Chapter 5 : Two Hearts
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The day to meet Prince Slytherin had arrived and the Princess’s house was a frizzy of activity. Months had passed and now there was a fortnight until the wedding. Rowena had accepted it now, but still she was nervous.
The sound of hooves was getting louder and soon a trumpet announced the arrival of the Prince’s entourage.
“He is here.”
“What dress do you want Princess.”
“No. Rowena you where blue all the time. You are going to wear the silver dress today.”
The queen said. A servant rushed to get the dress from the wardrobe.
I could see that it took everything that Rowena had to calm herself and not rebut the Queen’s decision. Queen Olyvia despised Rowena. She admitted to herself aloud once and I heard her, but her admission meant nothing when her eyes gave it away. She despised her step daughter because Rowena was the favorite to the king and he preferred Rowena to her. Rowena always got what she wished and she didn’t. It was an absurd reason to hate somebody, but alas, it was the cold truth. The servant helped Rowena get dressed.
Rowena she did not despise her step mother. No, she was irritated with, frustrated and angry at the way her step-mother treated her, but she had decided that there were more important worries in life than childish notions about what was fair. She knew it wasn’t right to hate somebody that didn’t like her, when there were people dying to protect her kingdom, people starving because taxes had to be higher this year to pay the costs of war.
It would have been easy for her to give in to temptation and challenge the queen, but Rowena did not give in to childish temptations. She never had, and she never would.
“Rowena, The prince has entered the gates! Instruct your ladies on what to do.”
“Lady Helga, Lady Anne, Lady Fiona, and lady Phillipa, We shall now head down to the courtyard to greet the arrival of Prince Salazar.”
The queen left the room ahead of Rowena and The ladies behind the Princess. It was a short time before we arrived at the courtyard, just in time to see the Prince dismount from his steed.
I was suspicious of everything in this castle. It had near been a fortnight, getting closer to the wedding, but my initial suspicions that somebody wanted me gone had not passed since my arrival. I was welcomed by the King. I had decent chambers which would of course be second best in a short while, but there was this feeling of dread down to my bones.
Princess Rowena was surely the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. When we met she was wearing a silver gown. She had worn blue every day since. She seemed to be weary of me. She calculated in her mind the way I acted and tried to determine my personality the way I did to her. We spoke every day, getting to know each other and I respected her spirit. She was out spoken and that set her aside from the majority of the ladies here, and I liked that. Rowena was Unique. She was clever, she was intelligent and she knew politics because she paid attention instead of listening to the idle banter of noble women.
“Prince Salazar, may I ask if you would be willing to join me on a stroll through the gardens? I do so love seeing the last moments of winter fade into the first of spring, and I would like to check on my cold-weather herbs.”
“I would be honored to join you Princess Rowena. Do you have a lady escort?”
“Yes. Lady Helga will join us and of course a Guard will follow close behind us to protect us three from any impending dangers that could possibly happen in the garden.” She smiled at her sarcasm and I couldn’t help but to as well.
“Then shall we go.”
It was awhile longer, before I spoke again. We had been strolling in the garden for some time in a perpetuated silence.
“Why did you ask me to walk with you Princess? You could have easily come with Lady Helga alone.” I couldn’t help asking. I was curious, and her silence made me more so.
“I asked you because, I want to discuss some things with you. Of course they are unladylike and I do not wish to offend you and have been trying to find the best way to express my thoughts.”
“Princess Rowena, in the past fortnight since I’ve been here, nothing you do is the ordinary thing a noble woman would do and I admire that. I like that quality.”
“Good. Then I will just say my thoughts as is.”
“After I check on my herbs.” She paused, bent down and began poking in the dirt with a stick. “Ah, perfect, they are doing well.” She rose again and began walking.
“You amaze me.” I muttered. She smiled.
“I have always planned on ruling this country as queen independently. Then my father decided to actually take the foul advice of his adviser whose opinions are that a woman cannot rule alone because she does not understand the affairs of man. He decided that I shall have a husband to co-rule beside me.”
