Garden Of Poison

[Volume 1: Dante Blackthorn] When Anastasia and her sister Marianne are captured and shipped across the seas by pirates, they become commodities to be sold in a distant land. Marianne is taken as a courtesan, while Anastasia barely escapes a terrible fate by pretending to be mute. She is forced into the lowest ring of servants at the royal palace, where she endures a life of servitude and creates beautiful artwork to mask her pain. Despite years passing, Anastasia has never forgotten her sister's promise to return to their family together. However, with her movement restricted and the guards vigilant, escape seems impossible. When Anastasia comes into contact with the Forsaken Prince, her life spirals out of control and she triggers a Crux of incredible proportions. Now battling her own inner demons while navigating the treacherous politics of the royal court, Anastasia must confront the truth about her sister's fate and make a choice that could alter the course of an entire kingdom. [Volume 2: Emily Blackthorn] Princess Emily's life takes a turbulent turn when she is rejected, leaving her heartbroken and her soul at the brink of corruption. In a desperate bid to save herself, she journeys to the West. Enter the Storm Prince, a charismatic archdemon with striking blue eyes, with a saint-like smile. Emily had hoped she'd seen the last of him, but fate has other plans. As if her soul dying isn’t enough, someone wants to steal it! Caught between the suitors and the haunting nightmares that have plagued her since childhood, Emily begins to see Raylen in a new light. The blue-eyed demon may not be the monster she once thought.

ash_knight17 · Fantasy
Not enough ratings
286 Chs

Butterfly out of cocoon

As Anastasia and Marianne started to walk away, a part of Anastasia wanted to cross the pillar gates of the palace and leave behind the tall walls enclosing the towns of Versailles.

But she knew Marianne needed her as much as she needed her elder sister, and leaving her behind was not an option. She didn't judge her sister's life and knew she was forced to do something she had grown comfortable with.

When Marianne's footsteps slowed, Anastasia stopped walking and asked, "What's the matter, Mary?"

"I wanted to apologise to you… I am sorry," Marianne's expression looked guilty, and it didn't sit well with Anastasia.

Anastasia raised her hand and bonked it on Marianne's head. She said, "You have nothing to apologise for, not to me."

She knew things were different for her elder sister, even though she didn't say what she had to experience when her courtesan life began. She also understood that the people of the palace and its atmosphere had affected her sister, as it did to others. By nature, Marianne was softer, more obedient, and out of the two of them, Anastasia knew that Marianne was more naive than her.

Taking hold of Marianne's hand, Anastasia said, "You have protected me, and I shall protect you. Isn't that how it goes?" She offered a smile at the end.

Marianne's eyes moistened, and she nodded, saying, "Because we are sisters, and you are my other half in blood," repeating what Anastasia often told her.

"That's right," Anastasia smiled, squeezing Marianne's hands.

"It feels like you are the elder sister, Anna," Marianne stated, and she finally smiled. She didn't know what she would have done without her younger sister's presence in her life. Then, as if thinking of an idea, she said, "Come with me."

"Where?" Anastasia asked, with a question in her eyes.

"You said Theresa is covering for you until midnight, which means you are free until tomorrow morning. No one will come looking for you," Marianne caught hold of Anastasia's hand, and pulled her along before they entered the palace.

When they reached the Paradise Tower, Anastasia stood at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for Marianne to return. A few minutes later, her sister finally reappeared with two bags in her hands. Anastasia took one of the bags from her.

"The palace library is not being used right now, let us go there," Marianne said, turning back to make sure no one was following them.

"I don't think this is a good idea, Mary. You are braver than I thought," Anastasia said, while following Marianne in the corridor.

"It is just for one night, and no one will know that you were at the celebration. This way, you will also see Prince Maxwell and me together. There will be good food, and music," Marianne replied with a smile before adding, "I never got to doll you up since we left home… it will be a good change, no?"

