Do Not Think, Do Not Hope, Just Know

From a young age I realised that love was everywhere; over by the bridge, in the crowded marketplace, behind that tree over there. Elqurin was the city of love and I watched it with a passion; thrived on it. Everywhere I looked there was a couple holding hands, a daughter resting on her mother’s knee, a group of old friends laughing happily, reminiscing on wonderful adventures of the past. There was grand perfect love, terrible heart-wrenching love, and that love somewhere in between. I’ve seen them all, but there is one love that has stayed with me throughout my 80 years. A love so deep, so powerful, it could only last forever.

I first met our lovers in early autumn, the golden remains of spring scurrying across the city square, dodging the feet of a thousand angry men and women. The people of Elqurin were in screaming protest against the royal family after years of unhappiness and chaos. They shrieked at the towering castle, their voices unheard by all but one of the people above. This one uneager listener was young Prince Delfort, and as the peasants’ voices crept into his mind, he stared at himself in the looking glass, hardly recognizing the face before him. He was dirty now, his sharp blue eyes sparkling handsomely beneath the grime. His arms and legs jutted out, almost awkwardly, from his tattered clothes, as if their years and years of hiding beneath fine, lush fabrics had blinded them. He now looked no different from any young man living in the town below; just a simple, carefree boy, with no duty, no hatred, and no suspicious stares directed his way. This is how he wanted it to be. He wanted to walk along the streets without having to hold himself up tall. He didn’t want to have to act like somebody he wasn’t, and never would he have to act again. He wasn’t going to be Prince Delfort anymore, atleast not during the day. No. From now on he would be Debus, a free man.

I was sitting in the busy market place the first time Debus and Isobel met. She was a beautiful girl, with youth still on her side; her cheeks alight in rosy glow and her smile full of sweetness and purity. When she walked it seemed that men should simply follow, and they usually did, in absolute awe. Though these attentions had been paid to her from a very young age, Isobel had never really taken much notice. She was far too angelic to ever think of that sort of love, and with a brother, father and no mother, she rarely saw men as anything but friendly acquaintances. That was until she met Debus.

Soon after his transformation from handsome prince to city peasant, Debus decided it would be sensible and rather fun to find a work position at one of the many market stalls. I still remember the markets clearly. It’s not very hard; they’ve barely changed since then. The air in the markets was always rich with sweat, though nobody stopped to realise. They just continued yelling at one another, trying to speak over the general chatter and the angry stall owners who spent most of the day bellowing at their workers. It was these sorts of men Debus was out to avoid, and eventually, in a small corner of the market place, he found Tuli Tangora, a smiling freckled face full of unexpected invitation. Within the hour Debus had secured a job in the colourful fruit stall and he and Tuli were getting on like they’d known each other forever.

“What brings you to the market place? Are you new in Elqurin?” Tuli had asked. Debus paused for a moment, running his smooth hands over the rows of rounded fruits, then , without looking up, replied
“Yes. Yes, I am from far away. I- I suppose I decided I needed change… adventure.”
“Well, you’ll definitely find that here” laughed Tuli. “Everyday is a battle to save this city.”
“What do you mean?” Debus raised his eyes to Tuli’s face in interest.
“The bastard royals don’t care about our lot, just theirs. They take, take, take and never give… rotten scum, year after year just taking from us.” Debus was about to point out otherwise when Tuli’s little sister, Isobel appeared. She walked in to the scene dressed in a long white gown, silver droplets of pearl hanging beautifully around her neck. She looked from one man to the other in gentle questioning, then opened her face into a soft, lovely smile. She stared up at Debus’ and it was evident that within moments they were entirely in love. All questions, on Debus’ part, were forgotten at that moment. He need not defend his family’s honour. Not now. His conversation with Tuli was forgotten, his day was forgotten, Elqurin was forgotten, his entire life was forgotten. As far as he could see, now all that existed was Isobel.

