Previous canto: "The Morning After"
by Kevin F. Story
Finally, words came to him: “My lord, I left you unattended in case someone should enter unannounced. Remember me as twice you knew me. Breathlessly yours, Clara.”
Breathlessly! thought Delfort, as he, too, was short of breath. What a creature!
“Your Highness!” bellowed Sir Reginald as he pounded the door.
The prince bade him enter whilst he gathered his jacket and the rest of his accoutrements, stuffing that wonderful note in the waist of his pants.
“Hope you're feeling better, Highness. Carriage leaves within the hour. The mayor will see us off.”
“Good.” Delfort looked straight at the knight. “Must we really go?”
Reginald chuckled, tugging on his moustache, shaking his head. Then he turned to go.
“Wait. Could you have James find that boy Pot for me?”
Reginald looked at him. “Pot?”
“Er, you know. Jehosa-what. The mayor's son. I want to speak with him.”
Reginald bowed slightly. “As you wish, sire.” Then he exited humming some war tune or drinking song.
The prince stood there and sighed. Not a moment later did Jaclynne appear and lock the door behind her.
“Jaclynne!” whispered the prince. “What are you doing?”
“My lord, I wanted to see you just once more before you departed forever and forgot your humble servant.”
“Please, Jaclynne, I must prepare for my journey.”
She moved towards him quickly and grabbed his face. He was immersed in her kiss, and it suddenly calmed him to his very core. She pulled away.
“You were not very coherent last night afterwards, so I wanted to thank you for that wonderful evening, my lord. I am honoured to have had your company.” She knelt before him and handed him a red tulip.
“Rise, Jaclynne,” the prince sighed. He stared into her eyes, thinking over everything. He decided the best thing to do was embrace her. So he did, and she complied. Then, pulling away, he grasped her shoulders. “You are a fine young woman, Jaclynne. I very much enjoyed your company as well.”
“Thank you, my lord.” She blushed and looked down at the floor.
“But please, Jaclynne, go. I need to get ready for my journey.”
“Very well, my lord. Fare well!” said Jaclynne, pecking him on the cheek, then slipping out into the hall.
“Fare well, my Jaclynne.”
Delfort was alone. He gazed around the bedchamber, taking in every last detail so as to savour these moments repeatedly on the long carriage ride to Bolle-Weaville: the headboard to which they tied him; the window out which they slipped; the plush chair on which the evening began. The tulip hung from his fingers, another prize for his cache. He placed Jaclynne's flower along with Clara's note and the two handkerchiefs in a large but unassuming pouch, which he hung from his belt. These conquests would ride alongside him.
Dust and gravel kicked up around the carriage as it set off from Porte Godfrey with its well-fed and rested passengers aboard. Prince Delfort sat silently, deep within the bench's quilted billows, still rolling over the events of his journey thus far. James hung his head out the window watching the world wend away from him. Sir Reginald snorted and rubbed his prominent belly, still engorged from fabulous feasting. Soon the town was a speck on the distant plains, dwarfed by great hills and mountains leagues away. They followed the river up and down until it split for higher climbs. The forest rose around them, drenching the day in darkness. Here the wisps lived, bouncing from tree to rock, spiriting here and floating there, waiting to ignore an unasked question or provide an unspoken riddle.
For the first time, away from the action of Porte Godfrey, Prince Delfort considered James's point of view, or what he thought was James's point of view, regarding his recent escapades. James was not jealous, thought Delfort; rather, he was virtuous. Somehow the same isolation that led Delfort to wanting forbidden fruit kept James away, satisfied with not knowing, and brooding over Delfort's apparent waywardness. Even now he sat with his arms crossed, since the gloom had destroyed his view of the outdoors, probably in search of something to say or do to change Delfort's errant ways.
After some length, the royal carriage rolled to a stop in front of the gatehouse to a great stone wall which stretched in either direction and was enveloped by the incredibly fecund foliage. Upwards gatehouse towers reached into the clouds; indeed, the clouds seemed vestiges of the towers themselves. James, finally having something new at which to stare, did with great intensity, such that he might have tumbled out the carriage window had he not held on tightly. Delfort was impatient.
“What is the trouble?” the prince snapped, leaning out of the opened carriage door. The guard talking to the carriage driver looked over to the prince.
“We require proof of your princeship prior to proceeding.” The guard smacked his lips in surprise, clearly having not thought through his word choice before speaking.
The driver shrugged. “I told him it should all have been arranged.”
The prince ordered the driver to look in his travelling chest for the seal, which he did not wear normally. (Certainly, around Pilvar-upon-Weedlewhicke, it was unnecessary for him to wear it, and he disliked wearing things on his fingers.) The driver huffed and put down his reins, walking to the rear of his vessel and searching through the royal luggage. After several minutes, there was no sign of the prince's seal, or any sort of identification.
Delfort was surprised. He checked his personal satchel, of which he had memorised the contents, but checked anyway. He inquired of James where it might be, but his guess was as good as the prince's, and Sir Reginald belched and whistled through his moustache in similar accord. The ring was no where to be found.
Sir Reginald sat up. “Eh, boy?”
“Er, nothing. The seal must be in Porte Godfrey, or surely it was forgotten at Pilvar.”
The knight was frozen in apparent incomprehension. Slowly the connections were made, and Sir Reginald suddenly seemed to be completely satisfied that the seal might be in Porte Godfrey. No doubt this was due to the further excess of food in which the knight could now indulge. So, as the golden sun hung brilliantly atop the sky and birds chattered mercilessly in the trees above, the carriage turned around.
Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "Back to Porte Godfrey"...