Never Forget--Chapter One
“Come quick; over here! Come look at it!” The yells rang out over the high mountain meadow. The long, green grass was decorated with great bunches of wild daises. Some were pure white, others as yellow as the new risen sun and a few, color a rich crimson, stood out in the midst of their white kin like dirt on a spotless gown. Towering blue cliffs rose up all around the secluded meadow. A thundering waterfall spilled down the side of one and plummeted down to the rocks below. Through an opening in the peaks, a faraway mountain rose against the clear sky, its snow covered crest gleaming in the sunlight. A gentle breeze moved the tops of the flowers and whispered through the pine trees at the edge of the clearing. A herd of sheep grazed contentedly in the far corner. The voice called out again from in their midst, “Hurry up, Gerhard! You have to see this!”
A boy appeared at the opposite end of the pasture. His rough homespun clothes told him to be a peasant. He was tall with broad shoulders and slightly curling brown hair. He was not overly handsome, but when he smiled, a row of straight white teeth and a faint dimpled appeared, giving his young face character. He had laughing black eyes and a smattering of freckles across his nose. His leather jerkin was faded and he carried a shepherd’s crook in his hand. Although he was strongly build and had the body of a farmer, he carried himself with a bearing unlike all the other men in the mountain village. He walked with his shoulders back and his head held high. He was a skilled debater, often challenging the beliefs of men that he would meet in during sheering or when he walked through the market. He pulled the strap of a leather pouch over his shoulder and sprinted across the field. The grazing sheep broke as he entered into their midst and a black and white sheep dog appeared, nipping at their heels.
In the very center of the milling sheep a girl sat with her raven hair curling out of the long braid that was hanging down her back. She held something small and white in her lap, stroking it gently. When she saw the boy she gathered it carefully into her hands and held it up to him. “Lady had her lamb, it’s she precious?” she held the squirming bundle up to her pink cheek and giggled softly as it nuzzled her face. The boy, Gerhard, smiled and scratched the newborn under the muzzle,
“She sure is! Amazing isn’t it, Donawyn?” he whispered. The girl cradled the lamb once more under her chin and then laid it gently at the mother sheep’s side. She was a tall girl, with raven hair and pale grey eyes. Her smooth skin was tanned and freckled. She wore a homemade dress of rough grey, but she wore it like a queen. Her slim body and willowy arms were more befitting to a duchess that a poor peasant girl. She smiled brightly up at the boy then lifted her eyebrows and reached up her hand with mock imperiousness. He laughed, bowed deeply and pulled her to her feet. They stood together for a moment watching the ewe and her newborn then walked slowly to the edge of the cliff with the sheep dog trotting behind.
They seated themselves facing each other on two wide rocks and looked into the mist at the bottom of the waterfall. The boy broke the silence.
“Have you thought anymore about what was in that letter?” the girl nodded.
“I’ve been thinking about it every moment since Mere showed it to us,” She sighed and tossed the blade of grass that she had been twisting in her fingers down toward the rocks. Silence reigned for a few minutes,
“Do you think it was wrong?” Gerhard asked. Donawyn jerked her head up, her eyes filled with questions. He rubbed the back of his neck nervously and hunched his shoulders, “I mean, do you think it was wrong that our parents never told us about our past? That they waited until now to tell us about how we came into their lives; that they found us by chance, accident,” Donawyn shrugged,
“I guess at first I felt like that, but now that I think of it, I see that it really was right to wait to tell us until we were older. I know I’m able to be more mature about it and…” Gerhard laughed at her serious tone.
“I’ll say you’re more mature…what happened to the little girl who put salt in the sugar bowl last week?” They both laughed about, “It was so awful!” he groaned between laughs.
“I guess I was a little silly about that,” Donawyn admitted, her face growing pinker. Then she continued slowly, “I’m thinking about taking a job in the valley,” Gerhard stopped laughing abruptly, his smile melting,
“Why? Why would you ever want to leave this place?” the girl opposite him stood up and turned her face to the waterfall behind them.
“I don’t know. I love it here and I can never imagine myself being happy anywhere else, but I can’t help feeling that there’s something out there that we have to do! Do you understand?” Gerhard fiddled with his staff and then studied her. Strands of hair blew about her face and her eyebrows were furrowed. Her pale eyes were confused yet determined. He smiled crookedly and sighed,
“Yeah, I see…you want to find out about the past; about the things that the letter said to never forget, right?” she nodded.
