Chapter 5: Honor to Love
Deanna woke up to a knock on her door. Her first thought was maybe that Aeon would be on the other side of that door, but that was silly. She stood up and stretched. Her back was a little stiff as she stretched it out, but she did not feel any pain anymore. She padded across the cold floor and opened the door. Mary, a scullery maid from the kitchen stood there with a small covered platter in her hands.
“Good morning princess,” she said with a small smile. Deanna liked Mary. She was around the same age as Dillon. With a tragic past, she was orphaned at a young age and sent to work in the royal kitchens. Deanna often talked to her when she was hiding out from the Queen in the kitchen, which was her second favorite place side from the gardens. After the King died and the Queen forced her up into the tower, Mary volunteered to bring Deanna her breakfast each morning and her supper each evening. They would talk and Mary would catch her up on gossip from around the castle.
“Good morning, Mary!” Deanna greeted stepping aside to let her in, “What news have you brought for me today?” Mary walked into the room and set the platter of food onto a small table in the corner of the room.
“Um, no news today,” Mary said quietly.
“No news?” Deanna questioned. That was strange. There was always news. Mary would tell her about the smallest things. She never came to her with no news.
“How can that be,” Deanna laughed, “Berta is a wild one. You have nothing to even tell me about her?” Berta was the queen of the kitchens. She ruled everyone with an iron fist. She loved Mary, but Mary often told stories of getting her backside tanned by Berta’s wooden stool for her clumsiness.
“Nothing comes to mind,” Mary replied awkwardly, “Why don’t you eat your breakfast. Berta made your favorite.” Mary uncovered the platter to show a delightful looking breakfast, but Deanna could not get past her oddness.
“I am not yet hungry,” she said, “Come Mary. Come brush my hair and tell me your stories.” Deanna took her hand and gently pulled her over to her vanity. She sat down on the bench and placed the brush in the girl’s quivering hands. She unbraided her hair and smiled up at Mary through the mirror.
“Well, Lucas stopped by to see Melody again yesterday,” Mary said as she started to brush Deanna’s hair.
“Really?!” Deanna gushed, “See, I knew you were holding back on me. What did Melody say?”
“She sent him away again,” Mary answered.
Deanna sighed, “When is she going to realize that Lucas is a fine man with enough money to support her and whatever little ones they have. They are perfect for each other.”
“She is holding out for Samuel,” Mary replied. She seemed to be relaxing to the Mary Deanna was used to.
“Samuel is no good. He tries to woo every woman he meets,” Deanna said, “I’m surprised he hasn’t charmed his way into being the Queen’s consort.” Mary’s face paled at mention of the Queen.
“Mary?” Deanna questioned as her friend’s hand stilled, “Mary are you okay? You look unwell.” Deanna turned to face her friend only to see a dagger in the hand she used to brush her hair and the brush on the floor.
“I am sorry, princess,” Mary whispered. Tears rolled down her face.
“Sorry for what? Mary?!” Deanna screamed as Mary suddenly brought the dagger down toward her. Deanna dived onto the floor, narrowly missing the dagger. Deanna scrambled to her feet to get to the door, but Mary tackled her to the ground knocking over the bench on the way. Deanna screamed as Mary again tried to plunge the dagger into Deanna’s body. She clutched Mary’s wrist and pushed it away.
“Mary, get ahold of yourself!” Deanna yelled.
“I am sorry, princess,” Mary wailed as she pushed the dagger closer and closer to Deanna’s neck, “I have to do this. She’s making me!”
“Who,” Deanna asked, “Who is making you?” Mary just wept over Deanna as she brought the dagger down, sure to be a deadly blow. Suddenly the door was thrown open and Mary was tackled to the ground. Deanna sat up to see Aeon pinning Mary to the ground. Mary screamed in fright.
“Please do not hurt her,” Deanna begged. Prince Maxim knelt down next to Deanna.
“Are you okay, princess?” he asked. Deanna nodded. Guards entered the room. Prince Maxim explained that they heard screaming and when they came to investigate they saw Mary over her with the dagger. The guards dragged Mary off.
“Why was she trying to kill you?” Prince Maxim asked.
“She did not mean it,” Deanna sighed now sitting on her bed staring at the uneaten breakfast Mary had brought her.
“She sure looked like she meant it to me,” Aeon scoffed. Deanna shot him a glare.
“If you will excuse me.” Deanna said, “I am not yet dressed so I would ask you to please leave.” Maxim looked at her a little surprised, but gave a quick nod before leaving followed by Aeon who gave her one last worried look before closing the door behind him.
