Continuing Tales

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 33 of 35

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In Pursuit of Ever After

Noël had spent the morning trying to convince Nicole to let him show the pictures to Henry, in vain. "But Nicole, we are looking for these men. If we use your pictures, it will make it more likely that we can catch them." He stared at her in frustration, as she refused discuss it anymore. He finally played the card he had been hoping not to have to use. He picked up the book and opened it to a picture of Danielle and the man Georg; the one where Danielle looked the most terrified. He brought it over to her, "Look at this."

"I don't like to look at them, Noël," she objected.

"Look," he insisted. "Do you see this man? This is the one who hurt Danielle?"

She finally looked, her eyes brimming with tears. "Yes," she whispered.

"He came to the Château de la Roche-Guyon."

She looked up at him with eyes widened in disbelief. "No!"

"Yes, Nicole, he did. He walked brazenly into our search headquarters, introducing himself as a German Baron, Georg something. He was checking on our investigation, and we let him walk out of the château! You were laying injured upstairs. We had yet to find Danielle. He learned we were closing in, and that you had escaped alive and therefore would be able to identify them. They fled, leaving Danielle alone with the Baroness. This man," stabbing at the picture, "was with the Prince, wishing him luck in finding both of you well! He thought you were already dead, Nicole, after they stabbed you and threw you off of the battlements."

Nicole nodded her head, "Very well, you may show them to Henry, but I -don't- ever want to see them again!" she ran out of the room, crashing into Henry in the hallway. "Excuse me," she ran on by him.

"Noël, what is going on? Nicole practically ran me down in the hallway. And, she was crying," Henry asked, concerned, entering Noël's study.

"She has had a rough night and morning. It started with a nightmare," he began.

"Danielle had one last night, too; about that mercenary bastard. If I ever get my hands on him, I will kill him." Just what had he done to her?

Noël continued, "Nicole's nightmare was about the mercenaries, also. Did you know she likes to sketch?"

"Yes, I have seen her sketching," he replied dismissively. "Did they hurt her, Noël?"

"She says no, but then, they did throw her off of the battlements. I don't know what to think. She thinks the man, Georg, hurt Danielle." Noël said, carefully.

Henry was pacing the room, "Georg?" he looked up. "I know one of them did something. Danielle says he didn't hurt her, but she is having nightmares all the same and won't tell me what he did." He braced himself on the mantel, staring into the flames, tortured by images of her at the mercy of some unknown brigand.

"Nicole and I have been fighting all morning."

Henry chuckled, "Why, you aren't even married, yet, Noël! You should probably just give her whatever she wants."

"I think you will change your mind when I show you her sketchbook, Henry."

"Why? You were fighting about her sketchbook?" Henry smiled, intrigued.

"Last night, or rather, at four o'clock this morning, I found her running down the stairs intending to go outside in her nightclothes; to look for her sketchbook. She had left it in the garden."

"Danielle is fond of nighttime walks when she cannot sleep," Henry smiled at this additional similarity in the twins.

"When Nicole has a nightmare and cannot sleep, she apparently uses her sketchbook to work through it. It is full of most disturbing sketches. She didn't want me to show them to anyone else, especially not you."

Henry came over to the desk, suddenly deadly serious. "Just what is in this sketchbook?"

"Pictures she drew of the mercenaries and scenes from the abduction. Some of them are quite detailed. You are not going to like these, Henry," he said gravely.

Henry sat down at the desk, preparing himself.

"Start on the last page of the book. The nightmares are hidden in the back."

Henry looked up at Noël, his stomach in knots, anticipating what he was to see. "Why didn't Nicole want me to see these?"

"She didn't think you would want to know what he looks like, but you need to see them, Henry, even though it will be hard."

