A Gift for a Prince
It was unusually cold for September and I could most definitely feel it most in my bedchambers at the back of the castle- they were somewhat of an annoyance, deathly cold in the winter and scorching hot in the summer. I had managed to stoke the embers into a decent fire a few hours ago but the quiet popping noises of the logs snapping in the heat was gradually dying down taking the slight warmth with it. I was sure at some point someone would wander into the room and try to take care of it- it didn't need to be taken care of, I was a grown man…
"Your Highness… "
The knock at the door startled me, a heavy-handed knock of a man not the soft delicate noise that would signal the arrival of a maid- sighing; I heaved myself towards the door. Standing in the doorway were two guards and between them what appeared to be a young woman, I could just make out her features- wide brown doe eyes and a soft mouth before they roughly shoved her to the ground. I heard her whimper as her knees hit the cold stone floor and I winced- I had fell down in the very same stone corridor when I was eight years old and I could still remember the intense pain that came as a result.
I noticed then that her wrists were bound with think hessian; she had obviously been roughly pulled with the rope by the scarlet marks that were just visible beneath them. What was she doing here and why were her hands bound? Was she a criminal and if so why was she being brought before me? I stared down at her thick mahogany hair which was hiding her face.
"Sire... I bring a gift for you from the King." He harshly grabbed a handful of her hair and yanked her face up towards me. I looked over her features from her tear-filled brown eyes to the soft curve of her jaw, she really was beautiful. I tore my eyes back to the burly guards.
"Yes Sire… A gift for you, a woman, to warm your bed."
With the handful of her hair that he still had grasped in his hand he pulled her up till she was standing and pulled her tight against him.
"Listen to me wench… You are here for his pleasure alone, not yours. No matter what he wants you give to him and if you dare disobey your Prince, you can pay for it with your life."
I had never liked Hugo the guard in question, he was brutal and he made no move to hide it, and that was of course why my father kept him. He was an amazing warrior in battle but when confined to the stone walls of a castle he took his brutality out on the servants. At his side, a guard whose man I was not aware of was laughing at the way Hugo was running his hand softly against her face. It made me feel nauseous.
"Goodnight Sire… Make sure you enjoy your gift. She's a maiden but I'm sure she won't be when dawn breaks. " He murmured sniggering and with that they both left shoving the young woman into my bedchambers. Slowly closing the door astounded by what had just occurred I turned to look at the slim woman whom I could rape whenever I wished and if she even tried to protest a noose would soon be wrapped around her fragile neck.
She was shivering and I wasn't surprised the gown she was wearing was extremely thin. She wasn't looking up at me once again her hair had fallen forward to shield her face.; her eyes were turned downwards towards the floor and more specifically the glow of the dying fire that was being cast across the floor. I could tell that she wanted to move towards it to warm herself. I glanced over at the pelt which was lying over my bed; she could wrap it around herself and sit by the fire. I wouldn't have her freeze.
As I slowly moved towards my bed she took a slight step back, and when I proceeded to remove the pelt from the bed I heard her quick intake of breath. Bundling the soft material up in my arms I turned towards her to see she had finally looked up and her eyes were glistening with unshed tears.
"Please. Make it quick. Please be gentle… I'm still a maiden."
She stared into by eyes and had I not been watching her carefully I would not have seen how she begun to tremble. Her voice had been soft and quiet almost as if she believed I would strike her for speaking out. I never would.
I thanked God that she had been gifted to me at that moment- I would never desecrate her body- or the body of any woman- with rape. Many men would see this differently, they would see her as a possession, not a woman who had the right to decide as to which man she would give her body to. And for nine long months she would bear her tormenters child in her womb, go through the painful labour- to never feel the weight of her newborn in her arms. If she bore a boy child he would be sent to work in hard, demanding labour for man of the same class as his own father, and a girl child would await the same fate as her mother before her. Until her womb also would swell with child. And so it would continue.
"Don't fear. I won't take you… Tonight or any other night for that matter. I merely wish to offer you this- you can warm yourself by the fire."
I handed her the pelt and motioned towards the fire, before swiftly stepping back to show her I meant no harm to her. She appraised me quietly whilst holding the pelt in both of her hands. I smiled warmly at her to hopefully reassure her.
"Truly I will not hurt you in any way."
Slowly her full lips curved up into a small smile and she moved towards the fire. Sitting down carefully I watched her close her eyes as the warmth enveloped her. Opening her eyes she turned to look at me.
"Thank you." She murmured. Her voice was soft like honey or water snaking its way over pebbles in a stream.
"It really is nothing."
"No really thank you… Others… would not be so considerate."
Her smile was warmer now and the slight glow of the fire was reflecting off her face. She would not be so warm however when the glowing embers died, I moved to the back of my room, shivering when I hit the cold pocket of air to retrieve some firewood.
When I moved closer to her and the fire she once again flinched at my nearness.
"I'm sorry… I… I was merely going to get the fire started once more. I will move though if it bothers you…"
"No. I overreacted. I know you won't hurt me. If you wanted to you would not be helping me keep warm. You would not be interested in my health or happiness." She replied. Her eyes held secrets of a past that no young woman should have had.
"I care very much. No one should be treated differently to another. I will treat you the same as I would treat a noble." She laughed- a light, happy sound.
"If only the entire world had that view."
For a short while we sat, the only sound that of the log snapping in the fire and the soft hooting of an owl near-by. Every so often she would draw the pelt tightly around her shoulders, or stare into the depths of the fire, the flickering flames reflected in her pupils.
"What is your name?"
I was desperate to know and I released that we would most likely be spending a lot of time together- it was only fair I knew her name.
"Isabella. But everyone calls me Bella."
Bella. Beautiful. Tomorrow I would speak to my father.