Chapter 28 – Truths, Lies, and Scars
Chapter 28 – Truths, Lies, and Scars
Shortly after Alexandria managed to push her body into a sitting position, the door opened and a large man in a Rramnon guard uniform walked in. His body filled the doorway and his grim expression gave him a rather mincing appearance. The guard motioned for her to follow him.
Alexandria struggled to stand. She had no intention of disobeying the giant sized man, but she was still disoriented for her earlier ordeal.
What happened exactly?
She remembered the struggle, but she couldn’t remember being placed in the jail like room.
Alexandria glanced briefly at the man that waited silently for her to regain her footing. The human giant didn’t offer her any sympathy, nor did he show her any formalities.
He didn’t help her to stand, nor did he assist her to the door. The large guard didn’t seem intent on hurting her, but neither did he tell her where he was taking her, or what was going to happen next.
He led her out of the cold bare room, through a cold bare hallway, and up a cold bare staircase. Occasionally he would pause so that her unstable steps could catch up with him, but he never turned to check if she was still following him.
She didn’t plan on trying to make a run for it.
Alexandria knew that she was still much too weak to make it far from the large guard, but another need enticed her to remain obedient.
She wanted answers, and the only way she would get any, would be to follow the silent giant in front of her.
They traveled down several hallways, and heat slowly began to warm Alexandria’s frigid body. Stone floors transformed into dark green tile and tapestries began to decorate the cold bare walls. Banners and statues honoring the Watchful Hawk indicated that she was still in the Rramnon Embassy.
It was bigger than she remembered.
Her guard stopped at a pair of enormous, solid black walnut doors and motioned for her to proceed. The thought of passing through such foreboding doors was more than a little unnerving for her.
Alexandria was still debating entering when the doors in front of her opened, and the giant guard practically shoved her inside.
“Princess Alexandria Maxine Georgiana Bell,” A voice beckoned happily. “I am delighted that you could join me.”
Alexandria turned and noticed that it was King Heralf himself that had invited her into the room. The man, though ridged, appeared to be in a strangely pleasant mood.
“Forgive me, your Majesty,” she shot back spitefully, “I don’t seem to share you enthusiasm about this meeting.”
“Of course not.” He agreed while managing to keep a happy tone in his voice. “I do apologize for earlier.”
“You apologize?” Alexandria felt a prickle of anger rush down her spine. “Pardon me, your Majesty, if I find no comfort in your words.”
“Please excuse my conduct.” He stated, in that increasingly annoying happy tone.
Alexandria couldn’t help the laugh that escaped her. “I’ve been drugged, and locked in a room.” She reminded, “How long have I been unconscious?”
Before he answered her, Alexandria’s legs gave out and she plopped helplessly to the floor. Her anger had exhausted what little energy she seemed to have gain since waking up.
“To an Alminian, my actions may appear forceful, but you must realize that they were quiet necessary given your sudden appearance.”
Her fury was temporarily doused by her exhaustion. “I don’t understand.” She stammered.
“How long have you and Philip secretly been seeing each other?” He demanded.
“Who?” Alexandria asked as she blinked at him in confusion.
“The Crowned Prince of Terrafeuw.” His words were slower, as if he was trying to get his point across. Alexandria realized whom he was talking about. She wearily informed him that she hadn’t met Prince Phillip. “You have been seen you conversing with him, your Highness.” King Heralf accused, “How do you explain that?”
Alexandria was taken aback by his words. “Either your informant was mistaken, or I didn’t know it was him, Sire.”
“Then how did you know that he’d been here?” He demanded, standing suddenly. His happy demeanor was replaced with agitation.
“Prince Phillip is here?” Alexandria asked in confusion. Nothing he said made any sense.
“Don’t act coy Princess.” King Heralf shot, “It doesn’t suit you.”
Silence hung in the air momentarily until King Heralf continued, “He was here,” he explained, “but we discovered yesterday morning that he had gone missing.”
Alexandria stared at the King blankly, before asking. “King Heralf, why is it that you think I came this morning?”
“Can you not find your precious fiancé either, Princess?” There was a hint of disdain in his voice. “Has he run away from you as well?” King Heralf paused to laugh to himself, “I suppose that the rumors of the Terrafein Noblewoman winning his heart are true. Tell me, Highness, have you heard of Lady Annabell?”
Alexandria froze and words from Noah’s letter rushed back to her.
