Nanny Fairy Tale
Chapter 7: The things that are not to be seen
Sir Niles went to the kitchen of the Castle and started giving orders: he chose the most caring of the maids to go to the room where the guest was, and oriented her to ask if she wanted something to eat or needed anything.
Then he went to his own room, changed from his exercising clothes, bathed and prepared to see the witch.
Well, he was not going to see her, he was going to interrogate her. As the King had ordered. As he, the loyal knight he was, should focus on…
He was looking at himself in the mirror, now, and choosing carefully his clothes and combing his hair because… It was not enough to be clever, when you are interrogating a dangerous suspect. Sometimes you must be… cute, too.
With that one he rolled his eyes at himself.
His careful preparations had the goal to give the woman some space, too. If she accepted the offer of food, she would need some time. It would be rude to go to her room without giving her the opportunity to, at least, rest.
He didn't know if witches need rest, but he couldn't risk not being in her good graces.
Because he had to interrogate her, of course. What more?
Tired of trying to disguise his interest for her (and failing), Niles finally decided it was time to get out of his room and face the witch.
However, there was a knock on his door, followed by an already well-known voice.
'It's Fran! Are you decent?'
He opened it, amazed by the way her voice carried through those thick wooden doors, and before he could say anything, she had her hands on her hips and a very impressed expression on her face. 'Wow, Mister! You are waaaaayyyyy more than decent!'
'Please, come in', he answered with faked impatience, pretending he didn't like the compliment.
She entered his room. 'I needed to talk to you about her'.
'Oh, please. As if I was stupid enough to not notice the way you look at the witch'. Fran seated on his bed. 'She is your purpose, isn't she?'
Niles thought about denying it, but he really needed to talk about it, and he had already pondered on the possibility of coming to Fran. 'Yes, she is', he said, with a sigh, closing the door.
'Oh, poor dear', she answered, signaling for him to seat by her side. 'She is a beast, isn't she?'
'Yeah', he answered, smiling. 'However, I always had a thing for the wild'.
They shared a laugh over that.
'Sir Niles, listen', Fran said, taking his hand and sobering. 'I can already say you are a wonderful guy, and I wish I could tell you how happy I am you've found someone that makes you feel all alive, but… You know King Maxwell is right, don't you? She seems dangerous…'
'Don't think I don't know that, Miss Fine'.
'Well, you know that and find it great, but I'm referring to the bad side of it'.
'Yes, I understand. I feel deeply attracted to her… to the aura she seems to have around her… and I'm already thorn between my… sympathy for her and the possible menace she brings to this reign'.
'The 'aure' thing I can understand, but… sympathy? Well, whatever… What I want you to know is that I will be by your side, darling. Do what you feel is right, and I'll try to help you'.
'I'm glad you're here to help me in this situation. And I really appreciate your support, specially because you and the King are being so comfortable together…'
'Oh, he is such an adorable man!', she had a dreamy look on her face. 'I think I'm falling hard for this guy…'
'So you understand loving is not an easy task'.
'Oh, yes, I do. My heart has chosen a King, yours has chosen a witch. What are we doing?!'
'Trying to prove to God we can do anything?'
'Or defying the damn blind Cupid who has hit us like this!'
They were sharing a sweet smile when the door was suddenly open with force.
The King entered the room, his eyes flashing with jealousy. 'Am I interrupting something?'
The couple seated on the bed looked at him with surprise, but soon Fran recovered, let go of Niles' hand and got up. 'Get your mind off the gutter right now, King Maxwell'.
That made Niles realize what was all of this scene about, and he was surprised. 'We were having a conversation about the witch, Sir'.
'The witch? Why here? I mean, why?'
Niles got up, too, and made his mind quickly on what he should say – there was no reason to not turn tables to his favor. 'Do you remember, Sir, that I mentioned to you that there was a rather elusive presence in our forest? And that I got to communicate with that, but it went away? Well, it was the witch who is here in the Castle'.
'So, you really knew her!'
'Yes, and I'm sorry I didn't tell you this before. I wanted to wait to see what she would do. I ask your forgiveness for that'. He reclined his head in a convincingly regretful fashion. 'Miss Fine came to confront me about that, in fact. She was the other presence in the forest that night, and was confused by my behavior'.
'Oh, darling, don't…', she started.
Niles cut her off. 'There is no need of hiding anything, Miss Fine. You were right, I should have told him sooner'.
The King seemed convinced by the confession. 'Well, Sir Niles, I understand. I think you should be careful, next time, because I rely heavily on you, and this kind of mistake is very dangerous'.
