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PRINCESS MINE

Thérèse A. Kraemer



Copyright Therese A. Kraemer 2017

Published by Spangaloo



Spangaloo Edition


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This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, events, incidents, and places are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, people, or events is purely coincidental


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Contents

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Epilogue

About the Author

Other Books



PROLOGUE


1358

King Xavier Cameron ruled his small kingdom, called, Franconia, and he was a very superstitious. His land was boarded by Bavaria on the south, Frankfurt on the west and Saxony to its north; another sister town, lay east, called Thuringia. This sleepy little village of Franconia, with its ice blue snow capping the mountains, looked as if an artist brush had captured its magnificence with just one stroke. Its clover covered valley, freckled with wild flowers, white dogwoods and deep pink wild rhododendrons snuggled safety within four neighboring borders, appeared as colorful quilt.

Dawn began to melt away with the slow appearance of the buttery morning sunlight, adding a splash of blush, promising another warm spring day. He knew peasants were tending their crops; townspeople were setting up their wares as they did on the mornings he had walked the streets. The low of a cow could be heard every once in a while along with the grunting of pigs. His subjects were unaware of the painful screams taking place high up on a hill within the cold walls of his castle. His peaceful kingdom was not tranquil at that moment.

Xavier was pacing the floor while his young wife, Queen Bella labored. She was his third wife. Approaching fifty, he wanted and needed an heir to his kingdom, so this time he married a very young noblewoman, one who would produce a child. To his delight, she became pregnant within the first month after they wed. He prayed that all was well; Bella was toiling too long; he worried over the fate of his wife and child. But to be perfectly truthful, it was the child who concerned him uppermost.

Xavier paced, then sat, and then paced some more. A frail looking maid threw some logs on the fire trying to get the chill out of the room. The castle was old, even on a hot day the dampness never seemed to leave the stone walls. The servant lingered a while to warm her old bones. Hearing another scream, she looked up and shook her head sadly, mumbling to herself. He knew the servant left, hoping all was well with her beloved queen. Then it was quiet and the stillness frightened him even more. His heart pounded like a clapper, it made his ears ring. He stood, daring not to move until a voice beckoned him.

“The queen is sleeping, your highness,” stated the midwife Edna when he entered the chamber. “She lapsed into unconsciousness after her first born.” She tsked, tsked, shaking her head. “For a while I thought surely Queen Bella wouldn’t survive the long labor. Thankfully, the queen is young, but passing two infants took its toll.”

Between anticipation and excitement, the midwife’s words did not register at that moment. Xavier stood in the middle of the dimly lit room, looked at his unconscious wife and anxiously asked, “Is it a boy?”

Edna lowered her eyes and shook her head. “Nay, Sire, I’m sorry but they are girls.” “Fie!” he groused, “maybe, the next time.” Disappointed, he went to look at the queen. She was pale and her youth left her face, but she had held onto her beauty and she was only seventeen; his wife had many more years to give him a son. He touched her flush face, startled by his own tender actions, there was no great love in his heart for this woman, but she was beautiful. He shrugged from momentary display of affection. As soon as she was herself again, he would bed her until she was breeding again. In the meantime, he had many agreeing servants to warm his bed.

“Your, Majesty,” the soft voice behind him spoke bringing him out of his thoughts. “Would you like to see your two beautiful little girls?”

His head snapped up. “Two?”

Edna nodded, wringing her hands behind her back. Maybe he wouldn’t notice, she thought and hung her head sadly. The king had a temper and she didn’t like the cold look that skated across his hard features. It was bad enough the queen didn’t give him a son, but two girls, no less, this would not make him happy. She hadn’t intended to apologize for the sex of the babies before, but she knew how he wanted a boy.

Poor Queen Bella, she was in for a harsh time, for she was certain that the king would blame the queen for not producing a male child. Silently praying that he wouldn’t take this misfortune out on his young queen, sweat trickled down her back. Why of all people was the queen stricken with such a curse? She stood and watched the king bend over his two daughters, feeling as if her nerves would explode waiting for his reaction. The room was dearly still. Then as she feared, it came.

“What is this?!” he bellowed.

Edna dared not look up.

“Woman!” he bellowed. “By the saints, answer me!”

The thunder in his voice made her jump. He had taken one of the infants out of the cradle and held the naked child high in the air. She feared he would dash it against the stone floor but he just stood there holding up the wailing child. Unable to speak, Edna thought the mark was not so noticeable until the child cried. And cried she did. It wailed as if she knew her life was being held in her father’s hands, for sure, it was just that.

“’Tis the sign of the devil!” he roared.

