The Queen's Command

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Chapter 10

The days spent at Elias’s country manor were odd ones for Anwen. It felt strange to have time to stroll across the massive grounds or drink tea in one of the many parlors. It felt like she should be doing something more important. It felt like both her and Maddoc’s kingdom were in some kind of peril, but there was nothing they could do until the meeting with Maddoc’s lords. So, Anwen kept herself busy as best she could and tried not to focus on the pain and sickness that was in the land.

She could tell Maddoc was on edge as well. He paced more than usual. He didn’t smile as often as she was used to, and he kept extremely close to her. Even when she was talking with others, he was always within her sight. She didn’t mind. She didn’t like being away from him either. They spent much time alone either in their rooms or walking or riding in some distant field.

Maddoc seemed desperate to have her in intimate ways, and she was happy to spend that time with him. With all that seemed shaky around them, she found stability in loving her king. Still, he had been unusually quiet. She hoped he would share his feelings with her as he had done before, but since arriving at the estate, he was mostly silent.

Three nights before the meeting with Maddoc’s lords, Awen lay in Maddoc’s arms in their bed. They had just spent well over an hour loving each other, though it felt like no time at all to her.

Maddoc kissed her neck as his hands moved down her body. She turned her head to look at him. “Are you alright?”

He gave a deep, quiet laugh. “How could I be anything but completely content at the moment.”

She smiled at him as she put her hand on his arm. “I don’t just mean right now. I know you are under a lot of stress. I feel it too.”

He kissed her neck again. “I would rather not talk about it right now, not here. I only want to focus on my love for you.”

Anwen turned in the bed and looked at him. “But I want to help you carry your burdens. I want to do what I can for you.”

He put his arm around her waist and pulled her close to him. “You do help me, Anwen. Just by being near me, you keep me calm and relieve my stress. Being with you like this soothes me.”

“I will always be here like this when you need me. I feel better when I am close to you as well, but I want to help in other ways. You can talk to me about your fears and worries. I want to listen. Even if I cannot help, I would like to know what you are thinking.”

“There is no point in telling you how I am feeling because I know what you will say. You will excuse what I have done in the past, but I do not want it. I want to feel the shame I should so I can do better.”

She sighed and ran her hand down his arm. “I wish you would not feel shame. There is no point to it. I know you did not behave as a king should for a few years, but you were very young Maddoc. You are still very young. Your uncle manipulated you and kept you away from your duties. Your mother may have encouraged you to take up your responsibilities, but what had she really done to prepare you for it? She kept you locked up in the palace to keep you safe, but you missed out on much of your childhood.

“It is no wonder you ran a little wild when you finally had freedom. I do not hold it against you, and I doubt anyone else does either.”

“My people probably do, and they should. I cannot believe the disease and suffering we saw at the east of our kingdom. When I went south this past winter, there were many who had been suffering due to a lack of good housing. How many years did they suffer after my father died? Were they suffering before? Did my father see to his kingdom correctly?”

“I don’t know the answers to your questions, but I can tell you what I do know.” Anwen scooted up so she was face to face with him. “I know you are a good person, Maddoc. I know you want to do what is best for your kingdom. You are strong, and you are intelligent. Going forward, you will do what you must to see to the safety of all of your people.”

He looked down and shook his head. “What if I can figure out what to do? What if not enough lords support me?”

She bent down to meet his eyes. Once she locked eyes with him, he did not look away. “You will not do this alone. You do have lords on your side. You have Elias. You have many guards lead by Matthias roaming the kingdom looking for you. Your mother is on your side.” She put her arms around his neck. “I am here, my king. I have become your wife and queen.

“Whatever you need from me, I will do. If you need my counsel you have it. You say I speak too well of you, but you know I will also speak truth to you. If you need nothing more than my company, I will be there. I also come with a kingdom. It may not be one people see as strong, but I don’t think many really understand Lucidala. We are a proud people with more strength than the land realizes. I know most of my people will stand with you. My highest lords will.”

