FOUND IT she thought, she had been walking for what seemed like several hours before finding it. Crouching down, near the mossy earth she began observing it very meticulously not to confuse it with a killer however, the pattern of the light brown specks near the middle of the stem and the ridges along the edges of the pedals confirmed her hypothesis that this indeed is the Spelemee Herb. This herb is an Aushidary perennial they are very useful and if the roots are steamed and dried it can lower fevers, and alleviate pain too. Dong! Dong! Dong! Recognizing that faint sound of the clock tower, she quickly and efficiently removed the herb from where it was growing in the ground and put it in one of the safest pockets of her satchel and was racing through the trees and jumping over fallen logs so, she could open up her shop. She stopped running when she reached the edge of the hill and stood there briefly indulging in the bright rays of the sun, feeling the warmth on her skin and inhaling the smell of a new day, before dashing down the hill and making her way through the town and entering her shop, just as she did every day.
“ See you soon Ms. Karmir.”
“Ok, feel better Yoshi,” Yoshi is one of Karmir’s usual patients, and before exiting her shop he always gives her a toothy grin that always makes her smile back at him. It’s times like these that make her wonder if he knew how much that smile makes her day.
“ Thanks for your patience, your still waiting for your medicine, right Kinoe?” Karmir said to another one of her regulars who was calmly drinking her tea.
“Yes, but please take your time I just came to let my eyes rest on your beautiful red hair I have never seen anything quite so extraordinary!”
“That’s so sweet thank you, but since I already have you here I’ll start preparing another remedy, I found some good medicinal herbs so please take some with you.” She said while struggling to unscrew a cork on a bottle of medicine.
“ Unh! Unh! Unh!” Cried Kinoe.
“What’s the matter are you alright?” Karmir asked with concern in her voice.
“You have turned into a very fine young herbalist if only your late grandparents could see this they would be beaming with pride,” Kinoe said between sobs.
And all of a sudden she jumped out of her chair and said “ Oh my goodness I believe I left the stove on I must go, oh dear silly me. Hm, Hm, Hm. ”
Shortly after Kinoe left, Karmir took a piece of parchment and wrote down the prescription that she was going to give Kinoe the next time she saw her.
After doing so, she heard the jingling of the front door bells and looked up from her work,“ did you forget something?” She said expecting to see Kinoe however, she was surprised to see that the person standing in the doorway was a man.
Karmir then put down the prescription and began walking over to the man in the doorway, he is tall and has broad shoulders, and wore a sword at his hip and he wore what seemed like a uniform along with a cape that’s pinned at one of his shoulders. Karmir’s eye caught the sight of a crest that’s used to pin his cape she knew the design that’s on the pin she was very familiar with it as if it were part of her own name, it is the insignia of the Kingdom of Taunbarun.
“Did you say Prince Raj’s . . . concubine?” Karmir asked the man while inquisitively tilting her head.
“Yes, in other words, you Karmir Farih will be his mistress,” the man said while mocking Karmir’s head tilt.
“Absurd! I can’t believe he would be interested in a common girl like me just because of the color of my hair, I would be an embarrassment to him!”
“Still, Prince Raj has taken a liking to you, therefore, you are required to formally appear at the castle tomorrow morning!” With every word he began stepping closer to Karmir making her withdraw back until eventually hitting her back on one of the tables.
The man adjusted his sword and was standing over her now, and said,” I suggest you look presentable.” And just like that, he left.
The sun was starting to set and the evening bells were ringing, that incident left Karmir very confused she just sat there thinking of what to do next. Then she got up and began repeating the prescriptions to herself while gathering all the required materials and began measuring them out.
“For Kinoe something to ease her back pain and her inflamed respiratory tract,” Karmir said this while pouring the ground herbs into an envelope and sealing it with Kinoe’s name and the purpose that the medicine would serve.
“Yes, so who’s next?” Karmir asked herself. The preparations took a while, but she eventually finished working after dark, everything was organized each envelope had the name of the receiver and the medicinal property of the herbs written on it.
“That takes care of everyone,” Karmir said to herself.
She turned around and looked at her reflection in the mirror and gently gathered her hair on to one shoulder and held a pair of the cutters in her hand the metal was cool against her skin “please know this wasn’t your fault,” almost seeming to apologize to her hair, the final sound was that of the blades making contact with her hair.
Karmir left her cut hair tied by the purple ribbon she was wearing that morning, and let her crimson hair pour over the window sill. Then she took her satchel filling it with any essential herbs and pulled on her cloak she pulled the hood over her shoulder-length hair in order to cover it so, no one will be able to recognize her on the streets and, with that she closed the door and was off on her journey.
