The only snippet of time that Maurlee would allow herself away from ReAnne was when the Great King summoned her for private conversations. She knew what he was doing…over and over again, he would ask the same questions, waiting for her to remember another detail that might have been previously disregarded. Or waiting for her to falter.
Pammy gave her the once over as she made the familiar request on the behalf of the king’s messenger.
“His Majesty will be needin’ to see you now, girl,” she said as she wiped her chubby hands on her fresh apron. Maurlee was then offered the view of her backside as she made her way to the table where Lady Kaelah had been diligently reading all morning. They started a whispered conversation, and though Maurlee knew they weren’t talking about her, she still saw the snide glance from Pammy as she unlatched the door.
Of everyone warming up to her presence at Dritan, Pammy was the coldest. Maurlee was not quite sure why. Even Prince Dennis had risked a few smiles in her direction. Perhaps it was because Pammy loved ReAnne so greatly that she despised those who challenged it. Or maybe, it was because the Lady Kaelah had told Pammy that she could resume her previous duties now that Maurlee was there to help with Princess ReAnne.
Whatever the case, Maurlee treaded more carefully when Pammy was present.
In the days since her arrival, ReAnne had spent one whole afternoon sitting up and sipping warm broth before her strength was spent and she fell into a deep sleep for the rest of the day. At the king’s request, no questions had been asked of her since after the initial evening of her awakening, it had thrown her into a deep sleep for two days there after.
Maurlee suspected that her concoction was too strong when she sent her out into the rain and mud, but how was she to know that it would render her unconscious for days on end? She had never seen anyone, even those with light hearts as ReAnne had towards potions, not be joyously restored within a day. Something wasn’t right, but no one would give her answers. Truly, she didn’t have the answer herself. Even Lady Kaelah would not give away anything, and next to the princess, Maurlee felt closest with her and their bond over poultices and potions.
It was only by happenstance she found out ReAnne was still succumbing to her concoction, having found herself in the market place at the right time to hear a citadel guard speak of it to his lady-love. Soon after, she made her way home, telling herself the condition of the princess couldn’t possibly be by her hand. When the guilt became too much to bear, she packed a small bag, snuck out after the heavy grunts of her brother’s snores began and made towards Dritan. She never thought she’d be whisked in to see the king so directly, nor that she would be asked to stay for a time.
She let her fingers trace along the carved wooden hallway as she made her way to the Great King, again. The candles lining it did little to shed light, but enough to cast shadows. She was at home in the dark, almost preferring it. Truth be told, she dreaded the time of day when Lady Kaelah stripped back the curtains and flooded the room with sun.
Her fingers, deftly reading the carvings for her mind to comprehend, stopped when they fit in a now familiar crevice of the wood depicting a tall warrior on a gallant steed. His sword was raised and his face, though contorted in a warrior’s grimace, was still somehow soft and friendly. She slowed her steps and caught her breath as one felt they should when someone of great importance stared back at them, real or not.
“The Provider,” she mumbled to herself in wonder.
“Yes. It is him. Or, at least the artist’s interpretation of him in battle. As so many things regarding the Provider, people have differing opinions, even of what he looked like.”
The sound of his voice startled Maurlee, causing her to jerk her hand back as if the carving had caught fire. The Great King hadn’t meant to startle her, nor had he been impatient for her arrival but only decided that he would have rather meet her in Lady Kaelah’s chambers so he might check on ReAnne first.
Maurlee was not sure how to answer him but in the style of the Great King, he stood next to her, equally in awe of the wall carving…even leaning back to relax against the opposite wall…setting her rapidly beating heart to rest and giving her a sense of peace. Together, they leaned their heads to one side, and then the other, taking it in as if for the first time.
“Thought the carving is wood, I always pictured him with black hair. I don’t know why.”
“Perhaps because you once had black hair, Your Grace. We choose our heroes by finding similarities of ourselves in them. It helps us believe we can achieve a level of greatness that compares.”
“I would think man would choose heroes based on what they cannot do, but greatly desire. And yet…I can see these are wise words for such a young girl. I am grey now, but yes…in my youth, my hair was black.”
“I do not mean to offend, my King. I am simply familiar with man desiring heroes that remind them of themselves.”
“It would take much more than that to offend me, my dear. I appreciate your honesty and candor. Tell me, then, who is your hero that you find yourself akin to?”
“Why…I should think that obvious. It’s Princess ReAnne, of course.”