The Damoiseau in Distress


“Eltz Castle” by robert.molinarius is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Robyn Ward, Arts and Entertainment Editor

A girl, about seventeen, was walking briskly through the hallways of a massive castle. She was holding a huge basket filled with bread, fruits, and the finest meats. The girl, Emeline, had just gone to the market and needed to rush to the kitchens to make sure the food would be ready on time. The king had asked her to go right before the ball so that the food would be as fresh as possible. As she entered the kitchen, she breathed a sigh of relief. The head chef, Florence, welcomed her with a warm smile and took the basket. “Welcome back Emeline. You are just in time,” Florence greeted.

“The lines at the market were horrible today. I rushed here as quickly as I could,” Emeline said.

Florence chuckled a bit, “Everyone is trying to prepare for the ball tonight. I do not blame them, for it will be a grand event.”

Emeline agreed and bid farewell to Florence. She also needed to prepare for the ball tonight. It was the Winter Ball, the biggest event of the year in the kingdom. It also lined up with the prince’s 18th birthday. Every servant girl in the castle seemed infatuated with the prince, but Emeline thought them ridiculous. She was far more concerned with gathering enough money to finally get out of the castle and travel the world.

Emeline had never been beyond the city surrounding the castle. Her mother was the queen’s personal servant, but she had died when Emeline was very young. The queen had taken her in as her new personal servant and taught her to read and write, as well as having her train with the guards to make sure she could defend herself, just in case. Emeline would read stories from around the world at every free moment. She dreamed of having a great adventure one day.

Shaking her head, Emeline focused on getting dressed up. Because she was the queen’s personal servant, she was given a fancier dress to wear than most other servants. She disliked the restricting fabric, but got dressed anyway. She twisted her hair into an intricate plait she was required to wear and sighed.

Once she was ready, she headed to the great hall to welcome the guests. As the beginning of the ball drew closer, more and more people were coming in. Emeline led each person to their seat in the hall, a welcoming smile on her face. Finally, the king stood and made the announcement to begin the ball. “We welcome everyone to our celebration. Tonight is a very special night in a few ways. We rejoice in the winter, as we do every year, but there is something special this year. My son, Felix, has reached his 18th birthday. Now, let us celebrate!”

The ball was a grand event, and Emeline enjoyed herself even as she had to serve the queen and her friends all night. Once it was finally over, Emeline sighed in relief. She headed to her room and was so exhausted that she fell asleep almost immediately after falling into bed.

The next morning Emeline was serving the king and queen breakfast. The prince was missing, which was strange; he always ate breakfast with his parents. The royals both looked worried and hardly touched their food. Suddenly, a servant boy ran into the hall waving a paper. “A letter about the prince!”

The queen ran to meet the boy and opened the letter. She quickly scanned it, then let out a pained sob. “A ransom note. It’s a ransom note for my baby. My Felix.”

“What does it say, love?” the king asked.

The queen read the note aloud, “To our dear King Alexander, I have an answer to the question you are asking. I know where your son is, and I know how to get him back. No, this isn’t a simple matter of money. I have no need for that. I want something much more important: your crown. Give me the title of king and let me rule the kingdom. Then your son will be returned unharmed. You know who I am, and what you must do to keep your precious boy alive. I expect action soon, Alex. You have one week.”

The king dropped his head into his hands, and the queen sank into her chair, sobbing quietly. “What shall be done, your majesty?” one of the guards in the room asked.

“I cannot hand over the crown to that lunatic Nicholas, but I cannot allow him to harm my child either. My son must be rescued,” came the king’s reply.

The king lifted his head. “Gather the guards. We must decide who will go. There can only be one or two, otherwise Nicholas will notice and kill the prince.”

Emeline screwed her courage, took a deep breath, and spoke, “I’ll go.”

Everyone’s head spun to stare at Emeline and her nerves worsened. She was terrified, but this was her one chance to follow her dream, so she stood her ground. “We can’t send a girl, she’ll mess it up for sure. She isn’t strong enough for the mission,” one guard stated.

Emeline glared at him. “I have trained with the guards every day for years. I can do this. Besides, I’m the best option. This Nicholas will never suspect a girl. If I go, he won’t be prepared.” 

The king pondered for a moment and then spoke, “Very well. Go prepare what you will need, ask if you require anything, and head out as soon as possible. Be very careful, Emeline, the fate of the kingdom rests on your shoulders.”