The Kiss that Saved Her (Chapter 6, page 1 of 1)


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Chapter 6

The old woman who bought the dress from Joanna wheeled her cart through the
town to the front gate. It was late and she needed only to go a quarter mile to get
back home. She was startled by the soldier who appeared at the gate. He towered
above her at least six feet three inches tall. He was muscular and she cowered a
little. The woman had never known the army to send soldiers this far into the
kingdom unless there was threat of war.
“Woman, I need to see your cart and your papers, quickly!” the soldier said.
She uncovered her cart and went through her white sack, then produced her
identifying papers. She handed him her papers and her hand shook ever so slightly.
The soldier checked her name and address and shoved the papers back at her.
Another soldier appeared and started looking through her things. He set down
his lantern on the cart.
“It is mostly empty, I sold a lot today,” the old woman told him.
“Matthew, there is nothing here but a bunch of mirrors. Let her go,” Ben, the
first soldier, said.
The other soldier took the sack out of her hands and opened it. There was
nothing that she could do to stop them.
“What is this?” He held up the dress that the Princess had sold to her.
“Nothing. It is a dress I bought and traded for, nothing more than business.” The
old woman tried to remain calm.
“It is a dress from the palace, old woman. Where did you get this? Did you steal
it?” Matthew drew his sword and raised it to her.
“No, no, a girl sold it to me, a girl who is about eighteen or nineteen years old.
That is what happened. I gave her one of my mirrors and fifty pieces. That is the
truth,” the woman told him.
“A girl of eighteen? What did she look like?” Ben asked her.
“She was beautiful. She had black hair, pale skin, and blue eyes.”
“The Princess!” Ben said.
“Impossible!” Matthew said.
But the soldier went to the commander who was sitting inside the tower near the
wall of the village. When he came back, he handed the woman a hundred pieces.
“What is this for?”
“The dress! Now go. And say nothing of this or we will find you.” Matthew
told her.
She began to leave through the gate, when the soldier called to her, “Was she
with anyone?”
“She was alone when she sold it to me,” the woman answered.
After the woman was out of sight, Ben asked the other soldier, “Do you think
the Princess is alive?”
“I don't know. I don't care, but we better report this to the Queen, or we won't be
alive,” Matthew replied. He took off his helmet.
“I met the Princess once, and she spoke to us. She asked if we liked being
soldiers. It was after the King died, at the Day of Honor festival. The Princess had
insisted on being there, to take the place for her father. I remember it clearly. I
wish she was still alive.”
“It would mean an end to the talk of war; the Princess would be married off to
one of the princes of Ott.”
“It would take a miracle for her to be alive.”
“If the Queen finds her, do you think she will stay alive?”
“I don't know. But I do know that we are close to that border with Ott.”
*
Frank, Dom, George and Louis awoke to David playing his flute outside, sitting
on a rock. The sound of his flute made his joy audible to all listeners. The song he
played resounded through the trees and all of nature envied man who loved like
God.
The weather was warm for early spring. Joanna made them breakfast. The others
ate, but Dom stayed outside.
“David, you need to get across the border soon. On our way back through the
gate we saw soldiers.”
“I saw them too and took the longer way back to avoid them. We must leave as
soon as we can.” David paused. “I am going to miss you Dom. You are my father,
and mother. You have been generous to me and I am grateful.”
“And did I gain nothing from raising you? It was all joy with you, not much
sorrow. I was richly rewarded for taking you in. I hope that you understand. I love
you David.”
Dom hugged the boy that he had raised. Their embrace ended with Dom
realizing he had taught him everything he needed to know.
“I love you too, Dom.”
“You should be able to take the path across the border to the Kingdom of Ott.”
“No Dom, we must stay in the woods to avoid being seen.” David folded his
arms.
“No, not now, there is safety in numbers and the path will be flooded with
people leaving the country before they close the borders for good.” Dom paced in
front of the cave.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean we are at war. It will be a few weeks before the rest of the soldiers
arrive.”
“How do you know?”
“David, can't you read the signs?” Dom asked. He pulled his arms behind his
back. “Why else would there be soldiers so close to Ott?”
“We will leave by the end of the week.”
“I am not sure that you will be able to return if we do go to war. I will give you
the names of some of my patients in Ott. They are good people and will help you if
you need it.”
“Thank you, Dom. I hope we won’t need to ask for help.”
*
The three days after their wedding were busy as they finalized plans to escape.
David walked into the forest to gather some wood for his carving. Joanna stayed in
the cave to finish packing. She put dried meats and apples in a sack that they would
take for the journey.
