The Damoiseau in Distress Part 2


The Red Study “Library” by SusanAstray

Three long hours of travel in the back of a wagon wasn’t her top choice for riding off to save the prince. She would have much preferred riding by horseback on her own, but young girls aren’t allowed to travel alone, which Emeline thought to be foolish, she could fend for herself just fine. Emeline hopped out and the driver gave Emiline a quick nod and cracked his whip. The horses galloped off. Emeline slowly made her way down the beaten path, and through the trees, going towards the village where Nicholas lives in his mansion.

The huge gates loomed before Emeline, she saw a small dirt path to her left. Ditching the main way in, she went for the servant’s entrance, a small wooden door hidden behind some trees at the end of the path. Before slipping inside, she silently counted all of her hidden weapons: one dagger in each boot, strapped to her ankles, a set of throwing stars in a hidden pocket at her hip. The final—a deadly pill in case of mission failure—was sewn into the bottom hem of her plain tunic. When she opened the door she was greeted with a long dark and damp stairwell. The door creaked closed behind her and shut her inside with the musty air. 

She felt the pitter-patter of small feet over her shoes and bit down on her tongue to keep from letting out a shriek. The one thing Emeline was scared of was mice. She shuddered and looked around in the dim light coming from a single torch. She spotted several candles unlit on the ground. She picked one up and lit it. 

After a flight of stairs and several twists and turns through the cold tunnels, Emeline squinted in the growing light.

A girl in a common maid’s uniform hurried down the hall towards her. “Who are you?” she asked. 

“My name is Emeline. I came looking for work.” 

“How did you know where the tunnels were?” 

“I was told about them by the kitchen master. I saw her at the market and she informed me that you were low staffed and in need of more bodies. Well, here I am, a willing and able body.” The lie sat heavily on Emeline’s tongue. But she stood tall, portraying confidence knowing that the prince’s life mattered more than a white lie. 

“Oh,” The maid sighed. 

“Why the relief?” Emeline feigned a relaxed giggle. “Did you think I was an intruder out to murder you all?”

“Only for a small moment,” the maid said. “I’m Ruby. Nice to meet you, Emeline. Let me bring you to the kitchen master, and she can assign you your duty.”

After two days of working in the mansion with no luck in finding the kidnapped prince, Emeline was ready to give up hope. She had been assigned to be a housemaid and spent the day running to and from the kitchens, bringing tea trays to guests and cleaning rooms. Emeline was always on the lookout for any signs of where the prince was hidden, but everything seemed to be in perfect order. This is an impossible mission. Emeline thought to herself. She continued with her cleaning duties nonetheless. Today Emeline was assigned to clean the Red Study. Everyone told her to be careful and had sent wary glances her way when she set out. She hadn’t been inside before but knew that the giant red doors at the end of the east wing were where she was headed.  

Slipping inside Emeline scanned the room. The floor-to-ceiling windows that lined the back wall had been shuttered shut. Small slivers of light peered through the cracks. The other walls were full of books. Emeline wanted to read all of them, longing to know all of their secret adventures. A mahogany table covered in papers was in the center of the room. She was dusting all the shelves as directed when she heard the door slide open with a creak. Emeline whipped around.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you, angel,” the strange man said with a grin. “You must be the new maid. I’ve heard stories of your fairness.” He stepped closer to her, his eyes trailed her body from head to toe. 

Emeline swallowed the bile in the back of her throat. “And who might you be?”

“Well, princess, I’m Nick. The handsome and daring owner of this humble home.” He stepped closer yet again. 

With her back pressed against the table, she had nowhere to run. Her mind raced trying to figure out what to do. She fought the urge to strike him below the gut and run for it, but she knew that would endanger her along with the prince. Emeline knew she could use him—no matter how much it disgusted her. It could work. 

She set her duster on the table and took a step forward. Emeline knew he wanted to use her, and if she could get close enough quickly, she might be able to save the prince. 

She gave a shy smile, the same one she saw all the servant girls give the Prince back at the castle. She looked up at him through her lashes.

Now they were close enough that if either of them were to stretch out an arm it would touch the other person. His scent washed over her. He smelled of sweat and moldy cheese. Emeline tried not to scrunch her nose in disgust.

Nicholas stepped once more and closed the gap between them, he licked his lips. “You are even more beautiful than the rumors the guards have spread.” He tucked a loose strand of hair behind Emeline’s ear. 

She clenched her fists. 

He leaned in and kissed her, and she kissed him back, loathing every second of it. Nick set his hands on her hips and shoved her back into the bookshelf. Emeline tried to break the kiss, but he pulled her in tighter. She couldn’t breathe. 

 A candle holder was attached to the bookshelf. She grabbed it and pulled herself away.

Terror fell on his face. The floor was moving.