Chapter 31 - The Captain Who Loved Me
May 24, 1645
The Village of Terrin
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
It took all night to put out the flames at the city. I looked at the sky and dawn was almost breaking to make way for the sunrise. Streaks of orange were already painted over the darkness of the sky.
I sighed for I have promised Adrienne that I would return right away. But circumstances have turned the tables on us and here I was, still stuck here. This is one of the times when I wished that I was just a common man and not a king. A king has too many responsibilities while a common man can always decide to take a day off to spend with his bride...
Well, no use thinking about this now. I can return to Adrienne soon enough as we were already done here.
I have investigated and it seemed that this fire was no accident but one that was deliberately started. If this was an act of terrorism, it was a bad one. There were no deaths and only a minimal damage to property. The fire started at the old cottages on the village and there were no people living there anymore.
The only problem was that the wind was strong tonight and the fire spread into the nearby cottages.
“Malcolm! Have my ministers do an accounting of all the damages here. Send it to me and the people shall be given recompense for the damages.” I ordered. The nearby families heard this and they sobbed in relief. They also knelt before me and gave me their profuse thanks.
I nodded to them and waved my hand to indicate it was nothing.
“General Trevor, your men remain here and oversee the clean-up and rebuilding. The rest, back with me to Ravenswood!” I ordered.
“Yes, your grace.” The general replied and he pulled the reins of his horse and galloped towards his men.
The other generals were standing before me and their men slowly filed behind us to prepare for the trip back to the castle. They were on top of their horses and they were piled into neat rows as a sign of discipline.
Suddenly, there was a commotion behind the lines and the men parted to let a rider through.
He was out of breath and judging from the state of his hair and his dishevelled clothing, he rode hard and fast to get here to the city.
He stopped in front of me and bowed. “Your grace.”
I lifted my chin in acknowledgement. “What message do you bring?”
All the color drained away from the messenger’s face until he looked pale enough to be a corpse. Then I saw him swallow and he opened his mouth. It looked as though he did not want to be the one to deliver whatever message that was tasked to him.
He took a deep breath.
“What?!” I hissed. The messenger talked so fast I barely got the words. Was that some sort of code or another language? I looked incredulously at the messenger. I saw that Malcolm and the other generals also looked at him as if he was crazy.
The messenger paled even further and he pulled on his collar and swallowed once more.
“The. Queen. Has. Been. Kidnapped.”
“WHAT?!?” I bellowed. The messenger backed up his horse until he dissolved from behind my generals. My vision turned red and my hand went to my sword. Those beside me instantly backed away. I glimpsed the fear in their eyes.
“Move.” I growled at my generals. They backed away with haste and revealed the cowering messenger.
I walked to him and picked him up from his horse with one hand. He went down to the ground and I grabbed him by his vest and held him up. His feet left the floor and the cloth on his neck tightened, choking him.
“WHERE’S MY QUEEN?!?” I bellowed. The messenger flinched and he grabbed my wrist at an attempt to claw his way out of my grip. His legs were dangling from the ground.
“Y-your h-higness-ss... T-there’s b-been an a-att-ack at R-rav-vens... w-wood l-last n-n-night... The Q-q-queen-n h-has... b-been t-taken...” the messenger breathed.
I let go of him and he stumbled to the ground, clutching his neck and breathing heavily. Red clouded my vision again. I swung up to my horse and faced the generals.
“Send men everywhere! The port! The highways! The forest! Make sure that every travel route is covered. If my queen is not found by noon, your blood will turn the rivers of Ivaris red!” I threatened.
The generals paled like the messengers and they began barking orders to their men. I tugged on Lightning’s reins and he turned around. I dug my knees in his flanks and he galloped towards Ravenswood at break-neck speed.
I heard Malcolm’s horse galloping behind me and also some of the guards.
Adrienne... My queen... Taken...
I blinked away the fury and chose a safer outlet. I inhaled and then let go of the fury and fear inside me. The birds flew away as I roared at the top of my lungs...
A tortured, furious sound that the wind carried across the forest...
We reached Ravenswood at a quarter of the time it usually took to travel from the City back to my castle. The first thing I saw was that everything was in chaos. Guards were running around the gates and servants were busy tending horses and soldiers who have just returned.
The entire castle was in an uproar and people were scattered everywhere. But one thing was the same: their reactions when they saw me. They all dropped whatever they were doing and they stared. Then they slowly backed away and vanished until the courtyard was so silent that you could hear a pin drop.
