PROLOGUE

"Eleanor!" a stout, middle-aged lady repeated, for seemed the sixth time. She shook her head and lowered her hands in an effort to convey her frustration.

"Where does that girl always get off to?" Just then, a young girl of about thirteen appeared from the end of the south hall. In her hands were three, battered old books, stolen obviously. She seemed oblivious of her caretaker's anger, with her head arguably lost somewhere in a ninth cloud. Of course, the books were attributable for that.

"Sorry Fraulein. My duties seemed to have delayed me longer than I had anticipated," Eleanor explained, although clearly not apologetic in tone.

Her caretaker snorted, "As if you were doing your duties! What is that I see in your arms? Are you reading books again?" Eleanor remained silent.

"And I suppose that is what you have been doing for the past hour! Girl, do you not realize that we have a massive ball to prepare for in addition to all the work we already do?"

Eleanor shrugged off this not-so-uncommon censure that she was receiving. It was not as though the Fraulein never chastised her every day.

"Sorry Fraulein. I did not think…"

"You never do! Neglecting your duties, stealing books from the nobles, scampering away to lone corners just so you can read these petty little wasteful words written by no-good, nonsensical humdrums from the past century…"

Eleanor felt her pulse gradually accelerate as her caretaker continued to demean her ardency for fine literature.

"You never contribute remotely to even a fraction of the work which goes on in the palace and yet, you've burdened us with your presence forthirteen years! I bet your mother would be immensely shamed if she saw your indolence," the Fraulein castigated, her veins immersing one by one with her ascending temper, "You know, when I was your age, I lived in Germany. My mistress was this horrid lady who succumbed to torture even, to have us obey her every demands. I did not waste any single second to "goof" off."

This again... Eleanor had heard her Fraulein's unfortunate past numerous times. All of girls had. The Fraulein, unlike most servants, always nonchalantly narrated the brutality of her past, ranging from her horrendous masters to the deeply-inflicted physical wounds scarring her body.

"You are so indifferent. That is what stuns me the most! How can you just standthere and feel no remorse for my past or for the trouble your own roomies deal with everyday. You think you are so much better than everyone else because you hold books. Well news to you girl," Fraulein spat, "You stole them! You are really nothing but this useless…"

That is it! Eleanor's patience seemed to evaporate and her now quickly beating pulse triggered her to retaliate, "My god woman, cannot you stop scathing me for one day. So I read. Everyone who isanyone does too. All the nobles, the prince, and the princesses. They all do it!"

"But they are IMPORTANT!" Fraulein bellowed. The few maids who had been standing in the neighboring servant quarter, all averted their gazes to the angry pair. This did not go unnoticed by the Fraulein, who grasped Eleanor's elbow tightly and led her to a secluded corner of the dimly lit room.

"…and I am not." Eleanor quietly whispered to Fraulein Aloisia.

"Are not what" The Fraulein asked, confused. One minute the dastardly girl was arrogant and angry, the next she looked almost downhearted.

"Important. I weigh no importance. If I suddenly died, no one could care less. They would merely appoint another girl to resume my tasks. It would be almost as though I were never born…"

This sudden burst of hopelessness touched her caretaker. Fraulein Aloisia had a reputation of being unmoved by everyone's personal sorrows. She could not remember a moment where she actually experienced pity for anyone, let alone a young thirteen year old girl yet to experience real hardships…until now. Fraulein's expressions slightly softened and suddenly, she could not bring herself to reprimand the girl any longer.

"Run along girl. I want you cover Adelaide's work at the kitchen, as she is unwell." Eleanor complied. Poor Addy, she knew, was struck with a severe case of pneumonia. The girl, who was only three years elder to Eleanor, had to get bedridden everywhere nowadays.

Eleanor walked due east to the grand kitchen where at least two hundred servants worked. Perhaps the number doubled now as the impending ball – in a week's time, demanded a lot of effort and contribution. Surely enough, as she came with the realms of the kitchen, she saw the tips of at least seventy heads.

Eleanor sighed. This would be fun. She entered the kitchen where she was met with the presence of at least three hundred people. The air in the kitchen was musty and hot, as a result of the high temperature grills and people's body heats. Delicious smells wafted the place. The smell of food was something to lift the glumness of her spirits away. All she had to do now was to find Madame Catherine, the supervisor for all girl servants in the kitchen.

