Disclaimer and rating - see first part.
Chapter 15: Night Terrors
They had spent another hour or so talking and cuddling. Joseph provided a high-level explanation regarding his activities earlier this evening in the security office. He didn’t want to unduly alarm Clarisse, but had wanted to share some information with her. Clarisse suspected that there was more that Joseph was trying to protect her from; but decided that it was enough for tonight as it was growing late and she was growing sleepy.
Joseph reached out to caress his wife’s cheek, “Thank you for sharing with me, my love. I know that wasn’t easy. I appreciate your trusting me.” He punctuated his appreciation with a gentle kiss against her lips.
“I’ve always trusted you, Joseph. It’s the sharing part that is difficult for me. I’m glad you recognize that I am trying. And, dear sir, I expect to be rewarded handsomely for my efforts in a matter of just a few days.”
Joseph smiled and pulled her body flush against his, letting his hand caress her back and hips while his lips sought the tender flesh of her neck. “Mmmm, I’ll be happy to begin rewarding you this very instant, my love.”
Despite her body responding to his touch, she pulled back a bit so she could look into his eyes, “I’m sure you would. However, it is late and I am very tired both emotionally and physically. Tomorrow will be a very demanding day and I’m afraid I am not as young as I used to be. May I have a rain check?”
As much as he desired his wife, he couldn’t argue with her logic. And, truth be told, he was a little exhausted from the festivities of the past few days. “Very well, my love, if you insist. I shall save my strength for the honeymoon. Rest assured, however, once on our honeymoon, I can promise no such reprieve from all of my affection and attention.”
She leaned in to kiss him again. She deepened the kiss, her tongue demanding entrance. Joseph willingly complied with her mouth’s demands. Her hands lovingly moved over his chest and around to his back. Finally pulling back, she kissed him on the forehead and said, “That, my love, is a promise to which I intend to hold you.”
She turned over and spooned up against Joseph. She smiled as she could feel the affect her kiss had had on him. Joseph finally caught his breath and pulled her closer as he smiled and whispered in her ear, “You are a tease, Clarisse Renaldi-Romerro, and I never break a promise!”
Both settled quickly into a sound sleep. The rest their minds so deeply craved, however, would not come as easily.
Joseph’s body stirred slightly as his mind began to fashion details from the past with those of the present to try to predict the future.
Joseph’s mind flashed back to see her standing stoically in black next to Prime Minister Motaz as he announced to the press and the country that King Rupert, may he rest in peace, had passed away during the night. He saw his self move closer to the Queen and put his hand on the small of her back offering a small gesture of strength to help her through the difficult time.
The scene then flashed forward to him approaching her in the private rose garden late at night to tell her of Prince Phillipe’s fate. He watched his former self catch her and gently lower her to the ground, holding her in his lap while sobs racked her body as she mourned yet another loss in her life.
His body continued to wrestle with the outside world while his mind took him back again:
Next he saw a scene that was not in his past; and, he prayed to God would not be in his future. He saw Clarisse sitting on the floor at the bottom of the grand staircase. His body reacted as he saw that she was holding Mia’s pale, lifeless form a look of horror plastered on the normally regal face. He rushed to her side, dropped to the floor and held them both trying to offer comfort trying to understand the events of his dream.
Before he could make any sense of the scene, he flashed forward. He saw Clarisse sitting in the throne room just as she would be to welcome her subjects. She was dressed in the outfit that was selected for her to wear in the coronation. Joseph saw himself approach her and kneel down before her. As he took her hand, he almost recoiled from the coldness he felt there. As he started to rise to see what was wrong, he noticed blood seeping from the area surrounding her heart through her dress.
Joseph sat up in bed with a start, sweat dripping and body shaking from the nightmare. He looked over to see if he had startled Clarisse with his sudden actions; but she seemed to be resting. A closer look would have revealed that she was having a fitful sleep as well. Joseph got out of bed and made his way to the bathroom to wash his face and try to calm his body.
Clarisse was having no better luck with resting, and her mind took her back in time as well:
She saw herself standing before the press and interested people of Genovia as Prince Pierre officially announced that he was abdicating the throne. He signed the official decree provided by the Arch Bishop relinquishing all current and future claims to the throne of Genovia and sealed it with his ring bearing the Renaldi family crest. As she watched the scene unfold before her, she noticed that Pierre had looked at her lovingly before he signed the document and, after signing, looked directly at a small group of bystanders nearby whose faces she could not place. The look on their indistinguishable features, however, had been one of smug satisfaction.
Her mind moved forward to the day Rupert’s death had been announced. She watched with sadness as she saw the emotional barriers she had erected that day go up when she had shut out those closest to her as well as barred her own feelings from surfacing. As she looked around, she caught sight of the same group that had been at Pierre’s abdication announcement. Her stomach churned as she saw slight smiles on their faces as the Prime Minister announced the King was dead.
