The Kiss that Saved Her (Chapter 2, page 1 of 1)


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Chapter 2

Princess Joanna walked as far as she could until darkness filled the forest. The
moon remained invisible. She heard the screeches of wild animals causing fear
itself to sway inside her mind. She thought to pray for protection and called out to
Almighty God. Peace fell upon her like fog rolling into a valley. She decided to
huddle under a tall pine with low lying branches and fell asleep rather quickly.
The morning sun filtered through the trees. The sound of birds calling to one
another in a pleasant snippet of song drowned out the rest of the sounds. Joanna
got up and began her journey. Through the trees, she saw a village in the distance
and became afraid that someone would spot her. She left the path to return to the
woods. Her pace quickened in order to cover a greater distance.
*
The night began and Joanna felt full of trepidation. The sounds of the night
frightened her and she was too weak to go on much further. She called out to God
once more. Then she walked along the stream in the woods until she spotted a
cave. The trees of the forest grew up and around the cave and partly covered it.
At the sound of a man’s voice, she hid behind a tree. She saw a man approach
the cave and enter it. The firelight from the cave flickered and then vanished as the
makeshift door opened and closed. Joanna thought she must be in the Kingdom of
Ott as the caves were not recorded in her kingdom. The famished Princess saw two
men approach the cave, the younger one about six feet tall, and the other about five
foot two, shorter than her.
“I told you the last one home tonight must wash the dishes,” the young man said.
“I will not wash the dishes! It is unfair! I am late because I had to close up the
mines; it couldn't be helped, David.”
Princess Joanna moved and the branch below her feet gave her location away.
Fear overtook her curiosity and she knelt down to hide.
“Who’s there?” the shorter man called.
The young man, David, took out a knife from his belt. “Show yourself, thief!”
She had been caught and she sensed the best action would be to ask for
clemency.
“I am not a thief!” Joanna called out.
She moved away from the tree and they saw her. David put his knife back in his
belt. When they reached her, he realized she was a girl about his age.
“Why she's just a girl!” cried out the shorter man.
“Who are you?” asked David.
“My name is Joanna.”
“Joanna, why are you wandering the forest late into the evening; are you lost? I
will help you find your way back home.” The young man shifted his foot, kicking
the leaves from their spot.
“No, please, my family abandoned me. I haven't eaten in two days. I can hardly
stand.” Joanna felt the ordeal acutely as she gave her description.
“Don't listen to her! It's a trap, David. Look at her dress.” The old man moved to
her and touched her fine silk dress with his stout fingers. She moved back but
wobbled and fell down.
“That's enough, George, she is weak.”
David knelt to help her up, which frightened her, but she had no strength left to
stop him. In the dark, she could not make out their faces.
The door opened into the kitchen and the smell of sour bread and stew made her
hungrier. The fire made the inside of the cave bright which reminded her of her
home. How she missed her room at the castle with its yellow brick fireplace and
royal red tapestries. The cave was sparse with a plain wooden table but the chairs
were ornate she thought for such a place. David helped her to an oak chair and she
sat down. Joanna noticed he was a handsome boy. The modest cave disappointed
her at first glance, but in her present circumstance she was grateful for the shelter.
“David, how did you find a girl?” asked the elderly cook.
“She just appeared from behind a tree!” His voice rose as if they wouldn’t
believe him.
Another man stooped down towards her and studied her closely while she
cowered.
“I am a doctor, please let me help you. My name is Dominic, and I own this
cave. You are not well. You need food.” He motioned to the cook.
The elderly cook limped as he brought her a bowl of stew. She was thankful for
the food. She shivered as the dirt floor was not warm even if she was close to fire.
“Thank you Louis,” Dominic said. He turned back to Joanna. “Now eat please.”
She ate it quickly and unlike a princess.
“Who is our guest?” asked the cook.
“Her name is Joanna,” the young man said, “and she sure is hungry.”
“Please, let me stay here, at least for the night. I have no family,” Joanna
pleaded.
The five men stared at her as if judging what to do with her. The silence
frightened her more than the animals outside.
“We will help you,” Dominic said.
She sighed as she nodded.
The other man said, “It looks like she is very rich; maybe even royalty by the
looks of her dress.”
Princess Joanna worried this group of men might be robbers or other unsavory
characters and she had just asked to stay with them. Her instinct had told her to
trust them, but at the man’s comment she became afraid again.
“You are forgetting how we became a family, George. You escaped death
yourself, and since then you have become one of my dearest friends,” Dominic
announced as he stood back up, his hands folded gently.
“What are we supposed to do with her? I mean we are five men and a female
will make us wash up and stop saying certain words!” George raised his own hands
waving them wildly to emphasize his point.