...once certain things come to light, I am not certain that my ‘new friends’ will wish for me to return home. Not without an assurance of my character...
King Heralf had mistaken Noah for Prince Philip, somehow.
What had King Heralf said earlier?
“He was here but we discovered yesterday morning that he had gone missing.”
Noah was no longer there.
Oh, thank the Sky.
“You look relieved, Princess.” The King of Rramnon laughed, his happy attitude returned, “Tell me do you find this new information a relief? Is it because you fancy someone else?”
Alexandria disregarded King Heralf’s inferences.
If Noah had managed to escape the Rramnon embassy there was no reason for her to stay. She had to get out of there, so that she could find him.
“Your Majesty-, ” Alexandria started. She stood slowly and brushed of her skirts in as dignified a manner as she was able, but before she could politely excuse herself from the King’s presence the large black doors opened again.
“The King of Terrafeuw, Freddrick James Lyonal.” A steward introduced.
The man that entered appeared to be the same age as her father. His hair was light, but it was his eyes that caught her attention.
They were nearly the same shade of blue as Noah’s.
How could that be possible?
Was she hallucinating again?
“Freddrick,” King Heralf stated, dismissively. “How good of you to join us.”
Alexandria stood still in confusion.
What was going on?
“King Heralf,” King Freddrick said, offering the courtesy of a title to the man that had denied him his. “Why have you requested my presence this time?”
“There is no use for pleasantries, Freddrick.” King Heralf spat distastefully. “We both know what I’ve been after for quite some time.”
The Terrafein King sighed as if he were talking to stubborn child. “That’s his decision to make, and unfortunately, he’s not here.”
“Not here?” King Heralf laughed, “Have you’ve sent him off, already?”
“Prince Philip never left Terrafeuw.” King Freddrick stated calmly.
“He’s here,” The Rramnon King shot back, “I know he is.”
“What proof do you have?” King Freddrick asked skeptically.
King Heralf pointed in her direction, “I have her.”
Suddenly Alexandria felt both pairs of eyes hone in on her.
“And who might you be, my Lady?” King Freddrick asked, his voice still unaffected by King Heralf’s accusations.
“Princess Alexandria, of Alminia?” She managed to answer.
King Freddrick’s eyes lightened at her response. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Highness.”
“Princess,” King Heralf called out to her. “Would you please tell us the name of the Terrafein Noble you mentioned to me earlier?”
Something about King Freddrick told her to tell the truth. Alexandria didn’t question what she saw. She quickly turned back to King Heralf and said, “He wasn’t a Noble.”
She felt King Freddrick smile at her words, but King Heralf paled at them.
“I beg your pardon, Princess,” He corrected, “I distinctly remember you saying that-”
“What I said, your Highness” Alexandria reminded, “is that a friend of mine informed me he was here. I never said he was a Noble.”
“Then who was the Terrafein you were seen speaking with on the tenth suitor’s day?” King Heralf accused proudly.
She couldn’t answer.
Had he been spying on her?
“I believe I can answer that.” King Freddrick informed indifferently.
King Heralf glanced at him doubtfully, “How so?”
“By setting all of the rumors straight.” He stated.
King Heralf stared at King Freddrick for a moment with apprehension,
“Princess Alexandria’s presence at your embassy can only mean that your informants have told you of the blood treaty between Alminia and Terrafeuw.” King Heralf replied that he had heard such a rumor. “When it was realized that both my son and Princess Alexandria were sole heirs, the treaty had to be rectified. Such a bond could be dangerous for both Kingdoms.”
King Heralf asked how the treaty had been rectified.
“It had been decided,” King Freddrick continued, “That should either of them find suitor prior to one year after Princess Alexandria’s day of eligibility, then the treaty would be able to stand without need for a blood bond.”
“Is that so?” King Heralf asked skeptically.
“What he says is correct, your Majesty.” Alexandria offered.
“Then who was the man at the ball?” He shot back.
Alexandria wasn’t sure what man King Heralf was asking about, but it was clear King Freddrick knew.
“He was a messenger, a member of my Royal Guard.” He offered, “He was sent to Alminia with specific instructions. He was to watch over the Princess at the Ball, as well as during the suitor selection. He was to return to Terrafeuw before the New Year with his report.”
King Heralf clearly didn’t believe King Freddrick’s words, and Alexandria was too confused to offer any assistance.