I gritted my teeth and dismounted from my horse.
Then I ran up towards our chambers. Again, I did not encounter a single guard or servant.
I was outside our chambers and my heart was beating furiously. Adrienne’s guards were nowhere in sight. Could they be involved with her captors? A mixture of rage and fear pumped through my veins. I placed my hand on the door and pushed hard but it was locked.
Fury boiled my blood until I felt my entire body heat up, literally. Suddenly, I felt powerful... It was as if there was an immeasurable amount of magic right on the tips of my fingers, waiting to be commanded. It felt as if a bit of me was unlocked and now power flooded through my system.
“Yes... Open your mind and let the power in...” Aiken’s voice said inside my head.
This immediately snapped me out of my trance. I willed my body to be controlled. I took in a deep breath and released it to tamp down my anger.
What did Aiken mean by power? Was that the magic I felt?
Lai, the goddess, also told me to remember... But what was it that I was supposed to remember?
No... I can’t think about these things now... I have to go and get my queen back...
I backed up a few steps into the hallway then I braced myself and started to run. I felt another burst of power just as I was about to reach the door. I rammed it with my shoulder and the door burst into splinters.
Amazingly, my shoulder didn’t even hurt.
I stepped inside and the first thing I saw was Alec and Lachlan, two of Adrienne’s guards slumped on the floor. Lachlan had a dart sticking out of his neck while Alec had one in his arm. Their weapons lay beside them and they had no bruises or signs which indicated that they fought.
They probably only had time to draw their weapons before the darts hit them. I only hope that it was some sort of sleeping draught and not poison. I turned Alec over and his veins were not distended nor was his skin color different. He had no red marks or blood in his lips which could indicate that he vomited. He was also breathing evenly so it really wasn’t poison. Lachlan was in the same state.
I walked over to the bed and the covers were spread and mussed. There was no blood and there didn’t seem to be a sign of much struggle. Maybe Adrienne was pierced with one of those darts.
My fists clenched at the thought and I saw red again. I want to kill someone right now. The urge was so strong that it overrode all my other thoughts.
“Your grace!” a voice snapped me out of my trance. I whirled around. “What?!” I growled. It was one of my generals. He had a raven in his hand and tied to it was a scroll. He quickly retrieved it and handed it over to me.
“This is sent over by General Halley from the Port of Ivaris. He says that an unknown vessel was seen sailing the time when the sun rose. It was sailing fast. Some townsfolk say that they saw a man carrying something on his back. It was covered in a blanket but one time it slipped and they swore they saw the queen’s face.” The general said.
I crushed the paper in my hands and let it drop on the floor.
“Where’s Halley?” I asked.
“The moment that he received the news about the queen missing, he immediately set sail and followed the vessel.” The general replied.
“Good. Prepare DragonFlame. We sail before sundown.” I ordered.
“But your grace! DragonFlame is undergoing major repairs! It won’t be ready until two days at the least!!!” the general exclaimed.
Something inside me snapped once more. In a span of a heartbeat, I had already turned around and my hand was clutching the general’s throat. With minimal effort, I hoisted him up and he was a clear foot off the ground.
His eyes bulged as he strove to breathe but my hand was effectively crushing his airway.
“I said we sail before sundown!” I bellowed and then threw him. He hit the wall and slid down. I saw him blink and stare up at me with fear.
“Yes, your highness.” He replied, his voice breaking, and then scampered away from the room.
I walked over to the windows and gazed at the direction of the ocean.
“Wait for me, Adrienne... I’m coming for you.” I said to the wind...
May 24, 1645
The Sea Serpent (Ship)
Somewhere in the Ocean
My head was pounding. A shaft of sunlight hit my face directly, aggravating my headache further. I slowly opened my eyes and groaned for it only made the headache fiercer. I sat up and the world tilted to the side. I almost fell if not for the strong hands that clamped over my shoulders.
“Easy there.” I looked up and Duncan was smiling down at me.
My brows creased over in confusion as I stared up at Duncan’s handsome face. Then suddenly, details of last night came back to me.
The fire... Seth leaving the castle
Me, waiting for him to return...
The loud sound of wood and glass breaking...
Duncan throwing two darts and my guards falling to the ground...
Duncan saying that he came to rescue me...
Me, trying to explain...
Duncan placing something over my nose...
