Chapter 10: Lilies vs. Orchids:
Next day, Darken woke up early. He had a meeting with General Egremont and some other Generals. It wasn't that easy to be a good ruler but he promised himself, when he was in the underworld, that if he ever had the chance to return to the land of the living again, he would be the ruler that his people always wanted.
The meeting didn't take long. They just had to discuss a few issues. The generals excused themselves and Darken and Egremont were left alone. "My lord?" Egremont said. Darken looked at him questionably.
"I heard that the young woman returned back to the palace."
Darken narrowed his eyes, "Heard?! Where did you hear that?"
Egremont took a step back. He felt his lord's anger.
"I ...I was at the Mord-sith temple and..."
"The Mord-sith temple? What were you doing there?"
"Mistress Heather wanted to speak with me".
"About what?" Darken asked impatiently.
"We need new girls for the training, my lord. She asked me to send some guards and an officer to accompany her and the other mistresses...to prevent what happened the last time. She insists on bringing those girls from Carden. She says it is revenge."
Darken raised his brow and smirked, "So...my Mord-siths are asking my army for protection?! And I thought that when my army falls, my Mord-siths will be the last line of protection." He suddenly screamed, "MY MORD-SITHS WHO HAVE ALREADY PROVEN THEIR WEAKNESS AND INCAPABILITY, WHO GOT BEATEN UP BY AN ORDINARY YOUNG WOMAN, ARE NOW ASKING FOR PROTECTION!"
"WHAT?", He interrupted, screaming.
Egremont swallowed, "I don't think it's a good idea to lose our faith in the order of the mord-siths, especially now. It was an accident that I am sure won't happen again."
"Sure? You are sure? What if it happened again, Egremont? Are you willing to take up the responsibility?" Egremont said nothing.
Darken continued, "An accident, right? An accident that shouldn't have happened in the first place."
Darken was trying to suppress his fury. Every time he remembered what Isabella did to Heather, he felt furious, but he also couldn't deny that feeling that tickled him; he felt excited. He has met many women before and most of them were fighters; starting with his mord-siths and every confessor he has ever met, including Kahlan Amnell, but Isabella was different; she fought in her own way. She fought with her hands, but what made her different was that she always fought with her words; bitter words that felt like daggers.
"Inform mistress Heather to stop her trips to the villages."
"But, my lord, we do need new girls. We already lost many mord-siths recently. We have..."
"I said ENOUGH."
There was silence for a few minutes. Egremont stood still, while lord Rahl sat on his throne and put his head in his hands.
"Are there any other orders, my lord?", Egremont said quietly.
Darken raised his head to look at him, "No, just be sure to deliver my message."
Egremont bowed his head and turned to leave, leaving his lord drowning in his own thoughts.
"Please, mistress. It's just a walk". Nyla was pleading. She was trying to convince Isabella to have a walk with her in the royal garden.
Nyla continued, "Lord Rahl said that you are allowed to walk in the royal garden. He is always generous with his guests."
"Nyla, I told you; I don't want to have a walk. I don't want to leave this chamber unless I am leaving it to go home."
"But lord Rahl..."
"I AM NOT HIS GUEST", Isabella screamed suddenly. "and for the creator's sake, stop calling me mistress."
Nyla closed her mouth and swallowed. She has never seen her mistress losing her temper. She was always nice and kind to her.
"Uh...I am sorry, mistress... I mean...miss", she was about to cry.
Isabella sighed and walked to sit on the edge of her bed. She said quietly, "Why do you insist, Nyla? What is so special about this garden?"
Nyla said in a low voice, "I have never been to the royal garden before. Maids aren't allowed to go there. Only the gardeners and the guards are permitted to enter it. They say it's very beautiful. I just want to see it...Lord Rahl said that I can accompany you because you still can't walk properly."
"You said it; I am still in pain. My ankle still hurts and I can't walk properly."
"I promise you that whenever you get tired, we will turn back. I will not argue", Nyla said hopefully.
Isabella closed her eyes. She didn't want to leave her chamber. She didn't want to go anywhere inside the borders of that palace. She has already seen enough of that place. She wanted to leave, not to wander in the royal garden.
Isabella opened her eyes to find Nyla's brown eyes focused on her. She sighed heavily and said, "Alright." Nyla's face lightened up.
"...But when I say I want to go back, we go back. No arguments."
Nyla smiled widely, "Of course."
