Chapter 28 - Love?
CHAPTER 28- LOVE?
The Island of Minos, Virlinn
“Remember men. We should not be seen by anyone.” I said to them. They all nodded saying that they understood me.
We were still on our ship and we were now in Virlinn. Specifically, in the Island of Minos which held the King’s strong hold castle named Harrington. I told Jack to go around the island and hide the boat beside one of the large cliffs.
A few moments later, the anchor was dropped, we were armed and clothed and ready to invade the King’s castle to have a few minutes of privacy with him. “Colin, you go ahead and scout a route for us. Hunter, go with him.” I ordered. “Yes, captain.” They both replied and then jumped off the ship and swam towards the shore.
“Jack, you stay behind and guard the boat.”
“The rest of you, prepare yourselves. We wait for a signal from Colin and then we’re off swimming.” I said with a grin and received a few groans in reply.
“Damn. Swimming when it’s awfully cold.” Brodie complained.
“You prefer to be left behind?” Chard, the weapons expert of our team teased him. Brodie rubbed his neck and said “Never!”
“Then you go swimming, lad.” Chard replied.
Brodie groaned once more and then sat on deck.
I sat on the ledge of the deck and stared at the broad expanse of ocean before me. I stared at the way we came from and my mind wandered towards Adrienne.
Is my beloved princess alright? Is that damned king treating her right or is she being manhandled? Has the citizens of Ivaris accepted her as their queen or is she feeling unwanted? Does she eat well? Is she healthy? Has she settled in?
Just a few more days, princess... Wait for me a few more days and we shall be together again...
We waited for what felt like an hour and then I saw a light glinting on deck. I stood up and looked at the shore where Colin was flashing his knife so that the sunlight would reflect off it.
It was the signal we were waiting for. It meant that they’ve already found a trail for us.
“Men! We swim!” I said with smug satisfaction which earned another groan from Brodie. We jumped into the frigid salty waters and made our way towards the shore. The wind blew more fiercely and I shivered.
“Let’s run!” I announced and the men looked at me as if I was mad.
“Running will keep your blood flowing and keep you warm.” I reasoned and the men followed me and we ran stealthily into the forest.
My men and I were trained very well and not a sound was made as we trudged towards the forest. We were stealth and power rolled into one. And now, especially, when we were in a mission for our princess, we’re an unstoppable force.
We came across the edge of the forest and blended into the trees as we studied the Harrington Castle. “Find a way in. Angus, you have those sleeping darts?” I whispered. “Aye, captain.” Came the gruff reply.
“Men, take the darts and use that. Use only force when necessary.” I ordered. They took some of the darts and placed it on their belts.
“Captain, there’s a window about two stories up. It is said that the King’s chambers are in the north tower. We could hoist you up the window and there’s a banner there which looks sturdy enough. You could use it to swing to the tower.” Elliott suggested.
“Excellent. Clear the way.” I ordered and retrieved a few darts.
Overall, there were five guards visible. I laughed. Piece of cake.
Harry and Barry, the twins, immediately crouched over one of the bushes and aimed. They threw their darts simultaneously and the guards fell on the ground with a muffled thump. Colin walked across the shadows and got close enough to plunge his dart into the man’s neck.
Three down, two more to go.
The next one was very close to me. I leaped over the bushes but before he could scream or draw his weapon, my dart was already in his neck and he fell down on the ground. “Goodnight, my friend.” I whispered. I looked to my right and saw that Brodie already had taken care of the last guard.
“Twins, hoist me up!” I hissed. They nodded and then ran towards the window. They stood parallel to each other with their legs braced apart and their knees bent. They outstretched their arms and locked them together.
They were in position. And I am in mine.
I was a good twenty yards away from them. I crouched low and then took off running. I ran as fast as I could and then jumped up their arms. They aided my momentum by adding another upward force from their arms.
I sailed up so fast and the feeling was great! I wanted to scream for even for a few seconds, I was flying! The force of my jump was so great that I sailed right across the window and headed straight towards the banner.
Very well then. It saved me the effort of climbing up. I propelled my body towards the banner and clasped the hem. I looked down and Brodie grinned at me approvingly with both his thumbs up. This earned him another blow to the back of his head from Rurik.
I looked up and concentrated on the task ahead. The banner looked as if it could hold my weight so I climbed up slowly but surely. I saw a light and this must be the King’s chambers. I swung back and let the force swing me forward. I swung back again so that the force will be greater and it could propel me forward towards the window.
