Chapter 23 – Taken: Out of Context
Chapter 23 – Taken: Out of Context
Things were getting interesting.
He now knew that there were rumors circulating about Princess Alexandria being engaged to the Terrafein Prince. That wouldn’t do.
The last thing he had needed was for a blood union to from between those two Kingdoms.
Alminia had refused to trade their metal ore with Rramnon for well over a decade. Without the superior iron located in the Alminia Mountains, the Rramnon blacksmiths were unable to produce adequate weapons, and thus the war all those years ago became futile. The alliance between Terrafeuw and Alminia was still uncertain but it was strong enough to force the Rramnon King to sign that blasted treaty. King Heralf had refused to admit defeat, and the call to cease fighting was pathetic.
The moment the invitations for the Alminian Princess’s Ball had arrived at the Palace, he had started scheming. He had been disappointed to hear that the Prince Philip’s ship had not arrived at either of the Alminian Ports. There had been rumors of Philip being at the Ball, but how had he arrived?
The union between the two kingdoms was a risk. That was why it hadn’t been announced yet.
But perhaps the rumor was just that, a rumor.
He remembered that the announcement at the Ball had stated that the Princess would be choosing a husband from ten suitors she had met that night. His youngest son had been lucky enough to be one of those men.
Perhaps there was hope for them after all.
A bitter taste found its way to his mouth as memories of what his daughter had done raced back into him. She had always obeyed her father, and even agreed to travel to Terrafeuw and try to woo the aging King Greggory (a man nearly thrice her age). While there she would secure the trade ports for Rramnon, but she had taken too long to do so.
King Griggory died suddenly one night leaving the King’s bastard to ascend the throne. He realized then that he could take the Kingdom by force rather than by marriage, and had tried to use his daughter as a spy within the Terrain Castle, but she had betrayed them all.
The stupid girl had claimed that she had fallen in love with the bastard King, but Heralf wouldn’t have his daughter sully herself just so that he could have the trade Kingdom. She ended up dying during the war between Terrafeuw and Rramnon.
He was walking down the halls, trying to rid himself of the past, when his ears caught a particular sound of laughter in the distance.
‘A pair in the midst of their courtship.’ He thought to himself.
Their ignorant bliss annoyed him. He decided that he would give them a wide berth, but just as he turned down a separate hallway the girl spoke.
He looked up with confusion. At his old age his eyes could not make out their faces, but his ears worked just fine. He was quite positive that the voice belonged to Princess Alexandria, but who was she with?
‘The mysterious 10th Suitor.’ He had been able to find out information on all the other suitors, but no matter how hard he looked he hadn’t been able to learn anything about the man that was currently with Princess Alexandria.
The two were clearly besotted with each other.
He had not planned for the Princess to fall in love so quickly.
Something had to be done about this.
They were still walking towards his direction, and as they neared he was able to hear their actual conversation.
From his hiding place, he heard the Princess first. “What will happen after today?”
“I must head back tomorrow.” The young man said with a hint of sadness. “I don’t know when I will see you again.”
That voice? He had heard it before, most likely at the ball, but to whom did it belong?
“This isn’t fair,” She complained, “I don’t want you to go back there, it’s not-.”
“I know.” He interrupted, “but there are things that I have to take care of first.”
Take care of? Who was this young man? Their footsteps stopped inches from the hallway where he was hiding. He peeked towards the two and noticed that they were too engaged with each other to see him.
The Princess’s back was facing him, and he was able to catch a glimpse of the young man.
It was him.
The lad may have been wearing a mask at the Princess’s Ball, but Heralf was positive that it was the same man she had been in deep conversation with during that night. He had tried listening to them, but that impudent young man had noticed and quickly left the room with her.
“I want you to have this.” He reached out and handed Princess Alexandria a small white cloth.
“But I gave that to you, at the Ball.”
“And I...” He started.
Keep it.” She said sadly.
Was the man trying to return her favor? Did he wish to remove himself from the competition for her hand? That would be a blessing indeed.
“I made that one just for you.” The Princess insisted, pushing it back into his hands, “The symbol is different from the other ones.”
The words caught him off guard, and he listened closer.
“All the other favors had the symbol of Alminia on them, but this one,” she paused as she turned it over in their intertwined hands, “it has the symbol of your Kingdom on it.”
“The Sleeping Fox.” The young man said as he ran a finger over the embroidery.
Had he just heard that right, the Sleeping Fox? He knew that symbol well. It meant that the young man was a Terrafein.
“It doesn’t matter who you pretended to be.” She kindly scolded as she forced the handkerchief back into his hands, “This is who you are.”
The Terrafein’s response was quieter than he had expected. He was only able to catch the words: danger, promise, and secret. Those three words intrigued him even more.
Who was this man?
“Don’t worry,” The princess responded solemnly, “I won’t tell.”
The clocked chimed the hour and he looked about worried. “I must bid you good day now.” The man bowed to the Princess and started to walk away.
“Wait.” She called to him. He stopped and turned towards her. “I must tell you something.” She rushed towards the man who was leaving and wrapped herself around him.
