The Queen's Command

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Chapter 23

Maddoc walked into the house, looking up the stairs and wondering if Anwen was still in their room. He thought about waking her before he left that morning, but she was resting so peacefully, he didn’t want to disturb her. He thought he should wait around the house until she woke up, but Brennan convinced him to go out for a morning ride, saying he needed the distraction. Queen Eira had assured Maddoc that Anwen was very well, and she appeared so happy about it, he believed her.

As he considered where to look for Anwen, Queen Eira walked into the entry hall.

“Have you spoke with Anwen this morning?” asked the queen.

“I have not. I just returned from my ride. Do you know where she is?”

“I have not seen her this morning. Perhaps she is still in your room,” replied Queen Eira.

He nodded at her and hurried up the stairs. Coming to their room, he opened their door to find the room empty. He checked the washroom just to be sure before walking back into the hallway. Lady Roxana was coming from her room towards the stairs.

“Lady Roxana, have you seen Anwen today?”

“I have not, but I have only been to the library and my room. I was about to head to lunch. Perhaps she is in the dining room.”

He walked back downstairs with Lady Roxana to the dining room to find it full of people, but Anwen was not present. He was starting to worry, wishing he had not left her that morning.

“Have any of you seen Anwen?” he asked the room.

They all looked around at each other and shook their heads. Brennan stepped forward as the servant Sarah stepped into the room. “Sarah, did you attend to Queen Anwen this morning?”

“Yes. She said she wished to be outside, so I helped her prepare,” replied the servant.

Maddoc wasted no time. He left the room, heading to the front door. He could hear footsteps behind him and saw that both Brennan and Queen Eira were following him. He walked first to the pond but did not see anyone walking about. He turned and walked close to the gate of the manor and found Matthias stationed there.

“Mattias, have you seen our queen?”

“No, my king. I have seen no one except my guards since we returned from your ride. Is there cause for concern?”

“I am not sure, but I would like to find her as soon as possible,” replied Maddoc.

“I will send guards around the estate to look for her. I will report in as soon as I know something.”

“Thank you,” said Maddoc as he turned to walk to the back of the house.

“Do not panic, Maddoc,” said Queen Eira as she walked by his side. “Anwen has always been an avid walker. She knows this estate well.”

“I just need to see her. All will be well if I can just see that she is safe.” Maddoc was starting to get a sick feeling in his stomach. He was terrified something had happened.

They walked towards the back of the house to the woods. Maddoc looked around but saw nothing. He was about to turn back when he noticed Brennan kneeling down and looking at the ground of the tree line.

“What is it?” asked Maddoc.

“Something seems strange. It could just be the guards have been here, but there have been quite a few horses recently in this area. They appear to have come from the forest.” He walked into the trees, following some trail Maddoc could not see.

Brennan moved through the woods, stopping every now and then to check the forest floor. He finally stopped as they came to a clearing in the woods.

“It’s hard to tell since the ground is so hard here, but I believe it just goes on,” said Brennan.

“What is beyond here?” asked Maddoc.

“It leads to a path that will take you to the northern road over the Ewelin mountains,” said Brennan as she stood up.

“Which takes you into Calumbria.” Maddoc turned and closed his eyes.

“You think someone has taken Anwen to Calumbria?” asked Brennan. “It would have to be a large force to be able to take her. She would not go willingly.”

“Unless someone made it so she could not fight back,” said Maddoc angrily. He started walking back towards the house, Brennan hurrying to catch up with him.

“What are you going to do?” asked Brennan.

“I will leave and ride north immediately. I will take some of my guards. Perhaps if we hurry and do not stop, we can overtake them.”

“We don’t even know what has happened. If she was taken, we don’t know the number of people that took her or what they have done to her. If you ride now, you will probably fall right into a trap.”

“What does it matter? I will not just sit here, not knowing where she is.”

He walked faster, and Brennan jogged to keep up. “I am not asking you to do nothing, your majesty, but we must figure out the best way to help her. What if they see you coming and do something to hurt her, or, the gods forbid, kill her? You need to think this through.”

They came to the edge of the woods at the back of the house where Queen Eira was waiting. “What did you find?” she asked fearfully.

“A trail that shows a large number of horses riding towards the northern road,” replied Brennan. “We are worried Anwen was taken, and probably forcefully as you know she would never go willingly.”

“You think she was taken?” asked Queen Eira breathlessly. “By whom?”

“I think it is clear,” said Maddoc. “My uncle must have sent his guards after her. How our guards here did not see, I cannot understand. Where they not told to patrol the whole grounds?”

“I will talk to the Lucidian guards,” said Brennan. “But above all, you must not do anything rash, King Maddoc. We do not want to put Anwen’s life in further danger by any well-meaning but foolhardy decisions.”

“I will not wait calmly, knowing my wife is in danger. I can go now with my guards and see to this quickly.”

“Wait, Maddoc,” said Queen Eira. “Brennan is right. We need to think about this. You cannot just ride off into a situation you know nothing about.”