I instantly panicked and backed away from the edge of the bed. My back met the wall and I settled there. Duncan got this worried look over his face and he tried to step closer to me. I spread out my hands to warn him away. I needed a moment to compose myself.
The first words I wanted to tell him were “Bring me back!” but I couldn’t say those words... Not without a proper explanation...
I realized now that Duncan promised me that he will come for me and that he’d stop at nothing to find a way for us to be together once more... How am I going to tell him then that I want to stay in Ivaris?
That I’ve fallen in love with the King?
Gods, what a horrible mess!
“Adrienne... What’s this? It’s me, Duncan.” He said slowly. Then I heard him murmur something about sleeping draughts and side effects.
“I know it’s you...” I said and he exhaled with relief. He sat slowly on the edge of the bed and stretched his hand out towards me. I gingerly took it and he pulled me to his strong chest. He placed my head on his shoulders and I felt him inhale deeply as he sniffed my hair.
“You have no idea how much I missed you...” he whispered. I felt my heart breaking in little pieces for him... How am I going to tell him?
My eyes filled with tears and a lone tear made its way down my cheek and onto Duncan’s shoulder. He cursed and then pulled back and wiped the tears away with his thumb. Then he kissed my forehead. It was a gesture so sweet that my heart broke further.
“Princess... Don’t cry... You’re safe now... He won’t be able to take you away from me again.” He said in a soothing voice which just made me sob harder. I clutched his tunic and pulled him closer. He was the only thing about Amaranth that’s left. We grew up together and at one point in my life, I loved him truly...
We even thought about marriage... If Seth hadn’t appeared in my life, I think I’ll be happily married to Duncan now... I know he’ll never hurt me and he’ll be a good husband but I think that I will always long for something. Yes, I loved Duncan but there’s something about Seth that completed me.
Something in him called out to something in me. Maybe it was because we were fated to be together. But I know that it’s more than that. I love Seth. Seth as the king and the man and not Seth as Aiken, the God...
“Princess... What’s wrong?” Duncan asked worriedly. I looked up into his eyes and every happy memory we had together played through my mind. He smiled at me and my heart twisted inside my chest again.
How can I tell him the truth when the truth would break his heart?
“Duncan... This is wrong... You have to bring me back...” I whispered. Duncan frowned and rose from the bed.
“Adrienne... Don’t worry about that king. I’ll keep you safe.” He replied.
“You don’t understand... I don’t want to see you hurt and Seth might not forgive you for doing this.”
“Let him try and take you away from me. He won’t win for he’ll face a man willing to lay his life for his love.” My heart shattered once more at his words and pain filled my entire body.
“Duncan... Please... You don’t understand.” I begged.
“It’s you who don’t understand, Adrienne. I made some deals to keep us safe. We’re going to Virlinn. King James offered his protection. You need not worry about us.”
My body jerked at the mention of King James. Seth clearly did not trust him and I also had this feeling that there was something wrong about him. It was as if evil lurked behind him...
“No... Duncan... There’s something about King James. I don’t trust him.” I told him. His eyes narrowed and he sighed.
“I know... But I was forced to choose between a rock and a hard place. We need him to escape the King of Ivaris.” He replied. It was me who sighed. I have to tell him everything...
The problem is... I don’t know how...
“Are you feeling better now?” Duncan asked. The pounding in my head ceased so I nodded. His face was lit up with a smile.
“Let’s go. The men are impatient to meet you again.” He helped me up my feet and I tugged my robe closer to my body. I yanked on the belt and tied it. Then I took Duncan’s hand and he escorted me outside.
Duncan led me up a staircase and we emerged into a bright deck. I looked up and shaded my eyes with my hands. The sun was high in the sky and everywhere I looked, there was nothing but ocean. The wind blew and it was a bit chilly but refreshing. The air smelled of salt and wood.
“Princess!” It was Brodie who shouted. He dropped the brush he was using to scrub the deck and wiped his hands on his pants. Then he came forward and bowed to me. I nodded to him and the others stopped what they were doing and approached me too.
“It’s great to see you, princess...” Rurik said with a bow.
“And it’s great to see all of you too.” I replied with a grin. Duncan led me to a chair and I sat. The men surrounded me and we all basked in the sun.
“You have no idea how happy we are that we finally have you back, princess.” It was Hunter who spoke.
“I missed you too guys... But... I don’t think this was a wise move. Right now, Seth could be coming for me... And he won’t be merciful.” All of them snorted at my words except Brodie who shuddered.
