The guard at the end of the corridor never gave her a second glance when she snuck in late, and tonight was no exception. Her father treated his people well, and the castle workers knew to treat Finella well in return. She snuck back to her room and hid her damp cloak without anyone knowing she was ever gone.
* * * * *
She sat in the chair by the window and stared out into the rain, imagining she could see him riding away on that beautiful horse. Sir Dougal. A twinge of sadness hit her and she realized she would never see him again. Usually she wouldn't care - all these suitors were the same when it came down to it. And she would marry one, go to live with him, and be stuck in some other cold, dark castle, but beyond attending every boring royal function, she would be bearing the children of some thankless, greedy king for the rest of her life!
She changed to her night dress and fell asleep to the sound of the rain on the stone walls.
That night Finella dreamed of adventure and excitement, and a beautiful knight on horseback stealing her away. She woke up to the sunlight streaming in her room. She rolled over and stretched, seeking the dreams that the sun had pushed away. She closed her eyes and imagined a knight with piercing blue eyes and a smile that melted her inside.
Her pleasant thoughts were interrupted by Nan rushing in. "Dear me, child, why are you still in bed!" She was running around with armfulls of clothes, in a complete tizzy.
"Nan, please calm yourself!" Finella slowly eased out of bed, reluctant to leave her daydreams. "I have no plans today," she reminded Nan.
"There is news from the battle! Your father insists that you be present." Nan held up a cream colored dress. She knew how Finella hated events like this.
Finella groaned in frustration as Nan helped her into the dress. There would be no sneaking off again for a long while, she knew. A dark cloud pushed out the last pleasant thoughts she had for the day.
* * * * *
She shifted slightly on the velvet cushions. Wasn't there anything more comfortable to make a chair out of that wood or stone? She fiddled with her rings and bracelets as they waited for the party to enter.
Finella's father turned to her and smiled. She stopped fidgeting and smiled back at him. She felt bad for not wanting to be there. He was so proud of her and always wanted the best. "You look lovely today, daughter." He patted her hand. She thanked him and sighed.
The trumpets sounded and she sat up straighter. She let her mind drift again as the herald read a list of the knights and the messengers who were there to report on the battle. The messenger bowed to them and began to rattle off different war tactics, as Finella tried to imagine how he would look in a jester hat. Her eyes wandered to one of the knights in their party. He looked grumpy and tired. She imagined him in a maiden's white dress. She bit her tongue, trying not to crack a smile, and shifted her gaze to another knight.
Her heart stopped. It was him. He had been looking her direction, but turned his eyes when he saw she noticed him. She felt her face get warm. She swallowed hard and tried to breathe deeply to keep from getting flushed. A nervous servant ran over with a goblet of wine for her, and she took a sip to cool herself. She risked a second glance at him to find him smiling at her embarrassment! This only made things worse.
Her father held up his hand to silence the messenger, and leaned over to her. "Are you feeling ill, my dear?"
She wanted to shrink, to disappear into her layers of fancy skirts were they wouldn't be able to stare at her. She smiled at her father. "Oh, I just feel a little faint. Don't worry about me, father." He nodded, and the messenger continued where he had left off. Finella had never felt so humiliated in her life.