Wolves in the Fold
"I was born as part of the Royal household of King Davis III. My name is Marian. My mother named me after the legendary Maid Marian, the famous archer and Robin Hood's ladylove. I am not too bad at archery, but on the whole I leave that to my namesake. I think I am pretty, with long black curly hair, and pale skin with freckles across my nose. I have green eyes, and I am rather tall. The crown prince, Harry and I are great friends. Because of this, my nurse told my mother that I might one day be queen. I heard her. Harry is a dear, but me? Queen? I'm not up to it. I never wanted to be a princess, even, and my dear friend, Lady Sarah James, says that every girl wants to be a princess. My father is the Duke of Eddington Park, so therefore I am Lady Marian. I have one older brother, but no other siblings. His name is George, Viscount St. John, and, (obviously) he is heir to the Dukedom.
"Harry's mentor was a man named Sir William Wolfe. I never liked him, but with Harry it was a different matter. He looked up to Wolfe like an uncle and loved him. Wolfe was a handsome man, with an air of a general. He had, in fact, been mistaken for a general before. He had iron gray hair, black eyes, and a Roman nose. He was tall, well formed, and muscular, and moved like a cat - very gracefully and very quickly. The only thing that marred his handsome physique were two dueling scars, obtained long ago.
Word had it that he had ruined the daughter of a lord, and that the lord called him out over it. Wolfe wounded the lord in the shoulder in a burst of rage that followed the lord's slicing both Wolfe's cheeks open. It took longer for the lord to recover, but he hurt Wolfe more than Wolfe had hurt him. Wolfe would have those two scars that marred his beauty forever, which he minded more than the lord minded his shoulder.
Most people liked Wolfe because he was so straightforward. But what I didn't like about him was that there was a shifty light in his eye, and when it served his purpose he could be just as flattering and insincere as he usually was frank and straightforward. Wolfe had a mistress called Madame Lucilla. I didn't like her either. Lucilla was a shrewish woman, and unpopular around court. She had a sharp, pointy countenance, and her eyes were small and malicious. She wears several inches of face-paint at all times, and her hoops always make it difficult for her to go through doors. She wears ropes and ropes of jewels, and her hair is always at least a foot higher than anyone else's head. She would have been a ridiculous figure if she didn't take herself so seriously. King Davis was always very busy with affairs of state, which is understandable, as it is a natural consequence of being a good king. Davis is of medium height, with fingers of silver at the temples in his dark brown hair. His face is stern, but his blue eyes are almost always twinkling, as though he is continually laughing at a private joke. Queen Eleanor is wonderful mother, and loves Harry more than anything in the world. She is very good, very beautiful, and very clever. She tells Harry and me stories of when Davis was wooing her. She played tricks on him because she didn't want to be married to just anyone. The trick that finally settled the matter, was when she set him a riddle. She promised to marry him if he solved it correctly. She claims that it was a very hard riddle, but she admits that she was glad that he solved it in the end. Eleanor is my ideal of a Queen. She doesn't give two shakes for ceremony and pomp and a Queen's dignity. Her idea, and mine, of the perfect Queen is one who does the best for her people and loves them, and thinks of them before herself. Harry is very like her, so there will probably be two reigns in a row that are as peaceful and contented as this one. I am glad. Our country has a violent and tumultuous past, filled with the blood of princes and kings and lords and common people. King Davis III's grandfather founded the present dynasty, and so far it has been a good period for the country. My grandfather remembered that time; there was always some treacherous knight or lord to be put to death or imprisoned. It has since grown quieter, and nowadays there is hardly ever an occasion of such ungratefulness. But let me start at the story. One day when I was 15, George had been tormenting me about my freckles. I know they are not fashionable, but I like them, so I am particularly sensitive towards them. Knowing that if I blew up at George I would be punished, I left. Papa takes a very unfair attitude towards us. Just because George is heir, he gets to do whatever he wants. The only thing he doesn't dare do is being disrespectful to my father. I decided to ride over to the palace and pour out my grievances to Harry, who always sympathized with me and declared he liked my freckles and that I was never to cover them up with Blanc like some women around the court.
