The sun was slowly rising on Knight Palace, bathing the residence in a warm, inviting glow. The grand, sweeping arches and imposing turrets were ethereally illuminated by the sun’s rays. From the outside, everything appeared peaceful.
However, on the inside, the palace was buzzing with activity. Maids scurried about, dusting things that were already cleaned three times over, chefs prepped for the huge meals they would be expected to make, gardeners ensured the roses had access to the best sunlight, and butlers hastened through the halls, double and triple-checking that everything was perfect.
As the clock struck eleven o’clock in the morning, the grand doors of the palace swung open soundlessly, letting a whoosh of cool, purified air waft onto eleven girls. Many guards escorted them to a small parlor with twelve chairs. The girls gasped as they saw the large portraits of Prince Stellan adorning the wall. Soon, one of the girls would be his husband. One of the girls would be his Queen.
The ladies were all directed to a specific chair. They took their seats quietly, glancing at the other girls in their view, eyeing them and sometimes – oftentimes – judging. The room was eerily quiet, yet the excitement and nerves was practically palpable in the air. Finally, some of the braver girls decided they had had enough of the awkward silence, and turned to one another.
“Hi, I’m London Caliente,” London said, turning in her chair to face Yasmine.
Yasmine smiled shyly, absentmindedly pulling her hair forward to form a curtain. “I’m Yasmine,” She finally said.
“I love your shirt!” London continued, pointing to the orange t-shirt that brought out Yasmine’s lovely brown eyes. “That colour is amazing on you.”
“Thank you,” Yasmine said politely. “I like your shirt too – I don’t know if I’d be able to pull off the crop top style.”
“I totally bet you could,” London gushed. “You should borrow it sometime!”
Meanwhile, more girls were getting to know each other.
“This place is huge,” Kara Movotti said. “Imagine the hiding places. I wonder if there are catacombs…”
Raina Marroquin was puzzled. “What an odd thing to say.”
“Oh! Sorry, you looked like you were into that kind of stuff.”
“What…stuff?” Raina asked tentatively. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to know the answer, but knew she’d have to make friends to stay in the competition. She couldn’t go home. She wouldn’t go home.
“Y’know, dark, spooky stuff. Like magic! I bet you in a palace as old as this, they’ve got some secrets tucked away.”
“I’m not really here to explore,” Raina said, attempting to steer the conversation towards a relatively normal topic. “I’m here for Prince Stellan. He’s handsome, isn’t he?”
Kara’s gaze had begun to wander along the walls, looking for small cracks that betrayed a hidden door.
“What? Oh, yes. Yes, very handsome,” She muttered, moving on to examine the glowing torches.
Raina straightened forward and let her gaze stray to the window and her thoughts drift to Stellan.
On the other side of the room, Alexandria Hadley shifted nervously in her seat. The other girls were wrapped up in different conversations, private ones that suggested she not chime in. The seat next to her was mysteriously empty. There was supposed to be twelve girls here. Where was she? On top of that, who is she?
Alexandria shook her head, letting the thoughts drift away. She’d make friends later – she was always good at it, after all. The palace seemed like a lovely place, and she knew there would be dozens of places for good photo ops. To her left was the courtyard, filled with apple trees, roses, daisies, and other plants she couldn’t name. Their sweet aroma traveled over to the parlor, settling on Alexandria like a hug. The balmy air flushed her face, but she welcomed the warmth with a smile.
Just as Alexandria was thinking about taking photos of the roses, large doors swung open.
Princess Simcess waltzed in, her large skirt trailing behind her.
“Hello, ladies!” She called out, making eye contact with each and every girl. “My name is Princess Simcess, and I’ll be your host for the competition. First, I want to go over some of the rules with all of you; Is that okay?”
The girls called out a collective “Yes!”
“Great!” Simcess said, clapping her hands together. “First of all, your rooms have all been prepared. It’s two girls to one room, and you will share a bathroom. Your pictures are posted outside the door so we know who’s where. Get to know the girl sitting beside you right now, because from here on out, she’s your roomie!”
“Also, curfew is promptly 10:00pm – please be in your rooms by then. It’s out of kindness to the many servants who have to clean up and sleep themselves. Anyone found out of their rooms past curfew with no reason will be asked to return to their rooms. If we find you out wandering again after your first warning, there will be consequences. Use the time wisely and get your beauty sleep.”
“Next – the challenges! Every so often, you must compete in an activity of our choice. These aren’t always fair – some of you have skills in different areas. That’s just how the world works! We can’t all be great at everything we do.”
“Behind me is the ballroom,” Simcess continued. “It also houses pictures of each of you in full colour.”
