I have to stop doing this.
I need to start setting an alarm so I can write these posts in a timely and appropriate manner.
Although, I can say that this delay was not due to carelessness.
I got the word for my prompt last night instead of this morning, so I put extra effort in not thinking about the blog so I wouldn't get a head-start on the prompt.
The fact that I watched 60% of Half-Blood Prince today has no bearing on this.
Anyway, I'll keep it short here because I think this prompt ended up being a bit longer than the others.
I also have nothing new to present today, as things are largely business as usual. I'm having a bit of difficulty writing the current chapter, which I suppose is rare, but I've almost finished it.
Word: Catacombs. Provided By: Sarah.
The stairs leading into the #catacombs were dusty and cracked after centuries of persistent use. Cobwebs and grime graced every surface of the underground as Roland gingerly made his way through each ghastly tunnel. The sound of his steel boots landing on the hard stone was the only sign of life present, and it was a grim reminder of what he knew would soon unfold.
Roland was an anointed knight, one sworn to the protection and care of Princess Julianna. He had always taken significant measures to ensure her safety and satisfaction-- at times to, possibly, improper lengths, at least in the eyes of the public. However, Julianna was a woman grown, and preferred Roland to any of the doddering old men that hovered around her.
Their time had been sacred once, and undisclosed to any but themselves, yet that fact no longer remained true.
Roland stalked the corridors anxiously as he searched for the Princess; she had instructed him to meet her in the catacombs and arm himself well. Her family had grown wise and were on the hunt for his head.
Julianna solemnly admitted this would be the end of their secret affair. It was a sobering thought to Roland, who had always dreamt of fleeing with the Princess. It became apparent that this was not meant to be.
"Roland!" a voice less-than-quietly hissed.
The knight turned and saw the form of his beloved cloaked in the darkness of the crypts. Nothing but her cerulean eyes visible beneath the shadows that surrounded them.
"My love," Roland began, "Did anyone see you?"
"No," Julianna returned, a slight shake to her barely visible head, "However, Father always knew my affection for this place-- he'd likely come here when I'm not found in my room. And what of you?"
Roland shut his eyes and nodded.
"I encountered Stephen, and he revealed that all the palace guards are searching for me," he paused for a moment, "H-he urged that I turn myself in, and when I refused… when I refused, he attempted to take me in himself. I… I killed him, Julie."
There was silence as Roland's words fell to the dust.
"You did only as you thought you needed to," she cooed, setting her hand on his cheek, "You are in danger, my dear. A victim to archaic laws and fastidious personalities."
"He was my friend…" Roland whispered, tears rolling down his face.
"I know, I know," Julianna shushed, "But there will be time for mourning soon enough. We have to move on, love. I'm afraid they may come looking for me sooner than later."
"But you said no one saw you come here?" he recounted.
"Yes, but I arrived hours ago," Julianna explained, "There's only so long before one of the chambermaids realizes I'm gone, or, worse yet, my father comes to speak with me."
"Hours?" Roland repeated, "Why have you been here for hours?"
"I had to prepare for this moment," she told him, pinching his hand so he'd stop asking questions, "Come, follow me. We must be swift."
Roland sighed and nodded. He let her guide him through the dark catacombs, only finding the scarce lamp every so often. When they did walk through an illuminated passage, he managed to see her in better detail.
Julianna wore her favorite dress: it was so lightly blued to nearly be white, and around its waist, he spotted the purple lace he was so accustomed to. Upon a second look, Roland saw the sleeves had been torn from the dress, and the collar loosened. Next, his eyes shot to the bottom of the garment, where mud clutched the edges of the flowing outfit. He narrowed his eyes, and thought he could see a red dust lingering there as well. Roland paid it no mind, though, as the thundering echoes of storming boots swept across them.
"They're already here?" he growled, "I must've been seen by more than Stephen."
The Princess remained silent, guiding him along the catacombs' many paths.
"What should we do?" he asked, gripping her hand tighter.
"You will do exactly as I say, and all will be well," she murmured, "I promise it. But you must not hesitate."
Roland felt sweat gathering on his back as she led him along; her tone had shifted. The Princess sounded afraid.
Roland wrinkled his brow when they arrived at their destination. It was the exit to the catacombs, opposite from the one he had entered. It was hardly used, as it was located in the courtyard of an old church situated in a less-than-reputable area. Roland had never even seen it, as the other exit was much closer to the palace grounds.
"Julie, what are you--" he tried.
"Help me light the lamps," she ordered, handing him sparking stones, "And do so quickly, please."
Roland looked at her strangely, but saw her quickly shuffling to light the lamps on the left side. He sighed and did as he was told, striking the stones and letting the sparks fall onto the wick of each lamp. The longer they lingered there, the more the stench of the place crept into his nostrils. While the crypts had never possessed an alluring smell, the foul odor that gripped it now was difficult to endure.