Harry likes talking to me because he says I'm the only unmarried female he knows who doesn't have designs of matrimony on him. I always laugh and tell him it isn't the girls, it's their scheming Mamas, and they are actually quite prettily behaved and nice girls. At this point he always rejoinders with the declaration that I'm the only one who isn't afraid to air my opinions with him instead of agreeing with his every word. Always after this, I change the subject.
That day, I found Harry at his fencing lesson with Wolfe. I sat on my horse and watched. He was quite good; almost disarming Wolfe before Wolfe did a trick and sent Harry's sword spinning through the air out of his grasp. They say that old age and treachery will always win against youth and strength. Harry came up to me shaking his hand with a troubled expression on his face. He swung me down from my horse despite my protestations that I was quite capable of doing it myself. Harry is quite strong, and by way of showing off, swung me around for a minute before putting me down on the ground. I took the hand that he seemed to be favoring to some extent. There was a deep cut across the fleshy part of his palm. Not a dangerous cut, but it must have hurt. I pried his fingers back open as they had closed, and looked at it closely.
"This should be cleaned and dressed. " I said. He protested, but I insisted. Taking him by his uninjured hand, I led him into the palace after calling a groom to look after my horse. We went to one of his chambers, and I commissioned a maid to get me a clean bandage. I washed the cut, and while waiting for the maid, I told him why I had come. We went through the usual banter, and when it was my turn to change the subject, I asked him why he had looked troubled.
"And don't" I abjured him, "tell me it was just because your hand was hurt. There was much more going on there." He laughed.
"You know me too well, Marian. Yes, there was something else." He paused and the troubled expression came back. "He asked me if I would like to be king, and what I would do once I was. It's a perfectly innocent question in itself," He said, in response to my inquiring look. "It was the way he said it. It was though he was expecting me to be king sooner than ever I did." He stopped again. "I don't know what to think." He looked at me. "What do you think I should do, Marian?" He half smiled. "After all, you and my mother are the only two females who have brains." He chuckled at my wry expression. I thought for a moment, and then I had it.
"Let's go tell your mother." He agreed. By now, the bandage had come, and we set off to see the Queen. In private, Her Majesty would not have her friends 'Your Majesty'-ing her so I always called her 'Eleanor, ma'am', which we had, made up between us. She insisted on Eleanor, and I added the ma'am, being a little uncomfortable with the informality. She has a pet name for me, but not an especially original one. She calls me Maid Marian, and approves greatly of mine and Harry's friendship. Eleanor is quite beautiful, with golden hair and hazel eyes. She has fair skin, same as me, but no freckles. When Harry said he wished his mother had freckles like mine, I admit I was a little shocked. Queen Eleanor with freckles?! No. It was all wrong.
Eleanor was a little worried when she heard Harry's story, but assured us that she didn't have a doubt as to Wolfe's allegiance. This was a great comfort, but Harry and I thought that we should watch and listen just the same.
One night a week or so later, we heard Wolfe and his mistress talking over their evil scheme.
"I will slip the poison into the King's cup," said Wolfe. "and then after condoling with the Queen, will have Harry declared king and crowned. He will appoint me head advisor, and from there I shall rule the land!" As I remarked later to Harry, all we needed was a couple of evil sounding 'Ha ha's' to complete the scene of traitors and plotters.
"And I shall have the crown jewels?" Lucilla asked.
"Some of them, my dear. The queen is liable to keep a pretty sharp eye on them." Lucilla let up a howl.
"But you promised!" Wolfe was angry now.
"There's nothing I can do. You'll have to do with only some of them." Lucilla started to protest, but we heard a hand being clapped over her mouth. "Not now. Go to sleep." The light from within was extinguished, leaving Harry and me gaping in astonishment and horror.
