Maddoc looked all over the house for Anwen. He was surprised not to find her with Lord Aidan when he walked with the apothecary and Lord Dunne to Lord Aidan’s room. He at first thought perhaps she had fallen ill again and was in their room, but it was empty. He checked the parlors, the dining hall, and the library. Coming back into the entry hall, he found Prince Rillian preparing to leave for his kingdom.
“Have you seen Anwen?” asked Maddoc as he came up to Rillian.
Rillian shook his head. “No. I was hoping she would see me off, but I thought perhaps she was with Lord Aidan, and I didn’t want to disturb her.”
“She is not with Lord Aidan. I was hoping she would let the apothecary look her over, but the woman has already left.”
Rillian frowned. “Is she still not feeling well?”
“She says she is fine, but she is so tired lately. I believe she has had little appetite at times too.”
“She is under a great amount of stress. Saying goodbye to someone you love is no easy thing,” replied Rillian.
“I know, but I would still like to make sure she is truly well.”
They both turned as they heard a noise up the stairs on the second floor. Maddoc looked at Rillian before taking the stairs to see if perhaps Anwen was out in the hall. He found her speaking with the servant Sarah in hush tones. Sarah curtsied and walked to the end of the hall as Maddoc came up to Anwen.
“Where have you been?” asked Maddoc.
“I went for a walk after speaking with Lord Aidan. I felt like some air,” said Anwen as she glanced over her shoulder.
“Why didn’t you come find me? I would have walked with you.”
“I didn’t wish to disturb you, and I wanted a moment to think.” She seemed fidgety to Maddoc, and it made him wonder if something was wrong. She smiled at someone behind him. “Rillian, I am so glad I didn’t miss you before you left. I wanted to wish you farewell.”
“It will not be a long goodbye. I will speak with my father immediately and send you word. Once all is ready, I will find out where you are and come join you.”
She offered him her hand, and he took it. “Please be careful on your journey. I would hate for something to happen to you.”
He raised her hand and kissed it. “I will be very cautious since I will not have my great warrior queen with me. Do not worry for me, your majesty. I will not tarry anywhere. I am confident I will make it to Bellican.”
She nodded. “I will miss you. Thank you for everything you have done for both of us.” She glanced at Maddoc.
Maddoc grabbed Rillian’s hand. “Indeed. Your support is appreciated. Safe travels, my friend.”
Rillian let go of Maddoc’s hand. “I know I don’t have to tell you this but watch over your queen. I don’t believe any of us can do without her.”
“She will be well looked after,” said Maddoc.
Rillian bowed to them both. “I will see you soon.”
He turned and walked down the stairs as Maddoc turned back to Anwen. He was about to ask her how she felt when a door behind them opened. A familiar head poked out though it was dirty and covered in a heavy beard. It took Maddoc a moment to register who it truly was. When he did, he felt himself start to shake as anger ran through his body, making him feel at first cold and then warm.”
“What are you doing here?” asked Maddoc through gritted teeth. His feet took him towards the door as Anwen stepped in front of him.
“He is here to see his grandfather before he leaves this world. Where else should he be?”
Maddoc glared at Lachlan before looking down at Anwen, who looked up at him with a challenging look. “You knew of this?”
She nodded. “I saw him out in the woods behind the house yesterday. I went to see him and tell him the right thing to do.” Sarah came up behind them with another servant who held two buckets. “Now, Lachlan needs to prepare to see his father and queen before going to his grandfather. Let us go into our room, and we can discuss this further.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him the opposite way down the hall.
He didn’t want to go. He wanted to go straight to Lachlan and take out his vengeance on the man. He had hurt Anwen too many times. His stupidity and impulsiveness almost killed her. He didn’t deserve to walk the same land as her, let alone be in the same house. He took his eyes off of Lachlan and looked at Anwen. She was giving him a pleading look, and he felt himself soften a little. He had hurt and embarrassed her in the past, and he did not want to do so again. He was angry, but he would hear her out.
They entered their room, and Anwen closed the door behind him. She looked at him with her arms crossed and her head held high. He realized she was prepared for a fight. He stayed quiet, trying to keep his breath even as she stared him down.
“Well,” she finally said.
“Well, what?” he asked.
“I am sure you have plenty to say to me.”
“I’m waiting for your explanation. You said you wish to discuss this in our room. Here we are. Now, let’s start with how you can think it is a good idea for you to run out into the woods by yourself and face that man?”
“I saw no other way around it. I noticed Lachlan watching the estate yesterday, and I knew someone had to go out and face him.”
“Why you? Why not tell his father or brother? Why not tell me?”
She scoffed. “We both know how it would go if I told you Lachlan was around.”
“Perhaps, but, Anwen, the man has hurt you so many times in the past. He tried to force himself on you. He stabbed you with his sword. Why would you go out and face him alone?”
She dropped her arms. “I guess it was foolish for me to do it, but I can’t stand to think of Lord Aidan leaving this world without making peace with his grandson. I was afraid if I told Lord Dunne or you, Lachlan would be scared off. I knew he would see me above everyone else.”
“Perhaps Lord Aidan doesn’t wish to make peace with his grandson. Lachlan has done too much to deserve any forgiveness or well wishes from his grandfather. Are you not afraid the man will make Lord Aidan upset during his last hours in this world?”
