I am SOOO sorry guys for not updating sooner. I had some of these chapters written up, but I had lost inspiration in how to tie parts of my plans together, but I think I got a good lead, so I'm running with it. So here is the next part. :D
New Blood Inn
It was already late when I arrived at my stead. I packed my supplies and went out to feed my horse.
"We have a long journey ahead of us, my friend," I said to him, stroking his face as he ate. "But we won't be returning without her." Behind me, I heard the sounds of horses and men and cautiously peered out the barn door to see who my visitors were.
"Jacob." It was the eldest prince and Emmett. I took their horses after they dismounted. I knew why they were here. "She's my sister, and I won't lose her again." I nodded.
"We leave at first light."
I didn't even have time to run or react when I was thrown into a carriage and carried away from my home. I knew where he would take me. He had bound my hands, mouth, even eyes and held me close so that I felt his breath on my face. I whimpered in fear and disgust, knowing my near future.
We arrived at a place I had never been before, his stead no doubt. Again, I forced into a secret door that led into a dark and cold dungeon. He had kept girls here before. He dumped me on the cold floor and released my bounds, but before I could find my feet, he shut the heavy door. I ran to it uselessly, knowing it wouldn't open. I heard the lock turn as he callously left me. I fell against the door and burst into sobs. Oh, Jacob. I am so sorry.
I knew exactly where our first destination would be. It was far from where we were, no doubt why the duke also took a residence in the castle. My anger built when I considered the reasons he had taken her.
Duke Nahuel's servants greeted us and took our horses. I ran up the white steps of his admittedly impressive home and charged in.
"Nessie!" I called. "Nessie!" The servants were frantic and tried to stop me, but I pushed past them, running past the stairs searching every door. His home was eerie and unwelcoming, though polite. I ran back to the stairs and found something I had missed earlier. A small hole that seemed out of place in such a fine house. I pulled at the hole and was surprised to see a small door open around it, a secret passage leading to a small and dark room underneath the house. I grabbed the torch and lit it with the match beside it. "Nessie!" I called.
"Sir, please do not go in there," a servant called out, but I didn't listen. I stepped into the basement to find a stock room of wine and spirits. She was not here, but that did not mean he did not have her. I set the torch in its place for the servants to deal with and ran up the stairs to find Nahuel. I could hear Jasper and Emmett searching the rest of the house.
Most of the rooms were empty. Finally I found a large room that I guessed was Nahuel's with a roaring fire lit. He was sitting in a large chair; only the drink in his hand was visible.
"Where is she, Nahuel?" I demanded. He barely moved except to take another drink from his glass. I marched over to him and threw his tumbler in the fire and then bent low over his chair so that we were eye to eye.
"Mr. Black," he responded, his words low and languid. "I didn't hear you come in." Jasper and Emmett ran into the room. Emmett shook his head; there was no sign of her. I grabbed the duke by the collar.
"Where is May, Nahuel? I won't ask you again." His eyes finally made contact with mine.
"Would you care for a drink, gentlemen?" He stood up and I let him pass so he could poor himself another Scotch. "Is it not a devastating feeling, Jacob, to have the woman you love leave you?"
"I am not here to play games. Tell me what I need to know," I growled. He downed the contents of his glass and poured himself another.
"You're wasting your time, Mr. Black. I have already been thoroughly searched by the royal search party. She is not here." I had had enough of his taunting and charged him, striking his face and kicking his stomach before picking him up to run his head into the wall. I expected Prince Jasper to stop me, but he did not move. I dragged Nahuel so his head was frighteningly near the fire.
"She is not here! She's not here!" he screamed frantically. "It was not me. I did not take her, I swear!" I released him and bent down to his level. "My servants can testify that I have not left my home in weeks nor had any visitors. I have not been able to stop drinking to make such plans." I didn't want to believe him, but what choice did I have? She was not here, and he would never tell me where she was if he knew. At least if I let him live, I would know where to find him.
It's dark in here. It's cold. The floor is damp and uncomfortable, but it is a change from standing. I've already eaten all the bread and water, and they won't come again until tomorrow. He's breaking me, trying to make me what I was before, but worse. He had big plans for me, he said. I want to go home. I try not to think of Jacob or his searching, but I knew I wouldn't be found. But at least I knew someone was trying.
"Jacob," Jasper called when he spotted me. The three of us had split up to question the townsfolk of anyone who might have seen Nessie. We had already traveled through several different towns. "Someone has recalled a man passing through the town, buying an item for an ill aunt. Food and cheap clothing. He said he only had a suspicion, but if the gentleman was only passing through the town, and his aunt was bedridden, how could he care for her, and why come to a different town for her supplies?"