"We've got to do something!" I cried in a whisper.
"But what can we do?"
"Tell your mother. She'll tell your father, and then we'll go and give our evidence." I waited, holding my breath, for Harry's agreement. It came, shortly.
"Alright. Let's go." He grabbed my hand and we went down the corridor quickly and quietly. We knocked on the door of the Queen's bedchamber.
"Mother? Can Marian and I talk to you for a minute, please?"
"Eleanor, ma'am? Please?" The Queen had turned to look at us as we stood in the doorway.
"Of course, darlings. Come in." She patted the bed beside her, and we sat down. "What is it?" she asked, looking at our serious faces.
"Well-" we both started.
"Go ahead," said Harry.
"No, after you."
"You're the guest."
"Age before beauty."
"Ladies first." So in the end, I said,
"Wolfe and Madame Lucilla are plotting against the King. Wolfe is going to poison his drink and then rule through Harry. Then Madame Lucilla is going to take the crown jewels." Harry chimed in.
"We must do something, Mother." The Queen had turned white and she clasped her hands tightly in a useless effort to make them stop shaking.
"How.... how do you know?" We said it together-
"We heard them in Madame Lucilla's chamber." The Queen got up from the bed and called her maid, and, as another Queen had done long ago, in the court of King Xerxes of Persia, said,
"Get my royal garments- I am going to see the King." The maid rushed around, another brushing the Queen's hair and doing it up in a most beautiful style. The Queen got one of Princess Grace's ceremonial dresses for me, and the maid did my hair. Harry went to his chambers and returned shortly most elegantly garbed. The Queen gave me a pair of gorgeous earrings to wear, and Harry found me a pair of gold embroidered slippers. All this happened in a very short time, and we were in the throne room within two minutes after that, the Queen having run so fast that Harry and I had a difficult time keeping up. When we stopped outside the door to smooth our hair and for Harry to replace his hat, I had time to get nervous. Harry, seeing this, squeezed my hand and whispered,
"You look beautiful." I flashed him a grateful smile, and we were in the room, the herald announcing us.
"Her Majesty, Queen Eleanor; His Highness, Prince Henry; Her Ladyship, Lady Marian Fitzgerald. We bowed before the King, and the Queen started her explanation.
"Davis- Wolfe and Madame Lucilla are planning to poison you. You must order their arrest at once." The King looked astounded.
"Eleanor, what do you mean?"
"You are in great danger, Davis! There is a plot to kill you. Then, once Harry is declared king, Wolfe plans to rule through him!" The King looked even more astounded.
"How do you know?" He asked as though he wished he couldn't believe it. But coming from his Queen, he could hardly doubt it. Eleanor gestured to Harry and me.
"They overheard. Wolfe said something to Harry that roused their suspicion, and they have been watching and listening for over a week. They immediately came and told me so I could tell you. We ran all the way here."
"Is this true?" The King looked sternly at Harry and me.
"Yes, Your Majesty," and
"Yes, Father." came from our lips simultaneously. "Every word." The King looked troubled.
"My dear friend, plotting against me." He said, half to himself. "I can't believe it. But I must, now." I curtsied a second time.
"Your Majesty, they are now in Madame Lucilla's bedchamber, asleep. If a guard is sent now, there will be no more threat." The King was a very sensible king, and knew that a good idea is a good idea whether it comes from noble or peasant, man or woman.
"You are right." He said. "Guard! Go to the chamber of Madame Lucilla and bring Wolfe and Madame up here under armed guard. If they are not there, search the palace for them. Close the drawbridge and let none enter or exit. Go!" The guards ran out, and there was a buzzing of speculation around the room as everyone wondered what had happened. The King bid Harry and me change into normal clothes and then come back quickly. As we met again in the corridor, Harry tossed me a sword. I can fight almost as well as he can, unmaidenly talent as it is, and am proud of it.
