Survival of the Rose - Book cover

Survival of the Rose

Audra Symphony

The Western Tower


Deanna was sitting at her window seat.

Not long after the king had passed, the queen had claimed that a bastard princess didn’t deserve such a fine room as hers.

Deanna and her belongings were moved into a small room in the Western Tower, usually reserved for when there was an abundance of guests.

The room was simple, drab even. But what Deanna minded most was its solitude.

The last time the tower had been used was during the king’s funeral.

Since then, Deanna had lived a much quieter life.

No suitors had come for her. It seemed her father’s plan had failed.

Deanna had known, of course, that it would.

Who could the king have written to? Who would possibly want a bastard wife for their son?

It was her fate always to be an outcast, but she needn’t disgrace others too.

Although the queen couldn’t deny the princess her birthright, she could banish Deanna to her room to keep from having to see her face.

There was a knock on the door and Deanna’s chambermaid entered to build her a fire.

Deanna had always felt there was a bond between them.

Having a tragic past, Mary had been orphaned at a young age and sent to work in the royal household.

Deanna had grown up under her care, and she had always believed Mary’s particular affection for her grew from their mutual experience of being left motherless.

The servant had even confided in the princess once that she’d known her mother when she was a lady-in-waiting.

It was so rare for Deanna to hear of her maternal parent that she had taken to following Mary around when she was a child.

Now, of course, they saw each other less often, but they still enjoyed each other’s company.

Mary was a chatty woman, often updating Deanna on the antics of her young son or passing on castle gossip.

Such friendliness was invaluable.

But today her chambermaid, Mary, was in a hurry and couldn’t stay to chat.

Just as Mary was leaving, however, Deanna was once again interrupted.

“Deanna!” a youthful voice called.

She turned away from the window at the sound of her name.

“Lilia! Trina! What are you doing up here? You know the Queen Mother doesn’t allow it,” Deanna scolded.

Her younger sisters resembled their mother.

They were lovely, with sweet smiles and flaxen hair.

The princesses were beloved by the kingdom, with personalities to rival their faces.

The queen, however, was not as esteemed as her daughters. The people of Albarel had never trusted her.

Queen Rosaline didn’t socialize with her subjects as the king used to do, as she considered them a rabble to be ruled rather than a community to be cultivated.

Lamont, heir to the throne, took after his mother. He always seemed to be lurking, haunting the castle like an evil spirit.

“Deanna”—Trina hugged her—“why weren’t you at dinner or supper last night? Or the night before? Or the night before or the night before or—”

“Trina!” Lilia glared at her younger sister. “I told you, she’s not allowed to eat with the royal family.”

“But she is the royal family!”

“You two really should return before someone catches you here,” Deanna warned.

“We just wanted to give you this,” Lilia said, handing over a sealed letter.

Deanna’s brows furrowed in confusion.

“It’s from Helena,” Lilia explained.

Of course.

If Lilia and Trina were caught in the Western Tower, they would receive a disciplinary lecture, maybe a slap with a switch each.

But if Helena were caught, her punishment would be much more severe.

“How is she?” Deanna asked.

Helena was only four years Deanna’s senior, but they all looked to her for guidance. She was Deanna’s closest friend.

“We met her fiancé yesterday,” Trina blurted out, attempting to be the first to impart news as always.

“Did you like Francis?” Deanna asked.

“He’s handsome enough.” Lilia shrugged, not an easy girl to impress.

“Very nice, too,” Trina added. “Have you met him?”

“When they were first engaged,” Deanna answered. “Helena seemed so smitten with him. I wonder what’s taking them so long in getting married.”

“She said she didn’t want to leave us behind,” Lilia replied.

“I don’t want Helena to leave anyway,” Trina said.

“But Helena deserves to be happy,” Deanna lectured. “She will eventually have to leave us. When you’re older, you’ll marry too.”

“You think so?” Trina asked.

“I know so,” Deanna replied.

“What about Lilia?”

“I will die an old maid,” Lilia laughed.

Deanna frowned.

My sisters are beautiful daughters of the king and queen.

The only spinster in this family will be me.

The door opened again, and a head popped in.

“Dillon!” Deanna said, surprised. “I didn’t know you were out there.”

“He’s our lookout,” Lilia explained.

“Are you girls done talking?” Dillon demanded.

Deanna smiled. Dillon looked like their father must have when he was fourteen.

His hair was golden like that of his sisters, but his face was shaped like the late king’s. He had the same pointed chin and lopsided grin.

“How’s your training with the knights coming along?” Deanna asked.

Her younger brother frowned.

“The captain says I’m fast and good at sword fighting, but I always fail in hand-to-hand combat,” Dillon admitted.

“It’s because he’s so small,” Lilia teased.

Her brother shot Lilia a look that told Deanna he was masking his hurt with hot anger.

