Chapter 6: "Be a rose"
Deanna walked through the village carrying a basket full of roots, herbs, and flowers from the royal gardens. She kept her hood up in order to hide her face. She wasn’t worried about people recognizing her. Most villagers were pretty friendly. It was only the servants who were fiercely loyal to the Queen that scowled at her and spit at her feet as she walked by as If she were a disease. But the villagers treated her as if she was any one of her sisters and normally she gladly would stop with anyone of them and trade pleasantries. However, she did not want to explain the red hue that painted her face. She couldn’t believe all she admitted to Aeon. She had never admitted such things to herself much less to a strange man. What came over her? What made her think she could bare her soul to him? For all she knew he could go right to the Queen and tell her what she did. She didn’t even swear him to secrecy before slamming her door in his face. Yet she somehow knew he wouldn’t tell the Queen. She knew he would keep her secret.
Deanna approached the hospital. She took a few deep breaths before going in. She had visited the school first to bring them special cakes made in the castle’s kitchen. They immediately noticed her too rosy cheeks. If children could tell something was amiss, she had no doubt adults would. She took on more deep breath before pushing down her hood pushing past the cloth hanging in the doorway.
“Princess Deanna!” a few patients greeted.
“Hello, Princess,” the healer said walking up to her with a warm smile.
“Hello, I’ve brought some plants I think might be helpful,” Deanna said holding out her basket. The healer shifted through the basket and then smiled up at her.
“You know your plants as always, Princess,” he said as he took the basket from her. Deanna walked further in. Saying hi to a few patients who had been there awhile, introducing herself to the new patients who gawked at a princess in a village hospital, and the few helpers that helped the healer tend to the patients. Finally she reached the back where a child sat on a bed playing with a fancy doll. Her large blue eyes looked up at Deanna.
“Pwincess!” the child squealed.
“Hello Piper,” Deanna smiled sitting down next to her.
“Pwincess, guess what,” Piper said excitedly, “I’m allowed to go home. Mama is coming to get me later today!” Deanna hugged her. Piper had been sick for so long. Deanna had done everything in her power to help her recover. She brought extra plants she thought might help from the royal gardens. She snuck cakes, and sweets from the kitchen to give to her. She even gave her one of the expensive dolls her father had bestowed to her as a present when she was small, which Piper now hugged tightly.
“I’m so happy you are feeling better now,” Deanna gave her a little squeeze. The girl will never know how close she had come to death.
“Will you play with me until Mama gets here?” Piper asked.
“I can’t,” Deanna said, “I only stopped by really quick to check on you. I promised my elder sister I wouldn’t be gone long this time.” Piper frowned.
“Are you feeling all wight Pwincess,” she asked, “Your face is all wed.” Deanna cursed to herself.
“I’m fine I promise,” Deanna assured her, “My sister just needs me.” Piper looked at her suspiciously.
“Okay,” she finally said, “Come back to the village to visit soon okay?”
“Okay,” Deanna agreed and gave her another hug before going to meet the healer up front. The healer gave her back the basket.
“Thank you again, Princess, although you need not waste your time bringing us these plants. I can find them easily out in the forest,” the healer said.
“The forest is a half a day’s journey from here,” Deanna said, “The royal gardens is so close. It should be put to good use.”
“You have a big heart,” the healer said, “I think the people here heal faster due to your beauty rather than the plants you bring with you.”
“Thank you for you kindness healer,” Deanna smiled, “I shall be back soon.” Deanna pulled her hood back up and left the hospital.
Deanna climbed over the wall where she had helped Mary escape the night before. Back on castle grounds. Deanna scoffed to herself. As a woman with royal blood flowing through her veins, this should be the safest place for her, yet this is where she’s shut away from anyone to see. This was where the Queen tried to get rid of her by forcing a poor girl to try to kill her and then sentence that maid to death for failing. Deana kicked the grass as she walked. Her father was right. She was in danger, but how was she to escape? She couldn’t bare the thought of leaving her siblings, but what choice did she have? She looked over her shoulder at the horizon just beyond the wall. She had to leave. Besides, if she were gone Helena could marry Prince Francis. She had mentioned that he was becoming weary with her pushing out their engagement. This way Helena could finally stop worrying and have her happily ever after like in the fairy tales and that’s all she wanted for Helena.
