Continuing Tales

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 7 of 35

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In Pursuit of Ever After

Capt. Laurent had arranged a large search party. They fanned out over the whole town and questioned everyone. Several reports came back to the Captain of an angel jumping into the river. Fearing the worst, they combed over the bridges looking for any clue. Near sundown on Wednesday a small, torn scrap of silver lace was discovered caught on the outside edge of a bridge overlooking a steep drop to a rushing river. He wrapped up the scrap of fabric and headed back to Hautefort. The search was suspended until sunrise to give the men time to eat and rest. The Prince had spent the last few hours searching the manor for clues to where she might have gone to hide. He was hoping she was just hiding from the Baroness. He found Danielle's journals in her attic room just before sundown and decided to take them home to Hautefort to read tonight after getting an update from Laurent.

When the Prince arrived, he asked for Capt. Laurent and was told that Marc was awaiting him in his apartments. The men seemed subdued and a chill went down his spine, fearing bad news. He ran through the palace towards his apartments, not even remembering that he was still carrying the sack with the journals.

He entered his apartments to find Marc standing by the fireplace staring into the flames. He looked up when Henry entered. Henry could see he was trying to look composed. Capt. Laurent walked to the Prince and handed him something wrapped in a linen handkerchief. Swallowing, Henry carefully unwrapped the handkerchief and found himself looking at a torn strip of lace that looked as if it could have come from Danielle's ball gown. He was excited to have a clue to what direction she must have taken, and then he noticed that Capt. Laurent wouldn't meet his eyes. "Tell me, Marc," he said simply.

"We found this hanging from the edge of the bridge." Putting his hand on Henry's shoulder he continued, "We heard several reports of someone seeing an angel jump from the bridge last night during the storm. She was illuminated by the lightning. I'm so sorry Henry. We will continue the search tomorrow along the riverbank."

"NO! NO! I don't believe it. It cannot be true! She cannot have thrown herself into the river!" Henry was white with shock. He was picturing the last time he had seen her at the river: Emerging from the water with da Vinci, looking so unconsciously beautiful with her chemise clinging to her and the total shock on her face at seeing him. "She is an excellent swimmer, Marc. Show me exactly where you found this," Henry waved the fabric at Marc and put his cloak back on to go out.

"Your Highness. It is dark and the men need to rest. We will resume the search from the bridge at first light, I promise. You haven't slept in two days, either. You need to rest so you will be alert enough to help."

Henry felt tortured- he wanted to search now, but he new Marc was right. It was much too dark and they were all exhausted. He was picturing Danielle lying dead or injured on a riverbank. He dismissed Capt. Laurent and sat, staring at pieces he had left: the scrap from his angel's dress, his angel's torn off wing, and his angel's slipper. He prayed for his angel.

Shortly the Queen entered, followed by two servants bearing trays of food. "Henry dear, you need to eat something and rest."

"Hello, Mother," was all he said.

After the servants had set up the meal and left, Henry joined his mother at the table. He didn't feel like eating, but he ate anyway, realizing that he was going to need to be fed and rested if he was going to be any help searching for Danielle tomorrow. When had he started thinking of her as Danielle, he wondered? They ate mostly in silence, although Henry did show her the fabric and tell her where it was found.

After they had finished, the Queen rang for the servants to clear the dishes. When they were through she went over to Henry, who was staring without seeing out the window. She gave him a kiss and a hug. He returned the hug fiercely, trying to keep his emotions in check, but not quite succeeding. "Try and get some rest, dear," she said to her son. "The sun will be up before you know it."

As the Queen left, Henry spotted the sack with Danielle's journals in it. He went over and picked up the sack, taking it over to the table. There were four books. He picked up the first one, going over to the fireplace to read it. It was written in French and dated ten years ago. It was filled with tales of a little girl's adventures: Climbing trees, swimming and other adventures with her friend, Gustave, reading with her Papa, Papa teaching her how to use a sword. It painted a vivid picture of an exuberant, joyous childhood. It warmed Henry's heart to think of her as a happy child. Henry laid his head back and fell asleep in the chair, dreams of an angelic little girl bringing a smile to his lips.

As promised, Capt. Laurent came to awaken him just before first light. Marc was relieved to see that the Prince had at least gotten some sleep, even if it was in a chair.

They set out immediately for the bridge where the fabric had been found. The search party fanned out along the sides of the riverbank looking for any sign of Danielle. It was slow going along the uneven river.

At about midday, three miles from the bridge, one of the guards spotted something entangled in the bushes by the bank. He called for help as he waded into the water.

The Prince and Capt. Laurent heard the call and rode over to where the guard was coming out of the water with another piece of the dress. This one was larger and had a mangled wing attached to it. There was no denying that this was part of Danielle's dress.

Henry jumped down, running over to the guard. Taking the wing, he stared at it with disbelieving eyes. He turned to Capt. Laurent. "She must be around here, somewhere!"

Gustave ran up to Henry. Taking in the sight of the mangled wing, he sent an agonized, accusing look at Henry. He didn't have to verbalize what they were both thinking. That Henry was responsible for this, and Gustave had given him access.

Gustave turned and walked away without a word, his mind reeling. He stopped at the edge of the woods, bracing himself on a large boulder. He couldn't imagine anything that would have provoked Danielle into taking her own life.

Henry walked up behind Gustave, touching him on the shoulder. "I'm sorry."

Gustave swung around, shoving the Prince's hand away and striking him.

Henry didn't defend himself, he knew he deserved it. He waved off the guard who came to his defense.

Gustave sank to the ground against the boulder, not even caring that he had just assaulted the Crown Prince of France, which could get him executed. He whispered brokenly, "What did you do to her?" He laid his head back, staring up at the Prince, "For ten years the Baroness has abused her and treated her as a servant, and all Danielle ever wanted was to be loved," he shook his head in disbelief. "She never even ran away, not even after being whipped… never." He hung his head, his shoulders shaking as he tried not to cry.

Henry had been tortured all night by these very thoughts. He had hurt her more in six days than the Baroness had in ten years. "I rejected her, Gustave. I wouldn't listen to her. I told her not to use my Christian name; said she was just like the rest."

Gustave looked at him suspiciously, "There has to be something else. You are leaving something out. One more rejection wouldn't do this!" he shouted, waving his hand towards the wing Henry was still holding. "She wouldn't…throw herself in the river." He couldn't bring himself to say she had taken her own life.

"I offered her the world… and my love…and then I rejected her, without giving her a chance to explain," Henry admitted.


Henry turned and walked away, knowing he deserved all of Gustave's abuse. He went back to join the search, praying for a miracle.

They continued to search the river and banks for the rest of the day. When night fell with no further signs of her everyone but Henry and Gustave believed she had drowned and been swept away. Henry was still in denial, refusing to believe she could really be gone forever. He was haunted by her last moments at the masque. She had looked at him desperately saying 'I can explain' and 'Henry, please!' He had rejected her, sending her fleeing into the night.

In Pursuit of Ever After

A Ever After Story
by Funkypurplerhino

Part 7 of 35

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