[Story] PRINCESS DRIANNA Chapter 6
Ifeoma Isabella Okeke
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For the first time since Gadel appointed me his personal servant, I was able to serve as such. I was unclear at first about what exactly my duties were. But soon I deduced that they were to be Gadel’s shadow throughout the day and serve as a go-between between he and the lower servants.
It was an easy life. I enjoyed being around Gadel and I was most of the time. We grew very close. I would dine with him if there were no other nobles visiting the manor, which there rarely were. And we resumed our walks through the hedges, much to my delight.
Overall, I believed my life to be as perfect as it could be given the circumstances. But I was still plagued by my dreams. One night, I was left so restless by one that I couldn’t lie in bed any longer. I got up and paced the room but the walls seemed too confining and I worried that I would wake someone with the creak of the floorboards beneath my feet.
So I pulled on a long purple robe, tied it securely around my waist, and quietly snuck down the stairs to the second floor, then down to the first, then outside. It was a humid summer’s night and the moon glowed silver against the black sky.
I wanted to go to the hedgemaze. It was my favorite place on the manor but it was out of the glow of the moonlight and I felt sure that I would get lost in the darkness. So I slipped past the stables, listening to the gentle breathing of the sleeping horses and through the gate to the fields. The grass was blue in the darkness. In the day it was sprinkled with red and yellow flowers but they’d all closed for the night. I climbed a hill and spotted my destination on the other side.
The stream was a branch of the great Gensai River. Its waters flowed rapidly at the mouth but by the time they reached Colias lands they were gentle and calm and trickled into a large pond where they were still save for the ripples of blowing wind. There in the moonlight it glittered white and silver and as I neared it, I could hear it trickling softly over the rocks on the bottom.
I chose the spot where the stream met the pond to settle. I sat down on a smooth rock and let the waters run over my bare feet. It had a soothing effect and soon my dream was just a memory. I don’t know how long I sat there, but after a while I heard someone behind me. I looked up, not surprised to find Gadel standing over me.
His black hair was tousled and he wore plain brown trousers and a pale linen shirt with the drawstrings hanging loose at the open collar. I could tell he’d just awoken by his appearance but his eyes were as bright as if it were the middle of the day. He grinned lopsided at me.
“Going for a swim?”
I shook my head. “Just enjoying the water.” I wiggled my toes, splashing a bit for emphasis.
“Mind if I join you?”
“Not at all. Pull up a rock.”
He chuckled and perched near me, slipping his own feet into the cool waters. “I’m wondering what might bring a young maiden such as yourself out of her safe, warm bed to a chilly stream in the middle of the night.”
I shrugged, pushing a lock of hair behind my ear. “I couldn’t sleep.” I could feel his eyes on me, waiting for me to elaborate. “I have…dreams sometimes. I wake up in a cold sweat and I can’t go back to sleep. Tonight I just felt like coming out here.”
“We’ll go to the apothecary’s in the morning. He will have something to help you.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”
He slid closer to me. “What are the dreams about?” When I didn’t answer, he guessed. “Are they about your uncle?” I shook my head. “Your parents?” I didn’t respond. “How did they die?”
My face turned up to his, my eyes wide. “What? You know that Timmy is-”
“Not your mother,” he concluded for me. “It isn’t hard to see. You bare no resemblance and I know very few people who refer to their mother by her first name.” Gadel hesitated for a moment before adding, “And Timmy isn’t noble as you are.”
I gaped at him. Did he know who I was? “H-how?”
“Come now. It’s not exactly a secret. I’ve known since the first time I laid eyes on you that you were noble born. The way you stood on that platform and held your head high even as you were sold to the highest bidder was a dead give away. And you never act like a slave. You never look at the ground when you walk, your shoulders are always straight, and your vocabulary is far too advanced to have attended only grade school.” I sighed in relief. He only knew I was noble. He had no idea how noble. “When I heard that man at the auction…the way he talked about you…I was never so angry in my life. I made father buy you.”
“He wasn’t going to buy me?”
Gadel chuckled at my offended tone. “You have the ego of a noble, too. No, father thought you were too weak to be of use and you were so obviously noble that he didn’t believe you could be taught to do housework.”
I laughed. “Well I showed him.”
Gadel laughed but it faded and his tone was serious. “I’d like to know how a Danubaen noble woman was captured and auctioned as a slave.”
“Well…it was just that. I lived in a village with Uncle and Timmy- who was Uncle’s housekeeper- and it was raided. I was captured and sold and here I am.”
“There’s more to it than that. Why were you living in a village with commoners? Were you orphaned?”
I looked down at the water running over my feet. I didn’t want to lie to him. But I couldn’t tell him the truth. I searched for the right words but only came up with, “There are some things I can’t tell even you.”
His hand found mine. It was warm and his palm was coarse with the calluses of a soldier- a man used to riding for days on end and doing back-breaking labor when he wasn’t wielding a sword or bow. “I wish you would. But I won’t press. It’s just that I want to know everything about you.”
