Beyond Rescuing: Day 29 of 31 Days
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Jewel fell back on her knees and stared at the box before her. Dust and ashes, ashes and dust. She could not understand it—she knew there was treasure here before.
“Didn’t find what you were looking for?” a voice said in her ear.
She fell down, terrified, and looked up. It was the Enchanter, looking calm and collected next to her dirty, frazzled body.
“I don’t understand,” Jewel stammered. “It was here. I left it here. I buried treasure in this box, but when I opened it, well, look!” She shoved the box at the Enchanter, who clucked his tongue and shook his head.
“He should have told you this would happen.”
“What do you mean? Who should have told me what?”
“Your prince. It’s a trick of his, you know. Once you see his treasure, your treasure is like dust. You can never come back to it and be satisfied.”
“You mean it just disappeared?”
“I mean, you never had it to begin with.“
Jewel looked at the box in disbelief. “But I did! I…I saved it myself.”
“You stole it. Or at the very least, you did all sorts of things to earn it that would make a good princess blush. You know it, and I know it. That is not treasure, Jewel, it’s plunder. Blood money. It’s no good in his kingdom.” He came a little closer to her and whispered, “If your prince knew where you got it, he would turn away from you in disgust.”
“How dare you, you who sold me first! How dare you accuse me!”
“How dare you pretend I’m not justified in doing so,” the Enchanter laughed. “Oh, Obscurity! Do you really think you can erase your past, just because you put on new clothes and a crown?”
“My name is Jewel.”
“Ironic. You do not look very much like a Jewel now.”
Jewel looked down. She was covered in filth. Blood oozed from scrapes and scratches, and she realized that one of her fingernails had been torn off completely. Worse, her dress was ripped beyond repair. She had worn her oldest dress, the very first dress the prince had ever given her.
It was her wedding dress.
“You know,” the Enchanter cooed, “I have more riches than I know what to do with. If it’s treasure you seek, I can make you rich beyond imagination.”
“I don’t want to be rich,” Jewel said. “I came because I wanted to do something for him.”
“Of course you do. He’s done so much for you, after all.”
“Yes.” The thought of it made her wretched.
“Although, I can’t help but feel he got the better of me when he took you from me. I’m not sure I’m ready to forgive him for that.”
“Please, if you have anything you can spare, anything at all. I’ve come all this way, and I have nothing. How can I go back like this?”
“How indeed,” the Enchanter said, looking her over with slitted eyes. “I would not want to go in your place. I can just imagine the look on his face.”
Jewel buried her head in her dirty hands and sobbed. “What can I do?”
“Well,” the Enchanter’s smooth voice curled around her like smoke. “There is one thing.”
His beautiful face contorted so quickly, Jewel gasped in surprise. He grabbed her by the throat and hissed, “Bow down and beg for it.”
Her eyes were wide and frantic. He was fierce and ugly, like the dragons that swooped over his land. Ugly like she had never seen him before. Jewel clawed at him, expecting any moment for him to release her. He was a friend!
“You see, Jewel, I have not forgotten your betrayal. I have not forgotten how you traded me in at the first chance you had to become the bride of the one I hate.” He spat the words at her like a viper. “Do you really think we could be friends after that? Do you really think I will help you?”
He was her friend! He had said so himself. But now there was no air! Was she to die at his hand?
“No, Jewel, I will not help you, but you have certainly helped me! You have led your people right out the gates and into my kingdom.”
He laughed then and released his grip just enough for Jewel to gasp for breath and feel the weight of his words. It was true.
“Do you know, Jewel, there is one thing I love almost as much as having my own kingdom. Do you know what that is? It’s having the prince’s people serve me when they think they’re serving him. They wander farther and farther away from him every day and they don’t even know it. In fact, they think they are more enlightened than ever before! It’s almost too easy!
“What kind of pathetic prince can’t keep his people from traipsing over to the enemy just as soon as the gates are open? Your prince, Jewel, that’s who. He talks a big talk, but he has no power over the desires of men. I do.”
The Enchanter looked into her eyes and scoffed. “And you—you’re the worst offender. ‘Jewel: bride of the prince.’ You came calling so quickly, I’m almost amazed the prince didn’t recognize you sooner for the harlot you are.”
“Let me go,” she begged, her voice hoarse and raspy.
“Let you go? Tell me, Jewel, where would you go? Do you think I am so kind as to take traitors back into my house? I would sooner destroy you. And if you think he will take you back when you have betrayed him like this then you do not know his holy fierceness like you ought. It would be a kindness for me to kill you outright rather than to leave you to his justice.”
He was choking her again, but she was dying with the thought that she might be beyond rescuing by her prince. Of course the Enchanter was right. Why would her prince take her back? She had been so foolish.
“You have been defeated, Jewel. Admit it, and I might let you live long enough to see the embarrassment on your prince’s face.”
The darkness of that night became even darker. The whole world spun and she felt her arms go numb. Jewel could not breathe. She could only exhale one last breath. “Help me,” she whispered just before everything went black.
*Join us tomorrow for the exciting Day 30!