In the 10th year of King John the III’s rule, he had a decree sent out to the kingdom saying he needed a child to be a playmate for his son. When they were old enough, they would become the prince’s servant and clean his chambers, horse stalls, and study.
After much searching and interviewing of children, mainly peasant children who’s parent’s wanted them to have a better life, the king said to the queen,
“My dear, I can not bear to look at one more grubby child, can thee?”
“No. It is so sad to see such children. I think they are making me in a depressed sort.”
The king sighed after a guard told him that the last child was there.
She was a small girl with wavy hair the color of honey. Her face was skinny and pixielike. It was obvious to anyone that she was malnourished.
“I am a bit skeptical about this one.” the king whispered to the queen.
“Just wait and see what she does. I think Jade would be fond of her most likely.” replied the queen.
Her name was Delilah, and as she approached the throne, she did a crude curtsy.
“Your Majesties,” she said. “My name is Delilah, as my mother said. I am several years old, the same as your son, the prince. I can take care of any horse, even battle mounts. Please sir, do not underestimate my size. I look small, scrawny, and incapable of even carrying a half-full water bucket, but I am strong.”
The king scrutinized the child and whispered quietly back and forth to his wife beside him. The queen gracefully stood up from her throne and glided down to the girl. She kneeled down in front of her. As bashful as Delilah seemed, she boldly asked the queen,
“What is it your majesty? Wish you have more knowledge of me?”
Queen Helena smiled at the young girl, turned around to the king and said happily,
“She is the one!”
Some time later, Delilah was scrubbed down, groomed extensively, and redressed properly. She was then led down to the Royal Playroom.
“Hey! Who is this? Why are they in MY room?” squealed Prince Jade.
“This is your new play-mate dear. I think it is time you gave Miss Bessie a break.” replied Queen Helena. Miss Bessie, if you have not guessed, was Prince Jade’s nurse. She had taken care of him since he was born, and was the only person he had ever played with.
<“But Mother!” Jade cried. “Miss Bessie likes playing with me! She is the only person who knows all those stories.” /I>
Helena sighed and nudged Delilah towards Jade. Jade took a tentative step towards the girl.
“Hello. My named is Delilah.”
“I am Prince Jade the first, and you have no right to speak to a Prince like me in such a casual manner.”
Queen Helena glared at him and stepped in.
“Forgive my son’s manners.” she said. “He has not yet been informed that you are his new play-mate. And,” she added a little more loudly. “that he should treat you like a FRIEND.”
Helena promptly left the room with the children glaring at one another. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, Delilah spoke up.
“So, do you know how to play leap toad?”
“No, how is it played?”
Delilah squatted down on all fours.
“See, there is people lined up like this, and the person at the end of the line jumps over the people.”
“What of there is only two people?”
“Then they just jump over each other. Like toad fashion.”
Jade got the idea of the game, and the children laughed and giggled as they jumped over each other. King John knocked on the door. They were having so much fun that they did not even hear him. So he decided to open the door and see what they were up to.
“Hello my son. I see you mother has chosen well.”
“Yes Father! Delilah has taught me how to play leap toad. It is so much fun.”
“That is good Jade, but now you must go to bed, and Delilah also. You can play tomorrow.”
Jade and Delilah obediently went to their rooms and went to sleep.
~*~END OF PROLOGUE~*~
“Deli! Hey Deli, what are you doing up there?”
Jade was looking up the trunk of a very tall poplar tree trying to see through it’s leafy branches.
“Come on Delilah, you are seventeen years old, AND you are a girl. You should not be climbing trees.”
Delilah gracefully jumped down from the tree and took off running.
“Catch me if you can, Jade!” she cried into the wind.
“You crazy girl! We have to meet father at ten o’clock!”
Delilah stopped running breathlessly and picked some twigs out of her hair.
“All right. I suppose we had better get moving.”
They tramped up the hill to the castle gates and knocked loudly several times. They heard some shuffling behind the door and a sleepy looking man with disheveled hair raised the gate for them.
“Y’ betta be movin’ Young Mater Jade. Y’ Fatha be waitin’ for ye in the throne room.” he said.
But in their haste, they did not even hear him. Jade and Delilah rushed to the throne room instinctively and arrived just as the king was about to leave.
“Father,” Jade said breathlessly. “wait, we are dreadfully sorry for our absence. Please give pardon.”
King John eyed Jade suspiciously, and then said,
“And what of Miss Delilah, what have you say for your cause of absence?” Delilah wrung her hands nervously and kept her eyes to the floor.
