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  • Rhea Abuhl

The Story of Princess Cora: Part 1


Preface:

It was in a time of war, that this story takes place. There was strife between two very powerful kingdoms, and there were so many deaths. It got so serious, that men at the age of 16 were dragged into battle because there was a shortage of soldiers. This tale is told by me, a princess whose father; King William II, and brother; Victor, were fighting for my kingdom, my brother being only 17. In the early morning one day, it was time for desperate measures to protect our land. My mother; Queen Susan woke me up, even though it was still dark outside, and she told me it was time to go to the neighboring kingdom to beg for the end of all the fighting. The day before I left, however, news reached us that my brother had fallen. My mother was racked by grief, and my father came home to heal before returning to the war, which took many weeks, as he had been brutally attacked. We spent a couple of days mourning our loss, and the losses of our people, for both sides of the battle were losing many good men. My father said that he had actually seen Victor’s body being trampled by the oncoming forces, and that he’d had to watch helplessly. They were dark days, when my kingdom never knew whether it was the last time we’d see our husbands, fathers, brothers and sons again. Determination soon took hold, and I realized that, for any happiness to remain, this war had to stop. Too many people were dying. That’s where I shall start this story.

-

Chapter One:

“Cora! Wake up.” My mother’s voice jerked me back into reality, saving me from any more of the violent nightmares that had tormented me since the war started. “What is it?” I asked blearily, rubbing my eyes to get them back into focus. As they adjusted to the dim lighting of my room, my mom came into view, hunched over me and holding a thick-looking satchel. “It’s time for you to leave.” She told me, urging me out of bed and handing me a set of trousers and a tunic for me to wear. “Dress quickly, and use the cover of dark. There is a map, provisions and a more formal change of clothes in here for when you arrive, ok? I’m sorry you can’t take a carriage, all of the footmen are currently... occupied, as are the horses, but I’ve managed to snag you one for this morning.” I nodded, then realized she couldn’t see me, and replied with; “Thanks, mom.” Then, pulling the clothes on, I took the satchel from her and tried to head for the door, but she beckoned me back and forced me to wait – somewhat impatiently – as she did my brown hair into a loose braid. “There. Oh, and Cora dear? Please be careful, ok?” “Yes, mom.” I hugged her tightly, and she followed me out the door. I squinted out of the first window we walked past, and the eastern sky was slowly but surely lightening, meaning dawn wasn’t as far off as I’d thought. Once we exited the castle through a side door and entered the stables, I saw only one horse, and it was nearing the line that separated ‘pony’ from ‘stallion’. It was lean enough, with the right build for swift riding, but it looked well-fed. With it’s dark-brown mane and coarse white fur, it definitely demanded its own kind of affection though. I gave it a gentle pat on the nose, and it responded with a quiet whinny. A soft sniffle destroyed the silence, and I turned to see my mother wiping her eyes. “Forgive me, Cora, I just don’t think I’ll see you for another long while.” She said, and I had to hug her again. Though I did not say, nor show it, I too was very nervous and scared. I was only 15! I couldn’t take on a foreign king! Sighing, I pulled away, mounted my new horse, and offered her a small wave before taking off into the chilly darkness that awaited me, along with many other trials I had yet to come across.

