martes, 23 de junio de 2015

A princess in the woods

   Inside the coach, the princess stood still, trying not to move a lot while being transported from her kingdom to the one she had been promised to. A marriage of convenience had been settled and her parents were thrilled to know that the prince that had requested her as queen was a very wealthy and powerful person. His kingdom had recently won new territories over a weaker enemy and because of that he had many presents waiting for the princess. But first she had to end her five-day journey over mountains and forests. The road that connected both kingdoms was rarely used and no coach was prepared for such a bumpy ride. Neither was the princess or her escorts.

 Inside the coach there was only one more person: her handmaiden. It was the only person there who could interact with both the princess and the men that were in charge of her safety. The young woman was not allowed to show her face for any reason while traveling to meet her future husband as it was deemed bad luck for any other man to see her before the wedding. So when they stopped for her to go and relieve herself, she was accompanied by her handmaiden and would wear a thick veil in front of her face. She looked strange but those were the customs people respected and it was better to respect them because no one ever knows who takes them very seriously and decides to punish those who don’t respect tradition. The kingdom that they were heading to was a very traditional place and known also for its violent ways.

 There were two guards always riding by the sides of the coach, the driver was also trained as a swordsman and the only footman was also very handy with the sword. When stopping at night to eat and rest, they would always form a small circle around a fire and would talk about women, battles and their work for the kingdom. They also discussed food and their own strength. And every single night, the princess would hear their discussion from the coach. She had to pretend she was fast asleep but the truth was she was fascinated by what men talked about. It seemed that, whatever it was that they talked about, it was real and natural and they weren’t tied down because of tradition or anything like that.

 In the mornings, the handmaiden would bring her breakfast. Every meal had to be consumed inside the coach and they could only stop the transport if she couldn’t relieve herself easily inside the coach. Her handmaiden threw piss out of the window but that couldn’t be done with the rest. For the men, it was funny when they had to stop for the other reason, as with all the rules the princess always seemed like a creature of myth but then they realized she was as human as the rest of them and that amused them but they only talked about it at night, when the women were asleep or at least that’s what they thought.

 Midway to the king’s castle, they realized they had to go slower. The road was full of rocks and very narrow in some points, especially as they got closer to the ocean. So the following days went very slow. The princess was bored out of her mind and the men were thinking about the moment they had accepted to be the escort of the princess. Of course, it was an honor, but the regions they were crossing were far from nice and safe. Many merchants said that the route was extremely dangerous for anyone who transported goods around and that’s what they were doing. Transport someone that was now owned by a powerful king. It was awful to put it like that but that’s how thing’s were: wives were not a companion but an asset of the man.

 One morning, what they feared happened. The pointy rocks managed to break one of the wheels and the two women were asked to descend in order to fix the problem. The handmaiden took the princess by the hand and they sat down on a rock, facing the opposite side of where the men were working. They had a spare wheel so they put themselves to work but then they heard something strange. Or better, they didn’t hear anything. There was not a single sound in the whole forest. Only the ocean on the distance could be heard. They decided to accelerate their work and try to leave the place immediately but that wouldn’t be possible. Very slowly, a group of men emerged from the trees and bushes.

They all had paint on their face and most were pointing an arrow to each one of the travellers.  One of the strangers walked up to the women and tried to get them to walk towards the coach. But the handmaiden started speaking fast, explaining whom she was with and what the traditions were for. The stranger kept moving his hand, trying for them to move but it wouldn’t work. Then, he got close to the handmaiden and she just launched herself onto him, fighting and trying for them not to touch the princess. But then the sound of an arrow put an end to it. It had pierced the head of the handmaiden, who was left on the ground before they grabbed the princess and threw her towards the men.

 The strangers surrounded them but lowered their weapons. They only looked at the people that they were preying on and were apparently trying to decide what to do. They spoke in a strange language and pointed to the princess often. Then, one of them got near the woman but the footman cut his walk. He tried to explain who she was but they pushed him aside and grabbed the girl. They pulled off the veil and revealed her face. One of the strangers, apparently the leader, seemed pleased with himself and grabbed the girl, pulling her towards the forest. She tried to resist without screaming but there was nothing to do. The man was string and pulled her to a place no one could see them.

  There, she knew that she was going to die or worse. She tried to prepare herself in order to fight as well as she could but there was no need because the man that had pulled her to that area of the forest just stood up there, looking at her. She did the same but didn’t know whether he was getting ready to do something or if he was just looking at her. Time seemed to have stopped and she was tired of waiting. If she was going to die, she wanted it to happen fast and soon. But the man just looked and her and finally pulled a bottle from a bag in his waist. He put some water on his hands and started washing his face thoroughly. She didn’t understand what he was doing but then she realized the paint was falling from his face and that, when he finished, he looked like a different person. To be honest, he looked like a person she knew well.

 The man just looked at her and then she asked: “Thomas”? Thomas had been one of her best friends when she was little, they had been best friends until she became a princess and a woman and he just disappeared. He walked up to her and told her that it was pleasure to see her again, more beautiful than ever. Her cheeks turned red and he just got closer and hugged her. She felt nervous at first but then she remembered and everything was ok. It was the person she remembered, the first man that she had loved. She held him strong for a few minutes until she decided to ask him what he was doing in that forest.

 Apparently, she had stopped seeing him around because he had been expelled from the kingdom, as well as his family. The princess wanted to be protected and they wanted a better husband for her in the future so they decided to disappear every single man that had any contact with her up to the moment when she became a woman. They were all sent to other kingdoms, towns, left to die of starvation because they used to be rich people that did what they wanted when they wanted and suddenly they had nothing to survives with.

 But Thomas was stronger than that and he had formed a group of rebels that protected the good people from the bad ones. They protected peasants from their kings, who only wanted them to work and die, so to be replaced easily afterwards. They also fought against traditions and once they had heard about the princess been promised to the cruel king to the north, Thomas personally decided to kidnap her and free her from burden. But she didn’t know what to say or what to do. She realized she was going to become a slave or worse but Thomas seemed too violent, not much different than what they said the king was. But then, again, the sound of an arrow ended it all. Thomas body stumbled down and the princess screamed, watching as the king she had been promised to smiled as he held his crossbow.

 Her life had just begun and it was going to be a hard one.

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