Her mind continued its search in her psyche while her body subconsciously searched for Joseph:
Then she saw herself in the private rose garden collapsing when she heard of Philippe’s death. She saw her dear, sweet Joseph holding her as she cried letting out a torrent of emotions that would not be contained any longer. As she stood and took Joseph’s hand, a cold chill ran up her spine that was not due to the weather. She sensed the presence of another in the garden with them someone lurking in the hedges. She strained to see if she could see someone that her former self had not been able to that night. The scene quickly changed, however, leaving her only with an ominous feeling that she had been watched by someone other than Joseph that evening.
She was then walking through the palace calling for Mia. She finally found her on the floor of the throne room. She rushed to her, dropping to the floor to see what was wrong. Her face took on a look of horror as she felt how cold and lifeless Mia was. Not knowing what else to do, Clarisse simply held her as grief washed over her once again and cried out:
“Joseph! Joseph! Where are you?” Clarisse bolted up in bed frantically searching for Joseph.
Hearing her screams, Joseph dashed out of the bathroom to her side.
“Shh dear, it was only a nightmare. It’s ok.” He comforted her with words as his hands sought to comfort her with his touch.
“Oh, Joseph, it was horrible. I haven’t had nightmares like that for years.” Her body was still shaking from the visions she had seen.
He cupped her face in his hands and gently kissed her on the forehead. She felt as cold and clammy as he did a detail that did not escape her. “Joseph, are you alright? You don’t look well either.”
Their foreheads were touching now as he gently spoke, “No, my love. I am not alright. I fear that nightmares have disturbed my sleep as well.”
“More like night terrors if you ask me.”
“Yes, love definitely night terrors.”
Chapter 16: Together
Neither Clarisse nor Joseph could sleep at that moment. They both sat there on the bed, holding each other, drawing strength. Clarisse was the first to speak, “Do you think we should talk about them?”
“The night terrors. I know from experience that it isn’t healthy to keep them inside. I didn’t have anyone before to talk to, Joseph not really; but, you keep telling me to trust you. Will you trust me as well?” She was still pale and trembling slightly, but her voice sounded stronger than she realized.
“You never cease to amaze me, my love. If you are willing, so am I. We will do it together.”
They spent the next hour or so relating the various details of the nightmares, astonished at how similar they were. Despite their growing openness and trust, neither could bear to share the future they had seen in their visions relating to the deaths of Clarisse and Mia. They focused mostly on the shared visions from the past and what the revelations could mean.
Joseph made a decision, “Clarisse, I am going to go look at the contents of that safe. I just know there is something in there that will help put all of these pieces of the puzzle in my head together.”
Clarisse stood and grabbed her robe, “I’ll go with you.”
“It’s the middle of the night, my dear.”
Joseph smiled at the sight she made standing there with her hands on her hips, a determined look on her face.
“We go together, my love.”
Sighing and bowing in resignation, “As you wish, my…”
“Joseph…” she issued a warning.
“My love…I was going to say…my love.”
Smiling again, she took him by the hand, “That’s better, my dear. In the privacy of our suite, I am no longer your Queen I am your wife.”
Not being able to resist teasing her a bit since the mood had lightened considerably since they woke from their terrors a couple of hours ago, “You will always be my Queen…queen of my heart, that is. So does that mean that you can’t order me to do things anymore?”
She laughed as she led him to the door, “Of course I still can, my love. The orders will just be coming from your wife rather than your Queen.”
Joseph chuckled and shook his head, “Well, that makes all the difference then, doesn’t it?” He placed a kiss on her cheek and then opened the door to the quietness of the corridor outside their suite. “Shall we go then?”
Becoming serious again, she replied, “Yes, of course. Lead the way.”
She held his hand as they began the walk down the eerie corridor in silence. She closed the distance between them and whispered in his ear, “It seems much different during the day. Although I have been down these halls many times, even late at night, tonight it seems more…”
“ominous.” Joseph finished her sentence for her.
“Yes, that is the word.” She squeezed his hand as she said, “I am grateful we are doing this together.”
Joseph returned her gesture and continued on towards Prince Phillipe’s old suite. When they arrived, he turned to her and offered in a hushed tone, “Are you ready?”
She tried to appear brave, “As ready as I’ll ever be, I suppose.”
The creak of the door as Joseph pulled it open seemed to reverberate throughout the empty hall. Holding tightly onto each other, they crossed the threshold into Philippe’s old suite.
“Would you like to lead the way, dear? I don’t believe I was ever in the Prince’s personal suite.”
