Chapter 2 - A Night To Remember
The halls were crowded by the time they got back to the castle. Servants were running about quickly trying to finish the preparations for the feast that evening. She envied the Prince. Crowds parted for him but they would immediately swarm again causing her to shove through the mass of workers. Luckily, Caspian looked back at the right time and laughed at her as he grabbed her outstretched hand, pulling her through. Once she was by his side, once more, she tried to drop his hand but he held on tighter. She looked up at him, finding he was also looking at her with a slight smile on his face. Fixing her eyes on the path ahead of them, she fought with the blush that was creeping its way up her neck. Finally, they entered his bedchambers, where he dropped her hand. She barely had her foot in the door before a female servant clamped her hand around her upper arm and dragged her to the bathroom.
Five older women were waiting for her in the bathroom and her eyes widened as she realized what was about to occur. Cries of protest escaped her lips as they began their torture. The door to the room had barely closed behind her and the woman attacked her, undoing the strings of her dress and pulling it off her body. Movement ceased in the room with the sounding of five very loud gasps. They were all staring at her exposed body. Scars and black marks littered her mocha colored skin barely leaving a spot unblemished. Her anger began to build up in her chest and she fought back her tears. 'This is why you hide yourself. Your body is ugly, sister.' The voice echoed in her mind and she took a couple of deep breaths so she would not give away her cover. 'You are pushing my limits, Kas.' She replied clenching her fists at her sides. 'It is my job sweet Dris.' The voice then receded from her mind and she opened her eyes.
"What?" She snapped at the staring women. A couple of them looked like they wanted to say something to her but they held their tongues and helped her into the bath. She accepted a cloth from one of them and quickly but thoroughly scrubbed her body clean. When she was finished, she was forced to sit there as the oldest in appearance within the room began to wash her hair. Surprisingly the woman was gentle with her scalp. Her eyes drifted shut and she felt herself relax in the cooling water.
"Leave us." Her ears twitched as the other servants evacuated the steamy bathroom. As soon as they were gone, she allowed her tears to fall. The woman did not say anything to her, just kept massaging her scalp in a calming manner. Her hand flew to her mouth covering it to keep her loud sobs from breaching her lips and echo off the stone walls. After a while, her tears stopped coming and turned to sniffling. "I need you to dunk your head, dear." She did as she was told allowing her to scrub her face free of the tears that had stained her cheeks. A small tug signaled her to bring her head back up and she came up gasping. That had taken longer than she had expected. The woman retrieved a towel from the stand and held it up for her as she stood up. Grateful she seized the towel and wrapped it around her wet skin. Holding it above her knees to keep it from touching the surface of the water, she accepted the woman's hand and climbed out. "Are you alright, dear?" Drisana was a little surprised by the gentleness in the woman's voice. Looking up, the woman's eyes seemed to see right through her.
"Can you see me?" She asked, her voice coming out hoarse and dry. Her eyes widened shocked with herself for allowing those words to fall from her lips. She cleared her throat and looked elsewhere as she waited for a reply.
"I have for many years. Though I may be Telmarine, Narnian magic is like glass to me." Her eyes widened in amazement. In all her years, she had never some across a Telmarine with the sight. "Do not worry you secret is safe with me; has been since I first saw you."
"Thank you." She smiled gratefully at the woman and turned around at the spinning gesture she was given. Hands appeared on her shoulders and steered her over to a stool that was sitting behind the screen. Once she was sitting down a towel flopped over her head. As soon as she opened her mouth to question why the towel was there, her head was shook vigorously. 'I hate towel drying.' She scoffed to herself as she relaxed her neck so she did not get any kinks from the constant movement. The towel was removed promptly after finishing, replaced with a comb.
"I am Cora by the way." The woman introduced herself gently running the comb through her hair.
"Drisana." She replied blushing and chuckling a little when Cora nonchalantly stated she already knew. "Do you mind me asking how old you are?" She felt bad for asking but she was curious to know.
"Thirty-seven." She almost whipped her head around to look at the woman but a sharp tug on her head kept her in place. That had not been the number she had been expecting. "And you, how old are you?"
