A/N: I wrote this chapter and found that it has a bit more of a "spiritual" tone to it. I don't know if later chapters will be like this.
The prince had expected to be tired when he woke up. He had gotten very little sleep the previous night. The memory of the previous night remained in his thoughts. It hadn't taken anywhere near as long as he thought it would, but he still missed out on a few hour of sleep. Yet despite this, he found himself oddly alert that morning. He smirked at the thought of it. His quick actions had escaped Lady Tremaine's notice. At some point in the day he would have to talk with his father about it. He would probably tell him sometime after Mass. He opened his eyes and saw that sunlight filtered through his windows. The prince continued to lie in bed for a few minutes before he heard someone knocking on his door. He quickly got out of bed and threw on his robe. He opened the door and saw a servant standing outside in the hallway. In his hands was a breakfast tray.
"Good morning, Your Highness."
The prince blinked at the servants words. He did not understand why he was being given breakfast in bed rather than join his father for breakfast as he normally would. He continued to stare at the servant for a few moments, remaining silent. He then shook his head briefly and asked, "Has something happened?"
The servant looked at the prince in slight confusion, hesitating before he said, "I don't believe anything is wrong, if that's what you're asking."
The prince stepped back, allowing for the servant to enter his room. He remained by the door and rubbed his eyes with one of his hands. His eyes narrowed slightly as he watched the servant cross the room over to his bed. The servant placed the tray on a nearby table. Prince Charles still found this slightly confusing. His curiosity, however, was soon dispelled as the servant made his way towards the door to leave the prince to his privacy. He stopped and turned to face the prince.
"Mass begins at 9 o' clock. I've left you a change of clothes in your wardrobe."
The prince nodded, acknowledging that he had heard him. He had forgotten that it was Sunday. He now realized why he would be eating in his room that morning. The early Mass time left with little time to change. The servant then turned around again and left. He sighed as he sat back down on the edge of his bed. He felt that he would have another long day ahead of him. As he ate breakfast, his eyes briefly wandered towards his dresser. The list of departing ships and kingdoms was still inside his pants pocket. He would need to keep it on him at all times. They could not afford to have a servant find it. He then realized that he would need to keep his wits about him at every waking moment. It would be a very long month, at least, until this matter could be solved. The thought crossed his mind as he finished the last of his breakfast. He sighed once more at the thought. He then got up and made his way over to his wardrobe.
In the guest wing of the palace, Anastasia coughed as a pail of water was poured over her head. She had already eaten breakfast, and Abigail was now helping her bathe. They would have to take care of her disheveled appearance from last night. Anastasia closed her eyes as Abigail began to lather shampoo into her hair. It had been in complete disarray after her nightmare. Anastasia leaned back as Abigail ran her fingers through her hair. She found herself relaxing, something she hadn't had much chance to do for a while. She realized that, for the first time since she arrived at the palace, she didn't feel ashamed or scared. She was briefly jarred away from these thoughts when Abigail poured a second pail of water over her head, rinsing out the shampoo.
"I think that should just about take care of things," Abigail remarked as she stood up. She then reached out to help Anastasia up before handing her a towel. Once Anastasia was dried off, Abigail led her to a mirror where she began to brush her hair. Abigail then left for a moment, leaving Anastasia by herself. She stopped brushing her hair and paused to look at herself in the mirror. She silently stared at her reflection. Her red hair now hung straight down. For a very brief second, she almost felt that she could pass as pretty. She allowed a small smile to tug at her lips. As she continued to look herself in the mirror, she couldn't help but think about the previous day. She had enjoyed her time with the prince, and it appeared that he had as well. And she felt that they would probably spend more time together in the coming days. For a moment, she once again felt it were possible that the prince could still develop feelings for her, but she quickly pushed aside those thoughts. She had more important issues at hand.
Anastasia jumped slightly when she heard the door open. She turned around and saw that Abigail had once again entered the room, this time holding up a gown. It was a purple gown with gold embroidery, neither particularly ornate nor in any way plain. Abigail motioned for her turn around again so she could dress her. Anastasia nodded and Abigail began to help her into the dress. It was somewhat bulkier than anything she was used to wearing, she found once she had finished trying it on. But it was still a very beautiful dress, she felt. The smile returned to her lips as she twirled in front of the mirror. She turned around suddenly when she heard a small giggle from Abigail.
"I'm glad you like it," Abigail joked. Anastasia managed a sheepish grin in return. The two women looked up at the clock and saw that it was time to head to the Cathedral. A smile frown came upon Anastasia's face, and Abigail was quick to notice it.
Anastasia stopped and her face fell. She took a deep breath before turning towards her servant.