"Harry," I said, cold misgivings creeping over me, "Do you think we'll have to fight?" Harry looked grim.
"I don't know. I hope I don't have to fight Wolfe; he's still better than I am." I took him by the shoulders and shook him.
"Stop it, Harry. While I was watching you that last time, I could see many ways in which you could have disarmed him easily. He saw it, too." He looked a little brighter.
"Do you really think so?"
"I do." I strapped on my sword. "Come on. We've got to go!" We took off running down the corridor, going almost faster than we had with Queen Eleanor. We arrived just in time to see the guard leave once more. Wolfe and Lucilla were not in the throne room. We rushed up to the King and Queen where they sat, looking grim.
"What has happened?" We cried, in one breath.
"There was a rope hanging from the window," the King replied. "Wolfe and Lucilla have fled the palace."
"Good God in Heaven." I thought. "No. They will raise an army." I said this last bit aloud, without even noticing. The King nodded. I was fast coming to like him.
"Yes. That has occurred to me. A troop of armed men is riding after
them even as we speak. I join them tomorrow morning, with fresh men and
supplies." He smiled a little
as he saw the eagerness in our eyes and on our faces. "Yes, you may come, if you wish it."
We breathed a sigh of relief. "But," The King raised his hand. "You must have the permission of your parents." The Queen laughed out loud at the expressions of disappointment on our faces. The King looked from me to Harry and back to me.
"Inseparable, aren't you?" I smiled, and Harry grinned.
"Yes." I said.
"We're best friends." Harry said. King Davis smiled and said something under his breath about Damon and Pythias that I didn't quite catch. The Queen looked sharply from one of us to the other. We blushed. Certainly, I like Harry better than any other boy, and he seems to prefer my company, but even so. The Queen idea still scares me. I don't think I'm up to it. I can understand why the Queen loves the King. He's very kind and understanding. The only catch in our plan was that I had to ask my parents permission. I was rather dejected at this requirement of the King's, but I knew he was right. I ran back to the Queen's chamber, Harry at my side, and put on the skirt I always wear over my breeches to satisfy my mother. Then we ran to the stables where I found my mare, Starlight, waiting. She is black with a rather unusual speckling of white spots all over her. With a coat like that, Harry and I agree, she could hardly escape a name like Starlight. I remembered I had left my hair net in the Queen's room, and I ran back to get it, disregarding Harry's suggestion that I should either let him get it, or wait until I came again. He followed me a little half- heartedly, but I explained with my hair all unruly like it was, a hair net was the only way Mama wouldn't scold me for looking like a hoyden. As we ran through the halls, we were stopped by the Queen, who shouted,
"Stop! Come back!" in a most undignified manner as we ran by. We did so and were told that the rope had been a ruse in case someone had overheard, and that Wolfe and Lucilla were discovered. All three of us rushed to the main staircase where all the noise was coming from. As it turned out, Wolfe and Lucilla were not the only ones in the scheme. They had penned (and unwisely left on the writing desk) a list of all their co-conspirators. These, much to our surprise, were being kicked downstairs and into the main hall where we were standing. Wolfe had just sprawled on the flagstones and as I looked around in amazement at all the people. Harry grabbed me and pulled me down at the same time, yelling
"DUCK!" I looked up and saw Madame Lucilla land squawking just where I had been standing. Her furs were all in disarray, and her carefully made-up face was smudged. One of the guards yelled from the top a little sheepishly,
"Sorry, Your Majesty's, Lady Marian." I saw a woman dressed plainly, thought covered in jewels in front of me. The same guard yelled, "Kick her hard, Lady Marian!" I looked around in some surprise, and, I must confess, consternation. He elaborated.