That should not be too difficult, Eleanor thought, to find a little lady amidst a crowd of a thousand people. No biggie at all. Eleanor glanced around the perimeter of the room, or what she could see of it, in hopes of finding a small, blond haired woman of about forty-five. She found plenty of blonds, mostly men as they seemed to tower over all the women. Eleanor walked to the large storage. Perhaps Mm Catherine would be showing a new girl where all the supplies were held. She did do that often.

But to no avail, Eleanor walked into a large room void of any person. Surrounding her were colossal stocks of food. They all greeted her with temptation, as though daring her to take a bite. She stared directly at the chunky orange slit of cheese hanging from a bottom shelf. To its left was a loaf of spicy Italian herb and cheese bread. Surely no one would notice if she ate just one. It was afternoon and all she had eaten was mush seven hours earlier. Eleanor looked around the room and confirmed that she was alone. After all, even if someone was huddled in the vast storage area, she would be able to detect him. She held her arm out to grab the cheese but then something engulfed her waist and pushed her down to a secluded area of the closet.

"Ow," Eleanor shrieked upon instinct when her legs slammed across the coarse concrete floor. She looked to see who the horrid person was, who pushed her down so roughly. She was met with a most astonishing face. The girl, who was about twelve, looked so beautiful, that Eleanor, thought she must have been dreaming. Waves of thick, blond hair surrounded the girl's petit body. And her face…oh her face,Eleanor thought, was angelic, to say the least. The girl's eyes', nose, and mouth were all symmetrical to each other, angled to an almost perfect arch. Her nose was sharp, but not hawk-like. Her lips were of a most enticing, maroon hue. Her eyes, Eleanor recalled, were piercing green, with a blue rim. So unusual and yet, so vivid... There were pretty servant girls but not many. A girl this pretty would surely be a central topic among the famous gossiping women. But Eleanor never heard of a thing like her.

"Don't go there," the girl warned, her voice, although quiet as a pin drop, was loud enough for Eleanor to detect its melody.

"Who are you?" Eleanor asked, "And why should not I go 'there'? What right do you have to be so…wretched?" Eleanor was surprised by her own hostility. The girl, who had pushed her down, seemed so adamant for Eleanor to leave the storage. Eleanor could not allow her the satisfaction of succeeding. Perhaps the girl's looks birthed a fresh new batch of envy, which before today, Eleanor hadn't really experienced. She wished to look like the girl, to have the power this girl emitted

The girl winced, surprised by Eleanor's demands. She bit her lips.

"You do not know me?" she asked calmly, "As in, have not you heard of me?"

Eleanor's anger pushed out of her body. She wanted to know who this girl was, so beautiful and yet, wearing a plain gray dress. She could not be a noble, could she?

The girl realized the angry effect she was having on Eleanor. She solemnly apologized. "What I say," the girl started, "May shock you. But you must promise you cannot tell anyone. Please." Her piercing green disks bore into Eleanor's own brown ones. Eleanor could not back down now that her curiosity was at its peak. Eleanor nodded.

The girl sighed, apparently overwhelmed with emotions. She hadn't expected to reveal…

"I am Princess Siobhán."

Eleanor could feel all color draining her face. She blinked several times, and even pounded her head. It had to be a dream, it had to be. She had lived in the palace since infanthood, and never on any occasion had she the privilege of meeting the royal family. A few of the older, well-mannered girls were granted the opportunity of directly serving the royal family. Eldora, a fellow roomie, boasted on more than one occasion how beauteous the family was, and how they had even agreed to her bowing down at their feet. For that, Eldora received widespread respect. And here Eleanor was, practically crouched down next to the princess herself but…

Eleanor could not help but ask, "How can I be sure that you are princess? I hear you wear magnificent dresses made from the country's finest silk. And you are also embedded from head to toe with gold and diamond jewelry."

The young girl next to her looked almost embarrassed and troubled. Almost.

"You cannot be sure, at least not now. But think about it. If I wore what I usually do, would not I stick out like a sore thumb here?"

Eleanor, who was about to retort, was cut off by the girl.

"And besides, I will tell you why I am here and you will find it is also why you must'n proceed towards the food vault. You see my brother, Prince Paden, is somewhere around here with his newest conquest. Her name is Flora Vangoose. She really is a goose."