“Your majesty, if you will, may I explain to why Your Highness and I have been late?”
He nodded approval.
“Well, we were out in the fields walking when I saw the most, um, most glorious climbing tree. Twas the one by the southeast corner of the castle. As I was saying, when I saw it, I knew that I must climb it. Jade was against the idea, but I was stubborn and would not listen. So you see, it was my foolishness that caused us to be late.”
When she was done, she curtsied gracefully. King John stared at her for a moment trying to hold in his chuckling. It soon became to humorous for him to handle. He burst out laughing so hard and loud that even the guards heard and were startled.
“Your Majesty,” said Delilah worriedly, “have I said something of humor?”
“My dear.” he replied after he stopped laughing, “All is excused! Twas only a simple meeting over tea, not a discussion of matters of state.”
A huge smile spread across her face.
“Oh thank you, Your Majesty! How ever will I repay you?”
“Delilah, I have been telling you for a decade not to call me ‘Your Majesty’! You are like my own child, and you do not see Jade calling me ‘Your Majesty’, now do you?”
“Well then, do not call me that. You two may continue your ‘gypsying’ over this kingdom.”
They walked out of the throne room and off to one of the balconies. There they had a conversation going somewhat like as follows:
“My God, Delilah! That was an act you put on out there. However did you manage keeping a straight face?”
“Practice, my friend. Much and much practice. I have been playing you also for quite some time, and have had a worthy prop.”
“Oh, I see. So I am a prop, am I?”
“In more ways that you know.”
“And how may this ‘prop’ I am be used?” She pondered for a moment.
“Well first, I am going to use this prop to climb up to those bumpy stones conveniently protruding from the wall. And then I will hop through your window and run to, oh...probably the kitchen.”
All this she said while balancing on the four foot high parapet. Delilah jumped onto his shoulders and climbed up the wall as she said she would. This wall was very similar to the ones ‘indoor rock climbers” use. Back on solid ground, Jade stood there just watching her hop through his wide bedroom window.
“I am going to get her for this.” he said chuckling to himself.
After an hour of searching, Jade finally found Delilah sleeping in the hay loft of the stallion stable. Apparently she thought she’d found the perfect hiding place, but had grown tired of waiting to be found and had accidentally fallen asleep. Jade decided to leave her there and go up to his chambers to take a nap. When he opened the door, he was shocked at the sight.
Originally, there had been a wall hanging, or tapestry that bore the images of several saints on it. When Jade walked into the room it was gone. Jade was furious! He stormed his way back down to the stallion barn.
“Delilah!” he yelled, “Where is my tapestry?!”
Every horse in that barn turned and looked at him. He heard a rustling up from the hay loft. A little head popped up with straw covered hair.
“Now what did you go do that for?”
“Delilah, where is my tapestry? You were the only one up there.”
“I do not know what you are talking about.”
“Yes you do, quit your play acting. Now just give it back and I won’t be angry.”
“But Jade, give what back?”
“The tapestry, you foolish girl!”
“Come on, Jade. I have no idea as to what tapestry you are talking about. When I went through your window I went right out the door.”
“Oh, do be reasonable, Deli. I know this is just another one of your pranks.”
“Reasonable? Look at who’s talking! First you wake me up, and I’m not angry about that part, since I needed to be woken up. But then you accuse me of stealing? You must be in a raving fit. There is no way on God’s Green Earth that I would even dream of stealing anything from YOU. Do you think I want to be hanged for treason?”
Jade thought for a bit about what she had just said.
“Yes... I do suppose you are right. Oh well. Let us go to dinner. I am starved.”
Then they walked back up to the castle and went to the dining hall where dinner was being served.
The next morning Jade came down to the stables to find Delilah. Jade pushed the rough, wooden doors open and entered the dusty barn.
“Delilah!” he called angrily. It seemed she was always in that barn.
“Delilah!” he called again.
As he gazed around the cluttered barn, a head popped out from behind a hay bale in the hay loft.
“What on earth do you want? You didn’t have to come in here screaming like a banshee.”
Jade’s face hardened with fury.
“Where is my horse?” he yelled up to her.
“Well, if you really want to know. I let him out to pasture about a half-hour ago. I think his halter is still on, but maybe...”
“Not that horse you dimwit!” he interrupted her. “The gold one Father gave me for my birthday last year.”
Climbing down the ladder she said casually,
“Oh, I don’t know! Is it not up in your precious chamber where all your other things are stashed? How would I know?”
“Because it went the same place as the tapestry. And it was sitting on my mantle right before I went to bed last night.”
