Chapter 7 - Black Heart
March 13, 1645
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris
Drip... Drip... Drip... Drip...
I don’t think I’m in hell anymore... Maybe I’ve been pardoned for my sins? The heat is gone and in its place a feeling of floating in a cool body of water. This must be heaven then for the water soothed my aching muscles and chased away the heat.
“I’ve got you...” a soothing voice whispered on my ear and I was pressed into a hard, warm body.
I felt hands roam over my body and heard a distinct female voice. “This should get down the fever, your highness. Keep her in the pool a little while longer.”
“Alright. Am I holding her right?” the soothing male voice asked. I felt the rumble in his chest and I snuggled closer to it. I could really listen to that beautiful voice forever... But the voices dimmed as my consciousness drifted off...
“Princess, I’ve got to go.”
“Where are you going, Duncan?” I said worriedly. We were in the hall and his weapons were laid down in front of him. He placed a dagger in his belt, one in his boot and another one up his arm and hidden by the sleeves of his uniform. His broadsword was already strapped to his belt.
“There’s news of a threat to Amaranth. I must leave for Harrow right away to ensure the safety of the king and queen.” He said and then he turned to give me the full intensity of those beautiful green eyes.
“I hate to leave you unprotected especially now when Amaranth is threatened by invaders but you are much safer here in Durnham Province rathen than at Harrow, which is our capital city. I will return as soon as I can, I promise.”
“Be safe, Duncan.” I whispered.
“Always.” He replied and then he smiled and his entire face was transformed by it. “And since I’m already in Harrow, I’d go and ask your father for your hand in marriage.” He said and picked up my hand and kissed it.
I smiled back at him. “The gods bless you and favour you, Duncan. I wish you safety on this trip.” I told him and he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tight. There was a feeling of melancholy in the contact and there was a feeling inside me that this was going to be the last time we’ll ever see each other.
My visions and premonitions have never been wrong before so I hugged Duncan as tight as I could. I do not know what harm will befall us or which of us were going to die but nothing could change fate. I just hope that it’s me who’s going to die and not my Duncan.
“I have to go...” Duncan said again and then he kissed my temple and left towards his men.
And yes... That was the last time I saw him for the Durnham Castle was attacked at dawn the next day. And that was when I was taken and sold as a slave to the Reynaud Slave House of Ivaris.
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
“The fever’s too high. We should get her down to the pool now, your highness.” The healer said. I nodded to her and picked up Adrienne in my arms.
“Lead the way, healer.”
We went outside the room, followed by a contingency of my guard and Adrienne’s own personal guard. We brought her down the pool near the back of the castle whose waters came from a spring that is considered sacred. The water came from the ground and my ancestors built a pool of marble around it. They also built a beautiful fountain where the waters cascaded down seven levels symbolizing the seven Old Gods. Only kings and members of the royal family were allowed to bathe in the pool for it was sacred but Adrienne needed it and I must make an exception.
I quickly waded into the pool without removing any of my clothes. My boots, breeches and shirt were wet but I did not mind. I dipped Adrienne into the water but kept my arms under her so that she would be floating. Instantly, I felt her body relax and her lips parted on a soft sigh. Then she jerked and I tightened my arms around her.
“I’ve got you...” I whispered soothingly to her.
The water lapped around her body and if this spring truly was magical then may it provide the healing Adrienne needed.
“This should get down the fever, your highness. Keep her in the pool a little while longer.” The healer told me and I nodded.
“Alright. Am I holding her right?” I asked.
“Yes, milord. I’ll just grab for some clean towels and I’ll return shortly.” The healer replied and with a bow, she went off leaving me and Adrienne alone on the pool. The guards were far away from us and their backs were turned.
I took the opportunity to look at Adrienne’s face that was relaxed in sleep. She looked so peaceful but she was still so pale. I gathered her closer to me and kissed her hair. Then I lowered her to the water again.