The girl, Princess Siobhan, who Eleanor was now starting to accept, droned on about her latest escapades. Eleanor soon figured out that the girl, who was really fourteen, spent her afternoons trailing her brother and his monstrous girlfriend.

"She is beautiful but there are several pretty girls. Why does he choose her? She detests me. No loss however, the feeling is purely mutual. Every time Paden leaves us alone to 'mingle', the wretch shoots me these horrid glances. Oh I really have these dying urges to punch her eyes. It sounds so weird, I know but she puts so much kohl, it's just blinding. But then Paden would notice the black rims around her precious eyes, would not he? And besides, her father is a foreign minister. We cannot sever relations. But if he marries her, I will die."

Eleanor agreed with the Princess that no fate would be worse than that of Prince Paden marrying a Flora Vangoose.

"I am so glad you understand me. My life is so utterly horrendous with no one to talk to. Mother is too busy selecting the most 'perfect' dress to wear for the ball. And she insists that I accompany her on her missions to tirade the designer stores," the girl babbled on incessantly to which slightly annoyed Eleanor.

"And dear lord, I do not know your name!" Siobhan exclaimed, feigning absolute embarrassment, "Here I must sound like a selfish goose."

"It is quite alright," Eleanor replied, suddenly self-conscious. No one cared half a penny to learn her name and certainly no one, half so important as a royalty, was ever bestowed with the honor of knowing it.

"Eleanor," she answered, "'Tis my name."

Siobhan repeated to herself, "Eleanor."

"And your surname?"

Eleanor shook her shoulders, "I do not have one. My mother died shortly after birthing me and my father, like any pauper, abandoned his wife."

"My goodness, how sorry I am to hear that!" Siobhan looked genuinely distraught. She held out Eleanor's arm and allowed her own to soothingly rub little circles around it.

"I am so deeply moved by such strong sentiments. I dreadfully am ignoramus to not understand the gravity, the pain of living a life without a mother or a father upon whom to depend."

Eleanor did not wish to discuss her brooding life's story. It was not as though a mother less life was so unusual from that of the other servant youths. However, in Siobhan's company, nothing seemed more unordinary than that of missing the splendors of a maternal authority.

"Is your brother, err…Prince Paden here?" Eleanor inquired. Siobhan shrugged to show that she thought so but did not know.

"I know he is in the kitchen and this is the most massive of all food storages. It only makes sense for him to be on the other side."

Suddenly Eleanor's body shivered. The thought of another royal member being so close to her and yet, so far seemed so hard to take into thought. Eleanor opened her mouth to ask the princess how her brother looked when the door of the storage opened. An angry Catherine walked in.

She surveyed the settings. Even from her awkward position on the ground, Eleanor could discern the furious expression which Catherine bore. Somehow Eleanor knew that she was the culprit.

"Eleanor come out, wherever you are! Fraulein Aloisia informed me a minute ago that you were to report to me. We need your services, you know!"

Eleanor looked to Siobhan. Siobhan's face was etched with panic. Eleanor knew the consequences for both of them if found in each other's company.

Catherine, in a futile attempt to search for Eleanor, finally relinquished a sigh of irritation. "Eleanor, I will wait outside for two minutes. If you do not come out by then, I will send my girls in search of you. Mark my words, they will find you." Catherine walked out, violently slamming the wooden door behind her.

"My god," Siobhan breathed, "That was so close. Fraulein? Is not that German?"

Eleanor nodded, "Fraulein Aloisia is from Germany. I have to go. You heard Madame Catherine." Siobhan agreed. She looked somewhat crestfallen.

"Yes alright."

Eleanor stood up and looked down upon Siobhan. She looked so much taller than the girl and a feeling of contempt rode through her then. It would be one of the only times that she would be allowed to stand over royalty.

"Well bye then," Eleanor awkwardly mumbled. She turned towards the door.

A hand tugged her own hands. Eleanor looked at Siobhan.

"Will you serve at the ball?" Siobhan asked her.

Eleanor shook her head, "Probably not unless thirty of the girls falls avictim to a foul disease and become disabled. Otherwise they have plenty of help."

"Then will I see you again?" Siobhan asked Eleanor.

"I hope so," Eleanor replied, and then added as only proper, "Your highness."

She walked out.