Once they reached the vast library, which was built in a circular fashion, they made their way to the floor above, where there was a spare room. Anastasia helped her sister get ready first. Marianne's lilac dress had half-sleeves that were cut to reveal her arms.

Every time the sisters heard a distant noise, they stopped what they were doing and listened to it until it could no longer be heard.

Once Marianne was ready, Anastasia warmly said, "You are the most beautiful woman in the palace."

"Surely there are many other women who are prettier. You are partial to me because you are my sister," Marianne responded, while pinning the two little braids of her hair over the crown of her head. The ends of her straight hair were pinned to form a neat bun.

"That may be true," Anastasia smiled.

"Now it is time for you to get ready," Marianne said, turning to her sister, who looked apprehensive.

"Don't you think someone will realise that there's an extra courtesan in the tower, which neither Madam Minerva nor the Vizier know about?" Anastasia asked, when Marianne pulled a dark green gown from the second bag.

"Who said you are attending the celebration as a courtesan?" Marianne asked, and then explained in a hushed voice, "This gown has never been worn before. It was a gift from some minister to one of the old courtesans who passed away long ago. Some of the things are stuffed in the storage room, and I found it by chance. You will be a guest today, Anna."

"A guest…" Anastasia murmured.

"Wear it!" Marianne urged her.

Anastasia slipped into a long thin beige petticoat before stepping into the half-transparent dark green gown made of silk, which revealed the beige petticoat underneath it. The sleeves of the gown were long and covered her arms to her wrists. There were two folds on each side of her waist, which showed the dip and curve of her waist. There were intricate gold geometrical designs imprinted on the skirt.

"I don't think I have felt my back in a while," Anastasia remarked on feeling the air touch her bare back. She then said, "I feel nervous," unsure if she should wear an expensive-looking gown like this one.

"You weren't nervous earlier about being caught by the guards?" Marianne raised her eyebrows as she wrapped a thin dark green belt made of silk around and above Anastasia's waist to reduce the depth of the back of her dress, before pinning it.

"That was different. It was with the knowledge that I would be far away from the guards and the royal family members. Not meeting them instead," Anastasia answered, looking down at her dress.

Marianne untangled Anastasia's hair, which was usually in a braid, and it had made her hair even more wavy. After she finished styling her hair, the courtesan, who was experienced in using makeup that was provided to her and the other courtesans, painted Anastasia's lips for the first time.

Anastasia asked, "What if someone finds out who I am?"

But Marianne was busy staring at her sister and said, "Oh, sister. I don't know if I should be worried now or not…"

"So you do agree that someone might catch me," Anastasia remarked, feeling a slight dread.

But her elder sister shook her head, "It isn't that." Marianne then smiled and said, "You are beautiful. I worry if Madame Minerva finds out, she will take you to be a courtesan." As much as Marianne wanted Anastasia to enjoy this night, she didn't want her younger sister to go through the sufferings of what she went through, no matter how strong she was. "Today you can speak as much as you want with anyone. One last thing."

"Mm?" Anastasia asked, carefully touching her pinned hair, while feeling pieces of her hair hanging on the sides of her face. She saw Marianne pick up a thin transparent golden veil with two golden hooks at the ends to fix on the ear.

"I believe no one will know you are a palace maid, but if it still worries you, here," Marianne said as she fixed the veil on Anastasia. "I will be going ahead. Don't forget that the celebration is taking place at the main hall that lies near the centre garden." She kissed her sister's cheek before leaving the library.

Anastasia turned to look at the clock that was on the floor below, and she noticed there was still a good half hour before the celebration would begin. Bending down, she put on the shoes that belonged to her elder sister. As they were of the same size, Marianne's golden shoes fit her perfectly.

When she stood up, she almost stumbled and lost her balance for a moment.

"Woah!" She caught the chair beside her for balance and said, "Feels like someone pulled the carpet under my feet."