Deanna made her way back to the kitchens. She was about to turn the corner when something suddenly and violently shoved her up against the wall. Her head cracked against the stonewall bringing tears to her eyes. A hand covered her mouth while an arm was shoved against her throat, keeping her pinned to the wall. Deanna was shocked to see her attacker. Lamont. The Queen wouldn’t send her own son to kill her would she? That was far too risky. What if someone saw? It was still daylight. But who would really speak out against the future king for a bastard princess? Deanna struggled against Lamont arm.
“Hello little sister,” Lamont smiled at her. Deanna tried to scream underneath his hand.
“You know I’ve hated you since you were born and your filthy whore mother,” he spat, sending drops of spit all over her face. Deanna managed to open her mouth just enough to bite the palm of his hand. He yelped and pulled his hand away with an angry growl.
“Let me go Lamont,” Deanna ordered.
“Father always liked you the most,” Lamont ignored her as he searched for something on his belt with his free hand.
“Father loved all of us… equally,” Deanna wheezed as Lamont increase pressure on her throat, “Please Lamont.”
“I hated seeing your smiling face when Father praised you or when you played with Helena. Why should the daughter of a whore have such happiness?” Lamont pulled a dagger out of the sheath on his waist. Deanna’s eyes grew wide as the weapon glimmered in the sunlight. She put all her strength into pushing Lamont away, but he was much stronger than her and was much bigger than her slight frame.
“I’m going to take away that happiness,” Lamont said.
“Please Lamont, do not do this,” Deanna begged, “You will not receive happiness from killing me.”
“Kill you?” Lamont laughed, “You’re right. I would not receive happiness from your death where you can rest in peace with our father. No I’m going to take from you what every maiden saves for their husband.” He suddenly thrust the dagger between her breast and cut through the cloth there.
“Lamont no! You can’t!” Deanna struggled and kicked her feet out hoping she’d make contact with him hard enough for him to let go, but she was having no such luck. He only pressed his arm harder into her throat. She was starting to get dizzy from lack of air.
“I can and I will. You shouldn’t be sad though. It’s not like any man wants a bastard for a wife anyways. At least now you can experience the touch of a man before you die,” Lamont said. He brought the dagger down further and further. The sound of her dress tearing was deafening. She could feel the warm air tickle her skin, following after the cold slice of the dagger dragging across her skin as it shredded the cloth.
“But Lamont it is wrong,” Deanna tried to argue, “I am your sister.” Suddenly Lamont removed his arm from her throat. She dropped to her feet. She hadn’t even realized that he had been holding her off the ground. Lamont grabbed a fistful of her hair and threw her to the ground. Deanna coughed and wheezed, trying to catch her breath not even having the strength to sit up.
“You are not my sister,” Lamont yelled, “You are a daughter of a whore which means you yourself are a whore too. And I will do what is to be done with a whore!” He then bent over and used the dagger on her skirt and pettycoats, cutting through the layers one by one. Deanna had no strength to fight him off. She only tried to pathetically crawl away, only to be yanked back and slapped in the face.
“Please stop Lamont,” Deanna said hoarsely as he finished cutting through her skirts so he could flip them open for easy access. He was reaching for his own belt when suddenly he was yanked away and thrown to the ground.
“I should cut off your hands for laying them on a lady in such a way.” Deanna looked up and gasped. Aeon stood in place of Lamont. His large shadow covered her from the sun. He stood with his back to her, facing Lamont.
“Who the hell are you?” Lamont demanded, “Do you know who I am? How dare you threaten me!”
“I do not care who you are,” Aeon said fiercely, “If you were at all smart you will walk away before I act on behalf of my threat.” Lamont glared at Deanna until he noticed Aeon start to reach for the sword on his hip.
“This is not over,” he said before turning away and stomping off. Deanna couldn’t tell if he was speaking to Aeon or her. She decided not to put anymore thought to figuring it out and focused on rearranging her skirts to cover her legs back up while clutching together the front of her dress.
