Excerpt: The Princess and the Huntsman
A servant hurried over to lift the train of her gown, lest it be spoiled by the rushes on the floor, but Brandywyn had no patience for the servants and pulled away her gown, giving the page a surly look. Why did no one leave her alone? Could they not see she was seeking the peace of solitude?
As she walked along the marble-walled corridors, she was approached by a pair of giggling ladies-in-waiting. Carmen and Lir were two of her younger ones, and prone to blushes and giggles often. Brandywyn generally avoided their company when she could.
They approached and curtsied low. “Your Highness! Your Highness! We have a secret! A secret we would share with you,” gushed Lir, the younger one. She was pretty in a fragile way, but rather silly and immature.
“‘Tis not much of a secret, Lir, do you spread it around so.”
“Oh,” said Carmen, “but, Princess, this is a secret that we cannot keep from you. You will like it. Oh, aye, Your Highness will like it.”
Brandywyn arched a blond eyebrow. “I will, hm? Well then, do tell it and get on with it.”
They each took one of her arms and hurried her away to one of the spare bedchambers in the large palace. It was in the west wing, the one reserved for guests. “Come, quick, or you will miss it!”
Skeptical, but with rising curiosity, Brandywyn allowed herself to be spirited away, and into a guest room. It was an opulent room, one prepared for high dignitaries. It had many tapestries on the walls and a few framed portraits of important family members and hunting dogs. It was to one of these dog paintings that the two giggling women drew her.
Lir moved the painting aside and there was a hole in the wall. The walls were thick, but not so thick that she couldn’t see clearly into the next room. There was a man standing there. He was stark naked, but being attended to by his valet, who was brushing and folding his clothes.
The man was tall, of regal bearing, broad-shouldered and dark haired. She couldn’t see the color of his eyes, but they seemed dark. He wore a small beard, which was very stylish for the day, and proved that he was a man of wealth. His hair was long, the upper half drawn back in a tail, the lower half left to swing free and lie upon his shoulders. The man was impossibly handsome. Brandywyn wished she could see him more clearly.
It was just like her father to bring in two suitors where one had been rejected before. Would this one be brought to the audience chamber for her to abuse, too? At least, after surreptitiously watching him, she would know what she was dealing with.
He shooed the valet off and was left alone in the room. After a moment, he moved to open the door a bit. In walked a buxom and saucy servant with long raven hair and ripe lips.
Brandywyn gasped. There was something going on here. Something quite naughty. She pulled back away from the peep hole, but was unable to stay away for more than a few seconds. Peering back into the room, she saw the man bend to kiss the young woman. It was a deep kiss. And as he kissed her, he slid his hands over her shoulders and down to cup her breasts. Now Brandywyn was sure of what was happening, sure that she shouldn’t be watching. She stepped back, biting her lip, and turned to her eagerly waiting ladies.
“How did you know of this?” She spoke softly, though she was pretty sure the man next door would not be able to hear her.
Carmen nodded toward Lir. “Lir’s sister’s waiting woman found out that one of the maids was called for by a prince to…”
“To satisfy his carnal needs,” said Lir with a deep, crimson blush.
“Aye. Upon asking a few questions, Lir’s sister was able to piece together this assignation, and she told Lir.”
“We looked through the hole she spoke of, Majesty,” Lir explained. “And we saw the prince disrobing. We came to find you immediately. This secret hole is too good not to share.”
“Hmm,” Brandywyn said, debating whether to be angry or join them in their conspiracy. She opted to do something in the middle. “You two go off and pray to goddess Fatua. Spying is a sin, I am sure.”
They looked at each other, crestfallen, but finally both nodded at her. “Aye, Your Highness, we shall do as you say, of course.”
“Hurry off,” Brandywyn admonished, shooing them away with a gesture.
They curtsied low and backed out of the room.
After the door closed, Brandywyn reached for the concealing picture, thinking to put it back, but hesitated. Unable to help herself, she looked into the adjoining room again.