The Queen's Command

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Chapter 22

She felt like her eyes would not stay open as she walked up the stairs to her room with her mother by her side. She wondered why Maddoc had not accompanied them, but she did not have much energy to ask her mother anything as they walked. She made it to her door, and her mother opened it for her. As Anwen walked into her room, her mother called Sarah over, asking for something.

Anwen made it to her bed and sat down heavily. She reached for her ties at the back of her dress, but she gave up after feeling her stomach roll again.

“Just lie back for a moment, dearest,” said her mother as she walked over to her. “I will help you undress in a bit, but first, we will have a chat while we wait for Sarah. I asked her to bring you a few things I think will help you feel better.”

“What it is?” asked Anwen. “I don’t believe I am ill, mother. I feel no sickness in me.”

Her mother smiled as Anwen reached down and undid her boots. She groaned in frustration as she felt nausea overtake her.

“I will help you with your boots, Anwen,” said her mother. Anwen lay back on the bed as her mother bent down and took off her boots. “There, now put your feet up.”

Anwen swung her feet up on the bed and sat up amongst the pillows. Her mother sat next to her and took her hand. “Dearest, I don’t mean to pry, but do you remember the last time you experienced your monthly bleeding?”

Anwen was surprised by her mother’s question. She thought for a moment. “I suppose before we left the summer palace. Maybe about two weeks before we married.”

“I thought as much,” said her mother.

“What do you mean?”

“Anwen,” said her mother with a small laugh. “Do I really need to say more?”

Anwen was confused for a moment more before she realized what her mother was saying. Her eyes widen, and her mouth fell open. “But I have been careful. I have taken everything I should.”

“Nothing works perfectly. Many children would not be born if it did,”

“So, you think I am, I mean, you are sure?”

“Well, you have been very tired, I believe even when you sleep well. I can see you have had a sick stomach. How has your appetite been?”

“It has been strange. Some days I feel as if I cannot eat enough, and others, I do not want to even look at food.”

“Have you been weepier than normal? Perhaps a bit more emotional than usual?”

“I suppose, but it has been hard to tell. There has been much to cry over recently,” replied Anwen.

“It was much the same when I was carrying you. I do believe you are with child, dearest. We could bring in the apothecary to see if she can confirm it, or I could try to find a healer somewhere within riding distance.” She paused for a moment and looked thoughtful. “Can you use your Gift to know?”

“I am not sure. I suppose I could try,” said Anwen as she almost subconsciously put her hands on her stomach.

“Perhaps, you should wait until morning. I know you are exhausted.”

“I will not rest until I see if I can do it,” said Anwen as she closed her eyes. She searched inside herself, keeping her hands on her stomach. She whispered to her Gift, asking it to look for some sign of life within her. It took a few moments, and she felt herself becoming drained. She was so exhausted.

She almost gave up when she felt a small spark within her. Her eyes flew open as she slightly moved her hands over her stomach. There was something there; she could feel its little heart beating very rapidly. She wondered how she hadn’t noticed it before, but she had not been looking for life within her, only sickness.

“I can feel something,” said Anwen quietly.

Her mother grabbed her hand again. “How do you feel about it?”

“I know it is not the ideal time, but the thought of having Maddoc’s child fills me with great joy. How can I not be happy?”

Her mother squeezed her hand. “I am so happy for you, Anwen. You will be a wonderful mother. Of course, this will mean some changes in plans you may be making for yourself. You cannot ride out into some battle as you might have done.”

Anwen put her hand back on her stomach. She looked down. “How shall I tell, Maddoc? What if he is disappointed?”

“If I know your king at all, the only thing besides happiness he will feel is worry for you. He will be here soon, and you can speak with him.”

There was a knock at the door, and Anwen’s mother answered it, taking a tray from Sarah. She brought it to Anwen and poured some tea into a cup full of some kind of herbs.

“Drink this, Anwen. It will help settle your stomach and help you sleep. I took this same tea when I had you, and it helped tremendously.”

