference and she pursed her lips but didn't interject.

Beth wanted to scold her sister for not keeping her attention here as this was not anybody to be taken lightly. The King didn't give his attention to everyone but when he did, one was supposed to keep it. People who didn't know to keep and respect it were often found beheaded for disrespecting the King.

"I do, milord," Madeline tried to keep her words as short as she could right now. Not wanting her words to bud so that she would have to answer more to him.

"You do?" he looked ahead of him, this time his voice much sharper.

Madeline's hands clenched together. Did she offend the man?

She then said, "Our father taught us how to read and write. Though we don't come from a rich background like others, we were provided with the privilege to learn. We had a distant aunt who continued our education for a year but she passed away. Putting it away would be a waste and when the same could be used to increase the income, Beth and I decided to help. I don't hate children or teaching if that is what you are asking me."

Beth was the first one to turn around with her eyes slightly wide with the way her younger sister had spoken to the man. They finally came to stand outside the dining room, Theodore leading Mr. and Mrs. Harris in when the King turned around to say,

"Wasn't that hard to speak now, was it?" his dark eyes stared at her, a smile on his lips before he stepped inside the dining room.

Beth pulled Madeline's arm for a second, stopping her sister from getting inside the room, to say, "What was that?"

"What was what?" Madeline asked.

A maid arrived at the door that had both the girls to step inside the dining room and take their seats.

Mr. and Mrs. Harris were treading carefully when it came to speaking to the King as they didn't want to do something that would be considered rude but Beth was not the same. After the King's little attention to Beth, the older daughter of Harris had taken that the King wanted her to be his wife. She also decided that it was alright to speak to him.

When only a glass of wine was placed in front of him with no food on his plate, curious Beth asked hime, "Are you not going to eat with us, milord?"

"I will when I want to," with those words, Calhoun had got the girl to not ask him unnecessary questions. He then snapped his fingers for the butler to start serving the family of Harris, "Feel free to ask the maids what you want to eat and drink," said Calhoun, raising his glass up in the air.

When he brought the glass of wine to his lips, his eyes went to the girl who was sitting in the right on the other end, who had let her older sister sit near him instead. The Harris' family were swarmed by maids, asking them what they would eat. He noticed how Madeline smiled at the question of the maid and the grip on the glass he was holding tightened.

She was finally back here.

Revealing Intentions

Madeline used her fork and knife, cutting down the smallest of the food that was on her plate so that she wouldn't have to open her mouth wide to put in the food. And every time she raised her fork to her mouth, she could sense his eyes on her, looking at her as if there was nothing else in the room to look at which turned her nervous and the movements of her hand awkward.

She slowly chewed and swallowed the food, her eyes moving towards him to see him looking at her.

The man didn't falter when it came to letting her know that he was looking at her. The attention was brazen to handle, his red eyes looking at her that had her heart skip out of restlessness.

Theodore Chauncey, who appeared to be close to the King, spoke to Mrs. Harris, "You have grown both your daughters well, Mrs. Harris. It is hard to find people when it comes to cutlery etiquette."

"Thank you," her mother bowed her head, "Beth and Madeline often visited their aunt from where they picked up the habits. They just turned out to be lucky when it came to learning things like these."

Theodore gave the woman a warm smile that had Madeline wonder how genuine the smile was. Both the King as well as this man shared red eyes and everyone in the village knew not to trust red eyes. The night creatures were full of deceit.

"Indeed very fortunate," Calhoun commented, "It is a shame that not everyone learns or adapts to it. Do you have other relatives who live in the village?" he inquired, taking another sip from the glass.

"I have my sister Mary who lives not too far from our house. She lives with her husband and two sons," Mr. Harris answered.

"Must be good to have a family member closeby," Calhoun smiled, a simple smile that looked far from it.

Madeline saw her father nod his head, "Yes, milord. Do you have your relatives who live here?" her father asked for formality.

"It's just me. All alone, but once I marry your daughter we can start planning to have a family," Calhoun's words were firm, and he continued to speak, "Mr. Harris, I heard both of them have been getting marriage alliance. How come you didn't get them married? Most of them get married when they are sixteen? Especially considering the financial condition of the family," he placed the glass aside that still had wine and brought both his hands forward to interlink his fingers below his chin.

Mr. Harris smiled, "We might be poor, but I didn't want to marry my daughters quickly. Sixteen is where girls are growing and trying to understand the world around them. It would be a shame to curb their growth. Beth wanted to get married, but we didn't agree to it. It might be a silly thought-"

"No, I agree with you," said the King, agreeing to her father before adding, "If you didn't believe in it things would have gone differently," he gave an unnerving smile that had everyone not touch their food for a good two seconds.

Madeline didn't know why, but it felt like she was standing in a lake that was frozen with ice, but the ice was thin. One wrong step and the person would be under the cold water. She was only turning anxious with the way he was looking at her that she wanted to go back home as fast as she could. Unable to eat, she placed her fork and knife beside her plate.

When their meal had finally come to an end, the King finally spoke for what he had called the Harris' family today,

"As mentioned in the letter, your daughter has caught my attention, and in the interest of it, I would like that she starts living here in the castle," the King's words had Mrs. Harris almost slip the knife that was in her hand. He had a serious look on his face, "Do not worry about her living conditions. She will be treated like a queen. She will be looked after with maids and servants waiting on her. She will be tended from the tip of her hair to her toe, with jewels and fine quality of clothes on her skin."

"R-right away?" Mr. Harris asked with evident surprise in his voice. The man knew that the King had taken an interest, but this was too sudden. They hadn't been prepared for it.

