Chapter 7: Hope Broken
The sun was setting and Deanna finally relented to being escorted back to her room.
“Goodnight Princess,” Aeon bowed deeply outside her room.
“Goodnight Aeon,” she said, “Thank you for escorting me back to my room.”
“Call on me anytime you should need an escort,” he told her with a smile. He left her at her door and went to his own room. Deanna smiled to herself and entered her room. She pulled off Aeon’s cloak and looked at her damaged dress in her dressing mirror. It was unsalvageable. Deanna refused to remember what Lamont did. Instead she pulled off her dress and threw it to the corner of the room along with the torn petticoats and useless smock. She pulled on her nightgown and then pulled the deep blue cloak back on. It smelled like a mixture of Aeon, a smell of forest and water and man, and the aroma of the flowers. She climbed into her bed, cocooned herself in the cloak and let the pleasing scents relax her to sleep.
A pounding at her door awoke her in the morning.
“Deanna!” her sister called from the other side of the door. She sounded distressed. Deanna immediately went to the door and opened it. Helena rushed in and clasped her sister’s hands
“Oh what have you done, Deanna! Mother is furious. What have you done?”
“I have done nothing. What is the matter? Why is the Queen mother upset?” Deanna asked.
“I’ve been told to bring you to her chambers,” Helena whispered. Deanna’s blood ran cold. Deanna was used to being punished by the Queen, but in her study. She was only asked to the Queen’s chambers once. It was when she was 12. She had been playing in the kitchens with little Trina who was only two years old. Trina wanted so badly to go outside. She kept pulling on her skirts toward the door.
“We can not go out there little one,” Deanna told her. They were dressed in their fanciest dresses because there was to be a great party that evening. Deanna had become distracted by some sweets that a chef walked by with and those few seconds were enough for Trina to toddle her way outside. Deanna quickly went to go get her, but it was to late. She had found a glorious mountain of mud to play in. By the time Deanna dragged her back both of them were covered from head to foot in mud. The Queen was furious. Deanna was dragged to her bedchambers and she was beaten with in an inch of her life and well into unconsciousness. The only thing that saved her was Helena. She begged her mother to stop, but the Queen would not listen until Helena pointed out that the party was in mere minutes and her hair no longer looked presentable. She waved for the guards to take her away while she had Helena fix her hair. It took weeks for Deanna to heal from her injuries.
“I swear to you, Helena, I have done nothing,” Deanna whispered.
“Come,” Helena said, “If we keep her waiting she will send the guards and she will be even angrier.” Deanna quickly changed from Aeon’s cloak into her rob. She followed Helena to the Queen’s chambers. Most of the servants avoided eye contact. The few gave her a look of pity while most others who devoted themselves to the Queen smiled wickedly, knowing what was about to come. When they arrived outside the Queen’s chambers Helena lifted her hand to knock.
“Wait!” Deanna choked out. Helena looked over her shoulder.
“Helena, dear sister,” Deanna said, trying to keep her voice strong, “Please…”
“It will be okay, Deanna,” Helena said, “You say you have done nothing wrong. It must be a misunderstanding or maybe she just wants to speak to you...”
“Listen to me Helena,” Deanna begged, “You are my elder sister and I love you.”
“I love you too, Deanna,” Helena said confused.
“I have never asked you to go against the Queen mother,” Deanna said, “But this once I am asking you to do so.”
“Deanna, I’m sure it is a misunderstanding,” Helena tried to laugh at her sister’s seriousness, but Deanna could see the panic in her eyes and sweat break out on her forehead.
“Do not let her kill me, Helena,” Deanna finally said, “Please sister do this for me.” Helena’s eyes widened.
“She’d never…” Helena started, but she stopped. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them her eyes had changed to look more determined.
“Everything will be okay, Deanna,” Helena whispered. She cupped her sister’s face with both hands and then kissed her forehead. She looked her in the eyes before releasing her and turning back to the door. Her fist only hesitated for a moment before rapping her knuckles on the door.
“Enter,” called a cool voice. Helena and Deanna entered. The room was dark. Deanna noticed the curtains were drawn. The only light came from the roaring fireplace.
“You may leave, Helena,” the Queen said.
“But Mother,” Helena said.
“Leave!” the Queen snapped. Helena turned to Deanna.
“Deanna I’m sorry, I—“
“Leave now or whatever she gets will be ten times worse!” the Queen threatened. Helena gasped. She hung her head and left closing the door behind her. The sound of the door closing was deafening to Deanna. The silence following was worse.
“What have I done wrong, Queen Mother?” Deanna finally asked.
“Do not speak to me unless you have been spoken to!” the Queen snapped.
“I’ve been told you have lain with a man,” the Queen continued and though she could not see her face due to the darkness, Deanna could swear that she was smiling.
