Orb's Year 941
Eleanor seemed to consider this. "Then why haven't I ever met you before?" she asked.
The prince smiled another brilliant smile. "We were friends a long time ago," he began.
Scott winningly. He might have finally found the key to utterly destroy Bradshaw for his insults! "And who is this young lady?" he asked. "I see you favor the color pink, as well!"
Daphne rolled her eyes. "What do you want Scott? I am happily married now and have no wish to provoke my husband's anger!"
Scott tsked with commiseration. "Yes, your husband does seem to have quite a sore spot when it comes to me! I think he would be ever more upset to discover his little golden-haired child is not his own!"
Daphne slapped his hand away. "Bradshaw loves me!" she said boldly, wishing she had a sword to run the scoundrel through. "He would never believe it!"
"I see your reasoning. If Bradshaw truly loves you, then he will believe you. If he doesn't... then..." Scott shrugged indelicately.
"Why are you doing this to me? I thought you were my friend!"
Scott's gaze hardened. "You were to be my bride, but a lowly noble stole you. I would have preferred to have ruined Bradshaw more quickly and married you, but you had to go an fall in love with the brute! So, now you will have to suffer his punishment with him!"
"He will never believe you!" Daphne declared before turning around and running into the safety of her home.
How could she have so thoroughly misjudged someone she thought was her friend? She thought that he cared for her, but he'd only seen her as a way to humiliate and torment Bradshaw! Bless the Orbs she'd never wound up with the deceitful man! she thought with a shiver of disgust.
"What's wrong, Daphne?" Bradshaw said, shifting Gwain. "Is everything okay?"
Daphne nodded with her head on his shoulder. Glancing up, she smiled weakly. "I just... I just missed you, that's all. I love you so much!" she said with tears in her eyes.
"I love you, too," he said, kissing the top of her head.
She girded herself for an argument with him, but he strolled right past her with a smug smile.
King Barron raised an eyebrow, "This is quite unusual! As you can see, I am at my sister's home and not at court. Come see me tomorrow for an audience."
"Everyone out!" King Barron commanded, then motioned for Daphne to approach. When she'd stopped before him, he asked sternly, "Is there any truth to this claim?"
Daphne was reeling with horror. She had never expected so public an attack from Scott. "Brother, you must believe me! I have never strayed from my husband!"
Scott interjected, "Ah, but there are many servants that can testify that we spent many hours together, privately. The child's hair is blonde as can be! Surely she must be mine!"
Daphne turned towards Scott and slapped him. "Stop this! You know we were never intimate! Florence is Bradshaw's daughter and I will not allow you to threaten my family for some sort of warped vengeance." Turning to Barron, she implored him, "Can't you see? He's always been jealous of Bradshaw and seeks to cause discord!"
Barron knew of his sister's stormy relationship with his brother-in-law. It had seemed for a time that for every step they took forward, there was something else pushing them back. It seemed possible that she might have betrayed their marriage vows during one of their off-periods.
Daphne's heart sunk when she saw the doubt in her brother's eyes.
"I'm sorry, Daphne. But I must investigate this claim," Barron said quietly. "We enjoy trade-relations with the Trottiers and cannot risk angering them."
Turning towards Prince Scott, Barron added grimly. "I will take your petition under advisement and let you know of my decision when one is reached. In the meantime, you will leave my sister alone and cease making any public accusations!"
His suspicions were confirmed when Daphne said softly, "We should go sit down..."
After sitting in silence for minutes, Bradshaw looked down at his hands and asked softly, "Is there any truth? Could Florence be his child?"
He slammed back another drink, reeling with heartache and pain.
"I'm sorry, mi'lord," a woman said, approaching him with a platter of drinks. "Is the party over then?"
"Oh yes, your wife hired me for her family get together. She said she wanted everyone to have a good time!"
Bradshaw reached out for another glass and tossed it back. "No, stay. It will be much nicer to have a pretty maid serving me drinks than getting it myself. And I plan on getting very... very.... wasted tonight..."
But, his own infidelity taunted him and he stumbled from the room.
Orb's Year 944
He missed her like crazy.
Bradshaw shrugged, "King Barron hasn't made his decision yet."
Camelot rolled his eyes, "Please! I do not need to King to see the truth of it! Florence is your daughter! And Daphne is your wife! She never would have strayed from you!"
Bradshaw swirled the dregs of the drink in his glass. "How can you be so sure?" he asked wearily.
Now it was Camelot's turn to shake his own head. "You were happy with her and you can be happy with her again. It's as simple as that."
Could it be that simple, Bradshaw wondered. Well, I'll never know if I never try...
Thankfully, she'd thrown herself into his arms and said that she'd been waiting for him to forgive her.
Eleanor sobbed and shook her head, covering her face with her hands.
"I don't know, papa. She won't say!"
Florence glanced at her father and burst into tears again. "He said that you weren't my real father!" Florence wailed. "He said that he was my papa! It's not true, is it, papa?"
Daphne watched Bradshaw storm from the house and worried.
Gwain, in the back grinned and laughed, oblivious to the tension in the room. "I always knew you weren't really my sister!" he teased.