They glared at him. “What’s the problem, lad?” Angus asked.
“If the King of Ivaris truly is after us then we are doomed.” Brodie replied.
“Why is that?” Duncan’s brows rose.
“You’ve all heard the stories! Of how he excels in battle! How his sword mercilessly slaughters his enemies! And how no weapon could wound him! Some even say he’s a god. Or that he’s blessed by Aiken.” Brodie’s statement was met with more snorts.
“The King is just a man.” Colin breathed. I sighed. They were wrong. Seth really is a God. He is the reincarnation of Aiken and he is very powerful. He just hasn’t come to possess his powers yet, just like me for I still can’t accept my role in all of this.
“Well, he’s a scary man in battle. There’s just eleven of us and he’s killed hundreds singlehandedly.” Brodie replied with another shudder. Rurik hit him in the back of his head and a glaring contest emerged.
I sighed and rubbed my temples. “Please... Bring me back... You have no idea how dangerous this is for all of us... King James Murray is not to be trusted. He wants Ivaris for himself and he’s willing to barter anything to get it. This may all be a trick.” I replied to them.
“I agree.” Said Jack. His declaration surprised the others.
“Who’s to say that the King won’t betray us? If we deliver the princess to him, he might just grab her from us and hold her for ransom to the King of Ivaris. His kingdom or his queen.” Jack reasoned.
The others looked confused at his words while Duncan was brooding silently.
“That’s a high price for something... If it was me, I’d choose my kingdom. I’ll not let a woman have that kind of power over me.” Brodie declared.
I felt a flash of pain slice my heart. Would it really be that way? If worse comes to worse and Seth was forced to choose between me and Ivaris. Would he choose me? Knowing how much he loved his kingdom, I think it would be one tough choice... I’m not even sure that he’ll pick me.
The others cursed at Brodie’s words. Duncan might’ve glimpsed pain in my eyes for he pulled me closer to him and placed me on his lap. He hugged me tight and whispered...
“If I were King, I’d choose you in a heartbeat... And I’d do it a thousand times over...”
Something inside me melted at his words... And a second later, my heart broke for him again. Whatever I do, I’ll end up hurting someone. If I told Duncan the truth, I’d break his heart... If I just went with him and we started a life together, I’d hurt Seth...
And I think that leaving Seth is not an option for we were destined together. We are meant to do something great. I just don’t know what it is... What I know is that when I am with him I feel free. I feel light and I feel happy...
I feel that with Duncan too but with Seth, things are more intense. It was as if I lived in a world of black, white and grey all my life. Yes, I was able to be happy...
But Seth came and with him, he brought color into my life. Now, I see things more vividly and everything is more interesting. He’s something else... My love for him is strong. I’ve never felt this way before...
“Duncan...” I whispered.
He lifted his index finger and pressed it on my lips. “Shh... Do not worry any more, princess.” He whispered and then bent his head and captured my lips for a quick kiss. My eyes widened with surprise while Duncan’s blazed with love and longing.
I pulled away as I heard the men cheering for us. They clapped and pounded the wood of the deck with glee. I felt every inch of me blush red...
This is wrong... I’m married and he’s not my husband...
This is wrong because his kisses felt different...
If this happened months ago, I would’ve been ecstatic. I would’ve grabbed him, held on and deepened our kiss. I would’ve showed him my appreciation for rescuing me by hugging him tightly and never letting go. I would’ve mapped out our future in minute detail.
But things are different now...
I’m not the princess I was before...
I am now a queen...
A queen in love with her king and not anymore with her dashing knight...
My eyes filled with tears once more. Duncan’s gaze softened and I think he’s thinking that I am so touched and overwhelmed by everything... The truth is, every moment here is killing me. I don’t know how much longer I can put off telling him the truth...
I don’t know how much longer I can do this...
I looked up again and I met his handsome gaze and his gorgeous smile.
I was instantly transported back years ago... A time when we were only friends but I’ve fancied myself in love with him. A time before he proposed marriage to me... A time when I thought it was unrequited love.
“Duncan... How does it feel to be captain?” I asked tentatively. It was night and the moon was full. The forest around Anselm castle in Harrow, Amaranth was lit in an eerie glow. We were at my room, outside at the balcony. It isn’t proper for a princess to do this but my maids were already asleep and there was no one to tell us otherwise.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I’ve noticed you’ve become busier... And women stare at you like you’re some sort of prize or something...” I trailed off...