“I have not cleaned your room yet today. Besides, your door was locked along with your window.”
“And pray tell how would you know that?”
“Well it is kind of hard to clean someone’s room with the door locked and wash their windows with the windows locked too.”
“Oh, I see...And why didn’t you knock?”
“Because if I did you would get all hot and bothered like you are now. Then you would get really mad at me.”
“Whatever...just help me find it, okay?”
“Fine. And why do you keep blaming me for all your missing objects?”
“You are the only one other than me with authorized access to my chambers.”
“So do you not think someone OTHER than me would go in there?”
“Not really. Just forget about it. I probably... wait!”
He spun around as they were walking to the castle.
“What? do you have a sudden idea as to whom stole your horse and tapestry?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. Since you have always been a prankster, I can not know whether you are telling the truth or not. You are going to be kept down here in the stallion barn until the thief is caught. Oh, and the door will be guarded. As I was saying, if the thief discontinues his kleptomaniac like rampage, you will be released. If not, then I have no other option than to put you on trial. Dost thou understand?”
“Yes. I understand perfectly well. Even though I have grown up with you, have known you almost your entire life, was the only friend you had, and even gave up my family to work for you, you do not trust me. And furthermore, you have been extremely hostile towards me with no regret.”
She stared at him straight in the eye for what seemed like an eternity. Jade broke the eye contact and looked down at his feet. He raised his head again and stared back at her again with a fierce pride in his features. Jade strode up to her and promptly slapped her across the face. Delilah fell to the ground in shock. Jade said in a dignified tone,
“Don’t you dare ever talk to the Prince of Vo Havelle like that.”
“You know Jade,” she said after staring back at him for awhile, “you have really changed lately. You used to be fun, and nice. Now you are turning ugly inside and your words are sour. I will stay here, not because you said so, but because I want you to know that I am not to blame.”
“Good. I am glad you agree. If there is not another theft in one week, you will be put to trial. Oh,” he said as if something were funny, “Father already knows of my predicament, and what I am doing with you. So don’t try to beg pardon.”
“Fine. The guards are already at the door. If you happen to need anything, knock and they might open it for you.”
Delilah sat in a pile of hay huffily after he left. She toyed with a piece of string on her shirt cuff, but soon lost interest.
Great, she thought to herself. what am I going to do now? There’s no way that burglar is going to strike again. He must be too crafty. If he can get into there without unlocking the door or window, then there must be some other way into the room. They might have a key, but I have mine and Jade has his, so that option is eliminated. Hmm, could there really be another entrance? I would have to have a blue print of the castle. It’s possible a guard could get me one. I’ll have to ask.
Delilah went to the stable doors and knocked. To her surprise, instead of just a regular guard, there was a Royal Throne Room guard who was fully armed and plated.
“What d’ you want m’lady-o?” he asked in a strangely peasant-like brogue.
“Um, could someone please bring me a blue print of the castle?”
“And what for?”
“I think I know how the thief got into the Prince’s room without unlocking the windows or doors.”
“Oh do y’ now? Well, I’ll see what I can do for ye, don’t y’ know.”
“Thank you, sir. May I also have some food?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
After she shut the door, Delilah went over to a small table with stirrup leathers laid out on it.
Let’s see. That couldn’t be a real guard. His hair was too shaggy and his accent too improper for a Throne Room Guard. Now, if I could just have a word with the king about....
There was a loud knocking on the front stable door. Delilah ran to answer it. It was the same guard.
“Here ya go, Miss. And here’s some eats for you.”
Definetly not a real guard. Too nice and polite.
“Thank you. May I ask of your name?”
“Yes y’ may. Me name is Malone McElemelle, and I guess your name is Deli?”
“Well, that’s my nick name. My full name is Delilah.”
“So it is. Well, I must attend to me duties. G’ day Miss Delilah.” And that door was again shut, locking Delilah out of the rest of the world.
Now,she spread the blue prints out on the table, let’s see. There’s the main hallway, and THERE! Got it!
She had her finger firmly pressed on the princes room while she wrote down it’s coordinates.
Before Delilah had gotten into this mess, she had pored over every book she could get her hands onto. Of course, the only books she got her hands onto were school books. But every once in awhile, the King would give her a storybook. In one book, there were secret passage ways between the walls where people could walk through. Also, in a book she read about ‘Common Castle Architecture’ there were ways to build these secret passageways and ways to access the ones shown. She wondered if this castle was built the same way.
When she woke up from her sub-conscious dream state, Delilah went right back to the map. She was right. There were secret passageways, especially around the Prince’s room.