"I do not see why there's any need to wait and prolong the time. Having her here, she can learn about life in the castle and the ordeal that runs. It would be just enough time before we wed," Calhoun remarked to lean back against his seat to see the look of shock on their faces.

"Milord," Mr. Harris bowed his head, "We won't be able to spend time with her after she gets married and lives here. Give us some time so that we can-"

"Mr. Harris, I wasn't asking you," Calhoun interjected.

The palms of Madeline turned sweaty hearing this, and on the other side, Beth couldn't be any more glad to come to live in the castle.

Calhoun then let out his final verdict, "From this time onward, Madeline will stay here in the castle."

Beth's eyebrows drew together in confusion. Madeline? Did she hear it wrong? The King had taken his time to talk to her, charming her and not her younger sister who looked particularly pale today in comparison to her.

Mr. Harris felt a sheen of sweat form on his forehead. It appeared that what he was worried had come to be true. The King had his eyes on his youngest daughter, Madeline, "Milord, my daughter has been promised to marry another man. I beg you to reconsider it. My older daughter is much more eligible and you might find her to be of your taste."

"Break it off," said Calhoun, his eyes looking at the human.
Tearing away

Madeline who heard what the King said, felt everything tumbling down around her. She looked at the King and then at her parents with worry in her eyes. She didn't want to stay here; she didn't want to live here. They had come here in the intention of her sister, Beth to meet and possibly marry the King.

"You have only given your word of promise. They haven't married and consummated their marriage. I don't think it should be difficult to break it," said the King, not caring if Madeline was promised to marry another man.

Though Mr. and Mrs. Harris had decided to lie to the King, they hadn't expected him to ask them to break their word.

Beth was still in shock that the King had asked for her sister and not her. She was the eldest daughter; she was supposed to be given the first preference and not her sister, who was younger to her. It was her who was interested in living here while clearly, her sister was someone who wanted to live a simple life back in the village.

She had been the one thriving to move forward in her life. There were times when she had worked harder in teaching the children to earn an extra penny of a coin which she had used to buy the dress for the ball. She had been the one to pick up the etiquettes and have her sister learn; she didn't understand how this could happen that the King had chosen Madeline over her.

Both the sisters had their troubles right now.

Calhoun stood up from his seat, and the servant who had been standing behind went quickly to pull out the chair for the King.

"Milord," Mrs. Harris bowed her head this time, "Madeline shares affections with the man and we promised to marry her to him. They have liked each other for some time now," Madeline had told her that the man wanted to spend time with her daughter; therefore, she didn't hold back in mentioning it to the King. The woman then raised her head in the hope that he would reconsider his demand, "It would be miserable if they-"

"It would be more miserable if only his head ends up on the spear," his words were cold, not pleased with the way the woman had spoken about the girl sharing her affections with another man. But that was alright, in time it could be fixed.

Calhoun looked at Madeline whose eyes had turned wide in shock and fear, "She might not like it now, but she will eventually come to like the life that is present here. I am sure her sister Beth, can put great insights into why she should choose life here. Right, Miss Beth?" he turned his head to look at Beth, who managed to smile at him.

Beth's hands had turned to fist as she nodded, her nails digging into the palms of her hands.

"Lovely," praised Calhoun, "It is not every day a person gets to share the same table with the King. You should thank your stars that my eyes fell on your daughter, and I am willing to ignore your family's poverty and take her as my woman."

Madeline and her parents didn't agree with this. Madeline felt like she had ended up with unlucky stars that she had caught the King's attention.

"I don't want to stay here," Madeline vocalized her thoughts, her eyes moving back and forth in between her parents and the King.

Mr. Harris hoped the King would listen to Madeline's words. The man must have a soft corner for his daughter if he had taken an interest in her.

In the meantime, Madeline gave her mother a pleading look because she didn't want to be left here in the castle. This wasn't a place she belonged to. She liked Mr. Heathcliff because he wasn't an overbearing man. He respected her wishes, and it was something that she valued. They had decided to meet each other this Saturday, which was only two days away from today. If she was going to be here, she would not be able to meet him.

In comparison to Mr. Heathcliff, the King was forcibly tearing her away from her family and wanted to keep her here against her will.

Her father took the courage to speak and said, "My King, we would like to spend more time with our daughter. We would like to take her home today and bring her-"

"No," Calhoun's words of refusal was quick. When his eyes met Madeline's brown innocent one's, he saw her plead at him without words, "Madeline stays here," he declared, not wanting anymore argument on it.

To let her would mean sending her in the arms of the lover to be consoled which he would not allow. He would give her all the comfort and care she needed.

He then said, "You can stay here for ten more minutes to say your goodbyes to Madeline. It would be wise to follow my word unless you would want to lessen the number of people in your family," he gave them a polite smile to diffuse the dangerous atmosphere which instead of turning calm turned eerie. Calhoun looked at her father to say, "You will be taken back in the carriage to your home. And as promised, you will be showered with the favours of the King. Theo," the King called to leave the dining room with Theodore.

When it was just the Harris' family in the room, Madeline could feel the blood rushing through her veins in panic, and she went around to her parents,

"Please don't leave me here, papa," Madeline begged her father, but the King had given his word. Madeline could see the helplessness in their eyes. Her parents appeared to be in a dilemma as they didn't want to leave her here all alone. She was the child they had protected, "Mama, please!"

Madeline felt as if she were caught, and there was no way out.
Stealing what is mine

She couldn't believe that this was happening. She didn't want to stay here in the castle, and she wanted to go back home, which was where she rightfully belonged. Madeline could feel her anxiousness bubbling up in her throat, which didn't settle down and could be seen in her eyes.

