As soon as she said the words, even before—as soon as it occurred to her to cry out for help, Jewel felt a hand reach out and snatch her up. It carried her to a place of warmth and safety. In her unconscious haze, she could not tell where she was, only that she never wanted to leave.
She heard the voice of her Advocate, and the voice of her enemy, although they seemed far-off in her mind.
“What are you doing here?” she heard the Enchanter sneer. “We have a deal.”
“You know perfectly well I don’t make deals with you.”
“Well, then, what are you doing here? Visiting?”
“You have something that belongs to the prince.”
“I do?” The Enchanter’s insolence was palpable. “I didn’t think I could take anything from you. Oh, unless you mean that woman of his? Well, I didn’t take her. She wandered here all on her own.”
“She is his bride, and you will pay for your part in deceiving her.”
“Bride? Oh! I’m sorry. I didn’t see a bride here, only a tramp. A vile, worthless tramp who didn’t need much encouragement to forget all about him.”
“That is not true. She is clothed by the prince, and you have no right to speak such words to her.”
The Enchanter looked at Jewel’s torn, stained garments with feigned surprise. “Do all the girls get the pretty dresses, or just the friendly ones?”
“You can talk all you want but you know you have no authority over her anymore.”
“No authority? Funny, for someone with ‘no authority’ I seem to doing a pretty good job of entertaining your people in my kingdom.
Don’t be sad, but I think she likes me better than your prince. Look how quickly she abandoned him for me. Not to mention the fact that you didn’t do a very good job of keeping her home yourself. Weren’t you supposed to be her guardian, her Advocate? Yet all I had to do was whisper a few pretty words in her ear, and she was gone. I don’t think she loves you very much at all.”
“I am not here because of how much she loves me. I am here because of how much I love her.”
“Well, if you ever get tired of her, I could show you a dozen more just like her.”
“Do not tempt me,” the Adviser said through clenched teeth, “or nothing on earth will be able to hold me back from giving you a painful reminder of how this ends.”
The Enchanter sneered. “You wouldn’t dare.”
In a flash of steel, the prince’s adviser struck the Enchanter with the broad side of his sword. The shadowy creature flew into the air and landed with an infantile cry. “Stop! Please, stop!” The Enchanter screamed like the coward he was.
The Adviser placed his sword under his enemy’s throat. “You are fortunate I am a very patient man or I would gladly run you through. But my father and I are not willing for any one of your captive souls to be lost. There are still some in your kingdom who will answer when I call, some who will yet be rescued, and it is for them I stay my sword. Not you.
“And if you think you can touch the bride of the prince without repercussion, think again. I am keeping track of every single vile thought, word, and deed you have done to her, and I will repay you a thousandfold. One day, you will see her, spotless like I see her, and you will know the gravity of the crimes you have committed against her and the justice of my punishment to you. Because you will be punished, and in that day, you will regret ever having laid a finger on her.”
The Enchanter quivered under the Adviser’s power.
“I will be back for you soon enough,” the Adviser said, then he, Jewel’s own faithful advocate, picked her up in his arms and ran across the rocky, rough terrain toward home.
Jewel was just beginning to come to when she felt the swift and startling movement. “You came for me,” she said in sleepy wonder. “You came back for me.”
“No, Jewel. I did not come for you. I never left you.”
“No…no. I didn’t see you there.” It was hard to form the words, but harder to stay silent when her heart was so heavy.
“You were too preoccupied to notice, but I was with you all the way.”
Jewel thought about that a moment. “I didn’t know you would follow me so far. I mean, I didn’t think you would go there.”
“What kind of rescuer would I be if I didn’t go where you most needed rescuing?”
“Then, why did you let me go so far? Why didn’t you stop me from myself?”
“I let you go just as far as you needed to go. I let you go until you had to turn around.”
Jewel knew it was true. She would not have come back so willingly if she had not gone so far. She was that obstinate, that stubborn, that much in need of rescuing…still.
“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry.” The warmth enfolded her and Jewel slipped back into the haze, grateful, at least, that she had been able to say that much.