She met a gentleman at the edge of town who was driving a carriage that was carrying crates filled with hay and she asked this man if he would be willing to let her ride on the back of his carriage he agreed, however, he told her that he had to go very far north so, she asked him if he could drop her off at the Ordine Forest which was on the way and he kindly agreed.
As the carriage was getting farther away from her town Karmir whispered to herself, “Goodbye Taunbarun, I’ll miss you.”
Once they had reached the forest, the carriage had stopped and Karmir hopped off from the back she thanked the gentleman and out of kindness gave him 10 silver pieces he insisted that he did not need any money but eventually he was convinced.
Karmir was walking through the trees in search of some shelter when eventually, she saw a house from afar and she began walking near it, the house was a light chestnut colour with a door that was a few shades darker than the house.
She made it to the doorstep and knocked while saying, “excuse me, excuse me is anyone home may I come inside.” There was no response so Karmir sat down with her back against the side of the house,” it wouldn’t be courteous if I just walked inside. And it’s already getting dark and I am starting to get hungry,” Karmir said to herself in dismay, however, before she could do anything else her exhaustion quickly took over and she let it.
Karmir slowly woke up to the sound of the birds chirping, she had almost forgotten where she even was though soon enough she remembered everything.
Then she heard some footsteps and out of defense she pulled her satchel closer to herself, then
there was a voice,”Mitsuhide, Kiki I’m going on ahead!”
And in reply came, “Hey, careful bragger you’ll hurt yourself!”
Then Karmir was surprised to see a boy he was smiling and jumping over the wall that was acting as a fence the boy seemed to be the same age as her, his hair is a light silver almost white color, and short to medium in length, though long enough to cover his forehead, but not long enough to reach his shoulder and his eyes are cobalt blue like the waters.
The boy was surprised to see a girl and while jumping he lost his footing and fell on his arm. The boy was crouching down in front of her and making little sounds due to the pain.
A man with black hair and a woman with light brown hair both with swords at their sides came running over with worry written on their faces, and the man said,” I told you so Zen! Are you hurt? Did you fall on your head? Tell me, what’s 1+1?”
“Purple, wait . . . who are you again?”
“It’s me Mitsuhide!”
“Oh, I forgot was that your name,” said the woman from behind the black haired man.
“Kiki! Not helping, even a little bit.”
Then the boy crouched down on the ground began laughing and Karmir used this as an opportunity to slip away without being noticed but just as she started to crawl away.
“Hold,” said the boy sharply to Karmir.
He stood up and said, “ mind telling me who you are, and what you’re doing in the woods all alone?”
“Oh . . . I just uh . . . I just left my home and I was in a hurry so I got rather lost and ended up on a random road and I’m here.” Karmir was saying this while instinctively pulling her hood to cover her hair, then the boy pointed his sheathed sword at her and with the flick of his wrist, sent her hood flying off.
“ You have very unusual hair.”
“Yeah, I know I hear that frequently.”
Karmir looked up at him and noticed that his arm had started to turn red, “oh, your arm it’s swollen.”
“Enh, I’ve had worse.”
“You’re in luck I’m an herbalist I have healing poultice you can use on it that’ll help.”
“No thanks, it could be poison or something I am not going to fall for that little trick I wasn’t born yesterday you know, trust is something earned not given in other words we’re done here.”
“So, off you go then.”
Then Karmir thought, that is a valid point who would trust a stranger so, she planned to convince him that she wasn’t any kind of threat. She firmly grasped the sword that was in its sheath
“Hey, what are you . . .” the boy was going to ask more but, before he could Karmir slammed the sword against her arm she opened a container that had lotion in it and put the cream on some medical fabric and stuck it to her arm, she held it out in front of the boy.
“Sorry, to disappoint but I don’t usually carry poison.”
The boy dropped the sword and dropped down to his knees in a fit of laughter.
“I’m sorry about that, my name is Zen.”
“And mine is Karmir.”
“It’s lovely to meet you Karmir however, I think you’re partially responsible for my less than graceful landing,” he said while holding out his arm.
“No one lives in this house but we spend time here. So, the one getting beaten at chess over there is Mitsuhide Rowan the one doing the beating is Kiki Seiran they are my attendants but, more than that they are my friends.”
“Zen, how do you know I am losing when you aren’t even paying attention to the game.”
“ I can just tell.”
“Ok, you’re all fixed up now.”
“Wow, you’ve got impressive skill Karmir.” Zen said while admiring how precisely Karmir had bandaged his arm.
“I’ve been at this a while I did tell you I was an herbalist.”
“Yes, you did so why would a talented herbalist run away from home?”
“The reasons not important excuse me, I need some air.”
“Hey, why did you come with me?”
“I couldn’t let you go into these woods all by your lonesome that would be quite ungentlemanly.”
