THE CURSE CONDUIT
Lois Terrans Bradbury
Part One - Connected
Declan’s face and arms were covered in cuts and the dirt of the battlefield but the mortal wound had been thrust into his side. He could feel the life slipping away from him as blood oozed from the hole made by the enemy’s sword. His thoughts turned to Beth-Elena. He did not want the last memories before he died to be those of battle, he wanted them to be of her sweet smile, he wanted to look into her loving eyes and this was the last earthly picture he wanted to see.
Declan struggled to move, his good friend Uri was at his side. “Don’t Declan.”
Declan tried to open his eyes but he was so tired. His words where soft, almost inaudible “Beth-Elena.”
Uri squeezed his arm. “Yes. I’ll get you home Declan. I promise.” Uri sighed. He knew his friend wanted to get back to his lady but he was not sure if he would be alive when he did.
With the help of a few of his fellow knights, Uri got Declan onto a horse for the trip back to the castle. It was a silent trip, sombre; every one of the men travelling with him understood the consequence of this battle. They had won but they had lost so much. Declan had not been the only one to be wounded or die that day but his death would be felt by many, none the least Beth-Elena.
As they rode back to the castle Declan drifted in and out of consciousness and his thoughts ran to Beth-Elena, he had promised to marry her after this conflict, now he would never get the chance.
He had been blessed when she had arrived in his life. She; the niece of the King. He; just a common man trying to earn an honest living in his father’s blacksmiths shop.
He had been in the market one day when a thief had run off with her change bag and knocked her to the ground. Declan had run after the thief and retrieved her money and gone back to help her. In the process of being knocked over she had sprained her ankle so Declan had carried her back to his family home and his mother had tended it for her. It was only then his mother suggested he take her back to the King, he realised who she was
Declan and Beth-Elena formed a good friendship but as time passed the King became aware of it and was going to forbid it to continue when Beth-Elena had intervened. She had pleaded with her uncle to let Declan prove he was worthy to be her friend. The King had agreed and given Declan a place in his army. Declan’s family, indeed the town were shocked. This was unheard of. The King’s knights were picked from some of the finest families in the land not the common folk. Declan knew he had to prove himself not only to the King but to his family and his people and he did. He worked hard, learnt fast and was a formidable knight, earning the respect of his fellow knights and his tutors alike. Declan softened the heart of the King. He had also woven a spell over Beth-Elena as their friendship developed into so much more.
The King was pleased for his niece. Declan was indeed worthy of her friendship and her hand in marriage, so when he had asked for his approval he gladly gave it.
After the battle there was to be a wedding.
As the horse hooves clattered on the cobbled stones of the courtyard to the castle everyone stood silent. They all knew who was on the horse. Declan was a hero to so many. He had worked his way up and was going to marry a princess. But now as Uri lowered him from his horse and laid him at the steps of the entrance to the castle they all knew he was dying. All eyes were on Beth-Elena as she ran from the castle, not realising what was going on. She had seen the men returning from a distance and was running to greet the love of her life. First she looked at the man on the ground not understanding then she looked at Uri. His eyes and the tears etching marks down his still battle soiled face told her all. She looked again at the man at her feet and let out a cry that gripped the hearts of all who had gathered. Beth-Elena sank to her knees and held Declan to her.
Breathless Declan spoke her name. “Beth-Elena?”
“Yes. You are home my.”
He opened his eyes, looked upon her face and smiled weakly. “I’m sorry.”
Beth-Elena bit her lip and tried to smile back. “I love you Declan.”
Declan coughed and a small trickle of blood escaped from his lips. “I have always loved you my Princess. I do not want to leave you.”
In a swift movement that caught Uri off guard. Beth-Elena took his knife from its holster on his hip and sliced a line through the palm of her hand. She did the same to Declan before clasping their hands together. “I will love you until we meet again my love. I will search eternity to find you I promise.” She bent down and kissed him.
Declan died with the wonderful image of Beth-Elena in his memory and her sweet taste on his lips.
The years passed and the land was at peace. Uri married, had children and become a stable figure in the court of the King. His wife and Beth-Elena had become friends. From the day of the death of his friend Declan, Uri had taken upon himself to keep watch over Beth-Elena. It was if a part of her soul had died, taken to travel with Declan as he passed from this world to the next. She had never married though she had many a suitor over the years. As he watched her walk the castle grounds once again his heart saddened to know that she had spent so much of her life alone. She had so completely loved Declan, it was as if she saw no other, could love no other, not that she did not know how to love. Over the years she had been Aunt and advisor to his own children, all now in adulthood. She was gentle and kind to all she met but still there was that sadness. A sadness that people could sense, even if they did not know what it was. He worried about her more these days as she appeared to have decided that she had done all she could do and it was time for her to take that journey and look for her lost love.
Uri would have been even more concerned that day if he had realised just how close to losing her they were. She was slipping from them, slowly, silently and there was nothing he could do to stop her. A few short weeks later she was dead. In her elegance she had slipped away in her sleep one night, found by her hand maiden the next morning, a peaceful look on her face.
Uri was the first to see her. His tears rolled as he looked down upon her. She looked like the princess she was. As he bent to kiss her and touching her hand he pulled a small silver object from her grip. It was a small silver dragon that Declan had made for her so many years ago. Smiling he kissed her again. “I truly hope you have found each other.”