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

Evening celebration in the palace

On watching Prince Dante leave the balcony, Anastasia brought her hand to her chest and gently patted her beating heart. She breathed the words,

"Quiet now."

Anastasia didn't know why, but her heart didn't calm down for several minutes, and only after that did she leave the balcony in the same direction as the one the prince had disappeared to.

Upon reaching the main hall, her eyes fell on the many pillars that stood away from each other to form a circle. Thin golden curtains hung from the ceiling, which were fastened to the pillars to create a wall-like appearance.

"… to be blessed with such a loving family, subjects," Anastasia heard the loud and authoritative voice that belonged to King William. Passing the curtains, she stood at the back along with the other guests. At the centre of the room stood King William and his wife. He addressed her, "My dear Sophia, I wish you a happy birthday and on the same occasion, I have a present that might please you." He waved his hand for a minister who held a box in his hands.

All the guests, including Anastasia, as well as the other members of the Blackthorn family, who stood not far from the King and Lady Sophia, watched the minister step forward.

When the box was opened, and King William picked up the gift inside it, there was a murmur of appreciation around the hall when their eyes fell on the delicate golden crown with ruby stones.

"Is that a high crown?" Someone near Anastasia asked in a whisper.

"I thought only two crowns existed of that size until now," another person whispered. One was worn by the King and the other by the Mother Queen. "This one looks more than an inch or two higher, so it must be significant."

King William's words were proud as he said, "This crown was specially made for Lady Sophia as my lawfully wedded wife. I want to elevate her to a higher status as she has given birth to the heir who will lead Versailles."

Lady Sophia was more than impressed by her husband's words, and soon her thin crown of an inch was replaced by the three-inch crown. She murmured with a smile, "I never expected this gift, my King."

Slow and soft music began to play from one corner of the room, under the light of the chandelier candles hanging from the ceiling.

And while Lady Sophia, her two children, and the King were pleased, some members of the Blackthorn family had tight smiles, while a few faces were expressionless. It was because Lady Sophia's position was elevated to Queen Sophia, and she was no longer the same status as the other three women who had children with her husband. And with status came power.

King William then said, "Everyone can now enjoy the celebration!"

Some of the guests were quick to go to where the King and Queen stood to congratulate them and wish both of them a long life. The princes and princesses were the first ones to offer their wishes.

"How dramatic," the Mother Queen remarked when she noticed her son's two concubines leaving the main hall, as they were upset with the King's actions. "I should be the one who gets to be dramatic for not knowing about it," her lips setting in a thin line, while Dante accompanied her.

To Dante, his father's actions didn't come as a surprise. Since he had been unable to trigger his Crux, he and his mother had become unfavourable in his father's eyes.

The Mother Queen wasn't pleased that her son had not uttered a word about it and was changing traditions. She asked Dante, "How is your mother? I didn't find the opportunity to visit her."

"She's been doing better than yesterday. The physician's medicine is working well," Dante answered. It had been three days since Lady Lucretia had fallen sick and was resting in her room this evening.

"I am glad to hear that," the Mother Queen replied before they finally reached where the King and the Queen stood. "Happy birthday, Sophia," she wished her daughter-in-law.

"Happy birthday, Queen Sophia," Dante wished his father's wife, who raised her hand forward, and he kissed the back of her hand.

"Thank you," Queen Sophia smiled in pure joy, knowing that her and her children's future was secured.

"Queen Sophia," The Lumbard family came forward and wished, "Congratulations and happy birthday!"

"Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Lumbard. Welcome to Versailles," Queen Sophia welcomed them. Her eyes then fell on their daughter, "You must be Amara. You look like a doll."

Amara had worn a blue gown as her mother had advised her. To cover the lower half of her face, she had worn a golden long tassel veil mask. She offered a deep bow to show her appreciation.

"Indeed, she has grown up," King William nodded and turned to Dante, "Isn't she beautiful?" His wife had already mentioned the hope of a potential alliance between Dante and the Lumbards, who were close relatives to one of the Kings in the East.

Amara hadn't been able to take her eyes off Prince Dante since she had caught sight of him. She was instantly smitten, and couldn't wait to gain his favour.

"Maybe if she chose another colour."