"I don't know. I lost count after two hundred."
Music, chatter and laughter filled the grand hall. Couples danced while spectators watched and gossiped about this and that. This feast in particular was to celebrate Lord Miraz and Lady Prunaprismia's child that was due any moment. She scowled at the thought. Prunaprismia was very close, too close to having her child to be attending this gathering but she had no say in what happened with the lives of the nobles. The only thing she was tasked to do was to take care of the Prince.
Said Prince was on the dance floor now with a young girl about his age. He had a smile on his face and the girl had her head ducked hiding the blush on her cheeks as they danced. 'Cute.' His smile was not genuine though; his fake smiles never reached his eyes. Caspian had never really been a fan of the court. All the girls that fawned over him wishing, hoping...dreaming that he would court them and marry them. She would tease him every time he came back from a day in court. Taking a moment in her secluded corner, she watched him. After they had been separated, she had not gotten the chance to see him. His dirt dusted face had been washed as well as his hair showing of the dark hair and tanned skin of his people. He wore essentially the same thing as earlier only his over shirt was much nicer and the color of his kingdom; royal purple. Same as her. Her dress was one of the nicest she had worn since the old days. It had a rounded neckline and the sleeves were three quarter length. Her shoulders were half covered leaving almost too much of her chest and shoulder area exposed. The dress itself was a royal purple with faint gold embroidery around the edges.
Starlight shone through the windows as the night wore on. Her feet were aching terribly as she stood on the corner with her wine pitcher and towel. She had left her spot twice to refill Caspian's cup, both times glad to move from her spot. Loud laughter erupted from the head table where Caspian and his aunt were speaking. Her eyes landed on the Prince and smiled. His laughter died down for a moment as he looked around the room, his gaze landing on her. Her smile broadened as much as his did when they made eye contact briefly before their attention was drawn elsewhere. Next to the Prince, a loud cry escaped from his aunt. Both servant and Prince's eyes switched over to the woman who was clutching her round belly, her face contorted in pain. 'Contractions.' Red liquid spread at her feet as the pitcher of wine fell from her hands shattering on the stone floor. In a flash, she was on her knees by the woman grasping her hand as another wave of pain hit.
"Get her to her room, quickly." She ordered the guards as they appeared at her side. They stared at her for a few moments bewilderment clearly on their faces. "She is going into labor! I suggest you get her out of here." Her voice had turned stern and their eyes widened as they moved to help Prunaprismia out of the banquet hall. After a moment of thought, she stood only to come face to face with Lord Miraz.
"What is going on?" He seethed looking about ready to take her head off.
"My Lord." She dipped her head in respect. "I apologize for my demanding tone with your men but your wife has gone into labor." The look on his face was priceless. One moment he looked ready to throw her out the castle window and the next, he looked like she had just slapped him. She excused herself, moving around the frozen Lord and went after the guards. She caught up as they got to the doors, opening them wide for the men carrying Prunaprismia between them. A few steps in they stopped, looking around not knowing what to do. Luckily for them they did not have to wait too long before the other women came bursting through the doors taking the soon to be mother from their arms.
"Leave! Now!" She ordered pointing to the door. They did not argue as they evacuated from the room just as another agonizing scream echoed off the stone walls. Another, younger girl walked into the room looking nervous. Her eyes flitted around the room and when another scream erupted from behind the screen she jumped, her eyes widening. They made eye contact and she gestured for the girl to come over to her. Hastily the girl did as she was told. "What is your name?"
"Mina." The girl replied, her eyes still as wide as tea saucers.
"How old are you Mina?"
"You want to do me a favor?" She waited a moment for the girl to nod before continuing. "We're going to need lots of towel, a basin of cooled water and new set of sheet for when this is over. Do you think you can do that for me?" The girl nodded and all but ran out of the room. Her hand went to her face, rubbing it vigorously as she attempted to rid her mind of the sleep that was beginning to take her. Her head was beginning to hurt as well and she sighed knowing that tonight was going to be a very long night.
Another scream ripped through the room bringing her attention back to the matter at hand. Prunaprismia was brought out from behind the curtain, newly dressed in her nightgown. The older women helped her up onto the bed, propping her up with many pillows. It would be a while before the baby arrived. Now they waited, for the baby. A wait that took far too long in Drisana's mind.