“However,” King Freddrick continued, “He disobeyed his orders and his commanding officer punished him for it on the day before he was abducted.”
Noah, Alexandria realized. King Freddrick was fabricating a story about Noah.
“What orders did this guard disobey?” King Heralf wondered.
“He fell in love with me.” Alexandria answered, passionately.
Both men looked at her in wonderment, but she didn’t retract her statement.
“He pretended to be a Nobel.” She continued, using the truth to strengthen King Freddrick’s lie. “He courted me at my own Ball, and I chose him as my tenth suitor.”
A flash of some memory appeared on King Heralf’s face. “This guard... is he here?”
“He is.” King Freddrick answered unemotionally.
“I shall see him.” King Heralf demanded.
Alexandria’s heart flickered. Noah was there, with King Freddrick, but how?
King Freddrick paled slightly. “Why?”
“You forget, Freddrick,” Heralf warned, “Jodan may be insistently neutral, but you are on Rramnon soil at the moment. You must answer to me while you are here.” He chided with a laugh. “I won’t lie to you, I tried to bring Phillip here so that I could convince him to take up the Rramnon crown. If I mistook a mere guard for my grandson then you can’t deny me when I demand proof of my misjudgment.”
The Terrafein King seemed to be battling something, but the reality of King Heralf’s words eventually sank in. He turned to the steward “Please inform Guard Jenkins, that his presence is requested.”
Alexandria’s eyes darted towards the doors and familiar shivers raced across her back the moment he stepped into view.
“You called, Sire?” His voice was firm, and his manners appeared more ridged than when he had acted as a servant. His eyes momentarily darted towards her, but he forced them back on King Freddrick. There was a determination in his ever-changing ice blue.
“Are you trying to convince me that this young man is a guard?” King Heralf scoffed, “Playing dress up again are you Philip?”
Alexandria couldn’t speak; she couldn’t take her eyes, off of Noah. The Sky forbid what might happen if he looked back at her because she wouldn’t be able to stop herself from running to him.
“Guard Jenkins, please inform King Heralf of your entire name.” King Freddrick commanded.
“Noah Flint Jenkins.” He answered flatly.
Alexandria remembered the initials on the letter.
Flint, that was his middle name.
King Heralf didn’t seem convinced. “I can understand your confusion, King Heralf.” King Freddrick continued. “My son and Guard Jenkins have similar appearances, but he was just a guard.”
King Heralf demanded that King Freddrick clarify his statement. “What do you mean he was?”
“As stated earlier,” He reminded,” Guard Jenkins was reprimanded for his actions. He was stripped of his rank and received punishment for his disobedience.”
“What punishment did you receive for impersonating a Noble?” King Heralf asked Noah. His voice was filled with spite.
Noah appeared startled by the question.
“King Heralf,” King Freddrick interjected. “Perhaps this matter can wait until there is not a lady present in the room.
The two noblemen glanced towards Alexandria while Noah kept his eyes forced on the ground as if he was ashamed.
“Princess Alexandria,” King Heralf informed, as he motioned for the steward, “please wait in the foyer until this business is handled. There is still much I wish to ask you.”
Alexandria was ushered out of the room by a ridged old man. Her giant guard returned to watch her as the large black walnut doors closed and officially excluded her from the conversation between the three men on the other side.
She couldn’t have been more confused.
To calm herself, Alexandria reminded herself of what she knew to be true.
Noah had been captured, and through some unknown means he had managed to escape. King Freddrick was helping Noah prove his identity, but was lying to King Heralf in the process.
Alexandria pushed the question out of her mind and continued to focus on facts.
King Heralf wanted Prince Phillip so much so that he kidnapped a servant that looked like him.
Looked like him...looked like a prince.
Alexandria remembered when she had told Noah that he had looked like a prince. Had King Heralf or one of his spies, over heard her. Was that why Noah had been taken because she told him that he looked like a prince? Was all of this her fault?
She stood instantly and began to pace nervously.
The large silent guard watched her intently, but she had no desire to leave. She needed to see Noah; needed to know what was going on behind those closed doors. What was happening?
Seconds of pacing turned into minutes, and those minutes achingly turned into an entire hour.
Alexandria watched as the moon claimed higher and higher in the night sky and her anxiety only grew with it. She could hardly guess what was going on in the other room.
