Near Montargis, Champagne, France
Early spring 1389
Fear closed off her throat. Fighting through the bushes, Helena Irmesch tugged her long skirts free of the frosty branches that seemed to be reaching for her, even though it was daylight. Cold sweat trickled down her neck and made the dress she wore cling to her thin body. Her heart was pounding, her breath coming in shallow gasps. She could hear the soldiers’ voices get louder and she fought harder through the overgrowth. A hand went over her mouth, lightly callused fingers rough against her sunken cheeks, and she sucked in a breath to scream.
“Shhh,” the voice of the hand hissed. Helena went still and turned to see a girl a few years younger with blonde hair and light brown eyes. She looked so much like her sister, Elisabeth, that for a moment all she could was blink. Then, she saw the differences and a bitter taste entered her mouth. Unbeknownst to her reaction, the girl looked over her head, and then beckoned frantically before vanishing. Helena followed clumsily, feeling her head pound.
The girl stopped when they could no longer hear the harsh voices of the men at the edge of a field. She watched Helena for a moment then said, “I think they are gone.”
Helena winced slightly as she understood the language. But pretended she didn’t by looking confused and wary. Not that she wasn’t, but it was far easier to avoid questions when you didn’t understand them.
The girl frowned. Minutes passed, during which they stared at each other, Helena’s heart pounding in her chest. Then she smiled and pointed to herself. “Nicole.”
“Nicole?” she repeated questioningly and hesitantly.
She nodded, and then cocked her head, pointing at Helena. “You?” she asked. Helena feigned ignorance, then made understanding lighten her eyes.
Nicole giggled, putting a hand to cover her mouth. Her eyes widened in surprise, but she continued to laugh, finally coaxing Helena into giving a little smile. A branch breaking made her freeze, brown eyes darting toward the spot. She motioned for Helena to follow her. Carefully, keeping to the undergrowth when they could, they made their way to a cottage with fields of wheat stretching around it. Others could be seen in a group in the distance. These were farmers and memories washed over her. Helena glanced at Nicole and recognized the signs of that life. For a moment, a pang shot through her at the thought that she hadn’t seen them before. This girl was a living reminder of her dear Elisabeth and at once she vowed that she would never do anything to harm her. Not like with her sister.
With her senses extended beyond them for any sign of pursuit, she followed Nicole to her house. Someone who looked to be very similar in appearance to Nicole and around the same age, possibly a twin brother, was sitting in at the table, jumping up when she and Nicole entered.
“Who is that?” he shouted, pointing at her. Helena felt a twinge in her mouth as she responded to the threat. She knew she must look awful, with a torn dress and tangled black hair. There were probably even leaves in her hair. Self-consciously, she brushed off her dress, displacing clods of dirt.
“Gascard, this is,” Nicole glanced at Helena before carefully pronouncing the name, “Helena. She is looking for work.”
“Why?” He stared at Helena, eyes hard. She said nothing, maintaining her scared, confused façade. “Answer me.” He took a step toward her.
“She doesn’t understand French,” Nicole quickly stepped between the two. “I thought we could teach her and maybe help.” She glanced at Helena, who shifted her weight nervously. “Please. Help me convince Papa. I want a sister again.” Helena blinked a few times, using what she’d learned to keep her expression under control. So that was it. She couldn’t be too upset; hadn’t that been her first reaction, that Nicole had been her sister? Still, she couldn’t deny feeling a little put out.
Gascard eyed Helena suspiciously. “She doesn’t look English,” he growled. Helena knew about the war going on between the two countries, had lived through all of it, though admittedly not all of it in France or England.
“I don’t think she is. She was coming from the direct of the rising sun.” Nicole frowned. “Soldiers were looking for her, I think.”
|Eva Green||as Helena/Lenne|
|Alona Tal||as Nicole|
|Patrick Dempsey||as Gundhram|
|Paul Walker||as Serkan|
|Owen Wilson||as Marc|
|Lucy Liu||as Li|
|Kevin Flamme||as Zacheus|
|Lacey Chabert||as Sofia|
|Ellen Wong||as Desideria|
|Nina Dobrev||as Andaraza|
|Georgie Henley||as Thekla|
|Astrid Berges-Frisbey||as Akilina|
|Keanu Reeves||as Anso|
|Javier Bardem||as Faysal|
|Frank John Hughes||as Gundhram|