This story begins, much as all good fairly tales, once upon a time, in a land not so very far away. This particular land was ruled by a beautiful princess and a brave prince. They were twins, each the complement to the other. James was strong, smart, athletic, and opinionated, while Claire was gently, kind, gracious, and loving. Together they kept the castle running in good order. The gardens, galleries and libraries where tended by Claire. Her love of beauty showed best in those places. James diligently saw to the treasury, the armory and the garrisons. His attention to detail kept things running smoothly. Together they embarked on grand adventures, entertained guests and just enjoyed each other's company. They lived life to the fullest every day.
Every day that is until Damian, one of their trusted advisors began secretly plotting to destroy Claire. First, Damian asked Claire to help him trim his Dendron bushes. Claire was always willing to help out and the flowers were not like any of the blossoms in her own garden. No sooner had she taken the clippers and began to trim away the dead branches, then the vines reached out and ensnared her. The large thorns cut deep into her arms and legs. She cried out. In an instant James was beside her hacking the shrub to pieces with his sword. It only took a moment to cut away the vines that entangled Claire but the damage was done. James gathered his wounded sister into his arms and headed into the castle.
The next day Damian came to visit. He apologized for how his plants had behaved saying “I don't know what happened. They have never done anything like that before.” To emphasize his remorse, he offered Claire a beautiful new dress. “I hope this will cheer you up after this little misunderstanding.”
Delighted, Claire rushed to try it on. Little did she know that Damian had put poisonous powder in the fabric so when she donned it, the dust fell into the deep, fresh cuts. Howling in pain, Claire tore at the sleeve.
“What have you done?” demanded James as he tried to clean the dust from his sister's wounds with water from a near by basin.
Damian laughed sinisterly and replied “Don't blame me. She put the dress on so she did this to herself.” James drew his sword and turned to slay the villian, but the coward had already escaped down the hall.
After a while the burning pain Claire felt faded to a dull throbbing. The wounds scabbed over and appeared to heal but Claire remained weak, merely a shadow of her normally, vibrant self. Keeping mostly in her chambers with the lamps turned low, she refused visitors. James would come to see her often, but he was now very busy trying to keep up on all his tasks and take up her responsibilities also. Try as he may, the flowers in the garden withered, the books and paintings faded and the music died entirely. He tried to keep entertaining guests but without Claire's gently charm he usually only succeeded in frustrating people.
Days faded into weeks and weeks into years. James became used to juggling all the different duties of running the castle. He even made new friends that didn't know that the life of the party was missing. Then, one day, a stranger arrived at the castle. James wasn't really expecting company, but he dutifully opened the door and invited her to enter. As she stepped across the threshold James noticed that her steps were strong but light, more like a dance than a walk really. “Where is your sister?” asked the stranger with a soft smile.
Fear gripped James in its iron fist. No one had asked about Claire in many, many years. Why now? Who is this woman? What does she want? The questions shot into his mind and flashed across his face.
The lady smiled. “My name is Mercy. Your Father, the King, knows that your sister has fallen ill. He grieves for you both in everything that you have lost because of Damian. He wants you to know that soon he will return home and set everything right. In the mean time, he sent me to help your sister begin to heal so that you may both enjoy the time spent awaiting Father's return.”
James was skeptical to say the least. “If Father has known, then why did it take so long for you to arrive?”
Mercy leaned slightly forward and whispered softly. “I have been here the whole time but you could not hear me through the noise and business with which you have surrounded yourself. Tell me, James, does the clutter make the loneliness fade?”
Anger rose in James. 'How dare she say something like that!' But the light in her eyes and the soft glow in her face made him pause. He bowed his head. 'She is right about one thing,' He thought. 'I am so terribly lonely. What would be the harm?' “Alright,” he conceded, “I'll take you to her.” He turned and led Mercy down long passage ways and up winding stair cases until they finally arrived in front of Claire's room, deep in the heart of the castle. James knocked softly on the door before pushing it open. Stepping to the side he allowed Mercy to pass.
