Continuing Tales

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 6 of 35

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In Pursuit of Ever After

The King and Queen left the party shortly after Danielle's unmasking to discuss what they should do about the girl.

"The effrontery of that girl! A mere servant masquerading as a comtesse and daring to call the Crown Prince by his Christian name. We should have her arrested!" Francis exclaimed.

"Oh Francis, do calm down so we can discuss this rationally. Clearly Henry is in love with the girl. He must have given her leave to call him 'Henry,' surely. He called her 'Nicole', after all. He was just so shocked and angry about what the Baroness said that he lashed out at her. It is all very strange. How did they meet and how was she able to pass as a courtier if she is truly just a servant? Henry is not stupid, My Lord. Surely he would have noticed if she didn't have refined speech or elegant carriage. Another thing Francis: the Baroness confirmed the existence of the Comtesse de Lancret only yesterday. She told me the girl was engaged and leaving for Belgium yesterday afternoon. Clearly, she is hiding something." Marie had seen how Henry's face had lit up when the angel had appeared at the masque. She wasn't prepared to let this go without a fight.

"Yes, I can see that the Baroness is likely hiding something, but I can easily see Henry, or any man for that matter, being more concerned with a pretty face and figure and not noticing lapses in speech nor how a woman carries herself, Marie," the King countered.

"I think she is good for him, Francis. He has seemed to grow and mature in the last few days. I think we have her to thank for that. We owe it to Henry to find out all we can about the situation before we act rashly."

"Yes, I think you are right. Now what are her two names; Comtesse Nicole de Lancret and Danielle de Barbarac, servant to the Baroness de Ghent? I will set some of my men to making inquiries tomorrow."

Le Pieu's

In the morning, when Le Pieu heard of the massive search underway for Danielle he was concerned, lest she be discovered here. He pondered his options: Letting her go, killing her immediately, or misdirecting the search effort. Le Pieu had been dreaming of making her his mistress for several years, so he dismissed the first two options quickly and put his mind to how best to get the search called off. Obviously, some evidence of her demise would work best.

Danielle awoke cold and stiff in her cell. Her head was pounding. She wondered how fast her trial would be and what they would do to her. Transport her to the Americas if she were lucky, she assumed. Would Henry come to her trial? She could hear voices and approaching footsteps. The light was dim; when she heard her step-mother's voice she thought she was having a nightmare.

"I have it on good authority that before your rather embarrassing debut, the Prince was going to choose Marguerite to be his bride. Men are so fickle. One minute they're spouting sonnets and the next you're back to being the hired help," the Baroness said airily as she sailed down the stairs.

"What are you doing here? Come to gloat?" Danielle shot back.

"My my my, aren't we feisty this morning. You brought this on yourself, you know."

"Don't you understand? You've won! Go! Move into your palace and leave me be!" Danielle shouted.

"You are not my problem anymore," the Baroness said coldly.

"Is that what I am? Your problem?" Danielle spat back."I have done everything that you've ever asked, and still you've denied me the only thing I ever wanted!"

"And what was that?" the Baroness asked with a smile, coming closer to the bars of Danielle's cell.

"What do you think? You are the only mother I have ever known. Was there a time, even in its smallest measurement, that you loved me at all?" Danielle pleaded.

"How can anyone love a pebble in their shoe?" she said with a spiteful smile.

Danielle nodded at this, turning her back on the Baroness. She wouldn't let her see just how much that hurt.

Another set of footsteps descended the stairs. "Ah, M. Le Pieu, here is the dress you asked for," the Baroness said.

Danielle turned around, wondering what was going on.

The Baroness looked at her, saying, "I can't have you around distracting the Prince, now can I?"

"I don't understand," Danielle said, staring at her step-mother in confusion.

"Welcome to Château Beynac, my dear. I have been eager for this day," Le Pieu said.

Danielle was stunned. She hadn't even considered that her captors were not the King's guards. It had been dark and she hadn't gotten a good look before being taken. "M. Le Pieu, What is the meaning of this? I insist you release me at once!"

He smiled, "No my dear, I'm afraid not. You see, the Baroness and I have come to an arrangement. You, in return for all of the items she has sold to me from the manor. I paid quite a high price for you. You should be flattered. Luckily for us both, she didn't just kill you after last night's spectacle."

"She sold me?" Danielle said in stunned disbelief. "She had no right to do that!"

"What is done is done, get used to it." Le Pieu unlocked the door and entered the cell. "You will get used to the idea. I can be very generous, you know. Right now, however, I need that dress you are wearing," he looked her up and down hungrily.

Danielle's eyes darted around the cell wildly, looking for a weapon, but found nothing. "Take it off or I will rip it off you." He tossed her the servant dress the Baroness had brought. She looked at it questioningly, wondering why he was giving her another dress to don if he intended to rape her. Sensing her thoughts he backed her into the corner. Whispering into her ear, he said, "I would prefer you come to me willingly, so I will give you a little time to get used to the idea. Now, change your dress," he took a step back.

"Turn around, both of you! I will change when I have some privacy," she demanded. She couldn't believe that her step-mother had sold her. That she would stand there calmly while Le Pieu threatened to rip her clothes off. The last embers of hope that the Baroness would ever come to love her died, as Danielle came to the realization that the Baroness truly was a monster.

"Of course, my dear. I want you to feel at home here. Jacques will be down with your breakfast in a few minutes and he will collect your dress," with that he and the Baroness left, locking the cell.

Danielle hesitated only a minute after they left before quickly struggling out of her mother's thin, damp, muddy gown. Her wool servant's dress was clean and warm and she had it on before Jacques came with her breakfast. She handed him the gown with the one remaining, bedraggled wing and he passed her breakfast through the bars. She was determined to eat everything she was given in order to keep up her strength. She had to find an opportunity to escape.

Le Pieu took Danielle's dress and examined it. He tore a piece from the hem and he tore off the remaining wing along with a part of the back of the dress. He gave them to one of his men with instructions to plant the small piece on the bridge over the river between Hautefort and the manor. The larger piece with the wing was to be planted a few miles downstream. The final touch to Le Pieu's plan was to start a rumor that someone had seen an angel jump from the bridge the night of the masque. The discovery of the dress pieces combined with the story of Danielle jumping should put an end to the Prince's search. There was a reason Le Pieu was known for his brilliant military tactics. Of course, Danielle's death meant that she would never be able to leave Château Beynac.

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 6 of 35

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