Authors: Joyce,Jim Lavene
Tags: #Paranormal Mystery, #Fantasy & Magic
“Of course, my lady!” Sir Dwayne put his hand to his heart as he bowed his head and slunk away to the back row of her followers.
Bill hadn’t moved from his stool. He straightened his shoulders under the blousy white shirt and carefully lifted one of the princess’s feet in his hands. “Like lovely, small birds.” He admired her foot in the pale slipper.
Isabelle giggled. “Really, sir! Fie on thee for lying! My feet are the very
part of me. It is an embarrassment for anyone to see them.”
“Not at all, my lady.” He slowly slipped off her shoe and placed it on the floor before he held her foot in both hands as he examined it. “Delicate, high arches. Sweet skin. Dainty toes. A foot, indeed, created for a princess.”
Her retinue agreed with loving smiles.
I kept expecting Isabelle to lash out, kick Bill off the stool, or in some way make him look foolish. To my surprise, she was actually pleasant.
“How now, Sir Shoemaker! What are you saying?” She smiled sweetly and leaned closer to him, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder as her pale bodice dipped open near his eyes. “You have such a warm touch, sir. I swear it is making me quite
Bill whispered something in her ear as he slowly massaged her foot.
Whatever he said made Isabelle go quiet for a moment. Her face turned red, and her lips parted slightly as though in anticipation. She finally burst into peals of excited laughter. “Sir! You mistake
. I am not soliciting your attention with my peculiar digits. And we shall discuss that other, entirely ribald suggestion when you deliver my slippers to me at the castle.”
He bowed his head and actually kissed her foot. It was a weird moment in shoemaker history, at least for me. “I shall deliver them as soon as they are finished. I promise you will dance the night away without a single moment of tired or aching feet. This I swear to you, Princess.”
She giggled again as he took her measurements. When he was finished, he carefully put her shoe back on and helped her from the chair. “Until later, lady, when I come to fit your slippers.” He kissed her hand again, slowly turning her palm up to plant the embrace.
All I can say is that I was glad he didn’t do any of that when I bought
sandals from him. I wouldn’t have asked him to come to the Village, and I didn’t want to think how Chase would have taken it.
I took a sideways peek at Sir Dwayne. His face was almost as red as his hair. He wasn’t taking the shoemaker’s dalliance with Isabelle well. . The look he gave Bill promised hard times for him in the future.
Men came and went quickly in Isabelle’s life. I wasn’t too worried about my protégé. He might get his heart bruised in his encounter with her, but he’d no doubt survive. He couldn’t have lived this long, especially with his impressive magic charm, without falling in and out of love.
Despite her rebuff, Isabelle looked for Dwayne to escort her from the museum when it was time to go. She rested her hand on his arm and gave him a flirtatious smile. Their nearly matching garments pegged them as a current couple
I curtsied as she started past me, glad that I’d been like a fly on the wall for her visit. Usually our meetings didn’t end with smiles and kisses.
She paused, seeming to notice me for the first time since she’d entered the museum. Her lovely, fake smile was in place on her sun-blocked face. “Oh, there you are, Lady Jessie. Please give my regards to the Bailiff. Since you married, he doesn’t seem the same. He was so happy once, but I suppose the
union can sour anyone.”
“I shall give him your regards, Princess. He has spoken of you in the past as part of a time best forgotten in his life. I’m certain he’ll consider your greeting in the same fashion.”
Isabelle didn’t spare me another glance. She’d gotten in her dig for the day. So had I. She also didn’t bother looking down or she would’ve noticed my sandaled foot immediately in her path. Sir Dwayne was on hand to keep her from a tumble.
Bill chuckled when she was gone, the last of her people following her slowly down the stairs to the cobblestones. “Quite a cat fight you almost had going there, Jessie. You two have history, I take it?”
“You could say that. She’s always wanted my boyfriend—now my husband. She has so many men around her, I’ve never understood why. Not that Chase isn’t irresistible, but it’s like she can’t stand that he’s mine now.”