“Oddball I became very comfortable in the outdoors while studying to be an herbalist.” The sun was peeking out from behind the clouds sending a few rays of sunlight shining on Karmir’s hair and a soft breeze was gently blowing her hair out of her face as she spun around.
“The time and air here flow differently than they do in town I actually like it much better,” Karmir said while resting her back against a tree.
“Couldn’t agree more.”
“Look who isn’t all bluff and bluster.”
“Ow, that really hurts.”
“Oh, looks like your hair’s caught you have a strand that’s longer than the others.”
“Hmm, oh I must have missed that piece earlier.”
“Hey, Zen will you cut it off for me? It doesn’t have to be straight.”
“Possibly but, I’ll only do it if you answer a question for me, did cutting your hair have something to do with why you ran away from home? If you tell me the reason maybe then I could help you.”
“You’re a terrible person.” As a reply Zen through his hands in the air as a shrug.
“You were ordered to be a concubine!”
“Yes, by a very famous boy he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth he thought my hair was unusual and wanted to keep it to himself like a prize if I had obeyed his order then it would have been just like he was buying an apple at a market. So, that’s why I thought I would give him at least part of what he wanted and I left my hair behind.”
“Haha! That was ingenious thinking. Good job escaping from that buffoon it’s your lucky red after all.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well, color has meaning and red is supposed to represent fate, you may not like it much now but your red might lead to something good when you least expect it.”
“Wow, you have an amazing outlook Zen.”
“Oh, some respect!”
As Zen and Karmir approached the house they both saw a basket sitting on the doorstep.
Zen picked it up, and Karmir couldn’t believe what she was seeing “on the handle that’s. . . the ribbon I had tied to my hair.”
They were sitting down inside the house and Zen was reading the card, that was attached to the basket “So, you’re from Taunbarun, I see.” Karmir nodded as a response while twisting the ribbon around her fingers.
“Which means the person who dropped off this basket of apples traveled all the way to the border just to find you. He’s a determined fellow I’ll give him that much.”
“Hmm . . . right.”
“This isn’t a joke! How bad was it that you were forced to leave the kingdom?”
“I had to leave because of who he is someone powerful, the first Prince of Taunbarun.”
“Raj! That Royal Moron!”
“Yes, that’s him he’s so stupid that all the neighboring countries know it.”
“I don’t blame you for running he doubtlessly had people everywhere tearing apart all the border crossing records.”
“Do you really think that he would go that far?”
“If there’s something he wants bad enough he probably already assumes that it belongs to him.”
“Even if it means caging it he’s awful.” Karmir picked up an apple to distract herself and ran her thumb over it, “ it’s starting to go bad, this red is no good to anyone now . . .I’m just kidding.”
Zen stood up and made his way over to where Karmir was sitting he grabbed her hand that held the apple and took a bite out of it.
“How rude of you, it’s her apple Zen why don’t you get your own,” said Mitsuhide from the staircase.
“What are you? Ehh! Ehh!”
“You should either talk or eat don’t do both.”
“Nobody asked you stay out of it!”
“Oh, now you’re just being mean.”
“I was being foolish I am sorry.”
“Karmir I would put that apple down if I were you . . . Mitsuhide, Kiki don’t get mad.”
Karmir rubbed the apple on her arm and sniffed the fragrance. “It’s poisoned!”
“Can you help him?”
“Give me a moment!”
“No good I can’t prepare one with what I have if I don’t hurry . . . ”
The door squeaked open, “my, my looks like someone else has tasted the apple instead of Ms. Karmir,” it was the man who visited her pharmacy yesterday, the one with the lifeless toned voice.
“Who are you!” Yelled Mitsuhide
“How could you do this!”
“Calm yourself Ms.”
“A certain someone possesses the antidote. I trust now you will come with me quietly.”
Karmir turned her head and looked at Zen’s pale lifeless face “yes I’ll cooperate,” she replied
Her thoughts were drifting to the worst of places Zen would be suffering and the most he could stay alive for is twenty-four hours, that is if his body can fight the toxins until she can get the antidote to him.
“Move quickly don’t keep his Royal Highness waiting,” said the soldier who escorted her here.
She almost forgot that they had now arrived at the place where she had tried so desperately to escape, the Kingdom of Taunbarun. She entered a very grand house; it was very lavish but not pristine enough to be considered the main estate.
The doors closed behind her with a huge thump the sound would have normally made her jump if it wasn’t for her unwavering focus on getting the medicine. She walked toward the chair this young gentleman was sitting on; he looked as if he were a year or two older than her. He also looked as if he had always depended on others for everything. So pathetic, she thought.
“Oh, so you have arrived; it’s quite a surprise I didn’t think that red hair you left behind was real,” he said as if thoroughly amused.