Henry nodded. He trusted his friend's judgment. He needed to know what was haunting Danielle. He turned towards the last page, seeing the pond and the fighting. Then there were the detailed pictures of the first four men. "These will be great in helping us to hunt them down. I wonder how accurate they are? They are very detailed." He looked at Noël, who remained silent. Henry then turned to the picture of Georg; he jumped to his feet, exploding in rage. "That bastard is the German 'Baron' who came to the château! He walked right in and we let him walk right back out!" he exclaimed furiously. Henry felt like breaking something or being sick, maybe both. He couldn't believe the brazen audacity of the man; to march right into the search headquarters and offer them help and wish them luck. He had been within two feet of Danielle's abductor-possibly her rapist-and let him walk away.

"I'd say that her pictures are accurate, Henry."

He sat back down, shaking with rage. He turned the page to the one where Danielle was being held by the forearms by 'Georg', looking terrified. Nicole had captured her terror and likeness perfectly. It cut him to the quick, seeing how terrified she looked. He could feel it emanating from the page.

Henry turned the page to the one where Danielle was on the horse, looking directly at Nicole. Georg's arms were around her, holding her close. She looked both sad and afraid. There was one close up picture where the man Georg was holding Danielle's chin and looking into her eyes. Danielle looked frightened to death, and the man looked as if he was about to kiss her. What had he done to frighten her so? His brave Danielle didn't frighten easily, he knew. He continued through the whole book, but those images of Danielle in the man's arms and her terror were hard to bear. The last picture of her crying and Georg carrying her tore his heart out and he nearly tore it out of the book; it was so hard to see. He finished, handing the book to Noël. He put his head in his hands on the desk.

When he was composed enough to talk he said, "I cannot believe she could recall those faces so vividly. We will need to have copies made of the individual face pictures at once. But, I don't want anyone else to see the ones of Danielle."

"Of course. Nicole said she didn't want to see them again, so I will remove them all from her sketchbook and take the ones I'll need copied to distribute." He cut out the pictures, putting the ones he needed in a folder. He put the rest into a separate folder and gave them to Henry.

"Noël, do you mind if we stay an extra day? I need time to think about how to get Danielle to talk to me about this. Nicole can stay, too, but my mother and father are ready to return to Hautefort."

"Of course. Would you like me to let them know?"

"Yes, please do."

Danielle found Henry an hour later, in their room. "There you are! I have been looking everywhere for you, Henry. Have you been hiding?" she teased.

He looked up at her with a strange, sad look on his face, "Hello."

"Hello, are you well, Henry?" she walked up to him, curiously. He looked upset. She put her hand on his cheek, smiling up at him.

He took her gently in his arms and kissed her tenderly. "We need to talk, Danielle."

"About what?"

"The mercenary."

A dark shadow crossed her face, "Why?" she sighed.

"I have to hunt them down, Danielle. I need to know everything about them, especially what Georg did to you."

"How do you know his name?" she wondered.

"Nicole told me. She told me everything she knows. She even drew pictures of her captors. I need the same cooperation from you." He knew he was putting unfair pressure on her, but he needed her to tell him what had happened. She needed to unburden herself, to let the secret out. To begin healing.

Danielle felt as if on trial. Her cooperation was being measured against Nicole's. Weighed and measured. She pulled out of his arms and went to curl up on the couch by the fireplace. He sat down next to her.

"He didn't hurt you?"


"He held you in front on the horse?"


"Did he touch you, inappropriately?" he asked gently.

She hesitated, "He had his arms around my waist, he touched my face and neck, once," she looked ready to cry, already.

Henry could see this wasn't going to work. He had four days to cover and she was already upset over the first three questions. He rubbed his face with his hands, thinking. "When he carried you into the dungeon you were crying. Why?"

"Because he was putting me in a dungeon! At the mercy of my step-mother!"

"You were not crying because of him?"

"No. He asked her what room to put me in and she said the dungeon. He seemed taken aback and asked her why she was putting the Princess of France in the dungeon. I asked him not to leave me there, that she would kill me. He said not to worry, that they were holding me for ransom."

