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Jobyna Chatelain felt the horse tremble as he climbed the steep, rocky incline. At the top of the ridge, the girl drew a deep breath of exhilaration, dispelling her tiredness for a moment. Jobyna wished she could ride her own horse, Brownlea, but King Elliad made her ride with him on Speed. The mute slave girl, Ellice, rode Brownlea.
Exiled King Elliad, Jobyna's captor, urged the horse on down the rocky aisle of the glacier-carved natural amphitheatre. Stretched out before Jobyna's emerald eyes was a lush green valley nestled between embracing ranges. A thousand shades of green danced before her tired gaze, refreshing her turmoil-filled mind. Far in the distance, along the edge of some woods, she could see the rest of their company setting up camp for the night. Smoke from newly lit fires rose lazily, misting the lengthening shadows.
Over three weeks of travel on horseback made the captive princess feel weary and sad. Every step Speed trod was one step further from her home country, Frencolia. Jobyna wondered where they were going. How much further would it be? She knew Elliad must have a destination in mind, but he did not talk to her except to issue commands.
"Eat, Sparrow!" or "Sleep!" or "Wake up!"--he would bark at her.
At various stages on the journey, Elliad left the women, children, servants and slaves, with several hundred soldiers and went off with the rest of his great horde of troops. He always returned triumphant, and it was some time before Jobyna learned the purpose of these excursions. Extra horses, carts and provisions were added to the assembly from this plundering and destruction.Scouting parties were sent ahead, constantly reporting back to Elliad, who, armed with maps, decided the routes they would take.
The awful truth was revealed to the tenderhearted girl one night when they set up camp in a deserted manor house stronghold. Jobyna's heartbeat increased, she felt dread creep through her veins; damp splatters in the main hall looked like blood. Some of Elliad's soldiers were wounded.
Elliad told his knights, "Terminate those unfit to travel."
Elliad motioned for her to be seated in the dining hall for a 'celebration' dinner.
A shrill scream disturbed the meal. It came from somewhere upstairs in the manor house then was silenced in a brief choking sound. Jobyna instinctively stood, her hand over her mouth.
A knight hastened down the stairs to stand in the open door, carrying the limp, bloodstained body of a child under one arm like one would carry a sack of potatoes.
"My apologies, Sire, we found him hiding in a closet upstairs."
The sight of the mutilated child and the thought of what had so obviously taken place were too much for Jobyna. Fainting, she fell to the cold stone floor.
Jobyna awoke in a darkened room. The shutters had been boarded up and she supposed this was to prevent her escaping.
Ellice brought food and juice, but Jobyna was too upset to eat anything. Jobyna's hatred for Elliad grew stronger. He was a monster, void of human feelings, lacking in moral fiber, and the lowest of the low. A worm upon the dust of the earth was worth more in Jobyna's estimation.
Speed galloped the length of the valley floor. New strength filled his veins and eagerness spurred him on. Brownlea lagged behind momentarily then gained a new surge of power. By now the horses knew the tents ahead meant rest, fodder and fresh water. The sooner they arrived, the quicker the ordeal of the day would be over. Elliad drove the beasts hard. At the end of a day, the horses' coats were lathered in sweat. Failing horses were butchered to help feed the hungry multitude.
Jobyna sat beside the stream, soaking her tired feet and basking in the warmth of the sinking sun. Ellice combed her charge's copper-brown hair, weaving it into one long braid. Jobyna flexed her left hand, exercising the weak fingers in the cool water. The memory of the torture she had suffered was indelibly stamped in her mind. Berg, King Elliad's closest bodyguard, had broken her forefinger because she would not sign a 'confession' concocted by Elliad. This document stated that she and her brother Luke were traitors against the throne of Frencolia and were responsible for the death of the previous king, Leopold. Due to an interruption, the torture had been abandoned, but Jobyna knew he would have broken all of her fingers had the distraction not occurred.
A week after leaving Frencolia, the exiled King Elliad had announced to his captive that he was turning himself back into 'Doctor John'--the three stitches in her hand needed to be removed. Gut-like thread had been knotted to stitch the incision made by Doctor Gilbert. Not only did the knots have to be cut, but also the thread had to be twisted and pulled from the now healed wound. 'Doctor John' had become angry and impatient with her during this operation. Due to the pain, Jobyna had found it hard to hold still and she had squirmed in discomfort as each stitch was removed.
Ellice dried Jobyna's feet, then replaced the woolen stockings and boots. Jobyna's green eyes met Elliad's cool blue ones as she rose from the rock. He drank from a goblet, but his eyes followed her movements over the gold rim. Unnerved and annoyed, she threw him the 'daggers'--a newly invented look she reserved for him alone. If this beast prohibited her from speaking, she would show him her disapproval in another way. Jobyna sensed his discomfort at the disdainful attitude she radiated, and this pleased her. She would never forget the dead child and how heartless Elliad really was.
The sun turned the clouds a milky orange as the company finished the evening meal. The silence in the gully was broken by soldiers rounding up the newly acquired horses to be branded with Elliad's brand-mark.
Jobyna decided she would retire to her tent. Memories of her father's horses being branded by Elliad's men--her beloved Brownlea and Luke's horse Speed--filled her mind with renewed spurts of hate. The soldiers had branded the 'E' over the Chatelain 'C' and branded another 'E' on Brownlea's and Speed's fore-flanks.
