Chapter 27 - A Chance
May 15, 1645
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
I held Adrienne’s hand in mine and then kissed it before I closed my eyes. I concentrated hard like the goddess instructed me to and thought of myself as a reservoir of a vast amount of energy. She told me that I must channel some of this energy and transfer it towards Adrienne. She said that I’ll know if I did it right when I feel a hum of magic in the air.
I’ve been here since noon and so far nothing has happened.
It took most of my control not to start throwing things out of anger or shouting the entire castle down. I took another deep breath and concentrated on the feeling of Adrienne’s hand on mine. I concentrated on the words I’ll tell her when she wakes up... The things we will do... How I’ll hold her tightly and never let her out of my sight...
Somehow, thinking of Adrienne worked! I felt a small amount of magic in the air. I remembered what the goddess told me and directed the energy towards Adrienne’s hand. I opened my eyes and saw that our hands were now glowing blue but it was very faint...
I can do this...
I closed my eyes again and thought of Adrienne. I remembered the day we first met and how she bumped into me at a slave auction. I remembered the way her beautiful eyes looked up at me and how I felt something like recognition tug at my heart.
I remembered our first night together and how warm she felt in my arms. I remembered how I first took her and how she moaned and writhed underneath me... I remembered how her eyes flashed with anger when I tossed her a ruby bracelet afterwards...
I remembered the day she saved my life. How she ran as fast as she could and stood in front of my horse just to stop me. I remembered how she covered my body with hers in an effort to protect me... I also remembered the cruel way I treated her afterwards and hurt her by opening her wounds.
I remembered how she ran away to escape my cruelty and how she almost got violated by a group of bandits. I remembered how I saved her and how her body felt pressed against mine as we rode back to Ravenswood.
I opened my eyes once more and the blue glow was brighter! I also felt a stronger amount of magic in the air. Adrienne still had her eyes closed but her body was now alight with a faint golden glow...
I closed my eyes again and dug deep into my vault of memories of our time together.
I remembered how beautiful she looked at the ball held by the Duke of Escrow. She didn’t look like a slave but like a queen. I remembered seeing her with James Murray and how every cell in my body was seized by jealousy.
I remembered how we danced across the ballroom and how graceful and beautiful she was in my arms. I remembered feeling the magic in the air and then the desire that flooded my body. And then I remembered how I took her that night...
I flinched and felt the energy falter and grew weak. I squeezed Adrienne’s hand and concentrated once more.
I remembered our wedding... She looked beautiful in her gown which was the color of the sky. We were surrounded with kings and queens from the other kingdoms who wore more lavish gowns than her but Adrienne thwarted them all. She sparkled like a diamond in a sea of broken glass.
I also remembered how sad her eyes looked... Yet no matter what, she carried herself with pride and dignity. I remembered how tears fell from her eyes silently and how much I wanted to wipe them away... I remember how drunk she became and how she told me that my eyes were the most beautiful color she’s ever seen...
I felt the magic getting stronger now... Just a little more...
I remembered our wedding night... I remembered how she danced so beautifully. I remembered how beautiful she looked when her skin was flushed with desire and her lips parted as they searched for mine. I remembered how warm and alive she felt and how her little cries and moans drove me on the brink of madness. I remembered how her wet sheathe fit me like a glove and how I lost myself with pleasure.
I remembered how delicious the food she cooked for me were. I remembered my fear when I saw her leaning down the horse which was replaced by pride when I saw her trick. I remembered how perfectly we fit together when we rode towards the ocean and she rode with me on my horse. I remembered her beautiful face when I told her about the myth of the Sun and Moon...
I remembered how her face lit up when I told her that I wanted children too...
“Adrienne... Open your eyes... Come back to me... This time, I’ll do everything right.” I vowed.
“You did well, Aiken... You used your magic and with that some of your memories will return...” the goddess whispered to me.
Memories? What memories? I don’t think I’ve lost any memories... What could the goddess be talking about?
The stream of magic ended and I opened my eyes again. I felt very tired so lay on the bed beside her, never letting go of her hand. I brushed the stray hair away from her face and then leaned down and kissed her lips.
Then exhaustion got the best of me and I closed my eyes and let sleep take over my body.
-Queen Almira Adrienne Ivaris-
“You must remember... We must fulfil our destiny and restore Aiken to his rightful throne as King of the Gods...” these were Selene’s last words to me before the vision of the meadow in front of me faded away.
I felt a familiar magic in the air and then my body was filled with warmth. The warmth called out to me. It was as if it was beckoning me away from the meadow and leading me towards it. With every passing second, the meadow faded away and darkness enclosed me.
