Survival of the Rose

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Chapter 9: Freedom

Deanna was leaning on Helena as she helped her from the ballroom. She kept tripping on the skirts to her dress. They didn’t have time to mend Helena’s dress to fit her shorter stature nor did Deanna own any dresses for such an occasion as her own wedding! Deanna still was shocked by the events. She never expected to get married. She would believe her murdered before she’d believe herself married, but here she was, a married woman. And to a bastard prince no less! She guessed that the Queen was pleased to marry her off to someone with such a lowly title, but Deanna thought it absolutely wonderful. She would no longer be miserable. She would not be scared in her own home, for she was the wife of someone she already knew. Aeon seemed kind and intelligent. He did not seem to think her to be on a lower level than himself like every other noble person has. She already liked her husband. Maybe she could even grow to love…

Deanna cried out as her dragging skirts sent her to the ground in front of the stairs. Her back burned. Helena tried to help her back to her feet, but Deanna gently pushed her away.

“Give me a moment,” Deanna said. She tried to take deep breaths that she desperately needed, but each breath cause the skin on her back to tighten. She tried to focus on something other than the pain. Aeon’s face drifted into her head. He had shaved. He looked a lot younger with a clean face. He couldn’t be much older than Helena, if at all. And his clothes really made him look like a prince. She couldn’t believe he was a prince. Why did he tell her he was the captain of the guard? Why did he lie? Deanna suddenly felt annoyed. What about her would make Aeon feel like she had to be lied to? She had always been completely honest with him, though she did not know why? She thought back to the first time she saw him out the tower window of her bedroom. He arrived with the rest of the royal suitors to the Queen. He couldn’t have been a suitor, could he? Is that why he lied about being a prince? So she wouldn’t find out he was actually trying to win the Queen’s heart. Then why marry her?

Deanna’s annoyance gave wave to anger as Prince Maxim walked up to them.

“Is she okay?” he asked Helena.

“I’m fine,” Deanna snapped.

“We have to get you up to your room, Deanna,” Helena said, “Do you think you can get up the stairs?” Deanna looked up the stairs. Getting down them was pure torture that nearly made her pass out. She couldn’t imagine walking up them.

“Just let me sit here,” Deanna said.

“In the middle of the floor? That can’t be comfortable,” Prince Maxim said, “Besides we have to redress your wounds and get you prepared for travel. I can’t imagine we’ll be sticking around much longer with the scene that’s going on back there.”

“I’m staying right here,” Deanna stated stubbornly.

“What?” Prince Maxim said a bit shocked.

“You and your brother lied to me,” Deanna suddenly accused.

“What?” Prince Maxim repeated.

“You told me, Aeon was captain of the guard not a prince!”

“Well about the prince thing, you see, Aeon is…” Prince Maxim started to explain, but was interrupted as his brother prowled up to them.

“I thought I told you to see them to her room?” Aeon asked, annoyed.

“She won’t move,” Prince Maxim shrugged. Aeon looked down at Deanna who glared up at him. He bent over and picked her up.

“Put me down,” Deanna yelled out as Aeon gently put her over his shoulder as not to disturb her wounds and started up the stairs.

“Why such resistance?” he asked.

“You lied to me,” Deanna snapped. Helena and Prince Maxim quickly ran up the stairs after the two.

“How so?” Aeon asked simply. His demeanor seemed to instantly change from angered to somewhat amused as he carried her up the stairs and down the hall to her room.

“I thought you were captain of the guard not a prince!” Deanna grumbled as Helena opened the door to her room and Aeon finally set her down softly on her bed.

“Well technically he’s not a prince,” Prince Maxim pointed out, closing the door behind them.

“Quiet Max!” Aeon shot a look at his brother.

“Bastard prince, whatever,” Deanna corrected, “Still not captain of the guard like you two told me.”

“We did not lie my Rose,” Aeon said softly, sending butterflies through Deanna’s stomach, “I truly am captain of the guard in sorts. They follow my every order. We just left out my other title.” Aeon ended with a shrug and Deanna shooed away the butterflies.

