Chapter 26 – The Search
Chapter 26 – The Search
King Heralf walked along the docks of the Banli Port hoping that the sunset would help him calm down. It wasn’t working. He was still infuriated.
Freddrick arrived at the embassy that morning, like the ransom note had dictated, but there had been no Prince Phillip to barter with. Whoever had let him out of that room would be punished severely.
It was the look on Freddrick’s face that really made Heralf’s temper rise. That smug expression hinted that Freddrick already knew that his son wasn’t there. That bastard King had something to do with Phillip’s release, he just knew it.
Heralf had to find some way to shift things back in his favor.
He didn’t care that he had disowned Gwenwyn for her actions. Phillip was still his grandson and because of that fact Heralf wouldn’t quit until Phillip accepted his Rramnon bloodline. He would not loose the Trade Kingdom again.
Heralf looked back across the port and noticed that the Terrafein Royal Ship, The Kettu, was still docked. That bastard Freddrick and his grandson were still in Jodan.
There was still a chance.
He appointed one of his guards to watch the Kettu. It took several hours to get a ship that size ready to sail. If the Terrafeins were planning to leave, Heralf would know about it.
He turned to leave the port but noticed that a new ship was preparing to dock. At first, the appearance of the merchant ship didn’t cause for any concern, but the flag that it was flying made him look again.
The Swimming Otter, the national symbol of Alminia.
He moved closer, while they were securing the ship, so that he could watch the boat’s crew disembarked.
What he saw surprised him.
As the crew went about unloading the vessel, several Alminian guards stepped out from below deck. Heralf then watched as two women appeared from the first mate’s cabin.
One in particular caught his attention.
‘Princess Alexandria?’ He wondered.
What was an Alminian Royal doing in Jodan?
~~~ Change Character Focus
Alexandria didn’t expect being on the ship to feel as invigorating as it had been. At the end of the two-week journey she had found a little bit of herself wishing that the journey had taken longer.
The captain of The Gail had insisted that she and Tilly stay in their cabin while the crew was working on deck. Alexandria would have been happier if she could have walked across deck during the day, but she had to admit that being on the merchant ship was exhilarating.
When the Princess first stepped on the ship all she could think about was helping Noah. But by the time the sun set on their first day all thoughts of Noah’s rescue had disappeared from Alexandria’s mind.
It turned out that her escort, Tilly, was not as apt to life on the ship as Alexandria.
The poor girl was sea sick for most of the trip, and for the first time in her life, Alexandria found herself taking care of someone else. Tilly’s sickness actually helped keep Alexandria from constantly worrying about Noah.
The moment The Gail docked at the Banli Port, Alexandria’s sense of urgency returned. She wanted to rush over to the Rramnon embassy and demand to see Noah. She had read his letter nightly while Tilly slept fitfully, and had convinced herself that something horrible had happened to him.
Alexandria noticed the waning sun on the horizon and realized that she would have to wait until morning to see Noah. She remembered how his letter insisted on arriving prior to the end of September. That was tomorrow.
She couldn’t help but be worried.
“Hold on.” She caught herself saying as Tilly wobbled across the deck towards her. “Slow down, Tilly.” She cautioned, “Take it easy.”
“Many pardons, Highness.” Tilly apologized. The girl leaned against the railing, and tried to steady herself. “I don’t mean to be such a burden.”
Alexandria sighed in annoyance when she realized what Tilly had called her. “We’re back to ‘Highness’ now, are we?”
Tilly exhaled and her grip on the railing loosened slightly, “There are people watching, Highness. It wouldn’t be proper.”
“Tilly,” She began as she moved to help her escort disembark the ship. “Please just do as I say.”
“You’re right, forgive me.” Tilly conceded.
Her escort turned an odd shade of green as she hobbled across the ramp that led to the dock.
“Are you alright?” Alexandria asked worried.
“I’m-.” The girl began as she swayed back and forth.
Alexandria watched her escort carefully. “Tilly?” She inquired when she didn’t continue speaking.
Tilly collapsed suddenly next to her and Alexandria reached out to catch her.
“Tilly?” She shouted as she struggled to keep the girl upright. “Tilly?” Alexandria called again when Tilly’s eyes rolled back and her body fell limp.
Alexandria couldn’t support her escort any longer. Her knees buckled and she looked around frantically for assistance. Thankfully several guards rushed to her aid. One of them easily lifted Tilly off of her while two others helped Alexandria to her feet.
“Is she alright?” She asked the guard that was holding her escort.
The man stood there amazed and could only offer her a shrug.
“She be fine, Princess.” A member of the crew offered. She recognized him as Mr. Hila, the ship’s cook. He was an older gentle man that had sailed for many years, and enjoyed telling stories.
“How can you be certain, Mr. Hila?” She questioned as the guard that was holding Tilly walked off.
Mr. Hila shoved hands into his pockets and sent her a gap-toothed smile. “She a land spirit, dear Princess, now that she return’d thur she be fine in a day o’ two.”
