Friday, January 20, 2012

Courage: Part 1-2

Keira lay on her bed attempting the culmination to a story she no longer felt was worth the effort.  Writer’s block was more than a wall that hindered her progress; it was a war she quietly fought within herself.  She was too distracted with the complications of life to finish what she now considered a frivolous story.  If she could only get a little respite from the stifling world she lived in then perhaps her passion could be awakened again. 

The year was 1512 and England was beautiful.  Rolling hills, immense forests and a jutting coast line where the wind wrapped around everything in its place with the mischief of a ten year old boy.  Nights brought dense fog and a chill so cold it went straight to the bones.  The quiet hours of the dawn brought dew that stuck to the meadows and brought the magic of nymphs to the otherwise cold dark reality that plagues the world of humans. 

The constant threat of war was no stranger to these parts.  It was beating on the preverbal door and Keira knew her role in preventing one with the French would not be small.  It was not uncommon for daughters to be the alliance builders, as marriage was a way to make people believe that family was stronger than the political pressures of the world.  She also knew, marriage to any one of the potential suitors would mean nothing without producing a male heir, there by strengthening the alliance through blood.  But all Keira wanted was a quite life with her parchment in the solitude of the arms of the love she knew was out there…somewhere.  But, as her parents were quick to point out, it was improper for a young lady to write stories, she should be learning the role of painting, and reading, being able to entertain a king.  It was not looked highly upon for a woman to hold any ideas of her own.    

Yet, Keira, did not want to marry a king.  It was her simple wish to live a simple life with a God fearing man who would love her for who she was, not who he wanted her to be.  Someone like the quite knight who liked to polish his saddle and brush his horse in solitude, always in what seemed quite prayer, would be perfect for her.  But he was not one of the many suitors who continually pursued her hand.  Keira was beautiful; there was no doubt about that.  Her long dark hair would flow behind her swirling in the wind of the moors where she liked to take walks.  Her dark blue eyes and pale skin were contrasts to the mane she wore that drew even the most closed of hearts.  She had her father’s kind hearted wisdom and her mother’s beauty; the heart of every Englishman except Sir Charles. 

The future was stifling.  Keira walked to the window to get a breath of fresh air.  The cool breeze was welcome relief as it hit her face and incorporated itself into her very being.  She breathed deeply.  She could see the castle stables from her second story window.  From here they looked like peaceful churches full of penitent patrons and solemn monks.   Within those sturdy walls she knew all the knights from every district would be busily brushing horses, polishing suits of armor, or working on fighting stances just beyond the stable doors.  There would be commotion so grand it would pulsate through the walls.  The innocent bystander would walk away with an unfamiliar ringing in their ears.  Every knight prepared to fight for the ultimate prize – Keira’s hand and ultimately the kingdom. 

Keira’s eyes began to burn with tears as she realized she would never be happy with any of the knights in that stable.  Their masculine views of a woman’s role shaped by society since childhood; she stood no chance of being herself if she married one of them.  They would demand a docile creature, quite, speaking only when spoken to.  Her passion for life would be squelched with every day of the weary political decision making being consulted only for signature here or there never for what she really thought.  She was a bead at a bizarre being bid and bargained for.  She was not a human with a soul, but a piece of meat sold to the highest bidder.  Anger shot through her like a lightening bolt.  How could they expect her to resign herself to this?  The monotony itself would be death. 

Then, as if an answer to her prayer, she saw him - the solitude, penitent knight who always seemed so distant to her.  She remembered walking by the stables as a child hoping to catch his eyes, and then always asking him to saddle her horse for rides as she got older.  He never complained and always held her in high regard, but always limited their interactions to the bare minimum. 

Sir Charles, tired and sweaty from the days work, slowly walked his black stallion, Magnificent, toward the stables.  His copper hair reflected the sunlight as it stuck to his face from sweat.  As though he could hear her silent calls to him, he looked up to see her tear stained face in the window.  She quickly turned away.  She could not let him see her in this weak state.  This ugly state – red eyes and blotched skin. What she did not realize, and what Sir Charles did in that one moment of seeing her weakness, was that he loved her.  He loved her with every fiber of his being.

He, too, remembered those days when he taught her about horses.  He remembered her childish innocence and willingness to learn.  Always wanting to accomplish things on her own, but always being self aware of her weakness.  He remembered as she grew in grace and confidence when she would demand the respect of all in her presence by simply entering the room.  He knew he had always loved her, now if only he could show her how much. 

A young stable boy had the stealth of a knight running up the many corridors of the castle and ducking into the dark shadows of the towers as he secretly delivered an unexpected note.  He was a young boy Keira had only seen once helping Sir Alex (her unspoken betrothed) fix the saddle on his horse.  She felt so bad for the boy to have to work for that atrocious knight, her heart cried out for him.  Alas.  When she saw the young boys face of innocence, her heart sunk that night, praying the letter he delivered was not meant for her, was not from Sir Alex.  She considered having Lady Petunia turn the boy way.  But the kind heartedness of Lady Petunia stayed her heart and she let the boy approach. 