“‘Never forget’…those were the words that the letter kept repeating over and over again. I just don’t know what we’re supposed to never forget,” Gerhard wrinkled his nose for a moment,
“You keep saying ‘we’, why?” he asked even though he knew what she would answer. The girl swung around,
“We’ve been raised as brother and sister all these log years and I still can’t figure you out sometimes!” She turned away and wrapped her arms around her shoulders, “Do you realize that one of us is the heir to the throne of Lauderlan?” Gerhard stood up next to her and placed his arm around her shoulders in a brotherly way,
“Kind of puts a serious edge on it doesn’t it?” she nodded wordlessly, “Let’s look at that letter again…I’m sure you have it with you,” The girl blushed and pulled it out of her pocket. The two lay it on the rock before them and bent close to read the faded words once more. The writing was hurried and week, but there was no mistaking the urgency in the words of the writer.
My name is Jajer Doucam. I am a knight loyal to the true king and all who support him. I am weak from loss of blood and overexposure, but I must pen these words before they fade from the memories of all. The child that I have just delivered into the hands of Donnell and Jaune Minstraly, sheepherders, is the only child of Jerrall and Maugrete Reyhar, the King and Queen of Lauderlan. The other is the child of the queen’s best friend, the Duchess of Mauderhien.
My story starts as were attacked on our journey to the capitol city by a hired assassin. I am sure that it must have been Rautel, but I have no proof. The two other knights sent to protect the queen and her child were struck down immediately, but I was given the babe and told to flee by the head cook. As I fled on the back of one of the enemies own horses, she pressed the other child into my arms. I have never willingly allowed innocent blood to be spilled so I took the youngster. As we thundered past, I glimpsed the villains exiting the queen’s tent, sword blades dripping, but I had no time to mourn the death of our beloved queen and her friend as I fled for my life and the children’s.
We were attacked by a pack of ferocious wolves and I fear that one of the beasts gave me a mortal wound when they felled my horse. The helpless beast did give us a moment to get away from the howling brutes, but I have no doubt that I will be entering the presence of our Lord very soon. All this is so say that I hope that one day this child, whom I have left to be raised by these kind folk, who heard my cries on that black night, who rescued me from the jaws of the wolves and who have sworn their loyalty to the true king, will rise to claim the throne as the rightful heir to the throne and deliver the people from these traitors. I have little knowledge of who the mastermind behind this uprising may be as he operates through smaller men and various puppets, but I have my suspicions.
Your Majesty, never forget the past, never forget what could happen, never forget the bravery of those that have gone before you in hopes of preserving the light, never forget Who your strength should rest in and never forget who you are. Here the writing became more faint and hurried. Donawyn had learned that the knight who wrote the letter had died just as he a scribbled the last few words. Beware of Bearharn and NEVER FORGET that you strength lies in… but it ended there.
The knight’s own words about his death were fulfilled that very evening and he was buried beneath a spreading oak tree with the words, “Jajer Doucam – Knight” carved in the smooth headstone. Donawyn leaned back and looked over at her brother. The last words of the dying knight had brought feelings into her heart that she could not explain. Her heart had beat fast as she had listened to Gerhard’s voice reading the man’s plea for them to never forget. Something had swelled up in her chest that she had never felt before, something that brought a new shine to her eyes and a feeling of pride. She lifted her starry eyes to gaze out over the countryside and she wondered why it was that she suddenly felt a sudden responsibility to care for it. She remembered wanting to scream when she had been forced to watch a group of royal guards expelling a family from their home for not paying taxes. She had wept bitter tears the entire ride home, sitting behind her brother on the back of his strong horse. At the time she had thought that his clenched jaw had merely been from his frustration at her tears, but now she realized that it was his rage at the injustice that they had witnessed. She turned to look at him,
“Well, what do you think? Sometimes I don’t even think the letter was met for us. One of us is the child of a grand duchess and the other is the heir to the throne! It is so…so…” Donawyn wrinkled her forehead and drew in a deep breath, searching for the right word,
“Mindboggling?” Gerhard asked his nose inches from the paper. His sister exhaled and stabbed the air with her finger,
“Exactly! So what do you think we should do?” Gerhard sat up and gazed over the valley, His Valley as he liked to call it. He looked back at the wrinkled paper in his hands and felt something stirring in his heart. Something he had never felt before; a feeling of duty and responsibility; pride and joy; confusion and worry, but also excitement at what the future had in store. He thought of the trickles of news that came up from the village every once in a while; the evidences of the heavy taxes that the king put on the villagers; the vicious methods of King Pousaville’s Black Knights; the cruel fist with which he ruled the land. He remembered one of the few times that he had visited the city on the other side of the mountain and seen the crest of the royal house. Its cruelty and starkness had brought such rage and indignation to his young heart. His father had been afraid for their lives when Gerhard had spit in the direction of stolid knights guarding the royal carriage.
The boy hadn’t been able to explain his sentiments before, but with the revealing of this letter some of the thoughts of his boyhood began to make more sense. He leaned back on his heels and said slowly,
“I think…that we should take it up with Mere and Papa,”