The Queen's Command

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Chapter 25

The flower would not bloom. He couldn’t understand why. He had done just as Anwen had taught him, but for some reason, it would not open. Maddoc took a deep breath and again put his hand gently on the unopened rose. He listened for his power and asked it to do as he bid. He felt it flow through him, but when he tried to open the bloom, something stopped his power from working.

He turned away from the bush with a loud curse. Queen Eira looked at him with raised eyebrows. “I’m not sure what that poor rosebush could have done to offend you so.”

“It is not the bush, only myself, that I am displeased with,” said Maddoc as he turned to look at the bush.

“Brooding and blaming yourself for something that cannot possibly be your fault will not help my daughter, Maddoc. I know you are wise enough to see it.”

“Perhaps not, but I cannot help but feel as though I am to blame. I swore never to leave her again, and yet, I did. I should have stayed close to her as she slept. I knew she was grieving, and I knew she had been ill. What possessed me to go for a ride that morning for nothing more than pleasure and leisure.”

“Kindness motivated you. Brennan needed to get out of the house, and you knew it. You went with him to ease his burden of grief. Do you blame Brennan for Anwen’s abduction?”

“No. I do not. How could he know anything nefarious was going to happen. He would never do anything to hurt Anwen.”

The queen smiled a little. “And you would?”

“Not on purpose, but I am afraid I have hurt her before with my thoughtless words and careless actions. I left her alone in my palace for my uncle and your sister to manipulate. She was almost killed because I was tricked into visiting the south of my kingdom. She has been through so much because of me, and now she is suffering again.”

“We all hurt each other at times, even those we love the most It is unavoidable. I am sure both you and Anwen have said things you did not mean before, but I know how much you love my daughter. I know how much you want to protect her. Her being taken by your uncle and my sister is not your fault any more than mine. You cannot live in guilt and blame. You must let it go and focus on what is to come.”

“It is the waiting that is driving me insane. Every day and night I spend without Anwen is almost unbearable. Everything within me cries out to go to her. I know where she is, and I know what she is facing. How can I just be expected to sit in a parlor calmly?”

“There are many things you can do, and I believe you have been doing them.”

“I have written all my lords and sent out many of my guards to spread the word of my plan to retake the palace. I have sent many messages to those I can trust anywhere around Quinlan to see if we can get information on Anwen.” Maddoc looked down at the bush. “I was out here, trying to work on my Gift. I want it to be as strong as it can be when I go to save her.”

“How do you get on with it?”

“Not very good. It won’t listen to me fully,” said Maddoc. “I can feel it within me, but when I try to release my power, it feels blocked by something.”

Queen Eira moved close to him. “I don’t have the same powers as you, but I do have my own Gift. When I am having troubles with it, I find it is trying to tell me something.”

“I don’t know what mine could be trying to say except asking where Anwen is. She is such a part of me now that I feel incomplete without her. Perhaps my Gift only works in her presence.”

“Maybe she helps you feel safe and strong. Right now, you are agitated and feel weak. Above all, I think your Gift is telling you to rest. You look like you haven’t slept in several nights.”

“I haven’t much,” admitted Maddoc. “It is hard to settle in my bed now. It feels much too large and empty.”

Queen Eira sighed. “When I first lost my husband, I could not find much rest. Sleeping in the bed I shared with him was impossible, so I took to finding chairs and sofas thorough the palace to rest upon. It felt wrong to slumber without his strong warm arms around me. I almost drove myself crazy and made myself ill until I found a solution to my problem.”

“What was it?” asked Maddoc.

“Can you not guess? It was Anwen. I made sure to spend some time each evening before bed just speaking with her. Sometimes I would even quietly go to her room and watch her rest. She reminded me that I had much purpose left in this world, and if I was going to see to it, I needed to find a way to go on.

“You have much purpose in this world. Your wife is out there waiting for you. She is strong as you will have to be during this time. If you wish to rescue Anwen and be there for your future child, you will have to be as ready as you can. The only way you can do it is taking care of yourself.” She took his hand, and he felt a small bit of her power go to him. He took a breath as he felt a wave of calmness go over him.

“I will charm you to sleep if I have to. I don’t want to do it, but I know Anwen wants me to take care of you. I will do what I have to for her. She is everything to me, and you are the most important thing in this world to her. I will not let her lose you. She has lost too much already.”

He nodded. “I know what I must do to help her, but my feelings of doubt and helplessness cloud my vision sometimes.”

“As it does us all.” Queen Eira tugged on his hand. “Come to the house, your majesty. You may not be having much luck practicing your Gift out here, but one of your endeavors has paid off. It will do you much good to see the fruitfulness of your work.”