Her father was unable to go against the King as he was just a man who cut woods and sold it, with no higher authority nor connections like other men who belonged to the higher society where he could try to haggle his time enough to hide his young daughter.

"Mama, please don't listen to him. Please don't leave me here," Madeline said with her eyes turning moist. Her mother shook her head sadly. Mrs. Harris had tried to pursuade the King to agree to bring her home for some more days before she would come to live here, but he had refused it right away.

"Oh, my child," her mother raised both her hands to hold Madeline's face, sorrow in the woman's eyes because she knew it was not what Madeline wanted, "Be strong. We will try to appeal to him again," he didn't listen to them now, why would he listen later?

She shook her head, "I don't want to stay here."

"I know, dear," her mother hugged her, patting her back, "We will speak to your uncle and see what can be done. Do not lose hope. It's only for now, it will turn better," her mother said, pulling away to look at Madeline and she kissed her forehead.

Her father looked defeated, and she didn't want to impose on him, knowing how helpless he was feeling.

She then turned to her sister, Beth, who was quiet since the King had spoken about keeping her here in the castle. She moved herself to stand in front of her sister, holding both Beth's hands in hers,

"Beth, please tell the King that I don't want to live here," said Madeline. She saw her father go console her mother who was troubled, and Madeline looked at Beth who was not looking at her, "He might listen to you, I-"

Beth turned to look at her, annoyed; her eyes brows were crookedly raised. Taking Madeline's hands off her arms, "Isn't this what you wanted?" asked Beth and Madeline looked at her confused, "I know deep down you want to live in a castle, a place where you will not have to work and will be dotted. What are you crying about?"

"What?" Madeline frowned, "You know those things do not matter to me. You know I don't wish for these things, and it is you who-"

"Finally, the truth comes out, isn't it?" Beth accused, her green eyes looking at Madeline with resentfulness, "Aren't you happy that you have earned his favour and interest?"

"Beth!" their mother scolded.

Beth took a step away from Madeline, "If you weren't interested you wouldn't have dolled yourself up for the Hallow here. If you weren't interested you would have refused to go, you would not have spent money on the dress," her words were hurtful to hear, "What are you crying about now?"

"I dressed because I wanted to go along with you. I had no interest to pay dress-"

"Then you should have picked a cheaper dress instead of trying to match others. Do not act innocent with me, Maddie," Beth looked in the eye of her sister, "We are sisters. When I told you that I was trying to persuade the King, you went and did something behind my back. You must have got tired standing behind me, wanting the attention which I would have understood if you didn't take away things like this."

Madeline couldn't believe that her sister thought she was trying to take away what belonged to her, "I would never do something like that to you. You are my sister."

"Why don't you tell how you charmed the King then? He seems more than interested when he could have someone better."

"You're crossing the decency of not understanding that it was never my intention to catch his attention," Madeline responded not liking the way her sister was blaming that it was her fault when she had done nothing.

"Her mother supported her, "Madeline is right, Beth. She would never do anything like that. She didn't have the intention to marry the King. Her interest lies in Mr. Heathcliff."

A dry, empty laugh passed through Beth's lips, "Is that so? Do you know Madeline was away from the ballroom for several minutes? Why don't you ask her where and what she was doing during that time?" Beth had her doubts the moment she had seen her sister missing from the room. She had looked all around but Madeline was nowhere to be seen.

But when her sister did arrive back in the room, she had noticed how flushed her face looked even though she had her mask on.

Mr. and Mrs. Harris turned to look at their two daughters. Madeline clenched her hands which was resting on her sides. Did Beth know what happened?

"She must have gone to look at the castle," said Mr. Harris, "Stop blaming her just because the King didn't shower you with the same attention as her. Do you know how difficult this is for your sister?"

The door of the dining room was knocked to have everyone go silent, and Theodore entered the room, "Your carriage is waiting for you, Mr. and Mrs. Harris, and Miss Beth."

Madeline had to swallow the distress she felt from not only having to stay here, but the sister she loved and cared for had accused her of taking the King's attention for her own.

Beth was the first one to leave who didn't care to say bye to her sister as she was more than upset right now. She had barely slept last night at the thought that the King wanted to meet them because of her but who knew that her little sister had gone behind her back to snatch her happiness.

She was in shock and anger to speak more. Something that was almost promised and was near had been taken away from her, and her sister dared to behave innocent and sad that she was supposed to stay here.

Madeline saw her sister pass through the doors. Her mother and father looked at her, her mother saying,

"We will write you letters, write us back," said her mother placing her hand on Madeline's shoulder and squeezing it gently. Her father only gave her a sad nod before they made through the doors to step out of the dining room, leaving her alone in this golden cage.


Madeline saw her family get inside the same carriage they had come in, the door of the carriage closed and her hands that were on the railings tightened its grip. Standing in front of the closed multicoloured window to see the carriage take off from the castle and she watched until her eyes could trail it and it disappeared.

She was hurt over her sister's words. Madeline knew Beth was aiming for the King, and she never had the intention to pursue him. She was more than happy to settle down as Mr. Heathcliff's wife if he would take her. She had handled her sister delicately all these years, letting her decide what she wanted because Madeline didn't want it. She was more than content with her life, but with this...her sister would forever look at her to be the person who ruined her chance of living the life she dreamed about.

"Lady Madeline," a maid arrived at the dining room, "You have been summoned to meet the King."

Madeline turned her head sideways, "Tell him I need to go home."

The maid looked at the girl who stood with her back, facing her. She had a distressed look as she stood at the door.

The King was in the court had asked the lady to make her presence in front of him, but it seemed like this lady wanted to go home. The maid left the dining room and made her way towards the court where the King was sitting leisurely, talking to the ministers. Her legs shook when his eyes fell behind her.