“Ah. I know what this is about.” Duncan said as he lazily leaned back on the stone wall.
“My princess is jealous.” He said with a chuckle.
“I am not!” I hissed.
“You are.” He said with another chuckle. I sighed and looked at the beauty of the moon.
After a few moments, I felt warm hands on my shoulders.
“Hey princess... You know I’ll marry you someday, right?” he asked in a teasing tone. I threw my head back and laughed.
“Who the hell says, I’ll agree?” I teased back... But I felt my heart flutter at his words. He’s been my friend for as long as I can recall and I’d be a liar if I said that I did not think for once of a future together for us.
“I know you’ll agree. I’ll be the best captain in all of the land and I’ll earn so much gold and riches and women will drop to their knees for a little bit of my attention.”
“You are the most humble man I’ve ever met.” I countered with a roll of my eyes.
He laughed once more. “But you know what, princess?” he said in a tender tone.
“What?” I asked breathlessly.
“All those women wouldn’t mean a thing... Because I’ll only have eyes for you.” He said. His expression was so soft and tender that I thought it was a joke. I laughed and poked his massive chest.
“Whatever.” I replied but deep inside, the little girl inside me giggled at the thought.
“Laugh all you like. One day you’ll know I’m telling the truth.” He countered.
“Fine. Oh great captain... Let’s say that you are truly in love with me—”
He cut me off and said, “—I am.”
I rolled my eyes again.
“Riiiiigggght. Okay. Let’s say you’re in love with me and like all those women, I went down on my knees and begged your greatness for some attention... What would you do?” I asked.
He looked far away for a moment and I was able to study his handsome, chiselled profile. He looked back at me and his eyes seemed to dig deep inside my soul...
“Well... First, I’d pull you upright, of course. Can’t have a princess kneeling on my feet...” I rolled my eyes again at this statement.
“Then... I’d use my status as captain, the greatest captain to walk this earth, and ask the King for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Then we’ll get married under the blue sky with thousands of guests. I know you’d love a huge wedding. I can see it in your eyes. You’d have everything you want... The flowers, the beautiful gown, the gifts, the extravagant feast. Name it and you got it...”
My breath caught at his beautiful words...
“Since you’re a princess... We’d have to live at the castle. I’ll be the best consort there ever is and I’ll always keep you safe...” his voice trailed off and he ended with a sigh.
His hands caressed my back and I relaxed and leaned into him.
“You know what? Sometimes I wish I was a king or a prince... Things would be easier for me then. I won’t have to prove myself to anyone in order to have you. The circumstances of my birth would’ve made everything easy for me... Other times, I wish you weren’t a princess. If you weren’t a princess, you wouldn’t be burdened by duty and all those other things a princess must do...”
He heaved another sigh and then chuckled.
I turned around and faced him. “What if I wasn’t a princess?” I asked, my heart thudding fast inside my chest.
He smiled. “Then I’d use all the riches I’ve gathered and buy us a nice little house. Probably somewhere near the beach or somewhere on top of a hill. I’ll build us a simple, beautiful home and we’d fill it with children who looks like me and you. First, you must give me a son... I’d train him to be a good warrior so he’d help me chase off his younger sister’s suitors.” He chuckled again. I smacked him playfully across the arm.
He stopped laughing and when I looked up, his eyes were blazing with an intense emotion.
“We’re going to have a beautiful life, you and I.” He said it softly yet it felt like a promise.
The memory ended and I found myself crying harder. How had things gone from that to this? How could I break the heart of someone who’s loved me forever? How can I break the hear tof someone who did everything he could just to be deemed worthy of a princess?
Often times, I think it was me who wasn’t worthy of him... And this is one of those times.
I sobbed harder and the words I’m supposed to say were drowned out... I felt Duncan’s arms wrapped around me and then he lifted me up. He kept on walking while I kept on pouring my tears into his chest.
I felt him settle us into the bed but he never let go of my quivering frame. He whispered soft, soothing words into my ear but I could not understand them because of my distress. I held on tight as I cried out the tears I’ve kept for too long...
And then I made up my mind...
He loved me and he deserved to know the truth. I cannot lie to him any second longer...
When the tears subsided, Duncan handed me a glass of water. I took it and downed all the contents. Then I wiped my tears away and looked at his handsome face...
“Duncan... We need to talk...”