Summery: Phantom of the Opera set in medieval Europe. Erik plays the mysterious and brooding Black Knight, a hero on the battlefield and a terror to his enemies; he comes to the home of Pierre de Coleville, in search of a bride. Christine plays a lonely servant girl who works for de Coleville's spoiled daughter, Carlotta, who is reluctantly betrothed to the fearsome Black Knight. A romantic tale of mystery, passion, vengeance, and mistaken identity. Erik/Christine.
Tapestry of Deceit
"BUT I DON'T WANT TO MARRY HIM!"
Pierre de Coleville groaned as his daughter's high pitched shrills echoed off the walls of his great hall and throughout the rest of his castle. He looked to his wife for some support, but she simply glared right back at him, her anger and disappointment even louder than Carlotta's screams…if that was possible.
"I won't marry him!" Carlotta spat, stomping her feet like an overgrown child.
"Yes, you will…" Pierre grumbled, massaging his temples from the headache his daughter's shrieks had caused.
"NO, I WON'T!" Carlotta shouted, stomping her foot even harder. "HE'S OLD! HE'S UGLY! HE'S CRUEL!"
Pierre groaned again, wishing, not for the first time, that the king hadn't ordered him to marry all those years ago. "He's six and thirty, that's hardly old!" Pierre attempted to reason. The man in question was only twelve years younger than he.
Carlotta glared at her father with contempt. "And his ugliness? His cruelty? DEFEND THEM!" she charged, folding her arms across her chest and stomping her foot with indignation.
Pierre glanced once more to his wife for some sign of support, but she simply ignored him, her concentration entirely focused on the small tapestry she was weaving.
"Sir Erik is not a cruel man…" Pierre protested, although anyone could tell he himself did not trust his words. "He…he simply has…an ill reputation…spread by his enemies…" he mumbled. "But he's a good loyal man to others!" he willed himself to believe, although it was proving to be most futile.
"And his ugliness?" Carlotta challenged, her hands now going to her hips.
Pierre knew it was a losing battle. "He's a knight, Carlotta, a soldier. He's fought in many wars, it should not come as a great surprise that he has…battle scars."
"BATTLE SCARS?" Carlotta shrieked, and Pierre found himself cringing again. "HE'S HIDEOUS! AND I REFUSE TO MARRY HIM!"
Pierre had only one more hope of trying to reason with his daughter. "I hear he is extremely rich!"
For the first time since this argument had arisen, his wife's eyes finally lifted with interest.
"Yes, quite rich," Pierre continued, hoping with the aid of his wife, he could convince Carlotta to accept the betrothal and end his misery. "I hear he's made twice the fortune I have ever had, in simply ten years of fighting on the battle field!"
Maria de Coleville was now smiling with approval at the words her husband had spoken. She grinned happily and turned to face her daughter, whose expression was currently unreadable; it seemed she too was assessing this new information.
"Well, my dear?" Pierre asked, looking most hopeful. He reached over to take his wife's hand in his.
Carlotta's angry face had now changed to one of sweetness. It always amazed Pierre how quickly his daughter could go from looking like an angelic pixie, to a howling banshee. Her lovely porcelain face seemed to radiate when her pretty pink lips spread into a beautiful smile, revealing a glowing set of fine white teeth…
And then the spell ended.
"NO!" Carlotta screamed, stomping her foot once more, her smile disappearing as quickly as it had come, her beautiful features contorting into an angry sneer of selfishness and indignation.
Pierre's mouth fell open from the shock of her stubbornness, and turned to his wife, hoping she would reprimand their spoiled child, but instead, she let go of his hand as if she had been holding a dead fish, and went right back to her weaving, casting him an icy glare of disapproval, but remaining silent.
"Now see here, Carlotta," Pierre growled, rising to his feet and looking at his daughter with as much sternness as he could muster, although Carlotta did not look the least bit intimidated. "You will accept Sir Erik's betrothal! He is on his way here this very day to see you and make the final arrangements!"
Carlotta gasped, but she didn't back down from her glaring.
"If all goes well, as it SHOULD," he emphasized, "the two of you will be married in our own chapel…tomorrow!"
Maria lifted her head and gasped along with her daughter at her husband's stern words. She had not realized Pierre was capable of being so forward with his actions; he normally backed down after one of Carlotta's tantrums.