“Many fathers pick husbands for their daughter.”
“Yes. I don’t blame father, the dear man. I want you to know that I will marry you to please him. But I am not going to stand on the sidelines while you Rule my country for me. I am intelligent ad wise enough to rule it independently, however am resigned to the fact to have the co-ruler. I want that to be clear now, before we make the vows on Saturday’s ceremony. Do not expect me to allow you to make the decisions alone. We will rule as a team, and if we disagree we will not pass any decisions until one of us agrees with the other’s side. Or the welfare of the people requires a hasty decision. I believe that you Sir, are well aware of how people suffer from poor decisions.” It was almost like a lecture that she was giving me.
“Princess. Rowena. I do not expect you to do anything less. England is your Kingdom that you have been raised to rule all along and you have the ability to do so. I am marrying you because my countrymen have suffered enough from the poor decisions my father has made in trying to defeat England. I know that you understand the politics of war. But I would like you to know that I do not intend to stand on the outs of your decisions. We rule jointly, as you said.”
“Good, Then we are agreed.”
“Well done. Good day Prince Salazar.”
With that agreement struck in accordance she turned on her heel, placed her arm into Lady Helga’s and walked back into the castle. She was one amazing woman.
“It is time Princess. The morning is upon us and we must get you ready.”
“Yes, Helga, I’m up.”
The door then barged open and Mother, the other ladies and a crowd of servants rushed into my chamber.
“Rowena. Still in bed at this hour? On your wedding day none the less. Tsk.” Mother lectured when she saw me sitting on the bed.
“It is only dawn mother, and you have just now arrived, did you expect to see me dressed already with the help of one Lady?”
“Up! We haven’t all day, you insolent girl.”
I rose from the bed and was immediately thrown into a hot bath. I was scrubbed down, from head to toe, and pampered as though I had never had a bath in my entire life. Then I was yanked out of the tub and harshly dried off. Lady Anne and Lady Phillipa took off my wet chemise and placed a new, dry one on me. Servants were yanking a comb through my hair, twisting and pulling it. Mother was shouting orders about.
“Get her dress in here, Get her undergarments on her, Hair, fix it Now!”
It seemed like forever, before she finally sat me in a chair and handed me an apple. I was in my chemise, stockings and corset. I silently ate my apple as two servants worked on my hair, placing each strand into a clip and pinning it up onto my head until it wrapped around. When they had finished, not one piece of my hair was out of place, none were falling down my neck. Lady Helga then worked on my makeup applying a dark Kohl underneath my eyelids, a powder all over my face, a pale blue powder on my eyelids, a rouge on my cheeks and rosy paint for my lips.
“Well at least she actually looks like a princess now.” Mother commented when she had finished.
“May I get dressed now?”
“Yes. Do so. Ladies.”
Anne and Phillipa once again rose from their seats and slid the white gown over my head, then bent down to adjust the train. Helga fastened the veil over my face. Fiona put the white shoes on my feet.
“There. Now you are ready. Let’s go now to the chapel.” Mother ordered and the entourage of ladies moved from my chamber and down the hallway, up the long staircase to the chapel.
Minutes later I was standing at the back, behind two doors watching as Mother walked through the door to her seat and all my ladies followed, except Helga. We waited behind the door for Father.
“Are you ready?” Helga asked.
Father walked in and smiled at me. He kissed my head. The organ began to play and the doors opened. Father took my arm into his and as Helga walked ahead of us, slowly began to walk towards the altar where Prince Salazar stood. He smiled at me as I stood before him. Father lifted the veil over my face and placed my hand into Salazar’s.
Despite the sins of both man and woman do you both accept each other as their lawful spouse?
“Prince Salazar to you swear to the woman before you today to protect her and her estates, to rule jointly besides her , and to promise to care for her, and be faithful to her?”
“Princess Rowena to you swear to the man before you this day to honor, obey and be faithful to, respect his decisions even when the question your own and to love him?”
