Saturday, April 4, 2009

Katharine and Dane - Chapter 8 - Duke and Elizabeth meet

“You play nice.” Christine hissed at Duke. “I don’t want any of your funny business.” Duke rolled his eyes. Why would he want some fat handmaiden? She was probably some horse faced, bucktoothed….goddess?

“Duke” King Edward bellowed. “I would like to present – Elizabeth.” They stared at each other. Duke just couldn’t bring himself to say anything. She was radiant, curvy, pale, luscious… Not like any servant girl he had ever seen. She had huge brown eyes, and a sweet smile.

Elizabeth didn’t know what to say, or do. Should she curtsy? Or what for him to speak? Perhaps he would kiss her hand? She had seen dukes do that in the Moscovia castle.

“Ahem.” Edward interrupted the awkward silence. “It is of utmost importance that outside of this room, you two are Dane and Katharine. You are in love. You are getting married in one week. Oswald’s spies are out there. I have no doubt that our servants are loyal, however I need everone to be cautious. Everyone understand?” He looked around. “Excellent. Well, it is almost time for supper. Dane m’boy, you need to get ready! Katharine, Sarah will attend to your dress, and hair. Off you go!”

Elizabeth had her doubts about the plan, some about herself, but most were about the Duke. He was attractive, no doubts there, but the way he looked at her, it made her stomach uneasy. She felt flushed, and off kilter. No one had ever looked at her like that before, she wasn’t sure that it was proper… but she liked it.

Up in Dane’s quarters, Duke transformed himself into his best friend. Michael cut Duke’s hair, and trimmed his beard. With Dane’s clothes on there was little difference between the men. Duke was a touch shorter, and more tanned, and slightly more muscular than Dane, but it would be difficult to tell without Dane around.

He hurried to get down to the hall before Elizabeth did. She took his breath away earlier, and he did not want a repeat performance at dinner. If he was there early he could prepare himself for when she was announced.

There was something about the girl that told him she was something special. She made him feel like no other woman had. He had laid eyes on everyone from nobility to bar wench, and none looked like that. None had eyes that seemed to touch his soul. None made him feel like baring his deepest thoughts. He wanted to touch her ivory skin, but was afraid she would break. He ached to run his fingers through her hair…

Christine would kill him if she knew he was thinking this way about Elizabeth. He was afraid of himself, at this point too, because he would have to touch her… court her… woo her as if she were to be his.

But she would never be his, he knew that. He would never have Elizabeth, not the way he had had other women. Christine had made that perfectly clear. He could face horrible repercussions if he cross Christine. He feared he would have to, as he was not sure he could control himself. Perhaps if she were terribly boring… that would certainly make it easier. Well, he comforted himself, how exciting could being a reclusive princess’s handmaiden be?

“Dane, m’boy?” Bellowed King Edward, giving Duke a bit of a start. “Come, sit. As usual the women are taking their time.”

Duke sat in Dane’s chair. He looked at the four head chairs. They were ornate, and padded. All the other tables had benches, the first two rows had padding, but after that were just hard wood.

Duke looked across the table at the chair that Elizabeth would be sitting in, next to the Queens chair. It was a perfect reflection of the chair he sat in now. The Queen chair was a reflection of the Kings. Before Duke could put more thought into why this may be, he heard an annoyed cough from the back of the room. Edward and Duke looked up and saw Christine at the back of the room.

“Ah, yes, propriety m’boy, Christine will be most strict about this tonight. Come, let’s not upset her.” Duke rose and followed the King out of the main dining hall. There was a reception room off to the side, where they would wait until everyone else was seated.

“Then you and Dane will go in, followed by Edward and I”, Christine was explaining to Elizabeth. Duke paused at the doorway, staring at Elizabeth in her deep green dress. Her hair was braided, and a crown sat on her head. She wore it well. There was a ring on her finger, and he knew it was meant for Katharine, as a gift from Dane.

“Dane!” Christine snapped. “Are you listening?” She crossed her arms. He stared at her blankly. “Oh, never mind. Now, when you are announced escort Katharine down the aisle, we will try to keep people away from the crowd. Just be sure to use the correct names.” She practically whispered. Then she took Duke by the arm. “ You stop looking at her like that. She is not intended for you.” The words were barely audible, but he could hear the venom in her voice.

“Then who is she intended for? Does he know where she is? What she is doing?” He shot back.

Christine was puzzled by Duke’s apparent concern, as was Duke. Why did he care who she was intended for? All he had to do was get through this week, and he would be rid of her. Duke decided that it would be a good time to quench his curiosity and talk to Elizabeth, see how boring she was.

“So, Katharine, what do you do all day in the castle. Anything interesting? Or is all quite boring?” King Edward rolled his eyes and Christine looked at them both quizzically.

“Well” She said at last, her voice was like honey. “There really isn’t all that much to do, with all the servants around.” She swallowed. Elizabeth was so nervous, and he was looking at her strangely again. “I enjoy horseback riding when father will allow it. I love to stroll through the gardens as often as I can, the gardener loves to tell me all about the flowers. Occasionally Father lets Elizabeth and I sit in on his meetings. He believes it will make me a better wife, a better helper for him.” Elizabeth found it easier to talk about Katharine’s life, because it was her life too. Katharine had always insisted that Elizabeth go with her everywhere. Elizabeth knew it was not solely for Katharine’s sake, but also for Elizabeth’s. It was not every servant that got to go out in the middle of the day, go horseback riding, or attend parties.

“Really?” Duke finally managed. “You like horses?” her eyes lit up, and Duke was floating on air. They talked about horses up until they were announced.