"M-milord, the lady said she wanted to go home," her eyes didn't dare to look at the man and instead she stared at the ground.

Calhoun's lips twitched hearing this. His eyes looked at the maid, who had her head bowed. He had told that she was going nowhere, but it seemed like she had trouble understanding it.

"Tell her the King commands her to make her presence in front of him. If she disagrees she will have to sleep in my bed," said Calhoun before waving his hand off at the maid and as expected, in a matter of a few minutes, Madeline arrived with the maid.

Her eyes glared at him quietly, and if it were someone else, he would have gouged their eyes out of their face for their impudent behaviour. But this was Madeline, and he didn't mind it. Rather he enjoyed that there was a trait of anger in her, an emotion he was finding to be amusing as he sat there looking at her walk towards where he was.

He could sense the confused expression of the people who surrounded them in the full spacious room.

Madeline was a simple looking girl. If someone were to walk past her, they would have ignored her right away, but he had seen her in that sweet glorious night that he had spent a few minutes with her. He knew there was more than what the surface appeared to the eye when it came to her. He had heard her speak, and saw the way her mask had glided down and shown her face that looked like dewdrops in the morning.

A small smile crept up his lips, looking at her stare back at him.

"Milord," the maid bowed her head, thankful that she was done with the task and she could go back to her work than roam in front of a room full of the night creatures like the King. When the maid peeked up, she saw the King wave his hand for her to leave, his eyes staring at the girl who she had brought here.

Calhoun didn't speak to her, and neither did she. One pair of red eyes looking in amusement and one pair of brown eyes looking back with controlled anger. The room that had been filled with talk of words, discussing the nearest villages economy had turned quiet since the maid arrived with a girl they had never seen before.

"Welcome to Devon, Madeline Harris," he welcomed her, his voice loud and clear in the room.

Madeline stared straight into his eyes from where she was to say, "When am I going back home?"

Calhoun smiled further that unnerved her, but she tried to stand her ground.

He gave her a thoughtful look before saying, "I haven't thought about it yet but not any time soon. You have only arrived at Devon. I am sure you will like it," he smiled at her.

Madeline replied to him with, "I think I have seen plenty."

"I insist that you stay unless you want to hurt your parents. Think about your father. He's growing old and has no helping hand. Having to cut every wood by himself and bring them alone, how difficult," said Calhoun looking at the way her eyes softened at the mention of her father, "Your stay here will guarantee he has a helping hand. A shop of his own, how unfortunate that the daughter wants to rob those things from him," he shook his head as if he were not talking about her.

Madeline knew that he was trying to bargain her with her father's current working condition, but help could be found if asked, "If he needs help Beth and I could help him."

Calhoun's smile slowly fell back, and he tilted his head to the side.

"Do you mean to say that you will help in carrying the wood or chopping them in the forest?" the people who were in the room laughed lightly at the King's words, "I am intrigued to see it. Have someone pick up the wood and axe be brought up here. Let us see the skills that you possess."

Hearing this, her face turned pale. She had told it on a whim but who knew this person was going to make her chop wood in front of everyone?!

Axe and woods

She couldn't believe that the King wanted to test her if she was able to chop the log of wood in front of everyone. There were more than ten people in the courtroom, and she could feel the gaze of the men who were looking down upon her as she was a woman. The men couldn't help but chuckle that the King was humouring a village girl who had no stature either looks. It seemed that the girl didn't understand her place, but Madeline stood looking at the King in his eye.

"She looks like a pitiful girl who doesn't even know not to look at the King in his eyes and speak," a man to her right spoke, and it was then she realized what she was doing, and she quickly looked away from him. Coming from a humble household, a person like her didn't have the right to challenge him, but it seemed like he had taken upon the challenge, to only challenge her back.

"I believe it is her first time in the castle and meeting the King, which is why she shows such courage, not knowing how to respect," said another.

"People from the villages don't know things and are bumpkins who only know how to look after the house and warm the bed," other men hearing this started to laugh along with him.

"You are right, Benedict. Her speech is to be direct to the King, where is the respect?" asked the first man who had started the conversation, "My King," he turned to look at Calhoun, bowing his head low to say, "We must have more interaction with the villagers."

Calhoun smiled, his eyes still on Madeline who noticed how she clutched her skirt in worry and anxiety as she was in a new place. When the wood was brought into the room, Madeline could feel the palms of her hand, turning sweaty out of nervousness.

She had been brave, and she had bluffed, which now resulted in two logs of wood being brought into the courtroom and an axe that was carried by another servant. It was alright, said Madeline to herself. It wasn't anything complicated. She had done it two to three times for enjoyment; all she would need to do was exert enough pressure and strength to break the log of wood.

One servant placed a full trunk of a tree on the floor, and on that placed the log of wood. The servant who was carrying the axe didn't place it down but waited along with it for Madeline to pick it up in her hand.

Calhoun, who was listening and enjoying the words spoken in the room, said, "I would like to see how skilled a daughter of a person who deals with wood is. Please," he said to Madeline with a smile.

Exhaling the air, she turned and went to the servant who was carrying the axe. Taking it, her feet gingerly moved towards the wood that was placed upright, ready to be cut into a half. A few whispers of murmurs went around the room which fell on her ears as she readied herself,

"This will teach her not to speak back to the King again."

"It is why they say, girls are good only to pull up their skirts." This came from the same man who spoke about warming the bed. "I should probably take her to my room to teach her a thing or two."

Everyone in the room looked at her mockingly, ready to feast on their amusement.