"She's one of them. Kick her into our pretty pile." He gestured with a grin at the array of courtiers on the ground. A wave of something like anger came crashing over me and I kicked her as hard as I could. It must have been harder than I knew I was capable of, because she flew some feet off the ground to land in a heap by Wolfe. I paled, for she didn't sit up immediately and did not move. I was very relieved when she sat up and started muttering curses as she rubbed her backside. I giggled. Wolfe glared at us with a look both malicious and revengeful. I shivered. Wolfe had a reputation for paying all debts- and being on his revenge list was not a high priority of mine. He muttered something that was just barely audible to Harry-
"We'll meet again, boy."
Wolfe and Madame were put under house arrest. They were moved to a larger chamber, and they were not allowed visitors without a guard in the room. Their meals were delivered regularly, and they had every luxury. However, as we later learned, the family of Wolfe's and Lucilla's guard, by an incredibly ironic coincidence, had served Wolfe's family since before anyone could remember. He had to choose where his loyalties lay. He chose Wolfe. When he was questioned later, he said that he would never do anything to harm the King, but his family would have cast him off if he didn't help.
"They would 'ave made me loif miserable!" he sobbed during the questioning. In the end, I requested that he not be punished, but to be placed in a position where his conflicting loyalties would not be a problem. He ended up as a dungeon guard. After the questioning, Harry and I hurried out of the room and down the corridor.
"I suppose your father will march against Wolfe before he can raise an army," I said, "Do you think he would let us go with him?"
"I don't know," Harry replied. "We can always ask." We continued to hurry down the corridor to the throne room. To our relief, Davis said I might go, but again I had to have my parents permission. That clinched the matter. Harry and I looked at each other in consternation. Davis, seeing this, recommended me to tell my father that the King had requested that I be one of his personal parties. I thanked him for this, knowing that it just might work. Harry accompanied me to the stables where I saddled Starlight, refusing his help and knowing I could do it quicker than a groom. I swung astride Starlight and rode home at a gallop. Much to my disappointment, Mama refused to allow me to go. I was forced to send a servant to tell Harry that I would be unable to accompany him on his expedition, but that he must stop by as soon as it was over. I must hear of it first hand.
In the reply the servant brought back, Harry promised faithfully that he would do as I asked. He mentioned that the King expected some armed resistance, and he was hoping there would be. At that, I was a little worried. I don't want him to be killed or injured. I'll admit now to myself that I do like him better than any man or boy I've ever known. Maybe as more than a friend. Mama says that it's time for me to think about getting married, but I want to wait until I'm 16 at least. Maybe 17.
Perhaps that's because Harry is the only one I can imagine marrying and living with and having children with. The next day, I kind of moped around doing handiwork and reading. I couldn't go riding, Mama having dressed me in a brocade dress of crimson velvet. The bodice is very flattering. I absolutely refuse to wear a corset, and Mama doesn't insist on it. She says that my figure is very pleasing, and that the bodice accentuates it enough to make a corset unnecessary. My figure is not very hourglass shaped, which is what a corset does. Some women around the court go so far as to wear iron corsets, which I hear can crush your ribs. The Queen does not wear one, however, so it is not considered necessary by others. The other thing I cannot abide are ruffs. Uncomfortable, starched things, I don't even think they look well. About three o'clock in the afternoon, a messenger arrived from the King. They had run into a small band of soldiers and had a bit of a skirmish. Nothing serious, although Harry had a slight wound in his lower arm, and couldn't write. They had warned many villages against Wolfe, and should be a few days more returning. The messenger had been on his way to the palace, but Harry told him to stop by Eddington Park first. Dear Old Harry! The next day was much like the one before. This time the dress was deep purple brocade, and my activities were more or less the same, minus the messenger. The third day I was dressed in moss green velvet with a bodice piece of spring green. My hair had been left down, and I tucked two white feathers into it just by my ear. I loved the effect, but all Mama said was,
"Thank God you're not going anywhere important." By this, I gathered that she didn't think as highly of it as I did. As I was passing through the main hall by the door, I heard the clatter of horses' hooves on the avenue. I opened the door, and rushed out. There were the King and Harry- looking every inch a prince- at the head. Harry spurred his horse a little and came ahead. He sprang down and came forward to meet me. I was smiling so hard I thought my face might crack down the middle like a walnut from pure joy. I had never been so glad to see him. I ran the few remaining steps between us and threw my arms around his neck. He looked down at me in joyful surprise. I grinned again, and kissed him. He didn't pull away and even kissed me back.
