The sun was shining brightly as thin clouds floated in the sky. Maddoc looked all around to find himself in a familiar field. He had only been in it once before, but he still remembered it well. It was the field in which the small house sat that he and Anwen spent their first night in on their first journey together. Looking over his shoulder, he could just make out the house in the distance along with Anwen walking his way.
She was wearing a simple light blue dress that went well with her golden hair that she wore down. As she got closer to him, he could see she was smiling. He turned and held out his hand to her causing her to quicken her pace. She took his hand, and he pulled her close to him, leaning down to kiss her.
Everything about having her in his arms soothed him. He let out a long breath as her body melted into his. He continued to kiss her as he pulled her as close as she could get to him. His arms went around her as her hands went up to his face. All he wanted was to get lost in her.
He moved his hands up her back, finding the ties that held her dress up. He pulled at them until they came undone. He kissed down her throat as he slowly pulled down her dress. Her hands went into his hair as she let out a wonderful sigh. He leaned back and looked at her as she smiled at him. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, but he knew there was no need. He could tell by how she was looking at him that she knew exactly what he was thinking.
They both leaned towards each other at the same time, their lips meeting again. Together they slowly moved down to the ground as a light breeze blew around them. She lay back into the soft grass, and he hovered over her, feeling as though his breath had left him as he was overcome with how lovely she was. He whispered her name as he leaned down to kiss her and love her.
Maddoc bolted awake in his bed at the Dunne Estate. He reached over in the bed to pull Anwen to him when his hand met nothing but the undisturbed cover of the empty side. He rolled over on his back and groaned. The dream had seemed so real, and Maddoc could still feel Anwen’s soft skin and taste the sweetness of her kiss. He tried to cling to those feelings and let them lull him back to sleep. He eventually nodded back off, hoping that soon he would hold Anwen in his arms and not just in his dreams.
He woke up much later in the morning than he expected. Feeling more refreshed than he had in a while, he prepared for the day by washing with the water that was brought in for him and dressing. He was very ready to be on the move. The past few days, they talked about taking Quinlan, and Maddoc was anxious to put their plans into action. He was tired of waiting around when he knew Anwen was in danger. His only thought was to get to her.
Besides the fact that he loved her, he felt their connection ran deeper because of their shared gift. Since he had learned he was a life-giver, he felt attached to Anwen in a way that was too deep to describe. Even now that he was away from her when he practiced his skills, it was as if he could sense her by his side. He needed her near him to feel whole, and he was tired of feeling less than himself.
They were expecting forces from Bellican to join them any day. They were also hopeful a group from Parvilia would meet them on the road to Quinlan. King Brone had some messages that made him think it would happen. All was coming together to be able to bring a sizeable force upon Quinlan. Maddoc did not want much bloodshed, and he certainly did not wish for any innocent lives to be taken. He hoped he could talk some sense into his uncle by showing the strength that was behind him. He knew his wishes were probably for naught. He just hoped they could keep as many people safe as possible.
He ate breakfast with most in the house. It was strange seeing the manor so full of people and conversations. When he had come with Anwen on their first journey, the house felt asleep. A place that was once full of opulence, life, and laughter then left to slumber under misuse. The house felt as though a dark curtain had been dropped over it the past few weeks, hiding sunlight as sad expectation, and then grief gripped the place. Now, it all of a sudden had come alive with hurrying servants, loud conversations, and even occasionally laughter.
Maddoc had problems joining in on most of it. If the conversations had nothing to do with riding to Quinlan and saving Anwen, he had little interest in it. He occasionally smiled at something someone would say, but it was a shallow gesture. One that could not break through the worry and anxiousness that filled his body. He was continually unsettled, lost in his need for his wife and queen.
As he finished breakfast, he felt like doing something useful. He started to form a plan in his mind as he looked at Elias. The man finally noticed Maddoc’s gaze and put his fork down.
“Is there something I can do for you, your majesty?” asked Elias.
“There is actually, but I am not sure you will be willing,” replied Maddoc.
