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And the Bells Chimed

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A woman dressed in elegant silks quietly walked down stone steps into a dungeon carrying a basket covered in a cloth embroidered with the king’s crest. When she reached the base of the steps she discreetly handed each of the armed guards a large flask of wine in return for a few minutes alone with the prisoner. Walking up to the lone cell, she whispered out to the occupant. “Robin” she grasped the dirty iron bars with longing. She caught a flurry of shadows from the corner of the cell, and a man’s face appeared in the dim light of her candle. When he saw her face his eyes widened and he sprung towards the door.

“Ysabel,” he croaked, his hands, grimy and callused, reached through the bars for her face, but she pulled away before they could touch her. Robin looked at Ysabel, the brief look of happiness on his face was replaced with confusion. “Is something--?” She pressed her face in between the bars and flakes of rust fell to the ground. It was the closest she had been to him in months.

“The guards, if they see you touch me, they might tell my father. He’ll accuse you of another ridiculous crime, and this time imprisonment might not be the only punishment. You’ll be destroyed. I cannot live without you, even if we aren’t together.” Her eyes had filled with tears, were glittering in the dull flame of her candle.

“Your father can whip and starve me, but as long as your heart still beats, he can never truly destroy me,” Robin pronounced, his voice rising in volume at the end. Nothing he could say would stop her tears, and Ysabel looked down at the dirt at her feet, hoping to hide them from him.

“Ysabel,” Robin whispered. Ysabel couldn’t look up. Robin reached through the bars, and before she could stop him, grabbed her face between his two hands, forcing her to look at him. “I love you,” he said, his voice shaking with desperation and heartache. Without thinking he pulled her face into him and met her lips with his.

The two guards came rushing over and pulled her away from Robin. A flask of wine only bought her so much loyalty with her father’s hired hands. They dragged her up the stairs and handed her off to her father’s personal guards. After a brief moment of conversation, instead of taking her to her rooms, they led her to her father’s chambers, where she was greeted by the king, dressed in his sleeping robes.

“Ysabel,” Her name sounded like an insult when her father spoke it.

“Yes?”

“Haven’t I told you not to fraternize with the prisoners, they’re dangerous.”

She looked over at the guards accusingly. They had somehow already told her father about her trip to see Robin. “There is only one prisoner, and he is no danger.”

One of the guards that had been holding Ysabel cleared his throat to speak. “Your Highness, we brought the Princess up here because it looked like the prisoner had been attacking her. We were scared for her future safety.”

“How dare you validate his nonsense. Robin was not attacking me--” Ysabel stammered, her heart hammering at this injustice.

“Guards may I have a moment with my daughter?” the King asked. The guards disbanded. “Ysabel, we have had this conversation many many times. You have a duty to your kingdom. You can not fraternize with peasants. We have a system here Ysabel. A class system. The King’s daughter can NOT be seen gallivanting around with a farmer’s son.” His last words were yelled at her, his face turning red.

“I love him. I can’t help who I love. I don’t care about the castle or class system. I’ll denounce my title. I just want to be with Robin.” She replied, her voice shaking with desperation. Her father’s face could have been carved out of stone.

“I will not have my daughter ruining our family’s name. End of discussion.” He paused and took a deep breath. “Guards! Take her to her room, and make sure she stays there. Clearly this attack has shaken her so much that she is unable to speak the truth,” he said, waving his hand to dismiss her.

The guards came in and grabbed her arms. “You can keep us apart, but my feelings will never change,” she cried as they pulled her out of her father’s rooms. Ysabel tried to struggle with them, but they were too strong. When they reached her rooms, she collapsed on her bed and cried herself to sleep.

She awoke the next morning to sunlight warming her face, and her eyes bleary from crying. She sat rubbing them for a moment, trying to focus on her surroundings. She looked about the room and saw a strange man sitting on her vanity. She sat up in fear.

“Ysabel?” He spoke, trying too hard to sound alluring.

“Why are you in my room? No men are allowed in here,” she said trying to shake the grogginess from her mind “my father will put you in jail if he finds you in here.”