Maddoc looked at her inquisitively. She only smiled widely at him. “Come on, and you can see for yourself.”

He held out his arm to her, and she took it. Together they walked swiftly back to the house. They entered the parlor, and Maddoc let go of Queen Eira’s arm. He genuinely smiled for the first time in almost a week.

“I hope you don’t mind that I came to you instead of waiting at Lord Mavens southern lands. After your letter was received, I could not wait a moment more. I thought you might need my help as we planned to save our queen.”

Maddoc moved forward. “I cannot imagine when I needed your support more, Elias.” He clasped Elias’s hand as Elias clapped his shoulder.

“We will get her back, Maddoc. You do not need to worry, even though I know it is impossible.”

“It is, but having you here helps more than you know.”

“I have brought someone else who could not wait to see you. I tried to make her stay safely back at Lord Maven’s estate, but she would not hear of it.”

Elias moved out of the way, and Maddoc saw his mother standing close to the empty fireplace. He walked towards her, and she met him in the middle of the parlor. He took her hands, and she leaned up to kiss his cheek. “I am so sorry, Maddoc. I can’t imagine how awful this is for you.”

“It is awful, more than you even know, mother,” said Maddoc as he let go of her hands.

“What do you mean?” she asked as she glanced at Queen Eira, who walked forward.

“Maddoc has some news I am sure he wishes to share with you, but first, you should greet the rest of your guest, your majesty. They are all assembled in the dining hall. I thought they might want to eat after their journey while the staff tried to figure out all the room arrangements. At least it has given the Dunnes something to focus on besides their grief.”

“The rest?”

“I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t wait. Many of us had gathered at Lord Mavens’ home to await your instructions. When we heard Prince Korben had gone so far as to take our queen, we all wished to do something. We came here to see if we could hurry things along.” Elias shifted on his feet and looked at Queen Eira. “We did not realize there had been such a loss in the house. I apologize for the burden we have put on the staff and family.”

“It is no burden,” said Queen Eira. “I know the Dunnes are very happy to see all of you here. They wish for the return of their future queen more than anything. Their oldest son is missing as well.”

“The wretch who almost killed Queen Anwen?” asked Elias. “You don’t think he had something to do with it, do you?”

“We are not sure,” said Queen Eira.

“I don’t believe he did,” said Maddoc. “I can’t believe I am saying it, let alone believing it, but I don’t think he would do anything to hurt Anwen further. As much as I dislike the man, he does care for Anwen. He has been trying to make amends to his family, and I think he is sincere.”

Queen Eira looked at him before nodding. “You are probably right, your majesty, and I suppose it does not matter at this point. We will find out the truth when we reach Quinlan.”

Maddoc agreed before walking with Elias to see all the lords that came to Lucidala. He greeted Lord Mavens first. The man was very enthusiastic, telling Maddoc about all the ways he had spread his tale throughout the kingdom. After finally moving on, he spoke with the others. There were ten in all, including Lord Vinton. He was told many others were on his side, but some were in different parts of Calumbria gaining support. Others were in smaller nearby kingdoms doing what they could to find those who were willing to fight.

By the time the lords were shown to their rooms, Maddoc felt much more hopeful than he had before. He walked outside to get some fresh air, going down to the pond on the right side of the estate. He stood by the water as a cool breeze blew over it. He thought about Anwen, trying to remember happier times. He could not bear to think of anything awful happening to her in Quinlan. Surely his uncle would not force himself on her or harm her in any way.

So much of him was wrapped up in her. He quickly became so intertwined with her that it was hard to tell where he ended, and she began. Without her by his side, he felt less. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on their future. He would save her, and they would be together, he, Awen, and soon their child.

Thinking of his future son or daughter made him smile. He hadn’t given much thought to what he would prefer and realized he had no preference. He would be proud to have a son to guide as the next King of Calumbria. Perhaps he would look like him. He would be equally happy to have a daughter. He was sure she would be beautiful like her mother. Hopefully, either would have their mother’s intelligence and kindness. He would make sure his child knew how well-loved he was. He would make sure his child never had to experience the loneliness that he had.

Whatever his future might look like, Maddoc knew it was something to look forward to and to fight for. There was nothing he would not do to end up by Anwen’s side ruling their kingdoms together as they raised their children. He would not give in to despair or guilt. He had a purpose, and he would use that to keep going until he soon held his wife again.

He turned as he heard footsteps coming towards him. His mother gave him a small smile as she joined his side. They were both quiet for a moment as they watched the wind move the surface of the water.