“Leaving out the truth is the same as lying,” Deanna said.

“Be that as it may, there is no use arguing about it now,” Aeon dismissed, “You are my wife now and I intend to take you back to Summoner. Max, fill that trunk with her things. Princess, if you could please treat her wounds as best you can. We must make haste.” Helena nodded and helped Deanna to lay on her stomach and pull her torn bodice from her back.

“If you don’t mind me asking, why such rush?” Helena questioned.

“I’m afraid I did not part with the Queen on good terms,” Aeon sighed, “We must leave as soon as possible.”

“You did not say anything that you should not have did you?” Deanna asked through winces as Helena removed the soiled bandages. Aeon looked down at her. His eyes skimmed across her back as they made their way to her face. By the time they got there, she could see the anger behind them.

“No one lays a hand on what is mine,” Aeon said seriously, “Queen or peasant, no one so much as scratches what’s mine and doesn’t come to regret it.”

“I was not your wife when I was punished,” Deanna murmured. She could not stop the blush that touched her cheeks as she said wife for the first time.

“I had plans to marry you since we met in the gardens,” Aeon replied. Helena gave a little gasp at the admission, but hurriedly got back to rubbing medicine on her sister’s back.

“Why did you lie to me, Aeon,” Deanna asked calmly. He was clearly not there to woo the Queen so why was he there.

“We received a letter from your father,” Aeon said. This time both Helena and Deanna gasped. Deanna knew that her father had sent out letters, desperately trying to find her an escape, but she also knew that all of those letters were intercepted by the Queen and destroyed. To think that one manage to slip past the Queen was almost unbelievable.

“You see, our fathers were old friends apparently and the King of Albarel wrote our father for a favor,” Max explained as he shut the trunk at the foot of her bed of what little Deanna had in her room. “He asked that he get you out of Albarel by any means necessary. We’ve heard rumors of a bastard princess, however in other kingdoms your reputation is more of an ugly, undeserving, gold-digging, girl who the Queen kind heartedly takes care of even though the girl is the daughter of a whore who lured the king away from his loving wife to improve her standing in society.”

“None of that is true!” Deanna cried out, almost pushing herself off the bed, but pain forcing her to lie still, “Is that really what the other kingdoms think of me?”

“You can understand why we were suspicious about just laying siege on this castle and stealing you away. Why would we do that for such a terrible girl? Though, now of course we know you are quite lovely,” Max said quickly after earning a deserving glare from his brother, “So when we heard word of the Queen in search of a suitor we thought we’d come and while I distract the Queen, Aeon here would search for this bastard princess and if she really was a retch we’d leave here, but if she was a good person we’d do as her father wished and take her home as a mistress.” Aeon’s glare turned so cold, Deanna thought his brother would freeze instantly. So she wasn’t even supposed to be Aeon’s wife? She was to be a mistress?

“Mistress?” Helena asked.

“Well that would have been what we’d plan to tell the Queen,” Max replied, “And probably still an easier option instead of how this whole mess has ended up, but we would have just taken her back to Summoner where she’d be the king’s ward instead.” Well at least that’s better than mistress, Deanna thought.

“But you married, Deanna?” Helena pointed out as she put the last bandage on Deanna’s back.

“Yes, well…” Max finally noticed his brother’s stare and the voice died in his throat.

“Go make sure the men are ready to go,” Aeon snapped. Max quickly bowed to the women before going to leave, but when he opened the door he looked down to see a young man who looked much like Deanna.

“Who might you be, lad?” Max asked.

“I am the prince of Albarel and I demand to see my sisters,” he almost yelled.

“Prince of Albarel,” Aeon growled, overhearing the exchange.

“Dillon,” Deanna called. Helena helped her sit up and cover her bandages so not to alarm their younger brother. Dillon shoved pass Max and entered the room. He glared at both men before reaching his sister’s side. Aeon glared back at him until Deanna shot him a look.