"AND," Pierre added, feeling his spirits lift as he continued to lay down the law. "You will be a most CIVIL hostess to Sir Erik when he arrives!"
Carlotta's eyes narrowed into two dark slits, and she lifted her chin, glaring back at her father with rage. "We shall see about that…" she hissed, before grabbing her skirts and turning on her heel, her shrieks of anger and disgust filling every corner of the castle.
Pierre flopped back down into his chair and realized that the heavy sound of breathing was coming from him. He turned to look at his wife, half expecting her to be glaring at him, half expecting her to be ignoring him, but instead…she was grinning, a most wicked and devious grin. "Tell me, dear husband," she purred, rising from her chair to run her fingers over Pierre's trembling shoulders. "Just how rich, is Sir Erik?"
Christine Daae sighed and ran her arm over her sweaty brow, as she leaned over the boiling pot of laundry that she had been stirring for nearly an hour. Her back ached from being hunched over, her skin was hot from the steam that rose from the pot itself, and her stomach was growling for the lack of breakfast she had had that morning. There had been no time for breakfast, not when her mistress demanded so much of her attention.
Christine gasped and nearly dropped the heavy wooden spoon that she had been stirring with.
Christine groaned and slowly turned her face towards the sounds of her young mistress, which were coming from the hall just beyond the castle's laundry room. She could only imagine what demands Carlotta would make now. With a heavy sigh, Christine ceased her stirring, and quickly went to the door to see what it was that her young mistress required.
"THERE YOU ARE!" Carlotta practically shrieked, her dark eyes filled with venom at the sight of servant girl. "WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED YOU?"
Christine kept her comments to herself, although she longed to grab the spoiled girl by her blonde ringlets and plunge her head first into the boiling vat of laundry. Instead, she swallowed the little pride that she contained, and gave a small curtsy. "Forgive me, I did not hear your call."
Carlotta rolled her eyes and pushed her way past the servant girl. "I want a bath!" she shouted over her shoulder as she made her way towards her chambers. "Start boiling some rose water and have those overgrown oafs bring me my tub!"
Christine curtsied, even though Carlotta wasn't paying attention, which also meant that she could glare at her spoiled mistress as she flounced away. She knew it was no use attempting to explain to Carlotta that she had other chores to tend to first, such as finishing the laundry, mending Lady Maria's stockings, dusting the tapestries in the great hall, and scrubbing the hall's massive stone steps…all of which had to be finished before the afternoon. She was a servant…not a slave, but Carlotta saw no difference, so long as her needs were met first.
Despite Pierre de Coleville's massive castle, there were only a handful of servants to run it. All of them knew why, even though their master and his family were in denial; Pierre de Coleville was on the verge of becoming a pauper. His debts were extreme, and it didn't help that his wife and daughter spent what little money he had left on all kinds of frivolities. In order to hold on to the scraps of wealth that he had, he dismissed many of the castle's servants, making life even more miserable than it had already been. Christine was a scullery maid, she had been trained as such, but she found herself working other odd jobs, including that of being Carlotta's personal maid…a chore she would gladly give up.
Christine quickly ran to the kitchens, hoping one of the younger girls there could take over her duties in the laundry room, while she went to boil Carlotta's bath water. "George? Robert?" Two tall and broad shouldered men looked up from their chores in the kitchens to Christine's voice. "Mistress Carlotta would like her tub brought up to her chambers," Christine explained, which earned a small groan from the men. "Be careful," Christine advised. "She's in quite a mood."
"She's always in a mood," a young woman muttered from a table at the center of the kitchen. She was hard at task of peeling potatoes.
"Right you are, my sweet Meg," the man named Robert grinned, bending his head to brush his lips against the woman's cheek, to which she smiled and turned her face to kiss his own lips, before going back to her task, while he and George went to retrieve Carlotta's tub.
Christine smiled at the couple, before turning to go about her task of boiling some hot rose water for her young mistress. "She better start appreciating these baths," she sighed as she added the special rose herbs to the water she was boiling. "With the way our master's finances are going, she may soon find that a bath is a luxury she will no longer be able to afford."
Meg released a snort of laughter at Christine's comment. "Mark my words, that girl will never know how to appreciate anything, even after it's taken from her."