'I know Sir. Isn't it great that now we have a heart like hers to guide us?', he said, making a gesture on Fran's general direction.
The King beamed at Miss Fine, forgetting completely to say anything.
'Well, if you excuse me, I have a mission to accomplish', Niles tried to break the spell between those two – at least, enough that they would leave his room and let him free to do what he really wanted to do.
'Oh, yeah, go', the King murmured, his eyes never leaving hers, 'You have my blessing'.
'Your Majesty, wouldn't be rude if I left you two alone in my room? I mean, I can't leave while I have guests', Niles pursued his lips to hide the knowing smile.
The King realized the situation, cleared his throat and was all agitated. 'Of course, Old Man. I'm sorry. Let's go, Miss Fine'.
She smiled sweetly at him. 'Will you show me the balcony of your room, as you promised earlier?'
The King blushed under Sir Niles look of surprise. 'Yes, yes, I will. Let's do it. I mean…'
He gave up trying to explain himself and exited. Fran waited some seconds and looked at the knight. 'Thank you, darling, but… I hope you know what you're doing!'
'Don't forget I'm The Clever', he answered and winked at her, receiving a broad smile in return.
Obviously, he would prefer this scene ending with her graciously exiting his room, but the gracious exit was followed by a 'Coming!' yell to the King, because the man had come back to wait for her at the door.
The suspicious glance the man threw him made Sir Niles feel uneasy; the fascination in the King's eyes while hearing a voice that made him, Niles, wince, made him relax, because only love could make a man… deaf like that and happy with every moment of it.
And maybe a King in love would be more easily to deal with.
Niles arrived at the door of the room where the woman was, greeted the guards, asked how they were doing, if everything was all right until now, and informed them he would talk to the woman and should not be interrupted.
One of the guards opened the door for him, announcing 'Sir Niles, the Clever'. He felt a bit strange by the formal announcement, but the poor man could not even imagine they had already met each other in places like a forest and some meadows… with only the moon as witness…
He entered and the door was closed behind him.
'Do you mind if I enter the room?', he asked, barely two steps inside, trying to show respect by her space.
She was seated on an armchair next to the window. 'It's not like I have anything to say, in this Castle'.
'I don't intend to be any more annoying than the strictly necessary'.
She smiled at that. 'You may enter if you really want it'.
He nodded, while getting closer and choosing to seat on another armchair, in front of her. 'You know I'm very interested in you', he said, looking at his hands. Then, his eyes searched hers and he discovered she was waiting for it. 'I'd come even if the King hadn't asked me'.
'And he did'.
'Yes, he did'. Niles saw her frown slightly. 'I hope you don't mind, but one of the duties I perform is… entertain our guests'.
'I can't see you entertaining anyone'.
'Because I'm too grave?'
'Because you're as fun as a grave'.
He made a face at that. 'How charming of you…'
'You can be sure I'm full of charms…'
The innuendo was getting to him, and he felt a bit flustered. 'And should I try to make you…use… some of them?'
'On you? I've been doing it for a while. It is good to know you didn't notice'. Her hand made a slightly snobbish gesture, 'I prefer this way'.
'But I'm here to discover things', he said, trying not to sound too professional about all of this, and knowing that being professional might be his only chance against her. 'May I ask you some questions?'
'The questions are for the King or for yourself?'
'So, I suppose the first one is if I enjoyed the meal you sent me'.
The knight blushed. 'It is standard for the Castle's staff to feed the animals'.
She smiled. 'I have some powers, but I didn't even have to use them to discover who was taking care of me'. Her glance under the eyelashes made her look seductive for an instant, but the expression suddenly changed to smugness. 'You are clever and attentive, but not that subtle as you wish'.
'Then you think you really know my wishes…', he said and made a face to hide a smile when he noticed her licking her lips and blushing. 'Did you enjoy the meal?', he asked, as if they were talking about the news from the last joust.
'Yes, thank you. I really needed that'.
He nodded, trying to contain a warm feeling that was menacing to dominate him.
'Go on, Knight. You gave me time enough to eat, refresh myself and be comfortable. Make the harsh questions, now'.
'I don't intend them to be harsh'. Niles moved on the chair, and soon he noticed he was all turned to her, even reclined into her direction. 'If I heard correctly, you came here to plea in the name of various groups of believers'.
'You heard correctly'.
'This makes you a very important and reliable person'.
'Isn't it a surprise?', she defied him, as if having fun.