“I am very willing to serve my king in any way I can.”
“Do you have any plans this morning?”
“I was going to meet with Lord Mavens and a couple of others, but I am sure they can wait for our king.” Elias took one more bite before wiping his mouth and putting his napkin aside.
“Then will you come out to the front lawn with me? I would ask one of the guards to help me, but I believe Matthias and a few leaders from the Lucidian guards who arrived have some morning exercises for the men.”
“I am ready now if you are.”
Madoc nodded and stood up. They walked towards the front door together, meeting Maddoc’s mother, Queen Eira, and King Brone on the way.
“Where are you headed this morning?” asked Queen Eira.
“Out to the front lawn to work on something with Lord Elias.” Maddoc paused and considered the queen. “I believe I might be able to use your help. Are you free to join us?”
“Of course, if your mother and King Brone will excuse me.”
“I would be happy to come with you, Eira,” said King Brone. “It is lovely outside, and I can assure King Maddoc, I will stay well out of the way.”
“I will come as well if you don’t mind,” said Maddoc’s mother. “I could use some sunlight.”
“Very well,” said Maddoc as he looked at King Brone. “Perhaps I could use all of your help, especially you, King Brone.”
King Brone looked surprised but nodded his head. Their small group headed outdoors onto the vast front lawn. In the distance, he could see his guards amongst many Lucidian guards. Some were sparring with swords; others were on horses going through different formations. Maddoc stopped his group in the very middle of the lawn.
“Elias, would you go about fifteen feet ahead of me and stop?” Elias shrugged and walked away. “King Brone, will you walk fifteen feet behind me? He gave a slight bow and walked away.
“What are you planning, your majesty?” asked Queen Eira as she watched Brone walk away.
“I am going to practice using my Gift. So far, I can only get it to heal and do simple things like bloom flowers on command. Any defense I use when in danger is purely out of instinct and reaction. I never know what it will do, and I am not sure it is always safe or proficient. I wish to find a way to control it.”
“You think you can do it?” asked Queen Eira.
“I have been thinking it over for a few days. I wonder if I can trigger my Gift to release its power by using my thoughts and therefore have more control over it. Perhaps, I can tell it what to do.”
His mother cocked her head. “So, you are going to use these two poor men as target practice?’
“I’m not going to hurt them, mother. I only need something live to practice on. At the most, they will get pushed over or flung in the air a bit. They both seemed to be healthy and sturdy.” He looked at Queen Eira. “I am hoping you could relax them a bit, Queen Eira. If they are not tense, they are less likely to hurt themselves.”
“You will be careful, won’t you? I know how much my Gift has grown lately, and I imagine your life-giving power can do much more than my simple manipulation of emotion.”
“I plan to be very cautious, and I believe if I get out of control in any way, you can reel me back in. I am sure you could knock me out with just your touch if you wish.”
Queen Eira gave him one nod, and Maddoc turned to look at Brone. He thought starting with the king might make things easier. He could easily work up some irritation for the man. Brone had never physically hurt Anwen or meant her any harm, but he had wished for Maddoc to marry Meira and therefore wanted to keep Maddoc apart from his true love.
Maddoc closed his eyes and held up his hand. He imagined the pain Anwen felt by fearing she would not be good for him. He thought of the fear he experienced when he thought she might give up on him. His power churched within him, and he let it fill his body. He whispered Anwen’s name and opened his eyes. His power moved through his hand, and he imagined Brone being knocked over. The king stumbled backward but stayed on his feet. He smiled at Maddoc and waved.
Maddoc glanced at Eira, and she grinned. “You said to relax him. I find that my power works well on him even when I am barely trying.”
Maddoc looked back at Brone. He again thought of Anwen and the pain the man had inadvertently caused her. He pushed his hand out and felt his power go. Looking up, he saw King Brone on his back, already starting to sit up. Seeing the man was well, Maddoc turned to Elias, who stood with his hand on his hip, looking bored.
