The King's Slave

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Chapter 21 - Falling Fast

May 2, 1645
Somewhere in the Bordenn Ocean
Near the Borders of Virlinn

-Duncan-


Rurik and I were in my cabin as we pored over maps that would help us navigate to our destinations. “I think we’ll be there tomorrow before nightfall.” Rurik declared. I checked his calculations and nodded.

“What are we doing in Virlinn anyway, captain?” he asked. I leant back in my chair and placed my hands on the back of my head. “We’ll ask the King’s help to get Adrienne.” I replied. Rurik looked at me as if I’ve gone crazy.

“Why him?” he asked. “Before we left Amaranth, years ago, it was already a well-known fact that the King of Virlinn coveted Ivaris. He wants Ivaris for his own. If we get Adrienne, we’ll pledge the support of Amaranth to his cause. Also, I think he’s going to love the idea that he was able to steal away the bride of his enemy.” I explained.

Rurik slowly shook his head. “We cannot trust him. He is a ruthless scoundrel.” Rurik replied. I raised an eyebrow. “So is the King of Ivaris. We cannot let out princess stay with him.” I said with determination. Rurik was silent for a long time before he finally nodded.

“So when we reach Virlinn tomorrow, we just march in there and demand for the King?” he asked. “No.” I replied.

“We won’t make ourselves seen. We’d go to his palace without announcing ourselves. The King of Ivaris may have spies scattered all over the kingdom and it won’t do us any good if he hides Adrienne somewhere.”

“Sounds to me like you have this all planned out, captain.” Rurik said with a grin. “Aye.” I replied.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of five bells. Rurik and I were both out of our chairs in a breath and were heading towards the deck of the ship. “What is it?” I shouted to Jack who climbed all the way up the sails with a spyglass in hand.

“Pirates, captain! Their gaining on us!” he shouted as he climbed down. They all looked to me for orders. “How much gun powder do we have?” I asked Chard, our weapons expert. “Barely enough, captain.” He replied.

“Can we outrun them?” I asked Jack, our lead sailor. He looked up, checked the sails and shook his head. “She’s runnin’ as fast as she can, captain.”

“Well, then, go to your posts! Twins, man the weapons!” The bulkiest of all my men were the twins: Harry and Barry. They could carry the heaviest loads and they were lethal when it comes to hand-to-hand combat and wrestling. “Aye, captain!” they said in unison and then hurried under deck towards the cannons.

“Arm yourselves, men!” I shouted as I tossed pistols and swords towards them. They caught in and tucked it into the waistband of their pants. “Jack, hold her steady.” I ordered and Jack quickly went towards the wheel.

The pirate ship came into view and it was almost twice as bigger than ours. “Damn.” Kurt muttered under his breath. “Double damn.” Brodie remarked.

“Quiet you two! Kurt! Brodie! Up those sails! Fire away and kill as many pirates as you could!” I commanded and they quickly scrambled up the poles. I withdrew my sword and readied myself for battle. “Colin! Drop anchor. Jack, turn her around!” My commands were quickly answered. Just a few more seconds and we came face to face with the pirate ship.

The pirates wore grins on their faces. “Come to surrender, lads?” one pirate asked us. “Never!” I replied. The grins on their faces faded. “You think to fight us?” the pirate asked again, I assumed he was their leader. The pirates laughed at their leader’s statement. “Plan, captain?” Rurik whispered beside me.

“Trust me.” I replied. “Yes. We shall fight.” I replied and the pirates howled with laughter once more. “Twins, fire!” my command was answered by loud cannon blasts. The pirates scrambled and I heard their cannons being loaded too.

“Brace yourselves!” I commanded as Rurik and I held on to one of the main poles. Cannonballs hit the ship and wood splintered everywhere. One of their cannonballs hit our sails and the poles went down. Another round of blasts were exchanged and I knew our ship couldn’t take any more damage.

“Cease!” I commanded the twins and they did. Let the pirates think they’ve won and they’d soon be boarding our ship to take whatever cargo they could find. I saw Brodie and Kurt firing away with their pistols and they were damned good shots. A number of pirates fell into the waters.

“Wait.” I commanded the others beside me. I looked into the pirates’ ship and true enough, they were already preparing ropes so they could board ours. “Pretend to be dead!” I shouted as I laid down on the deck. The others squeezed themselves inside the poles that were brought down.