“You just need to be patient, like you tell me when we train together. If you’re half as good a knight as you are a teacher, then you have nothing to worry about,” began Deanna, ignoring Lilia’s remark.

“You’ll catch up with the others and be just like Father one day. You’re the spitting image of him already,” she finished.

Dillon, who was close to Deanna, always seemed to be trying to catch up with his eighteen-year-old sister. He wanted so much to be a man already.

“You think so?” Dillon asked.

“Trust me.”

“As long as he’s not just like Lamont,” Lilia interjected. Trina giggled.

Deanna rolled her eyes. Lamont was a failure in his training.

He was an excellent—some would say ruthless—strategist, but he was soft when it came to physical combat.

“Let’s hope you’re nothing like Lamont,” Deanna murmured.

Her sisters nodded in agreement, though Dillon didn’t respond.

“Now go, before someone comes looking for you,” Deanna said, shooing her siblings out the door.

“Bye, Deanna,” they called, as they ran down the hall.

“Love you!” Trina added. Deanna smiled, closed the door, and returned to her seat by the window.

She looked at the letter in her hand and broke the seal. The setting sun provided just enough light to read.

My dearest Deanna,

It saddens me we’re no longer able to speak in private. I’m sorry for the way Mother treats you. I miss you, I miss Father, and I yearn for the way things used to be.

Mother has informed me that she has sent out a notice that she is looking for a consort!

The castle will be busy in the coming weeks, due to guests arriving and men intending to court her.

While her guests are here, you had better stay out of sight. You, with your beauty, could easily steal away every man’s affection.

Finally, sister, I must warn you. I believe Mother is plotting to have you removed from court. You mustn’t give her any reason to do so.

Be wary of the servants. They’re under orders to watch you at all times. Fear of the queen’s wrath is stronger even than their fondness of you.

I’m sorry I had to send Lilia and Trina to give you this message instead of coming to see you myself, but a visit couldn’t be risked.

If Mother knew I was feeding you information, she might lock you up somewhere none of us could reach.

I’ll write again soon.



P.S. Burn this!


All week, Deanna had heard the servants bustling about, readying the rooms in the Western Tower for guests.

At least they weren’t watching her too much.

Deanna was able to sneak into the gardens several times to retrieve flowers for her bedchamber, descending the treacherously steep spiral staircase leading from the Western Tower to the back of the castle.

She always took the stairs reserved for servants because it was better to be caught by one of them than by the queen.

Dillon, Lilia, and Trina even managed to meet her at least once a day. Helena was too busy helping the queen.

Deanna was alone now. She could see from her tower that Dillon was training with the knights.

Lilia and Trina’s tutor, she assumed, was punishing the girls for skipping their studies again.

Deanna leaned out of her window and watched as guests arrived in waves.

Seeing the endless procession of horses and carriages made her wish she could escape to a land far away from her tower.

She could tell they were wealthy, but since they were potential consorts for the queen, they couldn’t be high in status.

They were probably dukes or, at best, princes with older siblings. They would never be kings.

However, the queen’s choice in marriage could bring a grand alliance between kingdoms.

One guest caught Deanna’s eye immediately.

He had pale, smooth skin and soft blond hair. Even from the distance of her tower, Deanna could tell this man was uncomfortable, shifting in his flamboyant clothes as if they belonged to someone else.

By his complexion, he must have been from one of the mountain kingdoms—Vallery or Summoner, perhaps.

Deanna could tell even from her tower that he was young, around the same age as Helena.

He was much too young to be courting the queen, who could easily have been his mother.

Deanna looked at the men with whom he’d arrived, but none of them were dressed as richly as him.

Her eyes paused on the man with whom he was talking.

This man had a muscular build and was almost a foot taller than the first—impressive, as the guest himself was not a short man.

He, too, had pale skin and blond hair, but his was a dirty blond, with more of an ash tone and pulled back into a knot.

He looked in need of a shave, his beard obscuring his age as Deanna tried to make out his features.

The hair on the back of her neck rose.

She hadn’t noticed the stranger look up until their eyes met for a long moment.

He looks at me as though he knows me.

Deanna yelped and pulled herself away from the window, stumbling out of view.

He’d seen her.

He’s only a man accompanying one of the Queen Mother’s suitors. Why am I so startled?

I must get a hold of myself.

Something drew her back to the window. She peeked out once more, curious for another glimpse of the stranger.

The two men were walking into the castle side by side.

Deanna sighed and silently scolded herself again, but she couldn’t help but wonder who they were.

Where were they from—and why did she feel as though the tall man had a searching look in his eyes?

Being noticed had made Deanna feel more exposed than she had in a long time. She thought of Helena’s letter, its remains in her fireplace.

It seemed true that the queen would take any excuse to remove her from court.

Now that she was replacing King Harold, any connection Deanna had to the family was disappearing.

Father’s plan didn’t work.

I must find an opportunity for myself to escape.

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