"I've finished," Roland announced, "What would you have me do now?"
Julianna opened her mouth to speak, but winced as the invaders grew close enough to identify. Roland squinted his eyes, and could see Julianna's father, King Elton, materializing ahead.
"Ascend the stairs, and make sure no one enters from above," the Princess muttered, "Turn them away, and if they persist… kill them if you must."
"Juli--" Roland started.
"No hesitation, Roland," the Princess said, turning to face her family, "Please."
He nodded and climbed up the stairs. He threw the hatch aside and took a moment to scan the outside. It was cold and dark, but there was a pleasant light falling on him; a full moon, present and bright.
Roland flinched, and returned to the present. He drew his sword, still stained crimson, and gripped it tightly in his hands. He hoped not to need it, but knew he wouldn't hesitate to defend himself.
"Hello, Father," Julianna answered as they approached, "I must ask that you stay where you are."
Elton narrowed his eyes, but raised his hand, stopping the rest in their tracks. Roland counted fifteen of them in total. Julianna's brothers, Matthias and Eobard, flanked the King on either side. A handful of uncles stood with them, followed by some of the King's most trusted warriors. Elton had spared no effort with his hunt.
"What are you doing here with that savage," the King snarled, "Come, let me take you home, and have him dealt with."
"I am no savage!" Roland countered, meeting the King's eyes.
"You will not speak to me, mongrel," Elton barked, "You will die for violating my daughter!"
"I've done so such thing!" Roland yelled back, his arms trembling, "We love each other!"
"You say that as if my sister could love such a lowly dog," Matthias mumbled, earning a few chuckles from their rear.
Roland's mouth curled in anger, but Julianna spared a glance back at him, and he silenced himself.
"This is no business of yours, brother dearest," she softly said, "I wish to come to an understanding with our Father."
The King tilted his head and watched her cautiously.
"What manner of understanding?" he asked.
"I want to leave with him," she revealed, "I want to denounce all my rights and claims, and leave the kingdom. And I want Roland's safety."
Elton seemed to almost laugh before shaking his head.
"I had come here under the assumption you were confused," he grumbled, "But that note you left behind should've convinced me of your madness. You're delusional, Julie. Perhaps a stay at the convent will set you on the right path once again. Come, I'll be taking you home."
"Note?" Roland whispered, his eyes turning to Julianna, but she did not reply.
"I won't leave until you agree to my terms," she told him, "Nothing else shall suffice."
The King scowled and raised his head.
"Then you've brought this on yourself," he growled.
Elton took no more than three steps forward before Julianna burst to her right, and pulled a lamp free from the wall.
She held it close to her body and lifted her dress slightly.
"Look here, Father, I assume you might recognize this," Julianna said, gesturing to the red dust on her dress.
Roland's eyes widened as he realized what it was.
"Julie!" he yelled, starting to move towards her.
She raised her hand without looking back, and he froze in his tracks.
"Blasting powder," the King groaned, "Do you mean to kill yourself if I do not agree to this farce?"
"Would that stop you from hurting Roland?" she questioned, desperation thick in her voice.
The King hesitated, and turned back to look at those gathered behind him. He sighed and returned his attention to Julianna.
"I cannot live with the humiliation that would bring to my name," he declared, "Do what you must, and I will do the same."
Princess Julianna's shoulders began to tremble, and Roland feared she'd drop the lamp and set herself ablaze. However, she straightened her back and lifted her head.
"I thought so," she sighed, tossing the lamp in front of her.
Roland instinctively closed his eyes as a bright flash consumed the air around them. He felt something crash into his chest and push him back into the dry grass as a blast roared across the land. He remembered the Princess and opened his eyes. She was lying on top of him, with blood trailing down her face. The cut above her right eye forced it shut, but the other was open, and staring at him.
She gingerly raised her hand to his face and caressed it.
"We're safe now, Roland," she smiled, "I've shielded us."
Roland looked past her, and saw the entrance to the catacombs had collapsed. He could hear muffled cries coming from below the rubble.
"Yo-you killed--" he attempted.
"I did as you did," Julianna recounted, "We were threatened, so I devised a plan. I gave my father a choice, I gave them all a choice. None of them spoke in my name. None of them respected me for the Queen that I am now. But do, don't you, darling?"
Roland nodded slowly, and she brought her head down on his chest.
"That is why I love you," the Queen sighed, "We protect each other. Always."
Yes, a certain Netflix show popped into my head while I was brainstorming.
Hope you enjoyed it!
The Ranger, now going to probably sleep maybe I don't actually know