"Hortense, Hortense!" Joyce reached across the table and shook the princess. "I need you to focus, what happened next?"

"It really gets pointless from there—

"I don't care I want to know everything." Joyce said. Hortense sighed and tried to remember where she left off.

"I never stopped wearing my hair in two braids. I guess I was trying to get my childhood back. However when Mordred had me exiled to Sulfur he also had my head shaven." He pulled at her hair which now came to her shoulders.

"I spent five years in exile and the world became something I didn't recognize anymore. War raged and people died. Heroes were born and people died. One year Mordred allowed me to make a phone call. I remember him wearing blue and orange, he had replaced our flag with a new one, it was terrible to look at"


Hortense tightened her black headscarf around her face and looked up at her brother.

"Come on little sis, don't keep him waiting." Mordred said. Hortense took the phone and held it to her ear. Once she heard his voice that childhood image would be vaporized.

"Jack?" She said. Already tears were starting to stream down her face. "It's me Hortense."

"What do you mean you recognized my voice?" A shot of joy went through her heart. "No, my brother doesn't allow me to read the papers or watch the news. That's the thing about being in exile." She laughed. She wanted the moment to be happy but Mordred had told her what was going on.

"You know, I would have liked to meet David. He's the only person my guards talk about. How he's mesmerized the kingdom." She laughed again. "But I'm sure no more than you." There was silence on the other end. "Hello?" Hortense said. She looked about at Mordred who was grinning. Hortense couldn't help but notice how tall her brother became.

Mordred watched as Hortense's facial expression changed. "Is this a joke?" She asked in a weak voice. "Tell me it's a Joke!" Tears poured from her eyes as her brother signaled for several officers to come in and set up a TV. After it was set up they flipped to the news station and stepped back.

Hortense almost dropped the phone as she watched the re run of the King being shot. She shook her head as Mordred roared in laughter. "Why Jack?" Hortense screamed. "He's your father, how could you turn…what have you become?" She looked at Mordred who was still laughing, even harder now.

"Jack? Jack, I can't here you what's all that noise?" She waited for a voice to reply. "You!" She suddenly shouted and Mordred stopped laughing. "You corrupted him, you corrupted my brother you corrupted me!" She shouted into the phone. "No I will not calm down! If you want to be king then be king, leave Gilboa alone come here, rule here. You've already turned it into Cross nation. The people worship you, even Mordred yields to you." She went silent for a moment as Cross spoke on the other end.

"One day you will run out of puppets and you'll have to face the world alone." She said and hung up the phone. She buried her face in her hands then looked at Mordred.

"I told you, Jack is my friend." He said.

"What if this all backfires, what if the King comes back?" Hortense asked. Mordred shrugged.

"Then my good friend William Cross can retreat here and we can massacre any nation that crosses us!" He snatched the phone from her and stuffed it in his pocket. "I'll give you one last chance little sister. You can bow to me, right here right now or you can die." He stood tall and looked down at her. Hortense looked up at him in disbelief that he could even ask that. Some much anger had built up in her heart over the years that she just exploded.

"Never, you murdered!" She screamed at the top of her lungs. "I'll never do it, I'll never even think it! You ruined our family you've been scheming the whole time. You wanted father to die! You knew I would tell Him! Murderer!" The officers were ready to draw their weapons

Hortense stood straight and tall with her hand raised. "I vow never to pay homage to you I vow to die first! I vow, I vow I vow!" Mordred grabbed hold of her and shook her violently swearing up and down. He threw her to the ground but Hortense was up before he could kick her.

"Never, Never, Never!" She shouted fueling his fires. Mordred was too blinded by rage to focus. He stumbled clumsily after her eventually exhausting himself. He leaned against one wall panting and Hortense leaned against another. Their game of cat and mouse had ended.

"You die." Mordred said and marched from the house with his officers fallowing him taking the television. When they had gone Hortense sunk into her chair and closed her eyes. She would not break her vow.

Many days after Mordred's visit Hortense sat in the window as the late noon sun glazed the earth in that hour before twilight. Her eyes were closed and all she could feel was the warmth of the sun on her skin. Not even the jingling of keys or the loud voice of the guard took her out of her state of mind.

"You have a visitor." He has said, but Hortense was deaf to all sounds. Then a familiar voice cut through the invisible veil.

"Hortense Hortense, of great importance how does your garden grow?"

Hortense opened her eyes to the window but did not turn around. "With smashed bells and comet tails and lonely tears all in a row…so my garden grows." She swallowed hard and turned around. "Andrew." She said near tears.

"You were expecting someone more important?" Andrew said. Hortense tried to fight back her tears but the urge was too overwhelming.