The scene was a bit dramatic for his taste. He moved to the other side of the hall so that he wouldn’t be seen, and relied on his hearing to gather more information.
“The day I met you, do you remember it?” She asked almost desperately.
“You mean the day I lied to you about being a Lord?” The Terrafein chuckled. “Yes, I remember it.”
“Before we were introduced, can you guess what I was thinking?”
“What were you thinking, Princess?” The young man’s voice had changed. His voice had become more proper, and much more familiar.
But why would his voice sound more familiar?
“I was thinking,” the Princess said catching his attention, “that even though you were only dressed up as a Lord, you looked like a Prince.”
The man searched his thoughts for all of the rumors and gossip that he had heard over the last few weeks.
There had been speculations of Philip being at the Ball. The man currently in the hall with the Princess had been at the Ball. He remembered how the young man’s outfit had matched the Princess’s first one. Had they had planned it that way? Still, Prince’s Ship was not in one of the Alminian Ports.
Had he snuck into Alminia? There were many Terrafein trading ships he could have sailed on.
The last time he had seen Philip was when he signed the treaty between Terrafeuw and Rramnon. The lad had been nearly eleven at the time.
He quickly glanced at the man in the hall once again; King Heralf couldn’t help but notice the similarities.
Turning back to his hiding spot, Heralf couldn’t help but wonder how had he not seen it before?
The lad had possessed all the traits. His hair was the same shade as Gwenwyn’s. He was easily as tall as that bastard King of a father. He had the same sharp aristocratic features that graced all Rramnon Royalty. Heralf was so certain of the boy’s lineage that even with his fading sight, he knew the color of the boy’s eyes.
Philip had inherited his mother’s, and therefore his grandfather’s eyes. At first, King Heralf had been not been pleased to see the Egger family trait on that bastard King’s son. Later as the years past and his own sons fathered no heir to the throne, he began to see it in a different way. The blood of an Egger was so pure; that even the son of a bastard King was fit to rule.
Rramnon needed a ruler that could produce sons. His eldest had disappointingly produced two daughters, and the other’s hadn’t produced offspring at all. Gwenwyn had given him a grandson. Rramnon needed the assurance of a male heir.
That was why he wanted Philip. He was the only male grandchild Heralf possessed.
He went to look at the pair one more time, but the Princess and his grandson had vanished.
Heralf couldn’t believe his luck, he finally found the elusive Philip, and he was going to use him to remind Freddrick of everything that he had stolen from him.
~~~ Change Character Focus, Sunday
Alexandria’s emotions were caught between overwhelming sorrow and complete happiness.
He had left.
Noah had to return to Durseman Peak, where he would be punished for his actions.
Alexandria was starting to despise the Servant Discipline Law. She once thought that it was essential to keep order between the classes. She hadn’t thought that it could be used as a way to torment those in servitude, but her mother had. Queen Valerie had openly shown distaste for the law. Her mother had fought rather passionately to have it removed, but the Advisors had insisted that it was essential. If member’s of Society could not punish their servants, then who would?
At the time Alexandria had agreed with the Alminian Advisors. She hadn’t realized that it meant that members of Society could beat their servants without justification.
It also meant that by disobeying his master’s direct order, even if it meant protecting the Princess’s virtue, Noah would be reprimanded and then lose his position. And yet Alexandria couldn’t be completely unhappy. She was glad that Noah wouldn’t be working for those people any longer.
They didn’t deserve him.
She thought back to the moment they had shared in the cave, which had turned into several moments later on, and couldn’t help the blush that found it’s way to her cheeks.
It had surprised her to learn that he was claustrophobic. She wondered how that had happened. Noah hadn’t told her much about his fear; he had barely talked at all. He hadn’t been able to, but in that moment just before they entered the tunnel she had learned much about him.
Noah was persistent.
He was stubborn, and yet thoughtful of her.
He was terrified to the point of loosing his voice, but he found the courage to continue.
That was why she told him about being afraid of thunder. She believed that they should face their fears together.
It was also why she had kissed him.
Once they were out of the tunnel, she saw how the tension that he had been carrying simply melted away from his shoulders. He quickly returned to his teasing self, until he...
Alexandria knew why she had kissed him. She had wanted to offer him comfort.
‘No.’ She heard herself chastise.
She had kissed him simply because she had wanted to.
‘No.’ She corrected herself once again.
She needed to kiss him. She was constantly pulled by this unknown desire to be closer to Noah.
But why had he kissed her?
Had he felt the same pull? Did he have that same intense and sudden need to be closer to her?
Alexandria remembered how his hand had grabbed hers before they entered the tunnel and she smiled. He had been seeking comfort in her.
Why did she question it?
Did she start to doubt his intention because the lack of his presence confused her?
Without her asking, Noah had proven his feelings for her over and over again. He had protected her, denied his master’s order for her, faced his fears for her, and he was even going to be punished for her. For that debt, Alexandria couldn’t help but wonder.
Did she deserve Noah?
