Her Great Sacrifice

October 7, 2011
It was quite a dreary day, very much a reflection of Lady Katherine's mood. She walked the long yard of the castle while deep in thought. Normally she was a very cheerful woman, she had everything a woman could hope for and was envied by all the girls in the Queen's court. She had long blond hair that looked like silk, and her beauty was always spoke about. Her family was very wealthy and always high in the King's favor. She had recently become betrothed to the King's only son, who all the girls swooned over.

Yes, Lady Katherine's life seemed to be perfect, but in this moment she was contemplating the importance of the petty things she had always cared most about. 

Her most beloved cousin, Henry, had been prosecuted for treason earlier in the month, and sentenced to execution. She loved Henry, more than anyone else in her family and she was absolutely devastated when she found out. She had begged and pleaded with not only her betrothed, but also the King himself, all to no avail. Her family had told her that he deserved what he got. After someone committed treason, they were out-casted by the entire castle. 

Lady Katherine was the only one who believed Henry was not in the wrong with his treachery. He had merely spoken ill of the King, who was persecuting people left and right if they did not follow the Catholic beliefs. Henry had spoken to Lady Katherine about his thoughts on this, and his words had rang true. The King was, as always, abusing his power and the people were growing sick of it. As the future Queen, Lady Katherine was only concerned about the people of her country. The people, in turn, loved her. They were taken by her beauty and intelligence, as well as her social skills. 

She knew she must do something to save her cousin, she had been thinking it for weeks. She constructed absurd plans in her head for days, knowing all along that she would have to resort to the plan she was most afraid of. 

She was going to the dungeons of the castle. She was going to save her cousin. 

She knew if she got caught, it would be the end of her engagement, and possibly her life. But that didn't matter to her at this point, she would regret it for the rest of her days if she did not. She looked up at the grey sky as tears spilled over onto her face, she didn't want to die, she didn't want to lose the status her family worked so hard to get her.

"But it must be done," she sighed to herself. Looking straight ahead at the brilliant castle she had come to call home, she pulled herself together and held her head high as she decided it must be tonight.

She marched up the stone steps that lead to her privy chamber. 'These shoes are not sensible for my task,' she thought as she pushed open her wooden door. She opted for no shoes, not very lady-like, but neither was breaking your cousin out of the dungeons. She paced the length of her chamber, putting it off as long as she could. 

Now was the only moment she had, the King and her fiance were out hunting and would be back shortly. She knew for a fact that her fiance had a key of his own to the dungeon in his chamber, so that was her first move.

She quickly padded her way to his room, her bare feet helping disguise the sound of her steps. She opened his door and scanned the walls for the key. His chamber was quite plain, Edward had never wasted his time with aesthetics, like the decor of his room. He was more concerned with politics and his people, which is the reason Katherine had fallen in love so quickly, he was a good man. She knew she was lucky to actually be madly in love with her betrothed, so many girls never got to experience love, and perhaps it was foolish to risk her relationship. But nevertheless, she grabbed the rusty key that hung on his otherwise bare wall, and left as quick as she came.

Down to the dungeons she climbed, down a cold corridor and several flights of stone steps, which felt freezing on her bare feet. The usual guard was asleep, asleep on the job, she rolled her eyes at his work ethic and continued down the hall. 

There were several cells, rusty brown bars encasing a variety of men who smelled terribly. They were all asleep, she supposed they had nothing else better to do. She scanned each cell for a trace of her cousin, and at last, she located him.

His dark hair was matted to his skull, his hands and feet were black with dirt and his clothes were in an even worse state. The bones in his wrist looked as if they were about to break through his thinned skin.

"Henry, Henry, it is I, Katherine," she whispered to him, as he opened his eyes. His eyes were a striking sky blue, the same as her own. 

"Katherine, I knew you would come for me," he spoke, flashing a white smile, which contrasted greatly with his blackened skin. 

"You shall thank me later," she smiled back, helping him undo the shackles that held his legs and hands together.

"Hey you in there, be quiet!" A burly voice boomed in the distance.

Lady Katherine held her breath, hoping the guard wouldn't come investigate. Her heart was beating so loud, she thought the guard must have heard it. She couldn't breath, it felt as if a boulder had been placed on her chest. She heard stomps coming in her direction, there was no place to hide, she knew it was over.

"Are you attempting to help a prisoner escape?!" yelled the guard, who was wearing a dumb expression on his unattractive face. "Lady Katherine? Oh, wait till the King hears about this," he cackled cruelly.

Lady Katherine sat down, defeated, and closed her eyes as silent tears began to fall. Henry grabbed her hand and squeezed it, the only comfort he could give her.

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Lady Katherine stood high above everyone else. She held her head high and looked out on her people. They were still her people after all, no matter what. She had been allowed a speech, and as the King was not present, she took full advantage.

"Today, innocent people have been executed. Killed for their beliefs, killed for their bravery. The bravery that it took to stand up for what they believe in," Lady Katherine began, "Too many innocent people have died at the King's hands. People who have stood here just like you stand now. Who next? You? Your son? Your husband? Your father?" She looked out in the crowd for her one and only love, tears steadily streaming down his face, he wanted to do something, but he had no power in this situation and was forced to watch it unfold. 

"Well, I am done standing by watching this happen! My own cousin died here today because he spoke his mind, he was killed over mere words! Is this the kind of King you want? Is this the kind of world you want to live in?" She paused and her voice broke as she spoke the last words. "If you stand for this any longer, our deaths will have been in vain. Today, I do not ask for forgiveness, as I have done nothing that requires it, but I do ask for your prayers." 

She couldn't help but let out a sob as she kneeled on the ground. She had tried to keep up a brave facade for her people, but she couldn't hold it up any longer. She stared out at the crowd and thought, if only for a second, she could see some defiance in their eyes. Maybe I won't die in vain, she thought and smiled as she laid her head on the hard wooden surface, cut in a curved shape for the contours of her neck. 

"We love you Lady Katherine," she heard a woman say in the crowd. And as she smiled, the sound of the blade running down the guillotine filled her ears.

The crowd was silent except for the soft, pained sobs coming from Edward, Lady Katherine's love. You could almost hear a piece of his own soul tear off, to follow Katherine's spirit to Heaven.

And that was how Lady Katherine ceased to exist. Still, her memory and bravery was carried on by the man she loved, who became King shortly after. He changed his father's kingdom and he did it for her. He never loved another woman again.





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