“I’ve done no such thing,” Deanna said strongly.
“Lamont,” the Queen called. Lamont stepped forward from the darkest part of the room. Deanna jumped at his sudden appearance. She had no idea he had been there. Instead of saying anything he went to the door and locked it, then handing the key over to the Queen, before finally standing in the fire’s glow, which gave him a ghoulish look.
“I saw her with a man near the back wall of the castle, yesterday afternoon,” Lamont said finally almost gleefully, “Her appearance was quite disheveled when I happened on them. Her gown was cut open to hasten the actions.” Deanna’s mouth dropped.
“That is untrue,” Deanna said.
“Are you calling me a liar?” Lamont suddenly yelled. He went from gleeful to enraged so fast Deanna jumped back, bumping into a side table.
“Are you saying that if we were to go up to your room we would find no evidence of such an occurrence,” the Queen asked calmly. The blood drained from her face. The ripped dress still lay in the corner of the room, not to mention Aeon’s cloak thrown atop her bed.
“I did not lay with him by will, Queen Mother,” Deanna tried, “I was attacked by a man I did not know.” It was Lamont’s word against her own at this point and she knew better than to claim that Lamont was her attacker.
“I got away. I remain untouched,” Deanna finished.
“If you ever were,” Lamont said. Deanna shot daggers at him with her eyes, but he ignored her.
“Are you trying to make my son look like a fool?” the Queen asked with venom in her voice. She suddenly stood up.
“If he saw why did he not help me,” Deanna argued.
“Because you wanted it like the common whore you are,” Lamont spat.
“I wanted no such thing,” Deanna cried.
“Silence!” the Queen bellowed. Deanna’s mouth snapped shut.
“You will be punished, Deanna,” she said calmly again. The way she said her name sounded like she was disgusted that such a name existed.
“Please,” Deanna said quietly. Fear squeezed her heart as the Queen walked forward into the light of the fireplace. She was holding a cane.
“Remove your robe and nightgown,” the Queen ordered.
“What?” Deanna whispered. She had never ordered her to undress before. It was true that sometimes her dress would tear and she would then beat her bare back, but never has she ever made her remove her clothing.
“Remove. Your. Nightgown.” the Queen repeated. She managed to remove her robe and let it fall to the ground, but when Deanna hesitated to remove her nightgown the Queen sighed, looked at Lamont, and then nodded to her. Lamont smiled and walked toward her.
“No!” Deanna screamed. Lamont came upon her and ripped the nightgown from her body until it fell uselessly to the floor. Deanna covered her breasts.
“Arms down and face your back toward me,” the Queen ordered, “Unless you want to scar those pretty breasts you have.” This time Deanna immediately did as she was told, afraid that if she hesitated Lamont would ‘assist’ her again. Deanna turned around and forced her arms to the side. She took a deep breath, but before she could finish her inhale she felt the first crack of the cane. She choked out a scream. As she felt the sting of the second and third crack she bit her lip to force the screams to stay in her throat. She grabbed the side table to better brace herself.
“She looks to be enjoying it, Mother,” Lamont pointed out. Deanna shot a glare at him, but quickly looked away as she noticed him stare at her breasts as they shook with each hit on her back.
“I am old, my Sweet,” the Queen said, “Why not you do it for me.”
“Certainly,” Lamont said, taking the cane from her. Before Deanna could scream no Lamont started his torture. Deanna couldn’t help but scream in pain.
“Mother please,” she heard Helena’s yell through the door, “Do not do this!” Lamont grew harder and faster. Deanna’s screams grew louder. She fell to her knees, hanging on to the side table for dear life.
“Mother!” Helena screamed as she started to bang on the door. Deanna lost count of how many times Lamont hit her with the cane, but it must have been at least 30 before she finally felt the cane break in two.
“Mother, she broke the cane,” Lamont said, sounding like a child tattle- telling.
“Do not worry, Dear,” the Queen cooed. Deanna desperately tried to catch her breath and push herself off the ground, but something sent her reeling back to the ground on all fours. She heard it first, the snap of a whip. Then she felt a small stinging that quickly set her entire back on fire with pain. Deanna screamed at the top of her lungs as the Queen or Lamont, she did not know which, continued to whip her. She continuously heard the sound of the whip seconds before pain wrecked her body.
“Mother please,” Helena screamed, completely hysterical now, “Stop! Do not kill her!” That was it. She was going to die here. There was no longer any hope. She would not die by a stranger’s knife, but by torturous beatings with her sister screaming on the other side of a door.
