Servants and guests rushed in behind Detlef. Ilona’s nursemaid appeared, hands shaking and terror in her eyes. And then King Adalbert arrived. He shoved past the gathered crowd. His face went white when he saw the spindle.
“Seal the castle! Let no one enter or exit!” he shouted. Servants rushed away to do his bidding. “Who knows something? Did anyone see anyone near my daughter’s rooms?”
Guests stared at one another wide-eyed. No one had seen anything.
Cordula stepped forward, still trembling. “Is is possible, sire, that Ilona is…in…the spindle?” She wrung her hands. “I heard such strange tales when I was a little girl. Tales of Derwalds and…” She burst into tears.
The king stared at her blankly for a moment and then dismissed her with a wave of his hand. “I have no time for peasant fairy tales!” He turned to the other servants. “Search the castle and the gardens. Perhaps she merely took a stroll.”
The queen covered her face and sobbed.
King Adalbert crossed the room and bent over her, resting his big hands on her shoulders. “Calm yourself, my love. All will be well.”
“Perhaps the spindle is a message.” Detlef’s own voice surprised him. “A signature of the kidnappers.”
Anger flooded the king’s face, lowering his brows like a stormcloud. “No kidnappers could have entered my castle unseen.” His eyes searched the crowd accusingly. “Someone must know something. There is foul play here, and I intend to get to the bottom of it.”
“Adalbert.” The queen’s voice was shaky and tearful. She lifted sorrowful eyes to meet her husband’s, and then dropped them in shame. “There is something I must tell you.”
(by Esther Brooksmith)