She was startled by a knock at the door which prompted her to rush and open it
thinking it was perhaps David with arms full of wood. She was shocked to see the
old woman that she sold her dress to standing in front of her. She carried a basket
that contained a green apple.
“What are you doing here?” Joanna asked. Given her age, she felt she might be
looking for Dom.
“I had no choice, my dear,” the old woman spoke in a low voice.
The Queen appeared from behind a large rock next to the cave. The Queen was
dressed in a royal gown with a diamond necklace draped around her neck. The
danger of the moment hung over Joanna with calamity stretched out to take her
hand. Joanna’s mind raced for she was alone. Terror clouded her mind.
The Queen pulled the green apple out of the woman’s basket with her gloved
hand.
“You know that you cannot live Princess. You would challenge me for the
throne.” The Queen held the apple tightly.
Joanna screamed, “NO!”
She looked from right to left and began to run but the Queen lunged at her and
pinned her against a rock and thrust the apple toward her mouth.
Joanna pushed her stepmother and kicked her so hard the Queen cried out in
pain. Joanna sprinted into the woods yelling for David.
David heard a scream. He raced through the trees to the top of the hill and saw a
woman wrestling with Joanna. He took out a large knife from his belt and raced
down the muddy hill.
As he drew near, he saw the Queen push an apple into Joanna’s mouth. David
shoved the Queen away from Joanna with enough force to knock her to the ground.
Joanna spit out the apple and it tumbled to the ground. He saw the Queen move
through the leaves and plants, crawling with the spiders to the apple, and grab it
quickly. The Queen stood and then thrust the apple into David’s mouth. He pushed
the knife into her stomach as the apple touched his lips. A piece slipped through
his teeth and he gagged. David shook violently as the poison dripped into his body.
He fell over into death. The Queen’s golden gown was soaked red and she dropped
straight to the ground as life left her. The apple rolled and came to rest at her feet.
*
Dom and Louis were working down at the meadows planting a spring garden
when they heard a distant scream which sounded like a warning. Dom hurried back
up to the cave, leaving Louis behind because he could not walk as fast.
Dom saw David, the Queen, and Joanna lying on the ground motionless. He saw
the apple on the ground. He felt David for a pulse but felt none. He ran to Joanna,
and he felt for a pulse and felt a very faint one. Dom remembered his antidote and
rushed to the table where he mixed his medicines. He frantically searched for a
liquid and the minute it took to find it pressed on him as if it were hours. He ran
back to Joanna and forced some of the medicine down her throat. Then he returned
to David and forced some down his throat.
“Almighty God, have mercy on them,” he cried out.
The three soldiers who traveled with the Queen, but who had stayed near the
path, a mile away, heard a scream and ran down to the cave. The sight of three
bodies on the damp ground seemed odd to them and then horror overcame them as
the stench of the bitterest herbs filled their lungs.
The old woman finally emerged and meekly stood against a tree.
Dom sat on the ground and cried bitterly at the loss and mayhem. The soldiers
were dumbfounded. The commander looked at the dead Queen, the young man,
and the Princess. He recognized Joanna, for he had seen her in the Palace.
“The Princess?” a solider asked. He bent down to pick up the apple but his
commander kicked it away from his hand.
“It’s poisoned!” the commander yelled. He knelt by the dead Queen.
“Why?” the third solider asked.
“All for power,” the commander finally said.
The soldiers carried the Queen back to the carriage.
Louis arrived from the meadow. He saw David and Joanna on the ground. He
sobbed out loud. An image of David at the table carving a flute flooded his mind.
“Is he —?”
“Yes, he is dead. The Queen tried to kill Joanna.”
“Is Joanna dead?” asked Louis. The shock of the scene of death made him
stumble a bit.
“No, but she will be taken back to the castle. She is the Princess of Bow,” Dom
said.
“I suspected as much. How will we go on without David?” The tears fell from
Louis’ face. The harmonious woods seemed too quiet to have witnessed death.
The soldiers returned, and approached the Princess.
“NO!” Dom shouted.
“What is wrong?” the commander asked.
“She is not dead; I am a doctor and I felt a pulse. I gave her an antidote and she
may live.”
“How long until we know?” the commander asked.
“I am not sure. It could be a few days.”
Dom looked at David’s corpse. The driving wind scattered the birds of prey. He
knew Joanna survived because David saved her. Death, in a hero’s moment, held
nothing in its grip like love, in a wife’s memory, held everything in its passing.
The commander said, “I think we should put Princess Joanna into the Queen's
carriage. I pray that she lives, it could stop us from entering into war, but if she
dies we will be in chaos. How will we convince the other monarchs that she is
alive?”
