The Chosen

The Chosen by K. J. Nessly Read Free Book Online

Book: The Chosen by K. J. Nessly Read Free Book Online
Authors: K. J. Nessly
Tags: Fiction, Fantasy
on her lips told her that she had heard correctly. She shifted her gaze to the princess, hardly daring to wish for something so wonderful.
    “That’s a wonderful idea, Arianna,” Jasmine answered for Kathryn and stood slowly. “A hot bath and a hot meal do wonders for a good night’s sleep.”
    “I’ll draw the bath while you show Miss Kathryn the rest.” Arianna rose gracefully and moved through the door and soon Kathryn could hear the sound of running water. She wondered how that was possible. If one wished to bathe, one must first heat water in the kitchens before it could be brought up to the bathing chamber. She hadn’t seen a fireplace in the bathing room that would allow for such a brief interlude between Arianna’s departure and the running water.
    “Come Kathryn, there is more to see,” Jasmine instructed, tearing her mind from the mystery.
    What else could there be? Kathryn wondered. Already she was staying in a room that would have had Lady Blackwood consumed with envy, she would be taking the first bath she’d had in months in a bathtub that resembled a pool more than a tub and would probably be getting the first decent hot meal she’d had in years. What more could there be?
    Jasmine led the way to an armoire opposite the bed and opened it. Reaching inside she pulled out a small nightgown that looked like it had been created specifically for the room’s color scheme. Turing around, she smiled at Kathryn. “I think this is about your size, why don’t you try it on?”
    Slowly, Kathryn began to step forward and then stopped. She looked down at the small bird still nestled against her chest. Jasmine noticed the movement.
    “Let me hold your bird while you dress,” she said kneeling down, then, seeing the panicked look that flickered across the girl’s face hurried to promise, “I’ll give it right back when you’re done.” She knelt down and held out her hand for the baby animal, watching as the first signs of indecision swept across the little girl’s face.
    All her life it had been drilled into Kathryn to obey every order without pause, but for the first time she hesitated. What if Jasmine didn’t give the bird back? Her training won and she slowly surrendered the bird to the Princess, and took the nightgown.
      Jasmine held the little bird and watched as Kathryn slipped out of her old clothes. As she did, Jasmine noticed something. She laid a restraining hand on Kathryn’s shoulder. The little girl had only partway pulled on the nightgown and her back was still mostly bare. Jasmine couldn’t believe what she saw. Multiple thin scars raced up, down, and across her small back. Parts of skin were still bright red, indicating fresh bruises that would soon darken. There were more bruises, each in various stages of healing from a dark blackish-purple to others fading to yellowish-green. Her arms and legs bore the same types of scars and bruises. The only part of her body that seemingly hadn’t been touched was her face.  Jasmine felt sick and angry. What had this poor girl been through? Had the vengeful villagers done this? She didn’t believe Lord Blackwood’s claim that the child before her had murdered someone, and she certainly didn’t believe that she was a sorceress. But she’d heard of places in the kingdom where some villagers still held to the ancient beliefs and superstitions, had seen some of the victims of those villagers. She couldn’t recall a single occurrence that had ended in favor of the condemned. Superstition and fear, she knew from experience, overrode common sense and rational judgment.
    Kneeling down she held Kathryn’s face with her free hand. This time she studied the girl intensely. Her black hair, matted with dirt and tangled so badly that Jasmine doubted even someone with Arianna’s patience would be able to comb it out, hung loosely about her face. Near the edges of Kathryn’s face she could see faint marks that indicated faded bruises. Whoever had done

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