“A woman like Isabelle can never be happy with only
man’s regard. She needs constant reassurance that she’s as radiant as a sunlit garden. It might seem redundant to tell her. She sees it in the mirror every day. But she needs reassurance as other women require fresh air and water. Not to worry. Now that
here, she’ll give up the other men.”
I hung several pairs of boots with beautiful, elaborate stitchery on them. It was easy to believe Bill had magic in his fingers. I liked him too, which made me break my rule about warning him away from Isabelle. I really wanted him to stay in the Village. “You know, Isabelle may be her own worst enemy. She has a love‘em and leave‘em kind of reputation. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“You’re a good friend, Jessie. Don’t worry about me. I have elf magic.”
It reminded me so much of the old
cookie commercials from when I was a kid that I smiled. “I believe you. Just be careful.”
He waggled his shaggy brows and wiggled his ears. “You’ll see. When I set my sights on a lady, she can’t resist me.”
I’m not kidding. The man
his pointed ears. I wasn’t sure if it was funny or alarming. I’d never seen anyone who could wiggle their ears. Bill was indeed a man of rare talents.
We worked side-by-side finishing the setup on the museum exhibit. It was due to open the next day. Everything was ready for what I hoped would be a good crowd. Adventureland, the parent company for Renaissance Faire Village, was paying for a nice spread and publicity for the opening. It seemed they liked the idea of having a shoemaker there too.
The Main Gate opened for visitors at ten a.m. each day. I suggested that we break for coffee. I was meeting Chase and our friends, Daisy and Bart, at Sir Latte’s Beanery. I invited Bill to join us, as he had many times while we’d been working on the exhibit.
“I can’t come today,” he said. “My brain is on fire with images of Isabelle’s beautiful feet. I’m going to get started on her dancing slippers. I want to fit them on her as soon as possible. I want to feel her feet in my hands again.”
That was a little more information than I needed on that subject, but I didn’t say so. “That sounds great. I’ll be back later, and we’ll make sure everything is ready for opening day.”
“Don’t worry. It will be
. I guarantee it.”
I wondered why he hadn’t mentioned having elf magic before. I’d known him a few weeks. We’d talked about all kinds of things. Magic seemed like something that would have come out sooner.
“Maybe not,” Daisy said as we waited for Chase and Bart to join us for coffee. “Maybe he has to get to know you before he drops the M-bomb. Maybe he has to trust you. You know people used to do nasty things to those who professed a knowledge of magic.”
Daisy was a sword, knife, and armor maker in the Village. Her shop, Swords and Such, was very popular with the hundred thousand or so visitors we received each year. Her adult son, Ethan, was working with her now too. Bart was her lover and now her partner in the shop. He was computer savvy and had opened an online version of her shop that outsold the bricks and mortar version ten times over.
“That was a long time ago, but maybe that’s it.” I shrugged. “I’m glad he didn’t do the love at first sight with my feet thing that he did with Isabelle today. It was awkward watching it.”
“I don’t know.” Daisy tossed her dyed blond curls, her lips drawn in a red bow, like a kewpie doll. She always wore a breastplate with a phoenix on it. “I like a good foot rub. Bart is fantastic at it—he’s got those
hands. Maybe I should stop in for a new pair of boots. Your cobbler sounds interesting.”
“Cobbler?” Bart joined us. “Cherry or apple? I like both.”
Chase, my lovely husband, had come into the crowded pub with Bart. He kissed me quickly before he sat beside me. “Not pie. Shoemaker. Jessie brought him back with us from Pigeon Forge when we went to Dollywood. He makes great boots.” Chase held up one foot to show off his new pair of Bill’s boots.
“He might be about to take Isabelle out of your fan club,” I told him. “They really had something going on today at the museum.”
Chase was a little skeptical. “Not to sound harsh, but I’m surprised she was interested in him.”
“Why?” Bart asked.
“He’s kind of plain, in his fifties or so.” Chase thanked the server who brought his coffee. “Not exactly Isabelle’s type.”
Daisy grinned. “Jessie says he gives magical foot rubs. Sounds good to me. Maybe Isabelle is a gal who likes to play with feet.”
