Chapter 20 – Headaches and Heroes
Chapter 20 – Headaches and Heroes
“Lord Johnathon, can you please move faster.” Noah pleaded yet again.
His words only resulted in making his master move slower.
How was that possible?
“I need my jacket Servant.” He whined pathetically. “I can’t leave without my jacket.”
“You can’t leave without shoes either.” Noah whispered harshly behind the man’s back.
Johnathon’s head shot in his direction, “What did you say?”
“Your jacket is on the edge of your bed sir.” Noah covered. He pointed in the direction where the jacked rested.
“But it’s not on me now is it?” Lord Johnathon tested.
Noah silently groaned and started towards the bed for his master’s jacket, only to be tripped along way. “Is my jacket down there?” He heard his master asked slyly.
“Than get up.” Johnathon spat. “Where are my shoes?” He asked finally realizing that they weren’t on his feet.
“My Lord, your shoes are in front of the door.” Noah answered as he grabbed his lord’s jacket from off of the bed.
“And what are they doing there?” He asked.
Noah knew that he was being set up, but helped his master into the jacket anyway as he answered. “You left them there after you came back from pub last night, my Lord.”
“Are you mocking me?” Johnathon demanded.
“No sir.” Noah admitted as he moved quickly to button the jacket.
“Are you calling me a drunk?” He yelled.
Noah wondered what put that thought in his master’s head. He couldn’t say yes out loud, but he did think it as loud as possible.
“No sir, I was merely stating-” two hands shoved Noah to the ground. He quickly picked himself up and made sure that he to act as if his master’s outburst hadn’t affected him. It would have only made matters worse.
“Get out of my face.” Johnathon dismissed harshly.
“Your carriage shall be waiting for your departure, my Lord.” Noah informed emotionlessly.
As he walked towards the carriage Noah hoped that his master had released all of his inebriated anger from the night before. Sky forbid what might happen to Annabell if he hadn’t.
But if not?
Noah would gladly take any amount of his master’s abuse, to keep her safe.
~~~ Three Days Later
Noah’s head was pounding. He had ended up passing out, but from exhaustion rather than panic. He had managed to keep himself sane for a few hours.
Annabell had kept him sane.
He still didn’t know what was going on and the smell of potatoes from the bag over his head was becoming more and more pungent as the day passed.
Still for how terrible the smell was, the darkness from the bag was much worse. He could feel his breath sticking to his face as it reflected off the burlap. The more breaths he took, the harder it became to take another.
Noah fought to keep his thoughts on Annabell.
The vehicle that he was currently tied up in a hit a bump causing Noah to hit his head on the post, yet again. He was starting to believe that the driver was doing it on purpose.
Another bump caused a groan to escape his lips.
“Ah the prisoner is awake.” A gruff voice growled for the first time.
Noah didn’t recognize the voice, but he could tell that the words came from inside the cabin. Someone else was in there with him.
He chose not to respond, but that didn’t stop the stranger from speaking.
“When you first came to, I thought that you would faint, panicked at your new surroundings did you, Mr. Nobleman?” The voice asked sarcastically.
Noah chose not to answer. He was too busy keeping his mind together to partake in any conversation.
His lack of response didn’t sit well with the stranger. “You haven’t lulled off again, have you?” The harsh voice demanded.
This time the driver hit a large rock, or a stump maybe, and sent Noah’s head crashing back into the post. He softly cursed when the sensation of warm blood dripped down the back of his neck; things weren’t looking good for him.
“Careful with that tongue of yours.” The man’s voice mocked. “My master wouldn’t want to hear you speak like that.”
Again, Noah didn’t answer.
“Are you trying to play mute?” He asked. When Noah remained quiet the stranger kicked one of his legs and said. “Listen here; I know perfectly well that you can talk, after you passed out you kept muttering about someone named Annabell.”
Noah’s head shot up towards the person speaking, but he instantly regretted it when his skull crashed into the post behind him.
“Did I hit a nerve?” The man chuckled, “Is she your sweetheart? Annabell? Did you meet her back home?”
He could only groan in response.
“Now, explain something to me.” The man asked a short time later, his voice uncomfortably close to Noah. “If this Annabell is so important, why are you one of Princess Alexandria’s suitors?”
Noah fought against his ropes and new waves of panic raced through him.
Were these people after Annabell?
Was she safe?
Noah didn’t have the answer to the questions that buzzed loudly around his head.
