The Duke

She awoke in a dark, unfamiliar place, lit only by a dying fire across the room from her. She shifts and realizes she is in an unfamiliar bed and wearing a luxurious silk nightgown that she doesn’t remember putting on. She tries to recall how she ended up here, to no avail. The last thing she remembers is she was on her way to the market. Two men in dark clothing had grabbed her and placed a cloth over her nose and mouth. She still doesn’t remember how she got in this dark room.

She recoils in fear as a carved door to her right creaked open to admit an old woman in an apron and head-wrap. The maid curtsied to her and proceeded to the hearth. She poked the glowing embers with a poker and coaxed a lick of flame from it with some tinder. Now that a proper fire was going, the bewildered maiden could examine the room she found herself in.

The bed in which she lay had a canopy of sheer silk hanging about its four posters. A heavy quilt filled with down covered her, and kept even her toes warm in this bleak winter. She could feel the sheets were silk as well, heavenly smooth against the skin her voluminous nightgown exposed. The walls that boxed her in were covered with tapestries of all manner of things, nature, hunts, weddings, legendary battles. To her reluctant delight she found one whole wall a giant bookshelf, packed end to end with books, their subjects ranging as widely as the tapestries’. Beautiful maple wood covered the floor, with plush rugs over most of that. The maid rose shakily from her knobby knees and moved to the side of the white marble hearth, allowing the girl to see the masterful carving on the mantle and down either side of the fire.

All in all, the room was beautiful and must have cost a small fortune. The old maid approached her and gave her an endearing, though toothless, grin, “I’ve a pretty dress for you, dearie.” She opened an oak wardrobe to her right and pulled out a gown green as the deep reaches of the forest, a dark shade that complimented her rosy cheeks and dark brown eyes and hair. The young woman stepped into it and, with some help from the old lady, the bodice was laced up to a comfortable tightness. The skirt fell just right, draping from her waist to swish about her feet when she moved. Her tresses were swept up into a loose bun on the back of her neck, some curls left out to frame her face.

“Well, don’t you look a beauty!” the old maid beamed at her, “The duke will be very pleased!”

“W-what?” the young lady stammered. All this had seemed like a dream, a happy alter-reality that would leave her with a warm feeling when she woke up in her fiancé’s arms, in her own bed in her own tiny house. But realization came crashing down on her, this was real, and she didn’t know what was going to happen to her. For all she knew, this ‘duke’ could be a sick maniac that takes pleasure from kidnapping then torturing young maidens. The maiden paled and a cold sweat began to form on her forehead at the thought.

The old maid tugged her to her feet and led her across the room, out the door, down the hall, and brought her to a stop in front of another door, all without the lady’s notice. She touched up her hair, not noticing the clamminess of her skin, her blank stare.

“You’re all ready to see the duke now, dearie. Good luck, but he’s sure to like a pretty thing like you,” The old maid gave her another smile before opening the door and giving her a small push, closing the door behind her. The young woman faced the man sitting in a chair before her. This is her captor, the man who spirited her away from the only life she had known, but she wasn’t about to let him have any more power over her.

“Hello, Marie. You slept well, I trust.”





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