Previous canto: "Escape! (Part Two!)"
by Kevin F. Story
Clara coughed politely and sat up. Delfort smiled at her. The dark hair he so adored was curled in every direction. Even this she wore well.
“I must be going,” she said. Her smile was enigmatic; it said so much more than Delfort could ever understand.
Delfort sighed again and nodded. Clara slid her pale feet delicately onto the floor. She still wore her slip, which she smoothed out into some semblance of order before finding the rest of her garments. Delfort got up and tied the plush robe he had been wearing.
They had not spoken much. Delfort had been full of questions that were quickly forgotten. Why was Clara here, for example. And something else important. It would come to him.
Clara began the ordeal of reordering her hair. “What a coincidence that we should find each other here, no, my lord?”
“Mmm,” said Delfort. His eyes fed graciously on the image of darling Clara before them. He was in no rush to be rid of her.
“I thought we might never see each other again.”
“No,” said Delfort. He wished he had something more intelligent to say.
Clara turned to him. She set down her brush and walked to him. “I guess it's destiny,” she said before she reached up to kiss him.
“Hmm!” said a muffled voice at their feet. They both looked down at the figure of James, over whose body they had laid a blanket, as it was somewhat distracting to have an unclothed unconscious young man on the floor. Prince Delfort bent down to fold back the blanket. James squinted and blinked a few times.
“Why am I naked, sire?”
“James!” exclaimed Delfort. “This is wonderful. How do you feel?”
James rubbed his head. “Awful. What happened?”
Delfort explained about the enchanted knickers and collar. “And my sincerest apologies for having to quarrel with you so soundly. It would appear to be all for the best.”
Slowly James sat up, one hand clutching his head and the other clutching the blanket. “This is a most queer place, sire. When I left you to fetch our bags, I went back the way we were led, to the entrance. The carriage was gone.”
Delfort pressed his eyebrows together. “Gone?”
“Absolutely gone. No carriage, no valises, no clothes. When I returned to the drawing room, you were gone, but that strange woman, the Madam, was there. She said you had been taken to your room. I told her of our plight, and she said not to worry, that she had some things we could use during our stay. Then she got weird.”
“What do you mean, she got weird?”
James dropped his eyes. “I would rather not say, sire.”
“All right.” Delfort turned to look at Clara, who was back at the vanity with her hairbrush. “James, this is Clara.”
“Clara?” James turned very carefully. On seeing Clara, his cheeks turned a deep crimson and he clutched the blanket very tightly to his body. They had never met, and she really was rather lovely. “Does she have the seal?”
The seal! Of course! Delfort had forgotten all about it. “That is why I was looking for you!” he said crossing to Clara's side. “It was no coincidence for me to find you here. You took my royal seal because you wanted me to find you. Is that right?”
Clara maintained her coy smile. “My lord, you give me too much credit.”
“Please, dear Clara. I am touched by your affection, but I do need my seal.”
Clara laughed. “It is not here, my lord.”
“Not here?” said James, standing unsteadily.
“It must remain in Porte Godfrey, for that is where I last saw it.”
Delfort and James shared a weary look. All of this sneaking away to Vaslegas for nothing, they thought. Well, mused Delfort, at least I got to see Clara again.
Clara set down her brush and approached James. “We have not formally met. I am called Clara,” she said, curtseying.
“James,” squeaked James, clutching the blanket even tighter, if that at all was possible.
“Come,” said Clara, “I have something in my changing room you can wear.”
Clara laughed. “Yes. Man's clothing.” She pointed to a door. “This way.”
James made his way to the door with care, ever conscious that the blanket covered all the important places. Beyond the door was another room of similar size with many clothes, a mirror, and a divan.
“We will be but a moment, my lord,” Clara said, blowing a kiss at the prince before shutting the door.
Prince Delfort sighed and sat upon the bed. It was shaping up to be quite the adventure. Now they would have to somehow escape this odd place and the Madam, and also outfit themselves for a journey back to Porte Godfrey. Perhaps some horses or a carriage would be about, something for them to commandeer.
A muted yelp came from the other room.
“Is everything all right?” asked the prince.
“Fine, my lord,” called Clara.
Yes, they would have to plan their escape and return to Porte Godfrey, obtain the seal, and finally be on their way to the neighbouring kingdom. The original task seemed so distant to the prince, but he would have to go. With luck, his father would never know about this little side trip to Vaslegas.
Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "Finding the Way"....