The lovers were welcome in Tuli’s family. Debus and Tuli became best friends, and I can still remember watching them walk through the city square, laughing and talking. Infact, they were so close that whenever Debus was not with Isobel, he was with her brother. Isobel’s father soon came to love Debus too, and lunch at the Tangora home became a daily custom. To an outsider like myself, the young lovers’ relationship seemed lovely, yet insignificant. People saw Debus and Isobel like they saw any other youthful couple in love. Nobody could see beneath the happiness, the laughter, the undying friendship, but of course there was something else there. Something that neither Tuli nor Isobel nor Mr. Tangora knew of. Only Debus, by the candlelight of his warm bed chamber, could know that the face staring back at him from the silver looking-glass was Delfort, Prince of Elqurin.

Months passed, seasons changed. The cool flaking autumn transformed into a vibrant spring. Then in the blink of an eye it was summer, and the trees were tired and sodden with sweat, as were the people lying about in every corner of the sleepy city. Isobel and Debus had been together throughout these changes and they were still as happy as ever. Never were they without one another, staring lovingly into each other’s eyes.

Now and then Isobel would become a little suspicious of Debus. I could see it in her eyes at times, and hear it in her words. Every so often we would learn that the Prince had been hurt while hunting, and then Debus would turn up the next day with a similar wound and no explanation. Or Prince Delfort might not attend to a critical royal meeting, and then that same day Debus would act surprisingly stressed and edgy, like he knew he was meant to be somewhere important. These small things added up in Isobel’s mind, that much was obvious, but in truth I don’t think she ever really sought to find out if Debus was the Prince. She didn’t want to face reality. She didn’t want the dreadful truth.

One bright morning I was resting in the pleasant shadow of a willow, when a giggling Isobel and Debus ran pass, hand in hand. They threw themselves behind a green streak of shrubbery near by, kissing and hugging… actually I felt a little uncomfortable about it all. I just sat quietly, trying not to listen, but doing so anyway.
“Do you think we’ll always be like this?” asked Isobel, probably staring up into Debus’ piercing eyes.
“Yes, I think so” replied Debus.
“Think?”
“Well, I hope so” he answered.
“I don’t think, or hope” said Isobel, almost dreamily, “I know… I know we will always be like this.” Debus laughed, but kissing noises soon emerged from their little hiding place, and again I turned my head away and tried to close my mind.
“Do you think- maybe-?” asked Debus, his voice nervous.
“Maybe what?”
“Well, I’m going away soon-” Isobel’s face must have dropped at the news, because Debus corrected himself immediately.
“I’m going away soon, down the east road to Grafineis to visit my kin. Only for a little while, of course, but I wondered if perhaps… before I went… if maybe you would agree to marry me?”
All I heard then was a scream. Not a terrified scream, nor an angry scream, but a beautiful, wonderful scream of joy. A moment later, Debus and his bride-to-be came running out, their faces filled with happiness. Isobel leapt at me in a warm embrace, then let go and kept on skipping, smiling wonderfully. Debus followed, after pointing her out to me and exclaiming ecstatically
“Oh isn’t she beautiful! My future wife! Mine!” I swear that was one of the most cheerful minutes of my life, and theirs too I assume. Delight and joy was absolutely everywhere, but of course this story wouldn’t be much of a story if it had stayed that way. No, I fear that even the best of things have to come to an end eventually. Sometimes it’s just too soon.

