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“Even if I had known, my only sovereign, my words wouldn’t have changed…”

**

Since time immemorial, there has been inane drivel following no evidence whatsoever.

Or ‘talk’, if you will.

The honest soil-tiller, who earned his daily fare from the territory bestowed upon him by the feudal lord, blew out a few nonchalant rings of pipe-fumes.

“I’m telling you, a princess!”

“How can you be so sure?” The one who tended to the castle-grounds, inquired, casually scratching his unshaven chin.

“Look mate, you’re always loitering around the place. (-“That’s my job, you oaf!”) Have you ever seen the child of the lord, the heir to the title?”

“N-no, but that doesn’t mean-“

“The young ‘un never leaves the bed-chambers, doesn’t attend the gatherings, so; the next-of-kin can only be a woman!” The smoker concluded triumphantly, unaware that he was, in fact, belittling the fairer sex.

The mower bit his lip, weighing the inference with limited knowledge and infinite narrow-mindedness.

“Perhaps you’re right.” He finished lamely. 

Others who had assembled for gossip and drinks sagely agreed.

**

The gash across my face from an old, but never-forgotten duel, was glaringly in disparity with the current tranquil state of our domain. It has ever been my bane. My father always flinched and turned away whenever he glanced at me, my grandfather bemoaned the fact that I’d never find a bride. In other words, the scar was a constant reminder of not just my own helplessness, but theirs as well.

I received that mark on a day when I sought to avenge my poor pious mother who was murdered by the ruler of the neighbouring realm, her beauty being one that was fabled across the lands and beyond, battles ensuing to win her favour, men turning mad, seeing red.

That was ten years ago.

The gash still throbbed, baying like a beast for affection.

But then arrived ‘he’, the one who made me wish I was someone else altogether.

**

‘Knightly’. The word that first flashed through my mind upon noticing him.

A man of noble-birth; the son of the one who pledged himself to my father at the very onset of his regime; he carried himself with a gait that would’ve put other land-owners of that era to shame. Raven-black hair reaching below the shoulders, eyes; a shade of slate-blue, his gallantry was greatly reputed by fellow swordsmen of his ilk.

Of course, I only saw him through the shroud that curtained my darkened room, ashamed of my grotesque mien; however; that sight of him rendered me a sense of choking breathlessness.

“I wish to serve your daughter, my liege.” Lowering his head before my father, he declared with a sort of brazen boldness that caused me to wince.

Yet, that unwavering, deep voice made me; an impotent man who couldn’t even secure justice for his own mother; start longing.

“My…. daughter?”

“Yes. I hear she is unable to leave her quarters. Thus, I desire to protect her fragile self.”

Oh, a hopeless romantic, then. Sir Gwenael of Chivalry.

This one thinks he’s a chevalier defending a weak damsel.

How very annoying! I was beside myself with indignation!

Yet…

Not many in this day and age are so foolishly artless. I was rather touched.

“Worry not, my Lord,” continued he, “I shall never impose upon the lady, shall only ever address her past the veil.”

“My… daughter… cannot speak.” Lied my father, eyes shut.

**

My Lady…

They began storming in, his missives. Every time a folded parchment was slid under the fluttering blinds, a cascade of guilt flooded my chest.

I was deceiving the man.

For I had taken to replying to his letters in a woman’s hand.

He made it a habit of showering me with sprigs of flowers alongside the written exchanges.

‘May this camellia let you know,’  he had penned, ‘of my ceaseless devotion. Even though I cannot see your fair countenance, your hair rippling down like an onyx ocean, your demure lashes, chaste lips, please know that my blade shall be swung for you alone.’

I loathed myself, disgusted at my own cowardice.

‘You are far too courteous, Sir Gwenael,’  I wrote, my face scrunched in frank disbelief at my attitude, ‘But I do not want you to unsheathe your undefeated sword. Fright gnaws at my heart at the thought that you would disappear from my side. These are times of peace, seek not to defend me, unworthy of you, my one and only knight.’

Was I that starved for love?

True, I didn’t want him engaged in battle. I was indeed afraid of him fading from my life like a wisp of mist seen through a mirror.

I lived in fear. Of him finding out I bore roughened arms, was a war veteran, a face too repugnant for affection.

I smashed the looking-glass beside the vase that contained his flowers, ones I watered regularly.

Lilies turned scarlet, but I didn’t stop writing feverishly. 

Wasn’t it fact that men were flattered if they received communications from none but women? 

What would his expression be, should he ever lift the blinds?

I re-read his sweet words, ‘My Lady, painfully in love I am…’, treasuring his twig of yarrow that meant, ‘Despite all, I shall love.’

**

“We’re cornered from all sides…” My father addressed Gwenael, “Annexation should’ve been my priority…”

Utter genocide everywhere…

The thrust through my abdomen was swift, without warning.

“SON!” At my father’s scream, Gwenael’s pupils widened.

So this is how I’ll descend to hell.

Love transforming to hatred before my drooping eyes.

Gwenael leaped down from his steed, rushing to my side.

“I’m abhorrent, see?” Weakly, I smiled.

He brought his moist face close to mine. “Remember the yarrow, Dearest? Nothing has changed in the least…”

Oh, how plagued I was with complicated questions. Such simplicity in the answer…

“Look, my love, winter is over, spring is almost here,” Gwenael continued to whisper, caressing my battered face, his tears falling upon my cheeks “soon, yarrows will bloom….”

 

Credits: The image has been downloaded from ‘Unsplash’, the photo has been taken by Tasha Marie.

 

 

 


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