The soft glow from the fire sent shadows dancing across the walls and ceiling. Before the hearth, in a high backed chair sat Claire in a long sleeved dress to hide the scabs on her arms. She raised a hand and motioned to the chair sitting across from her. Mercy sat down. Then she turned to James and smiled weakly. “I will be fine brother.” She said in answer to his questioning look. As she turned back to her guest, James exited quietly, closing the door behind him.
Outside in the hall he paced back and forth, ready to rush to his sister's rescue if she should call. It seemed like an eternity to him, but finally the door opened and Mercy exited. Ignoring her, James rushed inside to find Claire slumped forward in her chair, blood soaking through her long sleeves. Her eyes were tear stained and red. Gently, James cradled his sister is his arms as he carried her to her bed. “What has she done to you, Dear One?” he whispered in horror. Claire only moaned. He quickly set about cleaning a way the blood, carefully wrapping the wounds in fresh bandages. With the scabs all broken open, James was able to see just how deep the wounds really were. He was amazed the Claire had been able to keep it hidden for so long, especially from him. Finally, there was nothing left to do but wait, so James pulled a chair over to the bed and sat down.
Time passed unknown al he waited but finally she stirred. Opening her eyes, she smiled up at him. Much to his delight, her eyes were clear. “Where is Mercy?” she asked.
James was startled by the question. Fear and rage flashed in his voice. “She is gone. I found you bleeding and unconscious. I would have run her off myself but I was too busy tending to you.”
Claire reached out, taking her brother's hand. Softly she said, “Don't be angry with her, James. Mercy didn't harm me she just pulled back the scabs and revealed how deep the wounds really go. It is a good thing, really".
“But what about all the blood?” James exclaimed.
“You couldn't even speak. You just laid there and moaned for time out of mind.”
"Yes,” she replied firmly. “And now I am better than I have been in years.”
For a long while after James would not allow anyone near his sister. When Mercy came to the door, he would send her away. Eventually, Claire persuaded him to let Mercy come for another visit. He lead her down the long halls and winding stairs until they arrived at Claire's chambers. Again he spent the time pacing the hall. At last the door opened. Ignoring Mercy, James rushed inside. Claire sat in her chair, head hung in exhaustion. James slipped to his knees in front of her. Raising her head, she smiled weakly before collapsing into his arms. Carrying her to her bed, he again sat down to wait.
The next morning he opened his eye to see Claire sitting up in bed smiling at him. “Why did you make me bring her back here?” he cried. “I can't bear to see you hurt so.”
Reaching over, she brushed the hair from his eyes. “Just a little while longer James,” she said gently. “It’s good. Look the gouges aren't so deep as before.” Sure enough, as he looked, he saw that the wounds were healing from the deepest parts first, not just scabbing over the top.
"How?” he exclaimed.
“Mercy has a medicine called Truth. Father gave it to her. It pulls the poison out and helps the wounds heal from the inside out. Sure, sometimes it burns and even seems like it will become unbearable, but that is when Mercy holds me in her arms and sings to me until it passes. So you see, it is worth this.”
From then on when Mercy would come, James would dutifully lead her to Claire's chamber door. Then he would stand guard in the hall, waiting for the door to open. This continued for many months. Some days were worse than others, but every time the wounds would become more and more shallow.
One day, as James paced the hall, he heard a sound coming from inside. Unable to bear it, he flung open the door and burst into the room. There he found Claire, sitting straight and tall her head thrown back. She was laughing. The clear melody of it rang across the room. Relief swept over James and he too began to laugh as a tear trickled down his cheek. He stepped over to his sister, and sweeping her off of her feet, they danced around the room.
From that day on Claire and James were rarely ever parted. When Claire tended to the gardens James was there learning the names of the plants. When James went to supervise the garrisons Claire was with him encouraging the troops. When guests would visit the castle James and Claire would stand side by side to meet them at the gates. Their land soon gained a reputation among its neighbors not only as a warm, hospitable place, full of life, but also as a safe stronghold were Mercy tended the weak and injured with truth.
I would love to say they lived happily ever after, but there were still hard days. Days when the medicine of truth burned terribly as it sought to draw out the remaining poison in Claire. On those days Mercy would hold Claire and sing softly to her while James stood watchfully nearby. Someday, when their Father comes back he will remove all the poison once and for all. Until that day, he sends Mercy with truth to heal and sustain.
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