“Of course.” Taking the lead, she maneuvered both of them through the darkness of the living area back to the bedroom. She stopped near the entrance to the bedroom, however, and let herself remember happier times when she and Phillipe would sit in front of the fireplace and talk about anything and everything. They had always been close ever since he had put her through so much trauma when he made his entrance into the world, she had felt a special bond with him. Suppressing the memories for the moment, she led the way through the rest of the suite. Once in the dressing room/closet, they finally turned on a small lamp to provide illumination to the area to which they needed access.
Clarisse knelt down and removed the panel at the back of the closet.
“Do you remember the combination?” Joseph asked.
“Of course. It is Amelia’s birthdate.”
She could feel Joseph’s smile as he spoke in the semi-darkness, “But, of course. What else would it be?”
The lock seemed reluctant at first; but Clarisse tried again taking more care the second time. Her fingers seemed to be shaking slightly perhaps she was reluctant as well to discover what was inside. Would there be secrets that would destroy the fragile happiness she had built for herself? Would there be something in there that she should have discovered the first time she viewed the contents of the safe something that would have changed how her life had played out?
“Are you alright, my love?” Joseph’s voice cut into her thoughts, forcing her to refocus.
“Yes, dear. Just a bit nervous about what we might find.”
Joseph knelt down beside her and put his hand on her back. “Whatever it is, we will face it together. Alright?”
She turned as she punched in the last digit and heard the lock give up its hold. She cupped his face in her hands and kissed him a tender kiss filled with all the love and trust in her heart. “Yes together.”
They pulled the contents of the safe out and spread them near the lamp to get the best look at them. Clarisse decided it would be best to let Joseph read them first as she wasn’t sure her emotions would stay in check if it were something very personal. She handed him a document that resembled a letter with the Renaldi seal on it.
He opened it very carefully and reviewed the contents.
Clarisse couldn’t stand the suspense any longer, “What is it? What does it say?”
“It’s Pierre’s abdication letter.”
Her countenance dropped slightly, “Oh. I see. Well I know what that says.”
Joseph looked directly at her as he spoke, “But something was added before it was sealed.”
This got her attention. “What? What else does it say? Both Rupert and I had to sign it after it was all finished how could anyone have added anything before it was sealed?”
“It appears to be in Pierre’s handwriting. It says, ‘Ceci j'ai fait avec l'amour, pour ma mere.’ I’m afraid my French is a little rusty, do you know what that means?”
A tear slipped down her cheek as she answered, “This I do with love, for my mother.”
Joseph was confused, “He abdicated the throne for you? That doesn’t make any sense, Clarisse. I thought he abdicated to pursue the priesthood and a life with the Church.”
She spoke quietly as she answered, “So did I, Joseph. So did I.”
“Well it seems rather than answers, we are just finding more mysteries. Shall we continue?”
She nodded and handed him another document, then waited.
Joseph reviewed the document carefully and then spoke, “This appears to be a family tree of sorts.”
“Of the Renaldi family?” she asked.
“No. It appears to be from King Chevalier’s royal line.”
“The King Chevalier of the other royal family of Genovia? The family from which Nicholas is a descendent?”
“That would be the one.”
“Why would Philippe have a copy of that?” She wondered out loud.
“I don’t know, my dear. But I do intend to find out. What’s next?”
She sorted through the remaining documents, “It appears most of these are personal letters from Helen. I suppose I should return these to her. Oh wait, this looks rather official.” She handed the final paper to Joseph.
Joseph stilled as he recognized what he was holding. It was the same letter he had given to Prince Philippe the day his father had died the one Paul had asked about. With slightly trembling hands, he carefully opened the letter.
Clarisse watched as Joseph opened and scanned the document. Her heart dropped as she noticed, even in the dim light, the color fade from Joseph’s face. She moved even closer to him, placing a hand on his shoulder, “What is it, love?”
Joseph turned to his wife, trying to decide what he should tell her. Deciding that anything other than the truth would not be right, he began. “This is the letter that King Rupert sent me to recover the night he died.”
Clarisse blushed as she remembered the events of that night; first from embarrassment over what had happened and then from shame that she had not shared what had transpired yet with Joseph.
Joseph seemed too distracted to notice her reaction, though, and continued, “It indicates that someone in the Royal Guard intercepted a message…it doesn’t say who the message was from or intended for, but did state that a plan was being formed to eliminate the Renaldi royal blood line so that Renaldi rule of Genovia would end and the Chevalier family would rule once again. It appears that if all the blood heirs to the throne were eradicated, that would leave only…”
“me” was her whispered reply.
After a silence which seemed to stretch for an eternity, she continued, “It was probably assumed that I would step down myself when there was no one in my family left to assume the throne. They probably didn’t even know about Amelia at the time.”
Her words hung in the air as both remembered their nightmares and the fate that had awaited Amelia.
His only response was to look in her direction.
“You don’t think these people are still out there, do you?”