The young woman's face fell instantly on hearing Dante's words. Queen Sophia softly laughed and said, "Dante likes to joke."

"Joke by handing out the truth. My grandson is very honest with his words," the Mother Queen nodded, only to receive a look from Queen Sophia.

Amara fixed her fallen face and asked, "Prince Dante, if I may ask, what colour do you think would suit me?" Even though she was a young lady, she was raised to be able to handle such situations and move on gracefully.

But Amara had never met anyone like Prince Dante before, and he deadpanned,

"I would have chosen one if it existed, Lady Amara. Excuse me, I have to talk to the Vizier about something," offering a slight bow, he left.

King William laughed, and so did Queen Sophia with a little nervousness. The King said, "Don't mind Dante's words. Unlike his two brothers, he has spent most of his time on the battlefield or planning it, rather than learning how to speak to a beautiful lady like you, Amara."

Amara smiled softly, "I can understand, my King. I don't feel offended by the prince's words." She turned to look at where Prince Dante was, who was now talking to the Vizier.

Once the King and the Lumbards had left their side, Queen Sophia tried to keep her tone as polite as possible when she asked, "Mother Queen, may I know what that was?"

The older woman tucked a piece of red hair behind her ear, and with a look of obliviousness, asked, "What? Oh, you mean the Lumbards daughter? Yes, I decided not to go with her."

Queen Sophia pursed her lips before saying, "The marriage alliance with the Lumbard family will be beneficial. It will be good for Versailles, and the King agrees to it. The Lumbards agreed to come this far to cement the relationship."

The Mother Queen stopped a servant walking nearby with a tray of glasses and took one from him. She finally replied, "How unfortunate, as I found another suitable lady. I will let you know once I find her," she took a sip and walked away from her, leaving her daughter-in-law with a gobsmacked expression.

On the other side of the main hall, where the celebration continued, the curious eyes of the men and women followed Anastasia. Most of the young women attending the celebration had chosen to wear soft colours to make them look innocent and mild in nature.

But the green gown that Anastasia wore stood out from the rest, while the veil that covered the lower half of her face raised questions of who she was and where she had come from.

Having never been stared at this much, Anastasia wanted to cave in and leave. But she had come here to see her sister. When she caught sight of Marianne and Maxwell, she moved a little closer. Her sister looked happy, and the prince seemed to be giving her all his attention.

"Milady, would you like to drink something?" A servant asked her.

Anastasia had worked with the servant before, and she quickly took the glass from the tray, "Thank you." But when the servant didn't recognise her, she felt relieved.

Taking a sip from the glass, Anastasia took another step closer behind where Marianne was; she heard Prince Maxwell say to her sister,

"I think the crown will look beautiful on your head."

"I would not dare to dream of it," Marianne shook her head and pointed out, "Your glass is empty. Let me get you another one."

Prince Maxwell caught Marianne's hand to stop her from leaving and said, "You don't have to. A servant will come here. I want to spend my time with you," he offered her a smile. "So, have you decided your answer to my earlier question?"

Question? Anastasia asked herself, simultaneously finishing the drink in her glass.

Marianne smiled and said, "I am still thinking about it, Prince Maxwell."

When Anastasia caught sight of the Mother Queen moving near to where her sister stood, she quickly hid behind the pillar. At the same time, the empty glass in her hand slipped. It was about to fall to the floor, but was caught in time by someone else and given back to her.

"Lady, you should be careful with glasses, because it could hur—Tasia, is that you?!" Prince Aiden blinked when his hand touched her palms, staring at the young woman's face that was behind the green veil.

"Prince Aiden." Anastasia felt blood beginning to drain from her face, "I mean, Juan…"

This time even Prince Aiden's expression fell before a deep frown settled on his face. He exclaimed, "Oh my God! I thought you were a maid of some high-class family, but you are a lady of a privileged background and your family has been hurting you!"

What? Anastasia's speech had temporarily disappeared. She touched her veil in shock and whispered, "Was it my face?"

Aiden stared at her before he replied, "Your hands." Damn glass! He pulled her behind the curtains and a pillar. He said, "Wow, to think you have been hiding your beautiful face so well. And I thought I did it better! Do not tell anyone that you saw me outside the palace!"