“As you get eliminated, your picture will turn to black and white.” Simcess explained, pointing a remote at the wall and hitting a button. “See Kara’s picture? You don’t want that.”
Kara scoffed. “She just had to use me as the example, didn’t she?”
“It’s time to address the elephant in the room…And by elephant I mean the empty chair beside Miss Alexandria.” Simcess sighed.
“That chair is meant for Yekaterina ‘Katya’ Nikolova. Unfortunately, she hasn’t appeared yet. We don’t know exactly where she is, but as the information flows in, we’ll keep you updated.”
Kara leaned over to Raina conspiratorially, with a mischievous grin on her face. “I bet the demons in the catacombs got to her.”
Across the room, Lyndsay Yin chuckled softly to Shirley. “I bet she saw me and thought she couldn’t possibly compete against that.”
Klavdiya Korzhakov rolled her eyes. With her Russian accent, she turned to Ming and said, “If you can’t handle competition, don’t sign up.”
“Ladies!” Simcess called out. “That’s enough speculation. For now, we’ll treat you as eleven contestants. You’ve got enough competition in this room right now to occupy you.”
“Finally, Prince Stellan-” Simcess started.
“Oh! Well, speak of the devil.” She chuckled, eyeing the figure coming around the corner.
“Girls, it is my pleasure to formally introduce you to Prince Stellan Montgomery Knight.”
Stellan was certainly a sight. With his golden blonde hair and sparkling green eyes, he looked like he had stepped out of the Sunset Valley Firefighter calendar. His pearly white smile widened as he saw the girls. His eyes flashed with hope…and fear.
“Thanks for the introduction, Simcess, and thank all of you for the warm welcome! But please, just call me Stellan. I want us all to really get to know each other, and I personally think the best way to do that is treating each other as equals.”
“With that being said, it’s time for your first challenge. I’m sorry to spring it on you all, but rules are rules, after all.” Stellan turned to his friend. “Take it away, Simcess.”
“The rules are simple for this challenge. You’re each going to stand side-by-side in our art studio. You’ll be asked to do a classic medium painting, and the lady who paints the highest-value painting will get to have tea with Stellan after dinner tonight! So up we go – follow me!”
The girls all followed Stellan and Simcess into the art studio, where easels waited for them. All at once, they began painting. Some had similar designs while others painted outlandish creatures with vivid colours.
“So, let’s talk.” Simcess said. She and Stellan had taken a seat in the viewing room, where they could watch the action. “What girl do you want to know about?”
Stellan observed the ladies, all beautiful in their own way. He had studied their photos and names so he’d be prepared to talk to them.
“I think Shirley,” Stellan mused. “That hair really caught my attention.”*
“Shirley Gallagher,” Simcess said, scanning a small list.
“Shirley Gallagher is the last living descendant of a very influential – not to mention wealthy – family.” Simcess said, reading her bio. “Both parents passed away when Shirley was young. Her family was known for eccentric and sometimes outright insane living choices. Clearly Shirley is no exception.”
“I like that she’s unique,” Stellan said, eyeing that orange-tipped hair again. “She stands out without even trying.”
Meanwhile, the girls were still painting furiously. However, one girl in particular was having difficulties.
Alexandria fanned her face, feeling the unnatural heat of a fever creep up her cheeks. It felt as if they had ratcheted the temperature up in the room by twenty degrees. She was so focused on not puking that she had left her canvas empty while the other people around her pondered their colourful canvases. She looked from left to right as desperation clutched her stomach like a vicious llama.**
“It looks like Alexandria is really struggling,” Stellan said, concern lacing his features.
Simcess nodded, eyeing the lady. She looked like a deer in headlights.
After more talking, the girls all finished their paintings…except for Alexandria.
Stellan examined all the paintings, murmuring kind comments about each one. Sure, some of them were…out there, but he was happy they had given it their all. Simcess walked behind, checking the value of each canvas.
The winner, at 69 simoleons, is…
“Shirley!” Simcess smiled. “Congratulations on winning! You’ll get some private time alone with Prince Stellan after dinner tonight.”
“Oh my plum, that is so exciting!” Shirley squealed. Under her breath, she muttered, “Well done, Shirley. You did well, Shirley.”
Clapping softly, Stellan approached the winner. “Your painting was amazing, Shirley. I’m really looking forward to getting to know you tonight.”
A blush crept across Shirley’s cheeks. “Shirley, this is so awesome,” She whispered.
And with that, the painting competition ended. The girls dispersed to their rooms, getting ready for what was sure to be an interesting night.
*Shirley was chosen through a random selection site:
**Alexandria actually was sick. I tried to get her to paint her canvas twice and she wouldn’t do it. Instead she’d complain of a fever.