“I don’t know, Clarisse; but I intend to find out.”
“Does it say anything else or do you remember anything else about the letter?”
Joseph was brought back from his dark thoughts at her question. “I remember the King giving me instructions when I arrived at the vault where it was being held. He told me when I was asked why I should be given the document, I should respond, “Long live the Renaldi family.” I thought that was odd at the time, but now that I know the contents I can see why it was important to have a code word to retrieve it.”
Clarisse nodded, “It would make sense, then, why he would send you. He trusted you implicitly, Joseph.” She felt ashamed that she had selfishly accused Rupert of sending Joseph away just so he could be alone with her.
“I was, no am, honored that he felt that he could trust me with such an important task. There is one more thing in here that sounds familiar.”
“What is it?”
“It is the same message that Philippe left for Mia in his letter to her. It says, ‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious may not live at all.’ He did tell her it was wisdom that had been passed down from his father, right?”
“Yes. I believe, though, that particular piece of wisdom has been passed down for generations.”
“Well, it’s certainly sound advice.”
Clarisse nodded, but didn’t feel as confident. It was after receiving that letter that Philippe decided to taken his place on the throne. Not long after, he died in the car accident.
She looked up to see Joseph standing over her, offering his hand to help her up. She grabbed the personal letters she intended to return to Helen and then pulled herself to a standing position. She looked at him seriously, “Joseph, I don’t want to go back to bed…or, more aptly, to sleep. I fear what terrors may invade my thoughts again.”
“We’re not going to our suite, Clarisse. We are going to the library.” He led her through the suite and back out into the corridor.
She whispered again as she wanted to avoid any sound echoing, “Why the library?”
He stopped and pulled her in close so he could whisper in her ear, “Because I need to know more about King Chevalier and his descendants. Primarily, how they lost the monarchy to begin with and what lengths they may have gone to in order to get it back. I know this is frightening, dear; and, if you wish, I can wake Charlotte and you can stay with her while I try and discover this information myself.”
Shaking her head and pulling herself up straight, she responded, “No, we started this together and we shall see this through, right?”
“Right. Shall we proceed?”
She took his arm again and they worked their way through the castle to the grand library. After searching for a bit, they came across a book entitled, “The History of Genovia”
“This seems like a good place to start.” Joseph led her to the sofa and sat down. She nestled in close and pulled a blanket from the back of the sofa over them to keep warm. She wasn’t sure, however, if the chill was from the room or from the fear that now plagued their minds and hearts. She felt safe in Joseph’s embrace and relaxed somewhat as he located the information they were looking for and began to read.
“It appears that King Chevalier only had one son; who, in turn, only had a daughter. The lineage ended when the daughter failed to meet the marriage requirement thereby eliminating her from eligibility for the throne. Once the King and his son had died, rule of Genovia went to the Renaldi family. After some time, however, the granddaughter did marry and produced heirs. Those heirs created the line from which Sir Nicholas descends.”
“So, the Chevalier family lost their right to rule over the same law that almost cost the Renaldi family that same fate….how interesting.” Despite being very interested, Clarisse found herself growing sleepy. Whether it was exhaustion over the events of the night or the timbre of Joseph’s voice lulling her to sleep as he read, she wasn’t sure. She did know, though, that she needed to get some rest as the pre-coronation activities continued tomorrow with the ceremonial reading and the royal toast, just to name a few.
She slid down Joseph’s body until her head rested in his lap. Joseph began stroking her hair as he continued to read.
Mia walked into the library looking for a book that she was supposed to read from during one of the ceremonies later today. Charlotte had joined her to help in the search as the Queen had not answered the telephone in her suite, even though it had been dialed many times. Normally, they would have alerted security; but since Joseph was obviously with her, they had not thought it necessary.
Both were surprised as they walked in and found the couple, who had been M.I.A., asleep on the sofa.
Mia giggled as she knelt down by the sofa to try and wake them. “Hey you two, rise and shine!”
Clarisse was a bit startled at first as she awoke to find Mia staring at her. Her disorientation faded, though, as she remembered the events of the previous night. She pushed herself upright and turned to wake Joseph. He seemed as disoriented as she the night’s adventure taking its toll on his as well.
Mia turned serious as she realized that neither her Grandma nor Joe looked all that well. “Are you two ok? What were you doing down here last night?”
Searching for a quick answer, Clarisse was the first to respond, “Well, you see my dear, Joseph couldn’t sleep and so he wanted to come to the library to read for a while to try and make himself sleepy.”
Joseph continued aware of what Clarisse was trying to do, “Yes and your grandmother insisted that she come with me. It seems that we cannot stand to be apart we now want to do everything together, right dear?”
“Yes, together.” With that, they stood and kissed Mia promising to be down soon for breakfast.