The Castle

Chloe let her arm drop after the image on the watch's screen had disappeared.

"Great," she grumbled. Suddenly her surroundings darkened. Chloe looked up to see ominous looking clouds begin to gather over her head. "I had better find some shelter soon," she thought and began to walk in the direction she thought best.

Chloe ended up walking for many miles and in that time it had begun to rain. On top of that, her stomach began to growl something fierce.

"Oh, what I'd give for a Snickers right now!" She moaned.

After trudging through mud for an hour or so, Chloe came to the end of the forest. Where the forest ended, a field began and at the end of the field was a tall castle. The candle light shining in the windows gave off a warm glow. Chloe stumbled eagerly towards them.

"Hey, Bernard," the sentry on the wall said to a fellow guard.

"Yeah?"

"There's someone approachin' the castle."

"I see 'im! Aw he just tramped through Goody Maybelle's 'taters!"

When Chloe came close enough Bernard yelled, "who goes there!"

"A lost gir-- uh-- maiden!" Chloe shouted back above the sound of the
pouring rain.

The giant castle doors opened and out stepped a sentry. The burly man shoved a lantern in Chloe's face. After inspecting her he said with a snort, "a maiden who wears trousers! What's your business?"

"I'm lost."

"Well, not anymore, you ain't. You're at the castle of Lord Beuregard,
in the kingdom of Abernathy. Alright, come on in."

Chloe hesitated for a moment.

"Well, are ye coming in, or are you goin' to stand out in the rain
'til your death of cold?"

"Oh, I'm sorry! I'm coming."

The sentry ushered Chloe to go in ahead of him.

"That's strange garb ye got on, lass. They look more like men's weeds
than woman's."

"They're easier to get around in . . .?" was Chloe's lame response.

Soon, the two were approached by a female servant.

"This lady here approached the castle, seeking shelter," the sentry
informed her.

"I'll have a room prepared for her straight away. Come," she then
beckoned to Chloe.

"What strange clothes you have on, lady."

"Yes, the sentry noticed that, too."

"Why, it is perfectly indecent for you to be wanderin' about in such
attire, and soaked, too!"

Chloe cast a glance over her shoulder and saw some of the young male
servants staring at her, their gazes raking her body. The time-
traveler ducked her head as blushes began to stain her cheeks red.
That kind of attention always unsettled her, as it would any self-
respecting young woman.

Chloe was led up a long, winding stone staircase, then into a corridor, which was lined with tapestries conveying acts of valor by knights, the usual.

"You may sleep here, in this room," the servant said opening the door to her new room. She then led her inside and showed her where things basically were, including the pull cord for a servant. Chloe wondered why she was being treated so nicely. To their eyes, she was just a lost youth.

"What be your name?" the servant asked.

"Chloe," our heroine answered.

"Where are you from, Lady Chloe?"

Why was she calling her "Lady Chloe"? She looked far from noble in every respect.

"Um . . . the kingdom of Rockville . . .?" She tried.

The maidservant frowned. "I don't believe I've ever heard of that place. It is outside of England, is it not?"

" . . . Yes."

"Ah, well that explains it."

"Explains what?"

"Your accent and your clothes. Do all women where you come from where
such things?"

"Sometimes . . ."

"It must be quite comfortable."

"It is . . ." Chloe responded slowly, still wondering what this woman was driving at.
"So, is the Princess well?"

"Excuse me?"

"For what?"

"Nothing."

"Is the Princess well?"

"Well-"

"You are her new lady-in-waiting, are you not?"

"I-"

"She sent a message to us from the summer palace some months ago that she might be sending over a new lady-in-waiting from there who was a bit foreign."

Chloe chewed her lip in worried thought.

"My lady? Are you unwell?"

"No, I'm fine."

"You know, that's quite clever, though daring to dress up like a man to reduce the risk of brigands attackin' ye."

"Pardon?"

Where were these ideas of hers coming from?

Suddenly an electronic beeping sounded from Chloe's watch. She put her hand behind her back and held the watch face against it.

"What was tha'?"

Chloe shrugged with a feigned air of innocence. "Fairies?"

"Do ye think so?" the servant asked with an excited expression on her face.

"Could be . . ." Chloe said, not expecting her guess to be taken seriously. All of a sudden Chloe sneezed.

"God bless you, my lady! I think it's about high time we got you out of those wet clothes."

The servant handed her a nightgown from the clothes press that was standing at the other end of the room.

"Do ye think you will be needin' any help, or can ye dress yourself?"

"I can dress myself," Chloe answered quickly.

"Very well. I will be back in a few minutes to collect your wet clothes."

"Thank you."

Once the door closed, Chloe looked at the screen of her watch. Chong Min's face could be seen on it.

"You're lucky I didn't say anything. I heard you talking to someone and I thought it best to stay quiet."

"You got that right, Lao shi."

Then Chloe explained her situation to her professor.

"Play along, by all means."

"Are you kidding?"

"If you are going to be stuck there for a while, why not be stuck comfortably?"

"But I don't know how to act!"

"Of course you do! You did a great job in our production of Music Man."

"Lao shi, I was a townsperson."

"A very good townsperson. The most convincing townsperson I've ever seen."

Chloe rolled her eyes with a grin. "Thanks." Then she asked about the progress on working out the kinks in the machine.

"Not much yet, but I'm working on it."

Suddenly Chloe heard footsteps coming along the corridor.

"Bye, Lao shi!"

Her professor disappeared from the screen. Chloe quickly changed out of her wet garments and pulled on the nightgown.

There was a knock at the door.

"It's open," Chloe replied.

The same maid-servant entered, but a little confused as to why Chloe stated that the door was open instead of bidding her to enter.

"Have you had anything to eat, yet?" the maid-servant asked as she took the wet clothes off of Chloe's hands.

"No, and I'm starving!"

"Oh, dear! Did they not feed you at the summer palace?"

"I was exaggerating. Yes, I am hungry, but I am not starving," Chloe explained.

"Then, I shall be right back with dinner for ye," the servant replied, shooting Chloe an odd look.

When the maid-servant, whom Chloe finally found her name to be Agatha, came back with dinner she made a startling announcement.

"The lord will see ye tomorrow."