Isabella was wearing a red and white long-sleeve dress, but she took a shawl and put it on her shoulders though it was spring and the weather wasn't cold. They both left the chamber and walked in silence. Isabella walked slowly. She wished she hadn't agreed to leave her chamber. Through their way to the garden, every guard was watching her; every maid was staring at her. They were all watching the young woman who came and left and came back. Most of them already knew that at the night she came back from the mord-siths' temple, lord Rahl took a tray of some healing creams and went to her chamber. That wasn't him, and that kept them wondering.
Finally, they reached the garden. Before they stepped inside, Isabella said, "Remember our agreement, Nyla."
Nyla said, "Of course, but we aren't coming back until I show you a very special place."
Isabella looked at Nyla, confused. "What place?"
Nyla smiled, "The Lilies."
Before Isabella could say one word, Nyla pulled her and they both entered the garden. They passed by various kinds of flowers; Roses, Daffodils, Orchids. They also saw different types of trees. Isabella knew most of them, and she told Nyla about them. There were herbs, too. Isabella told Nyla that some of them were used for healing, others were used for their amazing scents. Nyla was surprisedby the amount of information that Isabella had. "How do you know all of that?" Nyla asked.
"Why are you so surprised?" Isabella asked simply.
"Only healers know all those information about plants."
"Only healers?", Isabella smiled.
"Well...Mostly...Are you a healer?" Nyla asked curiously.
"No, I am not a healer."
"My father loved nature so much. He knew everything about every plant that grows in our village. We used to go everyday to the forest, and he would talk about every flower and tree we see on our way." Isabella was smiling as she remembered those memories.
"Do you have any siblings, mistress?" Nyla asked.
Isabella stopped walking and looked at Nyla sadly. "No, I don't." she said, and then she walked again.
Nyla walked next to her and said, "I have an elder sister. Her name is Alicia."
"Does she work here in the palace?"
"No, she is married. Her husband won't let her work, he can afford her." and she smiled, "She is also with child."
Isabella smiled at Nyla, "Really? Congratulations."
"Thank you." Nyla said happily.
"So, what are you doing here now? Shouldn't you go and be with her?"
"I help her as much as I can, she lives near us anyway, but I can't leave the palace for a long time."
"I see. Well...can't your mother stay with her?"
Nyla sighed and said, "My mother died seven years ago."
"I am sorry, Nyla...Um...And your father?"
"No, he is alive, thank the Creator." Isabella nodded.
"What about you?" Nyla asked.
"My parents died a few years ago."
"Are you married?"
"I was married. He died, too." Isabella looked sad.
Nyla said in a low voice, "I am sorry." and before Isabella could respond, she said, "But you will not be alone anymore. You are here, and lord Rahl is..."
Isabella looked at Nyla angrily. Nyla shut her mouth and knew she said something wrong. Isabella stared angrily at Nyla for a while and Nyla felt a little scared of her mistress and took two steps backwards. Isabella saw that and knew that she scared the girl. She said in a voice that she tried to make as calm as possible, "Let's finish the tour quickly. I want to go back."
Finally, the two young women reached the Lilies. "Finally", Nyla shouted happily.
"Here we are; the Lilies. Would you tell me now why you insisted on coming here?", Isabella asked.
"I wanted to see that special place", Nyla said happily.
"Special place?", Isabella narrowed her eyes. She admitted that the whole garden was nice, but what was special about that particular place?
"Yes. This place has witnessed the growth of a love story." then she whispered as if she was telling a secret, "The only love story in lord Rahl's life."
Isabella opened her mouth in disbelief.
A love story? That man didn't even know the meaning of the word. I wouldn't be surprised if I found out that he couldn't spell it.
"I have heard that story when I first came here. It happened so many years ago but older maids know it. They say that lord Rahl was in love with a noble lady named Alma. Back there he was Prince Darken and his father was still alive. She was the sister of a famous General in the army. I don't remember his name but I remember that he was a friend of lord Rahl. They had a secret love story. No one knew about it; not even her brother or his father, Lord Panis Rahl. But guards and maids always notice such things. They say she was lovely, beautiful and kind to everyone."
"And what does all of that has to do with the lilies?", Isabella asked, looking at the beautiful flowers.
"That's where they used to meet. They say she loved flowers, but she adored the Lilies the most. She loved spending time here."
Darken Rahl was in love with a woman?! A lovely sweet woman and not a cruel mord-sith?! Isabella couldn't comprehend.
"And what happened next? Where is she? I know he is not married."
"She died.", Nyla said sadly.