Alexandria wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, but his words offered her comfort.
By the time they finally reached the Alminian Embassy, the sun had completely set. She made certain that Tilly had a decent room to rest in; Sky knew the poor girl deserved it.
For the first time since they had left for Jodan, Alexandria found herself alone with her thoughts. She sat on the windowsill and looked out at the buildings around her. Without a sick escort to occupy her attention, Alexandria’s mind was free to worry about other things.
One thing in particular.
She raked her mind and tried to figure out why Noah had been brought to Jodan.
Of all thirteen Kingdoms, Jodan was the only Kingdom known to insistently remain natural. Of all island Kingdoms it was by far the largest. Their symbol was the Striped Marlin, and it was justifiably so. Jodan lacked decent ports needed for trading, but the numerous amounts of sea life had labeled it the Fishing Kingdom.
She couldn’t help but notice that everything in Jodan smelled of fish.
But why was he there?
Alexandria looked up at the moon and couldn’t help but wonder if Noah could also see it. As she stared at it, she couldn’t help but think back to all of the memories that she had made with Noah. She remembered when Kimmie jump into his arms, and how it felt to be a breath away from him.
How it felt to share a breath with him.
She didn’t know what prompted her parents to allow her to come after Noah. Their message to the ambassador could have been sent by anyone. Why were they allowing her to do this?
In her few spare moments aboard The Gail, Alexandria tried to imagine what she might be doing, had she not met Noah that day at Madam Pumberly’s. She knew that admitting she loved a servant could cause an uprising among the members of Society. Still, even with the difficulties that that were bound occur, Alexandria knew that she rather face them with Noah than avoid them without him.
The idea of him not being a part of her life had become ridiculous.
No matter what happened, she knew she had to see him again.
~~~ Change Character Focus
Noah tied to comprehend everything that had happened to him. It had been twenty-four hours since he was rescued. Just one day ago he was pacing around a cold stark room with bars on the window and now he in a room bigger than the entire kitchen at the Montego Manor.
He sat on the windowsill and stared out at the night sky. He couldn’t bring himself to lie down on the bed. It was massive, too soft to touch, and he didn’t believe that he deserved it.
Who would have guessed it?
Noah felt like he was part of an elaborate lie. Like he was a fraud, but no matter how many questions King Freddrick asked him, or he asked King Freddrick, it seemed that Queen Gwenwyn Helena Annanet Lyonal was also Nanna Jenkins.
Why didn’t his mother tell him?
It hurt that his mother hadn’t trusted him, hadn’t prepared him.
King Freddrick said that he had insisted she go into hiding, but after a particularly vicious attack, her body had been found in the smoldering embers outside the sanctuary.
Well, the body of a blonde female, wearing the Queen’s wedding band, had been found. Phillip was two and a half years old at the time.
Noah just couldn’t seem to believe it.
He had a father.
He had a brother.
He had a family that he never even knew existed, and they were titled.
His brother was the Crowned Prince of Terrafeuw, Philip Gregory Marcus Lyonal, and that meant that he was a...
Noah ran his hands through his hair and then gazed back at the night sky.
How could it be the same sky? After everything had changed, how could the sky taunt him with its consistency? Not one star seemed out of place.
Noah couldn’t help but think about her. She was a Princess and now that he knew he was a... a...
He still couldn’t even begin to comprehend it.
There was nothing he wanted more than to be with the girl who was endlessly on his mind. What if being with Annabell meant putting her in the direct path of danger?
All three of them agreed that they would keep his existence a secret. King Heralf was already unpredictable because of Phillip; no one wanted to contemplate what might happen if he knew about Noah as well.
“Are you still awake?” An eerily familiar voice called from across the room. Noah turned to see Philip standing by the door.
“It would appear that way.” Noah responded turning back towards the window.
“Can I come in?” He asked.
Noah could almost feel Phillip’s nervousness and he shifted from side to side at the doorway.
“No one has ever asked my permission before.” He informed. Phillip didn’t respond so Noah looked back at him and noticed that he seemed confused by Noah’s statement. “I’m not accustomed to this.” He clarified, motioning to the grandeur of the space.
“I guess not.” Phillip realized a few moments later. When Noah didn’t respond he repeated his question. “Can I come in?”
Somehow Noah understood what he wanted. “You have questions.”
“Then ask them.” Noah prompted, motioning for him to enter.
Philip ran a hand through his hair, but remained still. “I’m not sure that I’ll be able to trust your answers.” He admitted.
Noah wasn’t sure what was going through Phillip’s head, but he honestly didn’t care. “Ask anyway.” He encouraged.
“I grew up believing that my mother died when I was two.” Phillip explained. “My childhood was made up of war, and betrayal. My own curiosity is what saved you the other day, but I can’t trust a word that you say.”
“Ask anyway.” Noah repeated.
