Once upon a time . . .
NICK ST. GERMAIN dug his fingers into a crevice in the rocky ledge. Beside him, his mother andsister huddled against the cold stone. He refused to give in to the tears that threatened as hesearched for
his mother‟s face in the darkness. The thick black night of the Pyrenees shadowed allbut the outline of her form. His little sister, Josephine, sniffled in the crook of his mother‟s arm. Jo
was only four, eight years younger than he, and still a baby. Too young to understand why they had
fled the palace and now clung to an unforgiving wall of slate beneath the mountain‟s towering pines.
In the midst of the darkness, he felt his mother‟s hand on his shoulder. Her fingers trembled
where they rested against h
is coat. “Your father thinks us headed for the northern coast of Spain.He cannot help if he does not know we‟ve turned westward.” Nick could hear the indecision in her
whispered words. He had pleaded with her for the last hour to let him return to the palace for help,but his mother had wavered, unsure of the safest course.
“I can bring the guards, Maman. They will have defeated the rebels by now. I will fly, fast as the wind.” The sounds of pursuit grew louder, the rustlings giving way to the clop of horses‟ hooves
against the hard-
packed earthen trail below. Nick shivered. “You and Jo must hide in the caves untilI return.”
His mother‟s hand left his shoulder and moved upward to cup his chin. Tears stung his eyes as
he fought for control. At that moment, the clouds parted, and a moonbeam penetrated the gloom.He could see her now, Her Serene Highness, Queen Eleanor, her blond hair gleaming almost silverin the moonlight, her expression fierce.
“Without the royal family, Nicholas, our people have no hope. T
hey will fall into the hands of
that tyrant, Napoleon. Santadorra is merely a stepping stone to Spain.”
Bile rose in Nick‟s throat. “„Twas the peasants, not Napoleon, who revolted. Let the rabblesuffer the consequences.”
“Nay!” His mother lifted his chin higher. “This was no people‟s rebellion. This night‟s work can
be laid at the doorstep of the French
Santadorrans will come to know that soon enough.
They will need their king.”
Nick choked back a sob at the mention of his father and shook his head, freeing himself from
her touch. “The people have chosen their fate, just as Father chose to stay and fight. I care only foryou and Jo.”
Pinpoints of light appeared below, and sabres rattled mere yards away. Nick could hear themethodical
as the men began to search the undergrowth below the ledge. Jo whimpered again. Fear coursed through him; the hairs of his neck stood on end.
The look in his mother‟s eyes frightened him further, a look of love and longing and despair
that scared him
more than the soldiers below. “Oh, Nicholas.” Her words were thick with grief.“You are indeed our only hope.”
A cry rose from their pursuers, as if the men were hounds who had caught the scent of the fox.
“Jo and I will find a hiding place in the caves. Run, Nicholas. By all that is holy, run.”
His mother‟s hands were pushing him, and he found himself on his feet. His legs must have had