"If you promise not to tell anyone about you seeing me out in the city," Anastasia wondered if she was hanging on a thin rope.

"I promise," Aiden nodded, and as his excitement settled down, he stared at the beautiful woman before him. He said, "I thought I was the only one who loved to escape the walls of my house and be a free bird. It is good to know that there's someone else apart from me who feels the same. Wait, what happened to the camels?"

Anastasia bowed at him and apologised, "Pardon me, Prince Aiden. My sister didn't want to ride a camel, so I accompanied her here."

"I see," Aiden gave a solemn nod. "Tasia, you can call me Aiden."

"I dare not," Anastasia nervously smiled. She had no wish to have her tongue severed from her mouth.

Aiden said thoughtfully, "I think it would be strange if someone saw you with me like this. We should go back to the celebration."

"You can go ahead, Prince Aiden. I will come in a while," Anastasia responded, urging the prince to walk back inside, but the young prince frowned.

"Your secret is safe with me, Tasia,' Aiden patted the pocket of his maroon shirt and then asked, "Wait, where have you been staying? In the palace?"

Anastasia quickly replied, "In Versailles. Let us get inside," she smiled before stepping back into the main hall. As if the looks she received earlier weren't enough, some of the guests turned to look at them. After all, Prince Aiden was the next in line to the throne.

Not too far from them, like many other princes and princesses who were surrounded by guests, so was Dante. Families with daughters spoke to him, waiting for the prince to ask them for a dance. And though he could feel a rising headache, he managed to wear a calm and poised expression.

"Prince Dante, I hear that you will be leading the war again? You are a really brave man!" One of the elderly male guests praised him.

"Indeed, Prince Dante. I always tell my daughter, Leilani, about it. To wage so many wars and flourish, it must be so difficult. The entire kingdom of Versailles knows about it," said an older female guest. She then added, "This is my daughter, Leilani. She has excelled in the art of dance and poetry. Come, Leilani, let Prince Dante hear your poetry," she pulled her daughter to the front.

Dante stared at the young woman, who was dressed in gold. As patient as he was in dealing with the guests by now, the prince didn't wear a smile and he remarked,

"That won't be necessary, Mrs. Sharman. I bet your daughter is well versed in it, but perhaps Mr. Gervile would be interested to hear it instead?" he turned to look at the man, who nodded.

"Prince Dante, are you busy tomorrow? I was thinking of taking a stroll in the garden. Would you like to join me?" a young lady eagerly asked him. Dante despised celebrations such as these, as his family thought they could send young women his way so that he could pick one of them for his wife. As if dealing with the concubines and courtesans wasn't enough, Dante thought in his mind.

Another man spoke on behalf of his daughter, "Isla would like to see all the inner gardens with you as you are knowledgeable."

Amara had made her way through the little crowd as she smiled and said, "Prince Dante will be busy strategizing for the upcoming war and doesn't have time for it now. Isn't that right, my Prince?"

Dante wasn't the least bit interested in the woman's words. When he looked away for the briefest moment, his eyes fell on the woman he had met on the garden balcony, who now stood next to his brother, Aiden.

At the same time, King William and Mr. Lumbard appeared. King William remarked, "Young Amara seems to be very thoughtful about my son." He then turned to look at Dante and said, "You should ask her for a dance, Dante."

Amara said, "Prince Dante, if not me, you should at least ask someone for a dance, no? I would be hurt if someone said you are only good at the battlefield and not adept at leading a lady for a dance."

Dante finished the drink in his hand, and handed the glass to the servant, before he said, "I should."

The King had already said what was needed, and Amara was confident with her beauty and status. Amara got ready to be asked but her face fell the second time for the evening, when he walked away from there.

Anastasia was discussing the Bazaar with Aiden when she sensed an intense gaze on her. When she turned to look in that direction, she met Dante's eyes, who now walked towards her.

Dante stopped his footsteps right in front of her, before which Aiden had taken a large sip from his drink and stared at his brother.

Captive under Dante's gaze, Anastasia felt her heart skip a beat. She softly gulped, not knowing what Dante wanted, until he brought his hand forward and requested with a slight bow,

"Dance with me, Tasia."

Aiden spat the liquid on a guest not far from him before coughing, as this behaviour was very unlike that of his brother.