He couldn’t move.
He was useless.
The driver suddenly veered to the right, and Noah’s entire body rammed against the post. After the combination of claustrophobia, worry, and the blood loss, the sudden movement was enough to knock him out.
~~~ Three Days Earlier
The parlor doors opened and Noah instinctively dropped his gaze to the floor. He was uneasy about Lord Johnathon spending the day with Annabell.
‘No.’ Noah told himself.
His master would be spending time with Princess Alexandria, not Annabell.
Noah knew it was a pointless argument.
It didn’t matter what he called her. They were the same person.
And yet Noah couldn’t help but think that Annabell was his. It was selfish, he knew that, but the secrets that the two of them had shared had brought them closer together.
At least that’s what he thought.
Noah kept his eyes firmly planted on the floor as he and his master walked towards her.
He couldn’t risk looking at her directly. If his eyes met hers and the other person in the room noticed, bad things were sure to follow. He had to remain unseen, just as he had the day before.
“Good morning, your Highness.” Lord Johnathon’s voice was coated in sweetness.
Noah tried to remember the last time his master spoke to anyone in that manner.
Nothing came to mind.
“Please forgive me, Princess for my tardiness.” Lord Johnathon continued. The man paused and Noah couldn’t believe what he had heard.
Had his master just apologized?
“My servant refused to acknowledge the necessity for a prompt arrival.” He continued pompously. “I would release him of service, but if I appeared without a chaperone my intentions would be misunderstood.”
Noah could feel his master’s arrogance radiating towards him. Lord Johnathon was a man with a pretentious attitude able to blame anyone he so wished. It was unlikely he’d ever actually apologize.
“I will over look your tardiness, if you select today’s activity.” She informed.
Her words sounded proper, and yet he couldn’t help but detect a hint of distrust laced within them. Noah fought to hide his smile. Annabell didn’t believe Lord Johnathon’s excuse in the slightest.
“Seeing as it is a bit on the warm side today,” Johnathon responded after giving her task some thought, “perhaps you would do me the honor of giving me a tour of the castle?”
He didn’t know what creature had possessed his master, but if it remained in control the day would turn out better than Noah could have imagined.
The Princess agreed to Lord Johnathon’s suggestion and the three of them left the room.
Noah made sure to stay an appropriate distance behind.
As they walked through the halls Noah paid acute attention to everything Annabell said. He hadn’t seen this side of her; it both frightened and intrigued him. On one hand she had become ridged and almost cold. On another hand it was clear that she knew where every corridor lead.
“Tell me Princess,” Lord Johnathon asked some time later, “where do those doors lead?”
Noah glanced up and noticed a pair of ominous looking doors facing them.
“They lead to the Royal Gallery.” She informed easily.
His master glanced strangely at the pair of door and seemed to contemplate something.
“Are you interested in art Lord Johnathon?” She asked when he hadn’t responded.
“Indeed I am, your Highness.” He answered eagerly.
Noah couldn’t hide his amazement. He knew that Lord Johnathon had no interest in art. It made him wonder, what was his master up to?
~~~ Change Character Focus, Later
Alexandria tried to concentrate on a painting of her parents while Lord Johnathon conversed with Noah in the doorway. It was clear that the ‘Lord’ was unhappy with his servant’s responses, but she had no way of knowing what was being said.
Why was Noah in a disagreement with his master?
The tension between the two was thick, and Alexandria found herself torn. She really wanted to know what they were discussing, but she also didn’t want to cause any discord between Noah and his master.
Alexandria tried to concentrate once more on the painting, but the very presence of Lord Johnathon made her skin crawl.
She couldn’t forget the way he tried to caress her face, during the Ball.
Alexandria glanced back at the two men and noticed that whatever they had been arguing about had been solved. Lord Johnathon walked towards her, but Noah’s feet remained planted. Instinctively she started to count.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.
But he didn’t move.
Still he remained at the entrance.
Alexandria struggled to not look at him.
Noah’s eyes found hers and a wave of shock jolted through her body. He was clearly not happy about whatever had passed between him and his master, but his anger wasn’t what affected her. There was something about the way he looked at her that was completely different from every other time before.
It was raw, possessive, and yet strangely vulnerable.
She loved every second of it.
A moment later the intense connection ended. Lord Johnathon’s ominous presence had obstructed her view.
“Your Highness,” the sickening sweet voice inquired, “will you show me your favorite piece in the gallery?”