Then I let go and once more, my body was sailing across the air. I grabbed the ledge and swung myself inside the chamber. I landed on the crouch with my dagger out but when I raised my eyes, I saw the King of Virlinn and the point of his sword was aimed on my neck.
“Come to kill me have you?” he whispered.
“No.” I replied but he still didn’t pull back his sword.
“Who are you and who sent you?” the King of Virlinn hissed.
“I am Duncan, captain of the King’s Guard of Amaranth and I am here to bargain with you.”
Something flashed in the King’s eyes but he still held his sword firmly.
“I’ll hear your bargain but I shall not lower my sword. For all I know this could be a trick from Aiken.” He replied.
My brows furrowed. “I do not know someone by the name of Aiken.”
“Seth. I mean Seth.” He replied.
“I want your help in getting Adrienne back.” I replied, straight to the point.
One of the kings’ eyebrows rose. “And why would I do that?”
“Name your terms.”
The King laughed and lowered his sword. He resheathed it and he was still laughing. “Fine. I’ll get you your woman.” He said. I reeled back. Did I hear it right? Did he just agree to help me retrieve Adrienne?
“What?” I blurted out.
“In two weeks from now, my army shall invade Ivaris. You’re just in time, you know. And you need not pay me for the look in Seth’s face when his queen is gone is all the payment I need.” Again he laughed and there was this suspicious look in his eyes.
I didn’t speak for a long while.
“Well what do you need? A ship? Weapons?” he asked me.
“No... We have a ship of our own. Some supplies, food, clothes will be most welcome. But what I really came here for is protection. My men and I could easily get Adrienne but where would we run? Where could we hide and the King of Ivaris would not be able to find us?”
“Ahh... I get it now... You want my protection and you want to be able to start a life here in Virlinn... For you and your men... But, my dear soldier... What becomes of Amaranth?” he asked.
I gritted my teeth. This is the question I most dreaded. “It is yours to do as you wish.” I replied.
“Ahh... Well then... I believe we have a deal.” The king replied with a huge grin.
May 22, 1645 (1 Week Later)
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris
-Queen Adrienne Almira Ivaris-
A familiar presence tingled down my spine. I knew he was here even though I haven’t seen him yet. He’s here and his close... And there’s bound to be shouting again. I sighed and patted the head of the little boy in front of me.
“Here are more medicines for him. Just please follow what the healer has said and he shall be alright. If the medicines run out, don’t hesitate to go to the castle and tell the guards to ask for me.” I said to the child’s mother and handed her a bundle filled with medicines.
The mother was sobbing as she kissed my hand. “You are the most merciful and generous queen. I and my husband thank you for helping our son.” She said through her tears. “It’s nothing. It’s my duty as queen.” I replied and started to gather my things.
I was almost at the door when it banged open and almost flew off its hinges. I sighed and then turned towards Lachlan, Alec and the rest of my guards.
“Let’s go.” I told them. They eased away from their posts by the wall and flanked my back. I walked over to the door and closer to the tall, imposing figure who was blocking our way.
I raised my head and flashed my sweetest smile. “Good morning to you, husband.” I said with a curtsy. The muscle throbbing in Seth’s jaw, throbbed even harder. He was glaring at me so hard that I wanted to strike a bet with Lachlan and Alec about when his eyes would fall from their sockets.
I walked towards my horse and my guard followed me. Seth continued to stare at me and his face was very, very red. He didn’t move from his spot by the door and all my guards walked past him with a bow.
The last guard passed through and shut the door. It clicked into place and the sound seemed to startle Seth from his frozen angry state.
He rounded on me just as I mounted Cloud, my lovely white mare. Seth ran towards Lightning and mounted him too. “You really dare defy me?!” he shouted. I kept my body straight and my chin high while he shouted but all the members of my guard flinched.
I urged my horse into a trot and everyone followed. I noticed that my guard and Seth’s guard gave us both a wide berth of space.
I sighed and trained my hazel eyes on Seth. “I heard a boy was dying of some sickness so I gathered the healers at Ravenswood and went to him. He needed my help, Seth.” I explained.
My explanation just seemed to infuriate him. “But you’ve just been sick! You almost died! I ordered you to stay in bed and the first day I leave for my duties, my men run to me and report of your deeds! You defy your king and your husband!” he roared.
This time, I am ashamed to say that I flinched a little bit.
“I am sorry, my king. I am sorry husband. But I cannot stay in our chambers a moment longer. All the inactivity is driving me insane and someone needed me. I had to go. Besides, I need the fresh air and a little exercise for me to be fully recovered.” I reasoned.