“Dillon is not Lamont,” Deanna said softly.

“We all love Deanna,” Helena added, “Lamont is the only sibling who treats Deanna so.” Aeon relaxed his features and nodded to Max as cue that it was okay to leave now.

“I am sorry I was not there to protect you, Deanna,” Dillon said collapsing to his knees in front of her, “I’m supposed to protect those I love and I wasn’t even there to protect you from being married off to some jerk. I cannot believe mother would send you away!” Deanna smiled at his innocence. He was a young man, but still clung to it and she hoped he always kept a piece of it with him.

“Do not fret little brother,” Deanna said as she ruffled his hair, “I am not sad as much as my engagement surprised me, I welcome the change.”

“Yes, her husband is a kind man,” Helena added.

“You deserve better,” Dillon stated.

“You are probably right, lad,” Aeon suddenly said. Dillon glared up at him again.

“Dillon, meet Prince Aeon of Summoner, my new husband,” Deanna said. Another blush entered her cheeks when she said the word ‘husband.’

“You will not hurt my sister,” Dillon said fiercely. Aeon smiled.

“Nay, I will not hurt her, and if I do I will gladly accept any punishment you see fit,” Aeon replied. Dillon looked Aeon up and down before turning back to his sister.

“Then I must warn you,” Dillon said suddenly, “Lilia was eavesdropping outside Mother’s study. She heard her and Lamont raving about a false marriage. She told me to run and tell you that mother wants to contest the marriage and have it annulled.”

“What?!” Deanna and Aeon said at the same time.

“She cannot do that,” Deanna said, though to be honest she was afraid that she could. She is Queen after all, sole ruler of Albarel and up until about a half hour ago, she was her guardian.

“It is because of the threats I made,” Aeon mumbled.

“You said something you should not have,” Deanna scolded. She was so close to getting out of the Queen’s grasp and now she was going to be right back where she started, but Deanna was sure this time, the Queen would think of a better way to rid herself of the bastard princess than to black mail a scullery maid.

“I was so close…” Deanna whispered.

“She cannot do it, Deanna,” Aeon told her, “You are to leave this place.”

“But she can,” Helena pointed out, wringing her hands nervously, “The Queen can annul the marriage at any time she wants because Deanna is the princess of Albarel and you two have not consummated your marriage.”

“Lad,” Aeon said addressing Dillon suddenly, “How strong are you?”

“Plenty strong,” Dillon replied defensively.

“Can you carry that trunk to the court yard?” Aeon asked. Dillon tested it. He struggled a bit and turned red in the face, but managed to lift the trunk.

“After will you gather Deanna’s sibling to the courtyard for their goodbyes,” Aeon asked.

“I will,” Dillon said obediently. He slowly and carefully left, carrying Deanna’s trunk.

“Do you think you will be able to escape in time?” Helena asked after he left.

“We will try,” Aeon tried, “It will go faster if you help him search for your sisters and anyone else who wants to say goodbye. I will tend to Deanna. We will be leaving very shortly so make haste.” Helena hesitated for a moment, but then nodded and too left.

“Deanna…” Aeon said after a moment of silence.

“I know I am in no shape, but we must consummate this marriage,” Deanna suddenly said. Aeon just stared at her shocked.

“Deanna, I…” Aeon hesitated, “I will not hurt you anymore than you already are.” The amount of rejection Deanna suddenly felt surprised her.

“But…” Deanna stammered, but before she continued Aeon slipped his finger under her chin and raised her face up to his.

“Do not worry my Rose,” he told her before softly pressing his lips to her forehead. “Now turn around for me.” Deanna held back a blush and nodded. She faced her back to him. She felt him peel back one of her bandages and wipe her wound with a cloth and then replacing the bandage. Deanna turned back around.

Aeon held up a handkerchief and said, “We’ll tell them it was consummated and if they question it, we will show them this.” Deanna lost to her blush as she realized what the now bloody handkerchief was supposed to represent.

