Rain poured and thunder roared overhead as Eva stared in awe at the beauty of the castle as the tour guide led them through its halls. She didn’t know why everyone had turned their torches on. The candles in their brackets lit the halls up well enough. The walls of the castle were mantled in glorious tapestries of royal blue and gold with a flowering black rose in their centre, and they seemed to glow in the bright candlelight.
A flash of thunder lit up a stained glass window, and Eva marvelled at it for a while, uncaring that the group had wandered on ahead to the banquet hall. The opaque visage of a pale, blond haired queen stared back at her with royal blue eyes, frozen in time even as she brushed a hand through her golden tresses. Eva turned and strolled towards the banquet hall, where the rest of the group had stopped to eat their cereal bars and chug bottles of water. She frowned, confused as to why they’d eat such meagre food when a glorious banquet had been set out.
The heady smell of strong ale and rich foods made Eva’s head spin and her stomach gurgle as she wandered over to one of the long tables and sat on the bench. Ignoring the looks she got from her idiotic companions, Eva tucked into a rich meal of smoked pike and mead. The smiling faces sitting around her overcrowded the confused and worried looks from her tour guide, family and the other tourists, so she blocked them out and focused on befriending the people either side of her. Eva blinked as she dropped onto her rear end and looked up at the tour guide as he leant in.
“Hey, kid, you okay?”
“What happened to everyone? Where did they go?” She looked at the table, saw that it had become rotten, and slanted to one side. The few plates left on it were shattered, little more than shards. The stained glass windows in the banquet hall were shattered and let in the wind and rain. The tour guide frowned and shot her parents a worried glance.
“Kid, we’re all here. See, your mum, dad and little sister are over there,” he pointed at her family.
Eva frowned and stood up, her stomach suddenly empty again. After she ate the disgusting cereal bar her mother handed her and took a sip of water, the group moved on to the throne room.
The throne room was beautiful. The queen’s throne stood tall and proud in the centre, while the king’s had been pushed back into the furthest corner, and white roses hung from hanging baskets scattered throughout the hall. A long royal blue carpet ran across the centre of the room to the queen’s throne, the seat of which was plush and comfortable looking. Eva hung back when the rest of the group moved on and snuck back into the throne room to find it the same as when they’d left. She wandered over to the throne and stared at it. Bells jingled nearby and she looked up and backed away from the throne, bumping into someone. Eva shrieked and whipped around. Behind her stood a tall, thin man in a mask, dressed as a Court Jester.
The mask was a work of art. Crafted from porcelain, it was bone white with plump lips painted the same shade of royal blue as the carpet. The eyeholes were outlined with blue triangles edged with gold trimming and detailing that spiralled down over the cheeks. Where the hairline should have been, the mask was bordered with gold that ended in a crest at the forehead. The jester’s hat, which connected with the mask at the golden border, was a crown of ridged curled pieces of gold and blue fabric tipped with gold bells. The collar had the same ridged, spiked design as the hat. The costume was flowing, with a long gold and blue diamond patterned shirt and tight fitting golden, blue trimmed trousers, while the shoes and gloves were plain gold. Eva stared at the jester and backed away slowly, feeling her heart flutter in her chest. He stood between her and the door. The jester, however, made no threatening moves and seemed to be observing her. Eva swallowed and tried to take a step around him, but the jester followed and took a step forwards, driving Eva back another step. This little one foot at a time dance continued until the backs of Eva’s knees struck the seat of the throne and she dropped into it. The jester flung his arms out in a flamboyant gesture as he bowed and produced a single black rose from his large sleeve, offering it to her as he went down on one knee.
Eva shook her head and attempted to stand, but the jester stood as she did and loomed over her, still holding the rose out to her. Eva stood looking up at the masked man and eventually took the rose. As she did, the jester seemed to brighten up and did a flip before her grabbed her hand and led her through the halls of the castle until they reached the queen’s chamber. The jester pulled open the doors of a large wardrobe and picked out a flowing blue dress, which he held out to her and pointed to a partition by the bed. Eva warily took the dress and walked behind the partition. The jester was still in the room, so she made sure to be very, very carefully as she changed into the dress. When she stepped out from behind the partition, the jester clapped his hands and shook his head in delight, causing the bells to jingle. He helped her put on the delicate looking shoes he produced to her and then led Eva back to the throne room, where he presented her with a crown.
Eva looked out over the many expectant faces in the crowd then looked back at the jester. The more she waited, the more the jester’s plump porcelain lips seemed to become a pout. Eventually Eva bowed her head and allowed him to place the crown atop it. As she stood, the jester took Eva’s hand in his and bowed his masked face to it, brushing his porcelain lips against the back of her hand.
The doctors watched as Eva smiled at an imaginary person and curtsied to others, which was pretty hard in a hospital gown. She wandered around, skipping merrily as if she were leaning on someone’s arm, though god knew how she was keeping her balance. “Did Eva have an imaginary friend as a child, Miss Deveral?” The doctor asked Eva’s mother.
“Why, yes, she did. Heavens knows what she used to call him, it was such a weird name. I think it was –”
“Meriwether,” Eva sang in a childlike voice as she danced with thin air.