She leaned forward and kissed him, pressing herself against him. “I am also here whenever you need a distraction.”

He groaned before suddenly rolling her over and hovering over her. He shook his head as he looked down at her. “You are not a distraction, Anwen. You are everything to me. I will do what I have to as king, but what I live and breathe for is you.”

He loved her again and at least for that night, they both forget their worries.

The next day, lords started arriving which had a positive effect on Maddoc’s mood. Elias told him there were many lords on his side, but to actually see the lords come seemed to alleviate some of the king’s fears. Lord Mavens arrived the day before the meeting with an unexpected guest.

“Mother,” said Maddoc walking forward to meet Queen Evalin. Anwen slowly followed.

His mother smiled wider than Anwen had ever seen her as she met her son, placing her hands on his arms. “I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear you were here, Maddoc. I had to come with Lord Mavens to see you. I hope you do not mind.”

Maddoc leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “Not at all. I have been worried about you.” He let go of his mother and looked behind him. “We both have.”

Queen Evalin’s eyes grew wide as she looked at Anwen. “Princess Anwen, this is a wonderful surprise and relief. The reports were you had perished. I had hoped they weren’t true, but I dreaded they were.”

“I am very much alive, your majesty and very glad to see you,” said Anwen with a curtsey.

“You will have to address her correctly, mother,” said Maddoc with a grin. “I should introduce you properly.” He grabbed Anwen’s hand. “Mother, this is my wife and the Queen of Calumbria, Anwen Claren-Cadden.”

Queen Evalin took a small step back as her hand went to her chest and a frown formed on her face. “You are married?”

Maddoc nodded. “I could not wait to make Anwen my wife. I could not bear it after all that happened.” He paused for a moment. “I hope you are not unhappy?”

“Unhappy? No, I am not unhappy. I am just surprised.” She looked at both Anwen and Maddoc with a frown still on her face. “Where did you marry?”

“In the village temple outside of the summer palace,” answered Anwen. “I know it was not a place befitting a king, but we both didn’t care. We just wanted to belong to each other.”

Any other conversation was interrupted by the arrival of more lords. Anwen walked with Maddoc to greet others as he introduced her as their queen. Many seemed surprised but not displeased. Anwen greeted each one as graciously as she could, all the while watching Maddoc’s mother. She worried that the queen was displeased with their marriage no matter what she said.

She tried not to let it bother her. She did not like the idea that Maddoc’s mother would be displeased with them marrying, but it would not make Anwen regret her decision. She knew she was meant to be Maddoc’s wife. The more she was with him, the more in love she fell with him. To think of going through her life without him was impossible.

After supper that night, Anwen decided she needed to find out where Maddoc’s mother stood and let the woman know just how sure she was of her decision to marry Maddoc.

“Queen Evalin, would you mind walking around the room with me? Perhaps away from the others? I would like to talk with you,” said Anwen as she came up to the queen.

Queen Evalin nodded and put down the teacup she was holding. She walked by Anwen’s side to a large window at the far left of the room where no one was sitting or talking.

They stood by the window looking over the room. Maddoc was near the fireplace, talking with a group of lords. Whatever they were speaking of, Maddoc appeared confident and comfortable with his words.

“My son has grown up much since he met you,” said Queen Evalin. “A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined him commanding such attention from our kingdom’s lords. He looks like he was born to be the king.”

“He was,” said Anwen.

Queen Evalin nodded. “Yes, but he has not always acted like it. Since he came back from that journey from your kingdom, he has become a different man.”

“You believe I have been a good influence on him?”

“I think I told you that from the beginning. I have never doubted your effect on my son or the good person you are. I told you I never had any objections to you as a person.”

“But you still object to me as Maddoc’s wife?”

Queen Evalin turned abruptly and looked at Anwen. “Why would you think that, your majesty?”