I was startled when her eyes flew open and I stared at her hazel depths. She stared back at me but there was this feeling that something’s different. I looked at her eyes and now the hazel color was flecked with gold.
“Aiken...” Adrienne whispered. Her lips moved but somehow it wasn’t her voice that spoke.
“Adrienne... ” I said and I frowned down at her. I already had a dream where the girl who looked like Adrienne was there. She too had hazel eyes flecked with gold and she also called me Aiken.
“No... It’s me, Selene...” she said and I felt something inside me that wanted to respond to her. It was as if there was something inside my chest that wanted to reach out to her. The feeling was strange and new but I wanted to melt in her arms when those hazel eyes flecked with gold stared at me.
“Selene.” a voice whispered inside my head.
What the hell is happening?! I’m hearing voices now?
“This body is too frail... I fear it will not make it...” Adrienne said as she looked at me and my eyes widened. No! Adrienne can’t die!
“No... I won’t let you die. We’ve waited thousands of years for this. I can’t wait a moment longer... You won’t be leaving me again, Selene.” The voice inside my head said. Adrienne looked up and smiled.
I didn’t really know what was happening but I gathered Adrienne closer in my arms. Then I felt a faint thrum of energy inside me. It was like a string which was coiled inside me and now was being stretched. Then I felt heat around me and the heat headed towards Adrienne.
I looked down and I was glowing! A soft golden glow was settled on my skin and it went slowly towards Adrienne and she too was enveloped in a soft golden glow.
What the fuck is happening???
Is it the spring? Could it be working its magic?
Adrienne lifted her hand and settled it on my chest. “Thank you, Aiken...” she said with a smile. I didn’t know what to say to that and the voice inside my head was now silent. The golden glow ebbed and I was left feeling very, very tired.
I looked at Adrienne and watched as the gold flecks in her eyes disappeared and back in its place was the hazel color. Then her eyes closed and her body was limp against the water once more.
March 17, 1645 (4 days later)
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris
Every part of me ached; my back worst of all. But now, it felt as if my mind was clear. I felt as if I’ve been asleep for a long, long time and have only just awakened.
It was still dawn outside and I tried to roll off my bed but every inch of me protested against the movement. I looked down and I was naked but a bandage was wrapped around my chest. There were also some cuts and bruises on my arms.
What the hell happened to me?
The last thing I remembered was that I was at the games... I stopped the horses... I revealed the Baron’s plan... And then the arrows.
The arrows! That’s it! I touched the bandages and winced at the pain.
Suddenly, there was movement from across the room. The King stood up from a chair by the fire and stretched his lithe body. Then, he walked towards my bed and sat at the edge.
“It’s good to see you awake now. Wait. That’s really you, isn’t it?” the king asked me.
I looked at him as if he’s gone mad. “Of course, it’s me, your highness. Who else would it be?” I asked him.
He shrugged and then said, “You’ve been having nightmares and delusions for the past week. It was hard to say when you were really awake.”
“Yes. You’ve had the fever.” He replied.
I looked at the King and there were circles under his eyes. His shirt was wrinkled and a part of his forehead was reddened as if he was sleeping on it. I was silent for a long time for I did not know what to reply to that.
“Are you well enough, now?” the king asked me and I nodded.
“I’m sorry for whatever inconvenience I may have caused, your highness.” I told him.
He just shrugged and waved his hand.
“I have some things I have to do today. I will return tomorrow and then we shall talk. I have to know how you knew about the plan to kill me.” The king said in a threatening voice and then he stood up and walked outside the room, slamming the door in his wake.
I flinched and then went back to bed.
How am I going to tell the king? Will he believe me? Will he call me crazy and then send me to death?
I am doomed.
I am so doomed.
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
“It’s good to see you back.” Malcolm said as he clapped me on the back.
“Yes. The fever broke and the girl is awake now.” I replied.
“You’ll be questioning her, then?”
“Tomorrow. Or perhaps later tonight. There’s still the matter of the Baron and all the traitors with him. What have you learned?” I asked Malcolm.