Madeline could tell that most of the men in the court where nothing but lowly scum who didn't know how to behave and were instead pointing their fingers on her that she didn't know how to respect. But she was in no position to speak, already stuck here, she didn't want to catch more attention than what she already had.

Clutching her hands tightly around the handle of the axe, she raised her hand, feeling his eyes on her before she moved it down for the axe to get stuck in the side of the wood. A small sigh of relief escaped her mouth, glad that she didn't hit the air and that the blade had gone through the wood.

When her eyes met Calhoun's, he didn't comment and only continued to look at the log of wood before saying,

"Benedict, why don't you try chopping the next one."

The man named Benedict bowed his head to Calhoun before going to take the axe from Madeline with a smirk. When the wood was replaced, Benedict raised his hands to strike at the wood with the axe into perfect two halves. The people around them clapped for the man who was able to cut the wood without breaking a sweat.

"Excellent! Nothing less to expect from Benedict," praised one of the men in the room.

"He has the best aim, no wonder he handles the affairs in catching the bandits," said another.

Benedict enjoyed the praise and then took two steps towards Madeline, "A woman should know where her place is. Talking about cutting logs when you barely cut a full piece," he smirked, "My quarters is not so far, you can always find me," he looked at her lips, smiling at her.

Calhoun who saw Benedict step close to Madeline and speak to her, he stood up, clapping his hands that had Benedict step back with pride of him being able to cut the log of wood, "Bravo to the ones who took part in it," he then walked down, stepping down from the raised platform, "It had been a while since I used the axe myself."

The men stepped away, giving him the way to walk when he stood to look at the pieces of broken woods that laid on the ground. Calhoun raised his hand and Benedict, who was holding the axe, gave it to him not knowing what ill omen had knocked at his door after speaking to the girl.

"Milord, we are out of logs," said a man bowing his head. Only two logs had been brought into the court.

"That won't be necessary," remarked Calhoun, bringing the axe to look at it carefully he rolled the handle in his hand with a smile on his face, "Benedict," called the King and the man was quick to attention.

"Yes, my King!" he answered ready to be rewarded until he heard Calhoun say,

"Place one side of your face on the surface of the trunk."

"Milord?" Benedict was surprised with the King's request, "But..."

Calhoun sighed, his eyes moving from the axe to look at the man, "I don't like to be kept waiting," the smile on his face fell, and when the people in the room noticed this, their smiling faces fell in a blink of an eye. No words coming out from anyone and silence filling up the court room.

Benedict genuinely didn't know what had happened in a split minute. Was the King not happy with the way he cut the wood? He wouldn't mind doing it all over again. Seeing the man wait, Benedict unwillingly gulped and got down on his knees.

The man was a night creature who now slowly placed his head on the cut surface of the tree trunk. His eyes were wide, his blood rushing as the King held the axe and took his position. Everyone, including Madeline, looked at them holding their breath of what was going on.

Calhoun then moved his hand to hit the edge of the trunk of the tree, cutting the backside hair of Benedict who laid there frozen. The playful atmosphere in the court, which was there earlier was gone.

Benedict let an internal sigh, but it was short-lived as the glint in Calhoun's eyes changed to something malevolent, and he raised his hand along with the axe before running it down right on the man's neck. The head rolled down on the ground, blood spurting everywhere, leaving everyone stunned and shocked.

Blood was sprayed on Calhoun's clothes and face. He threw the axe which clattered on the ground, before walking back up to the platform and turned to look at the people.

"Speak to her using such a tone once more, and you will receive the same fate. Madeline shall not be touched nor spoken to," Calhoun warned to have everyone bow at him right away, "Now if that's clear get the head and body out of this court. He looks hideous even after death."
Luxurious room

Madeline had raised her hand to cover her mouth from the apparent horror she had got to witness right now. What had started as a pleasant day where she was looking forward to her sister Beth meeting and allying with him, it had ended with a man dead on the floor whose head was separated from the body.

Blood continued to flow out of the body, staining the white marble floor.

She had been upset with the way she was treated right now, a powerless girl who was looked down because of how she looked and where she had come from.

Not a word was spoken in the room after the King had uttered the words about her. Had he killed a living breathing person for her sake? Her eyes moved away from the blood to the man who had ascended the throne. Like Madeline, his men looked shocked but had covered it immediately who couldn't help but want to look at the girl who the King had commanded not to see or touch but they couldn't. Nobody wanted to be the next in line to be beheaded by the King!

"Why did the room turn quiet?" she heard the King ask as if he had not beheaded a man a few seconds ago, "Welby," he called a man who was lean and of average height, making the man's heart leap out in worry that the King had chosen him to be the next piece of wood to be cut. After all, Welby was the one who had started the conversation.

"Milord?" Welby gulped softly before going to stand in front of Calhoun, who leaned back and crossed his leg.

Calhoun glared at the man, "Stop acting like a drunk duck and speak what you came here for."

"Yes!" answered Welby, picking up the parchments in his hands, he shuffled it as quick as he could, "There's a complaint that is going on about the taxation in the village where farmers and other men who have been profiting have not paid their assigned taxes. Some went as far as to riot and chased the Shire Reeve. It has been nearly a month, but they have been trying to chase the ones who go to collect that has been causing us problem, my King."

"Where are the guards for the village?" asked Calhoun.

"This village is located in the outskirts of Lakeshire," answered the man.

"That is a little problematic," replied Calhoun with a hum before saying, "Jeurel will assist you in collecting the tax," a man who stood far away with a stoic expression bowed his head. Calhoun turned to look at another servant who was short in stature, and used his hand in a come hither motion and whispered something before saying loudly, "Take the lady to her assigned room."