Contraction after contraction hit Prunaprismia as the night wore on. The women in the room could no longer hear the music or the chattering people coming from the banquet hall. Her guess was that Lord Miraz had sent everyone on his or her way shortly after she had left him there in his state of shock. Apart from the room they were in the castle was quiet. Finally, the worst one hit and many eye contacts later, they knew that the time had come. She moved to the side of the bed, grasping the woman's hand for her to crush.
"Are you ready for this?" She asked with a smile on her face.
"Yes." The woman breathed out, looking at her with wide eyes and she gave her a nod.
"Alright, then I'm gonna need you to crush my hand and push." The first agonizing bawl reverberated through the stone chambers and it took all her own will power not to scream herself as her hand was crushed.
Hours passed too slowly as the woman continued to encourage Prunaprismia and wipe away the sweat on her face. The first of the newborn baby cries filled the room mingled with many relieved sighs. Each woman was panting from holding their breaths too long but they were smiling, glad for it to be over at last. The woman at the end of the bed passed a bundle of towels to the new mother who quickly leaned forward to cradle her baby at her chest. The mother moved the towels back a bit and her heart dropped to her stomach. She smiled nonetheless. Prunaprismia fell back on the bed carefully as she continued to breathe heavily. The new mother glanced at her meeting her gaze, remembering the promise she had made.
"Congratulations, Milady." She said giving the woman a warm smile wiping away her sweaty hair from her forehead. A tired look crossed her face as she played the part perfectly of a very exhausted servant. She was, but she did not have the time for sleep now.
"Go rest Drisana. I am in good hands." She did not have to be told twice. As she left she caught the eyes of another servant, Cora who gave her a nod seemingly knowing what she was about to go do. She left in a hurry, realizing she had lingered too long. As she passed and unveiled window she took note that a lunar eclipse was almost complete in the night sky. Her pace quickened to reach her first destination worried that she was going to run out of time.
Double doors entered her vision. Without much sound, she slipped in, shutting the door carefully. On the far side of the room, a fire raged in its hearth warming the room to a comfortable temperature. in the corner, a desk was covered with books and pieces of parchment. Near the fireplace, a short pudgy man stood gazing up at the stars.
"My child, tell me the news." He had turned towards her upon hearing his title, coming closer and meeting her halfway. Her reply did not need to be vocalized; the water collecting in her eyes was enough to convey the disappointing news. The old man hobbled over to a bookcase that she knew too well. It creaked loudly as it swung outwards revealing a tunnel. She gestured for the old man to go first and she followed right on his heels. They hurried to the other side of the passageway that brought them to their goal faster. As they exited on the other end, the old man did not wait for her as she ensured they were not heard. She caught up easily, her heart hammering in her chest as they approached a familiar set of doors. She was glad when they reached the room that the doors were unlocked but not wide open. A relieved sigh escaped her lips as they entered the untouched room. Cornelius went to the bed while she went to the wardrobe. The back of it had a panel that could be slid out of place revealing yet another tunnel; one that led down close to the armory.
"What is going on?" Caspian's voice sounded scared as he was pulled over to where she stood. "Dris? What..."
"Your aunt has given birth to a son, Caspian." She cut him off. His eyes widened in fear knowing exactly what was about to happen to his room and to him if he did not leave now. He went first into the wardrobe followed by the professor and Drisana whom closed the door behind them. They flew down the stairs pausing only to look back up hearing the Prince's hawk screeching as arrows imbedded themselves into his bed. Newfound determination set in as they exited the tunnel and ran the short distance to the armory.
She quickly fastened a dagger to her hip and a cloak around her shoulders. Leaving the professor to help the Prince, she sprinted to the stables to saddle up Destrier as quickly as she could. A guard came up to her and she had no choice but to face him, showing him the face he would tell Lord Miraz the next. He had his sword drawn as he approached her. When he got close enough she slapped her palms to the flat sides on the blade and twisted underneath of it. The hilt slipped from the man's grasp allowing her to toss it in the air and grip it properly. She was behind him at this point, all it took was a swift hit to the base of his skull, and he was unconscious. Before he fell, she was able to replace his sword in its sheath and lower him to the ground carefully. Fast approaching footsteps startled her and she whipped around to see Caspian and the professor walking towards her.