“We’ve gathered all the archers who escaped to the forest. They know nothing. They were just hired men paid by the Baron. From the Baron, I also learned nothing. He refused to tell me anything.” Malcolm replied.
“Perhaps it’s time I paid him a little visit.” I said with a sneer.
We walked towards the dungeons and the guards bowed and opened the gates. Torches were brought and light flooded the dark room. The Baron was huddled on one corner and he was chained to the wall. Grime covered his skin and his clothes hung in tatters.
“Open the door.” I instructed the guard who hastily fumbled with the key and opened the lock.
The Baron raised his head towards me, his eyes full of hatred. But I also saw a hint of malice in those depths and his lips curled up in a smile.
“Good day to you, Baron.” I greeted. The baron replied by spitting on the ground. “Well, if that’s how you like it, then that is how it shall be.” I replied and then gave him a swift kick which sent him sprawling towards the ground.
I crouched low and then grabbed his hair and pulled him up. “Who do you work for?!” I shouted. “You are never going to get anything from me.” He replied. That earned him a punch which made his lips bleed.
He spat blood on the floor and then faced me again. “Kill me now for you will not gain any information from me.” He said menacingly.
“And take away all the fun? I don’t think so.” I replied.
I picked him up by the scruff of his collar and then shoved him roughly towards the wall. “Who do you work for?!?” I asked again and he sneered.
“Burn away all of his holdings. Burn the Castle Wexton and all of its tenants. Brand them as traitors and banish them from the land! Patrick Arrin is no longer Baron of Wexton and his lands are forfeit to the crown.” I told Malcolm and I saw the scribe beside him scribble away my orders.
“You think that will make me talk? It would not.” The baron replied and then laughed.
“No. I did not do that to make you talk. I did it for me and to set an example to every traitor roaming my beloved kingdom. Their lands will burn and their entire clan will die. That is my message.” I replied and the smile faded from his face at those words.
“Got you there, didn’t I?”
The baron went silent. Then I felt a different presence enter the dungeons. The air got colder and a thick layer of mist crept in. The Baron fainted and slumped in his chains for a few seconds. Then he slowly lifted his head and his eyes now burned black.
“I can’t tell you who I work for but I have precious information for you. It concerns your precious whore...” the Baron said in a voice which sounded as if they were not his own.
I reeled and before I could control my temper, I backhanded him across his face which caused more blood to spill forth his lips. He just laughed menacingly and the sound appeared as if it wasn’t from this world.
“You’re thinking how she knew about my plan, right?” the baron said and his black eyes glittered with malice.
“That’s because she’s in on it. That’s right. Your newest whore plotted with us to kill you. And it’s just our luck that you found her that day at the slave house.” The Baron whispered.
My heart beat faster and more erratically at the discovery. How could Adrienne do this to me?!?
“What boggles me though is why she changed her mind and protected you, instead. To gain your favour? More riches? Maybe she wanted to be queen? Or maybe she liked you in her bed too much that she wanted you to live?” the baron sneered at me.
His last statement earned him a blow from the back of my sword which caused him to faint again. I paced the length of the dungeon as I took in the Baron’s words. He must be lying. This cannot be true. Adrienne could not have planned everything.
Get a hold of yourself, Seth. All evidence points towards her.
I was about to walk out of the room when the Baron lifted his head again. “What happened? Where am I?” he said and he looked confused and disoriented. I threw him a deadly glance and then walked out of the room noticing that the thick mist was gone and so was the feeling of the unfamiliar presence.
Then, I changed my mind and backtracked a few steps towards the Baron’s cell. I grabbed one of the axes hanging on the wall and then threw it with deadly accuracy. The axe fell to the floor with a loud clang... beside the decapitated head of Patrick Arrin, the Baron of Wexton.
I felt an evil presence lurking somewhere in the castle. My instincts were telling me that I should run and my entire body was taut with anxiety. What could that be? All the hair on my body was standing straight and there was this fear that settled itself on my chest.
