Hey everybody!!! I am soooo sorry bout the super long wait but i've got a lot of stuff i'm doin right now so there's probably gonna be a little bit of a wait between chapters 4 a while.. but i hope u guys enjoy this chapter!! :) i do not own these characters. the writing is just mine :)
"Make way for the gentleman!"
Daniel's face burned as the palace guards pushed the gathered beggars out of his way. Several looked on his fine clothes with awe, but most just looked down. Daniel understood that feeling. An old beggar with a patch over his left eye stuck out his cup to Daniel.
"A coin for an old man, young sire?"
"Move along, you!", one of the guards said as he pushed the old beggar. Then he turned to Daniel.
"Your way is clear, my lord", he bowed.
Daniel's head immediately dropped down at being addressed directly by the guard. Then Giselle's words echoed in his head: "You look down to no one." Daniel straightened his shoulders and raised his head as he hastened through the gate into the palace gardens.
Daniel stopped in his tracks. Everything within the castle courtyard was so elegant, from the gardens to the dozens of noblemen and women milling about. Some were playing croquet on the lawn, while others sat at tea tables nibbling at scones. However, most of them were just standing around speaking to each other. Daniel knew that he looked like he belonged with this set of people, but he had never felt more out of place.
"Who is that?"
Daniel looked to his left, towards the whispered question. A group of young women in lovely gowns covered their mouths with clean, white gloves and giggled quietly. A blonde girl batted her eyelashes at Daniel and whipped out a pale pink lace fan; she broke away from the group and started walking towards this unknown young courtier. Daniel began to panic. He knew that if that lady looked at him close enough, she would be able to see how tan his skin was from hours of working in the sun. And if she, by chance, decided to grab his hand, she would be able to feel, even through her gloves, how rough and calloused his palms were. So he quickly continued walking toward the palace doors.
After successfully avoiding the young lady, Daniel began to go over his plan in his head. Then he realized he didn't have one. This did nothing to ease the anxiety gnawing at his stomach. He supposed he would just figure everything out as he went along. He had a quick wit; he could improvise if he had to.
Just as he was about to enter through the door of the palace, he heard a sound of clinking chains and wailing on his right. Down the hill that the palace sat on, a wagon was being loaded with ragged men in chains. The prisoners' ages varied, but their old clothes made them all blend together. But Daniel's eyes picked out an elderly man with a white beard that was being roughly shoved into the open wagon: Maurice. Daniel's heart raced: he knew what he had to do.
"Lord", Daniel prayed breathlessly, "give me strength." He took a deep steadying breath, then sprinted down the stairs that led to the lower courtyard, keeping his eyes on the now moving wagon the entire way down.
Daniel jumped the last three steps, earning several gasps and cries of "Young people these days!" Ignoring the people, he ran toward the transport cart.
What am I going to say? What if they don't listen to me? What if they find out that I'm impersonating a nobleman?
Daniel shook his head to get rid of his negative thoughts. He couldn't think those things. He just had to think about Maurice. And Louise. And Paulette. And his mother...
Yes! What would Mamma do in this kind of situation? She would have been straight-forward, telling the wagon driver what she was there for immediately.
And that's what I'll do, too.
Abandoning propriety, Daniel charged straight in front of the cart. He could feel the stares of the driver and everyone else standing nearby. But he didn't care. Seeing Maurice behind bars drove any fear or insecurity from his mind. He looked the driver- a stout and dirty man who looked as though he enjoyed his job a little too much- straight in the face.
"I wish to address the issue of this gentleman", Daniel said loudly, indicating Maurice. It took Maurice a minute to realize who Daniel was, but when he did, he mouthed "What are you doing?" to Daniel. Daniel continued speaking without acknowledging Maurice's admonishment. "He is my servant and I am here to pay the debt against him." That was more or less true.
The driver glared at Daniel. He was annoyed. "You're too late. 'e's bought and paid for."
Daniel pulled out his money. "I can pay you twenty gold franks."
The driver laughed. "You couldn't 'ave me for twenty gold franks!" He nodded to the boy leading the horses. "Now drive on!"
The boy jerked the horses' lead ropes. Fear seized Daniel. He could not lose this argument. He quickly grabbed the one of the horses halters, stopping the team.
" 'ey!", the boy cried.
"I demand that you release him at once", Daniel shouted, desperately trying to maintain his noble fasade, "or I shall take this matter to the king."
Please don't let it come to that, Lord.
"The king's the one that sold 'im. 'e's not your property anymore." The driver's tone- which sounded like he was explaining something very simple to a five year old child- infuriated Daniel, but his calling Maurice "property" set his temper off.
"He is not property at all, you ill-mannered goat!", Daniel yelled. "You honestly think that it is right to chain men like animals?! I demand you release him at once!"
Maurice's eyes widened. He hadn't seen Daniel's temper in years, but it seemed as though the young Master hadn't lost his voice. Maurice couldn't help smiling fondly at the boy. With his fine clothes that he must have taken from the Baron and his commanding presence, Daniel was so much like his father, Phillipe.
