Time goes by – Robert and Eloise often meet and play together whenever they have a chance, and Eloise’s disguise as Elaine is never found out as her parents are always busy with their royal affairs – sometimes until past midnight – and often traveling for days. They miss each other as they part in springs and summers, but they always find a way to contact each other by pigeon posts or Robert volunteering as Walthorn’s messenger to bring the letters from Jeland to Marlham.
Robert is now fifteen, and Eloise a.k.a. Elaine is fourteen. Eloise grows to be a beautiful maiden. She is tall and very beautiful, and all people are convinced that she inherits her late mother’s angelic beauty. Elena, Eloise’s mother died after giving birth to Eloise’s younger brother, Edward. Eloise’s father, Gerard was installed as King George XIV of Lore five months ago.
Robert was promoted from stable boy to squire-cadet at twelve plus as Lord Walthorn’s personal bodyguard (and disciple of warfare and swordsmanship). Duke Walthorn has grown fond of Robert, and for being a distinctively talented student, Duke Walthorn taught Robert some of his sword skills including Three-Point Chain Slash, Power Bash, Dragon Hammering-Down Slash and Rising Dragon Uppercut Slash.
Now the friendship between Robert and Eloise is strengthened, and Eloise has begun to have her eyes on Robert, as Robert has grown into a dashing, handsome young man. Eloise and Robert meet regularly, as Eloise still disguises herself as Elaine the maid. She considers Robert basically as the sole reliever of her loneliness – out of her mother’s love and the boredom she gets from much older companions. She often made approaches to Robert, but she never made a single breakthrough to romance because Robert always remembers his past trauma – Laetitia’s death.
One day in winter, Eloise goes to the barracks as usual to find Robert who is off duty. Her meetings with Robert was much lessened during autumn, because Robert was being trained to be a scout and has mastered the skill ‘Eagle Eye’ as the result of three-and-a half months of full-time training. Robert is in the barracks, ready in his full soldier armor. Robert then accompanies Eloise to the palace flower garden, but they barely speak there. They just stare at each other with admiration.
Then suddenly Eloise loses her patience and talks flatly.
‘Robert, I need you to know that I have feelings towards you. I love you. You’re the only person in this world who can cure me from my loneliness.’
Robert is thunderstruck. He never expected to hear this from a lady – especially a superbly beautiful lady like Elaine the maid. Mixed thoughts of the past trauma and his own true feelings are rumbling in his mind. But finally he comes to a decision that he must forget the past and embrace his future. Now he is stronger and wiser. But Elaine is young, much too young to love. She should’ve wait for three more years or so to even think of love. After a long pause, Robert stares lovingly at Elaine and answers…
‘Elaine, you know I love you since the first time we met. It may start as a friendship, but now I know that I can’t live without you. I also realize that I’m neither rich nor honored, but please accept me as I am.’
‘Oh, Robert, of course I do.’
Eloise a.k.a. Elaine and Robert hug each other tightly, and then they kiss each other – a warm, perfect kiss. Eloise’s heart is filled with joy and love, but suddenly a thought comes into her mind.
Argh! I’m not Elaine, for Vadis’ sake! I’m Princess Eloise of Lore! I said I’m willing to accept Robert as is, but will he accept the REAL me? Our love is forbidden! Oh Vadis, what have I done? I’ve played with Robert’s heart, and Robert will be terribly hurt when he knows the truth!
Elaine starts to cry, but Robert misunderstands it as the tears of joy. Then Elaine suddenly lets go of her hug, turns and runs away without saying a word, crying. Robert is shocked and calls her.
‘Elaine! What’s wrong? ELAINE!’
But Elaine doesn’t answer and runs towards the palace. Robert intends to chase her at once, but a thought prevents him.
Maybe she’s too excited and need some time alone to calm herself. Very well, then. I’ll see her again. But… why are her lips redder than usual? Also traces of powder on her cheeks? And why is she wearing sparkling earrings? She never wore them before! Ah! Skip that thought. Maybe she thought that this is a special day and she must look special, so she wears her valuable jewels – but the jewels look too valuable for a simple maid like her. Hmmm, rather than making wrong conclusions, I better ask her that the next time we meet. Well, off I go, then.
Meanwhile, Eloise has already entered her chambers, and then she takes her black-hair wig off to reveal her long, blonde, straight hair and suddenly she realizes something: she forgot to take off her earrings! She was too excited about this day that she also forgot to wipe off her make-ups after breakfast. How careless! She thinks. Five years of disguise and she only slipped once! How if Robert finds out? Ah, he’s not half as clever as Rael’charon!
Suddenly Eloise is struck by a sudden fatigue and suffers from too much excitement, and she falls asleep on her bed, still wearing her palace maid dress.
To make matters worse, Eloise’s personal maid Umbelle comes in to inform Eloise that the king is coming to see her, and sees Eloise in that state. Umbelle, the faithful maid tries to take the princess’ dress from the wardrobe, but before she can change Eloise’s dress – King George already goes in. The king is horrorstruck to see Eloise in a maid’s dress, and her black-hair wig on the bed.
The king yells, ‘ELOISE! Just what you think you’re doing?’
Umbelle is also horrorstruck to see the king’s anger and takes a low bow. Eloise is awake in surprise, and she is panicked because she has never seen her father this angry with her before.
‘Uh… Your Majesty Father, what have I done wrong?’
‘What are YOU doing dressing like a maid without MY permission?’
Eloise is thunderstruck – her five-year disguise is found out at last. In her panic, she answers with the first thought popping in her mind.
‘Er, I wanted to take a closer look on the well-being of our subjects – so I can understand my studies better, Your Majesty Father.’
‘But STILL you have to ask for MY permission! Wandering about in the city unguarded? What if any harm befell you? You’re rash, my child, too rash! Now, I’ll investigate this further with your tutor…’
‘He didn’t know anything about this, Your Majesty Father. I’ve done it by my own initiative.’
‘INSOLENCE! How dare you cut in when I’m talking? Listen, young girl. You have SERIOUSLY violated at least a dozen of palace protocols – consorting with commoners, leaving the palace without permission, never in place when summoned… and Vadis knows what else!’
Eloise bows her head. King George pauses, sighs and talks on.
‘It’s only fitting that I must send you away to study religion in Valanis as punishment, and come back here only to marry, but I chose to be merciful this time. From now on you’re FORBIDDEN to leave this palace, disguise in any kind and form. Any protocol violation again, and I’ll send you to Valanis straightaway! I’ll have your maid Umbelle and a palace guard to watch you all the time. Rael’charon will arrange everything for you and he’ll be your tutor from now on!’
There’s a pinch of joy in Eloise’s mind, knowing that she is spared from severe punishment and Rael’charon is put in charge for her. But she doesn’t dare to show that in front of her father in order not to make him regret his decision. And after her father went out of the room, Eloise becomes real confused and cries silently on her bed – ‘Elaine’ is ‘dead’, she is no more. Umbelle also excuses herself, knowing that the princess is in her abysmal mood and she doesn’t want to be the target of Eloise’s frustration.
A perfect love blossomed in the morning and withered at night….
Harmony Black by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo) - *Official Author Website * *Order Harmony Black HERE * *Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down * *Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The ...
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