Chapter 8: First Realization of War, and a Kiss
Anna settled greatfully into bed. After returning late to the ceremony, she had proptly been reprimanded by Gwena by her supposed rudeness toward the soldiers. However, when the princess had pled a dreadful head-and-stomach-ache directly after dinner, her mother was much more simpathetic toward her and insisted (as Anna had hoped and knew she would) that she go straight to bed, and resolved to call for a doctor the next morning. Of course, nothing was the matter with her; she was feinging her "illness." The next morning, her miraculous recovery would abate the Queen's need to call a doctor, who would probably just order letting of blood. The doctor most always called for such a treatment, which only made Anna feel worse when ill. She had learned at a young age to keep it to herself if she felt poorly, unless her symptoms seemed serious.
She pulled the covers up to her chin, willing herself to go to sleep, but her mind was restless; she could not pull her thoughts away from Gedric and his safety.
Finally, when she had become exhausted with her inability to sleep, Anna abbandoned her attempts and went to her window to gaze out at the surrounding countryside. As she sat on the seat installed under the sill, wrapped up in the blanket she had dragged from her bed, her thoughts wandered to her childhood, and when she had first realized that the war was being waged:
A young man, an alleged Wrouhan spy, had been dragged into the castle grounds by his dark, matted, hair. He was cut and bruised from head to toe, and was covered in a layer of grime, dried -and fresh- blood so thick that no clean spot on his body showed through his tattered and stained clothing. Anna had watched as he was pummeled with stones and rotten vegetables, spat upon, and literally beaten within an inch of his life. He was crying, the tears trailing down his cheeks, revealing shocking pale streaks of his skin. He screamed inaudble words and struggled against the men tormenting him. It was said that he had been found by a group of men out scouting near the country border, alone, and looking overall "suspicious." The only evidence for his acusation was that he would not answer to their questionings. He was "tried" and charged with treason for which he was hanged after another horrible torturing. Two days after he had been executed an elderly woman had stumbled in, searching for her son; the acused. Only then did they find out from her that he was deaf, and did not answer because he did not hear them and could not speak properly. Anna was aghast at their actions.
She had been seven years of age at the time, and the realization of such horror committed by her own people had planted the seed of resolution in her. It was then that she had learned the evil of war, that it was indeed the heedless killing of people. It was then that she had first wondered what life void of such conflict would be like. It was then that she wanted peace. It seemed that no one else felt the same, or at least they never expressed their true feelings about it. They all just wanted to prevail, win the war with the glorious defeat and conquering of Wrouh, claiming the people as slaves and stealing their possessions. Greed, and pride. These were the only reasons that the bloodshed prevailed. Only when they saw the truth worth of another man would they see their wrongness and, hopefully, turn from their actions.
By now the sun had set and Anna was more awake that she had when she had crawled out of bed. She just gave up and returned the blanket to her bed. She dressed in the lowliest gown that she owned (which also happened to be one of the most comfortable), donned the old and tattered cloak that she had hidden away from Jen's ever-cleaning hands, and started down toward the woods. She used the secret passageways again, and slipped away unnoticed.
Soon after, she reached the spot where she and Nathan met. However, upon first glance, she did not see him anywhere. Then her gaze fell upon him, lying on the ground, face up. The light from the fire several feet away cast a shade on him, and long shadows on the gound led away from his form. Anna at first worried that he was dead or wounded. She waited a moment, deciding to observed him before letting herself rush to his side. He seemed to be fine; she could see no wounds nor blood, and his chest slowly, but steadily, rose and fell as he breathed. She thought that maybe he was asleep, but no, his eyes weren't closed; he just stared blankly at the ever-darkening sky, his arms propped up beneath his head.
"Nathan?" She called to him quietly.
He started slightly, but turned his head toward her and replied cheerily, "Good evening, Anna..." He then resumed his former position.
She stood, rooted to the spot for a moment. "Um, what are you doing?"
"Me? Oh, I'm just looking at the stars."
They were just peeping out across the somewhat pink and purple-colored sky. "Oh."
Nathan sat up, his legs crossed as Anna approached him. She took a seat next to him on the soft, grassy earth.
Silence for a moment before Nathan broke the quiet. "I saw you today; you looked lovely."
"You saw me? But how?"
"I ventured toward the castle today and heard the commotion, and saw the great gathering of people when I drew nearer. I assumed that my presense would not be noted, seeing as the multitudes hid me in their numbers."
"Oh I see... Thank you, by the way. I hated that gown." Anna laughed.
"Yes, I could tell, by the way you figeted so. But still, you looked as lovely as ever."
She smiled, blushing slightly.
