From the blue print that Nestor had given me, I learned that there was a room stocked with rows and rows of cupboards and within each cupboard was a master key, specific to each prisoner. Only the Master Keeper knew exactly where each key was for the intention was that no one would be able to find the key. How was I supposed to save Desiderium at this rate?
          Bribery. Black mail. Corruption. My favourite words. No system was ever perfect. I learned that a long time ago, and so I spent an afternoon thinking of all the loopholes. How was I to execute this plan without the help of others? Then, I remembered a familiar phrase: “Keep your friends closer, but keep your enemies even closer.”
          “Calla, I have a task for you,” I now turned from my fond seat to instruct her.
          “Yes, Your Highness?” She now knelt to the ground.
          “I want you to follow the Master Keeper and observe everything that he does,” I ordered. “I want all the details. I will give you three dawns to learn everything that you can about him.”
          “Yes, Your Highness.” She continuously nodded while waiting for my next order.
          “Good, now run along.” I waved my hand out, beckoning her to leave.
          Her relationship and I was more or less like that. I gave a command, and she would follow swiftly. The only time where we actually had a conversation was when I had asked her of her hometown. She had told me that she had been born in Aquilla from a poor camel farmer’s family, who gave her away before she could even call her parents by their names.
          “Was that home then for you?” I had watched from the dressing table’s mirror as she brushed my hair.
          “No, my home was not where I was born.” She had gently braided my hair. “My home was in Kosei.”
          She had soft, delicate smile from her face, one that could even be detected from the mask she wore. She had seemed happy while remembering her fond memories. I had turned to face her. “Then why . . . why would you be here?” Now, the brush forcefully untangled a knot in my hair, causing my left eye to twitch. “Ow,” I winced.
          “I am deeply sorry, Your Highness.” She had been in a praying position, with her chin glued to her chest. “I did not mean to harm you. I am so sorry, Your Highness. I accept any form of punishment.”
          “No punishments.” I had lifted her chin to see the tears streaming from the slits of her mask. “But, you must accept any task I ask you to perform.”
          She had bobbed her head. “Of course, Your Highness. I am forever indebted to you for saving my life and my dignity.”
          That was her pledge, and from then on, she agreed to whatever I said. I quickly learned too that she had many capabilities, particularly in the form of espionage. Recently, she had informed me of how the maids were gossiping about my potential husbands. It was amusing how fumed she had become when she explained how the maids were hinting that I would select my husband based on power. I had somehow become infamous for my deceits.
          “So, I told them to run off or I would trample them.”  She had thrown her fist in the air.
          I had thoroughly laughed at her reaction. “Now, I do not want you to be reigning with terror.”
          “Terror?” She had shot me a glare. “They deserved to be frightened! They should not have been speaking of Your Highness in that manner!”
          “I do think they were wrong from the beginning,” I had corrected her. “I do not think I would have a say in my marriage.”
          She had then remarked, “At least it is one of the Koseian Princes and not old, wrinkly men!” She had sounded too ecstatic as if she knew everything there was about them, as if she were a fan.
          “Who would you suggest then?” My back had become straight, focused on her response.
          Her face had turned red while stammering, “I-I-I would not know.”
Chapter 29                                                                            Chapter 31