“I will not if you let me stay! Please,” Joanna said.
“Oh, I think she should stay, Dom, I mean I can't even work in the mines
anymore because of my poor health and here I am in this cave. You haven't thrown
me out,” the cook said.
“Alright, Louis, we would never throw you or anyone out. I had every intention
of sheltering our guest,” Dom said.
“Thank you, thank you all!” Joanna felt safe, at least temporarily.
David put his hands on his hips as he spoke. “You are fortunate to have found
our cave as there are some who would not hesitate to harm you, Joanna. Dom told
you he is a doctor who works in Randele. This is his home.” He continued, “In one
way or another, he found us and we are a strange bunch for sure! Louis is our cook.
Frank and George mine for silver. George is the hothead of the group. I’m David. I
make furniture, and smaller things like bowls, cups and flutes.”
“I am pleased to make your acquaintance,” she said. The formal address
surprised Dom.
Louis said, “We should eat, Joanna. We will sit at the table but you stay near the
fire.”
The men sat down on a bench. They held hands and said a prayer before they
ate. Joanna bowed her head as they prayed and repeated to herself a prayer of
thanksgiving. She finally felt safe.
Joanna fell asleep in the chair while George washed the dishes after dinner while
the others helped clean the table. The men tip toed around her for the most part to
let her sleep.
She woke up with a jolt to a conversation about which man would pull in the
most silver in the mine by year’s end and the boasting of George made her
remember she was no longer at the castle.
“We tried not to wake you, Joanna,” Dom stated.
“It is late, and I have to get up early,” George announced then yawned.
Frank said, “I will make up a bed for you, Joanna. This is a large cave and our
bedroom is down the narrow part off the gathering space. You may sleep in the
main part of the cave. If you follow me, I will show you.”
She followed him to the gathering room. He took out a blanket from a wooden
chest which she took from his hands. She noticed the tips of his fingers had black
stains on them as if the years of mining made him its marked property.
“Thank you for your kindness. I will work hard while I am here.”
“We have all experienced abandonment and we are happy to help you.” Frank’s
voice spoke with a kind inclination which comforted her and he no longer seemed
like a stranger.
Joanna woke up early the next morning. She made up her bed quickly. Breakfast
pressed on her thoughts and she took the bowls off the long workbench next to the
fire. She found some bread, butter and jam to put on the table with the bowls. The
kitchen contained two long tables as well as several buckets and a huge cooking
fire. It was a cold place unless she was close to the fire, but the deer rugs and bear
coverings on the floor made it bearable. Shadows from the fire looked fierce
against the walls. The work table had pine wood shavings under it which gave it a
fresh scent.
The five men came out from the back of the cave dressed in their work clothes
which were tan and plain. Plain would describe everything inside. Louis limped
over to the kitchen.
“You are up early!” he said with a smile.
“I want to be useful.” She glanced at the men as they lined up at the table
quickly.
She watched them eat from her spot near the fire. Dom, nearly fifty, short and
thin, read a thick book as he ate the bread and jam and he hardly noticed anyone
else. George, small eyed and large mouthed, began on a second helping of bread.
Frank, perhaps forty, with his brown bangs falling into his line of vision again,
laughed at David’s story.
Then she glanced at David. David smiled at the others. Joanna thought his thin
lips drew into a smile easily. He pushed back his light brown hair. He put his dish
on the wooden bench by the jars. She felt he was not just handsome, but the most
handsome boy she had ever seen.
Joanna placed on the table some red apples that she found in the root cellar for
them to take. The four left for town in a rush.
Once they had gone, she helped Louis wash the dishes. They placed the bowls in
a wooden bucket. He poured the water from the jar then put the pot boilers in a
large cauldron and boiled the water. He added the hot water and washed them.
After a while, he began to tire and Joanna got him a chair. She put on a cloth apron
over her clothes and finished washing the dishes slowly. She smiled with pride; it
was the first time she completed any manual task.
“Thank you Joanna. After this task I need to mix dyes. Dom gathered the grasses
and I will make green dye for our clothing. Frank sewed new pants and I will dye
them today.”
“I will mix the dye if you'd like.”
“I will gladly show you how, but I need to rest for a while first.”
“Of course, you are not well.” She paused. “I will go to the stream and wash
up.”
“I am afraid that your dress is much too fine for the work you will be doing
here,” he said, glancing at the dress. “I will give you some of George's clothes to
wear as he is short so they may fit you. David's would be too big on you; although
I think some of his old clothes might fit you. I will give you those too. Ever since
he was left here as a baby he has been growing out of his perfectly good clothes.
You may store your fine clothing in the wooden chest.”