My trip took me many days, and each day brought its own delightful bundle of worries. One day it was for my father, having to care for my mother but also healing himself. The thought of the Queen alone in the castle when the King went off to war again made me want to turn back home immediately. But I had a job of my own. Finally, I neared the border of what I thought was the kingdom I was targeting, and my hopes were fortunately confirmed. I entered the nearest inn to change, and then continued on cautiously, with the hood of a dark cloak my mom had included in my satchel drawn low over my eyes. Many onlookers shamelessly stared, and I didn’t mind very much, but I did have to admit to myself that a small crowd really was a little too much attention. Finally, I beheld the gates of the largest structure in the city, the King’s palace. After a short and to-the-point conversation with a guard stationed there, the enormous gates swung inward permitting me to enter. Then, purposefully striding across the courtyard, I crossed the threshold into the throne room. The throne itself was large, intricate and- very shiny! It hurt my eyes to look at it, probably encouraging the bowing of the head in respect, but I really didn’t care, and I decided on showing him so. The throne was set towards the back, centered against the wall, and with small steps onto the pedestal upon which it sat. Below it, to the right from where I stood, there was a smaller, less designed, white throne, or chair really, probably for Stewards. “My Lord and King.” Immediately, at my hailing, two of the guards stationed at regular intervals and beside the large double-doors came rushing towards me, taking my arms behind my back and yanking my hood off. I didn’t mind it in the slightest, I had anticipated such a greeting. But instead of asking me who I was or what I wanted, the king asked: “With what authority do you come before me, so dressed, and demanding audience? Why don’t you show proper respect or greeting to someone higher than you?” Merely because I did not want our meeting to go awry, and because in the near future I was instructed to beg... I huffed as quietly as I could, then sank to my knees and lowered my head in proper respect. The guards released me, but stood as sentinels next to me. “Better.” The king responded, obvious sneer dripping off of his voice in cascades. “Your name?” He commanded. “Cora.” “Full name, missy.” Corrected the guard on my left. I gritted my teeth. “Princess Cora, then. Of the kingdom you’re currently besieging!” Before those words left my mouth, I knew I had very possibly crossed a line. “Leave her be.” Said the king, withholding the guard on both my sides from dragging me away because I had been rude to the king. “Come nearer, child.” I obeyed, though somewhat cautiously, nearing the throne upon its pedestal. The figure upon it was draped in ridiculously fancy fabrics and a heavy-looking velvet cape, lined with furs and other kinds of majestic linens. He was surprisingly young, with the small exception of his eyes, which looked ancient, clouded with hidden worries and private thoughts. His hair was close- cropped and deepest brown, and his cheeks were strangely sunken in, but that did, while making him seem slightly foreboding, also increase his attractiveness. I placed a bet right then that I would meet ladies who would be very jealous to realize I had been granted audience with the king. Suddenly, as of me approaching, he rose from his seat and stepped down to the ground in front of me. Hoping he didn’t notice; I took the smallest step back. Though I appeared completely confident and rebellious, inwardly I was still mightily intimidated, and he knew it. And I could tell. And I hated it. “Well, princess Cora, what is it you came here to ask of me?” He began taking slow steps around me, as though examining me for my potential. In fact, in the light of all the dulled finery around me, I hoped from my ride my gown and overall appearance hadn’t depleted, for my own sake. It was common knowledge in this type of kingdom, that if you did not only approach the ruler in your utmost finery, it would be seen as disrespectful. At that time, I had put on whatever my mother had packed with me, in this case, a soft, green gown with so many layers of tulle that I almost did not know what to grab when going up the stairs to his throne room. The sleeves and neckline were rimmed with laces, and I still had my dark cloak hung loosely around my shoulders. To the best of my ability, I had arrayed my hair in what I thought looked acceptable, but then again: I hadn’t brought any mirrors, so it would be fair to say: I was REALLY nervous. Especially when I had to answer his question with honesty. “I was ordered here to ask- plead- for the war to stop, and for you to accept an armistice... my Lord.” I finished, somewhat lamely, but you really can’t blame me for the predicament I was in. Even the smallest slip would convince him of my unworthiness, and-

BOOM, there I go, getting landed into prison.

At my reply, the king burst into laughter, to my intense discomfort. “Plead?! That doesn’t sound much like pleading to me. But then again, we may have different views on the definition. Here, I have a proposition for you. You’re a pretty one, you can have that. So, if you want me to stop the war, you’re going to have to stay here for the rest of your life. With me.” I objected, but he held up a finger, and I fell silent immediately. “Those are my terms.” He added. “Take them or leave them.”

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