The leader of the pirates was the first to swing and land on our ship. I saw his malicious grin as he thought my crew dead. He signalled his men to come and they swung with noisy glee. They headed below deck to scavenge and only a handful of men remained on deck. The ship groaned and then began to sink slowly. A cannonball must’ve damaged the hull and now the ship was filling up with water.

“What now, captain?” Elliott asked me. “Wait.” I replied. When I heard the pirates’ laughter as they found our food stores, weapons and gold, I stood up and then withdrew my sword. “Jump ship!” I commanded and grabbed the ropes the pirates used to board our ship. I gave the rope to Elliott and commanded him, “Kill all the pirates in the other ship!”

The pirates remaining on deck ran towards us but they quickly died by my sword. “Brodie! Kurt! To the other ship!” More pirates came toward Rurik and I but we’ve fought side by side for hundreds of times already. We knew how to protect each other’s back and we both fought excellently.

The ropes were tossed back to us and the twins followed. The others soon jumped ship too and it was only me and Rurik remaining. As soon as the ropes were swung back to us, we caught it and then secured ourselves and jumped. The pirates we were fighting with roared with rage.

“To the cannons, again!” I shouted to Harry and Barry. “Colin, Elliott, go with them. Kill whoever pirate is left.” I ordered and then withdrew my sword again to fight with the other remaining pirates.

“Looks like we got ourselves a new ship!” Jack shouted with glee as he knocked two pirates off deck and into the ocean. “Indeed, we have.” I replied with a grin. “She’s a beauty, captain!” Jack shouted as he went to the wheel. “She’s going to be a fast one.” He remarked.

“Weapons ready, captain!” I heard the twins shout. “Fire away and sink that blasted ship!” I replied and pointed to our ship. My men cheered and flicked rude gestures towards the pirates.

The pirates were now hanging ropes so that they could swing back to our ship. Whenever one swung, I quickly cut away the ropes and they fell into the ocean.

More wood flew and the ship sunk at a faster rate as more holes were drilled into it. Rurik grinned with satisfaction. “You messed with the wrong men, you filthy pirates!” Brodie shouted. By now, we’ve gained control of the Pirate ship and no pirates remained on board. They’ve all been tossed overboard.

“Haul anchor! Unfurl those sails and let us ride with the wind!” I shouted to my men and they scrambled on deck to obey those commands. I heard the anchor being raised and the sails unfurled. There was a huge lurch as the wind caught the sails and soon, the ship was gliding effortlessly.

“Thank you, gentlemen for the bigger, better ship!” I shouted to the pirates. They answered me with all the curses they knew. I just grinned at them and tipped my hat as we glided away.



May 3, 1645
Glenn Forest
Near the Shores of Burnham Bay, Ivaris


-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-


We followed the trail of our attackers all night. They led us into an enclosed clearing which served as their camp. I, together with Malcolm and my men watched from a hidden place and took in all we could about this camp. We could not attack it for there were too many of them and we were sorely outnumbered.

It looked like an army of around five thousand men. There were only around fifty of us. I checked for signs of a banner or any colors that would identify them. But there was none... They only wore their silver armor and not a banner was in sight. I tried to check the faces of their high-ranking officials but I recognized no one.

When dawn broke and the sun was about to rise, I knew we must head back to camp. We could not stay here for when the sun is up, we will easily be seen from our hiding positions. I signalled my men to go back to camp and we backed away slowly.

When we were far enough, we rode our horses once more and spurred them on a fast gallop back to camp. When our camp at the beach came into view, I quickly searched for her, my queen. She sat huddled underneath a huge pile of furs but I could still see that she was shivering. The men have doused the fire so that our camp will not be seen. The tent we stayed at was ripped to shreds. There was no other source of warmth for her.

I dismounted my horse and rushed towards her. Her cheeks were very pale and she looked tired. “Your h-highness... t-Thank the G-gods f-for your s-s-safe return...” she said and I heard her teeth chattering.

“Seth.” I reminded her with a smile. I removed the furs and sat next to her. Then, I rearranged the furs back and covered both of us. “Come here. I’ll keep you warm.” I ordered. I settled her on my lap, facing me. I took her hands and placed it on my chest. I gasped at the icy contact and she shot me an apologetic smile. “It’s alright.” I whispered and slowly massaged her limbs to get the blood to circulate once more.

She relaxed against me and I wrapped her in my arms to keep her warm. “Better?” I asked. She nodded. I reached for the bag beside me and took out some bread and cheese. “We’ll eat and then return to Ravenswood right away.” I said and then broke the bread and handed the other half to her. She ate it quickly.