“Thank you, Louis.”
Joanna wondered why David’s mother left him there as a baby, however, she felt
it impolite to ask.
“I will give you some of Dom's soap, it smells good, like rose petals.”
Joanna left the cave. The sun spread its warmth over the earth with its power and
light. The daisies, scattered in the grass near the stream, appeared to reach up as if
they would try to catch the sunlight. A stream ran under another cave and Joanna
washed there. The spring sun reminded her of summer. She dressed in David’s old
clothing, which fit, but she hated the tan color. The soap did smell like roses and
Joanna did as well after washing.
When she returned, Louis had already begun mixing the dyes. She observed the
task and thought Louis was a good teacher. Afterward, she decided to try to sew.
Joanna pulled a rocking chair near Louis then picked up a needle from his basket to
help him sew. She excelled at needlepoint and the action of pushing then pulling
the thread calmed her mind. She would make herself clothes.
Her dark hair curled slightly and she pushed it behind her shoulders; it was long
and it fell across her back. The ordinary cave offered her rest from her worries. She
felt the horrible days ended when she met Dom and the rest of the cave’s
inhabitants.
“I see you have good taste!” Louis said.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You chose the best seat, the chair that David made. It is our finest because
David excels at woodcarving.”
“It is beautiful.” She leaned back to view it and thought it well made.
“I take a nap each afternoon as the medicine I take for my leg injury makes me
sleepy.”
“I will keep myself occupied.”
*
She left the caves to explore but she was careful to stay close by. Joanna saw the
garden beyond the stream and she pulled some weeds. It was difficult work. The
large shirt partly obstructed her vision of the ground when she bent over so she tied
a knot in it. Joanna liked the work because it prevented any feelings of sadness
which would overwhelm her thoughts otherwise.
She returned home to see the four men working. Frank and Louis stirred soup in
the huge pot and George and David cut up vegetables. The aroma of herbs from the
garden with the vegetables made the cave smell as delicious as the royal kitchen.
Dom had not arrived yet. After the potatoes were cut into small pieces, George
walked over to deposit them into the stew.
“I will cook it, Frank,” George said, his face peering into the pot as the steam
filtered out.
“I said that I will make the soup, so go set the table!” Frank was firm.
The men even argued like a family she thought. Joanna forgot what a family was
like.
“Let me help you,” Joanna said.
David looked up from peeling carrots. His eyes widened at the sight of their
guest as she was beautiful. When he first met her, with wild hair and dirt stuck to
her, she appeared more like an animal than a girl. He admired her striking blue
eyes and full lips. David stared at her knotted shirt which displayed her small waist
and curved hips and then he looked down as if he should not be so well acquainted
with a stranger. Then he glanced at the others who seemed preoccupied by dinner.
“I will help you set the table,” David said.
“Thank you,” she replied.
Frank stopped stirring the soup and looked at David. He thought he’d seen
everything until David volunteered to do a chore. Things would surely be different
with Joanna living there.
She felt David’s eyes follow her as she moved toward the table. She reached for
the bowls and he got up to help her and his hand touched hers when he took the
bowls from her. The shock of his touch gave way to an attraction to him. The pair
distributed the bowls and David put his hand on her arm as she leaned over the
table to stop her from putting out the cups. He retrieved a jug of cider and then
filled them and set them out.
As a princess, no one would be so bold as to touch her, but she was now a
commoner like him, and she had to adjust to their ways. If she had not liked him it
might have been unpleasant, but David made her feel something she could not
describe and she liked the familiar way he treated her.
*
The Queen of Bow paraded through the long corridor and down a flight of stairs
to the basement of her castle. She noticed her hand shook far worse as the hours
progressed.
She found her doctor, Dr. Fitzgold, in his office working with his medicines. He
strewed his bottles of powders and liquids on the large wooden table near the
window. The Queen entered without knocking which caused the lean man to look
up.
He said, “Your Royal Highness, are you feeling ill?”
“It is my hand, it quivers.” The Queen sat down on an oak chair. The smell of
bitter herbs filled the room as if the treatment would mask the sickness.
“Let me see the hand.”
She put her hand out and he sat next to her to study it. The doctor scratched his
head. Then he rose and rummaged through some powders and found one which he
mixed with a liquid. He poured the mixture carefully into a small glass jar using a
funnel.
The Queen glanced around his office. There were different bottles of medicines.
Her eyes lingered on one. A skull marked it as poison.
Dr. Fitzgold handed her the bottle he had mixed. She drank the liquid and then
returned to her office to continue her tasks. The medicine relieved her trembling
like victory relieved her mind as she recalled that power is purchased with
cunning.

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