Life Without Life

Chapter 24:

Katherine dismounts her horse and ties the reins to the trunk of a tree. She strolls aimlessly for quite some time, no sign of Josette anywhere. She travels down to the river to clean off her soiled boots and gazes across the bank at none other than Josette of Cannock!

"You have returned, Katherine, to destroy the rest of my suffering heart? You were my friend, yet you betrayed me and stole my heart away," Josette shouts from across the river, after finally catching Katherine's eye.

"You have unjustly wronged me, Josette. I have done worse things in my life, believe me. What I did to you was purely for spite."

"Spite, you say? That is not the truth! I will not believe you! You did this deliberately so you could see me suffer!"

"Josette, please, come across the bridge so we could talk easier. I do not like shouting across the river." Josette steps cautiously onto the bridge, unaware of what Katherine might do.

As Josette gradually reaches the other side, Katherine anticipates her next move. As soon as Josette advances onto the bank, Katherine seizes her arm, twirls her around, and lays her dagger against her throat. Josette attempts to escape, but the more she struggles, the tighter Katherine's grip becomes.

* * * * * *

Matthew searches far and wide, for any sign of Josette. At the present moment she can be either dead or alive! A scream to his left causes him to lurch the reins, almost toppling himself, as well as his horse, into the mud. Collecting his speed again, he races towards the place where the scream came from. Coming to a halt by the banks of the river, he spots a girl lying on the ground, clutching her side, and another girl running towards the other bank. He dismounts his horse and follows in close pursuit of the girl.

"I order you to halt in the name of the Baron!" The girl stops running and pivots on her heels, drawing a sword from its sheath tied to her belt.

"Well, well, if it isn't my little cousin out to get revenge!" she taunts.

"Revenge has nothing to do with this, Katherine! Since you have been here, everything have gone wrong!" he retorts, also drawing his sword.

"Oh, come now, cousin! All I wanted was to add a little spice to this dreary manor!"

"You have dishonored this family as well as destroyed any trust and trust I had in you!"

"So this is what it come down to, Matthew? The weapon has been chosen. It is but a fight to the death then."

"I do not wish to fight you."

"Well then, why have you drawn your sword, Cousin?!" she says, lunging forward. They cross swords once, twice, three times. They each perry in turn, their swords clashing and glistening in the sunlight.

Out of the clearing, the Sheriff and a group of soldiers emerge, swords drawn and ready to attack. Katherine turns and tries to flee, but Matthew trips her and lowers his sword just above her neck.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kill you now!" He raises his sword above her throat and says, "Parting is such sweet sorrow, Cousin!"

"Matthew, in the name of your father, let her go!" exclaims the Sheriff, racing to his side.

"What do you mean let her go? She deserves the just punishment she is about to receive!" he returns, keeping his sword poised above her neck.

"Katherine, you are under arrest by order of the Baron of Nottinghamshire. Follow me the palace." Katherine pulls herself up, as Matthew pulls his sword away, and follows the Sheriff back to the palace .

Matthew hurries to Josette, who is still lying on the ground, bleeding profusely.

"Are you all right, Josette?"

"Nay. She has cut me too deep!" She attempts to move, but pain causes her to lie back down again.

"Do not say such things, Josette! All we have to do is stop the bleeding!"

"Nay, it is no use! I have been run completely through!"

"Do not leave, Josette, please!"

"Why do you care? You will go back to the manor a hero for sparing your cousin's life and not spilling her blood on your hands!"

"I won't leave without you! I swear, I will not go back to the manor without you!"

"Nay, go, and let me rest. Tell my father adieu!" Josette leans her head on his arm, closes her eyes, and breathes her last breath.

* * * * * *

"Katherine of Sleaford, you are hereby banished from all of the lands of Nottinghamshire," replies the Baron.

"I will not leave this place unless Timothy goes with me!" she replies vainly, glancing over at Timothy standing in shackles beside her.

"Timothy, I will give you a choice. You may go with her and live a life as an outlaw or you may stay here and become a servant upon my lands. The choice is yours."

"Your excellency, I will gladly stay on the manor, if you will allow it," he says, not once giving Katherine the satisfaction of gazing into his blue eyes again.

"Timothy! This is an outrage! I am leaving this retched place!" She rushes out of the great hall and mounts her horse. At that same moment, Matthew enters the great hall with Josette in his arms.

"Josette! What have you done to her?!" accuses Timothy, running to her side after having his shackles taken off.

"What have I done?! It was Katherine who did this to her! I tried to stop her, I swear I did. But it was too late and she was cut too deep!" was Matthew's solemn reply.

"Give her to me!" shouts the Baron of Cannock from across the hall. He gently picks her up from Matthew's arms and cradles his daughter. "Well, Baron, it looks to me that instead of having a wedding, we will be conducting a funeral service."

"I am truly sorry, Lord Cannock. My niece should be arrested and tried for murder this very instant."

"But it is too late, Father, for you have sent her away," Matthew says, looking sadly at his father.

"Very true, my boy. But I have no doubt in my mind that killing an innocent women will be pain enough for her bear. Sheriff, prepare the priest for the funeral service that will take place this afternoon."

"Aye, milord."

"Timothy," Matthew says, pulling him aside, "how much did you love Josette?"

"Is the answer to that question going to have me beheaded?"

"Nay, nay. I was just curious."

"I loved her with all my heart and soul," he replies, almost in tears.

"I know exactly what you mean, Timothy. Exactly what you mean." They both follow the Baron of Nottinghamshire and the Baron of Cannock to the chapel, where Josette's body is finally laid to rest.


chapter 25