This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts. Check Sunday’s post (4/14) for a recap of parts A-L.
Dianthe was frightened like she had never been frightened in her entire life. Tied up like a lamb or goat on the way to slaughter with a rug of some kind thrown over her head, bouncing up and down on the back of the odious nobleman’s horse. She’d tried to wriggle herself off the moving horse, thinking injury or death was better than whatever the men had planned for her but she was too securely bound.
She tried to count the horse’s steps and wondered how far they had traveled. She wondered if King Quirinus would notice her absence and whether or not he’d send his soldiers after her like he had for the real Cardelia.
It was hot and she was having trouble breathing with the rough material covering her face. She wondered if Valerius would come back and if he would miss her if she wasn’t there on his return.
Dianthe was halfway to oblivion when she heard more horses behind them, then shouts and the clang of swords. The horse she was on stopped abruptly and felt the odious one pulled off. She was, at that moment, glad she was so securely fastened to the horse.
Then, gentle hands were cutting through the ropes that bound her, lifting her off the horse, and her feet touched the ground. The material was cut away and lifted from her face. She stared into the handsome face of Xavier. To his right stood Cardelia, her hair all chopped off and dressed like a boy. A rustle of leaves made her glance towards the side of the road where Valerius, her Valerius, emerged from the trees, his hands and clothing bloodied.
“He will not be bothering you again, princess,” Valerius said.
Dianthe promptly fainted.
When she came too, she was in Valerius’ arms.
“You’re awake, princess.” Valerius smiled and Dianthe had to catch her breathe. He must have been devastatingly handsome before the accident because even with the scars, he made her heart do sommersaults.
“She’s awake?” Cardelia asked, rushing over to her side.
“Carde--?” Dianthe wondered why she was dressed like a boy
“Princess!” Cardelia cut her off, giving her a hard stare.
Dianthe couldn’t do it. She’d had enough, and didn’t want to lie to Valerius anymore. “I’m not the princess!” She shouted as she struggled out of Valerius’ arms and stood up. She’d shouted loud enough that she thought she heard an echo in the woods.
Xavier, and Valerius looked dumbfounded. “I’m not the princess,” she repeated a little more calmly as she glared at Cardelia. “The real Cardelia ran away and the old king made me pose as her until she could be found.”