"I also saw you slip away from the festivities. Why?"
"I needed to say goodbye to an old friend."
"Aye, I also saw that; I was hidden around the corner, though I dared not intrude on such a farewell."
Anna nodded, wondering if she was watched by at least one person at every hour of the day. Even her most private moments were not left unmonitored.
"Was your lover the reason?" He asked her suddenly.
"What? My...- for what?"
"That man, was he not your lover?"
"No!" she burst, abashed. "Ged is only my very good friend, my only true one from my childhood."
"Oh," Nathan looked down at his lap, and began fiddling with a piece of grass. Anna swore that she could see the ghost of a smirk upon his lips. "I'm sorry, I just assumed..."
"You assumed wrongly," she answered him, thought not unkindly. She laughed. "Can not a girl have a male friend without others counting him among her suitors?"
Nathan laughed shortly, and quietly. "This... Ged. Was he the reason?"
"The reason for what, Nathan? I don't understand."
"For your sorrow... -that first day we met. I found you crying, and I've wanted to know what had caused you such pain ever since."
"Oh, that... Yes. I was mourning for Gedric, my lost friend, not yet departed. He had told me that morning that he was to leave for battle." The tears threatened again, and she lowered her head sadly.
"You really care for him, don't you?"
Anna could only nod.
"Your crying is what drew me to you. I heard your weeping as I trode through this forest. My mind was reeling and I was confused, and afraid of what I had to do. I didn't want to kill anyone. Least of all those I had never met; whom never truthfully had a personal reason to fall under my blade. A man betrayed by his wife will seek out the adulterous woman's lover and kill him. And, some may see this as revenge. But I have never had a desire to kill; and even if I were betrayed, I think that I would find it hard to take such revenge on someone. But I do not know, for I have never had to experience such a thing, thank God.
"But when I saw you here, weeping in obvious sadness, I couldn't help but think that you were expressing that which I felt in myself that very moment; you were a symbol of the sorrow that I would create upon completing my terrible deed. My father was wrong, more killing, of any persons, will not end any war. I hid in the bushes while you wept, just watching you, curious as to what had caused you such grief. I've wondered from then untill now. Seeing you there, I suppose, was the reason that I trusted you so easily. It bared your true soul and sympathy to me, it did; showed what kind of person you really are. Who you are. Truthfully, I've been greatfully... 'basking', you might say, in your kindness and empathy ever since."
Nathan looked meaningfully into Anna's eyes while he said all this, the light of the fire reflecting brightly in his own. She just stared back. As they remained thus when he finished speaking, she realized that the proper thing to do would be to answer him back.
"...Um... wow... I-I don't know what to say..." She stuttered strangely, her eyes still held by Nathan's, as if locked there.
He smiled slightly, and then slowly but suddenly, he leaned forward and kissed her lightly on the lips. Anna's lips tingled deliciously at the contact; she closed her eyes, and she was so taken aback that she did not notice at first when he pulled his lips away from hers.
This time, they both blushed, a deep scarlet.
Nathan cleared his throat. "I'm... sorry; that was uncalled for..." He muttered, looking down into his lap once again.
Anna pulled at the folds of her dress, and straightened her cloak in embarrasment. "Well, I still don't know what to say!" She laughed after a moment.
Nathan chuckled uncertainly. They were quiet for a few moments, both avoiding the other's eyes, and generally looking anywhere they could find to do so. After what seemed like an eternity to each of them, Nathan cleared his throat again and said, "I won't be able to meet with you for a few nights; I have to return home."
Anna looked up at him as he continued: "My father will become suspicious so I am going to meet with him to give an excuse for my prolonged absence."
"How long do you expect to be gone?" She asked him casually, not wanting to sound as if she truly cared if he were to be gone for a great length of time.
"I shall return within in a few days, a week at the outside most. If my father does not accept my answer, then he may forbid that I come back again. However, I find this unlikely; he is desperate to have this deed completed. If I am to be held up, I shall send work to you. We can discuss more about our plans when I return."
She nodded, the heat in his andher cheeks and starting to dissapate.
"I planned to leave within the night, but I could not depart without giving you some sort of explanation," He finished.
"I am glad that you did not... I would have worried that you had been detained or killed."
"As I thought you might," he smiled greatfully. Anna smiled slightly and tipped her head akwardly to him.
Nathan stood and she, following his lead, too rose from the ground. "I shall look forward to continuing our traitorous plans," he bowed half-joking, grinning like a child.
"As shall I," Anna returned the gesture, curtsying, then turned more serious. With a polite smile, she said, "Godspeed to you, Nathan."
Chapter 8: First Realization of War, and a Kiss