Madeline would have gone against him if he hadn't killed a person in front of her eyes. She was still in shock that she had temporarily lost speech. She looked at Calhoun who gave her a smile,

"See to it that she is well attended in the attention of the maids," when Madeline left the room, Calhoun said, "Welby, if the men don't listen and don't give the tax, you need to know to get things done by force. Jeurel will make sure that the people will not revolt in the future."

Madeline, who had stepped out of the courtroom, followed the man without a word and the man didn't try to converse with her. Only a man who had a death wish would try speaking to her.

She stepped into the parts of the castle she had never been or seen before. She hadn't ventured too far during the night of Hallow, and somewhere she wished she didn't venture at all. If she hadn't, she wouldn't be here like this.

"Nicola," the man called a maid who was walking past the corridor carrying clothes in her hand, "Take the lady to the West Wing of the castle."

"Which room would you like me to take her to?" asked the maid, her eyes falling on the girl who stood behind him who was looking at the walls and creepers that crept up the walls.

"The one where one can view the Atticus garden. The bed chamber that falls at the right," the man informed the maid who gave another look at the girl. It was always left unavailable as it came in the same quarters as the King's chamber, "Lead the way to Lady Madeline," said the man who bowed his head and left.

By the quick glance of the girl's clothes, the maid could tell she was a village girl. What was she doing here? With pitiful clothes and look on her face, she wondered if she was the King's new conquest because in no sense did she look like a lady.

"Please follow me," said the maid, turning around and starting to walk.

Madeline felt out of place when she started to follow the maid. Even though the castle was huge and spacious, she felt as if this place had already begun to suffocate her. This was a place where her parents and her sister could not be reached. She had no family here, and she was left all alone.

She had to keep up with the maid's footsteps as they were quick on the floor. They took many turns before Madeline was led to the quarters where she could see a decent size of a garden and fountains of water built in the middle of the castle. There were beautiful flowers and plants that decorated the garden. The room was unlocked, and the maid pushed the doors for Madeline to step into the luxurious room that contained a bed that could fit in more than four people in it. There was a fireplace in the room, the logs of woods waiting to be lit and burnt. A table with chairs around and another room which was to be used for the bath as it contained a bathtub.

"Is there anything else I would be of service to you?" asked the maid.

Madeline gave some thought before she asked, "Do you deliver letters?"

Taking the ink and the parchment that was available at the desk, Madeline used it to write something before folding it and handing it to the maid who had been waiting at the door, "You can deliver it to this address," said Madeline. The maid bowed her head and left.

"How do I get out of here?" asked Madeline to herself.

Remembering the scene of Calhoun cutting the man's head, made her blood freeze and her breath short. She had been a free bird which was now caged. It was ironic how she had ended up here when in truth, it was Beth who wanted to live life in the castle, with the King. She didn't have to step outside the room as she remembered well how far the gates were that surrounded the castle.

Walking towards the window, she stood there looking at the gardens and other scenery when she caught sight of a forest that was located at the back of the castle. From where she stood, it looked as if the forest touched the ends of the horizon like a never-ending scenery.

She then heard the sharp sound of shoes walking that made into the room, and she turned around to see Calhoun step inside the room, walking towards her, "I was busy in the court when I received this," he said pulling up the envelope from his pocket. It was the same envelope that she had written and sent through the maid, "You are worse than the devil to keep a person as a prisoner," he said, reading the letter before throwing it on the ground.

His lips pulled up to a smile, "You were testing to see if the letter would reach me or the assigned address. You are much smarter than I presumed you to be," and he was right. She wanted to make sure her letters wouldn't be read and would be sent to the address she had written to. Not to the King, but it seemed that letters would not reach the people she wanted to write to.

"You cannot keep me in here," said Madeline, her brown eyes looking at him stubbornly and furious for keeping her here.

"Why not?" he cocked his head to the side. He closed the large distance between them by walking and standing in front of her.

"Because I am not yours to keep! I am not a doll but a person," she gritted her teeth, and though Madeline wanted to yell and shout, she knew her limits. Especially after seeing how cruel and cold he was in the courtroom.

Madeline saw Calhoun smile, a smugness in his eyes since he had stepped into the room. He took a step further towards her, stepping as close as to be in her breathing space, "You are mine to keep, and I will keep you as long as I want. It is our little misunderstanding, wrong foot perhaps? You will come to care and love one day, Madeline," he whispered her name.

She had to hold her breath not to move as he was too close, and she said, "Over my dead body."

"Why kill when there are so many things that can be done to your body. I definitely would not want it dead," Calhoun chuckled, looking into her brown eyes which now stared back at him, "Since I have laid my eyes on you, spoken and heard you speak, I cannot help but think why I feel that way. I have had plenty of women in my arms but the need to hold you," he dropped his voice, "It drives me mad. Don't look so scared; I won't do things you don't like," he said, bringing up his hand to push a piece of hair behind her ear.

Calhoun could see the fear lingering in her eyes, the fear that was carried from the court to this room. With it was the anger of him having her confined to this castle.

"Will I ever get to see my family?" asked Madeline, "Are you going to keep me away from the things I care and love?"

"Once I know we have made some progress I will arrange for you to meet your beloved family," replied Calhoun to take a step back away from her.

"You must be delusional to think there will be progress. I am not an animal for your amusement," Madeline just wanted to go back home, and the thought of staying here alone was pushing her to a corner.

"You are far from it. Should I prove it to you by taking you to my bed of what exactly I think of you," a shiver ran down her spine as he said those words. A smile appeared on his handsome face that made Madeline question if he meant it or not, "The cupboards are filled with dresses and jewellery. The maids will help you to get ready. You won't have to lift a finger to move or do anything."

