The Red Sapphire

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Chapter 6

Lania watched as the Earl of Whitby was forced to publicly whip his son in the main square of Evan. It was the first time that she’d ever seen noblemen and commoners miscegenating—a new word she had learned from the lessons Aliana had allowed her to take—in such close a way. The crowd was brutal as they jeered, taunted and physically abused the young earl.

She however watched in horror as smooth skin and muscle was shredded apart by the leather tongs. Thin streams of blood streamed down his back and had begun pooling around his feet. She looked over at the king. His face was hard and unreadable. He had ordered Lord Whitby to beat his own son until he decided that it was enough.

Doranand had stopped screaming, probably because he had lost his voice somewhere around the fiftieth lash. His body was slumped forward and the only sign that he was alive, was when he would twitch infinitesimally with each new blow.

“That is enough.” said the king finally and Lania thanked the stars. Though she disagreed with the king about the quantity of ‘enough’. Enough was twenty lashes. One hundred and thirty was practically murder. He then held up his hand and the crowd quieted. “Let this both be a lesson and a warning to anyone who dares to cross me.” he said coldly. “Cut him down and bring him to the dungeon.” said the king stepping down from the dais. His new bride Ana-Moriah was close behind.

Lord Whitby cut his son down and he fell heavily, laying motionlessly on the ground. His father held his head up and fresh tears were streaming down his face. The king had let a father do this to his own son. How vile could the man be? Then again it was said that Doranand had planned to elope with the princess so that he could gain the throne, but his plan was foiled by a bandit who had kidnapped Aliana and carried her off to Garion. Or so they were told. Lania knew that there was much more to that telling but it wasn’t her place to question it, she was just a maid.

She pulled her shawl over her head and climbed up on to the platform. She wove in between the guards, most of who knew her from the castle. “Let me help. I brought bandages. They might not be enough, but it might be better than nothing at all.”

“The king ordered for him to be thrown into the dungeons.” said one of the guards.

“He did, but he didn’t say that he shouldn’t receive help first. We will bring him there as soon were done. If you have a problem with that soldier, we will deal with it afterwards.” barked Ithicus, who had replaced Doranand as captain of the guard. The threat in his command was clear and the guard kept quiet. Though he had fallen, most of Doranand’s men were still fiercely loyal to him.

“He is losing a lot of blood. I need padding before I band him up.”

“Take my shirt.” offered the earl. It was white cotton and mostly clean. I took it and placed over the area with the deepest cuts. It was obvious that the earl had taken care to not kill his son, as most of the wounds were concentrated over his left shoulder blade. All of the skin was gone there and white bone was visible in some parts. Lania folded the shirt several times and placed it at that spot. She then begun winding the bandages in place. She tied them off and the guards then placed Doranand in the back of a cart and drove towards the palace.

She supposed that since the whipping was over, she was to resume her duties at the palace. However, she would have to go home and change. It wouldn’t take much time, and no one would notice her tardiness since she was primarily Aliana’s handmaid.

This she was about to do when she felt someone grab her arm. She turned to find herself looking at the Earl of Whitby. “What is your name child?” he asked.

“Lania, Your Grace.”

“That means you work in the palace then.” she nodded. “Take this.” he said taking her hand and dropping a pouch filled with coins. “Whatever it takes, if you can, please don’t let my son die.”

“I don’t know if I will be allowed...”

“Please,” he begged once more. This was certainly different. Never has any noble, apart from Aliana, had ever spoken to her like she was more than a shadow. It was both humbling and flattering.

“I, I will see what I can do Your Grace.” she said dipping her eyes. It was obvious how much the earl cared for his son. It was hard to refuse someone like that. He nodded once and then walked away.

The king hadn’t stripped him of his title, but if Doranand died the house of Whitby died with him as he was the only heir. She hid the money in her cloak and then hurried home.

“I thought you were a palace maid not a butcher.” said her uncle as she walked in.

“Well I had a bloody situation to take care of.”

“I saw you helping that earl’s son. Be careful Lanny. The king did that to a noble, he will not hesitate to kill you a lowly servant girl.”

“I am happy that you care uncle. There is nothing to be worried about though.” she said kissing the old man on the forehead.

He grunted once as he was never one to show open affection. Regardless, she never felt the absence of a parent’s love as he had taken very good care of her after they’d died.

She bought a bottle of whiskey and healing herbs from the apothecary shop and headed back to work. She really hoped that it wasn’t too late when she visited in the night. As no matter what, she knew Aliana wouldn’t want anything to happen to her Doran. The two were quite close and he was one of the few people in the palace who seemed to understand the princess.

The princess wasn’t very open about her feelings towards the young earl, but she could see that there was a possibility where she may have married him in the future. Aliana was her friend and it was for her sake that she was doing this. She just prayed to the stars and gods that she would be safely delivered from the clutches of those Garion vultures before it was too late.

As she was hurrying down the hall to the princess’ room but drew to a stop as there were whispers coming from around the corner. She peeked and saw that it was the new queen who was dressed in a gold gown dripping with onyx. She was speaking to a woman whose coat seemed to blend into smoke at the hems.

“The Red Sapphire has been found.” she thought she heard the crone say.

“So, she is the Sapphire.” she said tilting her head thoughtfully. “Garion has her and we need to change that. Do whatever it takes to get their cooperation and send her back. If they refuse punish them, starting from the top. They had a spy with very strong blood working in the palace. I suspect that he is the one responsible for this. If you find him, don’t harm him as he might be quite useful. Now be gone.”

“My Queen,” said the crone bowing. She then disappeared into this air.

Lania let out a strangled gasp and the queen turned towards her. She had ducked around the corner and waiting to be discovered. Several moments passed and nothing happened. She peeked around the bend and the queen was gone.

“What are you doing standing here?” she let out a small yelp as someone tapped her on the shoulder.

“Loring thank the stars, it just you.” she said to the steward.

“Expecting someone else?”

“No not really, but I went to the square today and I am still shaken by what I witnessed. Everything is making me jittery.” at least that wasn’t a lie.

“Yes, I understand.” he said sombrely.

“I, I am going to the princess’ quarters now to dust.” she said speeding down the hall and into the princess’ room where she barricaded herself.

She couldn’t believe what she’d just witnessed. The new queen was a witch, possibly from the Mudlands. Did the king know? He must since he married her. She bit her nails nervously while pacing the room. She had to tell someone...Doranand. She would tell him if he made it through the whipping. He would know what to do. Oh stars let him live, she thought. Let him live.

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