While the young couple celebrated their love, the King and Queen were greeting their people with some news of their own. The town folk stood gathered beneath the castle, mostly waiting for an opportunity to put forward their complaints, but also listening eagerly to the report.
“People of Elqurin” the King’s voice boomed out over the crowd, from his small stone balcony, high above. “I have news for you. As our kingdom creates friendships within its walls,” he smiled as he spoke, though his black eyes remained cold and cruel, “it creates friendships with other kingdoms. My son, Crown Prince Delfort, is setting out this morning, to create one of these remarkable acquaintances with the neighbouring kingdom of Ansatheana. He will stay there until Saturday next and hopefully when he has returned we will be blessed with the splendid friendship of Ansatheana for many years to come. Thank you my people and good day!” The King waved carelessly at the mass below, returning indoors as the booing and hissing began, but not all had forgotten his speech so soon. Tuli Tangora stood in the screaming swarm of people, whispering seriously with his friends.
“This afternoon he said.”
“Yes, he’ll be taking the east road, out to Dunkeary.”
“I can’t believe it. Finally we can end it all.”
“I know. The Crown Prince of Elqurin, only heir to the throne, dead by our hands.”
“We’ll be heroes!”
Tuli didn’t smile; instead sadness welled in his eyes as he spoke. “And Elqurin will be safe again” were the words he whispered.

Isobel had not heard the news of the Prince’s trip. She had not heard of her brother’s plans. Debus had left her only 10 minutes ago, but already she longed for him. She wasn’t unhappy, of course. How could she be unhappy? It was the best day of her life! She was marrying an incredible man whom she loved with all her heart! All she had to do was wait until Saturday next, and Debus would be back in her arms again, holding her tight. It was then that Mr. Tangora entered the house, singing with joy.
“Oh it’s over! Over! Over! Soon it will be over!” he chanted, as he entered the room and smiled down at his daughter, tears of happiness in his eyes.
“What is? What?” Isobel asked, perplexed.
“The war between the city and the Royals! The chaos, the pain, the poverty! Elqurin will be free again!” Isobel leapt up in happiness and embraced her father, laughing.
“But how? Who?” she asked excitedly.
“Tuli! Our own Tuli is saving Elqurin as we speak! He’s cornering Prince Delfort’s carriage with the help of the others.” her father replied.
“Prince Delfort’s carriage? Where is he going?”
“Didn’t you hear? The King has sent him to make friends with Ansatheana. Ha! I suppose he’ll never make it now.”
“Ansatheana? On the east road?” Isobel asked, getting a little worried now.
“Ay! The east road.”
“W-when is the Prince expected back?” Isobel was scared now, Debus looming in her mind.
“Saturday next, I heard. Not anymore of course. I wonder if they’ve got him yet…”
“Oh God!” Isobel threw herself down on the bed, tears streaming down her face. “Oh God, God, God!” Mr. Tangora wasn’t sure what to do.
“Isobel? Isobel, what’s wrong?” he asked, trying to be kind in his hour of triumph. She just shook her head, pushing it deeper into her bed blankets. Mr. Tangora placed a hand on her shaking back.
“Isobel?”
“It’s Debus” she sobbed, lifting her head. “He- he’s not Debus.”
Mr. Tangora shook his head.
“What do you mean, darling?”
“I m-mean that T-Tuli isn’t out their k-killing the heir to the throne. He’s out there k-killing m-my Debus. My Debus!” she screamed the last words and ran from the house, grabbing her cloak on the way.
“Her Debus?” repeated Mr. Tangora. “Oh God.”

Isobel sprinted through the streets, tears still streaming down her face, her bare feet pounding on the cobblestone. She had to save him. She had to explain to Tuli, to the rest of the rebels. She had to keep the man she loved safe, whoever he was. Her heart beat quickly in her chest as she reached the outskirts of the city, but she kept on running through the pain. Her breath was wheezy and broken, her lungs gasping for air, but she had to get their before it was too late. Finally the east road came into view and in the distance a carriage, surrounded by men. Isobel ran even faster at this, her movements desperate. Was it too late? Her body screamed at her, telling her to stop, but the carriage was metres away now, and she just couldn’t slow down. She couldn’t let him die.

