Chapter Sixteen

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Alex awoke the next morning to a knocking at the door. Treyan was already awake and dressed while she remained naked and lounging in bed, so he did her the favor of checking to see who could have been disrupting the Empress' extremely comfortable slumber. He must have opened the door for she could hear the faint mumble of a hushed conversation in the distance. The door closed again and soon he was sitting next to her on the bed.

"The time has come, my Empress," he whispered as he brushed sleepy hair out of her face.

She peered up at him through half- closed eyes. "Whatever happened to letting me have my beauty sleep?"

"You are apparently beautiful enough, for the mistresses have arrived to prepare you for the day."

"What mistresses?"

He smiled. "Remember Mallia? She is here with her assistants, the personal handmaidens to the Empress. They enlist as of the day of your coronation, and will remain with you until the end of your reign."

"Wonderful. I always wanted my own entourage." She scooted herself to a sitting position, keeping a sheet up to her chest, just in case someone else decided to pay her an unexpected visit.

"You've met Mallia, and she only enlists the best. They're wonderful women, and they're quiet. They will only speak to you when spoken to - it's part of their job description."

"I suppose that will make mornings easier, especially since you've already told me there's no coffee to be had." She stretched, forgetting the protective sheet for the moment. "And who will dress you today, my Prince?"

He smirked, handing her the discarded blanket. "Sadly I am not as lucky as the Empress and must depend on my own abilities to prepare for the day." He stood and bowed to her. "And that being said, we must part ways."

"Wait, you're not staying?"

"Absolutely not. It's bad luck to see the Empress before the coronation... or something like that." He gave her a wink and headed towards the door, giving Mallia a hug and a peck on the cheek on his way by.

Once he left, the Mistresses filed in. There were three of them all together. Aside from Mallia, they were rather average looking women, outfitted in in plain dresses with their hair tied behind their heads in neat little buns. One was younger, closer to Alex's age, while the other seemed older than Mallia, in a grandmotherly- sort of way. They both seemed pleasant enough, and they did not delay in beginning their expected duties. The younger one immediately went into the washroom, the older to the armoire, and Mallia began drawing back the curtains to allow the sunlight to shine into the room.

Alex realized then that she was still in bed and naked, but the mistresses didn't seem to mind. Once Mallia was done with the windows, she came over to her, and after picking up Alex's discarded robe from the end of the bed, held it up and open for Alex to see. It took her a moment to realize Mallia wanted her to put it on, and she eventually nodded her thanks and stepped into the robe, tying it around her waist as Mallia ushered her from the bed towards the washroom.

The bath was already drawn by the time she entered. Large white and pink bubbles rose to the surface of the tub as the young mistress awaited her entrance. Mallia left them as quickly as they arrived, and just like a relay, the second mistress was already upon her, offering to assist in removing the robe from her shoulders. Alex quickly untied it to allow for the robe's easy removal, and while uttering her apologies, stepped into the tub with one leg at a time.

The water was perfumed with roses, and though the temperature was a little warmer than she could have liked, she didn't complain. The mistress helped her wash, scrubbing her skin raw while Alex sat there with her arms wrapped around her knees, and feeling like a child. She didn't know if she could ever get used to such attention, but she also knew she didn't have a choice in the matter, so she quietly let it happen. Soon her hair was washed, her skin was rinsed, and the tub drained. The young mistress helped her out of the bath, wrapping her in a clean, warm robe, but before she could let her body temperature adjust, she was being led from the washroom out to her other mistresses who awaited her arrival in her bedroom. Mistress Three, the older one, took over as soon as Alex was in sight.

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