Oh! I was so happy. We stood there unaware of the whistles and cheers of the soldiers. When we finally stepped apart, we looked to the King, who was grinning like a village idiot. I know that's a strange way to refer to a King, but that's the only way to describe it. He nodded his head and we grinned back.
"Well, my lady," said Harry, grasping me by the waist and swinging me around.
"Yes, my prince?" I asked.
"Will you marry me, my lady?"
"Yes, my prince." He kissed me again, and I thought, 'So much for waiting until I'm 16 or 17.' I thought, giggling against his mouth. He pulled back to look down on me suspiciously.
"What are you laughing at?" I told him.
"Mama was just saying the other day that I had better start looking for a husband." I giggled again at the look on his face. "I was just thinking that I have probably been looking at you since I was 13." He chuckled.
"It's mutual, I'm afraid. But as long as we choose each other, I do believe we'll be spared the irritation of realizing that it's almost like looking for a horse." He took another step back and lifted my arms away from me. He minutely inspected my dress, his gaze coming at last to the two white feathers in my hair. "What's this? Are you going to attempt to fly away?" He chuckled. "It suits you, Marian. You need a touch of the wild against all the proper clothing of a lady. The clothing," He added, "Is very nice, too. I won't make you dress in brocade and velvet all the time, though; you're just as nice in breeches and a tunic." I grabbed his hand to lead him into the house, and he beckoned for the King to follow. I didn't think that either Papa or Mama would object to my choice, but the proprieties must be observed.
As I knew he would be, Papa was overjoyed and could not express his approbation enough. I think he will be very glad for me to be out of his way and for him not to have to worry about me. He was very pleased at my having chosen so illustrious a husband, as I would improve his status at court. Mama was very pleased because she knows I'll be happy.
Harry informed me that they had to go to the other side of the country, and they had thought it would be more than worthwhile stopping at Eddington Park and the Palace on their way. I rode in front of Harry on his horse to the palace to see the Queen. Eleanor was overjoyed at the prospect of out approaching marriage, as I knew she would be, and wanted me to stay with her. I couldn't however, because Mama and I were busy with my wedding clothes. Harry and the King left again the next morning, and again rode through the country. When they were done, they rode home to the Queen and me. When they rode through to Eddington, I ran out of the house and Harry ran to me. I had missed him very much. Mama had wanted me to go to the big city for clothes and materials, but I didn't know when Harry would be back, and not wanting to miss him, I refused. I wasn't going to miss my prince, and besides. I wanted more kisses. Harry had turned 16, and we had permission to marry. I told Harry that I wanted to wait until I was 16 at least before we were married, and that we needed at least a six-month engagement. As it turned out, however, it was longer than six months.
Soon after this, it was abroad in the court that Wolfe had somehow raised an army. God only knows where from, but he had. The King got his army ready and they trained. They were already one of the best armies in the area, but the King wasn't taking any chances. They trained and Harry trained with them. He was teaching me, and I could fight pretty well. Whenever he disarmed me and backed my up against a wall, he kissed me rather than cutting my head off or slitting my throat. I disarmed him once or twice, but he was better than I was. Then a messenger came from the town farthest to the south- Wolfe was riding at the head of an army of 10,000. The soldiers heard this and turned to each other shaking their heads. 10,000! There were only 8,000 in King Davis' army. However, the messenger said that most were untrained and unskilled. This cheered the men up, and they trained harder than ever. Then another messenger came.