"Died? How?" Isabella was surprised.
"They say she killed herself; stabbed herself with a dagger."
Isabella narrowed her eyes. Why would the lovely lady do that? Maybe he took advantage of her then refused to marry her. For a lady in her social position, it was a disaster. That's what Isabella thought.
"...But that was what was said behind the walls. They announced to people that she got sick and died. They couldn't tell the people that a noble lady killed herself; it is not appropriate". Isabella said nothing.
Nyla continued, "Can you imagine, mistress? This place witnessed many love moments that they shared. There is an old maid in the kitchen; she is the one who told me that story, she said that they looked great together. She said lord Rahl was different with Alma; he treated her so gently; like a queen. He was never mean to her and he really loved her. She thinks that lady Alma's death is what made him like that", then she whispered, "Cruel."
Was that man capable of love? Was he capable of treating anyone gently?
Isabella remembered how he treated her in the beginning; slapping her and trying to rape her, and she also remembered how he treated her when she returned back with him from the temple; he was gentle, although she never trusted that attitude.
"...Kayla, the old maid, told me that they used to meet here a lot. She loved Lilies so much and lord Rahl knew that and ordered the gardeners to take special care of that particular part of the garden. Oh...I wish I could see her."
Isabella looked around her. The lilies were beautiful, and so was the late lady of the lilies, apparently. Isabella imagined Rahl lying on the ground with a lovely young woman lying next to him and he would be stroking her hair and kissing her gently. The next moment she imagined him looking at a beautiful lady with eyes full of love and care. Was he really able of doing that? Maybe he was once a good person, maybe that woman was the only one who could suppress his dark soul. Isabella tried so hard to believe that the cruel lord Rahl was once a normal man who could fall in love and secretly meet his lover in a garden.
Nyla leaned on her knees to smell a Lily. "It's beautiful. No wonder why it was her favorite", she thought. She stretched her hand to touch it and...
"DON'T YOU DAR"
Isabella turned around sharply and Nyla fell off from shock. It was Lord Rahl and he was more than furious. If looks could kill, Nyla would have been dead by now.
"What are you doing here?", Rahl said. He was clenching his jaws.
Nyla stood up and swallowed hard. She knew she was doomed now. She was scared to death that he may have heard what she told Isabella about his former lover. She opened her dry mouth, but she couldn't speak. She looked at Isabella desperately. Isabella knew what Nyla was feeling, so she took a step forward and said, "Nyla told me that I was permitted to walk in the garden, and I was bored; staying in the chamber all day."
Rahl breathed loudly. He kept his gaze on Nyla. He never allowed anyone, not even himself, to touch the lilies since Alma's death. There was silence for over a minute; Rahl looking at Nyla furiously, Nyla looking at the ground, and Isabella looking at both of them. Finally, Rahl said in a demanding voice, "Leave." He was looking at Nyla. Once he said that, Isabella held Nyla's wrist and said, "Wait. I am coming with you." Rahl said, "No. Only she leaves." Nyla didn't wait another second. She looked at Isabella for a second and then she ran away.
Darken looked at Isabella and said, "How are you today?" His face was plain. Isabella tried to look anywhere but at him, but she failed to do that when he stepped in front of her. "I feel better." she finally said. Rahl took another step forward when she turned around him and said, "I have to go back to my chamber. I feel tired." and she left in a hurry, before seeing Rahl's smile.
Isabella walked in such a hurry that her ankle hurt like hell. She needed to slow down, so she leaned on a tree and closed her eyes. She couldn't stay with him alone; she was still scared of him, though she always tried to hide it.
"You shouldn't have left in such a hurry. You could have hurt your ankle." He followed her.
Isabella snapped her eyes open. She turned to face him. He saw smiling widely, which made her nervous. She ran her fingers through her long silky hair and said nothing.
"So, what do you think of my royal garden?" he asked in a normal tone.
"your... It's nice."
"Did you like the Lilies?"
"They are beautiful."
Rahl gestured for her to walk with him. She applied reluctantly. She walked slowly and he walked near her. They kept walking till they reached the red roses. Isabella stopped and stared at the red flowers.
"Do you like them that much?"
"I hate red", she said. Darken looked at her and narrowed his eyes. She turned to look at him. They kept looking at each other till he broke contact and said, "Then...what's your favorite flower?" Isabella paused for a long moment then said, "Orchids."
"mmmmm. Orchids are royal. A very nice choice, Isabella."