“I just told you that I wouldn’t be able to believe you.” Phillip chastised.
Noah ran his hands through his hair in slight frustration. “And yet you’re still standing at the door, seeking answers.” He shot back. “Why?”
“Curiosity.” Phillip clarified.
“So?” Noah asked as he re-situated himself on the windowsill, “What did you want to know?”
“What was she like?” Phillip frowned at his own question and then explained, “I’ve seen her portrait. I know what she looked like, but I don’t remember her. What was she like, as a person?”
“She was stubborn.” Noah answered as Philip finally walked into the room. “She hated wearing shoes. Once Lady Cathliene renamed her she only ever answered to Nanna, or Mom. She saw things differently.”
“How so?” Phillip wondered as he sat on the edge of the bed, so that he was directly across form Noah.
“When I was about seven, maybe eight years old, my Masters broke something and I was punished for it.” He clenched his hands in anger at the memory, “I was so mad that I almost started a fight with them, but she caught me before I could do anything, and she told me to let go of my anger.”
“You would have been punished further if you had hit them.” Phillip stated simply.
“She didn’t tell me that because she feared the repercussions.” Noah said, as he unclenched his fists and released his anger towards his masters, “She insisted that any action taken solely in anger, would become an action that we regret.”
“So, what did you do?”
“I calmed down enough to realize that I didn’t need to punish them.”
Phillip’s brow furled. “Why not?”
“You can’t change someone’s nature by hurting them.” He answered easily. “They never apologized to me before. Why would they after I beat them?”
“What else do you remember about our mother?” Phillip asked in wonder.
The word our caught Noah by surprise. He still wasn’t use to having to share her.
“She was strong.” He informed after a moment, “I don’t have one memory of her complaining, or crying about anything. Knowing what I know now, I can’t even fathom the pain that she must have gone through.”
A temporary silence fell, until Phillip asked, “How did she die?”
“I don’t know.” Noah confessed sadly.
Philip didn’t like his answer. “What do you mean you don’t know?” He spat in frustration.
“We couldn’t afford a doctor,” Noah shot back. “It just seemed to happen so suddenly. I hardly remember anything about her passing.”
The silence between them was so thick that Noah could feel the tension.
Philip was the first to break the strain. “What do you remember?” He asked softly.
“She was becoming more and more tired.” He started, “It had become harder and harder for her to do the simplest of tasks. I didn’t want Lady Cathliene to kick us out. So, I agreed to take over her shifts, until she felt better. But she never felt better; she just kept getting weaker. One day she could barely lift herself off of the bed, a few hours later she was gone. If I had known, I would have spent more time with her.”
“You shouldn’t have had to grow up that way.” Phillip declared.
“But I did.” Noah said flatly. “I may miss her, but I don’t regret growing up the way that I did.”
Philip looked at him curiously, before a knowing smile found its way to his face. “What’s her name?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Noah denied, as he tried to hide his face from Phillip.
“We may have found out that we are related the other day, but I can easily read your emotions. It’s like looking in the mirror.” He informed. “What’s her name?”
Noah realized the truth in Phillip’s words. It explained how he could understand Phillip so easily. If one didn’t count the repercussion from a lifetime of beatings, Noah and Phillip had nearly identical faces. Phillip was just older by two and a half years, and his eyes were green instead of blue.
“Her name is Annabell.” Noah admitted before realizing that his Annabell, Princess Alexandria, was the same Princess that his brother was engaged to. He didn’t like knowing that.
“Wait,” Phillip realized, “Annabell? Lady Annabell, from your story?”
Noah was glad that Phillip still believed that they were two different people. “Yes.” He agreed.
“What’s the problem?” Phillip wondered.
“The original problem was the fact that I was a servant.” Noah confessed.
“And...now that you’re a Prince?” He asked.
“Don’t call me that.” Noah insisted.
Philip laughed at his reaction, “You can’t avoid it.” He advised.
“But I can’t accept it either.” Noah rebuked, “It’s a secret until Freddrick...”
“Father.” Phillip corrected.
Noah didn’t acknowledge the correction, “...until he informs us that it is safe to tell others.”
“What are you going to do until then?” Phillip inquired.
‘I’m not going to think about your engagement.’ Noah thought loudly, glad that Phillip could only read his emotions, not his mind. “My mother was a governess and my father was a guard.” Noah accepted realizing what keeping the secret meant, “I can remain a servant.”
“What about your Annabell?”
“I can’t risk her safety.” He confessed.
Phillip didn’t appear to agree with Noah’s acceptance of servitude, but he didn’t argue against him.
“Now, you tell me.” Noah demanded.
“Tell you what?” Phillip asked confused.
“You had a picture,” Noah reminded, “I barely had a name.”
“You want to know about father?” Phillip clarified.
“What can you tell me?”
Noah and Phillip stayed up for most of the night, each of them reliving their past for the other. It surprised Noah how alike they were, even though they had vastly different upbringings.