The Red Sapphire

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Chapter 17

Lania snuck the bandages and the poultice she’d prepared under her cloak and made her way down to the dungeons. The guards nodded at her once as she passed. When she got to his door. They didn’t hesitate to open it.

She was surprised to find him sitting upright in the cot even though his head was buried in his hands. “I thought that you said that you were giving me two days to think Your Highness, it has barely been a day.” he said not looking up.

“I think you have me mistaken for someone else.” she said stepping into the cell. It was only then he looked up at her. His face looked pale and a bit drawn out, but at least he was up and talking. She was a bit worried as the last time she came he was running a slight temperature.

“You must be a nurse then.” he said offering her a slight smile. She nodded as her voice disappeared when she drew in her breath, as sick as he might be Doranand was still quite dazzling.

Remember your place Lanny, she chided herself. He was the heir to an earldom and you were just a maid and had no business thinking about him like that. Still, he was handsome.

“You can come in, despite looking this dreadful I won’t bite.” he teased. “Or was it easier dealing with me asleep than awake.”

“It is good seeing you awake My Lord.” she said finding her voice. “You had a fever the last time I came.” she paused as she was sure she was about to go off on a babbling spurt. “Can I change your dressings?” she said coming forward.

He nodded and then turned his back to her. She emptied everything she was carrying on the cot and then moved to light a candle which she put to one side. She then sat on the bed behind him.

She began unwinding the bandages some of which were soaked through in some spots. But at least it wasn’t as bad as before which meant the bleeding had stopped. Scabs had already started forming over the shallower abrasions. It was a good thing she had thought to bring olive oil to smear over them so that they wouldn’t crack as easily.

It was so different touching him when he was awake. She couldn’t help but to think of how broad his shoulders were or how muscular his back really was. A faint blush stained her cheek as she continued to clean his wounds.

“Ow!” he said and softly.

“I am sorry My Lord, I am being as gentle as I can, but I have to ensure that all the old poultice is out or it might harbour an infection.”

“I understand never mind me, I am just being a baby.” he chuckled.

“Anyone who took a hundred and thirty lashes and lived is allowed to be a baby in my opinion.” she said softly. “These can soon be taken out.” she said after brushing her fingers over an area of skin that she had to stitch together to hid the bone underneath. Flesh infections were hard enough, but one could never get over a bone infection. It was a guaranteed killer.

“I didn’t get your name?” he said quietly.

“My name is Lania.”

“Lania,” he said as if tasting her name. “I have heard your name in the passing. Have we met before?”

“Not formally. I am Princess Aliana’s handmaid. She must have mentioned me to you once or twice.”

He stiffened and then he turned his head to look back at her. “The princess...did she ask you to do this?”

“I am afraid not my lord as she is still stuck in Garion under duress.”

“Oh,” he said as his shoulders slumped from disappointment she could tell.

“Your father, he begged me to do what I can so that you would live.” she said hoping that would make him feel better.

“You risked your safety to save mine at the behest of my father?” he said surprised.

“He was nearly destroyed by what he had to do to you. He was forlorn with grief, it was impossible to refuse. That and because you were a close friend of the princess. She would have wanted me to save your life.” she said as she added the fresh poultice.

“Would she?” he asked.

“Of course she would, she was not often forthcoming with her feelings, but it was obvious to anyone that had eyes that you were quite dear to her.”

“She wasn’t kidnapped you know.” he said softly.

“I beg your pardon?”

“She chose to leave with that thief, who I now know to be Prince Milos of Garion. She chose him over me.”

“I, I am sure that there is an explanation.” Lania stammered.

“What possible explanation could there be why she would choose to leave me for a stranger?”

“I think it has something to do with the Red Sapphire.” she said thoughtfully as she wound the bandages around his chest and tied them off.

“The sapphire? What do you know of it?” he said turning towards her.

“It has been found and it is in Garion.” she whispered.

“How do you know of this?” he said looking into her eyes, melting her in their greyness. At this moment if he asked anything of her she would give it him, regardless of the consequences.

“The queen, she is a muddy witch.” she whispered looking towards the door. “I saw her talking to a phantom made of smoke one day in the palace. It told her that the red sapphire was found and that it was in Garion. She told the phantom to do whatever necessary to get it back and that if they refused they were to start killing, from the top.”

Her voice dipped lower, “I didn’t understand what that meant at first, but news got to the palace a few days later which said that Prince Genos of Garion had been assassinated. It was then I understood.”

“What else did she say?” he asked leaning closer to her than she would have normally let anyone else come.

“She also spoke of a spy in the palace, she said his blood was strong and she wanted him to be brought to her.”

“Prince Milos’s then.” he said as he clenched his jaws together and too soon he pulled back.

“So she was right then, the sapphire was in Garion. That’s why she left.” he whispered to himself. For the first time since she visited Lord Doranand looked lighter and more purposeful. “Lania,” he said holding her hands. “Thank you for risking your life to save mine and for the news that you have brought. It has erased some doubts that I had clouding my mind.”

“Your welcome My Lord.” she blushed.

“You however cannot under any circumstances come to visit me again. The queen knows that someone has been helping me and so it will be dangerous for you to do so. Burn all evidence of your involvement.”

“But your wounds?”

“Will be fine. She has made me an offer which I will not refuse, so I won’t be here for much longer.”

“Oh I see,” she said softly.

He must have seen the flicker of resignation in her eyes, but he smiled and then brushed a slight kiss over her cheek. Her heart hammered in her chest at the slight contact. “Perhaps we will meet again under better circumstances.” he whispered.

“My lord,” she bowed slightly and cleared away all she used. She took up the candle and looked at him once more. He looked like a man with a plan, again sure of himself.

He said that the queen offered him a deal, he was probably going to refuse it before, but she must have changed his mind. Now he would be working with the witch. Working with the witch against Aliana.

Oh stars, what had she done!

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