Suddenly, Rahl moved towards her. She was startled; she didn't expect that move. She tightened the shawl around her shoulders but didn't move.
"Are you still scared of me?" he said.
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't be."
"I told you; you are my guest."
"And why should I believe you?" she said, breathing heavily.
He took a few more steps forwards so that Isabella had to go backwards to avoid the physical contact. Unfortunately, her back hit a big tree and there was no escape.
Rahl looked at her and smiled, "Because I already told you; If I want you, I would have had you by now."
Isabella raised her eyebrow and said ridiculously, "Right. This is exactly what you have proven the night I stabbed myself."
Rahl took another step forwards. He was so close that if he took another step, his chest would touch hers. She could go nowhere. She was pinned. She just tightened the shawl a little more. Rahl noticed that and laughed.
"You seem to be a little shy for a woman who has been with a man before in an intimate way."
Isabella looked at him angrily. She knew what he meant and said, "He was my husband."
"He was a man, after all." Isabella breathed hardly. She didn't like it when Rahl brought up that subject. He touched a strand of her hair and whispered, "Tell me, what makes him different?"
She tried to move away but he held her forearms. He said a little harsher, "What makes him so different?"
She looked into his eyes and said defiantly, "I was his. Only his. That's what made him different."
Rahl didn't respond. He took that strand of hair and smelled it deeply. He could hear Isabella's angry breaths, but he didn't care. He didn't care about her anger; he was enjoying being that close to her. Isabella closed her eyes. She couldn't stand being near him and she thought that closing her eyes might make it better.
Darken raised his eyes to look at her, and he saw her eyes closed. He looked at her beautiful face and smiled. He was about to touch her red full lips with the tip of his finger but he stopped. Instead, he leaned and brushed his lips against hers. Isabella opened her eyes and gazed at him, startled. He could see so many feelings in that look; amazement, disbelief, condemnation and disgust. He didn't care about that, he only wanted to feel her soft lips again. He leaned to kiss her again but she pushed him away from her, screaming, "DON'T TOUCH ME."
She was freed from being pinned to that tree. How much she hated that tree now!
She moved away and put both her hands on her mouth in disbelief. She couldn't hold her tears back. They streamed down her face. Before he could take a step forward, she turned around and ran. She didn't care about her ankle. She kept running till she reached the Orchids. She looked at the delicate flowers furiously. She felt that she wanted to burn them along with the whole garden. She continued running till she reached the door of her chamber. She didn't care about the guards' curious looks; she was still crying. She opened the door and found Nyla waiting for her inside.
"Oh, my creator. What happened?", Nyla asked in fear. She was afraid that lord Rahl punished Isabella instead of her.
Isabella couldn't speak. She was sobbing heavily. She walked slowly and sat on the armchair by the window. She said in a low voice, "I just want to go home."
Nyla walked to her and knelt beside the chair. "Did lord Rahl p...?"
"DON'T SAY HIS NAME. I HATE HIM. GET OUT. I DON'T WANT TO SEE ANYONE. GET OUT." Isabella lost control. She was screaming at Nyla. Nyla was shocked. She didn't understand what happened to her mistress. She stood up and left without saying a word. She understood that Isabella wanted to spend some time alone. Once Nyla closed the door behind her, Isabella stood up and walked to the bed. She felt weak. She felt powerless. Her ankle hurt a lot. Her whole body hurt a lot. She felt her lips were on fire. She fell on the bed and cried till her eyes were dried. A while later, she sank into a dreamless sleep.
Back at the garden, Darken didn't move an inch since Isabella ran. He stood still, thinking about what just happened. Her lips were so soft and sweet. He never felt that way before with any of his mord-siths. Alma was the only woman that did that to him; he still remembered the taste of their first kiss, but Alma allowed him to be close to her, and Isabella would never do that. He knew it would consume too much time and effort to convince her to be with him willingly. He didn't want to take advantage of her anymore. He didn't want to see that look on her face every time he was around her. Darken didn't know what was happening to him before and he was furious because of that, but that time he didn't care because he knew what was going on; maybe that was the creator's gift for him for trying to be a good person, giving him his beloved back in the form of another woman. He couldn't have Alma back but he could have her projection.
Darken walked till he reached the Orchids. He never cared that much about flowers, but he noticed how beautiful orchids are. He knelt and touched an orchid with the tips of his fingers. It felt soft, too. As soft as Isabella's lips.
So, tell me what you think of it. Reviews are important especially at that point :-)