“Deprive me of a husband, but he would deprive me of kindness as well,” Laurel confided in her best friend Summer, barely suppressing her anger.
She didn’t dare speak the king’s name for spies were everywhere. So long as she didn’t speak his name then she could perhaps deny her words–say she was speaking on an overattentive suitor, blame such actions on the shepherd or the village blacksmith.
“You must run away,” replied Summer. Her face colored as she suppressed the name of Laurel’s fiance, but his name “Hunter” hung in the air nevertheless. She know the dangers of speaking too freely of this matter.
It was an impractical suggestion. Where would she run to? How would she find Hunter on the distant battlelines where thousands of men fought and died daily? But she loved her friend Summer all the more for the indignation and defiance that ran through her veins on Laurel’s behalf. And one day she would run away, she told herself, but not until she could do so with Hunter.
She remembered the sudden appearance of the young king in her humble cottage in the late spring while her parents were away tending the sheep in the mountain pastures. His crown had bumped against the doorframe as he entered, and, unlike the young men of the cottages, his skin was as fresh and unmarred as a baby’s.
She had been so flustered by his unlikely visit, that at first she didn’t catch the drift of what he was saying. He patiently repeated his assertion of the divine right of kings, she understood that all right, but it was the part about bestowing the “blessings of God” on her upcoming wedding that she didn’t fathom. The “right of Primo Noctur,” he called it.
When she finally figured out his meaning, she had been terrified and humiliated. “I love Hunter and only him,” she declared, before fleeing into the nearby forest. She had hidden in a small clutch of fallen trees, her heart pounding along with the pounding hooves of the king’s horses as they criss-crossed the forest searching for her. By morning, the king and his men were gone, and she wondered if she had simply dreamed the strange events.
But that same day the king had suddenly sent Hunter off to the battlelines. She barely had time to say good-bye to him, much less tell him what had happened.
Then the rumors started. Rather than sympathy, her neighbors blamed her. She found herself ostracized by the village for somehow tempting the young king, though she had barely laid eyes on him before that night. It was difficult without Hunter or her family to support her. Only Summer had stood by her. They would met in secret and talk without naming names. She was determined that Hunter would return to her to find her as chaste as the day he left.
A month later, the king had made it known by secret messenger that one day he would come to her cottage again, and this time he would stay till sunrise, welcomed to her bed.
“Don’t worry,” she said reassuringly to Summer. “I don’t think he will come, after all,” she said as she took out a small pouch from the folds of her dress. “Men don’t like it,” she whispered hurriedly.
Summer gasped at the sight of the pouch. Laurel thought for a moment that Summer might be imagining that Laurel planned to poison the king. He might have wronged me, but he is still divine, she thought. To clarify she said, “Wives don’t like it either.”
It had been relatively easy to sneak into the king’s castle disguised as a scullery maid and sprinkle the substance from the pouch onto the king’s dish. She had done it nightly for three weeks now. The truth was that the pantries in the bowels of the castle were largely unguarded, if you knew which passages to take. And the pedlar had not lied about the substance’s properties.
“Rumor is that she sleeps alone,” Laurel said. “And he avoids her at every turn.” Laurel leaned in closer to her friend. “I fear theirs will not be a happy marriage until the war ends.”
Note: The closed captioning on my television occasionally freezes on a random line. I thought it would be an interesting challenge to use these lines as writing prompts. The rules of my writing game are that I must write a short-short story in a single sitting.