“My Lady, a note from Sir Charles,” the young boy breathlessly blurted.  His brow was wet with sweat, his chest heaved from his ordeal. 

Sir Charles?!  Keira could not believe her ears.  She was so certain Sir Charles did not even recognize her existence.  Surely she had heard wrong.  She held her breath as she reached for the letter.  Heart stalled, she broke the seal and began to read. 

“My Dearest and Truest Love,

‘Had he really said love?’ Surely she was imagining her wildest dream come true.

I have loved you since you were a child and took walks by the stable and now as you have grown and ride those horses by the sea with such grace.  I liken you, my darling, to a mare harnessed to one of the chariots of the King, your father.  Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels.  How beautiful you are, my darling!  Oh, how beautiful.  Your eyes are doves.  Like a Lilly among thorns is my darling among the maidens and ladies of the court. 

How can I give you up to Sir Alex?  How can I hand you over to him?  My heart is changed within me, all my compassion is aroused.  But I will go to battle for your heart, my Love.  I will fight for you with the heart of a lion, as God fought for Israel

My dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face lovely.  Come to me, my dove, tonight by the stables.  I must see your face. 
                                                                                    In love for you always,                                                                                                                     Sir Charles

As the mere shock of receiving such a note faded, she looked to Lady Petunia imploringly.  What was she to do?  How would she be able to get out of the castle at such a late hour?  As always, Lady Petunia had the answer.  She would throw on Lady Petunia’s cloak, keep her head down, and walk as though she were finishing her nightly duties with the Princess tonight.  For all intensive purposes, tonight she could be invisible to all. 

Keira threw the barrowed tattered cloak on and as slowly as she could she rushed to the stables.  She had grown with excitement as she journeyed to the stables, and there was a great hollowing in her heart as she realized she was alone.  Certainly she had not been mistaken.  Perhaps the last hour had just been the dream she had always imagined.  Perhaps, she was destined to be alone or with the one who could never love her for her.  After all, it was no secret Sir Alex expected her to carry on tradition, to put down the pen, and to let him govern.  She was destined to a life of deep sorrow and bitter pain.  As her heart began to harden against the mere idea of love, Keira began to cry. 

There was a noise at the stable doors.  Keira hid behind a pile of hay, her tears stuck to her face, but she dared not make a sound.   Trying to hold her heaving breath and still the increasing beat of her heart, she thought of all the terribly possible situations that may occur tonight.  No one, aside from Lady Petunia, knew where she was, and dressed as she was she would gain no respect.  Her heart beat with fear within her as the shadow moved closer to her.  Each step echoed menacingly in the empty room. 

Then she saw the familiar shadow.  Here heart could not take the suspense any longer and she ran toward him.  Sir Charles had come.  She had not been dreaming.  Her heart leapt with an inexpressible joy.  She could write a thousand love poems based on the past couple hours alone.  How could she have doubted him?  How could she have hardened her heart so quickly? 

He gathered her in his arms, having known it was her from the moment he saw her shadow.  It was as though he knew her more than she knew herself.  Every curve of her face, every graceful movement he had memorized years ago. 

“Why are you shaking?”  He looked into her eyes as though they were the only two people in the world.  “Beloved, you have been crying?  What troubles you so that I might see such a tear stained face?”

“Darling, I am shaking from cold and a touch of fear my hopes and desires would never come true.  I am crying because I thought you would never come.”

Sir Charles took off his cloak and wrapped it around her warming her more with his presence than the wool that clung to her.  She would never doubt him again.  The power of love would always win out in the end. 

“My beloved, I know what I offer is forbidden.  I know you are betrothed to Sir Alex, but might I offer to fight for your hand?  Surely, there is more than just staying a war.  I will lead the battle should one come, but I must have you as my own.  I cannot bare the thought of watching another treat you like an object instead of the graceful dove you are.”

“My lover is mine and I am his.  I slept, but my heart has been awakened by you for these many years.  May what you have said come to pass.  But, alas, it is getting late and Lady Petunia will begin to worry.”

Unwilling to let her go with just words of love, Sir Charles had to take the risk.  He caught her face in his hands and looked longing at her as the moon light shone upon it through a crack in the wall.  She was more beautiful than he deserved.  Gently taking her chin in his hand he raised her face towards his and gently, but passionately kissed her.  He kissed her as though he would never see her again, as though she was the only one in the world, a treasure to a pirate.  Her heart swelled inside her bosom as though it would explode at the gentle touch of his hand.  As his lips collided with her in tender compassion and love, her body stilled.  The moment was theirs and theirs alone.  She was so utterly quite.  It only took a moment for her to be loved a lifetime.

As their moment ceased and she was drawn back to dark reality, she slowly began her walk back to the castle.  She looked back once, unable to believe this was truly happening to her.  But as their eyes connected again in the silence of the stables with the sheep and cattle their only witness, she knew this was the beginning of a wild adventure.  

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