Previous canto: "Seal with a Kiss"
by Kevin F. Story
Only, Delfort had a large problem: his missing seal, the proof of his royal blood, presumably pilfered by the alluring Clara, whose letter he still treasured in his satchel along with other spoils. Clara, according to Pot, was in Vaslegas. Vaslegas! thought the prince. A good night's sleep had not produced an answer to his most immediate vexation, which was how to convince Sir Reginald and James to accompany him there. He could not find any way around it. Clara would not be returning to Porte Godfrey, even if the prince sent word to her. People who run away, thought Delfort, do not generally want to go back to whence they came. He would have to go to her, to Vaslegas.
Locked away in Pilvar-sur-Weedlewhicke as Delfort had been, the happenings in Vaslegas were a matter of rumour and hearsay. His father, King Alabaster, only discussed the place in terms of its yearly revenue, which always bolstered the royal coffers with taxes, fines, and concessions, more so than any other hamlet in his kingdom. The guards would snicker boyishly about taking leave so as to revel “in sin” in Vaslegas. The chaplain would cross himself at its mere mention, muttering “God have mercy” with a wide expression. There were words Delfort had heard in connection with Vaslegas for which he was never told the definitions; for example, “brothel” and “courtesan.” There were, of course, the gambling dens which had made Vaslegas famous for creating men of wealth (and of poverty) overnight.
James knocked on the door; Delfort knew it was him because they had a well-established code: a knock in the rhythm short-long-short-long meant it was James alone. If he knocked in any other fashion, it meant others were with him, and he did not wish to disclose the code to others.
“Enter, James,” said the prince.
James was wide-eyed. He glanced around in the hall before shutting the door behind him. “Good morning, sire. Eager to make an early start?”
“Quite right. I have learned the whereabouts of Clara.”
“With Jacklynne, at the doctor's house?”
Delfort shook his head. “I fear you will not like to know. I also fear that Sir Reginald will not let us go there.”
James pressed his eyebrows together. “Not Vaslegas?”
James walked to the window in silence. Delfort could not read his thoughts, but he was sure that James was trying to think of some other way to get the seal back. To Delfort's surprise, James turned around and said, “We shall have to leave Sir Reginald again at his luncheon. I suggest you put on some of my clothes; they will attract less attention than your usual ensemble. Is that all right, sire?”
Delfort smiled. “Quite all right, James. Inform the driver of our plan.”
“Yes, sire.” James walked to the door. “The important thing is to get the seal back and resume our journey.”
As James shut the door behind him, Delfort felt dizzy. Vaslegas! And there, his Clara! Of course, James was right; the important thing was to get the seal back. There would, however, be a few other important things to do in the glittering, gilded city of Vaslegas.
A dainty knock broke the prince's thoughts.
“Who is it?” he called.
A familiar female voice whispered back, “Jacklynne, my lord.”
Ah, Jacklynne! thought Delfort as his heart picked up its pace. There would be more time for thinking about Vaslegas later.
“Enter,” called the prince, smiling. This was going to be fun.
At midday, James and Prince Delfort excused themselves from the luncheon and slipped outside to where a less-than-royal carriage was waiting. The driver sat on its doorstep reading a pamphlet and smoking a pipe a “nice young man” had given him. When he saw James and Delfort, he stood and opened the door, ready for their arrival.
“Where is Sir Reginald?” asked the driver as they entered the carriage.
“He won't be joining us,” said Delfort flatly. He found the clothing James gave him to be uncomfortable; his recent encounter with Jacklynne was good, but not good enough to put this little discomfort out of the prince's mind.
The driver shrugged, shut the door, and climbed up onto his perch. “Hya,” he said calmly to the horse, who seemed happy enough to clop away from the mansion, through Porte Godfrey, and down the forest road to Vaslegas.
Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "Silence of the Woods"...