I closed my eyes and then I felt as if I was floating downwards...
When I felt my body stop moving, I tried to open my eyes but it seemed as if my lids were so heavy. I tried to move but my limbs felt stiff and sore. I tried to speak and call out to anyone for help because I felt as though I was drowning but my tongue and my mouth felt so dry.
My lungs felt as though it was on fire and my whole body felt as if I’ve been punched and kicked everywhere. I groaned at the pain and then heard the distinct sound of footsteps. Then I felt someone touch my forehead, my cheeks and my neck...
“Adrienne... Thank the gods!” a very relieved voice said. This time I was able to open my eyes and there he was, the King of Ivaris was standing before me.
He looked at me with a mixture of awe, shock and relief. He blinked away his shock and before I knew it, I was engulfed in his strong arms... He was holding me tightly and I felt the tension ease out of his strong body as he continued to cradle me in his arms.
It actually felt nice so I didn’t complain even if he held me for a long time.
“Thank the Gods...” Seth breathed into my hair. I patted his hand awkwardly and he pulled away and gazed at me. I gazed back at him.
“What happened? How... long was I sick?” I rasped.
“Around five days... You gave all of us quite a scare. You were hanging on to life by a thread! Thank the Gods for this miracle... Don’t ever do that to me again!” he shouted. I flinched and he looked apologetic and hauled me back in his strong arms.
When I felt as if blood stopped flowing in my extremities because of his tight hold, I pulled back and looked at him from head to toe.
He looked dishevelled. His clothing was rumpled in every place and his hair was a mess. There were dark circles under his eyes and he looked as though he lost some weight. He also had some stubble under his chin as though he hasn’t shaved for days.
“Are you unwell?” I rasped. My throat was still dry and every word hurt.
He stilled and then threw back his head and laughed. I missed the sound. And it felt as if his laughter was a balm for all my aches and pains.
“You lie there after having escaped death and you inquire about me?” he said and then laughed again. He gently lifted me and placed some pillows on my back so that I could sit. I sighed for this was much more comfortable and the King smiled at me.
I pointed to his clothes and his rumpled appearance. “What... happened?” I asked in a husky voice.
Again, he laughed and I swore that there’s a hint of relief in his laughter and movements. He poured me some water and then held it to my lips. I drank greedily because of my parched throat. Again, I sighed at the lovely feeling.
“Well, my queen. You got sick.” He replied as though it was the answer to everything.
“So?” I replied. He just shrugged but when he turned back towards me, he had this huge smile on his face.
“Seeing as my bedraggled appearance offends you, I’ll have a bath drawn for me here and then I’d call Vivian and Finnie to help you.” He said and then exited the room. I heard him call out to the servants.
A few minutes later, servants entered the room carrying buckets and buckets of steaming water. They carried it towards the next room which served as the bathing area. Seth withdrew a change of clothes from his chest and then followed the servants.
The door opened again and Vivian and Finnie entered. “Your highness!” they said in unison. Then they knelt before my bed and raised their hands to the heavens.
“Truly the gods guard you and our king! This is a miracle!” said Finnie.
“Yes! Indeed it is! The physician said that you were surely to die but the King never gave up on you!” Vivian remarked.
“W-what do you mean?” I asked.
Their eyes glittered and Vivian looked as though she was going to swoon. She sat by the edge of my bed with a dreamy look in her eyes.
“The King... He never left your side the moment you got sick with the plague...” she answered and it was as though my heart leapt inside my chest.
“Yes... And he even shouted at the physicians and threatened them with death when they couldn’t do anything for you!” Vivian said
“And he went to the Goddess Lai’s temple to sacrifice for your honor!” Finnie added.
“He’s never left this chamber except for that sacrifice. He was the one who tended to you personally. We’ve never seen him like that before!” Vivian gushed.
I remembered hearing soft, soothing words... And then there were times when the words were a plea for me to wake up, to come back... And I also remembered hearing the King’s voice as he was singing to me...
Something inside me softened at the thought that the King cared even a little bit. I smiled and both Vivian and Finnie giggled. “He cares for you, your highness. There’s no doubt about that.” Vivian said. Finnie nodded her agreement.
“He looks as though he hasn’t eaten. Please ask cook to make the bread and the roast beef. The King likes that. Tell her to send it up as soon as possible.” I told my maids. “And a bath for me too, please.” I added.
“You might catch a cold, your majesty! Your body is still frail! Please reconsider the bath.” Finnie begged.
“No... I feel as though I’m going to be sicker with all this grime in my body. A bath please and then I shall try and dine with the King.” I replied and then they both bowed and left.