“You might have a relapse if you over exert yourself!” he bellowed. I chanced a glance at him and saw the lines of worry on his handsome face. I sighed and then tugged on Cloud’s reins and led her closer to Lightning.
I grabbed Seth’s hand and squeezed it. “Seth... I’m alright. I won’t be sick again.” I told him.
His eyes flashed. “You don’t know that.” He replied.
“I know it. Because I won’t let you go through that again.” I said. He opened his mouth to tell me off again but my words sunk in and he just closed his mouth again. He seemed at a loss for words.
I grinned at him and all the anger fled from his face. He sighed. “Please don’t do that again, Adrienne.” He pleaded. “Alright.” I replied.
“Let’s head back to Ravenswood now.” He shouted the order to the guards.
My face fell. I really wanted to explore the village. The first time I was here was during our wedding day and I didn’t have the opportunity to go around the city because everyone was busy. Also, because my thoughts were elsewhere then and I was really sad.
“Something wrong, my queen?” Seth asked and I felt his fingers under my chin to tilt my head up and make me look at him.
“Can I please stay? I wanted to explore the village and the city today.” I told him. His grey eyes softened even further and he let go of my hand and approached Malcolm, the head of his guard. He exchanged a few words with Malcolm and then headed back towards me with that lazy smile of his.
“So where do you want to go first?” he asked.
“Err. It’s near the noon meal so I’d find an inn which serves great food. Don’t worry Seth... I won’t wander far away and I promise to take my guard with me at all times.” I replied.
“Right.” He replied.
“Where to, your grace?” Malcolm asked.
“Let’s go to Harold’s.” Seth replied to Malcolm and then urged his horse to the right direction. He took my hand once more.
“You’ll love the food there, my queen. They serve the best mutton stew.” Seth told me.
My jaw fell open. “What? You’re coming with me?” I asked. He cocked his head to the side. “Of course.”
“What about your appointments?!” I hissed. He just shrugged. Then he lifted my fingers to his lips and kissed it. “My queen is more important than my appointments. Besides, I want to be the one to show you my city.”
I think by now my jaw was frozen openly in place. The king’s horse moved a few paces but I was still rooted to the spot.
I saw the king turn his beautiful head around and his eyes sparkled with mischief. “Are you coming or what?” he asked and I was jolted out of my thoughts. I urged Cloud to catch up with the King and we went towards the heart of the city.
The sun was high in the sky when we reached an in called Harold’s. It was noon but the tables were almost full. We stopped in front of it and the owner, a pudgy old man with white hair went out and greeted us. He kept on bowing and saying that it is an honor to have us here.
“It’ll be the best mutton stew you’ve ever tasted.” Seth whispered in my ear.
“I’ll be the judge of that.” I replied.
Then we were seated. More tables were brought out so that the entire guard could sit and eat to. Seth and I had a whole table to ourselves.
As we sat down, the people in the inn turned and greeted us. I smiled and waved a hand towards them. “Thank the Gods that you’re fine now, your grace.” A woman who introduced herself as Harold’s wife said.
“Every day is a blessing. And the King took great care of me.” I replied and saw Seth shuffle uncomfortable in his seat.
Then the food was served. We each got a hot bowl of mutton stew and then hot loaves of bread drizzled with butter. My mouth watered instantly at the sight of it and at the delicious aroma in the air.
“Dig in.” Seth said and I did. True enough, it was the best mutton stew I’ve ever tasted.
When we were done, I could barely walk from being so full. Seth laughed at me and told me that we are truly going to walk if I wanted to see the city. He told me he’d be bringing me to the merchant shops.
We rode Cloud and Lightning once more but when we reached the crowded shops, we dismounted and the King took my hand in his. His other hand was placed near his sword should the need arise to defend us.
The people looked very shocked at seeing their King and Queen at the merchant shops. They kept on calling us over and selling their goods at a low rate. A small boy approached me and gave me a bracelet made of shells.
“For you, my queen.” He said. I accepted his gift and wore it on my right wrist. “Thank you. It’s beautiful.” I said and dropped a kiss on his head. Seth reached inside his pouch and gave the boy a gold coin. His eyes widened and he bowed and thanked his King before he blended back in the crowd.
“See anything you like?” he asked me. I shook my head. “I already have so much clothes in Ravenswood.” I replied.
“Please... Indulge me. I want to buy you beautiful things. Even if I bought this entire market, I still wouldn’t go poor.” He chided. I elbowed him in the ribs for that.
