Arabesque,

Arabesque Chapter 4

9/23/2016 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

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I will be sharing parts of my writing every week (alternating between Arabesque and Persephone) as I write them (with the exception of some parts of Arabesque, which were written previously), so please be patient with any errors you may find, as these are a first drafts.

About the book

Tatania is tired of living in her sister's shadow but doesn't know about Princess Anna's dark secret. Bound by a sacred oath, Anna's struggles to live a double life that can never be her own. 
Described as "Sense and Sensibility meets Ever After with ninjas," Arabesque is full of action, romance, intrigue, and betrayal.

Since I've always been super paranoid, Arabesque was officially copyrighted in 2009. Duplication or use of this work in any other form is prohibited by law.
 

Chapter 4
Anna
In town, we had more ideal, secluded locations, secretly owned and maintained by the king, where we could train undiscovered.  While at Licht Haven, our training grounds were located at an unoccupied farm, which belonged to the Ashenhursts. We most often trained inside the old barn, especially during the coldest of times. 
Our training always presented obvious difficulties in its secretive nature, such as escaping the manor unseen to attend each session.  However, the most irksome of these trials was the irritating restraint each of us were required to maintain.  Each blow had to be carefully placed, not simply to assure that no fatal injuries were inflicted, but to maintain secrecy, injuries could not be visible.   
Over the years, I had been labeled as particularly clumsy for all of the ridiculously obscure “accidents” that had left me bruised, limping, or otherwise injured.  As a soldier, Henry had fewer difficulties masking his ailments, yet restraint, on my part, was still expected. 
Last night, we had fought with staves, at which we were fairly evenly matched.  Each step, each blow, came laboriously.  Henry’s strength was superior, but offset by my speed and agility.   
Wood cracked loudly as our staves met, blocking most hits.  Air rushed out of my lungs uncontrollably as he hit my right side.  No matter how long I had trained, or willed myself against it, I could not help but react, even slightly to the shock of intense pain that such a heavy blow inflicted.   
It bothered me slightly that Henry did not seem as affected as myself, and always experienced a rush of embarrassment when I displayed such weakness.  Pain had either one of two effects of me.  I tended to either become distracted by my embarrassment, performing even more poorly, or I instantly became more focused and determined—thus improving my performance.  Very seldom could Henry land a blow if the latter occurred. 
He had struck a rib, but it was only a slight crack, if not a complete break.  My eyes watered, and I struggled to breathe regularly, desperately attempting to ignore the pain.   
Henry paused his attack to ascertain whether my wound was serious.  Concern and pity filled his eyes.  He began to lower his stave and step toward me. 
I shook my head, and since I was yet unable to speak, I waved him off. 
He remained still, but started to say, “My lady, you must attend your wound…” 
Heat filled my cheeks.  He would never have made such a display for a painful, but minor injury!  I released my side and again took up my stave, whirling with such force that my opponent was hard pressed to defend himself.   
My mad press was short lived.  Every motion was agony, renewing the hurt to my side time and again.  My breath came nearly in gasps, but I spun and shot a leg out to catch his after I freighted a hit to his shoulder. 
With great speed, he leapt above my leg, and caught my exposed back with a relatively gentle, but still firm rap. 
I fell on my face then rose to my knees in silent tears of shame.  In the past few weeks, I had rarely bested him, while he trounced me again and again. 
Searing pain flared across my body in several places, wounds new and old.  My vision blurred through tears when I opened my eyes, so I kept them closed. 
While my ragged breathing was the predominant sound, I had no difficulty hearing Henry’s soft, slow steps coming toward me.   
“Princess Anna…Are you well?” His steady voice asked.
I found that I still could not reply.  Whimpering nearly inaudibly, I briefly felt his warm, gentle hand on my shoulder, before propriety promptly caused him to remove it.   
“My lady?” He knelt beside me. 