Jobyna's eyes met Elliad's as she stood. If looks could kill, he would be dead! Such a decadent and depraved person would never change! He enjoyed causing misery, suffering and death to all in his way. Jobyna wondered how God could let such a person live and get away with the murder of innocent people.
"Sit down, Sparrow!" his heavy voice broke into her thoughts.
Jobyna knew enough about his commands to obey. Ellice washed the utensils in the creek. Jobyna watched Elliad swill down the rest of his wine. He rose and walked to Berg, talking to him in undertones, turning her way now and then. She knew they were discussing her. Pretending not to be interested, she stared across the stream, into the forest. Elliad's voice made her start, "Come here, Sparrow!"
Feelings of dread flooded her mind. She hesitated, and a chilled sensation made her tremble. Jobyna knew she must obey; if she did not, Elliad's anger would be kindled. Each step in their direction filled her with apprehension. Her eyes met Elliad's. The blue stare had a gleam she recognized; he looked right through her; she was nothing, nobody. Berg grasped her left arm, Elliad her right. They half led, half dragged her to the fires where the horses had been branded.
"I'm tired of the way you look at me, Sparrow!" Elliad's voice pounded in her head. "I want this to serve as a warning! You don't need to tell me how much you hate me. I see the enmity in your eyes. I'm sick of it!" He spat on the ground. Berg twisted both her arms behind her back. The exiled king took a brand from the fire. It was white hot. He held it momentarily closer to her. The heat touched her face, and she felt her skin shrink back. She turned her head to the side and closed her eyes, trying hard not to scream.
"Do you know what would happen if I held this near to your eyes for a few minutes?"
Shaking all over, Jobyna did not answer for a moment; but realizing he expected her to, she cried, "No, I don't know..."
"You would never open them again, Sparrow."
Jobyna's legs crumpled, but Berg supported her and his grip tightened.
"Look at me!" Elliad shouted. His saliva splattered her face.
Jobyna opened her eyes as her captor waved the branding iron in the air. She felt his breath on her forehead.
"You do not treat your king with animosity, Jobyna! Do you understand?" She could not answer; her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth. Elliad screamed at her, "Do you understand, girl?"
"Yes, I understand," Jobyna answered feebly. Overwhelming desolation swept her as she saw his grin and realized that he enjoyed humiliating, victimizing and taunting her.
"How will you look at me, then?"
She searched her mind for an answer. Thoughts of his madness, his strange calmness before dread action; his obsession with wanting obeisance as king; his unpredictability; it all filled her with terror.
"Friendly ... with friendliness..." Jobyna knew how much hate she had conveyed with her looks of malice. She had never imagined he would retaliate, but he was furious. Sensitive to human reactions and proud beyond description, he had interpreted her attitude as total insubordination.
She watched him bring the iron close to his own face. Time stood still as she wondered if he was going to kiss the glowing instrument; but he blew on it, causing it to glow red. He waited and blew again. Not understanding that he was waiting for it to cool a little, it was too hot, Jobyna closed her eyes, feeling relieved. This moment was soon to be over; nothing bad was going to happen.
A cynical grin pervaded Elliad's face as he pressed the brand into his captive's arm, just below her left shoulder. It burnt through her dress sleeve, singeing the wool, burning through the skin into her flesh. The moment he held it against her arm seemed an eternity. The searing pain made her scream involuntarily. Berg held her against him, one arm around her body, his great hand clenching the branded arm at her elbow, holding it still, the other around her neck, holding her so tight, she could scarcely breathe. The 'E' brand permanently impressed, Berg suddenly released her. She fell to the sandy soil. Crying with weakness and pain, she vomited and gagged, losing her meal.
Afraid to be angry, feeling humiliated and wretched, Jobyna refused to allow Ellice to comfort her. All night she tossed and turned on the mat in her tent. Sleep was banished by the searing pain in her arm. Never before had Jobyna been so homesick. Thoughts of her mother's reassuring arms made her sob. Arms no longer able to hold or comfort her because Elliad, the monster, had taken away her mother's life.
In the past two months, Jobyna had lost her parents and her home. As self-appointed king of Frencolia, Elliad had sent out a decree stating that all Gospel Books must be surrendered to him, or those protecting them would be executed. Jobyna's father did not believe Elliad would actually carry out the punishment. Louis Chatelain had hoped to reason with the king; but nevertheless had sent his children away to safety with Sabin, a trusted servant. It was reported to Luke and Jobyna that Elliad had watched while their parents were executed.
Jobyna now knew for sure her mad captor would enjoy watching such barbarity. Her innocent faith in the message of love and peace had closed her mind from realizing the cruelty and depravity existing in the hearts of some. Her sheltered life was over. The brother-protector she once knew had a different role now; Luke Chatelain was the king of Frencolia. She was a captive, bearing the brand-mark of the arrogant, demagogue, Elliad. Any kindness Elliad had shown her in the past was overshadowed with the unhappy knowledge that she could not even look at him but he knew her thoughts. Jobyna's parents had taught her to obey authority, and he was the authority over her. She must obey. To speak or not to speak, to sit, to stand; to be pleasant, and even friendly, in his presence.
Jobyna fell into a fitful sleep, thankful she still had two eyes to see with, and that he had not carried out his previous threat to remove her tongue.
One day, she said to herself, I will escape from him. God, please give me patience until then!