“You’ll ride with me today so I could warm you.” I told her and saw her blush. My men quickly dismantled our camp and mounted their horses. I helped Adrienne onto Lightning and sat behind her. Again, I wrapped my cloak and the furs around us. I settled her more comfortable into me and after a few moments, she was asleep once more.

“We cannot take the shortcut to Ravenswood through the forest. We do not know if more men are scattered elsewhere. We’d have to take the long route towards the village.” Malcolm said and I nodded. “Send scouts ahead to check if the route is safe.”

The detour to the village will take us about a day and a half’s ride instead of it taking just half a day. Maybe we could rent an inn at the village and then Adrienne could sleep comfortably in front of a fire and on a warm bed.

The sun was almost setting when we reached the village. I saw both fear and admiration in the eyes of the villagers as they looked upon us. “The King and Queen are here!” a little boy shouted and more villagers went out of their homes to glance at us. “She’s beautiful!” a little girl shouted as she pointed at Adrienne.

“Indeed she is, that’s why she’s queen.” I said and winked at her. They other villagers all bowed low and murmured their greetings. I nodded to them. Malcolm went ahead to find suitable accommodations for us.

While we were waiting for him to return, we waited in the town center. Adrienne stirred in my arms and looked at me sleepily. “We’ll spend the night here in the village.” I whispered to her and smiled. She smiled back at me.

“Mommy, look! They look really good together.” A young boy said as he pulled at his mother’s skirt and pointed at us. “Yes.” The mother said and turned red before she hauled her son away. Adrienne smiled at them both and my something flipped inside my chest again.

“What an adorable child.” She remarked. I gathered her closer to me and arranged the furs around us.

Before I could stop myself, I replied with “I wish we’d have our own.” I instantly regretted the words when they spilled from my lips. I should never have shared that information with her. She may not be ready for this yet. She’s been forced to this marriage and now she’ll think I’m forcing her to have my son.

I was taken aback when she looked at me with so much warmth. She squeezed my hand and said, “Well. I hope so too.” I did not know how to reply to that so I just kept my silence. But it was as if a large thorn has been plucked from my chest.

Malcolm returned and we went to the inn. It was not that big but it was not too shabby either. But I doubt that Adrienne would be comfortable here. I’ve slept in worse conditions during wars but she would’ve known only the comfort of being royalty all her life.

She looked at me and laughed. “It’s fine with me. I lived as a slave for months, remember?” she said and walked inside the inn. I opened my pouch and handed the innkeeper a few gold coins. “How many rooms do you have to spare?” I asked.

“Just one, your highness.” The innkeeper replied. “We’ll take it. Send dinner up and a bath for my queen.” I said and laid another few coins on the table. Then I took Adrienne’s hand and we went upstairs.

That night, after we ate and bathed, we sated our passions and slept in each other’s arms. It’s only been eleven days since I’ve been married but I’ve already found myself sinking into a blissful routine. Who knew being married was like this? I gathered Adrienne closer and inhaled her sweet lavender scent. This was how I wanted to spend every night: just holding her, seeing she had everything she wanted and making sure she was safe.

My hand drifted down to her belly and I laid it there and wished that we would have our own child soon. Maybe when that happens, Adrienne would be more comfortable in Ivaris and she won’t think about leaving me again.

I remembered my father, King Anstruther and all the lessons in life he taught me. He taught me to be a hard king like he is and to guard my emotions from all, except one: my queen. I knew he loved my mother and they were inseparable. My father often told me the story of how he met my mother and knew that he had to have her right away. He told me how he defied the custom and married a commoner.

My father was a tough man, a ruthless warrior, a just king and he had one weakness: my mother. He told me that behind his every success was my mother and he would never find another woman like her. My father never kept a mistress and he always remained true to my mother.

I wanted that kind of marriage. I wanted that kind of partnership. Maybe that was one of the reasons why I resisted an arranged marriage. It was because I wanted to find my own woman. I wanted to gaze upon her beauty and then fall instantly in love.

But too much things has happened to me now and changed my views about love. Love? Could I give that to her? Do I still have the capacity to love inside of me or have I grown too hardened? Can she love me in return?


May 10, 1645 (1 Week Later)
Ravenswood Castle
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris


-Queen Almira Adrienne Ivaris-


“I have a surprise for you.” Seth said to me as we were eating lunch. “What?” I asked excitedly. “Eat and then I’ll show you afterwards.” He replied. “Please not more jewels. I hate it.” I said and Seth laughed. “I know how you feel about those and rest assured, the surprise does not entail jewels.”