Bart put one of his massive arms around her shoulders, almost hitting a knave seated behind him. “I give magical foot rubs too. You don’t need the pie man.”
“He didn’t give
a magical foot rub.” Chase laughed. “Did he do that for you, Jessie? It must’ve been when I was looking around his shop. I might’ve noticed you playing footsies with him.”
“Oh you newlyweds,” Daisy protested. “What’s a foot massage between consenting adults? I really can’t wait to meet the cobbler now. Bart, don’t you need a new pair of boots too?”
“Not if the shoemaker has to touch my feet. You know how ticklish they are.”
We talked about the coming week. It was August, the time when dozens of college and high school students left the Village to go back to school. Many of them would return over Christmas and Spring Break, but we always needed replacements for the time between.
Renaissance Village was a big place to fill with interesting characters. Many of the college men were knights at the Field of Honor. We couldn’t have jousts twice a day without knights.
“I guess they’ll be in this morning.” Daisy rubbed her hands together. “I
to antagonize the newbies. It shows their inner character. Let’s face it—most visitors are more annoying than I could ever be.”
We all pretty much agreed with that.
The selection of several dozen new actors was done by daily auditioning on the cobblestones. The regulars, such as Daisy and Bart, me and Chase, marked scorecards that were tallied to decide who would be invited back for the next day. Some would be chosen for their original costumes, but most would be chosen for their friendliness and willingness to act as though they belonged. At the end of the week, the players that remained would be selected.
“I’m glad all of you enjoy choosing new actors.” Chase sipped his coffee, waiting for his bagel. “I get a hundred questions every hour from the newbies about eating, drinking, where to find the privies, what to do when they get hot in their costumes. When that’s over, I get to help train a dozen new knights and one or two jousters for the Field of Honor.”
“Poor Chase.” Daisy stuck out her lower lip. “We all feel your pain, buddy. You also get to spend time with all the lovely young ladies who need a strong arm to get them through the day.”
Bart laughed. “If you need any help with
, give me a call.”
Daisy punched him hard in the shoulder, but it would’ve taken a lot more for her to hurt him. Bart was a giant of a man, close to seven feet tall, with crazy black hair that always looked as though he’d just removed a helmet. He could lift me straight off the ground. I’d seen him pick up two troublemakers at the same time, one under each arm. He made Chase look fragile.
Chase was tall and muscular—6’8”, 250 pounds of muscle—usually wrapped in tight brown leather. He wore his long brown hair in a braid and had a gold pirate ring in one ear. His soulful brown eyes showed his intelligence and patience.
When he wasn’t working as Chief of Security for the Village in his job as Bailiff, he worked on his own as a consulting patent attorney. He was very good with horses and had started at the Village in the jousting arena. I’ve never seen a man who looked better in armor.
And he was
“I like all the unusual characters that people try out.” I slid my arm through Chase’s and rested my hand on his so that our matching wedding bands were together. Sometimes I just liked to remind myself that we were really a couple now. We’d finally gotten married and were living our happily ever after.
“Yeah.” Daisy grinned. “Remember that woman last August who had the
tall hair that kept falling off?”
Bart laughed. “She was extremely funny.”
Chase shrugged. “
funny when I had to close the Good Luck fountain because her hair fell into it and
disgusting picking that up.”
“You need to delegate more,” Daisy said. “Tell him, Jessie. He does too much and doesn’t make the rest of his security people do anything.”
“I tell him that every day. Sometimes three times a day. He won’t listen.”
Chase’s radio buzzed. It kept him in touch with the rest of the security guards as they tried to keep the Village running smoothly. “And it starts. The Main Gate is open, and already one of the new actors rode a horse through the Village Green.”
He got up to leave. I tried to stop him. “Let someone else handle it. You have a hundred security guards. One of them can tell the person they can’t have a real horse here.”
Chase slid his hand into my short, brown hair and kissed me. Then he grabbed his bagel. “This is my job. You know that. Love you. See you later.”
It was only a few moments after he was gone that we heard someone running through the Village calling out unsettling news.
“Princess Isabelle is dead! Oh tidings of great sorrow! Princess Isabelle is dead!”