Eleanor gently closed the door which separated her newest friend from her. She looked around in search of her furious supervisor. Madame Catherine appeared from behind a large cabinet of fine casseroles. She grabbed Eleanor by the ear and harshly twisted them.

Eleanor yelped in pain. Several faces turned around to her for the second time that day. Among of them was that of an immensely good looking boy. No—he was a man. Clearly several years elder to her, he looked about twenty. He had silky, black hair, like that of Snow White's only ebony hue. His face was pale but beautiful too. It was a different kind of beautiful. Not like Princess Siobhan's angelic features. Instead his were sharper and manlier and perhaps, thought Eleanor,that is what made him so attractive. His lips were plump and so inviting. And his eyes were…green, just like Siobhan's. They seemed to scintillate. How odd. Eleanor shook her head, and tried to wipe away such horrible thoughts. He was too old and besides, with her supervisor so tightly twisting her ears, she [Eleanor probably looked moche, or at least very undesirable.

"What are you looking at?" Madame Catherine shrieked. Her tiny body hunched over in a fuming gesture. Eleanor stuttered a little, "Nothing."

"Better be that. What were you thinking, stealing all our food? And dear me, your hairs are in dreads. It all looks like a massive black fur ball. I want you to tie them first, wash your hands, and your attitude while you are at it… " Catherine bawled, tugging Eleanor's hands and forcing her to walk away from the storage closet, and ultimately from Siobhan and from the beautiful boy.

Eleanor barely had the time to look back at the boy. She outlined his black hair. What struck her the most was the figure of another girl, a brunette this one, holding on to the tail of his servant clothes.

How odd… Eleanor wondered, before being sucked into Catherine's day's worth of irksome chores.

Later that day, Eleanor lay on the hay fillings of her bed. Surrounding hers were six other beds with six other owners. Some of the girls were fast asleep with their obnoxious snores singing a chorus around the room. Two others were engaged in a potentially interesting conversation about boys. Eleanor could not bring herself to participate in the joys of gossiping alongside the elder girls. She was much too busy tending to the several blisters on her back from the day's events. It was not until one of the girls mentioned Prince Paden into their discussion on eligible bachelors that Eleanor recalled her previous encounter with Princess Siobhan. What a wonderful thing. She was so lucky, Eleanor believed. Siobhan was much more benevolent than even the servant girls. And then Eleanor thought of the Adonis with a girl trailing behind him.

A girl behind him…could it be, Eleanor asked herself quietly, no, of course not. But still…

"Eldora," Eleanor said, "How did the Prince look again?" The two girls stopped talking and looked through whatever little light the moon provided, into Eleanor's curious face.

"Well Eleanor. It was a while ago. Six months. But he was so handsome and elegant. Such a pulchritudinous man, I think I wanted to die at his presence. His eyes were effulgently gleaming, I remember, a most unusual green like Princess Siobhan's."

Green

Eldora continued, "And his face was so precious and soft, yet somehow it gave one the impression of being manly."

"And his hair?" Eleanor eagerly asked. Tell me his hair color!

Eldora strummed her fingers against her lap, thinking hard.

"Of course," she said, "How can I forget? They were black. Reminded me of Snow White when I saw it, the same exact shade. Ebony."

And for the second time that day, Eleanor came to the shocking revelation that she had seen royalty. This time in the physical form of a prince. He was wearing a measly pauper dress and yet, she was so very attracted to him.

A thirteen year old girl does not realize the effect love has upon her heart. Her bosom rises up and down upon the thought of a man, her heart pulsates with fury and admiration, and her life almost brightens, and yet, she has not the knowledge of such powerful sentiments. It will take her at least four years maybe, before she acknowledges the tenderness she holds for the man. And it shall take her five years before she admits her true feelings and begins her mission in capturing her prize, her goal, her conquest:

For Eleanor, five years of pent up love and anticipation coaxed her to go in pursuit of her Adonis: His name- Prince Paden, son of King Marc. Occupation: Lover.


A/N: So far, the prologue is just blegh. But it's pretty essential to the rest of the story. It shows Eleanor's first encounter with Siobhan, which of course, will play a vital role in the rest of the story. I could just have started from the first chapter and added a lot of BAM- action and interaction, but then you guys would've gone all, "Huh?"
So be patient with me, the next chapters will be rewarding. In any case, r&r pretty please?

T.P.