He just squinted at her lack of seriousness. In fact, her changeable attitude was endearing. 'Then… what is your belief?'
'Why do you ask?', she was wary, now, and Niles thought that maybe he had hit a nerve.
'Because I can't understand why you have been chosen', at her indignant face, he retorted quickly. 'I am not saying you couldn't be, I'm saying I can't understand, because I don't know the details'. She calmed down. 'For example, if there are a lot of beliefs, what is it you have that is so special that makes you reliable to all the others?'
'What makes me special is exactly that I am not a believer'.
The knight's hands were clutching the arms of the chair and he kept silent, just staring at her. He was too shocked for words.
'And you are proving, right now, how perfect to this mission I am', the woman said, rolling her eyes.
'How so?', he managed to ask.
'Look at you: all bothered because I said I was not a believer. Does it make me less trustful than other people?'
Niles noticed his tense posture and forced himself to relax. 'I'm sorry. I was… surprised'.
'This is the problem with you, believers: you think no one can live without faith in ethereal entities'.
'But… then why?'
'Why what? Why live without faith?'
'Why did they choose you? And more: why did you accept?'
She was touched by the fact he didn't feel interested in giving her a lecture and softened. 'I want a world with no borders and no prohibitions related to religion. I intend to fight for the right to go whenever a person wishes'.
'It explains why you're here. However, you had to win other people to your ideas…'
'Everybody knows my cause is freedom, not religion. That is why people chose me: because they couldn't trust a believer to come here and talk for everyone'.
'I thought you were a witch'.
'And I am. I have some powers'.
'I always thought witches had one specific religion'.
'You probably always thought that witches were ugly creatures with big moles on their noses…'
'Even if I had thought like that, just one look at you would change my mind…'
She smiled in a mix of pride and shyness he found the most beautiful thing in the world.
'You must understand, knight, that it is not a religious thing. It is like you thinking your intelligence or hunting skills or kin hearing are blessings from a god. They are just talents. Some of them you were born with, others you've developed. But they don't need to be necessarily heavenly blessings'. She looked at him, and it was easy to see she was eager to know if he could follow her.
'I understand', he reassured her.
'That's why I'm here, representing Athena and Apollo followers, representing the druids, representing some unpronounceable black god's names and even more unpronounceable dragon's names followers… All they want is the right to visit the forest, and if I manage to get them it, the easier part – and the best one – will be sharing the forest with the wise men and women who really can do something good of it – the researchers'.
Sir Niles kept looking at her for some time. There was such a beauty in her idealism he wished they had met in different circumstances, so he could support her anywhere she decided to act.
But… if her cause was fair, why shouldn't he support her anyway? It was not like he hadn't thought about some aspects of religion being limited to comprehend human nature, and that knowledge from researchers would help people more than a religious ritual…
He needed time to think about that.
It was clear she had noticed the turmoil she had put him in, because she remained silent, respecting his thoughts.
When he talked, his voice was low and worried. 'You almost managed to be thrown in jail. If you have a plan, it doesn't seem to be working'.
'But it is. Of course, your interference was very positive, because these accommodations are much better than the ones your intolerant King had decided to give me'.
'He is not intolerant… all the time'.
'He has the power to destroy worlds with his acts. Intolerance is the worst thing a King may support. It can stain any good act he decides to do with the mark of injustice'.
Niles frowned, 'I start to think you are right in your thinking, but wrong in your words. This is not the way to reach the King's mind'.
'Maybe it is not his mind I wish to reach'.
Sir Niles got up quickly, his jaw hard, his eyes blazing. 'Then I must warn you it may cost you dearly'.
She got up, too, noticing he may have misunderstood her, and deciding maybe it was for the better. 'I have no fear'.
'You should not underestimate your adversaries. It can be your downfall'.
'Are you menacing me?'
'I'm warning you'.
'There are people out there wishing to help me. They shall come for my rescue, if necessary'.
'What do you mean?', he was suddenly jealous of these… supporters of hers. It was illogical, but thinking his support was not her only one made him feel something bad he couldn't recognize yet.
'You shall see, knight. There are a lot of things you don't know and I do, and those things will make all the difference!', she said, all confident.
But then she realized how disturbed he was, looking at her with sadness.
And she realized she liked to brag, but didn't like it so much when it made him so… what?
She frowned in concentration and got closer to him. 'What is it? Why do you seem to be…', she found the word, 'hurt?'
Niles gulped and breathed deeply, trying to enjoy the fact she could see his soul and it interested her to the point she let her own pride out of the way and just wanted to understand him. He liked this link they had, even if it made him feel exposed to her. 'You said I could trust you'.