"I'm nervous," she confessed.
Abigail nodded and took Anastasia's hands in her own, giving her an encouraging smile.
"It will be all right, Anastasia. No one outside the palace even knows what has happened. There's nothing to be nervous about."
Anastasia shook her head and explained, "I don't mean that, Abigail. I'm worried that I'll never truly be forgiven for this."
Abigail's eyes widened in shock when she heard Anastasia say this. "What?" she asked, barely whispering.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up," Anastasia quickly said and tried to turn away, but Abigail stood firm. She took a step closer and said, "Anastasia, I will not deny that what you did was wrong, but I feel that you're being far too hard on yourself. Even if Cinderella cannot forgive you, even if you cannot forgive yourself, you need to remember that you can always be forgiven. I can see that you regret how you treated her, and I can see that you regret that your mother banished her, and that you feel that it is somehow your fault. But remember this, Anastasia. Anything can be forgiven. You should always remember this, considering where we're both about to go."
Anastasia kept her head bowed as they resumed their walk towards the Cathedral.
Prince Charles silently sat in the front pew inside the Cathedral. Other people had slowly begun to file in and he couldn't help but see that many of them had given strange looks towards Anastasia and her family when they saw them seated across the aisle from the king and himself. He remembered the story of Anastasia's past, and he began to suspect that many of the other nobility didn't think she was fit to wear the crown, if it came down to that. He thought about this more and then began to suspect that many of them probably would not support her becoming royalty.
The prince then found himself in a difficult situation. What if he ultimately did end up marrying Anastasia? He didn't know much of her past. They probably didn't know of who she had since become. On one hand he wanted to resolve this issue as quickly as possible, but on the other hand he felt somewhat unnerved at the decision he would soon have to make. He turned and glanced towards Anastasia. She seemed completely absorbed in her own thoughts. It seemed that they were once again alike. He could only imagine what she was thinking then. They had both been through quite an ordeal. He then lay these thoughts aside when he heard the first notes of the organ play out. He stood up with everyone else as the Mass began.
After Mass, the prince quickly retreated to his room. He wanted to gather his thoughts before he would talk with his father. They would need to plan their next move. The prince's actions from the previous night had only been the first step. Now that they knew the possible locations where Cinderella had been taken, they would need to discern how best to look for her. He took a deep breath and headed towards his father's study. The prince found the king seated at his desk as he entered the room.
"Son?" the king asked, assuming that his son had entered the room because he wished to speak with him. The prince hesitated briefly before turning around and closing the door. His father eyed him curiously at this. He opened his mouth to speak but then closed it, figuring that his son would soon explain. The prince tried to determine the best place to begin, and simply produced the list from his pocket. He stepped in front of the desk and began, "I decided to take action late last night. I discreetly rode out to the harbor and met with the dock officer."
The king frowned, to the prince's surprise. He had expected him to welcome this initiative, but it appeared that the king did not agree with this.
"I hope you took measures to make sure you weren't seen."
The prince nodded.
"Of course, I went out in the middle of the night. No one saw me. Aside from the dock officer, no one seemed to notice I was even there, let alone who I was."
"That's not quite what I meant, son. I'm referring to Miss Tremaine. If she knew what you had done, our plan would be ruined."
"I don't feel that we need to worry about that. It was two o'clock in the morning when I set out, and I returned, at most, two hours later. Even if she were still awake, I don't think she would be wandering around the castle that time of night. And her room doesn't overlook the palace gardens."
The king nodded and rubbed his chin. He had no reason to dispute his son's thinking. Additionally, he suspected that if she had learned of this, she would have wasted no time in using the wand on them. And the fact that he still knew of the wand served as proof that they hadn't been placed under a spell.
"Well, no, I don't suspect she would, either. But still, you took a great risk and I wish you had consulted me on this."
"Would you have granted it?" the prince challenged.
The king was slightly taken aback by his son's boldness in the past few days. He had grown much more self-assertive since the night of the ball. This ordeal appeared to have lit a fire within him. He supposed that this was good, as it would make him appear stronger when he would one day become king. But that was a matter for another day. They had a more pressing issue on their hands, so the king simply nodded and asked, "Did you learn anything from your expedition?"
The prince nodded and handed him the list. "These are the names of the ships that left on the afternoon in question," he explained. "I suspect we should give greater attention to the later ships, since I remember arriving at the harbor shortly before sunset. And I would have to assume that she was placed on a ship headed farther away. Her stepmother would want to make it nearly impossible for her to return."
"Do you have a plan to find her?"
The prince shrugged at this. He hadn't thought that far, despite coming up with a few possible solutions, but most of them would be very risky. They would take valuable time.