“You did not look as though you approved when you heard the news, and all day I have watched you. You look very displeased.”

The Queen smiled slightly. “I am not unhappy you are Maddoc’s wife or our queen, my dear. My feelings of disappointment have to do with being a mother. I am only sorry to have not been able to witness the ceremony. I have only one child, and I would have liked to have been there when he married the woman he loved.”

“Oh,” said Anwen quietly. “I am sorry, Queen Evalin. Of course, you wished to be there. I imagine my mother will be disappointed as well.”

“I also feel for you. You deserved better notice than some out-of-the-way wedding in a small village. You deserved a proper wedding starting in the palace temple and ending in the throne room with your crowing.”

“I appreciate you thinking of me, but it does not matter, not to me. All I wanted was to be Maddoc’s wife, and now I am. The size of the ceremony or crowd didn’t both me. I hardly noticed anything that day except him. I believe it was the happiest day of my life.”

The queen smiled. “To marry for love must be a wonderful thing, and I am glad you are happy. Still, you will have to be properly recognized at some point. Once we have order in the kingdom again, and Maddoc is in his rightful place, he will need to recognize you as his queen.”

“He has mentioned it. I will do whatever I need to for him and the kingdom, but know that it does not affect the happiness I feel being so connected with your son.”

They both turned as they heard someone come near them. It was Maddoc who looked concerned as he walked up to stand by Anwen. “Is all well over here?”

Queen Evalin grinned and nodded. “Anwen was just telling me about your wedding day.” She looked at Anwen. “I hope you do not mind me referring to you so personally.”

“Not at all,” said Anwen. “I would prefer it.”

“You wedding sounded as though it were very intimate. Anwen said it was the perfect day.”

“It was,” said Maddoc as he picked up Anwen’s hand. “It was the happiest day of my life.”

“Your wife said the same,” said the queen. “You will have to recognize her properly to the kingdom some day after all this unpleasantness is done, but I am glad to see you so well settled, my son.”

“I could not be happier,” said Maddoc as he raised Anwen’s hand to his lips.

The next day, Maddoc spent much of it speaking with the lords as they waited for a few more. The meeting would be the next day, and Anwen planned to attend. She spent much time in the morning speaking with all in attendance, but in the afternoon she thought to take a break in the library.

It wasn’t an impressive collection of books, but Anwen pulled out a couple about Calumbria’s gods. She figured if she was to be the queen of the kingdom, she should understand the gods of her people. As she read, she learned there were three gods just like those in her kingdom. Unlike hers where the three gods shared responsibility, each god of Calumbria had a different task. One was in charge of nature, one was a giver of life and love, and one was the escort into the next life.

After almost an hour of reading, she thought about the gods she served. They had the same characteristics as Calumbria’s gods, watching over the land and people, and creating a place to go on to once the life in this land was over. The only difference was Calumbria’s gods each had helpers who ventured between the mortal life and the life beyond to help with tasks. Anwen’s gods depended on the people to watch over the land and each other.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of Prince Rillian. He smiled at her as she looked up, closing her books and moving them over before inviting him to sit down.

“What have you been up to in here?” asked Rillian as he sat down next to her. He picked up one of the books and looked at it.

“I’ve been trying to learn more about Calumbria’s gods. If I am the queen of its people, I should do all I can to understand who they serve and worship.”

Rillian nodded as he opened one of the books. “I know a little of them. They are not much different than those we worship in Bellican.”

“Same with Lucidala. The idea of helpers is new to me, but everything else is much the same.”

Rillian looked up at her. “I imagine in the end we all serve the same gods. We just give them different names and mold them to fit our kingdom’s image.”

Anwen smiled. “I have long thought that as well. I’d like to think we all serve the same gods, and the land is more connected than we realize it.”

“I think it is. We all acknowledge the same creator, the great mother Allinar.”