“Dillon!” Deanna said, surprised to see him at her door later that day.
“I heard you were attacked,” Dillon said as he entered her room, surveying it as if to see the remains of a deadly brawl. He saw none.
“Yes, how fairs Mary, my attacker,” Deanna demanded.
“How fairs she!” Dillon repeated in disgust, “She is to be put to death for treason of course. The execution will happen at sunrise tomorrow.”
“No!” Deanna cried.
“Why does this upset you,” Dillon asked confused. Deanna worried her lip wondering if she should be honest and tell her that it was his own mother who ordered Mary to attack her. The rest of her siblings did not have the same relationship with the Queen as she did. The Queen cherished her children as much as any other mother. Lilia and Trina often still hid behind her skirts when they were frightened while she smiled softly at them and patted their heads. Dillon often shows off his training to her while she cheers him on happily. She showers Helena with gifts and affection and praises Lamont on his leading skills. It was only Deanna she treated with disgust. Lamont and Helena were fully aware of this. While Lamont shared his mother’s distaste, Helena pitied her dear sister. Dillon noticed his mother’s hatred of Deanna, but he didn’t quite understand and felt foolish about asking. Trina was too young to know that her mother treats Deanna differently. Lilia, a very bright young girl, knew all too well how the Queen hated Deanna so, fore she would hide behind the curtains of Helena’s room way after her bedtime to listen to her older sisters while Helena tended to Deanna’s whippings from the Queen.
“I believe it to be a misunderstanding,” Deanna lied.
“How,” Dillon questioned.
“Just trust me,” Deanna urged him.
“Alright,” Dillon agreed, “I’ll go tell mother.”
“No!” Dillon froze with his hand on the door handle to scamper off to tell his Mother.
“You mustn’t do such a thing,” Deanna said pulling her brother into a tight hug.
“Do not tell Queen Mother about this talk,” she begged, “I beseech you do not. I will take care of this matter. Promise me you’ll tell no one.” Dillon looked up at her. She was acting rather queer, but he agreed to keep quiet.
“Here,” Deanna went to her table and grabbed a letter, “Take this to Helena.” Dillon nodded and left. She sat before her window and looked out the window. The sun was low in the sky. She had to do something to help Mary. But what?
Aeon waited for Maxim to arrive. He should be back by now. He left to speak to the Queen after dinner and not the sun had set. He had tried to entertain himself by staring out the window, but ended up pacing in front of it instead. He resolved to sit, but ended tapping his foot, which ended up annoying himself. When Maxim finally arrived he was on the brink of madness.
“Well?” Aeon asked before he even had the chance to shut the door.
“The Queen has agreed,” Maxim sighed, “Provided I become her consort.”
“Stop you’re shuddering Max,” Aeon scolded, “This ruse will only last a bit longer. You will not have to become her consort. When will it be?”
“Day after tomorrow,” Max replied, “It seems she’s eager to rid herself of such a nuisance.”
“That only means that we won’t be here much longer,” Aeon said.
“Thank heavens!” Max exhaled, “Where are you going?” Aeon was already part way out the door.
“To talk to the men. Make preparations,” he replied.
“Would you like me to come with you?” Maxim offered. Aeon waved him away and shut the door behind him. Just as he shut the door, the door next door opened. He stayed back in the shadows as a dark haired girl stuck her head out. She looked around before tiptoeing out and quietly shutting the door behind her. Where was she stealing off to in the cover of night, Aeon wondered? Before Aeon could think better of it, he followed her down the stairs and through the castle. She snuck outside through the kitchens where only a poor watchdog slept. She paused to give it a pat. It looked up at her with sweet eyes and thumped its tail on the ground, before falling back asleep. As Aeon passed it, it merely looked up at him expectantly. He patted the dog as well and stole outside. He watched her travel past her precious gardens and passed what looked like a training area for knights. Finally she stopped at a corner. Around the corner Aeon could see a mean looking guard standing watch. Behind him was a heavy metal door presumably heavily locked. It must be the dungeon. What was she doing? Instead of walking to the guard though, she scuttled across the path while the guard briefly checked his surroundings. She dived into some bushes. Aeon, not wanting to lose track of her, followed her lead and also ducked into the bushes. He crouched in the bushes and walked, wondering where she went, when she saw her pressed up against a wall just behind the guard. Aeon couldn’t leave the bushes without being seen by either her or the guard. She followed the wall until she came to a crack just big enough to squeeze through. Aeon sighed. With his large frame there was no way her could fit through that crack which meant he could follow her no further. Aeon waited a few minutes to see if she’d come back out. And indeed she did. She watched the guard as she waited by the crack. Out of the crack came the girl who had attacked her. She waved to the girl to follow. They dived back into the bushes just as the guard was about to spot them. Aeon could still see them though as they continued on until they made it to the back castle wall.
