Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Breathe (08/19/10)
TITLE: The King's Bride
By Author Unknown
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They will come for me within the hour. Early this morning my maidservant helped me bathe and dress. They say I am old enough for this match, but I fear I am too naďve.
I miss my mother. She would know what to do, how to get out of this mess. “Clotilde,” she would say, “this is not worth the wrinkle in your brow. Take a deep breath, darling. You cannot face your fears if you cannot breathe. Breathe, Cheri, breathe.”
The servants tell me she has drowned. A stone tied around her throat but my heart refuses to believe it.
The last time I saw her she was heading out of doors to eat a meal under the new spring sun. I was upstairs, playing a game of marbles with my sister Chrona. I was winning. I did not want to stop.
It was later that day, during my afternoon’s rest, that my maidservant woke me.
“They’ve killed your father and taken your mother. You must come now, your highness!” My maidservant, Nesta, shouted.
My thoughts flew up in a thousand directions, as if a flight of birds had just been startled in my mind.
“Where is Chrona?” I whispered, unsure of where danger lurked.
“They’ve taken her to the abbey, your highness, she’ll be safe there. You must hurry.” Nesta quickly packed a bag for me.
A glint of lavender twinkled at me from my bedside table. Maman’s amethyst! I quickly slipped the bauble into my pocket. Nesta pulled at my hand.
“Clotilde,” she had never called me by name before, “we must hurry. Your uncle is waiting for you.”
The rumor was my Uncle Gondobad was responsible for the death of my parents in order to secure his tenuous hold on Burgundy’s throne. I knew I was merely collateral, but I did not expect this, forcing me to marry Clovis, the King of the Franks. He was supposed to be an enemy. My father would be so ashamed.
“Excuse me, your highness,” Brunhild was a woman small in stature but great in girth. She stood by the door. “This package came for you. The ceremony will begin in a few minutes. The priest has just now arrived. Do you need anything else before you wed? A cup of ale perhaps?”
I could not help but smile at her attempt to put me at ease. “Non, merci. I have all I need.”
I squeezed the package to my chest, and sat down on my bed. I looked at the inscription. There was no mistaking the handwriting; it was from Chrona.
“My dear Clotilde, a small something for your wedding day. Maman knew that I wanted to make my vow to the church, so she had me hold onto this for you. It is the blue ribbon that was tied to her wrist on the day she married Papa. With fondness and my best regards, your sister, Chrona.”
I touched the ribbon to my lips and kissed it. I tied it to the amethyst, making a pendant to wear. The stone of Christ’s martyrdom, tied with a ribbon of purity, around my neck.
I stood to see myself in the looking glass. I saw my mother staring back at me. Even my mother had never worn anything so fine.
Fresh tears warmed the tops of my cheeks. I quickly wiped them away. “Breathe, Clotilde, breathe.” I sucked in as much air as my chest would hold, but it did not seem enough.
A knock sounded harshly at the door. “They are ready for you, your highness.”
Brunhild held out a damp, plump hand for me to hold. She wrapped it around mine and patted it with the other. “Just breathe, darling. It’s what I told my own daughter on her wedding day. Can’t get through any fear if you can’t breathe.”
Maman was with me after all.
Author’s Note: based on the true story of Clotilde, daughter of the Burgundian, King Chilperic II. She was venerated as a saint by the Catholic church for converting her husband Clovis, King of the Franks, to Christianity, which is disputed by some historians.
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