Chapter 29 – A Study in Confusion
Chapter 29 – A Study in Confusion
A frown had found its way to Freddrick’s face by the time Noah entered the study. He had decided that given the late hour, it would be better to skip the pleasantries completely. “Will you explain what happened, or should I ask her Highness to clarify it for me?”
Noah’s face reddened and he quickly ran his fingers through his blonde hair before finally looking back at him. His eyes sifted uncertainly, but eventually he did answer. “I won’t be able to tell you everything.” He claimed, “There are some answers that are not mine to give.”
Freddrick eyed him cautiously. In all honesty, there was still very little that he knew about his second son. “Perhaps I should be questioning the Princess.” He stated coldly, watching Noah’s reaction.
“If you feel you must.” Noah accepted, seemingly unmoved by his words.
Freddrick smiled at Noah’s familiar stubbornness but he managed to hide it quickly. He didn’t call for the Princess. “In the morning, perhaps.” He considered. “I’ll allow her Highness to rest peacefully tonight.”
“What would you like me to explain?” His son inquired.
“The woman that returned with us, is she actually the Crowned Princess, of Alminia?” Noah nodded that she was. “How long have you been an acquaintance of Princess Alexandria?”
His son paused and contemplated the question carefully. “I’ve known Princess Alexandria since August 20th.” He finally answered. “I did meet her earlier, but I had not realize who she was.”
“You were at the Masked Ball?”
Noah admitted that he had been there.
“How had you come to be at the ball?”
“A friend of mine, decided to sneak me in.” Noah informed easily. “I was unable to argue myself out of attending.”
Freddrick asked why that was.
“You never met Willaminia.” Noah clarified.
Freddrick wasn’t sure whom Noah was referring to, but his assurance of his own words seemed unquestionable. Freddrick forced himself to keep his voice stern. “Why did Princess Alexandria personally come to Jodan?”
Noah confessed the he was unable to answer, “That is something you must ask her.”
Freddrick decided not to push for an answer. “Princess Alexandria informed King Heralf that you were not a Nobel.” He informed, “Does that mean she knew that you were a servant?”
Noah confessed that she had been made aware of his status as a servant. Freddrick then asked how long she had known.
“The day that I found out she was the Princess, was the same day she found out I was a servant.”
“August 20th?” Freddrick clarified.
Freddrick was slightly taken back by that knowledge. It seemed too recent. He stared pass Noah and considered his next question. Everything seemed to be jumbled up like a mess of string, and it was taxing to try and unravel it. “When were you first made aware of the Princess’s engagement?”
Noah’s hands curled noticeably into two fists, but he quickly relaxed them. “The night Phillip mentioned it.” He answered with some bitterness.
“What do you know about their engagement, Noah?” He asked partly amused by his son’s reaction.
He watched Noah earnestly avoid his gaze, and decided that if circumstances weren’t what they were, his son’s reaction might be deemed comical.
“Their marriage is currently tentative.” Freddrick explained. He waited for Noah’s eyes to look up questioningly before he continued. “The treaty states that if Phillip and Princess Alexandria both remain unmarried before her next birthday, they will be bound in matrimony to preserve the contract between the Kingdoms.”
Noah didn’t respond; he seemed to be at a loss for words.
A short silence hung between them, but Freddrick wasn’t done asking questions.
“Your first night here,” he began, “you mentioned someone...someone named Lady Annabell.” Noah nodded. So Freddrick asked, “What does she mean to you?”
Noah sat a little straighter, confidently looked him in the eye, and said without pretense, “I love her.”
Freddrick couldn’t hide his confusion. Noah’s answer was nothing if not direct, but it only complicated what he had witnessed earlier that night. He looked at Noah carefully and noticed that his son seemed prepared for what he was about to say.
His wasted no time, “Perhaps you could explain your actions outside the Rramnon Embassy.” He countered.
“Just ask it.” Noah prompted.
“Why did you kiss her?”
Noah smiled, but not in a proud or menacing way. He seemed to be lost in the memory of what had happened.
~~~Change Character Focus, Earlier
The turmoil of the day had taken a toll on him.
No one seemed to know how taxing waiting had been for him. He knew where his Annabell was, he knew who had her, but he had been told to sit and wait until they knew more about the situation.
Phillip hadn’t waited to until they knew more about the situation when he broke into the jail to rescue him. He had acted.
Heralf’s message hadn’t been any help to them. It was basically an impolite letter that summoned King Freddrick to the Rramnon Embassy.
It had been King Freddrick’s idea for Noah to pose as a Terrafein Guard. He informed Noah that if he refused to wait patiently at the Terrafein Embassy, then he would have to go in disguised. During the ride King Freddrick had asked Him for any information that might help them prove he wasn’t Phillip.
Noah told him about how his master’s whipped him for disobeying direct orders.
That seemed to be enough, though Freddrick confessed that he hoped they wouldn’t have to use that information.
At the Rramnon Embassy he was again commanded to wait.
King Freddrick insisted on going in alone. Noah wasn’t sure what was being said on the other side of a pair of ominous black doors, but whatever his father was telling King Heralf wasn’t working.
Eventually Noah was called into the chamber where his father and King Heralf waited, but they weren’t alone. Someone else was there.
His eyes had instinctively found her. His chest ached at the exhausted stated she appeared to be in. His Annabell looked like she was struggling to keep herself upright. Every fiber of his being wanted to run to her, to hold her in his arms, to insist that she let his strength to support her, but he didn’t.