Aeon was full of rage. He had been walking around the castle and outside in the gardens searching for Deanna. He was weary of her whereabouts since the other day when she was almost assassinated. He decided to go check by the wall where she let the maid escape. The sight of her on the ground crying as a strange man leaned over her with a dagger in his hands. He hadn’t even felt himself move. He only remembered see the sight and then seeing Prince Lamont, Deanna’s own older brother and future King of Albarel on the ground glaring up at him. He quickly glanced back at Deanna who was still lying back gasping up at the sky. He could see her bare legs with her skirts cut and pushed to the side. He could also see her heaving breasts barely covered by the remains of the top half of her dress. He saw red. He wanted so bad to chase after the bastard and end his life for daring to touch Deanna. However, he was more concerned with tending to her right now, but the man was right, it was not over. Aeon turned to Deanna. She had sat up and was fussing with her skirt trying to cling to the amount and dignity she still possessed. Her cheeks were a bright pink and littered with tears. Her breath came out of her lips in little puffs. Her hair was a tangled mess. Aeon’s heart broke a little. He crouched down in front of her.
“Did he touch you?” he questioned. She glanced up at him, blushed an even deeper pink, and then stared back down and rearranged her skirts again even though they were already arranged to where no one could even tell they were cut.
“No,” she whispered. Her voice was scratchy. Aeon put his finger under her head and tipped her head up. He could see a mark where he must have shoved his arm against her neck. He softly tested the tenderness of her throat. She hissed in pain at the slightest touch.
“Tis going to become a very nasty bruise,” Aeon said, letting her chin fall back down, “Are you injured any where else?” Deanna shook her head. She still didn’t look at him. She only look down at her lap and clutched the fabric of the front of her dress closed. Aeon stood up and pulled off his cloak.
“Here,” he said as he draped it over her. The deep blue cloak fell over her shoulders and closed over her chest and hands. Deanna clutched the cloak tighter around her.
“Let me escort you back to your room,” Aeon suggested as he put his hand out to her. When she didn’t take his hand, he began to worry. She only sat there staring at her lap. He crouched down again. She was shaking. She squinted as the sun hit her eyes. He pulled the hood up over her head and cupped her cheek.
“Better?” he questioned. She finally looked up at him and gave a slight nod, leaning into his palm.
“How about a walk in the gardens?” he suggested instead. She nodded and put out her hand. He took it and brought them both up to their feet. He hooked her arm through his and escorted her to the gardens. As they entered the gardens Aeon heard Deanna breath a sigh of relief. She took a deep breath and then another as if trying to breath in the aroma of the flowers as much as she could.
“Which is you favorite?” Aeon asked. She looked up at him.
“Favorite?” Her face looked relaxed now, Aeon noted.
“Favorite flower,” Aeon clarified.
“Oh!” a look of excitement suddenly overcame her, “Come I’ll show you.” She tugged on his arm and led him down a less tended trail where the flowers seemed to have grown tangled and wild. The garden was larger than he expected. The trail grew smaller and he was forced to trail after her with her hand in his. They finally came to what looked like a dead end. Nothing to see, but an over grown hedge, but she continued to walk. She pushed her hand into a small opening and then they heard a click. Aeon was shocked when Deanna pushed against the hedge revealing a secret door.
“My father used to take my mother here in secret,” Deanna explained as she ushered him through the door, “He showed me this place. The Queen does not know about it. No one knows about it. I have never even told Helena. This is MY garden.” Aeon was amazed at what he saw. The ground was covered in soft blue grass and green moss. The trees were large and luscious. There even hung a swing from one tree. And there were flowers everywhere. Blues and purples and reds and yellows. He had never seen a place so colorful before; never in his life.
“You are showing this to me?” Aeon questioned. Deanna looked at him and blushed.
“Think of it as a thank you,” she said quietly. It wasn’t a large garden, but it was beautiful. He could see grey stonewalls around it nearly hidden by thick green vines.
“Your father built this?” Aeon questioned.