Andrew hurried over and put his hand on her shoulder. "I heard about your sentence," He said, "It's not something you deserve. I came to get you out of here. You'll be safe in Gilboa."

Hortense shook her head. "We'll never make it to the port. You should leave before my brother finds out you came." she turned her back to him and looked out the window. She laughed suddenly and shook her head. "You know, I once wanted to be like a comet." She said, "Free. But now I'd be satisfied if I could be the Hortense I was when I made that promise. That's the problems with us humans, Andrew. We can never be satisfied."

Andrew was shaking his head. "I know what it's like to be exiled." He said.

"Do you know how it feels to be stabbed all over with pains?" Hortense asked. "People who I thought were family, not family; friends, not friends." She shook in grief. Andre took her hand in his.

"I'm your friend." He shrugged. Hortense looked up at him in surprise.

"You?" She questioned. "Of all people."

"I know I'm not Jack," He said, "at the end of the day all I am is Andrew, but I promise never to ask you to be more than Hortense." Hortense turned away and bit her bottom lip in effort to stop it from trembling.

"Promise?" She asked with her back to him.

"I vow." Andrew said. Hortense turned around and looked into his face trying to erase whatever images her mind made of his father. She forced herself to stop being bias, after all, all the people she had ever known turned out to be the opposite of their parents.

She could truly consider Andrew a friend; the comet that came through the night despite an army of stars.

"Um what are you doing?" Hortense asked when she saw Andrew go over to the old radio. She shook her head as some how he figured out how to get it to work.

"Once upon a time a princess I know sang in her father's court." Andrew replied. Hortense crossed her arms.

"I'm not singing anything." She said as stubborn as any child. Andrew worked with the radio until he found a working station. The sound of a choir humming filled the room and Andrew nodded his head in satisfaction. Suddenly a man's voice came out the speakers. Dave Barnes "More than a Man"

I should first apologize

Cause I've done nothing but I'll do something

The good in me gets bad sometimes

But I don't mean it

I'll never mean it

Don't give up on me

Baby please believe

Cause I'll be more than a man for you

I'll do anything you ask me to

Heartache or heaven

Baby I will, pursue

More than a man for you

Andrew's face flushed and Hortense burst out in laughter. She covered her mouth feeling sorry for him. Andrew bowed with one hand out to Hortense who curtsied smiling bigger than she had in years.


"Does that Answer your questions Joyce Baker?" Hortense said as the cells outside her the door opened and closed with a loud clang.

"You're here because you would not bow to your tyrannical brother?" The reporter asked. "All you had to do was bow." She said in bewilderment.

"After all of that you still don't understand." Hortense said, "Bowing to my brother would have been a slower more painful death. I vowed not to pay him homage, and I will keep that vow. I owe it."

"You shouldn't have to." The guard said clearly upset. "I thought you were in here for homicide of something terrible, but all you did was refuse to bow." His face turned red and so did his eyes as they misted over. In one fluid motion he stood and excused himself from the room. Hortense stared after him for a moment then looked back at Joyce Baker.

The reporter stopped the recorder and removed her glasses. "I have what I need Princess, thank you." She said a bit sadly. Hortense reached across the table and touched her hand.

"Don't be sad." She said, "Just think, in about seven hours I'll be as free as ever." The reporter just nodded her head and packed her things. "Most of all, no one can make be break my last vow then." Joyce continued to pack her things as she sniffled. "What are you going to do with all that information?" Hortense asked.

"Clear your name." Joyce said. Hortense leaned back in her chair and rested her hands in her lap.

"Don't get me wrong," Hortense said, "I don't want to die, I would much rather live. On the bright side, a name is better than good oil, and the day of death than the day of one's being born."

She smiled as the door opened and the guard stood there calm as can be. "Time." He said and both Hortense and the reporter stood. They entered into the hall way and after nodding their goodbyes started off in opposite directions.

"Long live the Duchess of Victory!" All the guards suddenly chorused. Hortense stopped and turned around. The reporter had stopped too and was staring in equal amazement.

"Salute on three." The head guard said. "One, two, three."

"Salute!" With that they all took a bow before her until only she and Joyce were standing erect.

"Victory is yours." Joyce said and continued on her way. Hortense started back down the row of guards who remained bowing as she walked to her cell. Looking up at the windows in the ceiling high above the steep walls she could see the full moon shinning as a witness to eternity.

"Perhaps the moon looks down on us and thinks, 'imagine what it would be like to be a human; to live a life with purpose. Then after you're gone, your legacy would live on and on and on and on and on and on and on'."

End…"Dante's Prayer" Lorena Mckennitt


Thanks to all for reading please review.