“Why would you do this Princess?” the girl asked once she was sure no one was listening. Of course Aeon was, hidden behind a large leafy tree.
“You did not mean it,” Deanna said. The girl burst into tears.
“You were always so kind to me. You were my friend,” she sobbed, “I deserve such a punishment.”
“You do not deserve death,” Deanna scolded, “I know you would never hurt me unless you were forced to. Now…” Deanna pulled off her dark cloak and draped it over the girl, “There is food and money in the pockets. You must flee as far as you can before day breaks.”
“Thank you Princess,” the girl cried. Deanna gave her a quick hug before helping her up a tall tree resting against the tall wall. The girl was up and over the wall in no time. Deanna smiled to herself and wiped a tear from her eyes. Aeon came out from his hiding place.
“You set free your would be assassin?” Aeon questioned. Deanna jumped.
“Whose there?” she snapped.
“Tis only me,” Aeon said as he came nearer to her. Deanna could now see that it was Aeon, but it did not cause her breathing to even out.
“You followed me?” Deanna questioned.
“I wanted to know what a princess was doing out so late past her bedtime,” Aeon smiled. Deanna glared at him. She walked past him.
“Why did you let her go?” Aeon asked as he fell in step next to her.
“She was not an assassin,” Deanna said simply.
“I saw her myself, Princess. She was a merely a hair’s length away from spilling your blood.” He noticed the color run from Deanna’s face.
“Be that as it may, she was not the one that wanted me dead,” she argued.
“Then who is it that wants you dead?” Aeon asked. She paused in walking and stared at his face quizzically.
“Tis no secret who hates me so,” Deanna said low. Indeed it would not be hard for Aeon to guess who.
“Why not run away with that girl then?” Aeon questioned. Deanna looked at him briefly before continuing on.
“I loved my father. I love my little brother and sisters and Helena. I love the people. I love my home. There is only one who I don’t love and that one is not enough to scare me off no matter the hardships.” Aeon looked down at her. She was truly someone to admire wasn’t she. That or she was just plain dumb.
“You sound like a woman with much honor and duty,” he remarked. She looked at him surprised.
“You are mistaken sir,” she replied, “I was not born out duty nor honor. I was born simply out of love and that is how I will live and die.”
“This is not a world of love, Princess,” Aeon said, “Love is for poems and sonnets.”
“I choose not to live in your world then,” Deanna shrugged. She quickly hid her face and linked her arm through Aeon’s as they walked past the guard who still stood watch unbeknownst him of his missing prisoner. She released his arm and stepped away when they were out of eyesight. Aeon frowned slightly at the action.
“What world will you live in then,” Aeon questioned once they turned around the corner and head back toward the kitchens.
“I do not know,” Deanna replied.
“Who will live in your world with you?” Aeon watched her pat the dog’s head again as they entered the kitchen.
“No one I imagine,” Deanna said in a soft voice.
“That sounds rather lonely,” Aeon whispered after her as they lightly stepped through the halls and up the stairs.
“Not for long,” Deanna replied with a shrug.
“What do you mean?” Deanna looked back at him and gave him a sad smile as if to pity him.
“I told you tis no secret who hates me and I imagine that it will not be long until she gets her way,” she sighed as they reached the top of the stairs.
“You have no hope for yourself?” Aeon asked, rather shocked by her revelation.
“I hope and I dream,” she replied, “But I am not dim. I know the reality of my situation and I find it less fearsome if I accept it, though I hope that it does not end up so.”
“You do not deserve this Deanna,” Aeon said, breaking the formalities and the whispers. Deanna smiled.
“How do you know,” she almost laughed, “You have only just met me. I could be a retched girl deserving of such hate.”
Aeon grabbed her hand and squeezed, “You do not deserve this Deanna.” Deanna’s smile dropped. Tears started to flood her eyes. She snatched her hand away.
“Yes well…” she scrambled to get back to the formality of strangers they had some how lost, “Good night sir Aeon. Pleasant dreams.” She rushed into her room barely hearing Aeon say, “Sweet dreams, Princess,” before shutting the door.