The Artist and the Architect
I was watching the castle the night Prince Richard lost his sister.
The sky hung overcast all afternoon and became heavy towards evening. I sat on the workbench outside our hut watching while the storm came in. Evening had faded to night and the wind swept the fields, but I was not ready to go back inside.
The lightning struck. A thick beam of light struck the high keep, anointing the castle. The battlements I’d stared at all evening were lit for a split second. It was the last time anyone saw the great castle. Lightning upon lightning sparked upon the stones. Down went the battlements! Down went the roof! Down went the walls of stone! The cacophonous destruction and a distant cry of terror bled through the air then was silent. The rain poured out the storm’s remaining fury with smaller flashes of light revealing the castle flattened to ruble.
The rain grew closer and I scurried inside before it could drench me also.
“The castle has fallen! There was a flash of lightning and now it is destroyed!”
Mother and Father stood startled in their nightclothes. Mother’s face was white.
“Surely no! Those stones have laid upon each other for a hundred years!” Father protested.
“But what else could have made such a frightening noise?” Mother objected. “I hope I never hear such a sound again!”
The now ensuing rain drowned out our voices. I clung to my Father and sobbed as hard as the rain pounding our thatched roof outside.
Next morning confirmed what I’d seen. As soon as first light came, the men of the village arose. There was not a soul who did not hear it, with the single exception of the Rupert’s new baby. That child could truly sleep through anything.
Father returned to us at noon to report what he’d seen.
“It is just as Viera said,” he told Mother. His voice was unsteady and his hands shook. “The castle is a pile of rubble and stone. We were able to dig and rescue some from the servant’s quarters and barracks, but many are lost. Lord and Lady Rechus and the princess are missing, no doubt buried under the great hall.”
Tears stung our eyes. Father continued.
“Prince Richard returned last night as it happened. He’s climbing through the rocks calling for his sister.”
“The poor boy!” Mother whispered. The king and queen had passed from the epidemic years ago, and now he had lost his sister.
“A boy he is no longer,” Father sighed. “If stamping out the ruffian rebellion aged him, traveling to the great meeting has brought him full through to manhood. After this sorrow, you will hardly recognize him.”
Once the news traveled through the village, sounds of weeping arched high above quiet whispers. The men worked diligently to unbury the living from the stones, but soon began to find the dead. Lord and Lady Rechus were crushed, along with their children. Father said less and less each time he came home. Neighbors whispered that many deceased were only recognized by their clothes. A few curious boys snuck after the men to see the chaos, but returned white-faced and tear-stricken.
Mother and I worked to keep food on the table so Father could labor without worry. Slowly, the men went back to their usual work as more of the dead were accounted for. Trade resumed and we all tried to return to normal, only we knew we never would.
Weeks passed. An idea came to me, and lingered in my mind until I gave voice to it over dinner:
“I want to draw the castle.”