He brought my hand to his lips and placed a soft kiss on my fingertips. I shivered, though the air was hot and humid around me. My eyes fell on his lips, still pressed against my fingers. They were soft and pale; the bottom was thicker than the top. He noticed my stare and broke into a grin, revealing his white teeth.
My eyes roamed up from his lips, over his nose, and to his dark eyes that were watching me intensely. I felt my breath hitch in my throat at the look he gave me as he pulled me closer. My breath was ragged as I settled on his lap and I could feel his, hot and just as heavy, on my skin.
I shook a bit with excitement and nervousness. I’d never been this close to a man before- not like this. Oh, I’d had my occasional innocent kiss with Shane. But it was us standing a foot apart, leaning in to plant a short, puckered peck on the other’s mouth, though. It usually sent us into giggles and we’d end up chasing each other around the palace.
This was much different. Gadel was a man, we were no where near a foot apart, and I highly doubted that we would exchange a chaste peck and end up chasing each other around. New and invigorating feelings raged inside me; the likes I’d never felt before and I was scared but infinitely eager.
I swallowed as he wrapped an arm around my waist and our faces grew closer together. Gadel smiled and brush a stray lock of hair from my face. “Relax,” he whispered, rubbing soothing circles on my back. I let my taut muscles ease under his touch and I smiled at him as he placed one hand on the side of my face. His fingers wrapped around the back of my neck and his thumb caressed my cheek slowly as he gently brushed his lips against mine.
Again and again our lips met. It was soft and sweet and I felt myself being swept away from reality, losing myself in his kiss. My hands found their way around his neck and played with his soft hair.
But all too quickly the spell was broken. There came a splash from the stream beside us, followed by tiny giggles as we were sprayed with cold water.
“What the-?” Gadel looked around furiously, but kept a tight hold on my waist. “What was that?”
I stared at the stream and caught a quick glimpse of a tiny blue creature, darting behind a bush on the other side. It left a trail of sparkling white dust behind it and I couldn’t help but laugh as the realization came over me.
“Water sprites. It’s just some mischievous water sprites.” I laughed harder when I looked at Gadel’s flustered expression. I slid off his lap and to the water’s edge. “Shh…watch this.”
I held my hand over the water and my skin glowed blue. It grew brighter and brighter and I smiled as I saw a tiny head peek out of the bushes. Slowly, the sprite emerged and glided over the water to my hand. It rested in my palm and stared up at me contentedly with its bright blue eyes. I held it out to Gadel, who regarded it warily. I laughed.
“It won’t bite. At least, I don’t think so.” I addressed the sprite in its own language and for a few minutes we carried on a conversation. Then with a bow, it glided across the water and disappeared. When I turned back to Gadel, he was watching me with wonder.
“I didn’t know you had the Power.”
I shrugged. “I don’t really. I mean…I never fully developed it. I know a few tricks, is all.”
“You’re just full of surprises. What did you say to the sprite?”
“I asked him his name- it’s Fee by the way- and he apologized for…disturbing us.”
Gadel laughed and pulled me to him. He planted a chaste kiss on the top of my head and took my hand. “I suppose it was a sign that it’s past time we headed back to the house.” I nodded and let him lead me back home.
The following weeks were perhaps the happiest I’ve ever known. I was in love. It was a new and wonderful feeling for me and for Gadel as well. Both of us were giddy with all the emotions raging inside us.
We were playful as children sometimes. We’d tease each other and dance and laugh. Other times, our love was sober. Our kisses and caresses went beyond the normal limits of propriety. There was eagerness and want in them that could not be fulfilled according to the strict morals of society. Lingering kisses outside my bedchambers grew harder and harder to pull away from.
Though we were discreet, our affection for each other was hardly a secret on the manor. The older maids gave me sideways glances when I passed them in the halls. The younger ones smiled, however, enchanted with the romance. Oli teased me about it. Nealp still regarded me with blatant hunger only more so now because it was understood that I was forbidden goods and that made the prize sweeter. And Timmy was openly disapproving of it all.
“You’re in dangerous waters, Havara,” she warned as she added some spices to a rabbit stew. “You’re getting too close. Don’t forget who you are.”
“I thought you told me to forget my past and settle into life here.”
“I did. And you did. But that doesn’t change what you are and what he is.”
“But I love him.”
Timmy’s face was kind. “And he loves you. Your devotion to one another is obvious, dearie. But it doesn’t change the fact that you are enemies. Have you thought about what would happen if he asked your hand?”
I had thought of it. But not in the context Timmy did. I’d thought of my wedding day- my dress, my flowers- and of course my wedding night. I’d thought of being mistress of Colias Manor and bearing Gadel’s children. But I hadn’t considered what it would mean to Danubae.
“You could never claim your throne then. You’d be settled into a life here, living a lie.”
“Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted me to do?”
“No, dearie. I wanted you to survive life here long enough to grow up and then leave to claim your rightful place.”
“I could still marry Gadel. It could bring the kingdoms together.”
“Yes. It could. But you’d have to win this war first. Right now, if you revealed yourself and tried to bring the kingdoms together, they’d kill you. Why ally when you can conquer?” She returned to her cooking, leaving me sitting thoughtfully by the fire.
To Be Continued…
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