Anwen took a deep breath. “I talked with Lord Aidan this morning about Lachlan. He brought him up in a roundabout way. He feels some blame for what Lachlan has become. He did all but shun him after Lachlan broke my heart. He feels he should have provided more guidance for his grandson but held back because of what he did to me. I cannot let Lord Aidan die feeling as if he let down one he loved.”
“Lord Aidan owes that man nothing. I have no doubt he gave good counsel to Lachlan for most of his life. After the stupid man threw you away because of his selfishness and immoral behavior, what else would Lord Aidan do?”
“He could have spoken to Lachlan. I tried to get him too many times. Not for me, as I knew I could never trust Lachlan again after shaming me in front of the entire court, but family is important. No matter how mad Lord Aidan was at his grandson, I knew he still loved him. I knew he still wanted good things for him. How could he not?”
“But you are practically family to Lord Aidan as well, Anwen. I am sure he sees you as a daughter or granddaughter. He also knows your worth, and it is at least ten times his evil grandson.”
She shook her head. “Lachlan is not evil. I know he is not. He is many things and has many faults, but I don’t believe there is no good in him. I have seen it and experienced it.”
Maddoc turned for a moment and closed his eyes. “What do you expect to happen, Anwen?”
“I hope Lachlan will own up to his mistakes and make peace not only with his grandfather but with his father and queen as well.” She was silent for a moment. “I hope you can find a way to forgive him and let him live in peace.”
Maddoc turned towards her. “That is out of the question. I can never forgive him for all he has done to you. He killed you, Anwen. Don’t you realize that? If not for me discovering my Gift, you would be dead, and it would be his fault.”
“I believe there are a few others who are culpable in my grievous injury.”
“Don’t worry. I plan to make sure my uncle pays for what he did to you.” She sighed and shook her head. “Don’t tell me you expect me to forgive my uncle.”
“If there is any chance of him repenting, I do,” she said solemnly. “Maddoc, you cannot live with all this hate, anger, and vengeance in your heart. It is contrary to who you are.”
“You give me too much credit, Anwen.”
She walked towards him. “I know who you are, Maddoc. You are not mean to be fueled by hate and anger. It would destroy you to live so. You are a good man, and also, you are a life-giver. The very essence of who you are wants to live in peace with everyone. It is what drives you to want to do right by your people. It is why you trusted your uncle so long to begin with. You want to forgive. You crave reconciliation.”
“Forgiveness and reconciliation for Lachlan is impossible, and even more so for my uncle. Are you telling me you wish to forgive your aunt? You want to live in peace with your aunt after all she has done?”
She closed her eyes, and when she opened them, Maddoc could see tears in them. “If there is any way to reconcile with my aunt, I will do it. She will have to admit her mistakes and want forgiveness from me, but I know I will give it to her if she asks for it. Perhaps it was the want of her love that doomed me in Quinlan, to begin with. She has never approved of me, but I have always craved some sort of relationship with her.
“I was lucky in that I had a mother and father who loved me, but the idea that a woman who is related to me by blood couldn’t stand me hurt me deeply. Maddoc, I still love my aunt and my cousin as well. I want to be loved by them as stupid as it sounds.”
She was crying, and Maddoc could not stand to see her so. He reached out and pulled her to him, holding her in his arms. “You are too good, Anwen.”
She wiped at her eyes. “No. It is not like that. I am not immune from wanting vengeance. I am angry with my aunt for hurting my mother and trying to keep me away from you. There have been times I have had dark thoughts about her, but I know it does me no good. What good will revenge do? I will do what I must to save our kingdoms and our people, but I will try not to let anger and a need for revenge guide me.”
Maddoc held her as he felt tears in his own eyes. “I do not wish to kill my uncle, Anwen. As much as I know it might come to it, I do not want it to happen. You are right. He is still my uncle. I have good memories mixed in with the awful.”
“I know, and it is not weak to admit it. I know you will do what needs to be done, but you will not relish it. If there is any way for mercy, I know you will find it.”
They were silent for a few minutes as they just held each other. She laid her head against his shoulder, and he rested his against her soft hair, letting his tears fall.
“We have a man here who is asking for mercy, Maddoc. I believe he is truly sorry for all he has done,” said Anwen softly. “I know we can never fully trust him, but we must do what we can to find a way to forgive him and live in peace. His family will be better for it. We will all be better for it.” He nodded slightly against her. “You will need to find a way to live with King Brone too. I have noticed how you avoid him. I heard a little of your conversation the other day. He is not a bad man, only careless. I believe he wants to do better. You should understand him better than most. You will have to find a way with him because I believe he is becoming important to my mother, and I will not live this life without her.”
“I would never ask you to,” he said as he leaned up. “I will try to do all you ask, Anwen, but you must be patient with me. I cannot help but feel anger at all those who wish to hurt you or keep us apart.”
She smiled a little. “Perhaps you can remember that if it were not for Lachlan’s deception, I would probably be stuck with the man. I hate that all I had to go through and all he did, but I can’t help but think it pushed me towards you.”
“I don’t know how to answer any of that because the thought of any man putting something ahead of you is beyond the realm of possibility to me. I will only say, I am very glad you are my wife. However it had to happen, I will never one moment with you for granted.”