Conrad lazily basked in the shade of the large tree, overlooking the pond. Sure, he was supposed to be tending the geese, but they could take care of themselves and Conrad much preferred lying in the cool grass, feeling the summer breeze blow around his golden-brown hair.
Maria, his twin sister, the kitchen-girl, came trudging up the hill, her braids waving in the wind.
"Mmm…lemme alone, Maria," Conrad grumbled. He was not in a hurry to get up from his relaxing spot.
"Our prince's finacée, Lady Celia, has arrived, and they've recruited a goose girl to help you with your unruly birds," Maria added slyly, tilting one eyebrow up. Conrad sat up straighter. He hadn't had a companion for three months, when the geese had attacked and almost killed the new goose boy, who was sent to work in the stables instead. Hopefully the new goose girl would prove more ample at handling geese than the last had. Plus, he had heard all the castle rumors of the prince's upcoming marriage.
"Maria, just tell Her Horridness," Conrad used his pet name for the lady in charge of all the under-18 servants, Liza, "that I fell asleep and can't be awakened. I don't really wanna move."
"Nah, I'm pretty sure you're just scared that Jonas and Elliot will tease you about the new goose girl," Maria said, laughing slightly as her brother flushed. "She's very pretty. Come and meet her." When Conrad still failed to move, Maria sighed and kicked him, none too softly. "C'mon, Con. Up and at 'em. Don't want your new companion to think you're lazy, now."
Conrad groaned and followed his sister down the hill and into a side door in the castle, which lead through a hallway and into the spacious luncheon area where the animal hands ate. Liza handed him a bowl of cold potato soup, as was the usual.
Lunch was halfway over when the main door opened and in walked Liza, escorting a girl of about fifteen, Conrad's own age, with long ebony hair the fell to the small of her back. She was indeed very pretty, but Conrad wasn't going to mind that…yet. All he really cared about was someone who would take care of the geese while he was off sleeping.
"Hey, there's your girl, Conrad!"
"C'mon, go give her a kiss!"
Shouts suddenly filled the luncheon area. The girl was blushing slightly. Liza shut everyone up and said, "This is our new goose girl, Elle. Conrad, come meet her."
Conrad looked down at his shoes as he shook the girl's hand. He knew he looked scruffy, with his unkempt overalls and cap, whereas Elle seemed relatively clean. Liza gave her a bowl of potato soup and told her to go to Conrad if she had questions.
Ha, Conrad thought. She en't gonna learn scat from me. All I do is leave the birds to themselves and sleep. Nevertheless, he tried to look important. This was a hard feat to accomplish, as Jonas and Elliot, his two best friends, sat sniggering and nudging him all throughout lunch.
"She's looking at you," Jonas grinned, glancing over at where Elle was sitting with Maria and one of the other kitchen-girls, Adele. Conrad sank deeper into his seat. It seemed that the three girls were giggling and glancing over. He heard Maria tell Elle, "Con's not gonna be much help here, he's kinda unreliable."
Brilliant, sister, he thought angrily. Now my companion thinks I'm a slacker. Which I am. But that's irrelevant.
After the painful ordeal of lunchtime was over, Conrad swaggered out of the building and back to his tree on the hill. He was about to fall asleep again, when a soft voice jerked him from doing so.
"Excuse me." It was Elle. Conrad grunted slightly and raised his eyebrows in her direction to show her he was listening. She coughed slightly and asked, "Aren't you supposed to be tending the geese?"
Conrad bit his lip. "I do tend 'em," he explained gruffly. Elle's eyes, a deep brown, were staring at him questioningly. "I mostly just sit up here and watch over 'em, and when they get too close to the village I yell at 'em to come back. Works like a charm."
Elle looked troubled at his lack of interest. She shrugged slightly and walked back down the hill. Conrad watched her go, then fell asleep.
A shriek ripped through the peaceful air, wrenching Conrad awake. He bolted upright, looking around. It was late afternoon, and everyone had gone inside already. Their work usually ended a few hours before supper, but Conrad preferred to soak up the remainder of the day outside. It surprised him, therefore, that there was someone else around.
He got up and stretched, and surveyed the vast field. His geese were all in the pond (he had counted) so there was nothing wrong with them, at least.
The shriek came again, from the direction of the woods. Conrad stumbled down the hill towards to trees, and was less than ten yards away when Elle burst out of the woods, clutching her arm. Conrad jumped behind a bush to watch. She was pursued out of the woods, not by wolves as Conrad had suspected, but by the new princess.
Lady Celia was tall and willowy, with luscious blonde hair, and she radiated an air of regality. Conrad gulped. This woman was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. It was a pity she was marrying the prince, that arrogant young fool who had no talents other than boasting.
"Don't tell a soul, Elle. You are being too dangerous. Remember, who will they believe? The princess…or the goose girl?" The princess grinned maliciously at Elle. She twirled a garnet ring around her finger once, and walked back inside the castle, gloating.
Conrad was curious. Why would Lady Celia know Elle? Unless, of course, Elle had been her lady-in-waiting before arriving at the castle... yes, that had to be it.
The poor girl quivered, watching the door where her mistress had disappeared just seconds before. Her arm was bleeding slightly. Conrad stood up and walked silently over to her. Elle looked up at him.
"You're hurt." It was more a question than a statement. She looked away.
"You're bleeding." Elle nodded.
"You should go to Liza and get it treated," Conrad suggested. This conversation was much more awkward than he had anticipated. Gently, he helped her up and escorted her inside.
Liza had a fit upon seeing Elle's arm. "Why didn't you take this to me sooner?" she fussed to herself and she bandaged the long cut. "It would have saved you a lot of trouble." Elle sat timidly, waiting for Liza to finish with her. Conrad sat in the corner of the infirmary. "And you!" She turned to him. "Why weren't you paying attention? The whole point of having a companion is to look out for each other!"
"It wasn't his fault," Elle said quietly. "I went off exploring in the woods. He just found me." Conrad knew this wasn't true, but he didn't know if Elle knew he had witnessed the conversation between her and Lady Celia. He nodded anyway; it was easier than explaining the truth.
Elle was finally let out of the infirmary, after an exceedingly long time. She and Conrad walked down to the servants' quarters together, neither saying a word. Before they entered, she reached up and tugged his shirtsleeve.
"Thanks for going along with my story," she said softly, blushing a bit. So, Conrad thought, she had known I was there. He grunted, "It was nothing." Elle stood on her tiptoes and planted a quick kiss on Conrad's cheek before the two of them entered the quarters.
My first experiment with rewriting fairy tales. Review please!