“My love, he sent me to introduce myself. I am Hadrian, and we are to be wed this afternoon.”

“Pardon?” She replied, her heart thudding in her chest.

Hadrian walked toward her bed, past the open bay window. The sun was high and bright in the morning sky and it illuminated a small studded sheath hidden on his belt, under his jacket. He perched himself on the edge of her bed and reached for her hand. Quickly she moved her hand back, the hurt on Hadrian’s face was visible, but he continued on.

“We are going to be married this afternoon.” His eyes were filled with excitement. She realized that he was just another pawn in her father’s plot. Calmly she got out of bed, and excused herself from the room. The door clicked behind her and she ran down the cold stone hallways barefoot. When she reached her father’s chambers she barreled past the guards and through the doors.

Her father looked back at her from his reading chair pleasantly surprised. “Ah, my darling daughter. I take it you met Hadrian.” He chuckled to himself, as if this was all some sort of practical joke.

“You mean my soon-to-be husband? Yes, I did meet him because you let him into my sleeping chambers.” Her father got up from his chair and walked toward her.

“Good, now you can get ready for the wedding.” He said placing his hand on her shoulder and guiding her out of the room.

“There isn’t going to be a wedding father,” she replied, her green eyes fierce and stubborn. He continued to push her through his doors.

“Yes there is daughter, because I say so, and I am not only your father but your king as well, and to go against my wishes will deem you a traitor. Don’t think you are above the laws of the kingdom because you are my blood. I will hold you accountable for your actions my precious daughter.” He said, his face now inches from hers. Ysabel refused to break his gaze as he spoke.
“Guards! Take her to chambers so her serving girl can fix her up, because she looks hideous...”

Again Ysabel was dragged back to her room. When she got back her bed was made, Hadrian was gone but her servant had taken his place and a white dress was now draped over her wardrobe.

Her servant girl was young, not yet twelve and her brown eyes looked up at Ysabel uncertainly. “Lady Ysabel, I’m so very sorry about this, but the King said if I don’t get you ready he’d hang me.” Ysabel placed her hand on the girls’ shoulder.

“It’s not your fault my father is a terrible person.” She let the girl dress her, and brush the knots out of her hair. Her mind was racing, trying to formulate a plan to get her out of the wedding. While she was planning, her servant handed her a bouquet of white lilies.

Once she was finished dressing, guards escorted Ysabel out of the castle, and across the town square. She looked out over the kingdom as she traveled and knew there was nothing she would be able to do. She had lost to her father’s strong will.

She arrived at the cathedral and was pushed to the altar. The cardinal began the ceremony, frequently looking over at the King for his confirmation to continue with the ceremony when she didn’t respond during vows. She looked out the window at the vast open skies and the birds flying into the clouds as the cardinal pronounced them husband and wife. She longed for the freedom that the birds had as Hadrian placed a tentative kiss on her cheek. It felt wrong, but if this allowed Robin to be freed from the prison, she would endure it.

The cathedral bells chimed as they exited, echoing through the kingdom, letting the people know she had been wed.

Ysabel and Hadrian rode through the town square together on the return journey. As they passed the square Ysabel noticed a crowd had gathered around the gallows, and there was a lone man standing on the platform, waiting for the hangman to pull the lever. There was a familiarity in the way he stood, his shoulders back and his head held up. Ysabel pushed herself over Hadrian and stared out his window in the carriage. Her eyes locked with the eyes of the man in the noose.

“Robin!” she screamed, her hands balling into fists of anguish. Robin smiled at the sound of her voice and gave a slight shake of his head as the executioner dropped the floor out from under him. Ysabel felt an ache course through her chest worse than any physical pain she had ever experienced. She deftly reached down towards Hadrian’s belt and the dagger she had seen earlier that morning. Hadrian realized what was happening a moment too late, and fumbled to stop her, but couldn’t. She plunged the silver blade into her chest and gasped as she fell backwards into her new husband’s arms. “My heart has died today, now my body can join it,” she choked. Hadrian looked at his beautiful bride in horror as she took in her last anguished breath. Oblivious to the tragedy that had unfolded, the bells continued to chime.



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