| Aeduuin |
“You really have been spared from the curse.”
“Lord have mercy. You have saved us all.”
“Our saviour. That’s what you are.”
These words were usually followed by a tight hug, a slap on my back, burst of tears, basketful of food and even crumpled love letters secretly thrusted into my hands. It all started last summer when Princess Ysabel fell ill. Healers were called in from other kingdoms when those available in ours had failed to cure the mysterious disease. Some healers gave up within days. They complained of Princess Ysabel’s unnatural behaviour. She had been caught numerous times talking to herself on the balcony. She threw tantrums and attacked the healers, driving them away quickly. Some healers have even disappeared out of sight. Nobody has ever heard from them again. Many folks simply assumed that these healers were too ashamed, they were never good enough for this poor princess.
No matter how many healers had given up, more kept coming from kingdoms tucked away at world’s end. The King kept raising the reward every week and the inexplainable disapprearance of some medicine men was easily overlooked by the gold offered. When several conmen were caught at the gates, the king ordered his soldiers to tighten the security. I was stationed at the gates. Bags and garments were turned inside out and the new healers were interrogated relentlessly, but they never gave up. I suppose it wasn’t only the gold they were interested in. Princess Ysabel’s beauty was also well-known. She took after her mother, the late Queen, who had died giving birth to the princess’ stillborn brother. Icy grey eyes of a wolf, silky black hair grown past the curvy hips, fair skin, heart-shaped face, gentle touch with soft hands and words sharper than swords, drenched in absolute truth. I could bever forget the first time I laid my eyes on her Highness. Princess Ysabel easily filled in her mother’s shoes as the King’s trusted advisor. Naturally, the kingdom began to fall apart without its main pillar.
Two months ago, I seeked the King’s permission to speak with Princess Ysabel. I was absolutely elated when he allowed me to give it a try. I was, after all, one of the best soldiers in his army. I recall waking up an hour earlier to choose the right attire, making sure every strand of hair was in place and I looked as neat as possible. Three swift knocks on her chamber’s door and I was in. The dampness and musty smell were so strong and I was taken aback at the conditions of the entire room. Unmade bed, stained sheets, dresses strewn carelessly on the floor, broken furnitures. My gaze eventually fell on Princess Ysabel curled up in a dark corner. She was scratching the wall furiously with a piece of metal. “Your Highness!” I exclaimed and rushed to her side. Her eyes looked bewildered and she raised her right arm high up in the air to strike me. I caught her by the wrist and said, “Apricots. I brought apricots for you.” The whole scene sounds silly but there was no other way I could defend myself if she had hit me. I would never hurt her.
Minutes later, I stood by her side as she devoured the apricots on her bed. Apricot juice kept trickling down her arms and she didn’t seem to be bothered. I had to smile secretly while watching her. “Aeduuin, thank you for the deliciuos apricots. How did you know I liked them?” Princess Ysabel asked. She had easily addressed me with my first name and I couldn’t find the right words to say. Her grey eyes bore into me, waiting patiently for an answer and an enchanting smile formed across her fair face. My face turned red and I stuttered, “ I- d-di-didn’t. I-I just h-had s-s-some.” Her chuckle sent my blood flowing downwards, away from my head and I searched for something, anything, to distract me. I cleared my throat and asked if she would like me to bring more apricots the next day. She nodded furiously and said “Yes, please!”
“Your Highness, c-could I give you some advise? I’m in no position to do so, but it is my wish, as well as the people of your kingdom, to see you return to your former self soon,” I said softly, my voice just above a whisper. I waited anxiuosly for her reply and my eyes were fixed on the floor between us. I dared not look into her eyes. They were… intimidating.
“You brought me lovely apricots and I feel more alive than I have ever been in a long time. Yes, Aeduuin, you may,” she said. Her voice was hypnotising and soothing.
“I will speak to your maids, Princess Ysabel, to have the chamber cleaned up immediately. The air in here is not good for anyone. May I also suggest a walk outside, perhaps across the court?” I said it all in one breath.
Silence filled the room. Have I crossed a line? Maybe I said too much. Of course, I had! Who was I to advise the Princess? I waited for a tantrum, a scolding, the sound if something breaking. I would even take a beating. Anything but this silence.
“No potions? No weird concoctions? Will you not examine me? Many have told me to undress and lie across the bed while they probed me everywhere,” she said. I looked up in shock to see her watching me with a genuinely confused look.
“No, Princess Ysabel,” I said and challenged myself to look at her in the eyes. I bit my tongue to stop the next questions from escaping my lips. How many of them? Do you remember their faces? Did they – did you –
“Very well. It shall be done. Under 3 conditions, Aeduuin,” Princess Ysabel interrupted my thoughts with her reply and a cheeky smile.
“That’s wonderful, Princess Ysabel. The conditions, Your Highness?” I asked.
“You will bring me apricots tomorrow. You will be my next healer. You will call me Ysabel,” said the princess, marking every condition by counting them on 3 slim fingers.
I almost pinched myself to see if it was all a dream. The rapid knocking on her door told me it wasn’t. It was her maid checking in on the princess. I quickly promised Ysabel I’d fulfill her conditions and return the next day. I gave the maid a stern order to clean the chamber immediately and it should be spotless when I return the next day. I took my leave with a new sense of responsibility and felt very honoured. Every step I took to the room was accompanied by her name escaping my lips. Ysabel. My Ysabel.