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"And I am Mélodie."

"A pleasure," reassured Ariella. "Now, I must ask of you a favor."

Mélodie nodded shyly.

"I wish of you to befriend a close friend of the King's. And by befriend, I mean befriend."

The girl was taken aback, "What of my husband?"

"He will not find out. And besides, I only wish you to woo him."

"Might I ask why?"

"As I said, it is of royal importance. Woo him and gather intel. I wish you to tell me everything he does, everyone he sees."

"You wish me to be your spy."

"Think of it as my Royal Intel Keeper." She said as she slowly came to a stop. She turned to face the Duchess with a confident smile, "And of course nothing of royal importance goes without payment. In return for your services, I will personally make sure that each of your sisters will find a more than suitable match in next year's season, and on top of that, I will grant you official ladyship into the Queen's court."

"Oh that is more than generous, Your Majesty!" Exclaimed the girl, clasping her hands together with joy.

"Please, call me Ariella."

-

"No Callan, it is absolutely absurd."

Cal smirked, signing his last official document of the day. He closed the royal stantionary box and locked it with his key.

"Jacques," Cal said and then paused, "Mon ami. My dear friend. Allow me this, just this once."

Jacques shook his head, "A dog."

"I am positive the queen would quite enjoy one, yes."

"I am sure she would. The only thing is, Your Majesty, is that I have to go and fetch it."

Cal chuckled, "I would do it myself-"

"Oh, I'm sure." Jacques stood from his seat beside Callan and tucked in his disheveled waistcoat. "I'll do it, on one condition."

"Name your price."

He stroked his chin, deliberating, "Ten franks and a bottle of your finest whiskey—I would add in a few prostitutes but I'm sure you'd refuse me then."

Cal laughed, standing up to face him, "It's a deal."

-

Cal rode on horseback later that evening through the woods, Ariella's new companion nipping at his horse's heels. He had about a mile left when he heard a gunshot ring through the tree line beside the path.

A bullet whizzed by at the speed of light, nipping his ear and landing with a bang in the tree trunk opposite of him. Without thinking, Cal whipped his horse around and bolted into the forest to the gunshot's point of origin.

He spotted a man crouched beside a fallen tree and slowed his horse to a slow trot, coming up behind the man and drawing his sword.

"State your business in this woodland." He stated menacingly.

The man quickly turned around, dropping his musket and putting his hands in the air. He kept his face hidden beneath a hood.

"Oh forgive me sir, I was merely hunting, I did not see where I had shot."

"Sir, could you not see the horse path-"

A shot fired just then, accompanied by a searing pain shooting through Callan's arm. He fell off of his horse. He was stunned for a moment, but then got up from the ground and retrieved his sword.

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