The dinner gong rang throughout the castle as everyone gathered in the dining hall. It was a time all the girls along with Stellan and Simcess could set aside their differences and genuinely enjoy each others’ company. Everyone was on their best behavior as the conversation flowed. Ming and Klavdiya joked constantly – during their time at Knight Palace, they had become best friends. At the end of the table, Raina sighed. Her closest friend Yasmine had gone home, and she was still reeling over it.
“London?” She asked, leaning forward.
London tore her eyes away from Stellan to look at Raina.
“Did you ever find out why your room was so smelly?”
London shrugged helplessly. “No! It’s getting worse by the day. The butler and the maid can’t get to it at all, and it’s making me nauseous.”
Klavdiya’s ears perked. “Do you think it was sabotage?”
“Not at all,” London said waspishly, dismissing the thought. “No one would ever do anything like that. Everyone here is just too kind.”
Shirley rolled her eyes as Ming stifled a laugh.
“The poor thing is so gullible,” Natalia whispered to Lyric.
Alex shushed the two girls, lest London hear their conversation. She was fiercely protective of her friend, and knew that any bad thing said toward London would definitely cause tears later.
Stellan remained silent at the head of the table. Something was fishy, and it wasn’t the lobster on his plate. He listened as covertly as he could to each conversation.
Everyone continued to debate.
Except for Kara.
She sat silently, observing.
There was little time to draw any conclusions, as Simcess threw down her napkin and ordered everyone to bed.
“You’ve got a busy day tomorrow,” She said, shooing everyone out.
Since there was still a few hours before curfew, the girls all slipped out to decompress. Alex doubled over, clutching the chair.
“Is something wrong, Alex?” Stellan asked, clasping her elbow to draw her into a standing position.
“Hardly. I’m just sore from all that running.”
Stellan laughed in relief as Alexandria dusted herself off and gave him a peck on the cheek. “I appreciate the concern, though.”
Once he was sure Alex was okay to make it upstairs, Stellan found himself being drawn to Kara. He had thought about her all through dinner.* He found her sitting on a bench in the courtyard, staring at her undulating reflection in the fountain.
“You were quiet during dinner,” Stellan said, coming to stand beside her.
“I was just distracted,” She lied.
“By what, pray tell?” Stellan smirked, nudging her shoulder.
Using the opportunity to her advantage, Kara stood up and gazed at Stellan through lowered lashes. “By you.”
After Stellan and Kara had finished talking, he made his way to the library to clear his thoughts. Their relationship excited him, and yet a sense of foreboding had fallen over him. Stellan had learned to trust his gut, but what good was trusting it when it wouldn’t tell him what was wrong?
Stellan jumped at the voice. Natalia was tucked away in the corner, hunched over the chess table.
“Sorry!” She exclaimed, throwing her hands over her mouth. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s my fault,” Stellan said. He gestured at the chair opposite her, silently asking if he could join. Natalia nodded, so he made himself comfortable. “I should’ve been paying more attention.”
“Something on your mind?” Natalia asked, setting up for a new game.
Stellan shrugged as he moved a piece on the board forward. “There’s always something on my mind.”
Natalia nodded in understanding. “Well, why not let a game of chess take your mind off of things? I’ll warn you, I’m not very good.”
“Neither am I, to be perfectly honest. I’m more of a checkers guy myself.”
Natalia laughed. “It’s a lot simpler, that’s for sure.”
In the next room, Lyric let tears fall onto the piano. She had seen Stellan kiss Kara, and couldn’t ignore the jealously coursing through her body. Lyric let a devastating song pour from her fingers.
Her swan song.
The next morning, all the girls were led down into the catacombs. Ming covered her nose at the stench of chlorine assaulting her senses.
“I can already feel my skin drying out,” Klavdiya scoffed.
Shirley chuckled to herself as Alex looked around in confusion. This certainly wasn’t the same room they had been in many times before.
Before they had too much time to ponder it, Simcess flounced into the room.
“Hello there, ladies! I know you might be a little confused as to what we’re doing in this makeshift room with no wallpaper – we forgot to put some by the way – but I can assure you there is a perfectly acceptable explanation! Follow me.”
The girls did as they were told and followed Simcess through the heavy door.
They were shocked at what stood in front of them.
Long lanes of water stretched out the entire length of the room. It was a straight shot forward until islands of land surrounded by water began. A lone chair sat at the very edge of the room, blissfully dry among the drenched room. The air was thick with humidity as each girl was corralled into her respective lane.
“Today it’s simple – the first girl to get to the platform where the chair is located wins! Even if you don’t arrive first, keep going. The two girls left in the water at the end of the challenge will go head to head in a vote by our live studio audience!” Simcess paused. “Well, not really live. But they will vote!”
The girls looked at each other and rolled their eyes.
“Take your marks!” Simcess called.
Each girl sat on the edge of the pool. Shirley flicked water at Lyric as the two laughed.
“At least it’s warm!” London called out.
“Three! Two! One! Go!” Simcess shouted.
Everyone dove into the water except for Raina and Ming, who stepped back and waved their arms in the air. After some gentle prodding from an unknown power, they both jumped in and tried to catch up.
Everyone was neck and neck as they jumped out of their individual lanes and fought for the upper hand as they charged towards the chair. Raina and Ming still trailed behind, but had caught up considerably fast with no intervention.
The girls jumped over each other, the adrenaline surging now. Lyric, Kara, Natalia, and Alexandria** had the upper hand, and forced each other out of the way as they got their claw-like grip on the edge of the pool.
Not to be deterred, the other girls surged forward in an attempt to bypass the others. However, it was too late.
Alexandria had pulled herself up and cheered.
“I did it!” She shouted, letting her light voice echo throughout the room.
The others refused to give up. Lyric hoisted herself up next, followed by Kara. Natalia was almost on the platform before she fell back in. Raina pushed onward, refusing to give up.
Raina’s determination paid off, as she bypassed all the other girls to stand beside Alex on the platform.
Two girls were left floating in the water.
London and Natalia hung their heads in shame at their failure.
Now, one of them would be going home.
Want to decide who stays and who goes? Vote below to let me know!
*Stellan kept having whims that centered on Kara. Kiss/compliment/get to know/etc
**Yes, Alex is in the picture below! Poor girl is directly underneath Kara