"I am perfectly capable of doing those things myself."

Calhoun's eyes twinkled, "Well, at least you are willing to use it by yourself. That's some progress!" his smile then died down on his lips to say, "In my presence, you will be treated the way I think you deserve to be treated. Don't try your trickery here like what you just did with the letter, though I must say I was very amused. I am not very patient, but you must know that already. Have some rest. I will see you at dinner."

She saw Calhoun leave the room, and her shoulder sank.

She had to do something...
Troubled maids

During the time of the evening, in the King's room which was built lavish with a fine taste of woods and walls that were covered in paintings, the fire crackled in the fireplace. Calhoun had got back to his room after talking to the ministers in the courtroom. His hand reached for the lace of the red robe that he wore right now, pulling it free that fell on his feet.

Walking towards the bath that was built like a pool inside the room with pillars and candles burning around the room, he stepped inside the bath until he was completely immersed in the water by falling back slowly. He then got out with his body leaning back and his hands pushing his hair back that clenched the muscles on his back.

Water dripped down from every inch of his body. The droplets of water fell from the ends of his hair to fall on his neck and, sliding on his back where his body was inked with black markings. The marking started from the sides of his shoulders that moved down to his waist, where his body tapered into the water he was in.

Calhoun's features looked stronger with the touch of water on his skin and hair as it darkened his eyebrows and his eyes looked almost black because of the less lit light in the room. He was still in there when the man who had shown the lady her way to the maid entered the room Calhoun was in.

"Milord," the man bowed his head without looking at the King who was bathing with his back facing towards him, "I have got the dining room set in the garden-"

"Cancel it," ordered Calhoun, his eyes staring at the long grilled windows that were opaque and dull white in colour that indicated the age of this room and castle. The short man had a look of surprise on his face but he didn't question the King with the sudden change of venue as it was Calhoun who had ordered him to set up the table, "We will be having dinner in my room."

"Yes, my King," the man bowed his head.

"Did you assign the maids to tend Madeline?" asked Calhoun, moving to one side of the water fountain that was built at the sides of the pool.

"I had Nicola assign three more maids to tend to the lady b-but..." he trailed not knowing how to say it.

"What is it?" Calhoun snapped not liking to be left hanging.

The servant wrung his hands together, "There has been some trouble in helping the lady as she is not letting anyone touch her. She is not changing her clothes into what you have sent."

Calhoun's lips pulled up and he laughed hearing this. He didn't think it would be easy which was why he was going to enjoy having Madeline next to him. Reaching the fountain, the water fell on him and he helped himself while the man stood nervous of what the King had in his mind. Once the King stepped out of the bath with his full glory, the servant continued to bow his head and keep his eyes on the floor to not shred his little self-esteem that was still there after seeing the King step out like a devil from a hot steam-filled bath.

A maid who was waiting at the side walked to the King to wipe his wet body with a towel in her hand.

The maid made sure to dry every part of the King's body except for his hair as she couldn't reach. When she was done, she brought a fresh robe for him to wear.

In the same quarters where the King's room was, not far away was the room where Madeline refused to wear the dress that was placed on the bed.

"Milady, please step into the bath so that we can dress you," one of the maids tried requesting the lady they were assigned to wash and dress but the person was stubborn enough to not move from where she sat right now.

"The dinner is going to be in less than an hour-"

"Tell the King that I won't be joining him for dinner. That I have no interest to share a meal with him!" said Madeline looking at the wall, "You can go dress him."

The maids looked at each other, the lady was being difficult and didn't know the trouble she was causing them. Madeline was angry for Calhoun keeping her here against her will. There was something very dangerous with the way he spoke to her even though he had tried to be polite. She couldn't get her mind off with what happened in the court.

Madeline had met Calhoun Hawthrone during the time of the Grand Ball. He had trapped her against the wall as if taunting and teasing her before letting her go which was only for a very short duration. She was no fool to believe his words of lies. Apart from the clothes that were already present in the room, he had sent a dress for her to wear and join him for dinner. He must have lost his mind if he thought she would agree, thought Madeline to herself.

"The King won't be pleased that we weren't able to help," said another maid.

She heard one of the maids whisper to another, "She's going to put us in trouble for no reason. Can't she be reasonable?"

"Ssh," another shushed so that the lady wouldn't hear it.

"He's going to have our heads off," the maid continued to complain before looking at the lady. Had the girl not met the King and not know what he was capable of?!

Madeline's hand clutched the side of the bed where she had been sitting on the edge. She didn't understand why she was placed in such a compromising position. She knew to the maids she appeared to be unreasonable, but she was unable to accept the fact that she was held here against her will. At the same time, the maid who was named Nicola arrived at the room to see the maids who stood in front of the King's guest who had not even started to change her clothes.

"Milady," Nicola bowed her head and dismissed the maids who were in the room to step outside, "The King has arranged to have dinner with you in his room and he expects you to be there. I hope you won't cause trouble for yourself. You wouldn't want to anger him, he has quite a temper, you wouldn't want him coming and dressing you himself."

Giving some thought to what the maid said, Madeline finally stood up to hear the maid say, "Thank you."

Madeline was washed and cleaned as she had never been before. Her hair was brushed and pulled to be tied, her body being adorned with layers of clothes on her body. She wasn't used to this attention and it had turned her body rigid. The corset under her clothes had been pulled making her wince and made it difficult to breathe freely.

When she was ready, she was lead to the King's room which she realized wasn't too far away from the room she was given to.

The surface of the door was knocked by the maid who had led her there, to announce,

"Milord, Lady Madeline is here."

