The Queen's Command

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Chapter 12

“Do not worry about packing too many dresses and nothing too formal,” said Anwen as she looked at the servant in her room. “I will travel on horseback, and everything I take with me needs to fit in those two large packs. I have a dress or two where I am going, so I don’t need much.”

The servant nodded and went back to folding up a simple blue gown carefully. Anwen turned as Maddoc walked into the room. He held a letter in his hand that he threw down angrily on a small desk before sitting down in a chair.

“I swear a few of these lords have about as much sense as a rabbit sniffing a trap, maybe less.”

The servant tucked the folded dress into Anwen’s pack before curtsying and leaving the room.

“What is wrong, my king?”

“This is wrong,” said Maddoc picking up the message and letting it go so it floated back down again. “We need to keep correspondence at a minimum. We took a big risk having so many lords travel here, and now with all these letters, I am afraid it will be too easy for my uncle to know where we are.”

“Well, we are leaving tomorrow, and Prince Rillian and his guards are traveling with us.”

Maddoc huffed loudly before she could go on.

“I thought you liked Rillian?”

Maddoc smiled a little. “I do, and I shouldn’t mind him traveling with us. He can meet with your mother before traveling on to Bellican to see his father, but I will miss our solitude. I am a wretched and jealous man, Anwen. I like having you to myself.”

She walked over to him, and he opened his arms. She sat down on his lap as his arms went around her. “If we can do this right, we will have many years to be alone. Perhaps when we have dealt with your uncle and my aunt, we can find time to travel back to the summer palace. I believe you owe me a proper wedding trip.”

He held her close and kissed the top of her head. “I will take you anywhere you wish to go, my love, but first, I only want to keep you safe.”

“Elias, your mother, and the others should probably leave as well if you think our location has been compromised. I would hate for your uncle’s guards to do anything to them because he believed they helped us.”

“My uncle wouldn’t dare touch Elias or anyone in his family. If he openly harms my mother, some of his lords could become angered. Elias also has ways of protecting people in this place. He has numerous guards.”

Anwen nodded. “I trust you are right, my king.” She tried to get up, but Maddoc’s arms tightened around her. “I need to finish packing before supper if we are to leave tomorrow.”

“I am sure there is plenty of time before supper for your to pack and do other things.” He leaned in and kissed her neck.

She sighed and rested against him. “I am afraid there is not. There will be much more time for such things after supper if you will let me pack now.”

He kissed her one more time and let her go. “Very well; do what you must. I should probably make sure I am completely ready.”

Supper that night was a subdued affair. Everyone could feel the seriousness of their situation. Elias was trying to decide if staying in his manor home was the best course of action, or if he should take everyone somewhere better hidden in the kingdom or elsewhere. Anwen was anxious to be on the road to see her mother and friends. She wanted desperately to see her mother was recovered and let them all know she was alive. Maddoc was quiet, and Anwen could tell he was on edge. She had a feeling his mood would be dark much of the time until they could make things right.

“How long will it take you to get to Lord Aidan’s estate?” asked Lady Phaedra who sat on one side of Anwen. “That is where you are going, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and it will take at least five days from here. That is only if everything goes smoothly.”

“Your king does not seem in the best mood for traveling,” said Lady Phaedra as she picked up her cup of wine.

“He is concerned for his kingdom.”

“And his queen.” Lady Phaedra took a drink. “I know you must travel to your kingdom and visit your mother, but you must be careful, your majesty.”

“I will keep watch over our king, Lady Phaedra. I know how important he is to Calumbria and all of you.”

“You should work to keep yourself safe, too. Our king can not do without you. I know it is true and so do you. I hope you know just how much he does love and depend on you.” The lady looked at Anwen closely.

Anwen gave her a small smile. “I do know it, my lady, and I depend on him. We will keep each other safe. Someday soon, we will rule in Quinlan together. One day in the distant future, he will help me see to Lucidala as well.”

“Let it be as you have said.”

“I hope you will watch out for yourself as well, my lady. I nor the king would like anything to happen to you.”

Lady Phaedra nodded her head at Anwen. “I am very resourceful, my dear. I have always been a survivor. I am also a mother. A mother will do everything to keep her child safe. I suspect you will know what it is like soon.”

Anwen looked across the table at Maddoc who was in conversation with Elias. She had thought in the past what it would be like to be a mother. She knew one day, she would have to have children to pass on the throne of the Lucidian palace. Now, she had to see to two legacies. More than that, the thought of having Maddoc’s child brought her great joy. She believed after the lonely childhood he experienced, he would want to be a very involved father.

She knew she was staring at him with a silly smile on her face when he looked up at her. His serious expression melted away first in confusion, and then he gave a smile of his own. It was the kind of smile that made Anwen know they would not stay long downstairs after dinner.

Anwen was deep in sleep. She wasn’t even dreaming as the earlier activities she experienced with her king had worn her completely out. It took her a moment to wake up as she heard urgent knocking on their door, and Maddoc saying her name. Only when he finally let her go and sat up, did Anwen open her eyes and yawn.

“What is going on?” she asked groggily.

“I’m not sure,” replied Maddoc as he picked up his shirt from the ground and slipped it on.