'And you can', she guaranteed, walking until she was closer but more by his side than in front of him, and putting the palm of her hand on his stomach, in an intimate gesture that made him instantaneously calmer. She was confused by his reaction, because she was not using magic right now, and it was like her touch, to him, was magical in its own way. 'What makes you think it changed?'
'You plan to get closer to the King… And you are not telling me all there is to know about that… I wish I could be sure of your intentions…'
Her voice showed the softness he put on her soul. 'The plan is more dangerous than you can imagine. I can't put you in risk'.
'Don't you think I can take it for you?'
'I think I could never have anyone better than you by my side. I don't regret my decision of letting you live, that night in the forest. As I don't regret trusting you with a major part of… what I am'.
His left hand came to hers and he intertwined their fingers. 'Then why don't you tell me everything? Do you think I'm not the one who is worthy your trust? Do you… prefer the King?'
They were looking into each other's eyes while he talked, and when he finished, she made something that surprised him to the core.
She hugged him tight.
It was very disturbing to him, not just because it was a strong all body contact, but because it revealed a suffering he wasn't prepared for.
She parted from him and put her hands on his cheeks, to make him look her deeply in the eyes. 'You're too loyal and honest. If I tell you everything, it will lead you to make decisions based on things you don't really know. I want you to see things as they are, discover who is who by your own, and then you'll be able to make your choice. I want you to be sure of your decisions, and never regretting them'.
He took her hands slowly and put them on his shoulders; he then put his own hands on her hips. His eyes were full of tears. 'It is beautiful… the fact you are trying to give me time to make the correct choices, but… don't you think it is a bit too late?'
She could do nothing more than whisper. 'What do you mean?'
'I have already made my choice', he said, and his eyes couldn't decide themselves between her eyes and her mouth.
'You are cleverer than this…', she answered, her eyes already decided for his mouth.
'Oh, no, I'm not…'
And with that their lips found each other, and the sensation of sweetness and belonging was there again. It was impossible to deny they had to be together, by the way their bodies fit into one another so easily, by the feelings they awoke in the other's heart. No matter the circumstances, they were two halves of a whole that felt incredibly good.
When they parted, her eyes had tears, too, because the feeling was mutual and unmistakable: now that they have discovered each other, it would be too much suffering to be apart.
The knight put their foreheads together. 'In fact, I may be even cleverer for choosing the right thing so quick'.
'Call me Niles'.
He shivered at his name in her voice, and she smiled, caressing his neck.
She sighed, and it suggested contentment and resignation. 'Do you know that a witch's name is like a magical word, don't you?'.
'I've heard about that. It's one of the reasons why I never asked yours'.
'And you'd like to know my name, now?', she almost purred.
He separated them, faking surprise. 'Is it not 'Witch?''
She giggled, happy by the light tone he had adopted. 'No!'
'Knowing a witch's name is a way of having some power over her?', he asked with care to let her see he was not joking.
'It may be, if it is said in the right way'.
'If you trust me enough to tell me, I promise you I shall honor it forever. Never abuse it, never devaluate it, and never, ever forget it'.
Her silence was full of promises. For the first time since they met, Niles felt they were in the same page, feeling the same, ready to give a step forward, even if it was not clear where it was heading them.
'I believe you. My name is…'
A strong voice of a guard announced, from the outside, 'The King is here, Sir Niles. May I open the door?'
In a flash they were apart, and Niles was surprised by the velocity she had to reach to be comfortably seated in the armchair while he answered 'Of course'.
The door was open and the King threw a speculative glance inside the room. 'Sir Niles, I came to seek for your advice on another matter. Do you need any help in here?'
'No, your Majesty, it is not necessary. I was just finishing our conversation right now. Want me to join you in the main room?'. Niles was anxious to take the man out of there.
The King nodded and turned to the woman on the armchair. 'Are you comfortable, strange woman?'
'Yes. Your staff is very attentive'.
'We can have another meeting tomorrow morning, if you don't mind. For tonight, you may join us for dinner and light conversation'.
'It will be an honor'.
'I'm pleased. Niles, let's go'.
The King exited the room and Niles threw a last look at her. The sweet way she looked back at him made him sure her frustration was as enormous as his.
'See you', she mouthed.
He put his hand over his heart and made a subtle gesture of offering it to her, before he quickly followed the King.
It was very unlucky for them that the guard looked at her when he was closing the door, because the expression on her face revealed everything.