“It will not pass for the real thing, but it will provide enough of a ruse for our escape. Now get redressed and we will depart.” Deanna nodded and went to her closet. Max had thankfully left behind a single dress while the rest were packed away in her closet. She would have to thank him later. He chose to leave a very simple dress that did not fit too tightly on her body. She normally wore it to go to the village to visit the hospital and deliver the plants from the gardens so not to stand out as much. She frowned to herself as she pushed the awful pink dress off of her body while Aeon faced the door. She was never going to see the village again. Who was going to help the hospital? That thought made her sad. She may have been mostly hated within the castle walls, but the villagers were kind to her.

“Ready yet?” Aeon called her away from her thoughts after a few minutes of waiting. Deanna jumped into action and quickly finished slipping on her dress.

“Will you help me with the buttons in the back?” Deanna asked.

“Leave them,” Aeon ordered, “Your wounds need to breath in order to heal.”

“But,” Deanna was about to argue, but Aeon cut her off.

“Not buts,” he said, “I do not need my wife dying of infection before I can even bring her home. We’ll just cover you with this to save your decency.” Aeon picked up the velvety blue cloak that still rested on her bed. He wrapped it around her shoulders and secured it. Then, he gently turned her around again and worked at pulling the pins out of her hair and dropping them to the floor. The task took much longer than he would have liked fore the braids were much more intricate than he first expected, however, when he was done, her hair fell down her back in a wild mess, twisting and curling like the strong branches of a tree.

“Why did you do that? Deanna questioned.

“I like it better that way,” Aeon shrugged, “Your hair is beautiful, and it should not be confined.” Deanna did not get a chance to thank him for the compliment as he grabbed her hand and escorted her out of the room. She hesitated in front of the stairs. She was already out of breath from merely walking down the hallway. She wasn’t sure she could make it down the stairs again. As if reading her mind, Aeon, too, paused at the stairs. He bent over and wrapped his arm around her thighs and lifted up. Deanna squeaked a bit as he lifted her so that she sat half on his shoulder and half on his bicep while his forearm wrapped around her thighs, keeping her steady. Deanna clutched his wrist and opposite shoulder as he easily walked down the stairs. She was expecting him to put her down as they reached the bottom, but instead he carried her right out to the courtyard where Helena and her younger siblings were waiting with Max standing next to the largest carriage she’d ever seen with her trunk secured safely to the back. Aeon let her down gently.

“I do not want you to go!” Trina cried as she ran up to Deanna and clung to her skirts. Lilia calmly walked up behind her little sister.

“I will miss you, Deanna,” Lilia said quietly.

“Thank you for sending Dillon, Lilia,” Deanna said as she hugged Trina against her who was crying uncontrollably, “You are wise beyond you years, which is why I have another favor to ask of you.”

“Anything dear sister,” Lilia smiled.

“Will you find a way to deliver special plants to the hospital in the village? I will write to you with a list and drawings of what you need to find. They are all in the castle gardens,” Deanna explained. Lilia beamed. She had always wanted to go with Deanna to the village, but Deanna always forbade her, fearful that the Queen would find out. “Also there is a trail that is scarcely used near the back of the gardens. It is hard to find, but if you find it and follow it pass where it ceases to be a trail, you will run into a vine-covered wall. Reach through the vines and you will find a door there. Behind the door is father’s secret garden. Do not tell Queen Mother. She does not know about it and if she finds it, she will tear it down for sure. Take care of the garden for me, Lilia. For father.”

“I will, Deanna,” Lilia said calmly, understanding the great responsibility that Deanna bestowed on her.

“You will what?” Trina demanded, missing the entire conversation due to her hysterical crying.

“She will take care of you for me, my dear baby sister,” Deanna smiled down at her as she rubbed both of her sisters’ cheeks, sending Trina into another blubbery sob. Lilia pulled Trina away, allowing Deanna to meet with her older two siblings.