Anastasia straightened her body and took a deep breath, "That wasn't hard...Now I need to hold my head high and fit in."

Descending the stairs, she finally left the library and made her way towards the main hall.

On the other side of the palace, the Mother Queen, Ginger Blackthorn, walked proudly as she left her room. She wore ruby earrings, and they matched her hair and her fiery dress. The crown on her head felt slightly loose, but instead of fixing it with her hand, she raised her chin to balance it, and a smile spread on her lips.

The two maids who followed the Mother Queen noticed the smile on the older woman's face and wondered what it was about.

"Did everyone arrive at the main hall?" the Mother Queen questioned, while she walked at the front.

"I heard King William and Lady Sophia have already made their way twenty minutes ago. Though not all the princes and princesses have arrived," the maid on her left replied.

The Mother Queen softly huffed, "It looks like my grandchildren are trying to compete with me when it comes to the grand entrance." Her lips set themselves in a thin line before she paused and asked, "Where is the gift that Aziel brought yesterday?"

"I will go bring it right away, my Queen!" The maid offered a deep bow.

"And you," the Mother Queen said to the other maid. "Bring my staff and coat. The one with the bear fur. It would be a pity if I died today when there's so much I need to do."

The two maids walked as quickly as their feet allowed without running, as that would result in no meals being provided to them as a form of punishment.

The Mother Queen heard the receding footsteps of the maids and then murmured to herself, "I suppose a little stroll should be fine. It's not like they are going to start the celebration without my presence, hmph. The later, the better," she hummed before taking another corridor.

But as the Mother Queen walked in the quiet corridor all by herself, when she looked down at her dress, her crown slipped. To catch it, she bent down, but when she tried to reach it, a muscle in her back pulled, making it hard for her to stand upright again.

"Ow! My old back!" The Mother Queen winced.

Anastasia, who was trying to make her way towards the main hall, had stepped into a corridor when her eyes fell on someone.

"Ah…!" The woman groaned in pain, and when Anastasia got closer, she noticed it was the Mother Queen. "This damn back!" She heard the elderly woman curse.

Anastasia wondered if she should turn around and bolt from there, but it seemed like the woman was in pain, and no one else was around. She quickly walked to where the Mother Queen was and said,

"This might hurt, but please bear with it."

The Mother Queen's eyes widened on feeling the woman place one hand on her shoulder and another on her waist. She asked in alarm, "What are you doing?!"

"I will be quick," Anastasia said, pulling the Mother Queen back upright while hearing her complain,

"My broken back! Oh..." the Mother Queen placed her hand on her back, relieved now, and said, "I do feel much better now!" She turned to the person who had saved her from further pain.

Anastasia picked up the crown, offering it back to the queen, "My Queen. Forgive me for not informing you before stepping close to you."

"Raise your head, child," the Mother Queen ordered, taking the crown back and placing it on her head. Her eyes fell on the young woman, and the sight pleased her. Even with the veil on her face, the older woman could tell she was beautiful. She said, "If it weren't for you, I would have been stuck there for some time."

Anastasia politely replied, "I was fortunate enough to be passing by when I saw you. I am happy to be of your service."

The Mother Queen smiled after taking a glance at the young woman's fingers, which had no rings on them. At the same time, footsteps could be heard. It was the Mother Queen's minister, who had come looking for her,

"My Queen!" At this, the older woman briefly turned away from Anastasia to look in the direction of her minister, Aziel. "Are you alright?"

"I was talking to this young woman here, who helped me with…" The Mother Queen noticed her minister looking confused, and when she turned to look, the woman had disappeared. "Huh? Where did she go?"

"Who, milady?" Aziel asked, looking at the empty corridor ahead of them.

The Mother Queen stared into the corridor and then turned to her minister. She stated, "It seems like this year is a promising one, Aziel."

It seemed like the Mother Queen was busy matchmaking for her grandchildren, the minister thought to himself.