Wolfe was in the country. He and his men were ravaging and pillaging to some extent. They were taking food to feed themselves and doing so without paying and without leave, spoiling whatever they didn't take. King Davis looked grim at this news. I bowed before him and requested leave to speak.
"Your Majesty, are not Wolfe and Madame Lucilla's jewels still here in the palace? Why could we not change them to gold coin and give them out as payment to those who have been devastated?" The King smiled fondly at me.
"Truly, my son is marrying a wise woman. We shall do as you suggest." I smiled, delighted that my scheme had met with approval. "In fact, why do not you and my son go and find those self same jewels now? You have my leave to look anywhere you think they might be." Harry grabbed me by the hand and we went out of the throne room. We searched high and low, and found quite a considerable amount of beautiful jewels. I looked at some emeralds and opals in a gorgeous gold setting as a necklace, and said,
"I would love to own these." Harry looked at them shrewdly. He held the necklace up.
"The stones match your eyes and your skin." He put it in his pocket. "I shall give them to you as our engagement present." I smiled at him, and we went back to looking. We searched every drawer, tapped floorboards, looked up the chimney and in the fireplace and looked for loose bricks or stones in the same. We took apart the mattresses and looked in the closets, in clothes, and in boots. By the time we were done, it was necessary to put them in my skirt, as there were far too many for us to carry. We brought them back to the throne room, and showed them to the King.
"Let us auction them off, and thereby get the highest price possible." Harry suggested. We auctioned them off, each one for more than it was worth. At last, they were all gone. The courtiers all dispersed to go to bed, and Harry brought out of his pocket the beautiful necklace. He showed it to his father and explained his intention to buy it for my engagement present. Davis looked at the necklace, and remarked on it's beauty.
"If you want to, Harry, I think that's fine." Harry looked at him closely.
If you want to, Harry, I think that's fine." Harry looked at him closely.
"How much do you think it's worth?" Davis perused the necklace a second time.
"100 pieces of silver, 75 of gold." I gasped.
"Harry, that's so much money! I don't need, it, really." Davis smiled.
"A rare woman it is indeed who doesn't insist on beautiful jewels, no matter how much she loves them, because of the price." Harry told us to wait, and he ran off to his chambers to get the money. He came back soon, with a bag marked, '100 silver', which he gave to his father. He took the jewels, and hung them around my neck. They were warm from his hands. I thanked him, told him how much I loved them, and how beautiful they were. I then ran off to my chambers. The next day, yet another messenger arrived to beg the assistance of the King. The King promised to do all he could, and informed his men that they would be leaving in three days time. We gathered all the food we could find, and the stable boys and grooms brushed and shod all the horses. They were taking no chances, and brought along a blacksmith, who had quite a number of ready-made shoes. Then they were gone.
Over the next two months, we heard of terrible battles. Davis' men were winning, having had more experience and training and discipline. Wolfe was a formidable enemy. His weak place, however, was that he ruled by fear instead of, like King Davis, by loyalty and love. Then the news came. Wolfe and some of his best men had snuck into our camp, and murdered Davis. Harry was banished. A triumphant Wolfe was riding on the capital. The Queen and I had spent days in her chambers crying and comforting, eating nothing. Once we were able to put away our grief, we were frightened for the people. What would happen with Wolfe as King? I remembered what Harry and I had heard Wolfe and Madame Lucilla say that night when it all started. The crown jewels. I quickly reminded the Queen, and she and I raced down the hallway to Davis' rooms and the display hall. We took all the jewels that Madame Lucilla could possibly want, (i.e. everything) and took them back to the Queen's chambers. I thought that if we split them up, we could put them in placed that were hard to find. We put all the necklaces and bracelets into an iron box and buried it deep in a corner of the training field, under the shadow of the wall. We took the crowns and put them in my hatboxes and sent them back to Eddington with orders not to take out the hats. We sewed the loose jewels into the linings of our skirts, and we were done.