"Get on." She said flatly holding the reins of his horse. She did not have to repeat herself as he swung himself up into the saddle gracefully. Without a word of warning, she jumped up behind him. He glanced back at her with a questioning look.
"You are coming as well?" He asked softly. She only nodded in response before adjusting to her gaze to the elderly man ready to send them off.
"You must make for the woods."
"The woods?" Caspian looked and sounded alarmed by his tutor's words. His people had long feared the woods because of the possible natives that could still be there.
"They will not follow you there. Trust Drisana, she knows them well." He looked down at his robes pulling something from within and holding it up for Caspian to take. "It has taken me many years to find this. Do not use it except at your greatest need." Caspian took it without question listening until his tutor stopped speaking before placing the wrapped object on his belt.
"Will I ever see you again?"
"I dearly hope so my Prince. There is so much more I meant to tell you." Both men cared deeply for the other. As a father would love his son and a son, would love and admire his father. The sight of them having to part ways saddened her. "Everything you know is about to change." His last words were aimed at her. Their eyes locked on to one another as he spoke, his voice pleading. "Take care of him for me."
"Now go!" The old man slapped the mare's rear and she shot forward. The jolt nearly sent her tumbling off the mare's back and her arms grabbed Caspian's waist in a vice like grip. Bells started tolling as they rode through the courtyard and an order was given to close the drawbridge, echoing across the courtyard to the gatehouse. They were lucky enough that the bridge had barely risen as they crossed over it. Destrier sped through the town passing house after house to escape. They stopped at the edge of the town looking back as fireworks exploded in the night sky. The mare beneath them reared up, causing her grip on Caspian's waist to tighten to keep her in place behind him. One of his hands let go of the reins, gripping her forearm tightly and he did not let go as Destrier landed on all four hooves once again. Shouts sounded from behind them revealing ten soldiers chasing them on horseback. Caspian was not concerned with hurting his mare as he gave her a firm kick to the ribs to get her going once more.
Trees flew by as they sped past. Branches attempted to catch on her dress but none had succeeded in tearing the material, only pulling it up further from where the skirts had risen to her thighs. The high hanging branches were more offensive, tearing at her skin and hair. A couple hit hard enough to split the skin on her legs and cheek allowing small amounts of blood to run down her skin creating an irritating itch. Soon enough a field came into view with the forest they were headed to dead ahead. Glancing back at their pursuers, she let out a vulgar curse upon seeing a few of them with crossbows ready to shoot. They entered the other forest at last, losing the soldiers for a while as they hesitated at the edge. Her eyes stayed focused on the path ahead of them watching for obstacles.
"Have we lost them?" Caspian yelled over the wind.
"Not quite. There is a river just up ahead that we will have to go through." She replied, pressing her chest into his back so she could speak in his ear. They continued one through the night, running from their enemies and she closed her eyes for a moment. She had never been good at it but she reached out with her mind searching for help from her fellow guardians but none of them made their presence known. A loud gasp escaped her lips as cold water hit her legs, slowly rising up to her waist. Caspian turned back to look at her for a moment, offering her a sympathetic smile and a squeeze where his hand still clutched her forearm. Wading through the waist high waters seemed to take forever. Her bare legs ached from the cold and when they hit the rocky bank, the wind only made it worse. She pressed her head between Caspian's shoulder blades groaning as her legs throbbed. Behind them, the soldiers had caught up and were trying to get through the river. Some failed, falling with their steeds into the cold mountain water. They entered the trees yet again staying ahead of their enemies. Caspian whipped his head around to look behind them rewarding her with face and mouthful of hair. His eyes were focused behind them and not in front of them where a low hanging branch was waiting to strike. She saw it and her eyes widened knowing he was going to turn around too late.
"Caspian!" He gave her a look before turning back around in the saddle just in time to be nailed in the forehead with the satisfied branch