It came in at 1504 words.
Frankly, Darcy thought the whole situation was ridiculous. Firstly, although she had expected to take her husband’s name on marriage, it was the custom after all, she’d expected to take his family name not his given name. However, as his deep, dark, unspoken secret had been that he was royalty, taking her husband’s name meant that she was now The Princess Andrew or even, in certain circumstances Darcy, the Princess Andrew. Darcy had hitherto thought that she was the least princessy female person that she knew – and been proud of it.
Secondly, there was some royal tradition of gifting the rescuer of an abducted princess with lands, a title and the hand of the princess in marriage. Apparently this method of ennoblement was so popular with people outside the royal family that her father-in-law, the king, thought it necessary in the absence of any abductors to imprison a princess for rescue himself. Just to prevent discontent in the armed classes, he said. Except he seemed to be ignoring the fact that Darcy was already married to his son – a son who’d been conspicuously absent when Darcy had been ushered into the tower of her imprisonment.
In retrospect what Darcy had thought were faux friendly invitations from her sisters-in-law by both marriage and blood to visit them in the country for the summer now looked like attempts to get her out of the way of her father-in-law’s idiocy. Andrew’s ‘delicate mission’ into the uplands given to him by his father was also looking very…deliberate.
Darcy had tried to leave, of course, but that had only resulted in a concussion, five broken ribs, a nasty bite and a broken arm. In exchange Darcy had picked up some nasty bruises and a permanent suspension of privileges – the Lord Warden really hadn’t liked being bitten. It seemed that all she could do for the time being was to wait for Andrew to come back and rescue her.
Andrew didn’t arrive, which wasn’t so surprising when Darcy considered rationally how long it would take him to hear that she’d been locked up in this blinking tower and then make his way back to do something about it.
After almost four weeks Sir Langmore Bodenson did arrive. The first Darcy knew of that was the noise. Sword fighting made noise, lots of metal on metal. Also, there was shouting. A lot of shouting that came closer and closer to her nicely appointed cell. As cells went it had almost everything she could want, except weapons, keys and lock picks. It did have bars, and those let her grab the keys of the Lord Warden’s belt when the unknown armed older man, well older than her but not older than the Lord Warden, cornered her chief gaoler up against said bars.
Once she had the keys it was the work of a few moments to get the door to her cell open and slip through it, edging around the room to try and stay out of their lines of sight. It worked, until she was actually at the outer door of her cell, when the Lord Warden couldn’t help but see her over his opponent’s shoulder and bellowed in rage. At that she gave up all attempt at stealth, nipped out the doorway and slammed the outer door shut and locked it. If she’d been seriously keeping someone prisoner in this place, she would have kept that door locked as matter of common sense. Somehow she wasn’t surprised when a few moments later both men were hammering on the locked door, demanding to be released. “Sorry,” she did her best to sound merely spritely, “I’m off to find my husband. You two can enjoy the accommodations his majesty provided for me for a while.”
An unfamiliar voice, whom she assumed to be the man the Lord Warden had been fighting said, “But I’m here to rescue you, your highness! The king has promised your hand in marriage to who so ever rescues you from this tower.”
“His majesty seems to have forgotten that I’m already married to one of his sons.” Darcy’s voice was dry.
“I was given to understand that the annulment would be a mere formality,” said the voice on the other side of the door.
It was immediately followed by the Lord Warden’s hiss of, “You idiot!”
Darcy took a deep breath, swallowed her fury, and asked, “So, who said that and what grounds?”
“The Lord Chancellor is certain that nonconsummation can be proven.” That was the stranger.
“It’s a pity no-one thought to ask Andrew or me about that,” replied Darcy astringently. “I hope the two of you will be very happy together until I get around to sending this key back.” With that she left, the sounds of two unhappy locked-in men fading rapidly behind her.
It didn’t take her long to find the armoury and then to find the armoury key among the bunch she’d lifted from the Lord Warden. She then spent a very productive half an hour finding armour and weapons that suited her and changing into them out of her cottehardie. A little more foraging found saddle bags to fold her gown up into, plus a stash of spare buckles meant for armour repairs that she was sure she could trade almost anywhere for copper, or even silver, coins to keep her going. Well, keep her going long enough to get somewhere she could find a paying job that would take her into the uplands.
Food was next on Darcy’s want list but there were too many of the tower’s armsmen hanging around the barracks and the hall, and looking suspiciously relaxed in a place with an armed intruder, for her to risk approaching the kitchens. That meant taking the other direction which led to the stables and transport.
Not that she needed to go that far because two perfectly good saddled horses were standing in the courtyard in front of the main door attended only by a fifteen year old squire. Darcy briefly considered the ethics of pulling a sword on the boy and decided that under the circumstances, if he was old enough to be exposed to the battle field, then he was old enough to be robbed at sword point. She pulled her new sword from its scabbard and stalked forward.
“So, one of these horses belongs to the armed man with a blue anvil on his surcoat?” Darcy didn’t intend her conversational tone combined with a pointed sword to be particularly reassuring.
The boy swallowed hard. “Sir Langmore Bodenson? Both of them belong to him,” he swallowed hard again, “ma’am.”
“Is that his name? Well, he’s locked up with the Lord Warden at the moment so he won’t need the horse he rides for a while.” She smiled. “And it won’t inconvenience him if I borrow it for a bit. Grab his saddle bags, and my sword and I will climb on his horse and get out of your face.”
“Part of my job is to look after my master’s equipment,” said the boy earnestly, “and, aside from his weapons and armour, these horses are the most valuable things Sir Langmore owns – that’s why we’re here to rescue the princess.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you both,” said Darcy tartly, “but I already have a husband and now I’m off to find him.”
The page swallowed hard. “You’re the princess? But where’s Sir Langmore?”
“Locked in my cell with the Lord Warden,” said Darcy. “If I really do have the only key, then it’s either the beginning of a beautiful friendship or they’re going to kill each other. Should I also mention that the tower has a lot of armsmen who don’t seem to be reacting to the presence of an armed intruder?”
The squire’s eyes narrowed. “So could be a trap of sorts? If I help you leave, will you let me bring Sir Langmore’s horses back to him when you have one of your own? Could you even let me have the key to free him, when you’re far enough away?”
“What sort of help could you give me?” Darcy sounded sceptical but it would be a gift not to have to fight anyone at all to get out of here.
“While Sir Langmore was speaking with the Lord Chancellor I heard,” he cleared his throat, “purely as squire’s gossip you understand, that Prince Andrew was being held at Freidor.”
“The royal stronghold in the uplands?” Darcy was beginning to both admire and be exasperated by the level of her father-in-law’s planning. “Well, boy, how do you feel about adding and abetting in at least the early stages of rescuing a prince? Frankly, I intend to kick butt.”
“If I want my master’s horses back, do I have a choice?” He was on focus, she’d give him that.
“Probably not,” admitted Darcy.
“Then I’m sure it will be very educational,” he said primly.
Darcy sighed inwardly. This one was worse than Andrew when she’d first met him.