“The Queen has a sneezing fits around flowers,” Deanna said wrinkling her nose, “When he married her she threatened to get rid of the royal gardens. He convinced her not to, but he was afraid that someday she would change her mind so he had this secret one built. I imagine the only reason the royal gardens have lasted as long as they have with her as queen is because Albarel is known for its beautiful garden, but I imagine with my father’s passing it won’t last much longer.”
“From the way you speak I can only imagine your father did not treat you the way the Queen does,” Aeon assumed.
“He loved me as much as his other children,” Deanna replied with a sad smile, “He must have as he went through such shame to name me a princess when I had no such right.”
“Things done out of love are not shameful, Deanna,” Aeon said. She looked at him at the sound of her name.
“Was it not you who said love is only for poems and sonnets?” she pointed out, “That this was not a world of love.”
“Yes, but that does not mean love does not exist and when it is found it is not shameful to hold on to it, fight for it, and die for it,” Aeon said.
Deanna stared at the man before her. He was the one who warned her against living by love, but now he told her there was nothing shameful about it? He was a very confusing man. He stared back at her intently. She started to grow embarrassed and broke eye contact. She walked to the corner of her little garden and Aeon followed.
“This is my favorite flower,” she finally answered. He leaned over to inspect the pretty white flowers growing on a tiny tree. The petals were delicate and had a yellow dusting in the center. Aeon reached out, but Deanna pulled his hand away.
“You mustn’t touch,” she warned, “It is called a plumeria. Its sap is very irritating when you get it on your skin, but if you crush the flower petals you can use it as a perfume.” Aeon stared at her face as she talked about the little flowers.
“My father and I planted this here when I was younger. It’s small now; shorter than I am, but eventually it will be twice my height. It needs lots of water I come at least every other day to give it extra water, except in the rainy season. It also needs plenty of sunlight which isn’t an issue here in Albarel…” Deanna realized she was starting to babble, but Aeon didn’t stop her. He just watched her and listened.
“What is your favorite flower,” Deanna asked suddenly, “Or does the captain of the guard have a favorite flower?” Aeon laughed. She decided he had a good laugh.
“I’m quite fond of roses, especially the red ones,” Aeon answered. Deanna smiled and took his hand and led him to a different part of the garden near the entrance. Deanna watched Aeon as he looked on in awe at the giant rose bush that grew there with hundreds of blood red rose buds scattered throughout.
“They are wild roses,” she told him.
“What makes them wild?” Aeon questioned.
“My father never planted them,” Deanna shrugged, “He tells me that they just showed up one day. They grew stronger and stronger, taking up space and taking away soil from other plants. He found them quite annoying actually.”
“Why did he not simply cut them away?”
“My mother loved them,” Deanna sighed, “She thought they were a sign. Of what, my father did not know. I think they are beautiful and I can understand my mother’s love for them, but my father was right. It seems like every year they grow larger and larger and push out others trying to enjoy the earth. Stubborn things.”
“There is nothing wrong with being stubborn to survive and thrive,” Aeon said. His tone had changed. She looked at him. He had a very serious face as he looked at her. The memories of the night before flooded in her mind.
“I’m afraid you know far too much about me sir,” Deanna mumbled.
“Is that bad, Princess?” Aeon questioned. Deanna wasn’t sure. She did not know this man, but she could be honest with him in a way she could not be with anyone else. Even Helena. She always protected Helena from the turmoil in her mind. She did not wish to put her in between her half sister and her mother although the Queen did such things frequently. Deanna knew that if she asked Helena to choose between her mother and Deanna, she would break and so Deanna never did, though she knew that the Queen soon would. And when Helena chose, Deanna was so fearful that she would not be the one chosen. And then what? She would have no one. That sounds rather lonely. Aeon’s words from the night before floated through her mind. Was she willing to live a lonely life? But if the Queen got what she wanted then she wouldn’t live at all.
“Deanna?” Aeon questioned.
“I do not know what to do,” Deanna whispered. A tear slipped from her eye. Aeon cupped her cheek and wiped the tear away with his thumb.
“Be a rose,” he answered.