Christine smiled at the woman who sat at the nearby table, grateful that her friend still remained even after Pierre had dismissed so many other servants. Meg had been one of the few people who had welcomed Christine when she had come to the castle nearly twelve years ago. Christine was a penniless child who had little experience of working as a servant, and many of the other servants saw this as an opportunity to manipulate her and make her the butt of their cruel jokes. Thankfully, Meg had come to her defense, even though she was only a child as well. Meg's mother was head cook in the castle's kitchen, a stern stone-faced woman who could make even the strongest man quake with fear with one icy look. Once Meg had taken Christine under her wing, the taunts came to an end. Sadly, however, when Pierre began dismissing servants, one of the many he removed was Meg's mother, Antoinette. She had been a mother to Christine in many ways as well.
"How is your mother?" Christine asked, hoping that Meg had some good news to share. The last Christine had heard, Antoinette was cooking and serving food for a small inn in a nearby village. It was slave labor, truly, but the world was cruel to homeless beggars, and servants had little choice: work or starve.
"She is well," Meg murmured, sadness filling her eyes. "She sends her love, and asked…again…if you have married."
Christine gave a small groan. Antoinette always asked if she were married yet. The truth was, all the men that would make suitable husbands were either married or betrothed, and the ones that were unattached were too old, too young, or too lecherous. Yet Christine knew exactly why Antoinette hoped to see her marry soon…and the reason behind the woman's inquiry filled Christine with a chilling dread.
"How are you feeling today?" Christine inquired, choosing to change the subject.
Meg smiled and placed a hand on her large swollen belly. "My daughter continues to kick quite strongly," she giggled, her face glowing with love and happiness as she caressed her stomach.
Christine grinned back. "Perhaps it is a boy as Robert predicts? Surely a boy would kick harder than a girl?"
Meg frowned. "Don't go taking his side!" she fumed, picking up another potato and peeling it viciously.
Christine bit back her laugh, knowing of the constant battle that Meg and her husband Robert kept having on the sex of their unborn child. Christine often found herself envying Meg, which immediately caused guilt to rise in her heart, for truly, she was extremely happy for the blessings God had given to her friend.
Meg was very lovely, with long wavy strawberry-blonde hair, and soft kind blue eyes. She was large now, due to being eight months pregnant, but she was small and elegantly slender, and often talked about her dream of dancing to the epic stories that bards wove before a roaring fire.
Meg's husband, Robert, was a sweet natured man, who made his love for his wife quite obvious with the way he kissed her, touched her, and looked at her from across the room. He was a large man, with broad shoulders and strong arms, and whenever Meg stood next to him, she looked like a dwarf standing next to a giant. He had unruly sandy-brown hair which matched his equally unruly beard. Some would say he reminded them of a Saxon barbarian, but in truth, his nature was kind and his voice gentle. Christine could never imagine Robert doing anyone any harm…unless they attempted to do harm to his wife or child. Such a person would soon regret their actions on that day.
That was probably what Christine envied the most about her friend. Not the fact that Meg was married to Robert; Robert was like an older brother to her, just as Meg was like a sister. It was the fact that the two of them had found such happiness and love with one another. It was rare that people married for love, but Meg and Robert had been most fortunate in that sense. Christine only prayed that one day, she too would find a man that would cherish her the way Robert cherished Meg…
"I'd best get this to Carlotta before she screams her head off," Christine groaned as she carefully lifted the boiling kettle off the fire.
"Let me help you," Meg insisted, rising from the table where she sat.
"No!" Christine scolded. "Meg, you're in no condition. I will get by fine on my own."
Meg made a face and then turned her head towards one of the young kitchen boys, who was sitting in a corner, lazily petting a dog at his feet while catching a mid-morning snooze. "Boy!" Meg barked, waking the child from his nap with a start. "Make yourself useful and carry this pot to Mistress Carlotta's chambers," she ordered, to which the boy immediately scrambled to where Christine stood and began to heft the pot in the direction he had been told. Christine looked at her friend with puzzlement, but Meg reached out for her and immediately looped her arm through Christine's. "Walk with me."
The two women followed the boy as he carefully hefted the pot towards Carlotta's chambers. "I must say," Meg sighed. "It does feel good to finally be able to stretch one's legs." Meg glanced up ahead, noticing that the boy was too preoccupied with making sure he didn't spill the water to be interested in listening to their conversation. "Remember how you said earlier that Carlotta needs to start appreciating these baths because they may become unaffordable luxuries?"