I quickly ate my lunch and waited excitedly for him to finish his. Then my thoughts went back to last week. Since we’ve returned from our little trip to the ocean, Seth and I fell into some sort of a comfortable co-existence.

We spent the day doing our own things. I usually went to the village or the city together with my guards and see how the people are doing. When I’m not in the city, I was in Ravenswood and overseeing the estate. Seth was usually in his study or with his men in the training fields but he always made it a point to have dinner with me. And then our nights... Our nights were always filled with passion and he always slept by my side.

I always asked the servants to tell me if he went to visit his mistresses but they tell me that he never visited them again.

The King stood up and took my hand. I followed him and we headed upstairs to his study. He opened the door and said softly, “Surprise...”

I scanned his study and then saw it. He had another desk placed parallel to his. The desk sat near the window and it was made of the finest mahogany wood. The desktop was filled with ink and quills.

“I need you close for we’ll be starting work in restoring Amaranth. I have the best architects in Ivaris already sent there so that they could survey the damages to the structures, including the palace and to propose repairs or new ones to be built.” The king said softly.

I was overwhelmed with everything and I didn’t know how to respond so I just threw my arms around him and hugged him tight. He chuckled and then said, “That was the reaction I was aiming for.” I rolled my eyes at him and then sat on the chair by my desk and touched the smooth wood.

“You like it?” he asked.

“Yes. Very much.” I replied as I opened one of the ink pots.

“Good. Let’s start working then. Would it be too much if I ask you to handle the personal correspondence sent to us from now on?” he asked and then pointed to a stack of letters. “No! Not at all! I have nothing to do!” I said and grabbed the pile excitedly.

“You are already overseeing to my estate and to the village and you complain that you have nothing to do?” He teased and shook his head as he chuckled.

Seth sat in his chair and started to work on his own pile of papers. His brows were furrowed in concentration. I sat in my chair and started opening the letters. Most of them were invitations to grand parties. “These are mostly invitations.” I told Seth. “Pick the ones you would like to attend and we’ll see if we can squeeze it in my schedule.” He replied, his eyes never leaving the papers he was reading.

I sorted the invitations in two piles: not attending and will consider it. I continued opening letters and the next ones surprised me. They were all letters from King Seth’s friends saying that their wives have conceived and that they would have heirs soon.

I recognized some of the names from the ball the Duke of Escrow held almost two months ago. The letters were filled with so much pride and gratefulness. Many letters also contained the information that their wives have caught the plague yet they were now about to be blessed with a child.

“Errr... Seth... You have letters from your friends informing you that their wives are with child.” I told him.

“That’s great.” He replied distractedly as he continued to write something on a piece of parchment. “There are about forty letters here like that.” I said.

“Oh? That’s great.” He replied again. “They are all with us at the ball in Escrow. The day I felt that magic in the room. The red mist. The golden sparks.” I said. Finally, he lifted his gaze and walked over to my desk.

He rested his hip on one corner and began thumbing through the letters. “You think there’s some sort of connection?” he asked me. I shrugged. “Some letters say that their wives have caught the plague and yet they are now with child. Other letters say that their wives are already beyond child-bearing age and are now pregnant.” I explained.

“It’s a good thing. Maybe the curse that the plague brings is already broken.” The King said. “I hope so.” I replied. “This is certainly good news! Please separate these letters and I would have my scribe send these families with a letter of congratulations from both of us.” I nodded and smiled at him. Then we went to work and read our separate letters once more.

When I was done with the huge pile of letters, I took out another piece of parchment and began to write some of my plans for Amaranth. I want to make a new market and make it a center of trading. I created a list of all my plans and made a mental note to discuss it with the King when he had time. I made another list and this one was about the pleas of the citizens of Ivaris from when I held court this morning.

Before I knew it, time has flown and the room was almost flooded with darkness. The King stood up and went to my desk once more. He looked at me curiously. “You’ve been steadily coughing for the last few hours.” He said. “My throat has been feeling very dry lately.” I replied in a hoarse voice. “Retire to our chamber and I’ll have our dinner brought up instead.” He commanded. I opened my mouth to argue but he had this determined look on his face. I could waste all my energy in trying to sway him but I wouldn’t be able to. It would just be like debating with a brick wall.

I nodded and then stood up and walked out the room. The moment I closed the door, I instantly felt very weary and I had to hold on to Lachlan’s arm for support. I entered our chambers and then collapsed on the bed. I suddenly felt nauseous and I vaulted off the bed and ran into the nearest chamber pot where I heaved everything I ate.