She gasped and shuddered fearing for the tiny life he held in his big hands. She pleaded tearfully, “Please, sire,” she trembled, “’tis just an innocent babe. The mark on her forehead is hardly noticeable, until she cries. Please, I beg of you, have mercy on the wee babe.”

Not believing in the barbaric superstition herself she knew that the King of Franconia did. It was a medieval belief, handed down from generation to generation, from black-hearted people who took any disfigurement as the mark of the devil. Babies were drowned for the slightest imperfection. Well, Edna did not believe in such nonsense, but she bit her tongue for he was the king, and she had to obey his orders. If anyone was possessed by a blotch, it was him, for his soul had the mark of the devil’s hand on it!

“Silence!” he snapped. Lowering the child, the king gazed at it, his cold eyes looking as if it was some repulsive creature. Edna’s heart ached dreading what he would do to the innocent child. “Does the queen know?” he growled.

“Nay, milord,” she whispered. “Her Majesty passed out after the first infant was delivered and knows naught of delivering two babes.” The king thought for a moment then grabbed a cloth from the cradle and wrapped the whimpering child. Just as he placed the infant into her arms, they had the misfortune of seeing the babe’s tiny eyes open. She would have sworn she had seen a look of trepidation in the infant’s light brown orbs. Edna saw the king shutter and pale as he had feared someday this would come back and haunt him. He cursed and shook his head as if he let that notion set in his mind for a mere second. Edna could swear the child seemed to have sensed her fate.

“Take it and dispose of it.” He spoke with no emotion, as if the babe was an inhuman thing, instead of a tiny life. Appalled and sick, she accepted the infant. Sadly, she turned, but before leaving to do the terrible deed put upon her, the king asked, “Was she the first born?”

“Nay,” was her sad response silently cursing the king for his cruel and wicked heartlessness.

That night dressed in dark clothing, clutching a swaddled infant to her breast Edna ran through the forest. A coyote howled in the distance adding the eeriness of the dark night.



CHAPTER ONE


Two years later and in that time Queen Bella was content raising her daughter. It was six months before she was well enough to let the king bed her again for she had a fever and was very weak after her delivery. There were times that she felt strange when she gazed upon her daughter’s beautiful face. Sometimes she can recall the pain of passing the infant and how it had subsided a little. It was a foggy recollection, but she wondered if her memory was right for she could’ve sworn she felt another head between her legs before losing consciousness. She had questioned the midwife but Edna had promised that it was only the afterbirth. The servant never looked her in the eyes, but would shrink away.

Alarice tried to climb onto her lap, but Bella was swollen with child. She hoped this time she’d have a son, for her husband paid little attention to their daughter. Although disappointed, every so often he would look at Alarice; his eyes would cloud over with an emotion she could never understand. He didn’t dislike the child and not overly affectionate, but he was a decent father to his daughter. But something was amiss. Not understanding his attitude she attributed his behavior to the fact that the child was a female and nothing more. The sound of a horn blasted into her thoughts and she jumped.

“Maman,” Alarice clapped her chubby hands with glee. “Maman, someone is coming.”

She struggled to rise and walked over to the oval window to see the draw bridge lowered over the moat. The chamber was on the second floor, north of the bridge. She could make out four of the king’s men entering the castle. They were pulling a litter; someone was hurt.

“Come child.” Taking her daughter’s hand, she said, “Maman must see your father. ‘Tis time for you to take a nap.”

“Aw, I want to see daddy, too.” Her big light brown eyes pleaded with her.

Bella smiled at Alarice. The girl, she thought, with motherly pride, was very beautiful.

Alarice had her porcelain complexion but without the ash brown hair. The girl’s locks were lighter than the soft pale moon on the clearest of nights. The child’s brown eyes were so light they reminded her of a beige sea shell she had found in her youth. It appeared Alarice would be tall like her father, for she grew like a weed. Deeply loved, her child was her most precious possession. As well as if should be especially since the king showed no love for the little one. Soft brown eyes filled with water and Bella sighed. “You can see father later, my child.” She pulled on a long rope and a moment later the young nanny appeared in the doorway. “Annabelle, please take the little princess for her nap.”

The servant curtsied, “Aye, your highness.”

“Want to see daddy.” Alarice insisted, and then rubbed her sleepy eyes. Annabelle picked up the child and began singing, as she rocked the little one in her embrace. Bella wrapped her arms around herself to ward off the chill that surrounded her when she walked through the drafty hall. Slowly descending the steps, the king appeared below.

“Where’s the widow, Godfrey?!” he bellowed up at her. “We need that woman!”