When Wolfe and Madame Lucilla moved into the palace. They were furious that the jewels were gone. However, all our little escapades outside the palace had been in the dark of night with no moon, and the maids could testify that we hadn't been out of her rooms. They were forced to assume that Davis had sold them secretly or they had been stolen with all the commotion about the death and banishment of the King and Prince. I went back to Eddington, having promised the Queen to visit her often.
Then one day Harry came back. He had raised an army and beat Wolfe's. Wolfe escaped, and Harry came after him to the palace. It was one of the days that I spent with the Queen, and I was on my way back from the garderobe when Wolfe grabbed me from behind. He held a knife to my throat and told me to hold still. A moment later, Harry came dashing down the corridor, sword drawn. I cried out as I saw him, and he heard me. Stopping short, I could feel him trying to see in the blackness.
"Marian?" Wolfe pressed the knife closer to my neck.
"Not a sound" he hissed.
Knowing that if he killed me he'd have nothing left to bargain with, I called out-
"Harry! Don't come any closer. Wolfe's got me and he's got his knife to my throat." As I said this, Wolfe pressed the blade closer and as it bit into my neck, I gave a little cry of pain. Harry came closer.
"Wolfe!" I could hear the suppressed fury and hatred in his tones. "Wolfe!" Wolfe glided out of the shadows, still holding me.
"Your highness." Silkily. "You have beaten my army, but if you come any closer, she dies."
"Don't listen to him, Harry!" I cried. "Kill him. If he kills me, he'll have nothing left to bargain with. Besides- I'm not afraid to die."
"Brave little thing, isn't she Your Highness. However, I think you view it in a different light." Harry clenched his fists- the one around his sword handle was white.
"Let her go! I'll do as you ask, just let her go!" Wolfe smiled, a nasty triumphant smile.
"Here are my terms. You give me safe passage out of your country with enough money to start me elsewhere." I could see Harry's wish to rid the world of a man who would betray his best friend conflict against his love for me. The love won out.
"Alright." He said. "I will do as you ask." Wolfe smiled again. "Do you give me your word?" I could see Harry's struggle. Wolfe, in his concentration on Harry, had let his grip loosen both on the knife and me. I twisted out of his grasp and ran to Harry before he could say the fateful words.
"Give him a sword, Harry." I said, the steel clear in my voice. "Give him a fair chance. Don't go down to his level." I grabbed a sword from a convenient suit of armor and tossed it at Wolfe's feet. "There. Fight. If Wolfe wins, he gets safe passage and the money. If Harry wins, not. Wolfe, if you win and you kill him, I will see you die e'er this day is out."
They fought. Wolfe was older and had more experience, but Harry was younger and stronger and had been training. Wolfe was a little soft from months of luxurious living, but Harry was toughened by the walking and fighting. Even so, it was close. Wolfe was desperate, fighting for his life. Harry was fighting for those he loved; for his people and his mother and his father and me. Finally, Harry had Wolfe disarmed and on his knees. I hurried in and tied his wrists and ankles. Harry handed me the swords and threw Wolfe over one shoulder. We went to the throne room and sent servants to fetch all the courtiers thither. Once all were assembled, Harry announced his fate.
"Sir William Wolfe is to be executed on Friday morning, two days from today."
Harry looked very grave and older than his 17 years. "Wolfe, I am sorry to have to do this, seeing as how you were one of my best friends. I looked up to you like an uncle." His voice broke and he stopped. He looked at me beseechingly. I called the guards and told them that Wolfe was to be put under house arrest. He was to be comfortable and have all his needs attended to. There should be a guard outside the door at all times and the door should be locked from the outside. I then dismissed all the courtiers, and we were alone. I gathered him into my arms as he cried in an unpracticed way.
The Queen was overjoyed at Harry's return. He was crowned on Sunday, two days after Wolfe's execution. And on the Sunday after that, we were married. And you know, I got to wait until I was 17 after all.
© 2001 Copyright held by the author.