“Deanna!” Helena resorted to screaming, “Deanna please. I’m so sorry. Mother you can’t! Please take pity. She is the beloved sister of your children. Do not do this!” Deanna’s screams grew quiet, no longer having the effort for such things. Even the whipping seemed to sting less as her back became numb. He eyelids drooped. This was it. She was going to die there. There was no hope. No hope. Finally, Deanna slumped to the floor, unable to hold herself up anymore. It was only then that the whipping’s stopped. Deanna heard the soft click of the lock and the door opened. Footsteps rushed in and a loud screamed penetrated her years.
“You killed her!” Helena screeched, “Deanna!” She dropped to her knees besides Deanna and carefully placed her hand to her cheek.
“I’m so sorry, Deanna, dear baby sister,” Helena cried, “I should have protected you.”
“Helena,” Deanna whispered.
“I am here, Sweetheart,” Helena cooed at her, petting her head, “You will be okay.” Helena straightened up and glared at her mother.
“I cannot love a woman who has tried to kill my dear sister,” Helena spat, “Even if she is the very woman who gave me life.”
“Do not be so dramatic, Sister,” Lamont scoffed.
“You are a dirty rat, Lamont!” Helena snapped.
“I did not try to kill her,” the Queen said, “Why would I kill her when she is to be married tomorrow.”
“What?” Deanna whispered, struggling to lift her head up to look at the Queen. Helena gasped at the sudden news. Even Lamont whipped his head to stare at his mother in shock.
“She is not married yet however, so I as her guardian am acting out her punishment for sleeping with another man,” the Queen sniffed, “Really you should be thanking me for showing restraint that your new husband would surely not be able to. If your punishment were dealt out by him, you would be dead.”
“Thank you Queen Mother,” Deanna whispered. For a whisper was all she could manage. Helena looked down at her in surprised. She had never seen this much obedience from Deanna. Shock entered the Queen’s eyes as well, but only for a moment.
“No matter,” the Queen smiled, “Helena, will see to you.”
“She will not be fit to walk down an aisle and with stand an entire ceremony by tomorrow,” Helena argued.
“She will!” the Queen snapped, “Or she will have brought even more shame to Albarel and I will not tolerate it. I will consider it treason.” Helena gasped.
“But Mother, that is not—” Helena started.
“Do not argue! My word is law!” the Queen suddenly roared. Helena squeaked in fright.
“Make sure she is ready,” the Queen said, back to her calm voice and a smile, “She will marry tomorrow night or she will be put to death the next morning. It is really your choice Deanna dear.” Helena pulled Deanna’s arm around her shoulders and pulled her to her feet. Deanna let out a pathetic whimper as her back moved. Helena carefully started walking to the door, half dragging Deanna along the way.
“Wait,” Deanna croaked. Helena paused at the door.
“May I ask who I am to marry?”
“Oh, do not worry,” the Queen laughed, “You are a princess. I would not marry you off to anyone less than a match to your station. He is prince! The bastard half brother to one of my guests.” Deanna was a little shocked to hear that she would be married to someone in a similar position as her. She could not think on this information for long for as soon ad Helena started to moved again she had to bite back screams of pain. As soon as the door to the Queen’s chambers closed Helena looked around for help. Most of the guards ignored her eye contact, knowing the Queen’s wrath.
“Please help me,” Helena said. One guard snapped into action, glaring at the other guards as he went. He carefully removed Deanna from Helena’s side and picked her up.
“Be careful,” Helena begged.
“Yes your highness,” the guard said, “But what did she do to deserve such punishment?”
“Nothing,” Helena snapped, “My sister is an angel undeserving of such hate.”
“Yes your highness,” the guard quickly apologized, “I did not mean any disrespect.” Helena sighed.
“Quickly,” she ordered. The guard followed Helena to Deanna’s bed chambers and rested her face down on the bed.
“Fetch me a doctor,” Helena ordered once he set her down.
“I can fetch the palace doctor, but you know that he is one of the Queen’s confidants. I’m just not sure…” the guard trailed off.
“Don’t bother,” Deanna mumbled, “I can tell you what to do Helena, get me some paper and ink and I’ll write down what you’ll need.” Deanna knew that Helena could dress her wounds proficiently, which meant that all she needed was to send her to get a few plants to help speed up her healing and safeguard against any infection. Both Helena and the guard leaves. Deanna laid on her bed. She couldn’t help, but notice Aeon’s cloak underneath her. She breathed in, smelling his scent still lingering. It relaxed her a bit.
So she was going to be married? Wasn’t that what she had been hoping for. A way to escape? So why did she feel so sad? Whoever this bastard prince was, he was going to take her away from there, out of the Queen’s grasps. And the man who was to take her away, he was sure to understand her. He was sure to know what it was like to be of royal blood, but not be fit to be in the royal line. Surely they’d get along, right? Deanna sighed. If she could manage to pull herself together she’d be able to escape. The Queen could be rid of her, Helena would be able to marry her prince without worry, and she herself would be free. She closed her eyes, deciding to sleep until Helena returned.