She stopped midway down the staircase. Surprised at his sudden outburst, she took a moment to think. “The widow is in the tower with the other ladies working on the tapestry.” She asked him why the widow was needed but it went unanswered because her husband turned to one of his men and gave an order. “Go fetch the old lady and tell her to bring her healing herbs.” The man nodded, then ran up the stairs. He stopped for a second to bow politely before her.

“What happened? Who needs healing?” she asked. Her husband cocked an impatient eyebrow and scolded her. “This doesn’t concern you dear, and go back upstairs and rest.”

Bella jutted out her chin insulted by his continuous childish treatment of her. It was no secret; the only reason for their union was to give him a son. But, she came to love him anyway, knowing that their marriage was not made in heaven. Almost twenty and a mother, Bella wanted to be treated and respected as a young woman, not a child. No matter how many times she presented that fact, he still insisted on treating her thus. Anger filled her and she said her peace:

“Please milord, I’m not sick and I’m tired of being pampered like a child. I am a wife and a mother and will be twenty in a few short months. Now I insist you tell me what’s going on!”

He grunted but she knew he didn’t want to quarrel with her, not in her condition. “My men found a wounded young soldier in the woods.”

Her mouth made a perfect O before she asked, “Is he hurt badly?”

“He’s unconscious and lost a lot of blood. Where is that woman?!” he barked, waving his fists impatiently into the air.

“I’m coming,” a voice crackled from up the stairs. “My old bones and legs do not move as fast as they used too.”

The widow Godfrey was the only one who could talk back to her husband and not take any nonsense from him. She had taken care of him when his parents died of the plague, leaving him alone at the age of ten. Even at that age, Bella was told by the widow Godfrey that he had the confidence he needed to be respected by his council of advisors and clergy, if not loved. As soon as he took the throne, his voice would bellow night and day into the dingy grey walls of the castle. The only one who didn’t quake in his presence was the widow Godfrey.

Nay, the servant didn’t let his girth and bad temper frightened her. She had no scruples about frequently taking a switch to his backside, that is, until one day he decided to take it upon himself to snatch it away. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop the old woman’s sharp tongue from lecturing him. Bella though the widow Godfrey still assumed the king only humored her because she was the closest thing to his past he had, and the only reason he continued to put up with her nagging. Her husband wedded for the first time at sixteen and lost two wives at an early age with no heirs to his kingdom. Bella believed he would never as a youth, nor now, confess he loved the old battle axe. But she had.

The widow huffed and puffed her way down the steps. “Take me to the injured man,” she wheezed. She lost her husband at an early age, but, she never remarried. She told Bella that loving once, deeply, she believed, whole heartedly, she would never love again. Could that be the reason the king never threw her out on her bony rump? He had just a touch of pity in his cold heart for her. Maybe? But, maybe they were just like birds of a feather sticking together and nothing more.

Later that day after the widow tended to the soldiers wound, and packed her secret concoction on the injury, Bella left with instructions to call her if he comes around, although the woman said she had her doubts that the man would survive.

“How is he?” Bella asked her husband when he entered her chamber that night.

“Not good,” he shook his head. “The injury to his chest festered, he’s running a fever. The widow cleaned the wound and sterilized it with a hot poker. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

She sighed. “I wonder where he came from.”

Xavier sat with a grunt and she noticed her husband’s face looking pale and his body wet with sweat. Also, he had been very nervous lately but she regarded it only as the jitters over her delivery and feared she might give him another daughter. Not wanting to question him about his anxiety, but still wondering, she asked instead, “Do you have any idea who the injured soldier might be?”

Scratching his weary jaw, he shook his head.

She sighed, “I guess we won’t get any answers until he gets well, that’s, if the good Lord doesn’t take his eyes off the man.” Rubbing her swollen stomach, she felt a slight twinge. The baby wasn’t due for another month; no need to worry. But of course she didn’t take her own advice and worry she did. But no one could blame her; it’s what women do.

When his wife retired, Xavier sat and mulled over the fact that he hadn’t been sleeping well lately because the closer his wife came to her birthing time, the tighter the knot became in his gut. His restless nights had been plaguing him with the same recurring nightmare. Wiping his forehead with the back of his robe sleeve, he stared at his wife’s swollen belly as if he was trying to see what was growing inside. What if ’tis twins again? That’s the thought he continued to dream over and over; two tiny babies screaming, crying so pitifully, their tiny hands reaching out to him until they seemed to join together and become one; big brown eyes pleading for his help. If she does not have the baby soon he will lose his senses.