Christine nodded her head, unsure what her friend was trying to say.
"Well," Meg continued. "What if I told you that her father has found a way to keep such luxuries affordable?"
Christine gasped, her mouth falling open at the meaning of Meg's words. Only one such thing could do that. "Carlotta is going to be married?"
Meg put a finger to her lips, glancing at the boy up ahead, but quickly nodded, sharing the same grin that Christine possessed. "Can you imagine it? She may be out of this place in a fortnight!"
Christine could not imagine happier news. "A fortnight is not soon enough!" she pulled on Meg's arm to stop the two of them walking. "Do you know who the man is?"
Meg shook her head. "A knight who has spent more of his life on the battlefield than in his own castle, from what I understand. But now, he wishes to take a bride…and it appears that Carlotta is his choice."
Christine's brow crinkled somewhat. She couldn't help but feel sorry for this mysterious knight. He had no idea what he was getting himself into.
"CHRISTINE? IT'S ABOUT TIME!" Carlotta shouted angrily as the boy carefully knocked on her chamber door.
Christine groaned, and gave a small smile to her friend, while she took the pot of water from the frightened youth, and entered the luxurious bedchamber that belonged to Carlotta.
George and Robert stood in a corner, and quickly took the large pot and poured it into the tub they had dragged up on Carlotta's commands. As soon as they had finished, they gave Christine a pitying look, before leaving as Carlotta dismissed them with a wave of her hand.
Christine knew her duties; they were a trained routine. She quickly went over to where Carlotta stood and immediately began undressing the spoiled girl, who was too busy admiring her fair reflection in the large looking glass that leaned against one wall.
While Christine despised her young mistress, she could not help but admit that Carlotta was indeed beautiful. She was only sixteen, and yet she had the body of a goddess; round ample hips, a slim waist, and large milky white breasts that she proudly put on display with her low cut bodices. Her hair was blonde, but unlike Meg's which was gold with tints of copper here and there, Carlotta's was flaxen, almost a silvery white when caught in the sun's rays. Christine's evenings always ended with combing Carlotta's hair, at least three hundred strokes at a time. Her skin was fair, thanks to the many baths she took, and her lips were soft, pink, and luscious. Christine recalled how a visiting bard had once dedicated a poem in honor of Carlotta's lips; for practically a month, it was all the spoiled girl could talk about.
The only feature that Christine did not find beautiful about her young mistress was her eyes. Carlotta had dark brown eyes, and it was not the color that Christine disliked…after all, her mother had dark brown eyes, as did Antoinette and Robert. However, their eyes were kind, filled with warmth and laughter. Carlotta's reminded Christine of a chilly winter, of a black abyss, and when Carlotta's lips spread in a wicked smile, they looked practically demonic.
"Hurry up!" Carlotta muttered. "The water will be cold soon!"
Christine quickly finished her task of undressing her young mistress, and turned her eyes away as Carlotta admired her naked beauty in front of the mirror, before dipping into the steaming hot tub of rose scented water. "Ah, much better…" the flaxen beauty purred as the warm water lapped at her curves.
Christine sighed and went to the side of the tub, holding a tray with the various items that Carlotta would request; scented oils, jars filled spices and herbs, and a large bar of soap made from sandalwood. Carlotta went about her task of rubbing the various sweet smelling items into skin, ordering Christine now and then to put her tray down, and scrub the young woman's back, as well as wash her hair. Many a time Christine had imagined dunking the girl's head under the water and perhaps holding it down, but the second such thoughts crept into her mind, she knew that the first thing she would do after Carlotta dismissed her was seek out a priest to confess her sinful thoughts. However, such ideas did not come to Christine this time, as much to her surprise, her young mistress was actually speaking to her in a voice that held no hints of orders.
"I hate Papa," she spat. "I can not believe what he did!"
Christine remembered the news Meg had shared, and could only assume that Carlotta was speaking about her future husband. Much to Christine's surprise, the girl seemed to be very much against the idea of marriage to a wealthy knight.
"I want nothing to do with Sir Erik!" Carlotta continued. "He's old and ugly! I don't care how rich he is!"