“I believe sight is the most powerful of all the senses. If others saw her, then
they would believe she is alive. The Princess could be viewed behind a glass wall.
Everyone would see she lives. It would also prevent another monarch from taking
over the kingdom,” one of the soldiers said.
“It will be suggested to General Stuart as he is in charge until the Princess
recovers,” the commander said.
Dom thought of Frank and George. “I must go to the mines outside of Randele
and tell my brothers of David's death,” Dom said, wiping the tears from his eyes.
*
Frank and George were shocked at the news but the sorrow that Dom displayed
convinced them of the events. They travelled back to the cave in silence as
testimony to the gravity of the situation. They walked through the woods as barren
as the valley of death.
They arrived as the soldiers dug under an oak tree. They viewed David’s body.
If they had not known that he was dead, they would have thought him to be asleep.
“He should be covered up before you put him in the ground,” Frank said.
“I will put his knife near him. I think he would like being buried with it,” Louis
remarked. His hands were folded as if in prayer.
“And a flute, we can put his flute next to him,” George said as he wiped his
eyes.
The soldiers took the knife and flute and set them beside David in the grave. The
knife was a gift from Dom years before. The flute was the one Frank said produced
the best sound, the one David proclaimed was inspired by Joanna.
The old woman grabbed the bag next to the soldiers' belongings and brought it
to the grave.
“He should be buried with this covering, for he died for her,” the old woman
said.
She pulled out of the bag the dress that the Princess had sold to her, the one the
soldiers had taken from her, and she placed it with David. They shoveled the dirt
back in the grave, like farmers shoveled dirt over seeds.
George and Frank made a cross from the pile of wood where David worked, and
carved David's name on it. They used stones to keep it upright in the ground.
Dom led them in a prayer that fit the somber occasion.
“We bury our beloved son, David Woodhouse. We pray that the angels take his
soul to the Almighty God. Amen.”
*
The Kingdom of Ott was not more than ten miles away from the grave of David.
The Prince of Ott, Samuel, waited on his scouting report. He knew that a few miles
away soldiers were massing on the border with the Kingdom of Bow. The Queen
of Bow was despised not only in his kingdom, but even among her own subjects.
Prince Samuel was thirty years old and his manners were impeccable. His title
was Supreme Commander of the Army, but his conduct, instead of his title,
commanded respect from his soldiers.
A new war threatened the kingdom. Ott was full of useful farms and woods. It
prospered in the past decade after the last war ended. The price of peace was the
Prince’s marriage to his late wife. His uncle, the King of Ott, persuaded him to
marry Lady Sarah. She was a gentle woman, but Samuel had no desire to marry
until his uncle firmly directed him to see the benefits of their marriage. The King
gained beneficial treaties which tapped into the mines of Sarah’s kingdom. She
was a stranger to him for their first year of marriage as he traveled with his
soldiers. When she took ill, he returned home to care for her and she lived longer
than expected. He grew to love Sarah.
Prince Samuel washed up for breakfast in the stream, the water waking him
from his groggy feeling. The coldness slapped him and he responded by jumping
back a little. The woods remained cool and moist despite the early spring.
He trotted to his log cabin, which had been his home for six weeks, when his
Commander of Scouting found him before he reached the door. He bowed to
Samuel. Both had the look of soldiers, backs aligned straight, arm muscles
developed from constant training, and discipline drilled into command.
“Your Royal Highness, I have received a report from two different sources that
confirm that the Kingdom of Bow has been thrown into turmoil,” he reported.
“Commander Johnson, let us walk,” Prince Samuel walked quickly away from
the men and into the forest.
“What is the news from Pantor?”
The remaining snow on the ground mixed with the dirt to make a mud that stuck
to Prince Samuel's boots. Samuel was tired and longed to return home to his warm
fire and collection of books. He had been away so long that he had forgotten that
he was a prince.
“The reports are coming in from a most reliable source that the Queen of Bow is
indeed dead.”
“Dead? Are you sure?” Prince Samuel was shocked by the news. His face
reflected his concern. He touched a tree to steady himself on the hill.
The commander stopped and turned to see the Prince. “Yes, Your Highness, it is
true. It happened two days ago. I do not know when or how but the body has been
seen and she is dead.”
“This is good news for Ott. We may be at peace again. Who will take over the
kingdom? Do you have a report?” Samuel asked. His back straightened as if the
burden of war was removed.
“That is the strange part that I need to report, Prince Samuel. It has been
reported by an eyewitness that the Princess of Bow is alive, but gravely ill.”
Samuel was shocked to hear this news. His hand rested on his chin, his elbow
tucked in the other hand as his arm folded across his midsection.
“The one that was killed almost a year ago? Alive? How is this possible?”