Eventually the rigid old steward came out to inform her that King Heralf apologized greatly for the inconvenience, but all of the questions that he wish to inquire about had already been answered. She was allowed to leave.
But she didn’t leave.
She had walked there that morning and could not return in the same manner at such a late hour. Besides, Noah was still behind those large opposing doors.
~~~ Change Character Focus
Philip stared out of the window as the rain began to pour. The storm had rolled in shortly after his father and Noah left the embassy. He felt someone’s gaze and glanced back, only to see Noah’s young escort friend staring in his direction with intense concentration.
She appeared to be deep in thought, but a question crossed Phillip’s mind and he had to ask. “Why did the Princess go to there alone?”
She blinked several times before she answered in a timid voice. “Princess Alexandria has a big heart, but she can be obstinate about her independence. I lost consciousness the day our ship landed. When I revived I was informed that she had already departed for the Embassy with the promise to return after lunch. ”
“And yet you knew,” Phillip charged, “You knew that something had happened to her.”
The teenager stared at him blankly and then realized that he was accusing her. “I waited for two hours, Highness.” She explained, “Princess Alexandria did not return. I became frantic, but I didn’t know why. The guards insured me that it was too soon to tell. Perhaps she lost track of time, or perhaps she stayed for lunch. Now with this rain...”
He noticed the fear in her eyes as her voice trailed off into a whisper. The girl was scared for her Mistress, he decided, genuinely scared. She wasn’t lying.
“How well do you know Noah?′ He asked changing the subject
She paled slightly at his question. “I don’t understand, Highness.”
“When you collapsed earlier,” he explained, “Noah explained that you were a friend, but how well do you know him?”
“Are you accusing Noah of being responsible for Princess Alexandria’s disappearance, your Highness?” She wondered amazedly. Her voice was still timid, but it was coated with ferocity.
Phillip sat a little straighter, “I merely wish to better understand his character.” He insisted.
The girl eyed him carefully, but finally yielded and told Phillip more about the person he now called his brother. “When Noah and his mother first arrived in Alminia they were taken in by a woman named Annie Byrns. She and her husband helped Noah’s mom find a position that would allow her to keep her young son.”
Philip wondered why Noah hadn’t told him this himself since their mother was involved, but he wasn’t given time to ask. The escort wasn’t finished telling her story.
“A Governess’s potion became vacant at the Manchester household. The Byrns advised Noah’s mother not to take it, but she did anyway. It was a demanding position that required considerable resilience from both of them, more so on Noah once his mother passed, but neither of them ever openly complained.” She scoffed at the memory; “I still remember the first time I saw Noah. He had a busted lip, a black eye, and the kindest smile I had ever seen. That was ten years ago.′
“Had he been beaten?” Phillip asked unable to hide the concern in his voice.
Tilly’s sad eyes watched him cautiously, “The Manchester’s liberally punished all of their servants.” She answered before she corrected, “Well, they use to.”
“I don’t understand.” He confessed.
“Shortly after his mother’s death, he made an agreement with his Mistress.” She continued. “He would solely receive any punishment for the entire staff.” That information caught Phillip by surprise and he asked why Noah would do such a thing, “I never asked him why,” she explained, “and I never will. I can only guess that he had gotten tired of seeing his friends punished unjustly, and took it upon himself to accept the entirety of it. His Mistress easily agreed.”
“He took all of the beatings for every servant?” Phillip wondered aloud without realizing he had spoken. The escort didn’t humor him with a reply. Phillip thanked her for telling him what she knew about Noah, her words spoke highly of his character.
The escort responded that if she had not overheard how Phillip had rescued Noah from the Embassy, she would not have said a word. It hadn’t mattered that Phillip was the Crowned Prince of Terrafeuw, she still wouldn’t have told him.
A contented silence settled between them and they said no more until the front door opened with a loud crash. The rain roared so loudly that Prince Phillip could hardly hear his Father call out that they had returned.
He glanced towards the conservatory entrance, but the young escort was slightly more anxious than he. She rushed towards the newcomers. The front door shut just as loudly as it had opened and the deafening rain quieted drastically.
“Princess,” Phillip heard the escort call out. “Oh, thank Sky you’re alright.”
He lifted himself off of the edge of the windowsill and wondered towards the foyer where the escort and three dripping wet people stood.
“Wallace!” His father called.
The butler appeared instantly. “Yes Sire?” The man addressed.