Anwen drank the tea, finding the taste was not unpleasant. Once she was done, she felt her weariness wash over her. She wanted to wait up for Maddoc, but she wasn’t sure it was possible.

“Would you like me to help you undress?” asked her mother.

She nodded, and her mother fetched a nightgown for her. She helped Anwen take off her dress, putting it away as Anwen sipped on the night gown. She got back into bed, burrowing down into the bed covering. Her mother tucked her in as she did when she was little, bending over and kissing her head. Anwen felt such a deep sense of contentment come over her, and she was sure her mother had used a little of her power.

“Sleep now, my dear. I can tell how exhausted you are. You can wake a bit later and speak with your king. I will only assure him you are well. I will not tell him your news.”

Anwen just managed to thank her mother before she fell asleep.

She woke up with the room bright and warm. As she stretched, she looked over and noticed Maddoc was not in bed. She sat up and looked around the room. There was no sight of him anywhere. She huffed, a little irritated. She needed to speak with him as she could not wait to tell him her news. Placing her hands on her stomach, she closed her eyes and concentrated. Using her gift, she searched until she felt the spark of life within her. She could hear the strong but muffled sound she knew was the heartbeat of her child.

“We shall have to find your papa, little one,” said Anwen as she opened her eyes.

She stood up and pulled the cord. She looked through her small number of dresses as she waited for Sarah. She supposed she would have to find a way to have a few more made with a larger waistline. So much in her life would change soon. She stopped and considered. It would not be just her life, but her king’s as well. In fact, her child would affect at least one kingdom, if not the whole land.

She could be carrying the next King of Calumbria. Her son would lead the most powerful kingdom in their land. If it were a girl, she would be the Queen of Lucidala someday. Besides wanting to protect her child, she knew the babe would grow into a very important person. She moved back to the bed and sat down.

There were so many things to consider. She had planned to travel with Maddoc to Quinlan and help him retake his throne, but now that might have to change. She hated to stay behind, but she had to wonder if even traveling in her condition was wise. Even if she traveled, she might have to stay behind in some village or camp. There could be a chance she could not fight as she planned. She had to think of the safety of her child. If she stayed behind in Lucidala, she could be away from Maddoc for weeks, if not months. The idea caused her heart to clench and her stomach to drop. How could she be away from her king for so long?

The door opened, and she decided the first thing she needed to do was tell Maddoc. Together, they could figure out the best course of action for their future. Sarah walked in with a tray of tea, toast, and some bacon. Anwen found that the smell made her hungry that morning and not sick.

“I hope you have not been waiting long, your majesty,” said Sarah as she put the tray down on a small table.

“Not at all. I just rang the cord not long ago.”

“I was told to have breakfast ready for you. The king asked me to tell you he has gone for a morning ride with Lord Brennan, and he will be back before lunch.”

Anwen gave out a small groan. She would have to wait to tell her king the news. “Help me dress if you will, and I will eat my breakfast before going out for a walk.”

The day was as close to perfect as one could get. It was warm but far from hot. A nice breeze blew from the north, and there were just enough clouds in the sky to block the sun from being overbearing. Anwen walked at the back of the house towards the treeline, spending time remembering her young years when Lord Aidan would take her to the woods to teach her how to track.

As she watched a few squirrels run along the front of the woods, she heard someone approach from her left. She looked over to see a sweaty Lachlan walking towards her with a sword at his side.

“Your majesty,” he said with a bow. “I did not mean to interrupt your silent contemplation.”

“Your majesty, Lachlan? Really? We have known each other almost all our lives. There was a time we shared much. There is no need for such formality.”

“I probably shouldn’t be speaking with you at all. As kind as your king has been, I don’t think he likes me in your presence. I doubt you enjoy it either,” said Lachlan as he stopped a few feet away from her.

“I can say with honesty that you have little effect on me these days. I do not wish you ill, but I find I hardly think of you when you are not around. I suppose that sounds harsh, but it is the truth.”

“You always were one for truth,” he said quietly.

She turned to look at him. “What have you been up to this morning? You look quite done in.”