“I do not know, my lord. I only know what our spies have reported.”
“Perhaps I should travel to Pantor to see for myself.”
He put his arms behind his back and paced as if his steps were his thoughts.
“Send a report to the King and inform him I will confirm the news. Do this
immediately, Johnson. It would be very good news indeed if this is true.”
“Yes, very good indeed! I will hurry, Your Royal Highness.” Commander
Johnson bowed.
Samuel thought of the impending war that could be avoided if the Princess of
Bow would be crowned. The two kingdoms had enjoyed peace before the Queen
ruled. He vaguely remembered the Princess of Bow as she was at least ten years
younger than him.
Prince Samuel turned toward the encampment and he noticed an enlisted man
standing not too far away who had returned from the morning scouting near the
town of Randele. The young man was timid and the Prince of Ott realized that he
dare not disturb him.
“Soldier, you may approach.” He motioned him.
The timid man walked quickly over and bowed.
“And you are?”
“First Officer Nathan, I am a new recruit, Your Royal Highness.” He bowed a
low bow a second time.
Prince Samuel paused as he remembered his first scouting assignment many
years ago and how he too was uncertain then.
“Did you find anything in Randele worth reporting?”
“Not much, Your Royal Highness, mostly rumors and stories.” The man
fidgeted.
“Well, Officer Nathan, the first lesson of intelligence gathering is that we always
pay attention to everything, even that which seems at first to be insignificant.”
Prince Samuel folded his arms.
“Yes, Your Royal Highness.” He stood up straighter.
“Never forget that. Now just relax and tell me what you have heard.” Prince
Samuel let a small smile form on his lips.
“I have heard stories from the townsfolk at Randele about a commoner who
married a beautiful stranger. An old woman found out about the marriage and tried
to murder the girl with a poisoned apple. The husband killed the woman but he bit
the apple and fell dead. His wife died as well despite his efforts and they are buried
side-by-side in a shared grave. That was all I heard, Your Royal Highness.”
“You say the story speaks of a poisoned apple, and a man gave up his life for his
wife? Could anyone love so strongly?” Prince Samuel asked.
“May I say that I didn't understand the poisoned apple, either, Your Highness?”
The young soldier shifted his weight.
“That wouldn't be too difficult to produce if the woman had access to medicines.
Tell me, is this a recent story?”
“This was supposed to have happened two days ago.”
Samuel was taken by surprise as this was the correct time for the death of the
Queen of Bow and the reappearance of the Princess.
“You may go, but send Commander Johnson back to my cabin.”
The Prince of Ott walked the muddy path back to his cabin. Samuel loved the
dark forest with its mixture of hardwood trees. The buds were on them and he
looked forward to the beginning of spring when the woods would be full of life.
He stomped the mud out of his boots and entered the log cabin. He sat down at his
desk and waited for Johnson to return as he began a letter to his uncle.
Johnson returned with a knock. “Your Highness,” he said and bowed to the
Prince.
“Johnson, may I ask you something?”
“Prince Samuel, we have known each other for many years, ask me anything.”
“Do you remember the poison that was put in the food intended for my uncle
four years ago around the time of my wife's death?” Samuel stopped writing.
“Yes I was there.”
“The maid who tasted it, she lived, correct?”
“Yes, you know that, as you made the antidote yourself.” Johnson turned his
head slightly and peered at his friend as if to question him further.
“You do believe my antidote saved her. We have some here?”
“Yes, I believe we do.”
“I would like you to bring me the antidote.”
“I will retrieve it right away, but may I ask you why?” His shoulders slumped
slightly.
Samuel sat straighter in his chair. “It is a hunch really. Do you think it possible
that the Queen might try to murder the Princess with a poison? Maybe in food like
an apple?”
“With that Queen, I would not doubt her capable of such an action. Do you
believe the Princess escaped her last spring and resurfaced in Randele?” Johnson
moved to his desk and touched it.
“I am not sure, but I have heard a tale from Randele that would make more sense
if it was the Princess who was the one that was poisoned.” Prince Samuel folded
his paper.
“And you believe the antidote could save the Princess of Bow?”
“Yes, I do believe it could as it is a powerful antidote.”
“The more you speak, the more I believe you are right about the Princess.”
Commander Johnson rested his hand on his chin with his elbow resting in his other
hand. “If she lives it would mean there would be peace again as when her father
ruled.”
“Commander, you have read my thoughts.” Samuel got up from behind his desk
and stood, facing his friend.
“Then we must act quickly if you are to save her. I will get you the antidote and
then leave at once.”
“I will leave myself before the afternoon. It is rather warm and I believe we both
will make excellent time.”

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