The Price of Pride

Chapter 3

The bride walked down the aisle, followed by her entourage of ladies. The church was set for a princess, but the bride barely noticed. Henry watched her approach with a sinking heart. Each step felt to him like another bar added to his gilded cage. He could hear her crying halfway down the aisle. Henry closed his eyes, his thoughts straying to Danielle. She wouldn't have cried. Henry opened his eyes and focused on the woman walking toward him.

She acted as though her world was ending. Henry could see it in her eyes. He went through the motions of the wedding, all the while thinking that she should know her duty. Her duty, just as he should know his. Henry started to recite the words led by the priest, all the while listening to the gasping sobs of the woman next to him. Her sobs matched what he felt inside. So much for duty, Henry thought. Jacqueline's words echoed in his head. “You hold your position above all else.”

Henry laughed and turned, lifting the veil of the woman next to him. She pleaded with him, though he barely heard. Her sobs made it nearly impossible to understand her, but he knew what she was saying. Quietly he calmed her, and with a chaste kiss to the cheek, freely gave her to the man she loved. With the first smile he had allowed himself in a week he removed his cloak, and ran out of the church.

The road outside was full of people milling around. Henry ran through the crowd, intent on finding Danielle, though he had no idea where to look. He didn't care. He would search everywhere. Henry ran past a carriage in the long row outside the church and stopped. Maurice stood in front of his seat, waiting for the Baroness no doubt.

Henry turned and ran back to the carriage. If anyone knew Danielle's whereabouts Maurice would. Henry looked up at the old man, barely recognizing him from the last time he had seen him. The man stood firm, with clean clothes replacing the rags Henry remembered. “Where is she?”

“The Baroness?”

“Nic- Danielle.”

“But she has been sold Sire.” Maurice looked almost pained to admit that Danielle was no longer with them. His eyes, so tired and sad, held the unshed tears that spoke of his pain. Henry could only imagine the torment Maurice must feel, knowing he couldn't save the woman who had risked everything to save him.

Henry's heart sank. He could see the woman who had saved Maurice, the proud lady who would never submit to being treated as a possession. The woman who must surely be living the life of a prisoner now. “Sold? To whom?” Henry felt a pang of guilt as he watched the old man, waiting for the answer. He knew he could have spared them, and Danielle, all of this.

Jacqueline stepped up. “Pierre Le Pieu, Your Highness. Just after the Mask.” She rolled her eyes as she spoke. Henry could only guess at her reaction to the whole event.

Henry looked between Jacqueline and Maurice. The severity of Danielle's life at the manor suddenly seemed much clearer. “Tell no one we have spoken. For all shall reveal itself in due course. Come Laurent, there is much to be done.” Henry turned, intent on his plans, followed closely by Laurent.

Jacqueline looked at Maurice and smiled. She knew Henry must surely be planning to save Danielle. But she couldn't be sure how. Pierre Le Pieu was a powerful man in his own right. He would not turn over Danielle easily. Jacqueline had seen him at market since Danielle had been sold. Always Danielle was with him, head down, in irons.

Jacqueline hesitated a moment then followed Henry and Laurent. She wasn't sure what she could do, but she was not going to sit by any longer and let Marguerite think she won. Jacqueline walked up behind Laurent and Henry as they were talking and cleared her throat. Both men turned and stared at the woman. Jacqueline smiled and looked at both men in turn. “What ever you're planning, I want to help. I refuse to see Marguerite on any throne.”

Henry looked to Laurent who nodded. “Alright, but no one else is to know of this. I know someone has been speaking with the Baroness. I want nothing shared with her, or Marguerite.” Jacqueline and Laurent nodded. Henry smiled grimly and explained his plan. He knew it would be difficult. But he would not accept failure.

When the three had agreed to their parts of the plan they went their separate ways. Jacqueline smiled to herself and ducked her head as she walked. The next few minutes were critical. Jacqueline knew she had to act natural. She was halfway to her carriage when she saw the prince approach her. Time to set the plan in motion.

Jacqueline played her role, 'accidentally' meeting the prince, perfectly. She could see several of the royal guards standing around. Also nearby was the royal page the Baroness talked to frequently. Jacqueline didn't like the little man. She knew he schemed often with the Baroness. She returned her focus to the prince, who pretended to greet her, speaking quietly. Jacqueline smiled sweetly, covertly watching the page. She motioned to the prince, and he nodded. The Baroness would know soon enough of their meeting.

The prince left quickly. There was still plenty to be done. Jacqueline made her way to the carriage, making sure to take her time. She could see the Baroness and Marguerite exiting the church. Maurice was at the carriage, prepared to perform any task as always, but this time he had a twinkle in his eyes. Jacqueline could see the change as easily as if she was next to the man. He was as excited as she.

“Jacqueline, where were you?” Rodmilla sniffed and shook her head. “Doesn't matter. Get over here! We don't have all day!”

Marguerite climbed into the carriage, followed by the Baroness. Jacqueline paused as she prepared to step into the carriage, meeting Maurice's gaze. A slight nod and she disappeared into the carriage. She settled into her seat, paying no mind to the scheming babble of the two women already seated. The carriage door was closed behind her and the carriage began to move.

Jacqueline watched the passing lands with a new sense of relief. She had never been close to Danielle. But she was less so with Marguerite. And she was willing to do anything to make sure Danielle was made Henry's wife. She just had to wait for the right moment now.

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