“I will miss you big sister,” Dillon said. He stood straight and his face was stern, but his eyes sparkled with unshed tears.

“And I will miss you, Dillon,” Deanna smiled, “You must visit and show me the fantastic knight you will become.”

“You can count on it,” Dillon smiled, his voice cracking as he spoke. Deanna turned to Helena, whose cheeks were wet with tears.

“You have been my greatest friend,” Helena whispered.

“And you have been mine,” Deanna whispered back, “But now you can be happy and marry your prince.” The two hugged.

“Do you think your new husband will allow you to visit me and my new husband?” Helena asked.

“I shall run away if he does not,” Deanna laughed.

“I love you, dear sister,” Helena said, releasing her from their embrace.

“I love you too,” Deanna smiled, “I hope you find happiness.”

“Same to you,” Helena smiled back, wiping away tears.

“I did not say you were allowed to leave this court, Deanna!” A voice bellowed from the grand doors of the castle. There stood the Queen and Lamont.

“She does not need your permission to leave,” Aeon said in a booming voice. Aeon put out his hand to Deanna and she took it. He started to escort her to the carriage.

“She is still my daughter!” the Queen all but screeched.

“She was your burden,” Aeon spat, “And now she is my wife! She does not belong to you anymore.”

“She is not truly your wife,” the Queen smiled, believing she had the upper hand. Aeon smiled wickedly. He dropped Deanna’s hand and pulled out the bloodied handkerchief.

“You mean she is not my wife until the marriage has been consummated?” Aeon asked holding the handkerchief high for her to see, “She is my wife in every way and this is your proof. And proof of you vicious lies about her laying with a man!” The Queen shot a glare at the rest of her children, knowing full well that it was one of them who warned the couple of her plans. Aeon let the handkerchief drop to the ground defiantly and helped Deanna into the carriage, shutting the door behind her. Aeon walked back up the steps to the Queen, causing the Queen to a step back, suddenly very aware of his size and strength.

“I told you this before, but you must have not been listening,” Aeon said in a deadly whisper, “You will not win in what ever game you choose to play so give up.”

“Come any closer and I’ll have the guards strike you down,” Lamont threaten, weakly. Aeon turned his cold look to Lamont and with in a flash Aeon shot out his hands and grabbed Lamont’s wrist squeezing tightly. Lamont froze.

“Know this, Lamont,” Lamont’s name came out of his mouth like a slimy leech, “If you had touched my wife anymore than you did I would have cut off you manhood and fed it to you. Instead…” Aeon snapped Lamont’s right wrist, causing him to scream in agony, “..that is for attacking her and trying to steal away her modesty. And this…” Aeon snapped the other wrist, causing another strangle cry from Lamont, “…is for lying about the state of her virtue.” Aeon dropped Lamont and he crumbled to the ground with his hands jutting out at awkward angles. The Queen only stared down wide-eyed at her son.

“Now you will not even know the pleasure of your hands for months,” Aeon said calmly as he walked back down to the courtyard. Deanna stared at him through the window with her jaw slack. Her siblings kept looking from him to Lamont and the Queen who was trying to tell him to have a backbone and quit crying, back to him, not know through their shock whether they should be afraid or at awe at what they just witnessed. Even Max stared at his brother in astoundment.

“It is time to leave, Max,” Aeon said. Max nodded, pushing aside the previous event and bounding up onto the carriage to grab ahold of the reigns. Aeon pushed himself inside of the carriage just in time for Max to crack the whip and for the carriage to pull forward. Deanna awkwardly waved to her siblings and they waved back, Trina calling out a sorrowful goodbye, with Lamont’s horrid cries accompanying her. They left the castle grounds meeting Aeon and Maxim’s men, and traveling quickly through the village and out to the rolling green hills.

“Will you miss your home,” Aeon finally said after what seemed like forever of silence. Deanna smiled at him with tears in her eyes.

“No,” she said, “I will miss my siblings, yes, and the villagers, but that place was never my home.”
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