As the fog cleared in her brain, Margaret realized she was still alive, laying face down in wet sand on a shoreline of some kind. How did she get here and where on Earth is “here”? She pushed herself up off of the ground onto her hands and knees, spitting the dirt and sand out of her mouth. From there, she got up shakily and glanced around. Still wiping the sand off of her face, Margaret could barely make out her surroundings in the dark. Maybe off to her side was some debris that had washed ashore along with her. She stumbled towards the wooden object to her left, then collapsed down onto the beach.
Thomas was walking along the shoreline, gathering mussels and putting them into his tin bucket. In the new light of the morning, he could see the sea had brought in many items after the storm the night before. He picked his way through what looked like the remains of a ship, searching for clues as to what vessel had been lost at sea.
The body was crumpled up next to a large chunk of wood, possibly a mast. Tossing down his catch of the morning, Thomas ran over to the figure, concerned for its welfare. Reaching the waterlogged individual, the fisherman gently touched the female. She stirred, then rolled over onto her back. Her long, wet, black hair was covered in kelp and sand. Her tattered garments appeared to be those of a wealthy person. Thomas had found a survivor.
“Milady,” he said, gently nudging her again. “Milady, please wake up.” She stirred, then opened her green eyes.
Seeing the young man standing over her, Margaret panicked. Was he a friend or a foe, she wondered. She tried to get up but fell back down. He reached out a hand to assist her, which she first looked at, then took. He helped her sit up.
“Are you alright, Milady?” he asked. There was genuine concern on his face and in his voice. Margaret relaxed a little bit.
“I'm not sure,” she said, rubbing the soreness on her right arm.
Thomas had stooped down next to the woman. He reached out his hand to her, a smile on his face. “My name is Thomas Porter. Welcome to the Island of Tremble.”
Margaret reached out and took his hand. His handshake was firm, his hands calloused. “My name is Anne,” she said, using the name of her handmaiden. One can never be too sure how the people on this remote island would react to the presence of an embattled monarch.
“Pleased to meet you, Anne,” Thomas said as he shook her hand. After releasing it, he regarded the sorry state of her clothing. “I think I should get you back to the Village and help you find some clean, dry clothes to wear and maybe some food to eat. How does that sound?”
Margaret's stomach rumbled in answer. She looked down at her middle as if to shush it. “That would be lovely, Thomas.” She tried to stand up but tumbled back down to the ground. Thomas leaned forward, giving her some leverage. She managed to stand up with his assistance.
“Do you think you can walk, Milady?” Thomas asked as he helped steady her. She leaned into him and managed to take a few steps.
“How far is it, Thomas?” she asked.
“Not far. Perhaps a few rods from here. The way is smooth and clear with few obstacles to overcome. We can stop to rest along the way if you need to.”
Margaret smiled. “Thank you. I think I can manage with your assistance.”
Thomas and Margaret made their way up the shore to a road. Soon they reached the small village Thomas lived in. He helped her to the village square, where a bench was located near the town well. Margaret sat down on the wooden bench gratefully. Thomas looked at the survivor he had just rescued. “I will go fetch the village physician, as well as to inquire about procuring some food and clothing for you. The sun is warm, you will dry off a bit and rest while I see what I can do for you. I suspect you are too tired to go any further at this point,” he said.
Margaret nodded. Thomas went to the well and drew some water from it. Taking a cup that was kept near the well, he ladled out some water into it, then handed it to his companion. “Here, you must be thirsty,” he said. Margaret took the cup gratefully and drank from it. The cool water felt good on her parched throat. “Thank you, Thomas, you have been most kind.” The young man smiled, then turned to find some help for the woman.
Thomas found the physician in his home, completing his breakfast. After learning Thomas had found a shipwreck survivor on their shores, Dr. Grainger put down his tea and hurried to the town square.
While Margaret was waiting for Thomas to return, she picked the vegetation from her hair and attempted to wash the sand from her skin. It was everywhere! She must have brought half the sea bed with her to this quaint little place. As she was shaking out her petticoats, the two approached her.
“Anne, this is Dr. Grainger, our town physician. Please allow him to inspect you for wounds or injuries.” Thomas pointed towards the physician. Margaret smiled at the elderly man and reached out her hand. “Pleased to meet you, Dr. Grainger. Thank you for agreeing to see me.”
The Dr walked over to the disheveled woman and squatted down next to the bench she was sitting on. “You may be more comfortable back in my office. Are you able to walk?”
Margaret's strength was returning. She nodded, and the Dr helped her up. They walked slowly to the Dr.'s office on the outskirts of the Square while Thomas ran off to acquire some food and clothing.
“Thomas said he found you on the shore. What ship were you on and how did it meet its end?”
“That was to the point,” thought Margaret. Meeting the Dr.'s gaze, Margaret took a deep breath. “I was on board the good ship Eternal when we were overcome by a storm. The last thing I remember is it splintering to pieces and being plunged into the cold, dark sea.”
“That's the King's ship,” Dr. Grainger reported. “Why were you on the King's ship?”
“We were escaping an assassination attempt on the life of Princess Margaret. The ship was pursued, but we lost the attackers in the night. Next thing we knew, the storm was upon us and the already damaged vessel was no match for the fury of the sea.”
“Do you know the fate of the Princess?” asked the physician kindly.
“I have no idea if anyone else from the Eternal survived,” she replied, looking down onto the stone floor of the Dr.'s office.
“Well, this is tragic!” exclaimed the physician. “We have to report this to His Majesty at once.”
Margaret looked at the doctor in surprise. “Why?” she asked.
“The Island of Tremble has always been loyal to the Crown. It is our duty to inform him that the ship sank and his daughter may be lost.”
“She isn't,” Margaret said hastily. “She has been found.”
“How do you know? You told me you had no idea if anyone else from the Eternal survived.”
Margaret inhaled deeply. “Because I am Princess Margaret, second daughter of King Edward III.”
The Dr. bowed before his patient. “Your Majesty,” he said reverently.
The princess reached down and took the man's hands. “I am sorry for the deception. I didn't know if this place was friendly or a foe and I couldn't risk telling you my true identity until I knew for sure.”
“That is understandable, Your Majesty, since you had just survived an assassination attempt only to be shipwrecked and tossed up in an unknown land. I would be cautious as well.
“In any case, we must send word to your Father that you are alive. He will send back any instructions once he hears your tale.
“While we wait, I will help you find a place to stay during your visit with us. Thomas should have found you some clothing by now, and perhaps some food as well. We shall get you settled in no time, your Majesty!”
“Thank you, Doctor. If you don't mind, I'd like to tell Thomas my real name myself. I feel horrible for having lied to him, even if it was for my safety.”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” replied the Dr.
Thomas took the news of Her Majesty's identity rather well. He understood completely why she didn't trust him at first, and why she gave him someone else's name. He did his best to help her in any way he could during her stay. When the day finally came when Margaret was to return to the castle of her father, Thomas gave her a wooden carving he had made out of parts from the Eternal. It was an image of a small rabbit crouched on a log. Princess Margaret flung her arms around the young man when he gave it to her and whispered “thank you for your kindness. I shall always treasure this knowing you made it for me out of my destroyed ship.” The whole village stood at the harbor and waved as their monarch, and a new friend, sailed out to sea.