The maid pushed the door but didn't step in, her head bowed down. Madeline could feel her nerves turning errant with every step she took inside the room. When the door closed behind her, Madeline couldn't handle the pressure in the air and she quickly turned around ready to step out when a hand fell on the door to close it back,

"Where do you think you're going?"

Making me jealous?

Madeline felt herself gulp at the voice that spoke to her. The hand was stopping her from opening the door, and she wondered why she even stepped inside this room when she wasn't willing to have dinner with this man.

Staring at the door, she demanded, "I want to go back to the room."

"Is that how you speak to your King?" his words demanded with an edge in it, his hand that was on the door moved towards her.

Madeline closed her eyes, forgetting in her anger and desperation that this man was not only the King, but he could kill anyone he wanted, and no one would ever hear of it.

"Please, I want to go back to the room," she added her request, her eyes eyeing his hand to make sure it wasn't going to get closer.

She felt Calhoun step even closer and heard him take a deep intake of breath, "You know, Madeline," she heard him speak in a low voice behind her, "If you run I am going to chase you. Like it or not that is going to happen, and if you run and I catch," his words were slow and deliberate, "You won't like the outcome after it. So why don't you join me at the table, hmm?"

Madeline moved her head to the side to notice that if she turned around, she would be able to see his red eyes even more clearly, "Okay…" she didn't like the position they were in.

"So easy, yet you decide to make it difficult for yourself," chimed Calhoun making Madeline think that if it weren't for him keeping her, she wouldn't be making anything complicated.

When Madeline felt him take a step back along with his hand, she finally released her breath to turn around and see him walk towards the table. The table was set with a red cloth spread on it with a candle burning brightly at the centre, and plates laid down along with fork, spoons and knife. Food was placed in a trolley next to the table.

Calhoun pulled the chair, waiting for her to take a seat.

"Is it normal for a King to do this?" she asked him, as she looked at him to have his eyes staring at hers.

"What do you think?" one side of his lips pulled up to a smile, "Sit," he ordered, and she made her way to the table and sat down gingerly.

With the tight corset, she was made to wear, Madeline wondered if she could really eat anything in here. Seeing Calhoun sit opposite to her, she glared at him.

"What would you like to eat first? There's sizzling crabs or spiced lamb which has been roasted in the fire," he said to her in a charming tone, but Madeline was in no mood to be charmed by her captive.

"Are you going to serve tonight?" asked Madeline, a certain challenge in her eyes.

Calhoun smiled, his eyes holding amusement, "What is the point of being a King if you cannot make use of the available resources around you," and as if on cue, a maid stepped inside the room, bowing her head before she started to walk towards the table and served them dinner.

When the lid to the container was opened, Madeline's anger dissipated and all she wanted to do was eat right now. Being angry and not touching the food would be her loss. And if she did plan to run away, she would need the energy to do it. Madeline looked around the room, her eyes taking in to realize that this was how the King's bedroom looked like—made of lavish things.

And while Madeline was ogling at the room, Calhoun who sat in front of her drank her appearance. Her eyelashes were long, fluttering every once in a while as they blinked before continuing to look at whatever it could find. Her lips were delicate and pink in colour, and he wondered how it would feel under his lips.

"I didn't get to hear from you today," said Calhoun to bring her attention back at the table where her sweet expression turned back to a guarded one.

The maid was almost done serving, and she left the room for the time being.

"All I heard was your sister speak about her achievements and what she does and likes. I was utterly bored with her. I would like to hear from you," he said, and it was right because it was Beth who kept talking to prove her worth, that he had done right by choosing to see her today but who knew that it wasn't Beth who the King was interested in.

Madeline stared at the food and then shifted her eyes back at him before standing up and bowing her head,

"I don't know what caught your attention and what word of mine gave you the feeling that this is going to work, but please consider when I am saying this that, this won't work. I have no feelings for you, and I have no interest to live in this castle of yours. My dreams are small. Beth will be more suited to be your partner," she said, trying to persuade him as it wasn't too late to turn things back.

Calhoun stared at her with his collected eyes right now, "Your sister might want to live and be part of this social circle and society, but she doesn't suit my taste, Maddie," he saw the way her face hardened at the short name he called her, "Beth might be a good girl but is she? I overheard the conversation that took place at the ball that night. The way she belittled you as a village girl, wanting to steal your partner. I am sorry, but I don't take scraps. I prefer things that are untouched and not defiled so that I can do the work myself."

Hearing this, Madeline looked into his eyes and said,

"What makes you think that I have not been defiled?" the smile on Calhoun's lips slowly fell, his eyes piercing her.

"You're not a good liar, darling," responded Calhoun to her claims.

"You do not know anything about me. You don't know who holds my heart and who I wish to be with. I-" the table that was in front of them, was suddenly pushed away to the side to make a screeching sound.

Calhoun had stood up, his eyes smouldering at the words she uttered.

Before Madeline could make a dash towards the door after seeing the anger in his eyes, she was pulled by her arm and thrown on the bed. Her body bounced on the bed, and she tried to scramble her way out of there, but Calhoun was quick to climb and hover over her body. He was holding her small hands single-handedly as she struggled to get out of his grip.

"Get off of me!" she tried to set her hands free but his grip was tight enough to keep them down.

Calhoun smiled down at her, enjoying her continuing to glare at him and having her like this, "If I were you, I would choose my words wisely before I speak, my sweet flower," his voice had dropped low, and he looked right into her eyes, "Are you trying to get me jealous? It is very effective in getting my attention. I told you, you would fall in love with me in no time."

How in God's name did he conclude that to fit his perception?!

This crazy King!