Free

Sobbing, I pushed my way into the Forbidden Garden. It was a secret walled garden, where my Mother and Father once met. Now, with both dead, it had been forgotten. But I had been jilted. Originally in line for the throne, I had been disgraced. For my evil Uncle had changed the law by making it illegal for a woman to inherit the kingdom, hence cementing himself as King. And me? I was only good now, to be a Pawn in his dealings.

The gate was rusty and took a few shoves before it squeaked on its hinges, to reveal the sorry state of this once beautiful place. The pathways were littered with fallen leaves, and plants trailed over the edges of the garden beds. A colourful confusion of flowers and weeds tumbled over tree branches, and the tree branches themselves were too heavy to lift above the mass of vines that conspired to drag them to the ground.

On the other end of the garden, another gate had led to the outside wall and into the wilderness beyond. It was no completely gone.

Green algae and slush glugged out of the fountain in the centre, and the chair where I had sat as a child, with Mum playing with my hair, was rusty and broken. Just as I thought it was a mistake to seek comfort in such a forgotten place, I heard a rustling.

Caught on my Father’s favourite rose bush, was an animal. I crept forward, until I saw it’s wounded paw, trapped by the thorns and torn to bloody ribbons. Wiping the tears from my eyes, so I could see, I felt instant empathy. Just like this beautiful tiger, I too, felt trapped by my Uncle.

She was skinny and her fur was matted. She was tired and elderly, looking like she wouldn’t survive another Winter in the wild where she belonged.

Her deep brown eyes were soft with pain, as she sought my own. Courageously, I crept forward, disentangling her paw from the thorny branches of the rosebush. She whined, but did not move, as I released her.

Feeling more confident now, I tore a strip from my beautiful white dress, and sponged some of the oozing black blood away, until I could see the wound was clean. The tiger winced but did not try to hurt me.

When done, I sat back to see my handy work. With a contented sigh, she leaned against me.

Finally, for the first time since my Uncle had usurped me, I felt I had the strength to fight him. Tomorrow, I would see which Courtiers would support me in leading a wedge against my Mother’s brother.

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