Anwen’s smile faded a little as she thought of the wonderful horse that Maddoc had given her. It was named after the great mother, and Anwen had grown very fond of her mare in the short time she had her. She hoped her horse was being well taken care of in the royal stables of Quinlan.

“Is something wrong, Anwen?” asked Rillian.

Anwen shook her head. “I was being silly, thinking of my horse. I hope she is well in Quinlan. I do miss her. Her name is Allinar. And she was a gift from Maddoc.”

“It is not silly. I believe many of us become attached to our horses. I had a dog once I was very fond of as well. Your mare being a gift from your beloved makes her even more special.”

“I’m sure she is fine. They would have no reason to hurt my horse. Hopefully soon, I will be able to see her in Quinlan.” Anwen looked at the book Rillian was holding. She noticed there was a picture drawn of Allinar on the page open. “If we all acknowledge the same creator, why do we have different gods?”

Rillian shrugged. “I think it has to do with people molding what we worship into something we can understand. If Allinar created gods to watch over us, perhaps we lost the original names as we tried to understand them and interact with them. Maybe as we scattered and formed new kingdoms and tried to gain power, we tried to mold the gods to fit our own needs.”

Anwen sighed. “And as we scattered and fought for power, we grew apart with suspicions and anger for one another. While we do find common ground at times, there have been too many wars over the years. There is not cooperation between many kingdoms as there should be. Think of how long Lucidala has suffered with no help from our neighbors.”

“Bellican has had times of trouble as well. Whether we were too proud to ask for help or no one would answer, I do not know. There was a time in our history where we were in danger of being taken over by others. We were lucky that one of our lord’s daughters made an advantageous marriage in Calumbria at the time.”

“And now I am afraid we are on the brink of war again. If the strongest kingdom in our land is divided, it will affect all of our kingdoms. Sides will be chosen, and if we do not find a way to end this quickly, the whole land could be torn apart.” Anwen sat back and shook her head as she realized Maddoc must have been thinking this for a while. She wondered if he had not only been carrying the weight of the struggles of the kingdom on his shoulders but also worrying that his actions could devastate the whole land.

“Anwen, are you alright?” asked Rillian.

Anwen slowly nodded. “I am. I just need to go speak with the king. Would you mind putting these books to the side for me? I plan to come back later and look at them.”

“I will be happy to. I think I will spend some time reading them as well.” He paused and looked at her. “Are you sure you are well?”

She gave him a reassuring smile. “I am fine. I just need to go be the queen I have promised my king I would be.” She turned and walked from the room.

She checked in the large parlor to find it empty. She knocked on Elias’s study and opened the door to find no one inside. She ran up to the room she shared with Maddoc to find only servants. As she was walking downstairs, she met Elias and Lady Alys in the entry hall with Lady Phaedra and her son behind them.

“Have either of you seen the king?” she asked a little breathless from her searching.

“Your majesty, are you well?” asked Lady Alys with concern.

“I am, but I need to find the king as soon as possible. Have you seen him?”

Elias and Lady Alys exchanged looks before Elias looked at Anwen. “He said he needed some time alone to think.”

“Do you know where he has gone?”

“I believe he was walking to the far side of the large pond,” said Lady Phaedra. “We all offered to accompany him, but he refused.” She smiled a little. “I don’t think he would mind you finding him, though.”

“Thank you, my lady,” said Anwen. She smiled at Lady Phaedra as she walked past her.

Anwen hurried out of doors, nodding to a few lords who were walking about. Once she was in sight of the pond, she broke out into a run, hoping to find Maddoc quickly. She finally spotted him leaning against a tree as he looked at the water. He straightened up as she approached, his face etched with concern.

“Is something wrong? What is it, Anwen?”

She shook her head, trying to catch her breath. “It’s not all your fault, Maddoc.” She took a few more deep breaths. “Whatever has been set in motion in the land was done by those with evil intentions. It is not of your doing.”