“But if they managed to take her, it means she is probably already severely injured. I am sure she fought back.”

“I am not so sure,” said the queen slowly. “There is something you do not know. Anwen was going to tell you today, but I suppose she never had the chance. Come into the house, and we will discuss it. We can talk it all over with Lord Dunne and find a way to rescue my daughter.”

“What is it I do not know?” asked Maddoc. “What was Anwen going to tell me?”

Queen Eira looked at Brennan and then Maddoc. “Come into the house first. Come have a drink and calm down, and I will tell you all.”

“I will be going nowhere until you tell me what is going on,” said Maddoc furiously.

The queen huffed and looked away. “This doesn’t feel right, but I suppose you need to know. Promise me when I tell you this; you will not act impulsively. We need to decide the best course of action together.”

“Just tell me, Queen Eira.”

She looked at him. “Anwen is with child. I suspected it yesterday, and we talked last night. She confirmed it using her gift. The reason she has been sick and tired is because of the child as it is a normal thing.”

It took Maddoc a moment to gather what she was saying. “With child? Anwen is with child?”

Queen Eira nodded. “Which is why she probably went willingly with whoever took her. She would not do anything to jeopardize your child. Using her Gift in large amounts drains her, and I am sure she was concerned about what it would do to the babe.”

Maddoc looked down, trying to take in the news. Anwen was with child, his child. She was carrying his child and was now most likely on her way to his uncle. It was too much. He had to go to her that instant. He began walking towards the stables.

“Maddoc, where are you going. We need to get in the house and discuss this,” said Queen Eira, trying to keep up with his steps.

“There is no time to lose. I cannot just let him have her, especially not now. She will not be able to protect herself, and she is carrying our child. All that matters is recovering her safely.”

“I agree, but you running off with no plan will not help her. You have many allies you can call on, and I don’t believe she will be harmed. Your uncle has some fascination with her, and above all, he knows she is the perfect piece to draw you out. If you go now, you will do exactly as he wishes, and there is a good likelihood you could be killed. I will not let you throw away your life. You need to stay safe for Anwen and your child.”

“You forget that I have a gift as well and some men who will fight for me here on this estate.”

“You have a Gift you know little about and can barely control, according to Anwen. You have not practiced much here on the estate. Now, stop and think about what you are doing before I have to do something to make you,” said Queen Eira commandingly

Maddoc slowed a little. Somewhere in his mind, he knew she was correct, but the louder part of him demanded he go to Anwen that minute. He increased his pace and shook his head.

“Oh, for the gods’ sake,” said Queen Eira. She ran and caught him, grabbing his arm.

Maddoc turned to shake her off when he suddenly felt very calm. He slowed his pace to a walk and then stopped altogether.

“Maddoc, please listen to me. All will be well. Anwen will not be harmed, and we will get her back along with your kingdom. Right now, you need to relax and listen.”

He nodded, feeling as though he was very disconnected from everything around him. It was strange that he felt so calm and peaceful but still knew so much was wrong.

“Brennan, help the king back to the house. We will discuss this with everyone and figure out our next steps.”

Maddoc felt Brennan take his arm. “Come along, your majesty. Your queen is strong and clever, and she knows how to take care of herself. Let us go see what we can do to help her.”

Maddoc nodded and let Brennan take him towards the manor.

Maddoc sat calmly in the parlor as others talked around him. He felt like he should feel more panicked. He should be doing something, but he wasn’t sure what. His wife was taken, and all he could do was sit quietly on the sofa as others bustled around him.

“Queen Eira, forgive me, but are you sure the king is quite well? I hope you didn’t charm him too much. He hardly seems to know where he is,” said Lord Dunne as he looked at Maddoc.

“My power has grown lately, and I think it got away from me. He will be fine eventually. It will wear off, but before then, we need to come up with a plan. We cannot have him riding off on his own. It will not help Anwen, and it might end his life,” replied Queen Eira.

Brennan walked into the room, and Maddoc had no idea where he had been. “I can’t find that worthless man anywhere. If he has something to do with this, I will kill him myself.”

“Who are you speaking of?” asked Maddoc lazily. “Who had something to do with what?”

Queen Eira looked at Brennan before answering. “Lachlan is missing as well, but we don’t know that he was involved. He might have been taken too.”

“If he was with her and had nothing to do with it, he should have died protecting Anwen,” said Brennan. “He owes her that much and more.”

“Anwen wouldn’t let him,” said Maddoc simply, thinking it was the most logical thing to say. “She couldn’t let someone die for her. It is not her nature and contrary to her Gift.”

“King Maddoc is correct,” said Queen Eira. She grabbed a plate and put a few small sandwiches on it, and handed it to Maddoc. “You should eat, Maddoc.”

Het automatically took the plate from her and started eating, smiling a little as he looked up at her. “What should we do next?”

“We can guess she is probably being taken to Quinlan,” said Lord Dunne. “Which means she might have to stay there a while.”

Maddoc swallowed his food and frowned. He didn’t like the idea of Anwen being away from him for a long time. “How long?”