The man’s question seemed innocent, but she recalled the unhappy look that had appeared on Noah’s face.
Something was wrong, but Alexandria wasn’t quite sure what.
She noticed a small statue nearby, and decided to lead him to it.
“This is my favorite piece.” She informed lightly.
Lord Johnathon was noticeably disappointed by her selection. Had he expected her to show him something out of Noah’s view? Could he have been so idiotic?
Alexandria had never paid attention to the piece before, but she could pretend that is was her favorite thing in the entire gallery.
“This, your Highness?” Lord Johnathon asked perplexed. “Pardon my frankness, but how can this be your favorite?” His obvious disdain for it, made Alexandria appreciate the object a little bit more.
She considered his question. Although she hardly ever regarded the piece, Alexandria found that more she looked at it the more she wanted to know why it was there. It was just a clay bowl, something a servant might eat from, and yet it had been placed in the Royal Gallery.
“It perplexes me.” She decided.
“I don’t understand, Princess.” She heard him ask from beside her.
Alexandria brushed off her thoughts about the bowl and said. “I suppose it simply makes me happy.”
“You make me happy, Princess.” ‘Lord’ Johnathon confessed in that sugary sweet voice.
What was Lord Johnathon tying to do?
His words were not threatening in any way but the manner in which he said them unnerved her.
He had taken a step closer, and Alexandria was hit with memories of his behavior at the Ball, “Lord Johnathon I ask that you step away. Your actions are quite inappro-”
Alexandria stilled. She had looked towards the gallery doors only to notice that Noah was no longer there.
“He won’t bother us, Princess.” Lord Johnathon declared. His words shocked her.
He sent Noah away?
That must have been why Noah was upset.
Even though he was acting as a chaperone, if his master had given him a direct order he’d have to obey.
The gravity of the situation hit Alexandria.
How could she have been so imprudent?
“Lord Johnathon, I must insist that the chaperone return.” She declared trying to keep her voice firm. “It is highly inappropriate for you to dismiss him.” She tried to force as much courage into her voice as possible, but was unsure if it was working.
“Don’t worry Highness,” he cooed. “I told him to watch the door. You don’t have to worry about being inappropriate.”
Alexandria felt pale.
What was going to happen? The gallery was one of the most secluded rooms in the Palace. If she screamed it was unlikely that anyone would hear her. She could run for it, but given the length of her skirt, tripping was a possible hazard. He’d catch her before she made it to the door.
“What do you want?” She asked feeling defeated.
He moved closer to her and she felt feint. When had she become so weak?
“There are several things that I would like Highness.” His answer unnerved her.
“You will not to get away with this.” She retorted. It was easier to speak with repulsion than with confidence.
Alexandria knew that she couldn’t compete with him physically, but she wouldn’t submit to him.
He clenched his fists and his knuckles turned white with anger. For some reason Alexandria knew that there was a very good chance he would hit her, just as he had hit Noah.
But Alexandria wasn’t a servant.
If he so much as touched her she would make him pay for it.
“Why won’t you play nice Princess?” He asked taking another step closer.
Alexandria took another step away from him, and her back hit the wall. She wondered when he had cornered her? How?
“Play nice?” She shot back, trying not to get swept in memories of what had happened at the ball. “You expect the Crowned Princess of Alminia to play nice when she is being threatened?” She flattened her palms to the wall, and tried to remain calm.
Suddenly his mood changed and he smiled slyly at her. “Princess why would I threaten you? We were so close during your ball. You danced with me, chatted with me, you even walked my brother and me to our carriage, but now you’re pushing me away. That hurts Princess.”
She kept her chin high, but didn’t respond.
Lord Johnathon Montego decided to press his point. “I wished to be alone with you, but you accuse me of threatening you.” She tried not to gag at the sweetness in his voice. “That’s not a very hospitable thing for the Crowned Princess to say.”
Alexandria glanced back at the gallery entrance, but it was still vacant. Noah wouldn’t be able to help her this time. Doing so would break his master’s direct orders. She was on her own, she had to get out of there and soon.
Even though she knew that she’d never make it, Alexandria bolted. She rushed away from Lord Johnathon Montego but she didn’t head for the main entrance.
She had hoped that if she made it further into the gallery, she’d be able to loose him.
And if so, she could make it to another exit.
She managed to kick her shoes off and ran as hard and as fast as she could.
Lord Johnathon cursed and she could hear him take off after her. She heard him slip and fall, and pushed herself faster.
