My Lovely Moonlight Bride: Episode 2
The Duke’s castle was covered in snow; flakes rained down on the massive structure mercilessly. Another winter had come, and this one would be the longest. It felt like the longest. Aldrich Clairborne had just lost his father and the responsibility of the Wandsworth Dukedom had been tossed upon his shoulder. Being a Duke wasn’t a duty to Aldrich; it was a burden, a great one. He had never thought such responsibility would be thrust on him at such an age when men were still finding their path in life.
He was just a score and nine in age. He was tall and lean with a sturdy body; but his looks betrayed those that chose him for the position. He wasn’t ready. He had never been. He had always depended on his father for everything. Ander Clairborne was the best father that any son could ever ask for. Aldrich was the first and only son of the late Duke; so his father had showered all his love upon him. Ander had been a very patient man; patient with his household, patient with the inhabitants of Wandsworth. He was greatly loved by all, even in the neighbouring lands. He had been hardworking, purposeful and wise. All these attributes, he had passed them over to Aldrich. Just that, Aldrich wasn’t ready to make use of them. He’d rather sulk and spend his nights at the gaming house than take hold of the Dukedom.
Since the demise of his father, he’d changed. He’d gone from very bright and cheerful, to dark and reserved. And his behaviour got everyone in the castle every worried; especially his mother, the Duchess of Wandsworth.
His dark and bushy brows furrowed together as he caught a sight in the thick snow. A frown ate at his jaw. Aldrich drew closer to the window. A little lamb was lost, and it bleated for its mother. The sight of the helpless creature melted the hardness in him. He had to help it. He hated to see people and creatures alike, in such a dire situation.
Suddenly, a strong perfume danced into his nostrils and reigned over the atmosphere. Aldrich sensed that he wasn’t alone. He swirled round and found his cousin, Beauregard, glaring at him. Aldrich chose to ignore him. He had given his guards strict orders not to be disturbed by anyone, including his mother. Aldrich’s fingers curled around the hilt of his sword as he made for the door.
“You don’t look happy to see me, cousin.” Beauregard gritted his teeth. He sensed Aldrich’s discomfort, the moment he had walked into the hall.
“I gave strict orders to be left alone.” Aldrich ignored him and continued towards the door. He and Beauregard had been friends since childhood. Beauregard’s father was Ander’s older brother; but he and his wife had died from the pox plague, leaving him a young orphan. Beauregard had grown up within this castle with Aldrich. They were more than friends, they were brothers.
“How long would you grieve over your father? He would have wanted you to move on and be happy!” Beau snapped at his cousin.
Days had turned to weeks, and weeks to months. When would Aldrich rise up to the responsibility before him?
“As long as I like, he was my father. I loved him and he loved me. This is what you and others don’t understand,” Ander mumbled.
Beauregard shrugged, “if you don’t rise to your responsibility to Wandsworth, you could be taken out. We both know that your position is enviable. You have the largest barn and Wine-keep. You are the wealthiest and youngest Duke. Don’t you think some people would want to amass all you have worked for?”
Aldrich pulled in a deep breath. His cousin was a very ambitious man, but he wasn’t that way.
“They are free to take the position from me. I want nothing but my liberation.”
“Your liberation?” Beauregard scoffed. He knew his cousin was into a vice that was not befitting of nobility. He had paid some guards to follow the Duke, while he was out at night. It was shameful, really, that Aldrich would do something like that.
Aldrich’s heart skipped. He didn’t like the tone of his cousin’s voice. Did Beau know something? Well, at this point, he didn’t care. All he wanted was maximum time to grief his father and enjoy the delights that his secret brought.
“Let us not argue about my position. If anything happens to me, our family can still stand. I must leave now. I have work to do.” Aldrich pulled open the tall door and rushed into the dark hallway. He would step into the snow; he would rescue the poor little lamb.
Beauregard’s heart broke into a wild dance. If anything happened to Aldrich, he would be next in line for the throne. This was a prospect he had always considered since they were young. He had always wished to be Aldrich, but fate and life had robbed him of opportunity. Maybe, he was destined to rule Wandsworth after all.
Maybe if he worked for his ascension, that he could take his cousin’s place. He was about leaving the hall when a serving girl scurried in. She curtsied and bowed her head.
“The Duchess would like to see you in her chambers.”
“Alright,” Beauregard nodded, wondering why Aldrich’s mother would want to see him.
He cast one look at the throne which lay the centre of the room before strolling out. He hoped to sit upon it, one day.
“One day,” he whispered.
Outside the castle was extremely cold. Snowflakes pelted his black robe, but he didnt feel anything. Aldrich was determined to save the little lamb. He was able to get to the animal on time.
“There you are, I came to save you.” The lamb stopped bleating and peered at the human. With his strong hands, he grabbed the lamb from the mass of snow that covered it. Aldrich gently cleaned the remnants of ice from its fur. Now that he had rescued it, he had to find the owner.
“What do I do with you now?” A smile brightened his dark blue eyes as he stared at the lamb.
It wasn’t long before he heard the sound of running. When he turned around, he found a little girl, about the age of ten. The curls of her hair were wild and stubborn. And she had freckles over her face. She was a common girl. The smile on her face was priceless.
“Is he yours?” Aldrich smiled.
“Yes! Yes! You helped me.” The little girl was hesitant to go near the stranger.
“What is your name pretty one?” Aldrich advanced towards her.
“Yvettes,” she replied.
“Well here is your lamb Yvettes. Do not let is stray again.” Aldrich handed over the animal. She collected it happily and thanked him for his help.
Yvettes was about leaving, when he called her back. He dipped a thickly gloved hand into his pocket and pulled out a pouch. It was full of gold coins.
“Here, buy yourself a nice coat for the winter.”
The girl’s eyes radiated surprise, but it faded quickly. Her mouth flew wide open as she noticed the castle behind them.
“You are the Duke! I have seen the Duke!”
Aldrich watched the child in amazement. She wasn’t of noble blood, but she seemed so happy with her life. He wanted this joy back in his life.
“Yes I am.”