Karmir was quick to interrupt, “ But what about the cure?”
“All in good time. Just so you know, Ms. Karmir, this is a very judgemental world we live in, the fact that I graciously courted you and you ran away has made me a laughing stock all over Taunbarun. However, despite my shame, the unanimous opinion is that it is nobody’s fault except for your own. So we need to wipe this filth from my good name and in order to do that you will have to become my concubine.”
He swiftly moved toward Karmir when she had her guard down and he gently touched the hair that had fallen to the front of her face and said softly,” now that I can see how truly beautiful you are, I think I will keep you very close to me. And if you agree to my proposal then I will have the antidote here in seconds.”
Karmir was clenching her fists at her side and then her hands went loose and she slapped the Prince’s hand away from her skin. His face was one to behold confusion and surprise all compiled together.
“Very well, Prince Raj. Take me if you wish but, you should know what you’re getting. She said so, viciously that it had him reeling back. All before her savior had made his grand entrance.
The door burst open and a palace guard went flying into the room.
“You Wretch!” Yelled the palace guard as he tried to attack Zen with his sword but, Zen was too fast for him, Zen hit him with his sheathed sword and sent the guard spinning through the air and hitting the floor with a loud boom! Mitsuhide and Kiki were also not far behind him.
“You will stop spewing such disgusting filth into that poor girl’s ears you pig!”
“Hey, Karmir tie this for me?”
“Wait before that, what about your body are you okay?”
“I’ve spent the last few years building up an immunity to different poisons.”
“So, you’re the one who took a bite out of the poisoned apple. That was rather unfortunate, I had planned to immobilize Ms. Karmir so, I could take her back home with me.”
“Why am I not surprised, that you were behind a bad apple.”
“Best mind your manners around me country boy peasants like you should show more respect to royalty.”
“Oh, pardon me sensitive delicate first monarch of Taunbarun I mean Prince Raj Shinizad, I am not one for formal introductions but. . . ” Zen held up his sword so, Raj could clearly see it.
“ I recognize . . . that crest.”
“As well you should imbecile! Meet the second Prince of Clarines Kingdom, I am Zen Wisteria.”
“Did you say, prince?”
“Zen please calm down, get a hold of yourself, do you know who I am? What’s 1+1?
“It’s true Karmir but, I never actually thought I would be poisoned by anyone much less a half-wit prince from a neighboring kingdom, it could mean war!”
“No! Asides you, you have no proof that I poisoned the apple!”
“Oh I think we have plenty,” said Kiki.
“Yeah we’ll see what’s what when we make an official inquiry liar,” said Mitsuhide from beside her.
“No please wait for I . . .I.”
“Then why don’t we make a trade Prince Moron, if you don’t want your deceptive actions to be a matter of public record than swear that you will never come near Karmir again or even dare to say her name out loud!”
“How do you know Karmir?”
“Okay . . . okay, I promise please cross my heart!”
“Karmir, surely you have some things to say to him if you want to air some grievances you should it now,” Zen said with a look of weariness on his face.
“Here Prince Raj an apple, to get your strength back, since your so scared that you can’t even move. Also, give Zen the antidote now!”
That was the last thing that Prince Moron ever said to her before he was taken back to his castle and Karmir hoped that in this time he learns how to be a decent human being.
“For what Karmir?”
“Because you saved me from danger Zen. But I’m sorry it looks like that I’m only poisonous to you.”
“Is that supposed to be a joke because I was poisoned by an apple and, you’re as red as one is that what you mean?”
“No, not really.”
“Don’t worry, it’s not something for which you need to apologize. Zen made the choice to eat the apple himself but, we all should’ve been more careful about it that’s all. Although, Mitsuhide carried on like the end of the world was near and started to weep like a child.”
“Hey, shut up Kiki!”
“Okay, okay next time I have fruit I’ll have Mitsuhide test it out before I eat it.”
“What’s that now?”
“Haha! Karmir do you remember what I said to you in the forest, I meant every word. And I truly hope are fate brought us together for something good. We both happened to be in the same place for very different reasons and we saved each other, maybe poison isn’t always bad, maybe our meeting wasn’t a fluke but, the beginning of a new chapter I guess it’s up to you now.”
“Is that true that I can choose my fate for myself?”
“Of course, that’s exactly what I’m doing and no one is going to stop me.You can follow one path or you can go a different direction neither of which is wrong.”
“Zen you . . .”
“You know I really do like the way you think.”
“But, it’s not how I think it’s how I live. So, what’s your answer?” He asked holding out his hand.
This is her story. If she had her own way on the path after this encounter you could hear the sound of pages turning in the story and they echo like her footsteps moving towards
“destiny,” and with that she took his hand.