"Get out of my way!", the driver bellowed, leaning into Daniel's face.
Daniel was debating between continuing to reason with the driver or hitting square on the jaw, when he heard a melodic voice laced with quiet anger from behind.
"You dare raise your voice to a gentleman, sir?"
Daniel shut his eyes in horror. He could not believe this was happening! He had come so close to getting away with freeing Maurice, and now the princess was going to spoil it by recognizing him.
"Your 'ighness", the driver said nervously.
Praying that Princess Anne would not remember his face, Daniel turned around to her. She sat on top of a horse- it looked to be her's this time- and was accompanied by several guards. Daniel couldn't help but notice that her long, dark red hair hung loose and wild and her men's clothing looked dirtier than when he had seen her that morning at the manor. Her dark eyes studied him as he bowed. When Daniel raised his eyes, she was still looking at him. Unintentionally, Daniel's blue eyes met the princess' brown ones. For a brief moment, all that Daniel could think about was how beautiful Princess Anne was. Her lips parted slightly under the intensity of their gaze.
"Forgive me, milady", the driver said, unknowingly interrupting the princess' silent interaction with the disguised servant boy. The lady focused her attention on the driver, "it's just that- well, I'm following orders 'ere. My job is to take these criminals and thieves to the coast." The driver's pride made Daniel shoot the insufferable man a deathly glare. The driver actually winced a little at Daniel's anger.
Once again infuriated, Daniel boldly turned back to the princess. "A servant is not a thief, your highness, and those who are cannot help themselves." Daniel mentally slapped himself. He could not believe that he said that to the princess! Sometimes Daniel forgot why he just didn't say hardly anything at home, but times like these reminded him why: he had too many opinions about too many things.
The princess seemed to think that Daniel's statement was as ridiculous as it had sounded in Daniel's own ears. She raised her eyebrows sarcastically at the guard on the horse next to her. He smirked back.
"Really? Well, then by all means enlighten us." She smirked arrogantly as the people surrounding her laughed quietly.
Daniel took a calming breath. Even if she was the princess, Daniel never took kindly to being mocked.
"If you", Daniel began quoting one of his favorite passages from Eutopia, "suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners corrupted from infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first educated exposed to them, what else is to be concluded, my lady, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?"
Princess Anne's mouth fell open. His eyes never left the princess' face, but Daniel could hear murmmurs of approval and astonishment from around him.
"Well, there you have it: release him." The princess spoke to the driver, but she never broke her amazed stare with Daniel.
"But, milady..", the driver whined.
This seemed to annoy the princess. She glared at the driver. "I said release him!", she repeated angrily, her eyes boring holes into the man's face.
"Yes, milady", the driver said quickly.
Daniel sighed with relief. He had done it. Maurice was free. He turned and followed the driver to the back of the wagon where he helped Maurice down to the ground. Daniel quickly pressed the money bag into the driver's hand. The man grunted and returned to his seat on the front of the cart. Maurice pulled Daniel into a quick embrace.
"I thought I was looking at your father." Maurice's eyes were misty as he smiled.
Daniel smiled briefly before urgently muttering, "Meet me at the bridge." Then he raised his voice so that the nearby crowd could hear him, "Prepare the horses", he said loftily. "We shall leave at once." Maurice nodded then squeezed Daniel's forearm before walking towards Daniel's indicated meeting place.
Returning in front of the princess, Daniel bowed and said gratefully, "Thank you, your highness." He smiled at the princess before quickly walking towards the stairs that led to the upper courtyard.
He'd just made it onto the marble pathway leading to the exit gate, when-
"Have we met?"
Daniel spun around. The princess was right behind him, studying him once again, this time with a small smile on her face.
"I do not believe so, your highness." Daniel continued walking. He had tried his best to sound certain and final. He hoped he'd succeded.
"Are you sure?"
Obviously I wasn't certain enough.
Princess Anne continued, almost to herself, "I could have sworn that I knew every courtier in the province." She looked at him, so Daniel knew that she expected a response. He racked his brain to think of one.
"Well", he began nervously, "I- I am visiting a cousin."
Please believe that.
She did. "Who?"
Daniel couldn't think of a name. "My cousin." He winced: that was such a stupid answer!
"Yes", the princess smirked: she seemed very amused, "you said that. Which one?"
"The only one I have, my lady." Daniel was acutely aware of how close the gate was getting.
Just stall a little bit more...
"Are you being coy on purpose", the princess began, still amused, "or are you honestly refusing to tell me your name?"
Coy?! Daniel stopped walking and turned to face her, wide-eyed. "No!" Then he thought about her second question. "And yes." She looked confused, so he turned to walk away while she tried to figure out his answers. It did not take her long.
Out of his peripheral vision, Daniel saw a flash of red. Then the princess was right in front of him. When he didn't stop, she started walking backwards, grinning up at him. Despite his unfortunate predicament, Daniel couldn't help smiling at her adorably childish behavior.