My mind is a whirl from all the events that’s happened. First of all, I do not know what to make of everything Selene showed me. I don’t know what I should do... I’m afraid that I’ll fail! And I’m afraid because it’s such a huge burden that’s suddenly been put on my shoulders...
Also... For the first time, I now understand the pull I’m feeling towards the King of Ivaris. It’s because Selene and Aiken were lovers and it’s because she said that she and I were the same and so were Aiken and Seth...
All my thoughts stopped when the King strode into the room. His was wearing a new pair of clothes which looked a lot better than what he wore before. He wore a clean white tunic and black breeches and his boots. His hair was still wet and it was plastered on his forehead.
He sat beside me on the bed and placed his fingers under my chin. “You have no idea how scared I’ve been during the last few days. Please don’t do that again.” He said in a voice filled with tenderness.
I don’t know what to make of his words so I just teased him. “Yes... Who’ll irritate you when I’m gone? Who’s going to turn you into a fat man with my cooking? Who’ll make your hair turn white at an early age?” I said with a grin. My voice was still raspy but it was loads better.
Something flashed in the King’s eyes and before I knew it, he pulled me into his arms and my cheek was plastered on his hard chest. “Don’t even jest about leaving me or dying on me.” He said as he stroked my hair.
Whoah. What happened? Why is the king acting like this?
He continued to touch my hair and I was still held in his strong arms. I inhaled and was able to smell his clean, masculine scent once more. I relaxed in his arms and let him hold me. If this could make his fears go away then I’d be happy to be held like this...
A knock sounded on the door and I tried to pull away from the King but he just held me tightly. Again, servants entered bearing steaming buckets of water. “You had them draw you a bath?” the King asked in a hard tone.
“Yes... I would feel better if I were to bathe.” I replied and rubbed his arm to soothe his anger away.
“Be quick about it so you won’t catch a chill.” He replied. Boy, something really is wrong here. Has the King of Ivaris been replaced? Who is this gentle creature holding me?
I tried to move away from his arms and stand up but the world spun and I would’ve fallen had the King not grabbed me. I held on to him until the world stopped spinning. Then he hauled me into his arms and carried me towards the bathing area.
He settled me on the bench near the tub and started to pull on the laces of my nightgown... My eyes widened and I touched his hand to halt his movements. “I can do it.” I told him.
He smiled. “Nothing there I haven’t seen before so your sense of modesty is a little unnecessary.” He continued to tug on the laces until the gown slid into a pool of fabric on my feet.
Vivian and Finnie entered and they both gasped as they saw the King holding my naked body. They both blushed and bowed. “Sorry, your highness. We thought that her majesty would be needing us for the bath.” Finnie said.
I thought Seth would be angry and shout at them but he only chuckled and tucked me closer to his warmth. “I’d assist her. You may go.” He said and my maids exited.
The King gently lowered me on the tub. Another pleasure sigh escaped me as the warm water soothed my weary limbs. I grabbed the bottle of lavender soap and lathered it on my arms, neck and chest. All the while I was doing this, I felt Seth’s eyes on my body and it made me blush to the tips of my toes.
“Can you please go over there and let me bathe in peace?” I demanded.
He chuckled again and instead of answering me, he grabbed the bottle of soap and started massaging it on my hair. His fingers felt like heaven on my skin... I leaned back on the tub and closed my eyes to let his fingers work their magic.
“That’s nice.” I murmured and heard his rich laughter once more. He then poured two buckets of warm water over my head to rinse me and then helped me rise. I reached for the towel and pat myself dry.
Seth carried me into his arms again and deposited me on the bed. A new nightgown was placed on the bed and I donned it quickly. Right after I finished, a knock sounded on the door. The King opened it and my maids and other servants went inside carrying trays of food.
My mouth watered with the delicious aroma and I saw Seth’s eyes go glassy at the sight of the roast beef and the bread with butter, cheese and spices that he loved so much. There were also bowls of soup, some pies, and desserts!
“My thanks to Gertrude.” I told Vivian and Finnie.
“Gertrude says that she’ll be sending you all your favourites to help you regain your strength, your highness. She sent all these for you and the king.” Vivian replied.
This time it was I who laughed at what she said. There’s simply too much food! And it’s all for Seth and me!
I tried to stand up but Seth carried me again. “I can walk you know.” I pointed out. “But I like carrying you.” He replied in a tone that said that it is the end of the conversation.
He sat opposite of the table and I sat on the other side. I quickly reached for a slice of bread and placed some roast beef on it. I rolled it and then placed it on Seth’s plate. His eyes lit up with surprise and some other emotion that I saw in Aiken’s eyes when he looked at Selene...
“What?” I asked.