“I asked one of the lucidan guards here at the house to spar with me. I want to be in top shape for the battles to come.” He scratched the back of his head. “I am hoping to join the Lucidian guard at least for a time. Perhaps if I prove worthy, I will find a permanent place there.”

“I suppose a life of service to your kingdom and queen would be a worthy endeavor. I think it might be a wise choice, but we will see how things play out. It might be better for you and your family if you leave the land completely.”

“I have thought of that, and once Calumbria is as it should be, I might take that route. I only want to do what is right from this point forward.”

“Then I am sure you will find your way,” said Anwen.

“Why are you out here all alone? I didn’t think you were feeling well last night. I thought you would stay in and rest.”

“I am feeling much better this morning, and I wished to be outside. My husband went out riding with your brother before I woke up. I did not wish to disturb anyone else in the house, and I do not mind solitude at times. I wish to have a moment with my memories in this place before things start happening.”

“Many times, I wish I could go back to the way things were. Everything seemed so simple then,” said Lachlan. “Ridding through the fields with you and Brennan, and even Gwendolyn. I never thought it would end like this.”

“It’s not the end,” said Anwen. “There is much to live for. I have my future with my king, and you have to rebuild your life.”

“But what you and I were has ended. I have ruined it all, even our friendship. Maybe if I had been truthful, you would have let me go, but we could have salvaged some sort of relationship. It is hard for me to imagine my life without you being a part of it in some way.” He moved closer to her as she kept her eyes on the woods.

“As I said, there is hopefully a long future ahead for both of us. I could never trust you again in any way, and I hope you understand. Still, when I leave this place, I am sure we have not seen the last of each other. We are too bonded by the people we care about. Your father will never let you completely go, and even Brennan will come around. He is too good to throw off his flesh and blood forever.” She glanced at Lachlan, who was grinning at her. “What?”

“I was thinking that I hoped to be there when you are crowned someday as the Queen of Lucidala. I am sure it will be a sight.”

She shook her head. “I will hopefully be officially crowned as the Queen of Calumbria before that.” She put one hand on her stomach. “I am very ready to live my life with my king as we both should.”

Lachlan opened his mouth to speak again when they both turned at a noise they heard in the woods. Anwen barely had time to react as Lachlan reached out and grabbed her, putting her behind him. He pulled out his sword as over a dozen royal guards of Calumbria appeared out of the tree line.

Lachlan turned his head. “Run, Anwen. Run to the front of the house. The guards are there. They won’t make their way here for at least another fifteen minutes, so you must get them now. Then lock yourself in your room.”

“I don’t think dear Anwen running across the fields would be good for her,” said Anwen’s Aunt Roslyn as she rode out from behind the trees to join the line of guards. “At least not if what Gwendolyn has seen is true.” Roslyn hopped down of her horse with two other guards that included Jasper. She walked forward towards Lachlan and Anwen, Lachlan keeping in front. Peering around Lachlan, she stared at Anwen and laughed. “I can see from your thoughts that it is true. Oh dear, what must your mother think? You not even properly wed and with child.”

Anwen felt her face flush with anger. “I am sorry you were not invited, Aunt Roslyn, but I am very properly wed to my king and happy to be carrying his child who is the future heir to one of our thrones.”

“I don’t want to argue with you,” said Roslyn. “I have come to convince you to come back to your betrothed. He is ruling Calumbria, and he will have the final say in how married you are. For some reason, he is fond of you and will probably even still accept you, bastard and all.”

“You will not take her anywhere,” said Lachlan fiercely.

Her aunt sneered. “I hoped I would never have to see you again, such a snake as you are. You have broken faith with my daughter and left her heartbroken.”

“Gwendolyn has no heart,” said Lachlan. “Something she inherited from her mother.”

Roslyn rolled her eyes. “I should just order these men to kill you and be done with you.”

“No!” said Anwen as she moved to Lachlan’s side. “There is no reason for any blood to be shed here.”

“So you will come with us quietly then?” asked her aunt. “You can share a horse with Jasper here; I am sure he won’t mind.”