“Prince Salazar do you swear to uphold these vows whether the times be good and healthy or bad and sickly?”
“Princess Rowena do you swear to uphold these vows whether the times be good and healthy or bad and sickly?”
“Do you both swear these vows before the Lord God this day and accept the consequences of a vow if it be broken?”
“Then I pronounce you Man and Wife.”
Salazar leaned into me and left a soft lingering kiss on my mouth. Then we turned to face the court, My father and His together as a married couple.
“And now we celebrate this joyous union at the wedding breakfast.”
This had been the first wedding I had been to since I was knighted. The court sure had a way of putting on a good ceremony. But then it wasn’t every day that the Princess was married either. The wedding service was early and it seemed to drone on for a while. There was a Mass both before the ceremony and then after so that the newly married couple could pray to bless their union.
It was near midday by the time we got to break our fast, but all other activities were called off. The entire court would spend the day and most of the night here in the great hall. They would eat, drink, dance and gossip. It was a celebration. I would eat, and then sit and watch, Lady Helga.
She was a Scotswoman. From enemy territory. But she didn’t act like one. She didn’t act the way a spy would. The princess trusted her. And that meant I had to trust her. But I was weary. She was a beautiful woman. But beautiful women had ways of cloudy a man’s wit and his mind. In the crucial moments of life and death, a man needed to have a brain in his skull that worked. I couldn’t risk trusting her, when she was so close to the princess. Because she could very well be on a mission.
It seemed like no time had passed, but it had come time for the wedded couple to depart for their wedding “night.” I was so nervous. I had no mother to explain how things were supposed to go, my stepmother seemed to enjoy the torture she could induce in me for withholding the information I desired. What was I supposed to do? Would I please him? Would it hurt? What should I expect.
Helga and the other ladies took me up to the bridal chamber. They unraveled my hair, tying it into a simple braid. They washed my face clean of make-up. They undressed me, leaving me in nothing but my chemise.
Helga handed me a goblet of ale.
“That’ll calm her nerves.”
I took a sip. The ladies dispersed away from the chamber until only Lady Helga remained.
“You don’t know what to expect do you?”
“Are you frightened ?”
“Nervous more, I trust him. He does not frighten me therefore there should be no reason to be afraid. I just don’t know anything about what is going to happen tonight, other than I will truly be a married woman.”
“I’ll be here in the morning?”
“You mean after the crowds of people who come in to see me humiliated, and deflowered?”
“Why would you be humiliated?”
“Because I am not pretty, I do not possess any talent that a man wishes to find in a bride, and because I don’t have the first idea of how to please a man at night.”
“Rowena, you are the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, you have no use for petty qualities because you are one day going to rule this mighty nation, and who gives an almighty tooth what pleases a man. You should only concern yourself with what pleases you.” I smiled at her words.
A knock came from the adjoining door and Helga hugged me before hastily exiting the chamber. I swallowed my fear and mustered up every ounce of courage I could. The door opened just as I had pulled the blanket around me.
Salazar walked in dressed in his trouser with his shirt open.
I shook my head.
“Come here. I won’t hurt you.” I blushed so he added “You have nothing to be embarrassed about, I am your husband.”
Husband. The word echoed in the room, drilling into my mind. How strange.
I rose slowly from the bed, inching out and crossing the room until I stood a foot away from him. The entire time I had been crossing he had been eying me up. He reached out and pulled me closer to him until he held me in his arms. Than his mouth came crashing down onto my lips in a passionate kiss. He undid my braid and my hair fell down my back in waves.
“Beautiful.” He mumbled.
“What we are doing?”
“Don’t you know what to expect?”
Anger twisted into Salazar’s features. His eyes widened, his eyebrows raised, he frowned and his eyes flashed in rage.
“You should have been told.”
“It isn’t important.”
“Yes, it damned well is important.”
“What is required of me?”
“Nothing is required of you. I will make sure that all you do is relax and enjoy what this night has provided for us.”
Salazar kissed me again and this time, I kissed him back.