He looked at her for a second before dropping his head. “Calumbria has been stable for over five hundred years, Anwen. As Calumbria has prospered so has much of the land. Only during my reign has such turmoil found us. I have only truly been king for less than five years, and already things are falling apart. If my uncle has his way, I am afraid it will tear all the land apart. Many will suffer.”

Anwen walked closer to him and took his hand. “And that is on your uncle and the useless lords who support him. It is not on you.”

“If I had taken more of an interest in my position from the beginning instead of being a wild, useless cad, I could have stopped this.”

“You don’t know that,” said Anwen. “Your uncle already had power and lords under his thumb since your father’s death. You were a thirteen-year-old boy when he died. If you had gotten in his way, I am afraid he would have had you killed.”

“I still could have tried. Instead, I bedded women, not caring who I hurt. I drank and spent my time in frivolous activities. I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t care. I only wanted what would give me some fleeting idea of fun of excitement. I was a wretched creature and now all will pay for my mistakes.”

He took his hand away from her and turned away. “And now I have brought you into this. You deserve so much more than me, Anwen. You deserve someone strong and good.”

“You are who I want, Maddoc, and it is too late for regret. I have chosen you, and there is no going back.”

He shook his head, and Anwen felt her breath increase once again, this time in anger and annoyance. She huffed out loud. “Maddoc.” She said his name so forcefully he turned and looked at her. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself and living in the past. You do not have the luxury. You are the king of Calumbria and essentially the leader of this land. I believe you are good and strong, and it is time you acted like it. No more sulking and no more dwelling on your mistakes, because I will not have it.

“You are used to hearing hard truths from me so I have no qualms in giving you another one. In spending time in regret, you are continuing to not be the king I know you can be. You talk and act as if your uncle has already won, but he hasn’t. You have a house full of lords here who support you. You have a group of palace guards that are ready to fight for you. You know you will have my kingdom and probably Bellican on your side. Your people will follow you because of who you are, but you have to start acting like the king you need to be.

“I married you because I know who you truly are. You say you love and trust me, and I need you to listen to me know. You will stop this sniveling and sulking, and start living into who you were meant to be. You come from a line of kings on both sides of your family, and you have Lucidala blood in your veins. You have a Gift that only a precious few have ever had. You are extraordinary in that you have power but want to use it for the right reasons. Now stop focusing on what you can’t change and start looking towards the future you can create.”

Anwen stepped back from him and relaxed her hands that had been balled up at her sides. She went to turn from him when he caught one of her hands. He pulled her to him and ran his hand through her hair.

“You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” he said quietly.

She looked at him, annoyed. “Did you hear anything I just said?”

He smiled a little. “I heard it all, Anwen. I know you are right, but I have so many doubts. I’ve talked to these lords. What if I can’t be who they think I am?”

She softened and pulled his hand up to her lips. “But you are, Maddoc, and you don’t have to do it all alone. I know you carry a heavy burden, but I am here to help you manage it. I pledged you my support and faithfulness when we married, and I meant it. I will be whoever and whatever you need me to be.”

“I just need you to be who you are.”

“And that is all I and this kingdom needs you to be. Who you truly are is everything wonderful and good, Maddoc. I believe in you. I know you can do this. I think you might be the only one who can.”

He pulled her even closer and put his arms around her. “We can do this, Anwen. I know I can’t do it alone. I will need you.”

“You don’t have to worry about me going anywhere.” She smiled and pulled back a little. “You might get tired of my impertinent ways and unguarded words.”

“Never,” he said. “I rather like it when you tell me off. You are quite a sight when you are angered.” He pulled her back to him and he kissed her. He held her and was quiet for a few moments. “I do still have doubts about the future. I can’t completely dismiss them.”

“I know,” said Anwen softly. “But do not let them control you. Acknowledge them and then work to fight your way through them. Tell me when you are unsure, and I will help you remember how strong you are.”

“You are the one thing I never doubt,” said Maddoc before kissing her forehead.

“Good because no matter what happens, I will never leave your side.”

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