Instead, Noah forced his eyes to abandon her. He couldn’t risk glancing in her direction again. He knew it wouldn’t do any of them any good at that moment. So, he stared intently off into the distance and continued his masquerade as a guard.
When Heralf sent her out of the room, Noah felt a mixture of gratitude and apprehension.
Time passed slower without his Annabell there. He wasn’t sure how long he had to stand still as King Heralf scrutinized everything from his hair color, to his voice. He was convinced that he was looking at Phillip.
King Heralf, asked him about his abduction that he wouldn’t have known if he wasn’t there. He shot question after question at him, and Noah struggled to keep up with his inquires.
Noah’s blues eyes had thrown him for a moment, but they didn’t persuade him. It wasn’t until Noah was ordered to remove his uniform that King Heralf finally became convinced.
At first he was outraged by why he saw.
He glanced repeatedly back and forth between Noah and King Freddrick in confusion.
Noah forced himself to remain indifferent as King Heralf tried to get his attention by calling Phillip’s name. Eventually the realization sank in, and he stormed out of the room.
Many minutes later the steward informed them that they were allowed to leave.
Noah couldn’t remember the last time he had been that thankful to be dismissed from someone’s presence. It was as if a weight had lifted from his shoulders and he could breathe easier again.
King Freddrick exited the room first so that he could order the carriage while Noah dressed. When he finished the old steward informed him that King Freddrick was waiting for him by the front door.
Noah found his way back to the Embassy’s entrance easily enough.
Then the doors opened and everything changed, again.
He hadn’t expected her to standing at the entrance attempting to have a conversation with his father over the increasing clamor of the rain.
Noah wasn’t sure what they were talking about, but a quick smiling nod from King Freddrick told him that something had been decided between the two of them.
She looked up, and her eyes instantly noticed him.
All of the commotion of the day- from the waiting, to the rushing, to the waiting again, to King Heralf’s persistent scrutiny- all of it, just faded into the distance.
Annabell rush towards him fervently, but her unsure steps and lack of energy caused her to stumbled.
He managed to catch her in his arms before she hit the ground.
“Thank the Sky, you’re safe.” She cried out, as she buried her face into his chest, the small amount of composure she managed to show earlier melted away as she clung to him.
Noah was at a loss for words. He hadn’t expected such a passionate reaction from her. She should have been more concerned with her own safety not his, but he couldn’t tell her that. Countless words of elation, worry, admiration, fear, and encouragement rushed into his mind, but his tongue seemed incapable of uttering a single one.
“I would have been lost without you?” She admitted over the din of the rain, but then he heard four words that he hadn’t expected to hear her to say, “I love you, Noah.”
He had been so startled that he almost convinced himself that he had misheard her, but she repeated it. ”I love you, Noah.”
Noah’s body reacted before his brain did. Before he could contemplate his actions, he kissed her, with every emotion that had built up inside of him over the last month.
He didn’t want to think about ‘what if’ or ‘why not’.
So, he didn’t.
He just wanted to let her know how much he loved her.
So, he did.
Noah noticed King Freddrick’s eyes still on him. “I kissed her because I needed to.” He answered truthfully.
Confusion furrowed the man’s brow, “Are you purposefully trying to bewilder me, Son?”
“No Sir.” He answered honestly, “Not purposefully.”
“Do you have any feelings for Princess Alexandria?” Freddrick asked deliberately, “Or were your actions the result of some greater influence?”
“Both.” Noah decided.
King Freddrick asked him to further explain.
“The kiss,” Noah clarified, no longer embarrassed by his actions, “to put it simply, was a release of built up emotions.” His father seemed to accept his statement, but Noah wasn’t finished answering. “However,” he continued, “I do have increasingly strong feeling for her.”
“How strong?” He asked, not hiding his concern
Noah sat a little straighter, and with as much confidence as he could muster, he repeated. “I love her.”
He was ready for the look on his father’s face. It told him everything. He knew that without Alexandria there to simplify things, his father would think the worst of him for telling the truth. Still, it was her secret to tell, not his.
“You love her?” King Freddrick question skeptically. “You love her, and yet you admitted to also loving another ten minutes ago.”
Noah didn’t respond. He didn’t know how too.
“Though I hardly know you, I can’t believe that you are flippant enough to fall in love so... effortlessly.” Freddrick stated. “However, I can not condone you’re earlier actions with Princess Alexandria.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to.” Noah acknowledged.
“It is clear that the Alminian Princess has deeply rooted feelings for you.” Freddrick continued, “Her actions alone are proof of that. It would be wise to inform her about your newly discovered birthright. She could prove to be a great ally in the future.”
Noah agreed that the Princess deserved to know.
“Will you tell you Lady Annabell when you return to Alminia?”
“I believe that would be counterproductive.” Noah confessed.
“And why is that?”
“I can’t answer that question.” He informed. Freddrick asked him why that was. “You’ll have to ask her yourself.”
His father’s voice filled with a confused concern. “And if I never have the pleasure of meeting her?” He wondered.
“That won’t be an issue.” Noah informed. “Trust me.”
Freddrick looked at him doubtfully, but Noah held his gaze. A few moments later Freddrick decided that it was much too late for them to still be discussing something that could easily wait until morning.
As Noah walked out of the room, he was startled when Freddrick called out. “Happy Birthday, Son.”
He laughed at himself when he realized that he had completely forgotten about his own birthday.