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Monday, May 29, 2006 The Seeds of Romance

Rael’charon guessed right. Two days after the feast, after the morning audiences, Eloise comes to him for advice. Rael’charon has found some information about Robert, and he gives Eloise a ready advice.
‘Uncle Rael, two days ago I saw a boy about my age in the palace. He seems interesting, though. Is he a prince, so I can play with him? You know anything about him, uncle?’
‘Of course, Loise. His name is Robert – but unfortunately – he’s not a prince. He’s just a page under Lord Walthorn. Tell you what; you can still play with him, though.’
‘Really, uncle Rael? How?’
‘Always disguise yourself as a maid, and go to the stables. You will find him there, tending to Duke Walthorn’s horse, Paeldagrin. And never go there after two o’ clock in the afternoon, because he will be gone to the duke’s chamber – for his other duties. And you’ll be expected in the palace to do your daily lessons.’
‘Well thank you very much, uncle! You’re very resourceful, as usual!’
‘Hahaha… it’s my pleasure to help my fair princess. I’m sure you’ll be bored to death to play with the maids and an old guy like me all the time!’
‘Ew, but you’re DEFINITELY not OLD, uncle! I should’ve called you big brother if you didn’t insist!’
Rael’charon laughs amusingly. It’s no point arguing with a little princess, he thinks. Well he surely has zillions of devices to make his life interesting and fun – and makes life better for his friends, too. No wonder he’s the king’s favorite officer and can secure his position for nearly thirty years. And here’s one little secret – he has helped Gerard to win Elena’s heart. Elena, the second daughter of the king of Wardstone is the fairest lady in Lore (or even in Aurelia Continent!). Gerard has won jousts, tournaments, and he can match Elena’s interest in poetry and religion. And most of all, Gerard has proved Elena that he esteems his love to her greater than glory and honor, and Gerard loves his country and Vadis, just the man Elena aspired to spend the rest of her life with. These were all thanks to Rael’charon’s extensive information.
And there she goes. Disguised as a maid wearing a black-hair wig and a white hood covering her face, Eloise walks to the stables before lunch. And there he is, just as Rael’charon advised – the grouchy boy – feeding a horse and brushing its mane and body with water mixed with herbals. Paeldagrin the horse seems very comfortable and it’s eating heartily as though its life is heaven whenever Robert is around.
Then Eloise prepares her prank. She takes out a sling and a pebble. She’s about to shoot the horse with the pebble and gives Robert a trouble which will be a pretty amusing show. But a quick sense comes into her at the last moment: She shouldn’t play that dangerous plan at her first meeting with Robert. What if he dies or gets injured? What if his lord fires him? Eloise will never see Robert again. So Eloise changes her mind and carries on with plan B: She will walk right to him when he’s not around his horse and kiss him in an instant. That’ll be an element of surprise and excitement.
‘Hehehe, it’s SHOW TIME!’
Eloise tiptoes silently towards Robert. Robert doesn’t aware yet that a girl is coming to him, and is busy putting the equipments back in place. He doesn’t look happy although he does feel happy after completing his duties just before lunch. That’ll be two hours of rest before he goes to his studies and training. Suddenly the careless Eloise trips on a slippery mud on the stable floor, and falls, crashing face-first on the floor. Robert turns around upon the loud crashing sound. He is surprised to find a little maid lays face-down on the floor.
Robert thinks. Oh boy, there goes my resting hour. Now I remember to clean the stable too. It’s not cleaned in ages!
His face remains sulky although he’s surprised, and he helps the little maid to get up. And what a wonder, as he looks at the maid’s face, he cannot help laughing out loud. The little maid’s face and body is all covered with mud and what suspiciously looks like horse dung. Robert laughs on and covers his nose, while Eloise, the princess in disguise makes a sour face. Eloise scolds Robert, forgetting her ‘role’ as a maid.
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah! Oh you can laugh after all, hah? Oh yeah. Just laugh at the silly, mud-covered girl! Where are your manners, huh? You’ll be hanged for this!’
Robert finally shows his original nature.
‘Oh, sorry. I shouldn’t treat girls like that. My apologies, your majesty. Well this is my neck, you can hang it, just make sure it’s hanged on a bean sprout! Wahahahaha!’
Eloise can’t contain herself any longer and starts to beat Robert playfully. Robert runs around the stable and Eloise chases him around. Robert always evades, and Eloise gets irritated and finally gets tired and falls on her knees. Robert stares at her with a smile, and soon he takes a napkin hanging on the wall, soaks it on clean water and begins to clean Eloise’s face. Eloise’s anger wanes at once, and she seems enjoying Robert’s treatment. After that Eloise takes the napkin and begins to wipe the mud and dung off her clothes and body, while talking.
‘Errr… you’re Robert, right?’
‘Hey, how come you know my name?’
Eloise is flabbergasted. She thinks fast for an excuse.
‘Errr… I heard that from the other maids. You know it’s rare to have somebody about your age in the palace, so I came to talk to you and maybe – we can be friends.’
‘Well of course. But as you know, around here I’m known as “grouchy boy”. And I generally don’t like anyone bothering me while I’m working.’
‘But you didn’t seem grouchy just now! You even told a bad joke!’
‘Hmph! My joke wasn’t bad! You are the bad prankster! You must’ve up to something bad, sneakin’ on me like that!’
‘I didn’t!’
‘You did!’
‘I didn’t!’
‘I know you did!’
‘GRRR! Suit yourself!’
‘You’re such a pain!’
‘Just go away, grouchy boy! I don’t want to play with you!’
‘No, YOU go away! I work here! Stop bothering me! I’ll be late for lunch!’
Suddenly they hear their stomachs grumbling. Robert and Eloise pause for a while, and then they laugh together. Then Robert does his habit of scratching his head again, saying…
‘Oh, by the way, who’s your name anyway?’
‘I’m El… err… Elaine. I’m a junior maid here. You’re with Lord Walthorn, aren’t you?’
‘Yeah, I guess I am.’
‘Alas, that means you won’t be here for long.’
‘Well, you don’t have to worry. Lord Walthorn often comes here, right? And I’m ordered to accompany him wherever he goes, so we’ll see each other quite often.’
‘That’s good! Ah, anyway I must go to the kitchen and have lunch first before preparing lunch for the royalties. Will you join me, Rob? I surely can spare a thing or two in the kitchen!’
‘Of course, why not?’
‘Let’s go then!’
Robert’s mind is full of delicious food that he doesn’t ask Eloise a.k.a. Elaine why she wears her hood everywhere she goes. The kitchen maids and cooks recognize the face resemblance between Princess Eloise and the new maid Elaine, but Rael’charon has already told all the maids and palace attendants that ‘Elaine’ is the new maid under his own recommendation. And they can’t doubt the cleverest person in Lore.

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