Rhydian gave up trying to write to Delilah for now, it would probably scare her and worry her mother if the forgotten prince started contacting her out of the blue. They would probably bump into each other at some point anyway.
For now, he had other things to attend to.
Rhydian had decided he would change the world around him. He didn’t have any lofty ambitions like wanting to be King – but he wanted to be someone who actually took part in this second life that had been granted to him.
Before coming back to the past, Rhydian was indifferent to everything. The people who cared and the people who didn’t had all been treated the same way – with apathy. He wanted, this time, to be able to show his gratitude to the people who looked after him, and make it possible for them to lead happy lives.
And a part of that was making life while working for him comfortable.
After reviewing the budget for his manor, expenses and the new contracts for his servants, he found that he was lacking funds. Not severely enough for it to be noticeable, but enough that if there were sudden expenses, he wouldn’t be able to take care of them.
There was also the issue of firing some employees.
He knew that there were spies in his manor, some from the Queen, some from the King, some from the Grand Nobles and maybe even some from the Royal Consort. It was a natural part of royal life to doubt goodwill, to assume someone was watching and analysing your every move.
Maybe this lack of money would give him the chance to flush out some of the more problematic spies.
Although it had been a few years, there were a few incidents he remembered that had caused friction within the royal family.
A maid who wore her hair in two plaits, parted down the middle – she liked wearing big ribbons at the end. He remembered because one of those ribbons had been used as proof that he had ordered her to sneak into Cyrus’ room to frame him…for something.
He didn’t remember for what exactly, but he remembered staring at her in shock, while she cried at the King’s feet and the look of disgust on Cyrus’s face.
Before that day, Cyrus and he hadn’t been close but they didn’t have enmity either. He was Queen Elysia’s only child and the current Crown Prince. Unlike Rhydian who was just a forgotten prince, Cyrus had more lessons, responsibilities and expectations to live up to so he was always busy with something.
They had probably met a few times as kids, but Rhydian didn’t pay enough attention to him to remember.
Rhydian picked up the papers with all of his servants’ information – as expected of Elliot, he had done an excellent job and even wrote down what he could find out about their circumstances at home and who they had gotten their recommendation letters from.
Commoners usually got work through former employees who train a replacement before they left. Nobles were recommended by courtiers who worked at the palace as ministers and bureaucrats.
Among them, there were a few that stood out, some maids who were related to some of the Queen’s servants, some servants who had been recommended by nobles that supported other factions or had blatant dislike for him and one even had a recommendation letter written by the Grand Chamberlain.
Everyone was being so blatant about their spies, it was like they were just telling him, ‘yes we’re sending spies to keep an eye on you, what can you do about it?’
And it was true, he needed a legitimate reason to fire them. It wasn’t easy to work for the royal family and it was just as hard to leave. Most servants worked here until they died, whether because they were killed by an angered noble, or from overwork.
But that reason could be made.
First thing he needed to do was implement the new contracts. The lowered work hours combined with the higher pay and better benefits would mean that the maids who were genuinely here to work, would be less vulnerable to bribery and coercion.
Rhydian smiled, he needed a new Head Maid.
Elliot had taken over the role of the previous Head Butler who had been punished for embezzlement – of course that had been one of Queen Elysia’s schemes, to show that she was a Just and thorough person. The butler had indeed been embezzling funds, but he had done that under her orders – and she was also the one who fired him with a heavy severance pay.
The Head Maid had been let go of during that time as well, even as she begged and pleaded that she had nothing to do with it. Rhydian didn’t know if that was true, or if she was just a better actor than the butler, but he didn’t care. He barely remembered her.
But he needed a Head Maid now, one who could keep the maids in line. Someone corrupt and power-hungry, hopefully assigned by the Queen.
Rhydian tried to think of a good candidate.
“Madame Leona,” he smiled,
“Pardon me, your highness?” Elliot, who had been standing to attention nearby, watching Rhydian stare at a blank piece of paper for a long time, asked.
“Madame Caroline Leona, I believe she was one of the candidates for Head Maid?” Rhydian said.
Elliot frowned in confusion but nodded, she had been one of the fist applicants to be crossed off the list.
“Yes your highness, I believe she is the Concubine of Lord Raynor, who works in the Internal Affairs office.” Elliot answered, there was a pointed urging in his voice.
“Yes, appoint her as Head Maid on a probationary period. Treat her with respect and make sure she has every convenience while getting acquainted with her work,”
Elliot just stared at him in disbelief.