For five days Godfrey tended to the soldier trying to force water down his parched lips, only to make him choke but once in a while she managed and she smiled when he did swallow a little. It was the one time she didn’t mind her chore for the man was muscular built and very handsome. Now, she may be old, but she still had the mind of a young girl and she found touching him was very pleasant. Surprisingly, this man could make her forget how much she loved her late husband, if she were younger.

“How is he?” asked the concerned queen.

“His fever broke. He regained consciousness for a few minutes and I fed him broth but he was too weak to speak.”

The queen chuckled. “You mother over the soldier with nary a complaint, which is not like you at all.”

***

The next day the king was summoned when Faustus Gaston regained consciousness. The chamber was dimly lit; a lone candle stood on a table by the bed. He blinked, not recognizing the form that stood by him. He tried to focus his vision uncertain if he really wanted to lose what little strength he had.

“Are you able to speak?” he was asked.

Faustus coughed and rasped, “A little.” Could his tongue possibly be glued to his pallet?

“Are you strong enough to answer some questions?”

“I am Faustus,” he rasped, anticipating the first question. He licked his cracked lips, and he took a deep breath. Again he tried, “I’m Prince Faustus Gaston. I was traveling home on my way from Hesse when I was attacked and robbed.”

“Prince Faustus?” the voice replied astonished. The man walked closer, and said, “I am King Xavier. Why were you journeying alone, without a regiment and in a soldier’s uniform?”

He sighed. “’Tis a long story, one that will take time. If I may wait until I am stronger, I will tell you, but now, I feel like a dragon chewed me up and spit me out. I do want to thank you for saving my life. I owe you a great boon.” He lapsed into unconsciousness again.

A few days later, Faustus explained to King Xavier that he and his father, King Malcolm, had a disagreement twelve years ago. “I fell madly in love with a handmaiden, a beautiful lady from the keep. Against my father’s protests, I married the woman,” he commented. Taking a shaky, but needed breath, he continued, “My father became so enraged that he banished me from the kingdom.” Again, he gasped for breath and coughed, wanting only to stop and rest but he had promised his host an explanation and saw the man very intrigued listening to his story with utmost interest.

He wheezed in another bubble of air and continued, “My father is dying and I, Prince Faustus was summoned home by the king. I’ve been a soldier, fighting for my adopted country, now I must return home to take my rightful place on the throne. My father has forgiven me.” He rubbed his sore chest in thought. “Perhaps, because my wife no longer lives, is the cause his heart has softened to me. I have a ten year old son, Garrick Faustus, the only remaining male to carry on the royal line. I must return home and then send for my son.” He swung his long legs over the side of the bed and winced.

“Are you well enough to travel?” asked King Xavier.

He waited a moment until the room balanced itself again. “I have to be; my father might be dead by now,” he informed. “I must return as soon as possible.”

The king went over and placed a firm hand on his shoulder, forcing him down again. “Nay, I think it is too soon, if you leave now you will risk opening your wound, chance bleeding to death on the road. ’Twould not do anyone good, especially your son, if you never arrive.”

He grabbed the king’s hand and rasped, “If something happens to me, you must send for my son. He will be escorted home to take my place.” He then gave the king information where his son was staying and with whom. King Xavier gave his word and in a month Faustus believed he was able to travel and insisted on making the journey.

“I’ll have my horseman ready the queen’s couch; your horse can be tied to follow behind,” said King Xavier.

“That’s very kind of you, but I cannot let you do anymore for me.”

The king held up his hand. “If I send you off on horseback and something happens to you, I’ll never hear the end of it from the widow Godfrey.”

He stood and winced. “I’ll have to thank her personally before I go. How can I repay her for saving my life?”

“She’ll not take payment,” said the king, “but she has a weakness for silk, something we do not have a great supply of in my kingdom.”

“I’ll make sure she receives a bolt of my finest silk,” promised Faustus. “Now, is there something I can do for you?”

King Xavier smiled. “Aye, if I might make a suggestion. Thuringia is a rich country, wealthier than my own land.” He walked to the window and looked out as if he could his neighboring country and all its riches. “I have a beautiful baby daughter who just turned two last week. You say you have a ten year old son?” Faustus nodded, not comfortable with this conversation, believing he knew the direction of the man’s words. “I propose that we make a betrothal between the two. When my first born reaches sixteen, she and the prince would be wed.”

Faustus winced. He didn’t believe in betrothals, since he was a man who fell in love and married someone of his own choosing. He wanted his son to have the same chance, but this man saved his life and he had to repay the debt. “Draw up the contract, I’ll sign before I leave,” he said. With very little enthusiasm he managed to keep any trace of reluctance out of his voice.

The king rubbed his hands greedily together, “Wonderful!” he said. “That child will have some value for me after all,” he muttered.

I do not like the sound of that…




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