Christine bit back the groan in her throat. Carlotta was indeed greedy, but in the end, her vanity won out over anything. Indeed, this Sir Erik could be richer than the king himself, but nothing else mattered if Carlotta's vanity could not be appeased.
"Surely he is not that bad…" Christine murmured, daring to speak without Carlotta's permission.
"He's hideous!" Carlotta spat in outrage. "I have never seen him, but I have heard enough stories about him and how ugly he looks!"
Christine's mind also wandered to this mysterious knight. Now and then, stories would reach her ears down in the kitchens, if she did not overhear them from Carlotta and her family while she was doing her chores. Yet she had never heard of this mysterious Sir Erik…or of his horrifying looks.
"Papa says he is coming here, this very day, to look upon me and seal the engagement contract he has made with father," she grumbled, taking the sandalwood bar and scrubbing it over her nails. "And if he so wishes, I could be married to him by tomorrow!"
Christine found herself gasping; of course Carlotta interpreted it as Christine pitying her. If only the girl truly knew.
Carlotta could be gone as soon as tomorrow! She did not know who this Sir Erik was, but she knew that without a doubt, the second he laid eyes on Carlotta's beauty, he would be more than willing to sign that contract and wed her before sundown.
"How could God be so cruel?" Carlotta wailed. "To curse me with such a hideous man!"
Christine bit her lips to keep from grinning. It was a curse to Carlotta, but a blessing for her.
Christine froze as she heard Carlotta's words. While her young mistress was not a creature of great intelligence, she was not an idiot either. What Carlotta lacked in intellect, she made up for with cunning.
"Christine…" she murmured in her sweetest tone. Christine knew this could only mean trouble. "How would you like to help your mistress?"
Christine would love to help her…help her leave the castle as soon as possible! But as Carlotta turned in the tub and settled her demon-like eyes upon her, Christine knew that was not the sort of help Carlotta was asking. "How old are you again?" Carlotta inquired, eyeing Christine up and down with great interest.
Christine's brow furrowed with confusion. "Twenty…" she replied, a horrible feeling settling over her.
Carlotta nodded her head with approval. "And…you do look as if you're close to being my size…"
"Size?" Christine practically squeaked, her dread growing by the second.
"Yes…well, your bosom is no where near as ample as mine," she stated proudly. "But you are not much taller than me…and the rest of your proportions seem to fit…"
Christine's face was burning red as Carlotta continued to talk about her as if she were nothing more than a prized pet that someone kept. "Yes," she murmured to herself after her assessment of the servant girl. "Yes, you'll do nicely."
Carlotta rose from the tub then, and much to Christine's surprise, did not order the girl to help her out, but rather grabbed the linen towel Christine had been holding, wrapped it around herself, and flew to the other end of her chamber to where a large cedar cabinet lay. Carlotta threw the cabinet doors open, and began to go through the many beautiful gowns that hung inside.
"No, no, no," she muttered to herself as she rifled through the gowns. "No…no…ah! This one!" she pulled out a silver blue gown, with long flowing sleeves and a neckline that left little to the imagination. Christine swallowed as she gazed at the gown Carlotta had thrown with careless ease upon the bed. "You will wear that!"
Christine gasped when she realized that Carlotta was talking to her. "W-w-w-what?"
Carlotta grinned and lifted her chin high into the air. "You will wear this, and pretend to be me."
Had Christine not been holding onto the bedpost, she would have surely stumbled backwards at Carlotta's words, and found herself lying in what was left of the young woman's bath. "W-w-w-what?"
"Oh stop stuttering," the flaxen-haired beauty groaned before shoving the gown into Christine's arms. "Don't you see? It's perfect! I will pretend to be you…and you will pretend to be me!"
Christine couldn't believe the madness that had taken her mistress. What on earth was she going on about! "I…I don't understand–"
"It's not that difficult to understand!" Carlotta practically barked, her irritation growing by the second. "Look, Sir Erik comes today to see me. However, instead of seeing me, he shall see you! You will sit in the garden, wearing my gown, and I will be wearing one of your…" she paused as she gazed at Christine's drab brown dress and tunic with disgust. "Anyway," she shook her head. "I will pretend to be a servant while you pretend to be me."
Christine still didn't understand what this whole charade was about. "Why?" she finally asked.
Carlotta groaned and her hands flew to her hair, before finally reaching out and dragging Christine over to her large looking glass. "Sir Erik will think YOU are me! Once he sees you, he will not be interested in carrying out the marriage!"
