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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Pen is Mightier than the Sword (04/08/10)

TITLE: Conquered by the Quill
By Joan Campbell
04/13/10


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“Come quickly!”

Lucia flinched as Fabio burst through the door, causing the quill to lurch across the page. Yet the reprimand died on her lips as she saw the distress etched on his face.

“What is it?”

“It’s Gregory. The fool is fighting a duel.”

“A duel? Against who?” She was up instantly, as her brother rummaged urgently through a drawer.

“Lord Edward, who else?”

“To what purpose?”

“To win the Princess’ favour, of course.”

“Heavens, he is going to kill himself.” Grabbing her cloak, she ran towards the door, looking back at Fabio who was now emptying the contents of a chest on the floor.

“Fabio! Do you want your best friend to die alone? What are you looking for?”

“Bandages.” He sombrely grabbed an old bed shirt and rushed past her.

As they pushed through the onlookers towards the sound of clashing swords, Lucia saw that blood had already been drawn. Gregory’s sleeve hung in tatters, and a wound just below his right shoulder was gushing blood.

“I thought he was right-handed.” Lucia watched Gregory’s unsteady left-handed lunge.

“He is,” her brother answered grimly.

Lucia’s stomach reeled with each new parry and thrust. It was only at the taste of blood that she realised she had bitten into her lip. Even to her untrained eye, it was obvious that Gregory, Duke of Orlonso, was tiring, while his opponent seemed even stronger than before.

“Why don’t they stop this?” she hissed.

“It’s a duel to the death, unless the Princess lifts her white handkerchief to indicate her favour to the victor.”

Finally Gregory stumbled backwards, his sword clattering from his hand. As Lord Edward raised his weapon for the finishing blow, he looked at the smiling Princess. Please lift it, Lucia silently begged.

Slowly, the Princess lifted the handkerchief.


***

“What sort of woman enjoys seeing men shed blood on her behalf?” she muttered for the umpteenth time.

“How else is a man to declare his undying love?” Gregory winced as she dabbed a gash with wine.

“How about a letter? Or a poem?”

“Lest we forget that the pen is mightier than the sword,” Fabio said. Gregory laughed.

“Mock if you will. One may conquer nations with the sword, but the heart is only conquered with words.” Lucia tightened the bandage.

Gregory’s dark eyes met her own with an intensity that spread a warm tingle through her chest. If she was the Princess, instead of a mere lady-in-waiting, he would not have to fight a duel to win her heart.

“I do not have your gift of words, Lucia. Mine could not conquer a heart.”


***

Lucia stood behind the banquet table where the guests reclined. She watched the Princess anxiously. Was it Lucia’s imagination or was she paying more attention to Gregory, seated on her left, than Edward, on her right? Rosa, the Princess’ chambermaid had promised to surreptitiously place the letter on her pillow. Had she read it by now?

The King cleared his throat for silence. “My daughter has an announcement to make.”

The Princess rose, holding a familiar cream paper with the now broken wax seal, in her hand. Lucia felt the blood rush to her cheeks.

“Yesterday I received a poem of such rare beauty that my heart melted within me.”

The Princess started to read. At the final line “…a love so great, would bear no weight, if unreturned,” the entire banquet hall broke into applause.

“These words were penned by the Duke of Orlonso and, with such a powerful declaration of love, I have found the man I wish to share my life with.” The Princess pulled out a white handkerchief and passed it to the bewildered Gregory.

“M’lady.” He was on his feet, bowing deeply. “I fear there has been a mistake. I did not pen these heart-felt words.”

Lucia’s heart sank. Why did Gregory have to be so honest? Wasn’t she giving him exactly what he wanted?

“You had somebody else write it?” The Princess sounded hurt.

Gregory’s eyes found Lucia, as she tried to press herself deeper into the shadows.

“Yes, Princess. It appears another wrote these words. For me.”

“It matters little who wrote the poem,” she said dismissively, “if you truly feel as deeply as these words reveal.”

Gregory smiled, still looking at Lucia.

“M’lady, I believe this belongs to Lord Edward.” He dropped the handkerchief into the hands of the incredulous princess. “For my own heart has been conquered by a gifted quill.”


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This article has been read 996 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jackie Wilson04/15/10
Wonderful job with the cadence and word choices to capture the feel of the time period. Lovely story!
Francy Judge04/16/10
Your "gifted quill" drew me into the scene. I was there. Great job.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/17/10
I'm glad he came to his senses. I was worried there for a moment. Well done. I was on the edge of my chair.
Lynda Schultz 04/17/10
Nice twist—so glad our hero saw the light in the end.
Patricia Herchenroether04/17/10
Enchanting, well-done, great plot, terrific ending, on topic-perfect!
Karlene Jacobsen 04/17/10
Awe, so romantic. Love the end. Well done.
Charla Diehl 04/19/10
The title drew me into this tale of romance, and I was not disappointed. The dialog flowed nicely, and of course, I was applauding the happy ending. Good job.
Beth LaBuff 04/19/10
Aww. Wonderful story! I love the ending (though I was a little concerned for a time.) :)
Nicole Campbell04/20/10
This is a really sweet romance story. The story drew me in and you created afew suspenceful moments. Well done!
Donna Wolther04/20/10
I loved it! Wonderfully written.
Ruth Stromquist04/20/10
Really well done. You got the full, intricate story into 750 words without straining, and wrapped it all up nicely.
Rachel Phelps04/21/10
Awesome! Great descriptions and sweet story.
Beth LaBuff 04/22/10
Congratulations on being Highly Commended and receiving Editor's Choice, Joan!
Jackie Wilson04/22/10
Congratulations on your well-deserved placing!
Carol Slider 04/22/10
I love this story, and I'm so glad Gregory had the good sense to make the right choice of ladies in the end. Congratulations!
Yvonne Geldenhuys04/22/10
Awesome. I am so proud of you. In my worly rush, of everyday life and care, for just a few minutes, you took my imagination away to another time and place. THAT was so refreshing! Thank you.
Carole Robishaw 04/23/10
Fun! Loved this and the turn around at the end!
Donna Wolther04/23/10
I am a sucker for the perfect love story--gets me every time.