It took him a little extra time to come up with the power to send towards Elias. He thought of when he first brought Anwen to Quinlan, and Elias’s careless words drove her away from him. With Elias’s help, Maddoc almost lost Anwen at the very beginning. That memory, combined with plenty of others filled with Elias flirting with Anewn, gave Maddoc the will to send a wave of power at Elias, causing him to fall over on his side.
Elias lay still for a moment before standing up and brushing himself off. He again stood still, looking bored. Maddoc turned to Queen Eira. “Keep using your Gift for just a while longer. I want to see if I can use my power faster and easier the longer I practice.”
He spent another ten minutes working to command his Gift at will. He got to the point where all he had to do was think about Anwen in danger, and he could easily push aside both men by moving his hands out. He got a little too enthusiastic and spent a blast of his power towards both men. King Brone was thrown back hard, and Elias twisted in the air before smacking the ground.
“I think that is enough, Maddoc,” said his mother as she put her hand on Maddoc’s shoulder.
Queen Eira hurried toward King Brone as Maddoc made his way to Elias. Elias was sitting up, rubbing his head as Maddoc crouched down next to him.
“Are you well?”
Elias ran his hand over his hair, pushing it back. “I don’t believe I am permanently injured, but it hurt plenty. Whatever were you doing, and why did I agree to let you push me around so much?”
Maddoc stood up and offered his hand to Elias. Elias took it, and Maddoc hauled him up. “You did say you would serve me in any way, and I did say you wouldn’t enjoy it.” Elias moved his arm around. “Queen Eira also relaxed you a bit so you wouldn’t complain. I went a bit far with that last round, I’ll admit.”
“Did you bring me out here just to get out your frustrations?”
“Of course not. I am trying to work on my Gift and make it so I can do what is necessary to save our queen and our kingdom.”
Elias gave a small grunt. “I suppose if it is in pursuit to save our queen, I can’t be too angry. Though, I am afraid my shoulder will ache for weeks, so you might have weakened me as a fighter.”
Maddoc reached out and put his hand on Elias’s shoulder. He closed his eyes and concentrated, asking his Gift to seek out anything wrong with Elias and make it right. He felt his hand warm as his power went to Elias’s shoulder. Elias gave a small sigh of relief as Maddoc took his hand off of his shoulder.
“Better?” asked Maddoc.
Elias moved his arm around, testing his shoulder. “It is, actually. It feels better than it has in a while. I tweaked it riding a few weeks back, but now it’s as if nothing had happened.”
Maddoc patted his shoulder. “Good. I am sorry, but I think your efforts have proved fruitful. I am starting to feel much more confident in my Gift and the ability to use it.”
Maddoc turned to see King Brone walking over with Queen Eira at his side. “I hope you are not injured.”
King Brone shook his head. “No. I am fine. I am not so old that I cannot take a fall or two.”
The sound of many horses approaching made them all turn. Coming towards them through the gate and down the path that led to the house was a seemingly never-ending double line of shielded and armed men on horseback. At the front rode Prince Rillian between his father and brother. Maddoc walked to meet them, with the others falling in his wake.
Rillian stopped his horse and jumped down when Maddoc was close. He walked up to him. “Have you heard anything since your last letter? Do you have any news of your queen?”
“We have not,” said Maddoc. “But you know how strong she is.”
“I do.” Rillian hung his head for a moment before taking a deep breath and looking up. “We will see her safe as well as your kingdom.”
Maddoc looked at King Garreth and his other son as they came up to stand on both sides of Prince Rillian. “I think we have more than a good start here.”
“We have brought the strength of Bellican,” said King Garreth. “We know what is at stake. As Calumbria rises and falls, so does the land. Your queen is also an important person to more than just your kingdom and Lucidala. I think she is needed for you to rule well.”
“I agree,” said Maddoc. “We will give you a few days to rest, but do not get too comfortable, King Garreth. With what you have brought, we are more than ready to put our plans into motion. My kingdom and my queen cannot wait any longer. We will leave for Quinlan in no more than three days.”