His mother finally turned to him. “How are you really holding up, Maddoc. It doesn’t look like you have been sleeping well.”

“I haven’t. I’ve been lost in worry for my wife.” He swallowed and glanced at his mother. “For my wife and my child.”

Queen Evalin took a small step back as her hand went to her chest. “Your child?” She took several deep breaths. “Anwen is with child?”

Maddoc nodded. “She realized it just before she was taken. She didn’t have the chance to tell me. If I had known, I never would have left her side. I shouldn’t have anyway.”

His mother took his hand. “You cannot blame yourself, Maddoc. Anwen would not want it, and it will do her no good.”

“I know. Queen Eira has already given me an earful about it, and I needed to hear it. I will not wallow in guilt and sadness. I have plenty to fight for, and I need to be ready to do it.”

“You queen is strong, and I have no doubt she will be able to handle whatever is thrown at her in Quinlan. You must not despair, for there are several still in the palace who are on your side. They will protect her in many ways.” She paused. “I don’t believe your uncle would do anything truly awful to her if that is what you fear. I don’t think he has become that kind of man at this point.”

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t fear him defiling her in some way. He has talked of wanting her for a while, but I hope you are right. We will strike on the palace soon, so hopefully, he will not have the opportunity.”

“There is another rumor going around Calumbria that you need to hear. I know it is false, as do many others, but of course, there will always be those who listen to any interesting news about royalty.”

“What is it?” asked Maddoc.

“Princess Meira is with child, and she is insisting it is yours. Her uncle has come to make sure you do your duty and marry her. I don’t know what your uncle’s plan truly is, but he wants to unite you with the princess still.”

Maddoc growled and looked away. “I have never truly touched that woman. I kissed her once when I thought she was Anwen, but it did not last long. I was furious after. I certainly never did anything to get her with child. I believe she had several men she showed favor to at the winter festival. The father is one of them.”

“I know, Maddoc, but I believe you needed to hear it. It is something else you will have to deal with when you go to Quinlan.”

“I will deal with it by denying it because it is the truth. Her uncle is committing treason against his king and supporting my uncle as ruler of Calumbria. He will have to pay for his crimes, and Princess Meira will have to live with her decisions.”

“We will figure it all out together. You have so many people on your side, Madoc. You do not have to do any of this alone.”

“I know,” he responded as he looked out over the water. “I can’t help but feel very alone at times, but I know it is not so. I will miss Anwen every minute until I can hold her again, but until then, I will remember that I have all of you.”

They both turned as they heard someone approaching. Elias walked up to Maddoc’s free side. “This is a very pretty estate. Much of what I have seen of Lucidala has been lovely. I should like to see more of it someday soon.”

“When you wed Lady Alys, you should take your bride here on your wedding tour. I am sure Anwen and Queen Eira can procure you some very nice lodging, even in the Lucidan palace. I remember being stuck with how beautiful the place was.”

“I will ask Queen Anwen to arrange it when I see her in a couple of weeks. I would like to be married this fall once everything is settled in Quinlan.”

Queen Evalin turned to Elias. “You should count on your wedding happening early this fall, Lord Bennington. I have a very good feeling that all will be made right soon, and you will want to wed before your queen has to keep to her rooms.”

Elias looked at Maddoc with a question on his lips, but Maddoc gave a half-smile and answered before he could get it out. “Anwen is with child. She found out just before she was taken and had no chance to tell me. Queen Eira let me know.”

Elias rocked back on his heels and ran a hand through his hair. “You must be in agony with worry.”

“I am very worried, but like mother, I have a good feeling all will turn out well. You know Anwen will keep strong and do all she can to protect herself and our child. I must do all I can to save her and the kingdom quickly. Seeing all of you here has given me fresh hope and determination.”

“I hope it has made you hungry as well,” said Elias. “I was sent out to call you in for supper. Queen Eira says you are not to miss a meal, and she would like you to retire to your room early. Although she said it most charmingly, I could not help but agree with her quickly as though she had given me a strict command. Before I knew it, I was out here looking for you.”

“She has a way with words,” said Maddoc with a small laugh. “I am ready to go in. Tomorrow we will start to plan in earnest for taking the palace and saving our queen, and I want to make sure I am very ready.”

They all three turned to walk back to the house. Before offering his mother his arm, Maddoc looked down at a rose bush next to him. There were a few buds that had not bloomed on the top of the bush. He carefully put two fingers on the bud and closed his eyes. He felt his power respond, and by the time his eyes open, he held a beautiful new flower in his hands.

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