Alexandria turned the first corner but her heart sank as she felt his hand clench firmly around her wrist and pull her quickly to the other side of the partition.
She tried to scream, but his other hand was placed lightly across her mouth.
She tried to fight back but his body pressed hers against the wall.
Alexandria’s glared up at the vial person with hatred, but her distain was quickly replaced by elation as a pair of blue eyes stared back at her. ′You.′ It was the only thought that crossed her mind.
She felt her body instantly relax against his, and breathed a sigh of relief as he removed the hand that had stopped her from screaming.
He had come.
~~~ Change Character Focus
It took everything in Noah’s power not to put his arms around Annabell. He had never imagined that he’d have to leave her alone with that man, but going to get help seemed to be a better idea than arguing with his master.
Noah smiled reassuringly at her, but he quickly passed her to the two rather startled stewards. “Get her out of here, Jim.” He said with more authority than he actually had.
Jim nodded as he and the other Steward, who had introduced himself as Stuart, rushed the Princess towards the alternate entrance that the three of them had come through. Noah smiled as they disappeared from view. He was glad that she was safe, but a different feeling washed over him when he heard his master charge around the corner.
“What can I do for you kind sir?” Noah asked with a dreaded calm.
The man clearly hadn’t expected to see Noah to be standing there.
“Get out of my way, Servant.” Johnathon demanded, his clenched fists hanging dangerously at his sides.
“No.” He said with more force than he expected.
“What did you just say?” His master asked, his face twitching in frustration.
Noah looked Lord Johnathon in the eye and clarified, “I’m not moving.”
“I could have your head for disobeying me.” He threatened.
Noah felt himself stand taller. “That doesn’t matter.” He shot back in a deadly calm voice.
His master moved to slap him but Noah had expected it. He quickly caught Johnathon by the wrist, stopping his master completely. Noah did nothing to stop the intense feeling that bore through him.
Johnathon was startled by his action. A strange look crossed his face as he ripped his arm out of Noah’s grasp. Then suddenly, without warning his master started laughing at him. “You?” He said in a mixture of disbelief and rage. “You are no better than the dirt I walk on.”
Noah tried to remain composed, but his master’s next words alarmed him.
“You’re a slow one, aren’t you Coal.” The man spat in his direction. “I’m sure his Majesty would love to know why you, of all people, were there that night?”
“I’m sure his Majesty would love to know why you, of all people, demanded to be alone with his daughter.” Noah countered.
Again his master laughed, “Do you honestly believe that you’re in a position to threaten me? My family owns you and we can treat our property however we see fit.”
“But you will not treat her as you see fit.” It was Noah’s turn to issue a threat. He wasn’t sure what Johnathon was doing, but he was in no mood to be intimidated.
“Her?” The man jeered. “What is the Alminian Princess to you, Servant?”
He didn’t answer. He knew that by staying silent he was pouring oil onto the proverbial fire, but still he didn’t answer.
“You’ll do as I say, and get out of my way or else I shall kill you myself!” Johnathon vowed.
Just as Johnathon lunged at him the doors of the gallery burst open and palace guards rushed in.
Noah stilled at the appearance of the King, but Johnathon, blinded by rage, knocked him to the ground. Noah instinctively covered his face. He wanted to defend himself, but nothing would change the fact that he was still just a servant and they were now being watched.
“That is enough.” The voice of King Edward eventually roared.
At the King’s command his master finally sheathed his fists.
Lord Johnathon would not be punished for harming his servant; the law protected him. Also, there was also no actual evidence that he intended to harm the Princess.
Noah marveled at how his master blamed the whole situation on an inebriated misunderstanding. As punishment, the King confined him to the palace dungeons for two days and a night, to reflect upon his actions. Lord Johnathon apologetically accepted the terms and vowed to stay clear of all forms of alcohol.
The King ordered three guards to escort him out of the room.
The man named Stuart helped Noah to his feet. He grimaced at the pain that shot through his forearms, but he was glad that he hadn’t been knocked unconscious. Jim offered to guide him out of the palace, and to Noah’s surprise several guards offered their gratitude on his way out of the room.
Noah didn’t hear how Annabell was doing. Although it bothered him not to ask, he knew it wouldn’t have been proper to do so.
It was clear that Noah’s actions had cost him his position, but officially only Lady Cathliene could dismiss him. That made Noah wonder, what would he do until Sunday?