“But your highness.. She’s the concubine of that Lord Raynor,” the very same Lord Raynor who refused to bow his head to Rhydian and refused to assign anyone with a decent background to his manor because he thought a forgotten prince should be surrounded by the lowest company.
Of course, in the past, while Rhydian had not done anything to put a stop to his behaviour, he had been disgruntled by it and refused anything to do with Lord Raynor. He basically treated the man like dust on the wall.
But Raynor was a lackey of the Queen, if Madame Leona was assigned, not only would it reassure the Queen that she had more control over Rhydian, it would also give him a connection to the internal affairs office.
Plus, if he got Madame Leona to do the dirty work of firing the spies for him, then no one would suspect him of having grown a spine. He would still be the useless prince who watched the world pass him by and Madame Leona and by extension, Raynor would gain the hostility and suspicion of the other nobles.
And all though that wouldn’t affect the Queen too badly, it would be enough to sow some suspicion and bad feelings into the people who had their spies kicked out.
“Don’t notarise these documents just yet – get Madame Leona on staff first, these new contracts will be put in place starting from the new year,” Rhydian said, piling the contracts together and slipping them into a drawer under his desk.
“Yes your highness,” Elliot still looked confused, but Rhydian had no intention of explaining his plans to him, even though he didn’t care that Elliot might be a spy for the Duke of Lomisa, it didn’t mean he would be spoon-feeding the information to him.
Madame Leona Sting was the eldest daughter of a merchant who had caught the eye of Barron Charles Raynor when she was just 16 years old. She wasn’t exceptionally beautiful, but her gaze was cold and the tilt of her chin was arrogant. She had the air of a prideful noble from a very young age.
At the time, Charles Raynor had been 29 and married so when Leona entered his household as a Concubine at the age of 16, she had faced a lot of contempt from the Baron’s wife. But Leona was smart, the Baroness was too straightforward in her contempt while Leona won over the servants through favour and force first.
She endured humiliation right until the Baroness was declared infertile – of course this was thanks to the herbal tea she had the servants prepare for the Baroness every morning. Now, despite having the title, she would never give birth to an heir and Leona, who had 2 sons, was the woman with the power in the household.
Her story was as typical as it was famous.
Rhydian felt a little sorry for her, for having caught the eye of Barron Raynor at such a young age but her story wasn’t uncommon either. A woman’s power in this world came from her ability to marry well and give birth to an heir, the official wife without any children was pushed aside by the concubine with two – it was the story of many noble women.
But now, he had use for her and she had no love or respect for him. It was perfect.
Madame Leona arrived without much fanfare. A single carriage which contained her luggage followed behind her and both carriages had the insignia of the Barony on them.
Concubines were technically married but they were not recognised by the church so they often didn’t get to have everything that came with marriage such as using their husbands power or taking on their last name.
Her choice of carriage was telling a different story though.
“Keep an eye on her actions, don’t stop her from doing what she wants, if she fires anyone let me know but make sure she cannot use violence with any of the employees,” those were the instructions Rhydian had given Elliot and a few of the higher ranking maids.
2 hours after her carriage left, there was a knock on the door of Rhydian’s study.
“Come in,” he said, putting his pen down. Elliot opened the door, but it was his new pawn that entered.
“Your highness, I have come to give you my greetings, it is an honour to be chosen as your Head Maid. I will do my utmost to fulfil my duty,” Leona Sting bowed low.
Rhydian smiled brightly,
“Madame Leona, it’s wonderful to see that you’ve arrived in good health. I know the journey must have been long. Why don’t you rest and get acquainted with the manor for a few days? Elliot, assign her some maids,” he said with all the friendliness he could muster.
Leona’s eyes turned up into crescents as she smiled, delighted at her reception,
“Thank you for your grace, your highness,”
As soon as she left, the smile on Rhydian’s face dropped and the warmth in his eyes cooled. Elliot who saw the change as he closed the door behind him shuddered.
Madame Leona looked around her room in the prince’s manor with delight. As expected of the royal family, even the servants’ rooms were better than a Barron’s.
And the little prince was exceptionally welcoming of her. When she had first got the offer, Charles had been adamant there was some scheme behind it, but the boy was only fourteen, not even of age and he looked too pale and fragile to be doing anything but reading in that study of his.
The only one she might have some trouble with was that annoying butler, but she was confident she could win him over slowly.
Leona was excited, she would soon have the manor of the first prince in her hands.
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