"You were more afraid of your step-mother than of him?"


"When did you yell at him to let you go?"

She got up and walked to look out the window, wrapping her arms around herself, protectively.

He followed her, but didn't touch her. "Keeping the secret is always harder than telling me the truth, Danielle. You can trust me with all, I promise."

She took a deep breath, "It was the second time we stopped to camp. I fell when he put me down off of the horse, so he picked me up and laid me out on his blankets, instead of tying me to a tree, as before."

Henry felt as if he was going to jump out of his skin if she didn't continue, but he knew he had to keep his voice calm. "Was it morning? Nicole said they slept during the day and travelled at night."

"It was morning, the sun had just risen. I fell asleep immediately…" she said quietly.

Henry came closer, not sure if a touch would help or hurt. He decided and stroked her hair.

She took a shuddering breath and continued, haltingly, "When I woke up, I didn't remember at first where I was… I was lying on some blankets and someone was…was… snuggled up against me…as you do," she looked up at him- her eyes brimming with tears. She whispered, "He had his arm around me…I felt…protected…Then, it suddenly came flooding back where I was…and that it wasn't you…" she buried her face in her hands, crying softly.

He took her in his arms. "'Tis all right, Danielle. I am here. You are safe." When she did not continue he encouraged, "So, you woke up, his arm around you, then what happened?" he closed his eyes as he waited tensely for her to continue. To finish!

"I… thought he was asleep and maybe I could get away… It was the first time I was unbound. I tried to loosen his arm, but he tightened it instead…pinning my arms. Then… he whispered in my ear… 'Good morning Princess, going somewhere?'… That was when I started screaming and shoving and… and… kicking him." She was shivering, lost in the memory. Trapped there.

"What did he do when you yelled and kicked him?" Henry held his breath, afraid of what the mercenary's reaction to her kicking him had been, especially with her in such a vulnerable position: laying down on a blanket, her arms pinned.

"He held me still with his arm…a-and a leg…he turned me towards him a-and said 'Have you ever been kissed…by a man other than your husband?'" she shivered. "He was so close…I could feel his breath on my face," she was shaking- uncontrollably now. "I was so frightened."

Henry had to lean his head closer to hear this last part. He picked her up, afraid she was about to faint. Taking her back to the couch, he sat down, holding her across his lap, cradling her head on his chest. He was imagining what he was going to do to the bastard who had hurt her when he got his hands on him, again. Oh, God! He had had her pinned to the blanket with his arms and legs. Breathing on her face. Talking about kissing her. Henry braced himself for what had to have come next. Danielle must be afraid of what his reaction was going to be to the rest. He had to assure her that he loved her, no matter what had happened. "What did he do then, Danielle? You can tell me what happened. It is all right. I love you. Remember, this isn't your fault... Did he… kiss you?"

"No, h-he smiled…" she paused to try and catch her breath. She knew the worst part of the memory was past, but Henry didn't. "He said 'I thought you would sleep better sharing my blankets, instead of tied to a tree again, Your Highness.'"

"He smiled?…a-and then what?" Henry urged her to continue.

"Then he got up and went to get us some breakfast and said we were almost ready to leave."

"Danielle, what else? You have left something out," she must have, he thought. She didn't want to tell him, he decided. Holding her shoulders gently, he searched her eyes.

"No, I haven't."

"He had you pinned to the blanket with his arm and his legs, breathing on your face- but he did not hurt you?" he asked desperately.

"I told you he did not."

His head was spinning, how else could he word it? "He did not force himself upon you? Touch you…intimately? Try to seduce you?"

"No, he didn't! Why don't you believe me?" she cried.

"The nightmares, you have been having them for months. What are they about?"

"I told you. I slept with him, Henry! He held me in his arms and whispered in my ear. He snuggled up against me!" she cried.