Finnie entered the room and she gently massaged my back and held my hair as I vomited. When I was done, she led me to the bed and wiped my face with a cool cloth. “Rest, your highness. I’d have some soup brought up to you.” She said with a kind smile. The thought of food made my stomach roll once more. Finnie helped me remove my gown and don my nightshirt. The moment my head hit the pillow, I was asleep.


May 11, 1645 (The Next Day)
Ravenswood Castle
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris


-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-


When I came back to our chambers yesterday, I found Adrienne already fast asleep on the bed. I ended up eating my dinner alone. I could not disturb her for she was already resting very peacefully.

When I woke up this morning, I reached for her and tried to embrace her but her skin felt very hot. She must be coming down with something. I quickly jumped off the bed and began to dress. “Send for the physician.” I ordered the footman outside. Adrienne’s maids entered the room and they both looked very worried when they felt her fevered skin.

“We shall take care of her, your highness.” They promised me. “I’ll return very quickly. I’ll just leave instructions to my men and I’ll stay here.” I said. They both smiled and began to wipe Adrienne’s body using a cool cloth. She groaned and then began coughing once more.

It pained me to leave her like that but I must give instructions to my men. I’ll do it quickly so that I could return by her side. I went down the castle and saw the servants burning some cloths and linens. They had their noses covered and were seeing to the task very quickly.

I walked towards the entrance of the castle but I saw Malcolm already heading towards me. “Malcolm, send some men into the village. I’ve received a letter about another feud regarding clans and their cattle.” I said. Malcolm shook his head. “Not now. The entire village is closed off.” Malcolm replied. “Why?” I asked.

“The plague is upon us. Many women from the village have died already.” He said. My knees almost buckled at his words. “Gods, the plague is here in Ravenswood! I saw the servants burning soiled linens!” I exclaimed. “Best keep the queen in her rooms so that she won’t catch it.” Before he completed his statement, I was already rushing to our chamber.

Gods, please don’t let Adrienne have the plague... Not her, please...

I opened the door and the physician sat by her side, examining her. She continued to cough and I saw that her nose was bleeding. The maids quickly wiped the blood away. Something tightened inside me at the thought of her lying so helpless like that...

Any other sickness but not the plague... Please...

I sat at the bed and took Adrienne’s hand. Her skin felt so frail and her hands were cold but her entire body was burning with fever. My entire body clenched with fear as the doctor finished examining her.

“Well?” I asked, putting much effort into keeping my voice from shaking. “The queen has the plague, your majesty.” The physician replied. “No! Check her again!” I roared. “I’m sorry, my king but all the usual signs are there.” He said and then bowed and left the room.

I nodded to Adrienne’s maids and they left the room too. I took the cloth from the basin and washed her face. She opened her eyes and gazed at me. “I don’t think I’d be able to provide you that heir now...” she said with a sad smile. “Shh. Conserve your strength. We’ll talk about those things when you’re better. Besides, haven’t you just read the letters saying that women who have caught the plague now find themselves pregnant?” I said and kissed her forehead. She smiled at me weakly. I squeezed her fingers and tried to pour some of my own heat into them. They were terribly cold, as though that of a corpse’s while her body was hot.

“I want a little boy who looks just like you or a girl who looks like me but she must have your eyes. Your eyes are the rarest, most beautiful color I’ve seen.” She croaked.

I laughed. “Why is it that you only pay me compliments when you’re either drunk or sick?” I teased. She laughed and then started coughing once more. When she was done, I raised her head and gave her some water mixed with a sleeping draught that the physician provided.

I laid her back on the pillows and made sure she was comfortable. “Rest now, my queen. I’ll be here when you wake up. I won’t leave.” I vowed and she smiled again before she closed her eyes...


DUNCAN’S CREW:

Brodie (Hugh Jackman)- the trickster, best spy
Kurt (Brandon Routh)- statistical expert
Rurik (Gerard Butler) - second in command, sharpshooter.
Hunter (Channing Tatum)- best in archery
Colin (Tom Cruise) - tracker
Jack (Ryan Gosling) - pirate, lead sailor
Elliott (Chace Crawford)- soldier and cook
Angus (Jake Gyllenhaal)- medic
Harry and Barry- twin wrestlers
Chard (Chris Hemsworth)- weapons expert

Okay, seriously. Close your mouths. I see your drools from here. LOLJK. =))

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