I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees. Me. Not that twit of a first-prince, a king in waiting, that would be a sorry day indeed. I found them. They never would have been found if it was left to the younger prince, always dressed in his pink silk, and still now as a man often mistaken for a princess. And those dogs were useless in the deep snow, as I knew they would be, they could heap all the praise on those stupid beasts that they wanted, I knew the truth. I found those tracks, and soon I would be the one receiving all of Lady Adeline’s attention and praise…soon I would have everything I wanted.
It must have been a foul, dark beast indeed, the people murmured, that was able to find a way into the king’s chambers deep within the castle, without alerting a single one of the guards that patrolled the high walls, the cobblestone streets, or the many passageways of the keep.
The king had tried to defend himself, but there is little an unarmed king can do when he is attacked in his sleep. Sometimes though a little is enough, and the king now clung to life, although the rumors of his impending death had already started.
The raiding party formed early that same day, led by the first-prince Edward, and of course joined by the younger prince Lionel. High Inspector Fabien, and his top man, Chief Detective Darius, were also along to lend their expertise, and four of the best of the king’s royal bodyguards rounded out the group.
And of course I went along too, but no one counts the butler when you talk about groups like this. I was not there as part of the search party, or to help kill this ravenous demon that had attacked our beloved king. I was there to do what butlers do, to serve. My job was to brew their coffee in the morning, and prepare their rabbit stew at night; to put up the tents when it was time to make camp, and to take them down as the party prepared to head out in the mornings.
That is how I came to be the one to find the tracks in the snow, I was up before all the others stoking the fire to acquire the appropriate heat to brew a proper morning drink, and as I ventured around the trees at the edge of the camp to find more fuel for the flames that were threatening to die, I found the tracks between two trees, as if the thing stood there all night and watched us in our slumber. So, I roused the brave men and showed them what I found.
Now, in a party made of royalty, and the king’s top men, it cannot be a butler that finds the clue that leads to the monster. But they were left in a quandary, for any one of the men to lie and claim credit for the discovery would be dishonorable, and a story that would eventually get out, because these stories always do. And so they gave the credit the only place that they could, to the king’s very own dogs that were brought along to help track their master’s attacker.
Now, when the tracks that you’ve found, are the very ones that you placed there, in the darkest depths of the night, you don’t mind so much when you aren’t given the credit, in fact you would rather your name is not spoken at all, lest someone asks, could it have been the butler that slipped into the king’s chamber that night.
So let them heap praise upon their mutts, as they follow my tracks further into the black heart of this forsaken forest. For soon their rabbit stew will be flavored with a very special poison, that will drive their minds mad, and make them turn their swords on each other. And I will return to the castle, the lone survivor, and tell a tale of how they were driven insane by the ghost of a witch, fabled to live in these woods.
With the king and his sons dead his royal blood line will end, and Lady Adeline’s family will begin their long rule. And once she learns what I’ve done, out of my unyielding love for her, she will embrace me tightly and beg me to be hers.
written for: The Speakeasy #140
photo by: pnewbery