The castle was a ruin, barely inhabitable. I did not see how Marie could expect us to live there? We had been escorted to the village by guards who took their pay from Gerard… Upon delivering us to the castle, I was given a missive to avail myself of the villagers and spare no expense in making the castle liveable and worthy of the Royals that the girls were? I had no idea where the monies for this were coming from, only that I had been extended a seemingly unlimited line of credit by every merchant and builder near and far? I also received regular correspondence from Marie, reminding me of the threats she had placed upon my head! I was on my own with two Royal children in my care and responsible for rebuilding a castle! Yes, I admit there were times when it went to my head… when I forgot about the fear and felt only the feelings of control over something, a thing I had never experienced before! Then late at night, the fear and the terror would flood back over me like the Witch’s Storm that had started this all!
Another bend or slip of time… What should have taken years of work was finished in months? I had staff hired from the surrounding village, good people all of them! Though I do admit, I had my battles at first with Nell Guinn, the keeper of the kitchens. Truth to tell, she was usually right? I knew little about kitchens, or how they should be run but I was so determined to maintain control that I often refused to listen to her! Often, her husband, Hugh who was to be the Master of Arms would have to intervene lest we all starve! The young maid, Ayleen Healer whom I first took on as a kitchen maid, soon proved to be so good with the girls that I appointed her as governess. Her sister, Morganna was dark, brooding girl with a gift for healing, which we were in dire need of as there was something seriously ailing Princess Marguirite? No one wanted to admit it but one look at the child and it was quite obvious there was something wrong with her? She seemed healthy enough, other than an aversion to the days of bright sunlight… I worried that I would be blamed for her illness, What if this child died while in my care, What then might Marie do to me? My least worry was what Francois would do, if Marie got to me first, there may be no me for Francois to accuse!
The young Stable Master was a quiet sort, he was excellent in his position but he always seemed to watching warily, kept much to himself… I wondered at times if he was hired by Gerard to keep watch on us? As it turned out, he was there for another reason. He was watching for some others?
As the castle was nearing completion, Marie arrived looking pale and distraught. She was delusional again, I thought as she went on about missing the girls yet ignoring them when they were near her? She kept talking about a meeting among their Fathers and how an agreement on the future should benefit and bode well for all parties? One minute she would be merry and excited, the next she would be planning our way out, and yet the next she would have a look of stark terror on her face? She scared me so much that I went so far as to ask where Gerard was, hoping he might have some control over her and this situation? Or, if he had disappeared, possibly there was a chance
for me to escape this situation with the girls?
She seemed to read my mind, her reply was clear and coherent, “Don’t you even think to escape this! If I shall go up in flames for this, then so shall you!” We all tried to avoid her and wait uncertainly for what ever was to come.
It wasn’t long. Within a few days, a force of Royal armed Guards escorted two Royals to the Castle. Those two Royals were Henry and Francois in search of their respective missing children, the Lady Marie, and answers to accusations of kidnapping Royal children? They were also in search of Gerard DeJewel whom they knew was a part of what ever plot we had devised to overthrow their rules, ransom their children and betray the families of Dragon Valley and their clans of the Highlands! We… as in they were accusing me of being in on all of this. Well, of course I was involved, wasn’t I? I had betrayed their trust in me and gone along willingly with Marie and Gerard’s plans. I was guilty of a part in this, I must admit it… I knew I must admit to my own culpability and part in this. I must beg forgiveness and seek redemption for my wrong doings, no matter what Marie accused me of now. I must have faith that Marie’s fragile grasp of reality would snap and they would believe nothing from her. I must pray that Gerard had already disappeared, run like the traitorous coward that he truly was and could not stand against me.
Henry and Francois spent hours locked away in conference with only Hugh Guinn to have access to them. There were armies of men guarding every entrance and possible exit to the castle in case anyone should think of fleeing. The only one who might think of fleeing would have been Marie? I was prepared for once to stand my ground, take back some of my control and power over such was my life. If it came down to a battle of wills between Marie and I, I would stake my chances on myself this time! Marie busy with her delusions that they were inside that room drawing up agreements pensioning for her? She refused to believe that these two men who had once cared for her would turn against her, the Mother of her children? I could not believe that she was so far gone in her mind as to think Henry would have any qualms about beheading us both as traitors!
They spent so much time in there and each moment brought more fear upon me. Hugh told me later that much of the discussion centered around Marie. They had already surmised that she and Gerard were the guilty parties and that I had been coerced in some way to go along with it. They needed to hear it from me though.
When we were finally called before them and the accusations were brought against us, Marie accused me of absconding with the children, of plotting with Gerard to take her children away from her. Before she could go on, I stepped forward to defend myself! I could not stand there and let her control me any longer. I stood tall, remembered my own hidden Royal bloodlines, the icy regal bearing of my Mother and faced these two all powerful men looking straight at them, not wavering, “I admit to you both, my guilt of being a foolish young woman, of not questioning what I was ordered to do, supposedly for the safety of the two young children in my care. I take full responsibility for my part in that.” I slowly took a breath and continued, “ I regret and feel great remorse that I did not trust you two who offered me favor and friendship, and trusted me with the well being of your children. I bow to you and accept what ever punishment you deem so necessary.” I lowered myself into the lowest curtsy to the floor and stayed there until I felt two hands upon my head resting there. I steeled myself for their response, their decision. As I knelt there, little did I realize that Sir Hugh was firmly escorting Marie out of the room until I heard her screaming? Francois’ soft but authoritative voice reached my ears,”Up with you then Lady Eleanor” I was still trembling with fear when they both held my arms and lifted me up. Tears were uncontrollable, streaming down my face in fear of my fate.
Henry spoke in his deeper, louder fashion than Francois, “My Lady Eleanor, you did just as we asked you to, You kept these girls safe from undue harm and you will continue to do so!”
After that, the lights dimmed, the noises buzzed and I fell into a dead faint at which the two Royals had to catch me from collapsing to the floor and injuring myself!