“Please, find the Princess Alexandria, something dry to wear. Ambassador Hendrick has a daughter roughly her size and should not mind lending her something.” King Freddrick informed.
“Yes Sire.” Wallace agreed.
“Also,” He continued, ” Send a letter to the Alminian Embassy, informing that Princess Alexandria has been invited to stay the night due to the storm.”
His father dismissed the butler with a few words of thanks. Wallace bowed to King Freddrick, and motioned for the Princess and her escort to follow him.
Phillip couldn’t help but admit that Princess Alexandria was quiet pleasing to look at, but as she walked out of the room her appearance morphed. His eyes deceived him as her hair turned white, and her skin paled. He heard the ghost of a laugh as she disappeared and an acute pain struck his heart quiet forcefully.
Phillip forced the thought out of his head.
Now was not the time to be thinking of such things.
“Phillip,” His father called, his voice pulling him from one of his many nightmares. Phillip knew that he wouldn’t be sleeping that night. He hardly remembered a time when he had been able to sleep soundly.
“Yes Father?” He inquired.
“Can you lend Noah, something to wear?” He asked. Phillip answered that he would do so “I’m going to change as well. When you are done,” He stated eyeing Noah forcefully, “-meet me in my study. You have much to explain. Phillip, show him the way.”
He nodded as their father quickly walked out of the room and towards the staircase.
“What happened?” Phillip inquired a short time later as he handed Noah a fresh outfit.
“King Heralf has accepted that Prince Phillip is still safely in Terrafeuw, and that he had mistakenly abducted a bodyguard.” Noah said with an uninterested tone in his voice.
“How were you able to convince him?” He asked skeptically?
Noah unbuttoned the wet Terrafein guard jacket and tossed it to the floor before he answered. “He hadn’t been convinced by the fact that my eyes are blue though yours are notoriously green, but there is something about me that no Prince, no matter how well hidden, could ever hope to have.”
Before Phillip could ask him what it was, Noah wrenched off the shirt and tossed it next to the jacket.
“So it was true.” Phillip stated in awe as he examined his brother. Several small scars littered his arms as well as his chest, and two large poorly healed slash marks wrapped from his back around to his left hip.
“What was true?” Noah asked as he turned around to grab the shirt that Phillip had lent him.
Phillip was at a loss for words. Even from across the room, he could see the irreversible damage that had been done to Noah’s back. Being whipped as a servant was uncommon, but was usually accompanied by a servant’s instant removal of service. Noah claimed to have been in the service of the same Masters for nearly his whole life. He had been dismissed before his abduction, which meant the classic two marks (forming the X) of disapproval might have been etched into his brother’s back.
But this was more, much more.
As Noah continued to change, Phillip couldn’t help but notice similar marks on his calves and shins; the marks of misconduct during service. Phillip saw years of X’s etched into Noah’s skin.
“How many people did you bleed for?” He asked seriously.
Noah stilled, but then finished tugging up a pair of trousers.
“She told me, your escort friend,”
“Tilly.” Noah reminded flatly.
“Tilly.” Phillip repeated. “She told me about the deal you made with your Mistress.” He spat unable to hide his repulsion at what Noah had agreed to.
Noah pulled on one of the coats Phillip had brought and shoved his feet into a pair of clean boots. “You’ve been asking about me.” He stated, his voice still devoid of emotion “I’ve healed. I’ll fine.”
“Are you ridiculous, Noah?” Phillip chided. “You’re not fine. Have you seen your back?” Noah chuckled softly and admitted that he couldn’t see his back. “When did it first happen?” Phillip demanded, “When did you first allow yourself to accept another’s punishment?”
“I was six.” He answered easily. “A young girl took one of our Mistress’s cookies, and I took the blame. I protected her because she was my friend, and I was older by two years. I couldn’t consider how to protect everyone though, but then Mother died-”
“And you made the deal with your Mistress.” Phillip finished.
Noah nodded, as he finished buttoning the jacket. “Where is the study?” He asked, his voice still not betraying his emotions.
“Your wounds,” Phillip asked, “are they the reason Father is distraught with you?”
“What else could have happened to make him react in such a manner?” Phillip wondered.
Blood rushed to Noah’s face, and Phillip realized that the question had made his brother uncomfortable. No, not uncomfortable. He seemed slightly embarrassed, but he didn’t offer an explanation for his reaction.
Another secret, Phillip realized as he led Noah to the study.