Anwen felt the panic welling up inside of her. She could not go with them, but she could not let them hurt Lachlan either. She felt the power of her Gift roll around within her, but she was scared to unleash it. She worried what it would do to the child growing in her. If she used too much power, would it cause harm?

“I can see what you are thinking, my dear. I do not wish to hurt you or your child. Prince Korben wants you unharmed, and I am sure he can find a use for the babe as well. Come with me, and I promise to see you treated very well.” Her aunt held out her hand.

“I cannot go with you. My place is by my king’s side. You should leave before the guards find their way here,” said Anwen.

Her aunt groaned and flicked her hand out. “Get rid of the man and grab the princess. Try not to harm her more than something that will heal quickly. The prince will not like it if she is disfigured in some way.”

Lachlan tried to shove her behind him, but she held her ground. “There is no need. Surely we can come up with something. Wait here and speak with the king. I can grant you safety until then. You can speak with King Maddoc, and we can come up with some sort of solution.”

“And what would that be, Anwen,” said Roslyn, rolling her eyes. “My only aim was to collect you. I have no wish to speak with King Maddoc or anyone else.”

“What about your sister? Do you not wish to see her?” asked Anwen. She saw a momentary flash of pain in her aunt’s eyes.

“There is nothing I have to say to her, and I doubt she wants to hear anything from me. She will never understand that everything I did was for our kingdom’s good. It was what was best for you as well, Anwen. You would have been well settled with Prince Korben and in a powerful place. You still can be.”

“You know this will not work, Aunt. Even if you find a way to take me, King Maddoc and others will come. You will fight a war, and you will lose. Many will die in this endeavor.”

“We are more prepared than you think. Now, enough talk; we need to leave.” She looked at Jasper. “Kill him quickly and take the princess.”

Jasper took out his sword, and the other man by his side did the same. The men on horseback closed in around them all. Anwen looked behind her to see no one near them. She wondered why the guards had not made their rounds yet.

“I managed to manipulate the minds of the ones on duty, Anwen. Several went out riding with your king, and the ones behind were easy to bend to my will. They will not be coming for a while.” Her aunt looked at Jasper. “Do it now.”

Jasper and the guard next to him came towards Lachlan. Anwen felt her power churn within her, making her feel ill. She wanted to help him somehow. She couldn’t let them kill him. She warred within herself, feeling the need to save the life in front of her and trying to protect her child. A small flare of power erupted from her, throwing the guard next to Jasper back. It drained her of energy, making her feel weak. She tried to compose herself, worrying that releasing too much more power would break her in some way.

She felt sick. A pain formed in her side and made her double over. She could not take it. “Please, stop.” She straightened up, trying to keep herself from retching. “I will go with you. I will; just do not hurt him.”

“Anwen, no,” said Lachlan desperately.

“You cannot fight them all, and they will take me no matter what. I cannot watch you die. My Gift cannot take it. I will go. I will, but you must keep not hurt him in any way.”

Roslyn raised an eyebrow before nodding. She walked up to Lachlan and put her hands on his head. A moment later, he fell to the ground.

“You said you wouldn’t hurt him,” said Anwen.

“And I didn’t. He will only sleep for a while. Give me a moment, and your turn will be next.”

Jasper came up and grabbed Anwen’s arms as her aunt took a piece of paper out of her pocket. She gave it to a guard nearby on a horse. “Hide here in the woods for the rest of the day. Make sure you are not found as I am sure they will look for the princess eventually. They will probably think Lachlan has taken her somewhere. Once night falls, deliver this message to the servants’ door and leave, riding straight to Quinlan.”

The man nodded as he took the message. Anwen’s aunt walked towards her. “Now, my dear, I believe you could use some rest. You have your child to think about.”

Anwen wanted to fight her. As her aunt touched her head, she could feel the power of her aunt’s Gift run through her. Her body and Gift tried to fight it, but Anwen concentrated on her child. She said a silent apology to Maddoc, hoping he would understand why she left. Letting her aunt’s power have its way, she drifted off into a deep sleep.

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