Each month I will introduce a new character from my work-in-progress, Heartless Hette, a retelling of The Princess who never laughed. I’ve already introduced the Princess, Sorcerer, Fool, and Shepherd (see the previous posts to get to know them).
Today I’d like to introduce you to Demuth the Healer, and temporary maid to the princess. The following scene is at an inn where the Princess, the Fool, and Demuth have stopped to eat.
The Fool laughed. “Is there anything that you do not doubt?”
I lifted my chin. “I doubt not immutable truths. Geometry, physics, the planets in the sky.”
“Ah. So the shortest distance between two points is a straight line?” He motioned to the fire burning in the hearth, “That water boils over a flame and doesn’t freeze?”
“Yes. Of course.”
My maid leaned on the table, her arms causally crossed over the dark wood. “I doubt not family nor honor.”
I stiffened. Speaking without being spoken to. She must have learned it from her uncle Bestian. It’s better in a physician than a servant. At least his observations are logical. I looked at the door that led to the kitchen. Where was that woman and the promised pastries? If we were going to pointlessly stop—the tightness in my chest turned into the sorcerer’s ghostly whisper, Hette. Beautiful, cold Hette. How quickly you come to my call.
I gripped the edges of my chair. Why did I let frustration turn my emotions? Stop feeling. Only think.
Logical thought would have been easier if I wasn’t traveling with a fool and a forward maid.
The Fool stood. “Coffee. I doubt not coffee. And that sleeping late is pleasant. I’ll go see if the goodwife needs any help and brew us a pot.” He strode into the kitchen.
The maid reached over and patted my arm. “Princess Hette, it will be easier if you relax.”
I pulled my arm away from her touch and folded my hands elegantly in my lap. “I would remind you that you are here to serve, not speak.”
She broke into a full-throated laugh. “My uncle said you were stiff as a statue, bound by protocol. But protocol isn’t going to work on this journey, and you’ll only end up frustrated.”
My toes curled within my leather boots. Impudence. “Are you suggesting I forget my place as princess and your place as maid?”
“Or you can continue to hold to your protocols and make the journey harder on yourself. That curse isn’t going anywhere until we get to the sorcerer, and the high emotions just give him more control.”
I bowed my head against the dizzy tilting of anger at this maid and longing for the sorcerer. As the emotions stilled, the truth of her words emerged. Clinging to protocol would only increase the times I felt powerless and emotional. I needed to accept that things would differ from in the palace. But still— “You are my maid. I expect a certain level of respect.”
She leaned her folded arms again on the table, watching me with a placid face.
“Do you understand?” I asked coldly.
“I made no oath of obedience. I will do as I see best.”
“Then why did you come?”
“Because you can use my help, and my uncle asked.”
“And you doubt not family.” A mocking tone tinged my words.
She smiled with a little shake of her head. “You didn’t doubt him when he said to bring Konrad and me. We’re here to help you. Let us be friends.”
“I don’t have friends.”