I brought my hand to my chest and tried to rub the ache away. It won’t go away so I just settled myself on the bed and grabbed one of the books.
I finished a few chapters when the door suddenly slammed open and the King strolled inside with anger in his eyes. He looked furious. He stood in front of the bed with his feet braced apart and his hands were crossed over his massive chest. His mouth was set in a thin line and his grey eyes were now dark and blazing with anger.
I closed the book and sat up straighter even though it made my back ache. “Your highness.” I said with a bow.
“Let’s dispense with the courtesies. Answer my question, Adrienne. How did you know of the Baron’s plan?” the King whispered in a lethal tone.
There it was, the question I dreaded. I sighed and then decided that I would just go with the truth, whatever it cost me.
“I had a vision.” I replied.
“You had a vision?” the King said with his eyebrows raised. Then, without warning, he threw back his head and laughed. He laughed for a long time while I glared at him. He stopped laughing and then walked slowly towards me.
He grabbed my arm in a bruising grip and hauled me closer to the edge of the bed. “You expect me to believe that? Do you really think me a fool?!?” the king shouted. I flinched as I tried to withstand the intensity of his rage.
“It’s the truth. I told you the truth and it’s up to you if you believe me or not.” I said and turned my gaze away from him. Rough, callused fingers gripped my cheeks and forced me to look at him. I met dark, grey eyes which were smouldering with barely-concealed rage.
His other hand went towards my back, across my bandages. Then, without warning, his fingers pressed into my wounds causing me to jerk and scream. “What are you doing!?!” I shouted as tears fell from my eyes.
The pressure lifted and the King urged me to look at him again. His figure was blurry because of all the tears clogging up my vision. “Tell me the truth!!!” the King shouted and then he pressed his fingers on my wounds again...
“S-s-st-top-p! P-please! I-I s-swear I said the t-t-truth!” I sobbed. I tried to get away from him but his arms gripped me tightly as his fingers pressed on my back. The agony was intense and it felt as if my wounds reopened. I felt warmth flowing down my back and I was sure my dress has already turned red.
“The truth!” the king shouted again. I looked at him and his entire features were contorted in fury.
“I told you! A v-vision!” I shouted. “Noooooooo! Please no!” I screamed as his fingers pressed again and again.
I was getting weaker with my struggles and the pain was so unbearable. “You lie!” he shouted again and again as his fingers pressed on my back repeatedly.
“Stop! I’ll tell everything!” I shouted and his fingers eased.
“A woman talked inside my mind! Her name was S-s-selene... She t-told me that I have to p-protect you! She called you Aiken and then showed me a vision of what was to happen! I saw what should’ve happened... T-the Baron’s lance b-b-broke off and impaled you and you lay there dead as arrows rained down! The woman pleaded w-with me and I thought, to hell with it! And I r-ran t-towards you! She told me that I did my part and that you’ll protect me now but she was wrong!!!” I shouted and then I saw the dagger on the King’s belt.
My hand darted for it and I managed to get it unsheathed. The King’s eyes widened in surprise and his bruising grip tightened even further. I shoved the dagger towards his hand and aimed it directly above my heart.
“That’s the entire truth! If you don’t believe me, just kill me now! Please!” I begged and edged the blade closer. I was surprised when the King abruptly released me on the bed and then stood up. His eyes were now no longer angry but he looked confused and unsure.
He looked at his hands which were now coated red and then he looked at me again as I lay on the bed crying. His eyes softened and then he stepped closer towards me with his hand outstretched but I flinched.
“No more... Please!” I begged and the King took a step back, an unknown emotion in his eyes.
Then he turned and exited the door and for the first time, it didn’t slam in his wake.
© All rights reserved for The King’s Slave. Ilyian mythology, the gods and goddesses, concepts and the language used here are all ORIGINAL and all MY OWN WORK. These are the products of my imagination and countless hours spent writing. Please do not copy/ reproduce in any way