“STOP!” she bellowed. “PLEASE! PLEASE STOP!” The rebels turned and looked at her in shock. She stood there, the hems of her dress 6 inches deep in dust, her cheeks stained with tears. “Please” she whispered. Slowly, very slowly, the men peeled away and eventually revealed Tuli, leaning over the body of a man, soaked deep in blood. The body was familiar. His dark curls were familiar, his handsome face, and his piercing blue eyes. It was all familiar, too familiar.
“Isobel? W-what’s wrong?” Tuli asked, staring up at his little sister’s despair. She just gazed down at Prince Delfort, falling to her knees beside his corpse.
“He’s dead” she muttered in disbelief.
“Yes. Yes, Delfort is dead” Tuli replied, still puzzled.
“And you did it.”
Tuli gave a small, insecure nod.
“But you didn’t know. You couldn’t help it. You didn’t know.” She moaned in agony and placed her cheek against Delfort’s. “You didn’t know.”
“Know what? What didn’t I know?” Tuli was desperate now, desperate to find out the source of his sister’s pain.
“Debus. H-he wasn’t actually Debus.” Isobel cried softly, her eyes closed, her face still resting on the heart of her love. Tuli’s eyes widened as he realised what she meant.
“You mean- Oh Lord. Oh my friend! All along it was my friend!” His expression twisted in terrible torment as he got to is feet shakily. “I can’t believe it. Debus, dead. And by my hand too… my hand.” He stumbled over to the carriage, leaning on it for support as he drew his dagger from its sheath. “My hand” he whimpered, scared of what he’d done to his best friend. “My hand…” He drove the dagger directly into his heart, and fell with a thud to the ground, his own blood merging with that of his friend. Isobel looked up at the sound of her brother’s heavy body hitting the dusty earth.
“NO! No Tuli!” she shrieked, crawling frantically towards her brother, the blood of Delfort still smeared along her left cheek. She clung onto Tuli’s shirt, her tears falling down on his silent face. “Both dead! Both! And all because of a misunderstanding and false blame. Oh! Both dead and gone!”

And then poor Isobel did something remarkable. She tore off the bottom half of her dress, pulled Delfort on it carefully, grabbed the end and began to walk. She dragged him on past the other men, who stood there in complete awe, some with tears unconsciously running down their faces. She didn’t even take one look at them; instead she just kept walking down the east road, back towards Elqurin. And when she disappeared from view we waited, all silent, not daring move. I sat at the front of the carriage, keeping the horses still. Hours passed and still we waited. Then we saw her coming back again, her tired white legs protruding from her newly short skirt and the large piece of white fabric draped over her arm. She was weary, I could tell, but she simply walked pass us all again, lay out the cloth, pulled her brother on and started walking back to Elqurin for the second time.

We didn’t know how to react. We all sat there stunned and a little stupid; we were strong men who had been reduced to mere boys and disgraced by a woman who was not yet sixteen. And so we all waited once more. Hours passed again, and then another and another until eventually it was so dark that we could no longer see much more than what was directly before us. That was when we decided she wasn’t coming back again. And she didn’t. Ever. We never saw or heard from Isobel Tangora again. She just disappeared, leaving a broken hearted father and a broken hearted city. And of course the graves of the men she had given her love to: Tuli Tangora, whom she had given all her sisterly affection since birth, and Debus Watson, the man she had known would always love her and the man that she would always love. Together these men lay, beneath the willow tree that I so enjoyed sitting by; the tree near which Isobel and Debus had first sworn their love whole-heartedly. Still today, as I walk through that forest, I can not help but pause, as many others do, and read the messy engraving in the soft wood of that tree:

DO NOT THINK, DO NOT HOPE, JUST KNOW THAT OUR LOVE WILL NEVER DIE

Do Not Think, Do Not Hope, Just Know

Jessica Penny

East Ballina, Australia

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Artist's Description

This story was written as part of an English assessment. It had to have some basic features of a Shakespearean tragedy, such as the death of the hero. Personally, I dislike this story very much, but let me know what you think.

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tragedy

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