"You suspect he has no aunt," I concluded.
"Only a girl in hiding and does not risk buying so many supplies in his own town." We sought to find the informant and he pointed us in the direction of the suspect. "Sir, you seem determined to find this princess," the merchant said to me, "so you should know that the supplies he purchased, aside from the bread, silk, and burlap clothing, were animal shackles and daggers." I bowed in gratitude for the information, but I could say nothing. I gave Jasper a look. We needed to find her quickly, or she would face another day in turmoil.
We will not pretend our opinion of you has bettered since your crime. In fact, it is despicable. How a murderer could be wife to a royal member only shows the injustice our monarchy is capable of. But we have not forgotten what you've done. You stole our child, killed her, and have yet to pay the price.
We are demanding reciprocity for what you've taken from us. You will deliver to us money enough for us to be considered wealthy for the remainder of our lives, at the gallows where you should have hanged in 3 days when the Sun is at its highest point. Do not underestimate the power of words, which we will use to poison the people's opinions of our monarchy.
I lowered the unsigned letter from my eyes and gave myself a few moments to absorb the situation. They had found me. My name change did nothing to disguise my identity. My family had discovered me and was blackmailing me. But I could not comply. I wouldn't. If I met this demand, there would be another. I threw the paper into the fire and packed a small parcel of clothes, food, and money and tied it to my leg, hidden beneath my dress.
"I'm going for a walk," I told anyone who questioned where I was going. A carriage would have been more proper for someone in my condition, but I could not take what was not mine. I could only pray for my husband's forgiveness.
We had rented out a lodge for the night for the three of us. Jasper began sketching pictures of his sister. Even with his exceptional talent, the pictures did little to capture her essence, only persuaded me to locate her sooner.
"The search parties have been here before," Emmett reported when he returned from interviewing a few leads he had gotten. "But I am sure they left with the same information we have."
"Which is nothing," I said angrily. Jasper continued to draw, darkening the lines defining her delicate features. I picked up one of his drawings, staring at her. She needed me. Every moment I lay here was a moment she was at the mercy of someone else. But if not at the hands of Duke Nahuel, who? Who else would take her? I stood up and headed to the door.
"Jacob, you will make no progress by searching for her in the dark," Jasper protested.
"I cannot sit still until she is returned," I argued not turning around.
"It is better for us to make good use of the light while we have it, and we need rest to do so." I removed my hand from the door. How I was supposed to rest with the thoughts that haunted my dreams, I would never know, but I knew Jasper to be wise, so I complied. I fell atop the bed and closed my eyes. Jasper pulled another piece of parchment and began another sketch.
The following morning, we showed the sketches of Nessie to the people of the town.
"That's the circus girl," a peddler said as we interviewed a crowd near him. The three of us turned around and approached him.
"You have seen this girl," Jasper said.
"Yes, a very beautiful girl, talented, young," he said taking the drawing from Jasper.
"She was here?"
"Yes, traveled from town to town, as her company did, entertaining for money."
"When did you see her?" I asked anxiously. At last, a lead that would cease our endless circles.
"Oh, been almost 10 years since I saw her face. She was only a child. Seems to have grown up into a woman. But I'd recognize her anywhere." I exhaled my disappointment. 10 years. How would that knowledge be useful? "She was quite an asset, I remember. Not a man for miles I'm sure was bidding for her services." The peddler bit into some fruit.
"Services?" Jasper asked. Emmett didn't seem surprised. I could only guess of his own experience of work as a young boy.
"'Tis an awful world we live in. How they could want to do that to a child."
"And the man she worked for?"
"From what I heard, he caused quite a raucous about the child, showing her off as advertisement, as they would say. I'm not sure if there was much truth to the rumors. I only hear things." Jasper looked to me.
"A man who could make such a profit from an avid entertainer would have reason to track his investment," he pointed out.
"Why after all these years?" I asked skeptically. I was not convinced this information was worth the aggravation.
"Perhaps news of her royal status has increased her value." I agreed with him with that point.
"We have no other clues. I suppose we should look into it."
"The circus, where do they mostly perform?" Emmett asked.
"Not more than a few miles from here, next to the New Blood Inn. Would often draw crowds from different areas for their entertainers. 'Tis a horrible world we live in." Jasper handed him a pouch of gold and we headed for the New Blood Inn.
More of May coming up in the next chapter, and Alice's part is going to get important. Stay tuned!