Hmm, pretty suspicious. But I need to find out who else knows about these. Probably only the Royal Family, but why would they want to steal from themselves. Impossible... Another servant would know! An old one most likely.
Far off in the distance a Church Bell chimed ominously nine times. Must get sleep. There’s a lot of thinking to do tomorrow.. Delilah went back up to the hay loft and settled in her usual napping spot for good nights sleep.
Around 10 AM the Next Day.
Jade strode angrily down to the Stallion barn (he does that a lot) where Delilah was kept through the swarming guards and stable boys.
“Step aside, ogres!” he commanded.
Jade threw the barn doors opened roughly so that they banged on their hinges announcing his presence.
“Delilah! Wake up you stupid girl!”
“What?” she said distantly from the back of the stables, “I’m in the tack room!”
He walked in the tack room angrily (yes, he has to do everything angrily) and slammed his fist down on her work table.
“There has been another robbery, Delilah. Did you do it?”
“How could I have? I’ve been in this barn since you locked me up.”
“Well, my candle sticks are all missing, and the guards got drunk last night.”
“I have been here since I was exiled in here.”
“Oh...” he looked embarrassed, “And what are these foolish maps you’ve been looking at?”
“The blue prints to your castle.”
“Because I believe the thief doesn’t use doors. They use these.” she pointed to the tunnels around his room.
“Well, would you like to show me them?....Now?”
She thought for a moment and then looked at the maps.
Later that night.
“What do we need all this stuff for?” Jade asked Delilah as she lead them down the dark, damp, clammy halls with a single candle as light.
“So we can get through those tunnels. Here we go.” She stopped at his bedroom door. “We’ll go through here.”
Quietly they slipped into his pitch black room. Delilah placed her hand on the wall and mentally counted the stones. Then she stopped after seven and removed the covering tapestry. There was a door! The old, rotten, wooden door opened with a loud squeak.
“Here we go.” Delilah whispered to Jade.
She stepped through and shut the door after Jade. Then she lit her lantern with the candle she was carrying and held it high. It appeared that there were other hallways going east and west. Delilah reached into her bag and took out two identical daggers, one of which she handed to Jade.
“These are in case we meet the thief and he’s armed.” she whispered. He nodded back in approval.
Delilah walked to the end of her hallway and Jade to his. She put a piece of oil cloth over the lamp to hide its light from any intruders, just in case they decided not to come because of the suspicious light.
“Shh, I think I hear something!” whispered Jade in an urgent tone.
Delilah removed the oil cloth and looked around.
“No, false alarm. It’s a rat.” she replied.
There were about a dozen more or so ‘false alarms’, but when Jade heard someone trip and fall on a protruding stone, it was the end of their waiting.
“I’m coming Jade!”
The flickering light from the lantern bounced off the gruesomely colored walls. There was a faint crying ahead. In her panicky haste, Delilah dropped the light, and plunged the tunnel into blackness.
Great, where’s those matches?
There was a shuffling of a hand-to-hand combat. Delilah dropped the matches three times, but finally lit the lantern.
As the dim light filled the cave like tunnel, she saw Jade against the wall pinning someone by their wrists.
“Emily?” she said surprised.
Jade looked at his opponent and then let go of them.
“Emily?” he stuttered also. “What are you doing down here?”
The small girl of about ten brushed off the front of her dress.
“What are you doing here, brother? I though I was the only one who knew about these tunnels!”
“Princess Emily?” Delilah said, her mouth opening and closing like a fish. “You’re the thief?”
Emily looked pouty and stared at her feet.
“Yeah.” she whispered, almost inaudibly. Suddenly Delilah was rampant.
“You mean to tell me, that I spent the night in a barn, got blamed for stealing, and almost tried and hanged for treason because you wanted to be adventurous or something?”
Jade stepped in. “Calm down Delilah. Emily, where’s all the stolen things?”
“In my room.”
“Good. Now this mess is over. I think you have got an awful lot of explaining to do in the morning.”
He took his sister’s hand and led her to the King’s chambers. Delilah was left to clean up the mess made during the scuffle.
The next morning, Jade, Delilah, and Emily were made to stand in front of the throne and tell of what had happened the night before. After all was said, Emily had to be disciplined (nobody but her parents knew how it was to be done). Jade and Delilah went back to their carefree days of gypsying around the kingdom and climbing trees. Later on, Jade and Delilah got married and had three heirs. Emily became a nun at the local convent. She taught many children in the convent’s school and was always known for her strict enforcement of the Seventh Commandment: ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’.