[Story] PRINCESS DRIANNA Chapter 20
Ifeoma Isabella Okeke
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When I regained consciousness, I was immediately aware that I was no longer in the cell. I was on a soft bed with smooth sheets and downy pillows. The smell of food hung in the air and eagerly I opened my eyes to search for its source. I found it- a tray of steaming vegetables, soup, and warm bread. There was a goblet of water also and I wasted no time in setting to work on the meal.
“Whoa…not too fast,” a voice chastised. I looked up, noticing Gadel for the first time sitting in a chair across the room. He was reclined comfortably with his arms crossed over his chest, watching me with eager amusement. “We wouldn’t want you getting sick, would we?”
I contemplating throwing the tray in his face. But I was literally starving and couldn’t bring myself to waste the precious food. So instead I settled for shooting odious glares at him over my meal. He wasn’t fazed.
When the dishes had been scraped clean, Gadel clapped his hands and a maid appeared and whisked the tray away. She was gone as quickly as she’d come and I wished she’d stayed longer for now Gadel and I were left alone.
“Feel better now?” he asked.
“How dare you!” I screamed. Pent up rage spilled out of me and I let out a string of curses which left him- to my dismay- utterly amused.
“My…that language is certainly unbecoming of a princess.”
He came to his feet. “I assume you’ll be wanting a bath. Wenyt shall be in presently to assist you- she’s drawing the water now.”
He turned to leave but I called out to him. “Why are you doing this to me?” I asked, my voice cracking.
There was pain in his eyes when he turned to look at me. “Because I love you.” And he left.
I lay back in the bed, feeling sick. Gadel was mad. He had to be. What had happened to him to make him this way? Was it my leaving that did it? His father’s death? The pressures of war? His dependence on the drink? Perhaps it was all of that. So what if I had stayed? Could I have saved him from this fate? Could I have stopped it? Was this all my fault?
I shook my head, clearing my mind of such thoughts. No one would’ve been better for my staying at Colias Manor. Shane, my mother, all the men needed me. If nothing else, I was certainly a morale boost.
“Hello, miss,” a gentle voice drew me from my thoughts. I watched a maid, alarmingly similar to Mini enter the room. She was older than my maid by several years but their faces were very similar. “I’m Wenyt, I’ll be attending you,” she said chipperly.
Certainly, Wenyt did not posess the same awkward shyness Mini had shone when she first came to me. The woman was confident and moved around the room, straightening with certain authority.
“Would you like your bath now, miss?”
I nodded and allowed her to help me out of bed. My legs were weak, I found, and I had to lean on her as she guided me down the hall to the bath. She helped me shed the gown I’d been dressed in and I eased into the steaming water. My eyes were closed and I ducked under and back up, soaking my long hair. When I opened my eyes, I found Wenyt staring at me uncertainly.
“Y-you’re Princess Drianna?”
“Yes,” I responded slowly, unsure of the direction of the conversation.
Wenyt’s face turned bright with a wide smile. “Oh, you’re a hope to us all, miss!”
“We’ve been praying so hard for your return. Certainly, the war will be ending soon with you come back?”
“I-I don’t rightly know. I’d hoped but as you see…things have not gone well…”
“Oh, I know, miss. You being captive here is a real shame. But, if you want-” She ceased talking in the midst of her statement and I looked expectantly at her. She merely shook her head, nodding to the door. I listened, hearing footsteps passing. When they’d faded, she said, “We have to be careful, miss. There’re ears all about. We should be free to talk in here. The Captain has ordered that none of the henchmen are to bother you while bathing or changing. But everywhere else…”
I nodded. “You surprised me, Wenyt. I thought you’d be a Groithian maid.”
Her face was the picture of disgust. “Oh no. When they took the palace, they kept some of the servants to tend to their needs. I’ve served many commanders that’ve come through here, miss, but I tell you, I’ve never met one as bad as the captain.”
“He’s ruthless, miss. He’s got tempers that’re infamous. We’ve learned not to muddle with his drinks. That sets him off right well. My youngest, he accidentally broke one of the captain’s bottles once. Got ten lashings, he did.” She shuddered at the memory.
“How many children do you have?” I asked, avoiding the image of a young child being whipped. It was too much.
“Twelve. Five daughters, seven sons.”
“So many,” I exclaimed, then thought twice. “Wait…five daughters and seven sons you say?” Wenyt nodded. “You’re Mini’s sister!”
“Mini? You know my Mini?” There was such joy and hope in her sweet voice.
“She’s my maid at the fortress! She’s so worried about you and her nieces and nephews! She said she hadn’t heard from you!”
“We’d no idea where she was! Oh, thank goodness! She’s safe!”