Anwen sat up and rubbed her eyes as he found his pants. She looked around for her nightgown and spotted it close to the foot of the bed where Maddoc had thrown it. She got up and pulled it over her head as Maddoc walked towards the door. As she put on her robe that had been on a nearby chair, he opened the door to find a hurried-looking Elias.

“You must leave, now,” he said urgently as he walked into the room.

“Why?” Maddoc looked back at Anwen.

“Royal Guards have been spotted coming this way. They were not the ones led by Matthias. Their loyalty is to your uncle. They must have heard you were here or intercepted a letter or something. You must leave before they get here.”

“How will we leave without them seeing us?” asked Anwen. “If they are close by, how can we get out of the house, let alone off the estate without being spotted.”

“I have a way. There is an old tunnel that was built with the house. It leads to the road to the east river. I believe it is all still passable. I have already asked my servants to take yours and Rillians’ horses to the exit. Rillian’s guards are headed that way too.”

“What about you and the others?” asked Anwen.

“I will hide the queen mother in the tunnel, but the rest of us will greet the guards. This is my estate, and I have a right to be here.”

“Are you sure that is wise, Elias? These guards may not care about your rights or even be able to see reason.”

“We will be fine, your majesty. I have my own guards ready if they are needed. Right now, you need to get dressed and grab your things. You have less than ten minutes before they are here.” Elias turned and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Maddoc looked at Anwen, and they both hurried to put on their clothes. Anwen slipped on her simple traveling dress and pants as Maddoc pulled on plain britches and shirt. After Maddoc helped Anwen tie her dress in the back, they both quickly put on their boots and grabbed their bags.

They walked out into the hallway as Prince Rillian was leaving his room. Elias met all three of them by the stairs and walked with them to the first floor. There they were joined by the queen who still wore her nightgown and robe. She had pulled on her walking boots. She grabbed Anwen’s hand and gave it a quick squeeze as Elias led them through the empty kitchens and to a small staircase behind an old wooden door.

They walked down into a dim, cool room that had many shelves full of grains and herbs on them. Elias walked over and pushed one of the large shelves out of the way to reveal a dark wooden door that had a large iron bar across it. He fished out some keys from the pocket of the pants he was wearing and unclocked the bar, swinging it up to open the door.

Behind the door was a dark, narrow tunnel. Elias handed them all a candle. “Here I have some flint where you can light them.”

Anwen waved him away. She touched the wick of each candle, causing them to light. Elias looked slightly surprised but said nothing as he handed Maddoc and Queen Evalin a few more candles each.

“Queen Evalin, you can stay just behind this door. I will come get you when it is safe. The rest of you better go as quick as you can. When you get to your horses, ride hard until you come to the river. You should be safe then.”

“Thank you, Elias,” said Anwen. ’We will find a way to contact you safely once we reach Lord Aidan’s estate.”

“Yes,” said Maddoc. “Thank you, for everything.”

“Just go. We will meet again soon. Stay safe, and I will do all I can from here to secure your throne.”

They all four walked into the tunnel, and Elias closed the door, leaving them in the dim light that came from their candles.

“You have to go, Maddoc. Do what you must in Lucidala, and we will find a way to build you a force here in Calumbria.”

“Stay safe, mother. Whatever you do, try to stay away from my uncle. Once we make it back to Calumbria, I will find you.”

“I will do what I need to see you safely on your throne.” She looked at Maddoc and Anwen. “Both of you. Now go.”

Maddoc leaned down and kissed his mother’s cheek. Anwen took her hand for a moment, and Prince Rillian bowed before they all three moved swiftly down the tunnel, Maddoc in the lead. The way seemed long, and at some point, Anwen became breathless, hurrying down the tunnel. She was still tired from being woken up, and she felt fear creeping up within her, making her stomach unsettled.

As though he could feel her uneasiness, Maddoc reached back and took her hand as he slowed his pace a bit. Rillian put his hand on her back as he almost fell into her while trying to slow down.

“I wonder how much longer,” said Rillian as he looked at his small candle.

“Hopefully not too much longer. The estate is large, but it does not go on forever. We will have to hit the border at some point.”

After what felt like many hours, but was probably less than one, they came to an end with a wooden door. Maddoc forced it open after a couple of tries, and he looked out before motioning for Anwen and Rillian to follow him. They walked out of a small mound, onto the side of an old road. They were met by two of Elias’s men and Rillian’s guards. They had three horses, saddled and ready.

Maddoc and Rillian attached their bags before Maddoc hoisted Anwen into her saddle. She looked around as Maddoc and Rillian mounted. They were somewhere far behind the house, past the small forest in the back. She could see the moonlit road ahead of her that ran on with dense trees on both sides.

“We should go. Once we get to the river, we will travel a ways down it before we stop for a rest.” Maddoc pulled his horse towards the road.

Anwen looked back towards the house, wondering what was happening there. She closed her eyes for a brief moment and said a quick prayer to her gods for the safety of all within the manor.

“Anwen, are you ready?” asked Maddoc.

She nodded and rode between Maddoc and Rillian as they made their way down the road to find that river that would lead them towards Lucidala.

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