He shook his head and took a bite. I made more rolls for him and placed it on his plate. Only then did I reach for my spoon and ate some soup. I ate very slowly so that I won’t upset my stomach. Right before I lost consciousness when I was sick, I vomited everything I ate and my stomach felt really empty. I’m very hungry but eating in a fast manner would just make me vomit everything again.
I ate slowly while Seth ate as though he has been starved for months! I even doubted if he chewed everything for he just seemed to place a bite in his mouth and then reach for another. He kept on glancing at me to make sure that I continued eating.
“You don’t have an appetite?” he asked.
I laughed and shook my head. “I do. Watching you eat like that boosted my appetite. I’m just taking things slowly so I won’t upset my stomach.” I replied and then sipped more of the soup.
“Good.” He said and carved a large piece of roast beef and sliced it into little portions. He placed it on my plate and then poured sauce on it. He also placed two slices of bread on my plate.
“Eat.” He ordered before he went back to stuffing his mouth.
I giggled at the sight of him like that and took a bite of my own food. Again, I was struck by how much everything has changed. Who would’ve thought that I’d be having a civilized dinner with the King in our bedroom? Who would’ve thought he had a side to his personality like this?
It almost made me feel as though he really... cared...
Well could he? Could someone like him genuinely care? Or was this something related to Ilyia? Did he feel a sense of responsibility towards me because we’re link by Aiken and Selene’s past?
I clearly was wrong when I said that the food laid out for both of us was too much. I was wrong because we finished everything that Gertrude, the cook, prepared. There wasn’t a single leftover on sight.
Seth rang the bell and servants entered and removed the trays. Then they brought in some wine. Seth poured wine for both of us. I accepted the goblet with a gracious smile and then leaned back and savoured the taste.
I noticed that Seth was uncomfortable. He kept on fidgeting and running his fingers through his hair.
“Is something wrong, Seth?” I asked him. The words just poured out of my mouth and I didn’t even realize I’ve called him by his name. I blushed and made the pretence of studying my wine.
“Yes... Adrienne... I have something to tell you.” He replied. Then he got even more restless. He kept on opening and closing his mouth as if he just couldn’t find the right words to say.
“Yes, your highness?” I asked. His eyes flashed. “Please call me Seth...” I nodded.
“I want us to start over.” Seth blurted after a long time.
“What?” I asked.
“Us. Start over.” He said while he waved his hands to point to me and then him. I frowned for I did not understand what he was saying. He sighed and raised his eyes heavenward as if asking the gods for more patience.
I sat patiently while I waited for him to gather the words he wanted to say...
Finally he took a deep breath and then spoke, “I know I’ve made a mess of our relationship. You started as my slave but you are now my queen... As my slave I’ve done you countless wrongs. You saved my life yet I hurt you. I hurt you so much that you even chose to run away. But you forgave me and trusted me. And again I betrayed that trust by taking you against your will...” he trailed off on a long sigh.
Then he leaned closer and took my hands. His big, callused hands wrapped mine and his blue-grey eyes bore into mine. The moment that our eyes met, my heart started beating faster in anticipation.
“I want us to start over again. Have a clean slate. You may not believe me now but I intend to prove to you that I shall try to be a good king and husband. I’ll try to put to right all the wrongs I’ve made before. All I ask is that you give me a chance... Will you give me that chance, my queen?” he asked in a whisper.
From the moment he sang to me when I was sick, I was lost... Now, I’m still lost and drowning in the intensity of his gaze. If I truly am Selene and he is Aiken then ours should be a love that is unparalleled. A love that could withstand anything. A love that could even transcend the boundary of time and death.
By starting over, I could be closer to him and maybe we could both learn our purpose in this world... Maybe together we could face whatever it is that would come our way. Maybe I should open my heart and trust in him just like Selene trusts Aiken with all of her heart...
“I promise things will change this time... And as a gesture of good faith, I... I err... I wanted to prove to you that I’m committed to this... That... You know... Ermmm... That I only want you... So... I... I cleared out all my mistresses.” He stammered.
THE MISTRESSES WERE GONE!!!
I wanted to jump up and down the bed and scream my joy to the heavens but I doubt I had the energy and the strength to do that... And the King may think I’ve finally gone crazy...
“Truly?” I asked breathlessly.
Seth grinned and then tugged me to his lap. He pulled down my head and claimed my lips in a heartwarming, toe-curling kiss. “Truly.” He replied
Again, right then I was lost...
No more thinking for my brain suddenly refused to function. All my thoughts went to him and only him... Nothing else mattered.
A smile tilted up the corners of my lips and I replied with, “Yes. I’ll give you that chance and we’ll start over, Seth...”