"Then, pray, tell me your cousin's name so that I might call upon him to learn who you are." Walking backwards seemed to be too dificult for her, for the princess stepped out of his way. As Daniel passed her, she said, "For anyone who can quote Thomas More is well-worth the effort."
Daniel stopped. She knew the author of Eutopia? Meaning she must have read the book! And she must have read it well, for she was able to recognize that he had quoted from it. She grinned knowingly at him. She'd known that he would stop when she said that.
"The princess has read Eutopia", Daniel stated, amazed.
"Yes", she said. As she walked around him, to once again block his escape out the gate, her smile faded. "But I have to say that I found it sentimental and dull. I must confess that the life of the everyday rustic bores me to tears." She seemed to find that amusing. Daniel did not.
"I gather", he said, trying to bridle his tongue, "that you do not converse with many peasants."
She laughed. "Certainly not! No! Naturally."
That did it. Daniel couldn't control himself any longer. He stormed past her, glaring as he passed. "Forgive my, my lady, but there is nothing natural about it! A country's character is defined by its 'everyday rustics', as you call them. They are the legs you stand on, and that position demands respect not-"
Daniel had vaguely noticed that the princess had been keeping up with him. She jumped in front of him again, interrupting his speech. She crossed her arms over her chest and walked slowly in front of him, grinning seductively up at him. "Am I to understand that you find me arrogant?"
She thought that she could get her way with him. That he would just bow to her every whim. Well, she had another thing coming. Daniel was not going to be a servant to her simply because she was beautiful. He had to blindly obey enough people, he didn't need another person.
"Well, you gave one man back his life", Daniel said, drawing her attention to just how selfish and self-absorbed he thought she was, "but did you even glance at the others?"
Princess Anne's smile faded and her arms dropped to her side as she looked down the hill, towards the wagon-load of prisoners. Her brown eyes actually looked a little misty.
Daniel was a little surprised. He had expected the princess to feel sorry for the men, but he had not expected her to feel that sorry. But he didn't have time to stand around any longer. The Baron would eventually notice that he wasn't at home: there was only so much wood that Daniel could chop.
He edged around the princess for the second time. He'd only managed to take a few steps, when she appeared in front of him again. However, this time, all her arrogance was gone. He stopped walking at the honest insistancy in her eyes. "Please, I beg you, a name. Any name, I don't care." She laughed a little, but smiled unsurely at Daniel.
Daniel was astonished to say the least. She actually wanted to know him! Granted, she did think that he was a nobleman, but still it was flattering. And after ten years of never being noticed by anyone, this was refreshing.
What name should I tell her? I can't tell her mine: it's too common..
Suddenly, Daniel knew what to do. His mother was her family's only child, so hardly anyone knew her maiden name. And his father's name was Phillipe, a fairly common name amongst the nobles.
"I fear", Daniel began, "that the only name I have to leave you with is Compt Phillipe de Loncre."
The princess smiled, but she seemed a little stunned that he had actually told her his name. Daniel quickly walked around her before she could ask where he was from, or who his parents were.
Daniel turned around at the princess' amused voice. She grinned at him.
"That wasn't so hard."
Daniel grinned back.
Daniel's eyes widened as the queen walked towards them on a path surrounded by several rose bushes, followed by her attendants. It looked like she had been by the tea tables. She stopped and smiled at her daughter. "You're back!"
The princess made no move to walk towards her mother, but she did smile at her. Although, Daniel couldn't help noticing that it wasn't the same carefree grin that she had given him. He couldn't explain why, but that gave him a sort of unique pleasure.
"Hello, Mother", the princess said.
The clock chimed three times. The Baron was going to be asking for him soon. Daniel had to go now. So while the princess' attention was diverted, he turned and quickly exited the courtyard. Thankfully, he made it out without Princess Anne ambushing him again.
Daniel met up with Maurice at the bridge and they quickly went into the woods, where Daniel knew that there was a path that could get them home faster than the main road. Daniel easily found the tree that he had hidden his old clothes behind, and while Maurice stood watch a few yards away, he removed his disguise. He carefully put the Baron's clothes into a pillowcase that he had brought for that purpose. Giselle was going to stop by the manor the next day and return the clothes to her father's studio where the Baron would wear them for his portrait sitting the following week.
Although he had worn the same clothing for the past year, Daniel found that he felt more comfortable in the finer clothing. He couldn't believe it, since he had felt so insecure most of the time he was wearing them. In fact, the only time he had felt at ease was when he was with the princess.
Daniel stopped buttoning his vest. Why had he felt so comfortable around the princess? She was so infuriating, and vile, and selfish, and vain, and beautiful, and charming, and-
"Stop that!", Daniel quietly ordered himself.
He couldn't think that Princess Anne was beautiful, no matter if she was or not. She was the princess! And he was just a servant.. Just Daniel Debarbarac...
No, he would not think about her smile or her laugh or her endearing childish behavior. He would only think about her arrogant smirk and her sarcastic words and her lofty demeanor. Maybe then, that's how he would remember her. Because there was no way that they would ever see each other again.