If you live in the wolf's den long enough, you learn to howl


…Three down, two left to go.

The first three had been accomplished without too much difficulty.  Each one had, predictably, balked at obeying such an unusual request without confirmation of its validity.  A simple reassuring word from her was all it took to put their minds at ease.

Mrs. Landsbury had no such illusions that the final pair would be so easily maneuvered.  The young woman would be cooperative.  She was quite delightful, despite her tempestuous nature.  No, the housekeeper reflected, it would be the male half of that particular pairing that would present the most difficulty.  Already she could hear his outraged voice draw nearer.

“Antonin is only following the Prince’s orders,” Mrs. Landsbury calmly interjected on the poor guard’s behalf.  “Prince Nikolas has instructed the staff that no one is to venture from their quarters until,” she glanced at a delicate little watch on her wrist, “forty-two minutes from now.”

The housekeeper shifted her attention.  “Welcome home, Miss Faith.  I have prepared the suite adjoining Master Stefan’s for you and the little one.  You will find tonight’s attire already laid out for you both.”  Mrs. Landsbury glanced back at Stefan.  “The Prince has also left instructions that this evening’s meal be a formal affair.”

Mrs. Landsbury nodded in approval as Faith merely grasped her young daughter’s hand and led the little girl to the suite they had been assigned.  The housekeeper made a mental note to begin facilitating the young woman’s permanent return to Wyndemere.  If left to their own devices, she and Master Stefan would waste far too much time tangled up in the trivial.  And that simply would not do.

“Explain all this.”

The demand was calm, but the tone was glacial.  Mrs. Landsbury arranged her features into a blank mask before turning and addressing the speaker.  “These are the Prince’s wishes,” she replied, just as calmly.

“Nikolas may be Prince,” Stefan said, “but he does not lead this family until his ascension two years from now.  As you well know.”

It was a testament to his belief in her loyalty, Mrs. Landsbury realized, that stayed Stefan’s hand from immediately terminating her employment with the Cassadine family.  Her support of the bodyguard’s efforts to keep Stefan restrained in his quarters amounted to nothing less than a coup d’etat – an overthrow of rightful Cassadine authority.  It did not matter that their orders emanated from the eventual leader of the Cassadine family.  Until Nikolas took the symbolic throne, the reins of control rested securely in the hands of the Regent – Stefan Cassadine.

The first thing Cassadine employees learned, beside being wary of the family’s matriarch Helena, was that Stefan did not tolerate even a hint of disregard where his orders about the Prince were concerned.  He could not afford to with his mother always in the shadows awaiting opportunities to seize control of the family and Prince Nikolas.

“If all else failed,” Mrs. Landsbury reached into the pocket of her formal apron, “the Prince instructed me to present you with this note.”  She held it where Stefan could see it, but did not offer it to him.  “Prince Nikolas also expressed to me a very private hope that his request of you would be enough.”  The housekeeper watched Stefan consider her words. They both knew that no matter his decision, she would allow Nikolas to believe the best of Stefan.

“Nikolas is well?”

Mrs. Landsbury knew that what Stefan sought was her oath that the unusual happenings in Wyndemere were truly of Nikolas’ accord.  “Yes.”

Stefan nodded briefly.  “Very well.” 

Mrs. Landsbury watched Stefan disappear into his suite.  She opened up the folded paper in her fist and allowed herself the briefest of smiles. 

There was absolutely nothing written inside.

~ 4:45 p.m., The Royal Suite ~