“Until you have enough forces and a good plan to retake your throne, your majesty,” replied Lord Dunne.

Maddoc paused after he had picked up another sandwich. “I do not like to think of Anwen being left so long under my uncle’s power.” His mind was becoming a little clearer. He needed to leave to get her, didn’t he?

“None of us do, Maddoc, but you must see that we have to plan for her rescue. We can’t just ride out with a group of fewer than one hundred guards. We need all the allies we can get before we travel to Quinlan.” Queen Eira paced close to the fireplace. “You will need to contact your lords somehow, and a letter should be sent to King Garreth and Prince Rillian.”

“I can contact the lords who are still loyal to me,” said King Brone from a chair nearby. “I think I could have a decent-sized force formed if I am given enough time.”

“How much time?” asked Brennan.

“Three weeks at least, maybe a month.”

Brennan sat down and rubbed his head. “We cannot leave her there so long.”

“It will probably take that long to form forces from Calumbria, Bellican, and any other kingdom we can convince,” said Queen Eira. “I hate to think of my daughter in danger, and we must make some haste. They will not hurt or kill her; I don’t believe. At least not for a while. They need her to draw out Maddoc, and I think it would cause more problems than they need if they killed a woman connected to so many kingdoms.”

Maddoc bowed his head. “How can I wait so long? I am not sure I can.”

Queen Eira sat next to him on the sofa and took his hand. “I know how hard this is. I can hardly stand it either. You must know how much I love and cherish my daughter. She is the only family I truly have left in this world, but we must be strong, just like my daughter. Nothing they can do to her will break her. She will protect herself and her child no matter what. Maddoc, you can do this for her.”

Maddoc felt a bit of the queen’s power radiate up his arm. “I suppose you can keep me subdued with your Gift if need be. Though, I’d like to be able to feel some of my emotions at times.”

Queen Eira let go of his hand. “My apologies, Maddoc. I can hardly contain my Gift anymore. Something has happened in the past few months that has doubled its strength.”

“What can we do now to start helping Anwen?” asked Maddoc.

“You should start trying to contact your lords, your majesty,” said Brennan. “Your uncle knows where you are, so there is no use trying to hide. Write as many as you can. Write multiple messages, and send them off. Think of a place you can all meet and soon.”

“I will write my lords this instant,” said King Brone, standing. “I will ask them to start moving towards Quinlan. We can meet them on the road.”

“I can contact King Garreth for you, Maddoc,” said Queen Eira. “I will send out other messages as well. Lord Dunne, will you start spreading the word here? Let them know what my sister and Prince Korben have done to our future queen. I am sure the people of this kingdom will not let the abduction of their future ruler go unpunished.”

They all went their separate ways to do what they must. Birds were gathered to send messages, and some guards volunteered to take others. By supper, a significant number of letters had left the estate. Maddoc walked into the dining room to find Albert walking towards him.

“This message came for you, your majesty. I believe it was delivered to the kitchens.”

Maddoc took it and opened it immediately.

King Maddoc,

Perhaps you have already guessed that I have reclaimed my niece. A promise was made to Prince Korben, and she must keep it. We have heard rumors of your supposed marriage, but it has not been recognized by the current ruler of your kingdom. Prince Korben is already in talks with the priests of the Great Palace temple to deny any thought of your marriage to Anwen. Once he has their approval, he will wed her.

Your uncle has told me you are very welcome to return to Quinlan when you are ready to accept what must be. You have all but promised yourself to Princess Meira by your words and actions and must do your kingly duty to marry her. She has stated that you have compromised her in certain ways, and only marriage can make it right. Her uncle is here demanding you come and do your duty.

I do hope you will come to Quinlan and bring my sister. I would hate for Eira to miss her daughter’s wedding. If all goes to plan, it will take place in three weeks. After the event, Prince Korben intends to take his wife on a long wedding tour until winter.

If you do not attend your uncle in Quinlan by the time he leaves, he will have no choice but to announce you have given up your throne and take the crown for himself.

Of course, all of this is if everything goes to plan. If the priests do not deny your marriage to Anwen, the prince will have little use for her. I would hate to think he would do something drastic to do away with her, but I suppose something without use can have only one solution.

Give my regards to my sister, and the prince and I hope to see you soon in Quinlan. If you wish to send a message to the palace, it will be received.

Princess Roslyn Claran

Maddoc felt a mixture of rage and fear flow through his body. His uncle still thought he could marry Anwen, and if he could not, there was a definite threat to her life in the letter. The urge to rescue her that second was stronger than ever, but it had to be done right. If they were willing to threaten her life to him in writing, he had to take it seriously.

“What is wrong, Maddoc?” asked Queen Eira as she walked into the room.

Maddoc handed her the letter and gave her a few minutes to read over it. Her eyes widen, and her lips moved silently as she quickly read each line. When she was done, she looked up at him.

“We have two weeks to gather all we can before we leave for Quinlan. I will take no delays beyond it.”

He turned and left the room, walking past the others as they entered. He had no appetite for company or food that evening.

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