Christine felt as if someone had slapped her. She wished someone had; a slap would sting less than Carlotta's cruel words.
"Don't you see? Once Sir Erik sees how plain you are…he will not wish to take me as his bride, and renounce the contract…and free me! It's perfect!"
Christine could not help but stare at her reflection in the mirror, feeling the cold bitterness of Carlotta's uncaring words sink over her. She knew she was not beautiful, not in the same way that Carlotta was, but…truly, she was not that off-putting…was she? Her hair was a dull brown color, it did not have the shimmer that Carlotta or Meg's had, and her skin was not smooth or the color of ivory cream, but slightly tanned from working outdoors in the summer, and rough for the many hours she slaved scrubbing the floors in the great hall. Her blue eyes did not seem to have the same brilliance of those of Lady Maria, whose eyes were often compared to two sparkling sapphires, and Christine did not need to be reminded of the fact that her breasts were nowhere as full or beautiful of those of her mistress.
Perhaps Carlotta was right? After all, standing there, beside her beautiful mistress, could one even begin to draw a comparison?
"It won't work…" Christine murmured to herself, although Carlotta heard every word.
"Of course it will!"
"How?" Christine sighed, turning to face her pouting mistress. "Surely your father as described you to Sir Erik?" Christine rolled her eyes as Carlotta smiled smugly at the idea of her beauty being mentioned. "He will look at me and know that I am not you! You are fair, and I am dark–"
"I doubt Papa has gone to the trouble of mentioning my hair," she grumbled, running her fingers through its flaxen strands. Her father never commented on her beauty. "And besides! You'll be wearing this," she patted the gown that was still in Christine's arms. "Even though you're not a beauty, he will still assume that you are me when he sees you in this gown. Trust me, men rarely notice anything beyond its surface."
For the first time in her life, Christine found herself agreeing with Carlotta.
"It's too risky," Christine shook her head, pushing the gown back into Carlotta's arms. "Your father or mother will see me and have me locked in the stocks, as well as beaten."
"They'll never know!" Carlotta insisted, pushing the dress back.
"No! I will not do it!" Christine said with great determination, throwing the dress down upon the bed and turning to leave, not caring if Carlotta screamed and threw a tantrum. Carlotta's wrath could be great, but it was often short; Carlotta would order that Christine be beaten for her "rudeness", which was sadly, something Christine was used to, but a beating from Carlotta paled to the possibility of being ridiculed in public or beaten by Pierre himself…or losing her job. Christine had no family and very little money; forcing her to leave would be a death sentence.
Christine ignored Carlotta's screams, determined to not hear one more insulting word of this crazed plan.
"IF YOU LEAVE, I'LL TELL PHILIPPE!"
Christine froze at the mention of the man's name.
Philippe de Coleville; Carlotta's older brother and quite possibly, the most notorious rake in the entire kingdom.
Philippe was often away from the castle, wasting what little money his father had, on drink, gambling, and women. Especially women. He only came to the castle when he needed more money, and despite Pierre's protests, Lady Maria indulged her son's wishes.
Christine hated those times when Philippe was there. It was amazing she still had her virginity. Philippe always loved to corner Christine when she was coming out of the kitchens, or the laundry room, or the barn outside. He would corner her with his body, his powerful arms locking her on both sides, making it impossible to escape. He would whisper in her ear all the grotesque things he wanted to do to her body, and she would quake with revulsion as she felt his hot breath hit her neck. He was the reason Antoinette wanted her to marry soon; she believed that if Christine had a husband, Philippe's interests would either disappear, or at least Christine's husband would be able to keep him away.
Carlotta grinned wickedly as she noticed the effect her brother's name had on the servant girl. She knew her brother wanted Christine, although she did not entirely understand why. And Carlotta knew that all it took was for one word from her, to have Philippe riding back to the castle to claim his "prize", if she so wished it.
Christine was trembling with both anger and fear as she gazed into the dark eyes of her mistress, knowing that it was a losing battle. There was risk from both angles: either she pretend to be Carlotta and risk being caught by Pierre or his wife, or she face Philippe and risk far worse.
With a heavy sigh, Christine marched over to the bed and picked up the gown Carlotta had thrust into her arms earlier. "When will Sir Erik be arriving?"