~~~ Change Character Focus, Monday Morning
Noah groaned as he forced himself to sit up. His back screamed in protest, but he refused to remain still. It was a new day and he had to find work before the Montego’s could do any further damage.
Cook, Rosemary, and Ginger had surprised him when it was time for him to leave the manor. Ginger had gathered all of his belongings; Rosemary packed him a crust of bread and a small hunk of cheese, while Cook set his back for his journey back to town.
Bert and Annie Byrns had offered him a place to sleep for the night, and Noah promised to be out by the time customers arrived. At first they were against him leaving, but those two had three sons to feed, they didn’t need another.
He quickly went through his few possessions.
Willaminia had refused to take back the outfit that she had lent him the other day, so Noah had decided to sell it. It would be hard to explain to a potential master why he had such an outfit, and he would need the money incase the Montego’s had already blackened his name.
He grabbed the history book that his mother had bought him on his tenth birthday. It was by far the most beautiful thing that Noah owned. He knew that his mother must have spent all of her wages on the book. When she had gotten sick he had begged her to sell if for medicine but she refused. He opened the book one last time, and memories of his mother moved through him like the pages moved through his fingers.
As he flipped through it, his mother’s necklace slid out. He had hid it in the book after her death. It was the one thing that he owned that had any relevance to his father. Noah had hated the man for a full year after his mother’s death, but he couldn’t bring himself to throw it away. So, he had slipped it between the pages of his book and used it to mark his place. He could never bring himself to truly look at it.
From the few times that glanced it from the corner of his eyes, Noah knew that it was an animal, maybe a cat of some kind. Noah place the pendent around his neck, without studying it, shoved his money in the only pocket that didn’t have a hole, placed the book on the counter for the Byrn’s to give to Otis, and made his way to the back door.
“Wait! I want you to know something.”
The memory rushed back and Noah had to brace himself against the doorframe. Perhaps the pain was making him delirious.
“The day I met you, do you remember it?”
He could almost feel her wrap her arms around him.
“You mean when I lied to you about being a Lord?” He heard himself repeat. “Yes, I remember it.”
“Before we were introduced, can you guess what I was thinking?” He wasn’t sure why she had asked that.
He had changed his voice to mimic a Nobleman. “What were you thinking, Princess?”
“I was thinking,” She said ignoring his jest, “that even though you were only dressed up as a Lord, you looked like a Prince.”
He had grabbed her wrist and pulled her closer, “But that’s not who I am.” He whispered.
"I know.” She smiled up at him; her hazel eyes were filled conflicting emotions. “You’re much more than that to me.”
Whether it was it the words, they way she smiled, his complete foolishness, or just how close he had been to her; he didn’t care.
Noah didn’t even checked to see if they were alone in the hallway before he kissed her again.
It was not the same as the few kisses they had shared in the cave earlier, this was different. He knew that even though they weren’t speaking they were somehow sharing everything.
He was desperate. She was worried.
She gave him confidence. He gave her strength.
They shared both their uncertainty, and their need.
It was the most exhilarating thing that he’d ever experienced in his life, and he could tell that they were both trying to hold on to that feeling. He had wanted to pull her closer to him, but something told him that they were being watched. He had placed his hands on her shoulders, and broke the contact between them.
He remember how a slight groan of disappointment escape her when they pulled apart, and for the briefest of seconds Noah didn’t care about being watched.
Reason won out in the end, and she had walked with him towards the palace cells, where the King and Queen were waiting for him to retrieve his master.
Lord Johnathon hadn’t question Noah’s attire, he barely paid him any attention.
Ronald had been awake when they finally had returned to the inn. Someone had dropped of treats for him that had caused him to pass out for most of the day. Noah had a sneaking suspicion that Kimmie had already known about the treats.
“Heading out already.” Annie Byrns voice called out pulling Noah’s thoughts from the past. “I could fix you something to eat before you head out.” She offered.
Noah turned to face her and silently cursed the twinge in his back, “I’ll be fine Annie.” He insisted, forcing himself to smile at her.
She walked up and gave him a big hug. Noah couldn’t help the gasp that escaped him from the pain that shot through his back. Annie backed away quickly, “I’m sorry I completely forgot.” She apologized. “Do you want me to check your bandages?”
It took him a while to collect himself. “No, it’s alright.” He forced out.
“Noah,” She cautioned.
He held up a hand, “They whipped me, but they didn’t kill me.” He said stubbornly. She frowned but he wouldn’t let her worry. “Go wake up those boys of yours, don’t concern yourself with me.”
Annie deliberated his words, but finally said. “Take care of yourself.”
She turned quickly and headed to the back of the shop.
“I will,” He called to her back before turning and exiting the shop.
A carriage passed by him slowly, but Noah noticed that it was heading the wrong direction. He was watching it with confusion when it stopped suddenly in front of him, “Are you lost, sir?” He asked the driver.
The carriage door opened slowly and instinctively Noah dropped his eyes.
It was the voice that caused Noah looked up, but before he saw the man’s face his world went black.