“Fine then, my rich and generous king. Please buy me that cookie.” I replied.
“Yes. A whole box of it.” I grinned. He bought it and handed it to me. The shop owner added more cookies and I thanked him profusely. I nibbled on the cookies as we made our way towards the crowded street.
I stopped when I saw a charm in one of the stores. It was the image of the sun and a half-crescent moon intertwined together. It was made of silver and some precious gems were scattered around it and made it look even more beautiful. I lifted it and trailed my fingers across the cold stones.
“It’s beautiful...” I remarked. The owner of the shop smiled. “I made it myself, your highness. It’s a charm for lovers...” She said and then took the charm. “If you press here, it disengages and becomes two.” She said and held the separate images of the sun and moon. I sighed at its beauty.
“We’ll take it.” Seth declared with a funny look on his face.
“No! It’s alright.” I told him. He shook his head. “You’re indulging me, right? Besides, I want to buy it for you.” He said and I relented.
The woman placed it in a beautiful velvet pouch and then handed it to me after Seth paid. I opened it and let it fall to my palm. I pressed the center just like the woman did and the charm became two.
I lifted the sun on its silver chain and faced Seth. “The other part is yours.” I said to him and then reached up and clasped it on his neck. He took the other one from my hand and placed it on my neck too...
“Now, we match.” He said with a grin.
“Yes... I’m the moon and you’re my sun.” I replied. A look of recognition crossed Seth’s face. After I blinked, it was gone and maybe I just imagined everything.
“Wherever you are, a part of me is with you. So don’t lose that. Alright?” I told him. The funny look entered his face once more and his eyes became soft.
He leaned down and captured my lips. “I won’t lose it, my queen.”
As I stared into his eyes then, it was as if I wanted to say more. I searched his eyes and he searched mine. It was as if both of us wanted to say something but both of us can’t find the words...
So I just reached up on the tips of my toes and kissed him again. This time, the entire crowd cheered and we broke apart smiling at each other.
After that, we walked once more and Seth bought me more things. I also made him buy me more food. He looked filled with pride whenever he bought me something so I allowed it. I also revelled in the feeling of having my husband beside me and us walking across a crowded street as we shopped.
When we got back to Ravenswood, I had: Five pairs of new shoes, Eight bolts of cloth to be made to new dresses, a beautiful wooden jewellery box, a girdle made of gold and silver, a comb made of ivory and several ribbons of different colors for my hair
And later that night, as we lay sated in each other’s arms after having made love, the king pulled me closer to him. “Sleep, li’eras...” he whispered and my heart jumped.
Aiken called Selene li’eras and I knew what it meant. Is this an endearment or did he say it because it was true? Did he say it because he loved me? Can a man like him love? Is he capable of that?
I heard his breathing even out and I knew he was asleep. I rolled over so that I was lying on my side and gazing up at his handsome, peaceful face. My heart did a small jump once more... Love? Is that what I’m feeling for him?
Is this what it meant when I’m happy when he’s with me and longing for him when he’s not there? Is that the funny feeling I get when our eyes suddenly meet from across the room? Is it when I always want to gaze into his beautiful eyes and smell his lovely scent? Is it when I always want to please him? When I always want to protect him? When I never want to let him go?
Do I feel this way because we are destined to be together? Selene said that we are one and the same. Is what I’m feeling something that the Selene inside me feels towards Aiken or is it purely what I, Adrienne, feels towards Seth?
But... I said that my heart would always belong with Duncan...
So I can’t love him, right? Maybe this truly is Selene feeling something for Aiken...
Stop lying to yourself, Adrienne... What you’re feeling now is many times greater than what you felt for Duncan...
My conscience nagged inside my head. Was I truly lying to myself? Yes... I know I’ve never felt this way before... If this was truly love, then I’ve never loved this way ever... But that would be betraying Duncan...
And what if I admitted to myself that I am in love with the King of Ivaris? What then? Will he love me back or will he laugh at me? What if he gets tired of me and takes a mistress again even if he knows that I love him? That would devastate me and it would break me...
They say love makes a warrior weak.bBut truth be told, love makes everyone weak. Love is confusing. Love is difficult. It’s much easier if we don’t fall in love for love only leads to pain. But then again, what would the world be like if there was no love?
I sighed again and cupped his cheek... “Please stop being nice to me... I don’t know how much longer my heart’s boundaries can put up with your constant siege...”
Then I rolled over and pulled the covers closer to us and let sleep claim me again...