He Was Willing To Die To Love Her

Matthew Donnellon

Photo by Lenin Estrada on Unsplash

*A work of Fiction

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The guard moved ever so slightly to the side so as to block the sun from her eyes.

She smiled.

Neither of them spoke of the gesture as neither of them should be speaking, as he was a lowly household guard, not even a knight.

He thought it was half the reason he was there, as a simple man-at-arms would never aspire to steal the King’s bride. He still remembered that day.

They had just returned from putting down a rebellion in the south The guard was riding next to the King since he had just saved the high lord on the field of battle.

There was a grand ceremony where the King doled out the spoils of war. The King himself told the court how the young man saved him from certain death, killing seven men in the process, The King raised the man to his household guard, and bestowed upon him another honor. The King’s betrothed would arrive soon and the young man would become her personal shield. Afterall, it would be fitting as he guarded the King’s life and so now he would guard his heart.

And so, now the guard started with the Lady Jennifer, the daughter of some high ranking Lord, trying to earn the King’s favor.

He shifted again to shade her eyes.

“You’re rather tall, arent you?”

“I am, my Lady.”

“Well with the sun out I am rather grateful, sir.”

“I am no sir, my Lady.”

“Oh? Should I be offended the King has asked a commoner to guard me?”

“I assure you, my Lady, I may be a commoner, but there is nothing common about me.”

He said it with a wink. It was a wink that will cost him an eye if he calculated wrong, but sometimes a young man must take such risks.

And so a friendship began.

They talked mostly when they were by themselves, the King was often busy with stately matters. So it left Lady Jennifer’s days open and her ever present guard was always by her side.

One day, the guard was escorting her through the city when she said, “I had dinner with the King last night.”

“I’m aware.”

“It was strange not to have you in my presence.”

“The King’s men were protecting you and the palace is the safest place in the city.”

“I see.”

“I wasn’t far away though.” she said with a wink.

“I had a feeling you weren’t.” she said.

“The King also regaled me with your gallantry at Ash Lake. You didn’t tell me you saved his life.”

“It makes it far less heroic if one recounts his own deeds.”

“He told me you cut down 11 men single handedly.”

“I’m afraid the King likes to exaggerate,” he said. And when he noticed her crestfallen look, he added, “It was only 7 men.”

“Oh my! Have you killed many men?”

“More than 7.”

“So if a dozen men were to attack me right now…”

“Then I’d lay a dozen swords by your feet.”

“Well now I feel quite safe in these streets.”

“Lady Jennifer, I would not want to be the man who wishes to do you harm when I am around.”

“Call me Jen,” she said,”In the Palace, I am Lady Jennifer, but with you, I am just Jen.”

“I’ll try my lady.”

She gave him a scornful look.

“Jen,” he corrected himself.

“That’s better.”

“Now I would think that such a deed would warrant a lordship or knighthood, at least.”

“Oh, I was rewarded with something far greater.”

“That is?”

“I get to protect you.”

“Alex, I fear your silver tongue is going to get you in trouble,” she said with a laugh.

“I fear it already has my lady-”

She punched him in the shoulder.

“Jen.”

“Good.”

They carried on that way. The days turned to weeks. The weeks turned to months.

Until the time they’d both been dreading approached, Lady Jennifer was to be married within the week.

“There must be something we can do,” Jen said.

“I could steal you away. They would never think you wanted to come. We could live in the woods. I grew up in them. We could hide for a while.”

“The King may like you but he will send every man in the realm after you.”

“I’d kill a thousand men for you.”

“And if he sends another army?”

“Then I’ll kill a thousand more.”

She touched his face, “There’s no way this ends with you keeping your head.”

“If I can find a way…”

“If you can find a way for us to be together that doesn’t end with you dying. I’ll do it. I want nothing more.”

But the days came and it was too late. The wedding was happening. The guard stood near the King, his new armor shining in the sun, and his cape rustling gently in the breeze.

Lady Jennifer arrived to the sound of thousand trumpets and with a thousand doves fluttering about.

The ceremony began with the High Mage presiding over it. It started with the 12 rejections, where a dozen suitors would come forth and offer the bride gifts to leave and the groom would need to match them. As no one could outdo the King, it was largely ceremonial.

Until the last offer, where the guard took a deep breath and stepped out and took the spot before the King.

“I’ve come to reject this marriage.”

The King laughed, thinking one of his courtiers was pulling a joke on him.

“Oh,” the King said, “This is no jape. Okay Alex what do you have to offer that the King cannot give this woman?”

“I love her more than you do sire.”

The crowd gasped. It was one thing to say a man couldn’t give his wife a stable of horses or the finest silks, but it was another matter to say he didn’t love his wife to be. It was enough to anger any man.

“I should kill you where you stand for suggesting that.”

“I know,” the guard said, reaching for his sword.

Five of the King’s men jumped forward.

“Stand down you fools,” the King roared, “We’d all be dead already if his intentions were violent. Go on.”

Alex continued and unbelted his sword, tossing it at the King’s feet.

“I’ve seen her hair in the moonlight. I’ve heard her voice carried on the Summer winds. I’ve seen the fire in her eyes. I know her soul like no other. You owe me a debt and I’ve come to claim it. Let me prove my love or grant me a swift death but I’ll not live another day without her.”

The King thought for a moment and consulted with the High Mage.

“Fair Enough,” the King said, “We’ll reconvene tomorrow. Where we’ll have a wedding or a funeral.”

“Give me a day and a poem and I’ll make it so.”

True to his word, the King brought them all together the next day. The guard took the lonely walk to the pavilion.

He knelt and extended a single slip of paper.

“For Jen,” was all he said. The King noticed the familiarity with which he said the name but remained silent.

Jen read the poem and smiled and then handed it to the High Mage who read it with the King. They stood silent for a dozen minutes.

Finally, the King spoke, “My mage tells me that poetry is old magic and the writer cannot lie. He looked at Jen.

“Do you return his love?”

“I do.”

“Rise Sir Alex.”

The honorific was not lost on Alex and he was near tears.

“If you agree to remain in my service then you can both be married today.”

That’s exactly what happened as a thousand trumpets blared in celebration. The King was so struck by the poem he made it the new marriage vow. It would remain the mark by which love would be measured for a thousand years.

You might have heard of them. The words Sir Alex wrote that day. It’s also when the Law of Poetry began, the most ancient tradition, where one could stop a marriage with a poem.

But Jen and Alex weren’t thinking of new traditions or how their love would inspire stories for a dozen generations.

They had each other and thought of little else.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI
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