I could not bring myself to look into his eyes.  I stared at the straw beneath us.  In my pain, emotions overwhelmed me, and I could not keep silent, though I desperately tried.   
“I….cannot do this, Henry…” I whispered.  “I have tried but it is just not enough…I am not enough.  I will fail them. ...The king, Tatania, my mother…all of them.” 
His hand returned to my shoulder, seemingly the only source of warmth remaining in my body. 
“Princess,” he sighed, “You could never fail them.  You give all that you have, everything that you are, that you have become has been for them!  You give and keep nothing for yourself, give no thought for yourself.”
“Nothing for myself?  I know the righteousness of my cause, the necessity of my life, yet I take countless hours…hours spent in self-pity, wishing for relief from this burden, for some small escape!”  Hot tears slid down my face.  My hands sought to hide them.
He slowly moved my hands from my face, seeking my gaze, but my eyes refused to look at him.  He was silent, but still held my hands. 
After moment, he said, “You, Princess, are the least selfish person in the world.” 
My eyes shot up, looking at him in confusion.  I had just admitted how loathsome I was, how abominable; he could not think otherwise. 
“But I am!  I have been given so much, and been asked for so little in return.  A wonderful family, countless opportunities to accomplish so much good…and yet I falter.  I wallow in pity when I should find happiness in every moment.  I toil and reach, yet fall hopelessly short.  I cannot even endure a simply injury without complaint!” 
To my astonishment, Henry laughed.  “A simple injury?  If I am not mistaken, I believe that rib is cracked.  I have seen grown men cry, curse, or faint when they’ve cracked a rib, yet you simply wince and fight as if you’ve merely stubbed a toe, and almost give me a cracked head in the process!” 
His hands held my trembling shoulders still, his arms outstretched.  He chuckled, “Oh Princess Anna…how unfairly you judge yourself.  The burdens you bare are heavier than most can imagine.  It is only natural to falter and struggle.  You may stumble, yet you keep doing your best; that is what is important.  Your best is all that anyone, even the king, can ask of you.  It’s all they expect, and all that you can give... 
He paused briefly then laughed again.  “And no one can expect to enjoy every single moment of their life!  We have to know sorrow to know what happiness feels like.  We need the bad to help us recognize the good when we see it.  Enduring the pain and trials make those moments of joy so much more precious.” 
His words made sense, but still failed to calm me.  “But if I were to fail… if I could not…what if my best is not enough?” 
In another bought of self-pity, I shamefully collapsed in his arms, sobbing.  “I have to push myself harder, grow stronger…be better.  If I fail, the whole kingdom falls into turmoil!” 
His strong arms held me as if I were delicate crystal; cautious, yet with surprising softness.   
We knelt together, embraced in silence for several minutes before he whispered, “Anna…” 
He had not called me any title-less name since I was twelve, and the familiar warmth with which he invoked my name was also startling.  He had once spoken this manner frequently, but those days had seemed a closed chapter of my childhood. 
I looked up at him, my head resting softly on his chest. 
“Anna, I said that you are the least selfish person in the world, which I believe to be true, but in being so, you take too much upon yourself.  Yes, there are certain expectations of you, but you aren’t expected to do this alone. You have me, my father, and a whole army to help you!  Please…share your burdens with us…let me help you, at least, so you will not feel so alone in this.”  
Warmth flooded my body and I felt a great weight removed.  Unable to speak, I nodded weakly and smiled, expecting him to let go and help me up.  Instead, he continued to hold me protectively in his arms, and I felt safe. 
Peace washed over me.  I felt hope as I’d never felt before.  I was not so alone as I’d imagined.  There were so many others who would aide me, who cared for and loved me; who wanted me to succeed.   
Propriety caught up to us much too soon.  I blushed as he mentioned the late hour.
Riding back to the house, the cold air could not touch me, nor the dark night frighten me.  I was warmed by my thoughts, but one, above all made me want to laugh and sing to the sky!  Regardless of how imperfect I was, I knew that Henry would never allow me to fail. 

More coming soon! Read Chapter 5 here or more about my projects here.

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