"I'd considered sending a guard to each of the kingdoms in question and try to get an audience with their respective kings. This is the most discreet option I've thought of, but it's the most costly one as well. We will need to employ most of the guards for this."
"Would the king even know if she was there?"
"Her father must have been nobility otherwise Anastasia's mother wouldn't have married him. We can have Anastasia confirm whether Lord Tremaine was her father or stepfather and then bring that information to the king. If she was the daughter of a nobleman, the king would probably want to know she's now living in his kingdom."
"That's assuming that Anastasia is being honest with us."
"Do you still not trust her?"
"Not fully, I have learned some reasons that she could possibly be trusted, but I'm still slightly wary of her."
The prince held in a sigh. He found that he was growing a little annoyed at his father's distrust.
"Did you have any other solutions?"
"Yes, we could simply interview the captains of their respective ships once they return home. The only concern I have with it is that it's more likely for Anastasia's mother to suspect that we know about her. She'll probably never be seen near the docks, but she will find it suspicious if she sees us bring in several captains to the palace."
The king leaned back in his chair, pondering over this. His son had done most of the work in this, and he found that he was inclined to continue with that. All of the decisions that his son made had yet to result in any serious consequences.
"Which of the two options do you think is more favorable?" the king asked.
"I would have to go with the first option if we went with one of them. We need to be as discreet as possible."
The king nodded. "I will try to make preparations when Miss Tremaine is not around to learn of them."
Later that afternoon, Anastasia and the prince rode to the chateau again. They would do the same thing that they had done the previous afternoon and return to the palace. The prince felt that Anastasia would be more comfortable riding a horse today. As such, he encouraged the horse to run faster than he had the previous day. The prince saw that there were no clouds in the sky. They stopped just in front of the statue. He quickly dismounted the horse before helping Anastasia climb down. He brought the horse to the nearby stable. Anastasia waited by the statue while he tied the horse up. They then made their way towards the chateau. They entered through the door to the back kitchen and once again found Bruno sleeping on the rug.
"Hey there, buddy," the prince greeted playfully, kneeling down to rub the dog's neck. Bruno quickly woke up and jumped once he saw the prince. "Hey, I've missed you, too," he said with a laugh. Anastasia couldn't help but laugh as well. He continued to sit with the dog while Anastasia went to well to retrieve some water. When she returned and set the bowl down, Bruno immediately jumped for the bowl and eagerly began to drink the water. The prince laughed again and said, "Good boy." The chickens and the horse were quickly fed, and as they were about to head back to the palace, Anastasia turned to the prince and asked, "Your Highness, would you like to take a tour of the chateau?"
The prince mulled over this. Aside from simple curiosity, it would provide him with an opportunity to learn a little more of Anastasia's past. He knew he wasn't needed at the palace for the rest of the day, so he quickly nodded. Anastasia eagerly grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him back through to door and into the chateau. The pair ran through the kitchen and into the staircase landing that connected to the main living area. The prince silently walked around the room, and saw that the chateau didn't seem to be properly maintained. He then remembered that Anastasia told him that she and Drizella had been greatly spoiled when they were younger. Had that kept their mother from keeping the house in condition? Where did she come up with enough money for that? He quickly shook his head, making a mental note to possibly look into that at some later time.
The prince then turned and saw that Anastasia was heading up the stairs and moved to follow her. He stopped to look at the hallway. The walls had been painted with a light blue, and a deep red carpet covered the floor. To his left was a huge chandelier. He closed his eyes and began to imagine how it must have looked when it was lit. A sound then startled him and he opened his eyes. He turned and saw Anastasia open one of the doors. "This was our music room," she explained. He stepped inside to see a large grand piano in the middle of the room. "Do you play?" he asked. "Flute," she answered, "although I'm not the good at it," she sheepishly admitted. She was about to ask the prince if he played, but she soon saw that he was already sitting at the piano, playing out a few notes. She gasped when she recognized the tune. Anastasia turned towards him and saw that the music to Sing, Sweet Nightingale was still sitting on the stand.
"Our mother always wanted us to play that sing. We were actually practicing it when…we received the invitation to the ball," she finished sadly. The prince stopped playing when he heard this. He got up and reassuring told her, "It's alright. We probably should be heading back now before anyone might get suspicious." The two of them then went back into the hallway and headed towards the stairs. They stopped suddenly when they saw a carriage outside the main doors. The prince cringed. He had forgotten that Anastasia and her family would be stopping by the chateau to retrieve a few things.
A/N: What did you think of it? This is the first real cliff-hanger, so I'll try to update this one again sometime soon. Reviews are appreciated.