We talked until the water grew cold and I climbed out reluctantly. Wenyt helped me into my modest robes and I made a move for the door, but her hesitant hand on my arm stopped me.
“I can help you escape,” she whispered urgently. My eyes went wide and I gave her my full attention, nodding for her to continue. “I can get a message to the outside. My husband Boone is going on a buying trip in two days. He goes to collect supplies for the palace and such. He knows of a man on the outside who can carry a message wherever you need it to go.”
My eyes lit up with her news. “Yes! Oh…but I’ve no idea where Shane is…”
“Oh! The great general! Yes! Why, I’d assume he’d be with the other troops.”
“Yes but our troops are scattered throughout the forests-”
“No, miss. They’re not.”
“What do you mean?”
“They withdrew two days ago. I thought you knew.”
“Withdrew?” I gasped, my hand flying to my throat. Had the battle gone that badly? Certainly they’d not withdrawn because of my capture. “Is it known where the army has retreated to?”
Wenyt shook her head. “None of us here knows. But on the outside, they’re sure to.”
I nodded. “Very well. I’ll take the chance. Take me back to my room and fetch me ink and paper as soon as possible.”
She nodded and led me to my chambers before scurrying away to complete her task. I was left alone in the room, unable to move about with the guards standing outside my door. With a sigh, I fell back onto the bed and stared at the swirled ceiling.
A small glimmer of hope was building in my mind and the knot that’d formed in my stomach loosened. Perhaps things weren’t as despondent as I’d thought.
When my eyes opened, I was surprised that I’d fallen asleep. I raised up on my elbows, shaking my head clear. I smiled. The most wonderful dream had come to me in my sleep. I’d seen Shane and he’d whispered the words of comfort I’d longed to hear during the time spent locked in the dungeon.
I felt refreshed and optimistic and my spirits only rose more when there was a soft knock on my door and a minute later, Wenyt entered. Checking behind her that the guards were safely on the other side of the door, she produced a thin piece of parchment and an ink well with quill.
“Thank you,” I said, taking the pieces from her. “If you’ll wait, I’ll have the message in a moment.”
Wenyt merely nodded and set to straightening my bedsheets as I sat down at my desk to write the message. I felt I had to be quick. There was no telling when Gadel or one of his men might enter. Debating my words for a moment, I settled on a short, simple message.
Captured by Groithians. Locked in Iae Wiltur. Am safe. Power gone. Send help- but NOT at risk to objective.
I sat back and looked at the hastily scrawled letter. I made one adjustment, adding “I love you. -Dri” to the end and folded it. “Wenyt?” The maid seized the letter and concealed it in her skirts. “Thank you,” I said, hoping I sounded as sincere as I felt. The risk she was taking had not gone unnoticed by me.
“Anything for the cause,” she responded with a smile and left.
I took a moment to pray for the safe passage of my message and its carriers.
“Has the maid been helpful?” Gadel’s voice broke my concetration.
“Yes,” I responded simply but coldly.
“Good.” He made himself comfortable in the same chair he’d occupied earlier. “We need to talk.”
“I’ve nothing to say to you and I’d advise you not to waste your breath on me. Anything you say will not be heard.” I turned my back to him.
“You will listen.” There was something sinister in his voice. I only glanced warily at his smirking face. “And you will cooperate with me.”
“Or what? You’ll lock me in the dungeon again? I don’t care.” It was a lie. The thought of that dungeon made my stomach churn but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing it.
“I’ll do worse than the dungeon, my dear.” I scoffed. What could be worse than that? He soon told me. “In the event of an absense of your cooperation, sweet old Timmy may suffer.”
I whirled on him. “Timmy?”
“She’s under heavy guard at the Manor and all it takes is a single word from me…” he left the sentence dangling odiously.
“You bastard.” Tears came unbidden to my eyes and I turned away to conceal them. But I’d not been swift enough in my movements. He’d seen the glisten and I felt him come to stand behind me. Gently, his hands ran up my arms and he brushed aside my hair. “Don’t cry, my lovely,” he pleaded, sounding like my Gadel.
“Stop this. Stop all of this. What’s happened to you?”
“Why, nothing has happened to me, sweet. It’s you who has changed. You proclaimed it yourself. I’m only making you see that the change was unnecessary and you should come back. Come back to me, sweet.” His voice was a dark whisper in my ear and I cringed as his breath tickled my neck.
“Get away from me,” I commanded, swallowing my tears and making my voice hard. He backed away with a sigh.
“Why won’t you see?”
“Why won’t you see?” He didn’t respond and I heard his footsteps fading as he left. I lay on my bed and cried.
To Be Continued….
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