Henry was so completely relieved that he almost laughed aloud! She was nearly in tears. He held her close, cradling her head on his chest. He was breathing again. Closing his eyes in relief, he was going over everything she had said. "Danielle, you were exhausted after two full days on horseback and fell asleep. He held you while you were sleeping, instead of tying you up. You didn't even know he was there until you woke up. What were you wearing?"

"I was wearing my riding dress."

"You slept fully clothed?"

"Yes, even my boots. I lost my hat, though. The one you gave me at Amboise." She sounded so upset about her darn hat!

"I'll buy you a new hat!" he kissed the top of her head. "Wait- you had your boots on when you kicked him?" Henry said, surprised. When she had kicked him last night, barefoot, it had hurt. With her riding boots on and kicking the mercenary behind her that meant she had kicked him with he heel of her boot. He couldn't credit that the mercenary hadn't retaliated. "What happened the third and forth nights?"

"I only remember one more camp. We travelled only three nights. I slept on the blankets alone. He was watching me when I woke up. I think I slept most of ride."

"You were travelling for four days, not three."

"Well, I was so exhausted; the time blurs together. I thought it was three. He didn't do anything else to scare me and he didn't hurt me."

This time he couldn't repress a small chuckle. He was so relieved he couldn't help it.

She looked at him, hurt and confused. He thinks this is funny?

"Danielle, I'm sorry I am laughing." He took her face between his hands, "I have been imagining all sorts of horrible things he could have done to you. Holding you while you slept wasn't on my list of worries." He took a deep breath, smiling down at her, tenderly. He could see she was still upset. And he- gloriously- was not!

"But Henry, I slept with him!" she cried, still not understanding why he wasn't upset.

"Danielle, when you say 'slept with him,' you actually mean sleeping, right? When people use the term 'sleeping with' someone they are usually implying… ahem…intimate relations."

She was shocked, "No, I didn't- he didn't. No, he just held me while I slept…and I-I didn't fight him, I didn't even notice," she whispered brokenly.

"Well, he was your captor, you didn't have any choice. You were definitely more comfortable on his blankets, not even knowing he was there, than you would have been tied to a tree, Danielle. It was more restful on your body and might even be why you didn't lose the baby."

She put her hands on her belly, protectively, "Do you think so?"

"Yes, I do. Tell me, did he always call you by your title?"

"Yes. Somehow, he knew right away I was your wife, not Nicole. He never called me 'Danielle', only 'Princess' or 'Your Highness'. Why?"

"It seems passing strange for him to use your title, yet treat you so familiar. I'm trying to figure him out. Did he do anything else to disrespect you?"

"No, aside from what I have told you, he was a most courteous abductor," she attempted to lighten her mood.

"Most barons are- courteous- that is." He also tried to joke, forgetting, in his preoccupation, she didn't know he had come to the château. He was trying to figure out why Georg had asked her about who she had kissed and smiled and then not kissed her. He must have been thinking of doing so. Wanting to. Why else ask such a question? Why had he not retaliated for her kick? He held her tighter, relief washing over him that, somehow, once again, she had been spared. The mercenary hadn't retaliated for her kick, as Le Pieu hadn't retaliated for being attacked with his own dagger. What was it about his angel that brought out the best in even the worst of men?

"Why do you call him a baron? Do you know who he is? Did you catch him?" she asked.

"No, but he came to Château de la Roche-Guyon, posing as a German baron, after we found Nicole. He told us exactly where to find you, actually." Henry was rethinking the events. This mercenary and his men had already left Rodmilla by then. There was no reason for him to risk coming to the château. No reason- except to point them in the right direction.

"How do you know it was him? Why would he do that?"

"Nicole drew a picture of him. I saw it only this morning. I don't know why he came." He looked down at his sweet wife, stroking her cheek tenderly. Wouldn't the Baroness be furious if she knew that yet another man had found himself under Danielle's spell, and risked his neck to save her rescue party hours of searching? It had probably saved Danielle's life.

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 33 of 35

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