The room was warm, and the bed was soft and familiar. On the brink of waking, she thought about letting the comfort of sleep overtake her again, but many thoughts rushed into her mind. Fears for her child, Maddoc, her mother, and many others flooded her, and she could not rest. She opened her eyes and sat up in bed.
The room was dim, and she could see through the window that it was almost dark outside. The only other light in the room was the large fire that burned brightly in the fireplace before her. She took a quick look around and realized she was in Maddoc’s bedroom in the Grand Palace. She was no longer in her borrowed dress but was wearing one of her nightgowns that she had left from the winter festival. Any filth she had accumulated over the sneaking around the palace or the fights from earlier had been washed away, and her hair was neatly braided.
She listened, and besides the fire crackling, she could hear the sound of quiet talking in the room beyond the slightly opened door. Seeing her robe was near her on a chair, she carefully got out of bed, checking that she was steady first. She was still a bit tired but found her legs could easily bear her weight. After putting on her robe, she moved to the door.
Opening it, she found Elias standing close to the fireplace drinking a glass of wine. He straightened up and smiled as she walked into the room. “My dear queen,” he said as he toasted his glass towards her. “It is good to see you are awake.”
Maddoc jumped up from a nearby chair and turned to look at her. “Anwen,” he said urgently as he moved towards her. “Are you well?”
She took his hand as he came near. “I am still a little tired, but I believe I am well. Do you have reason to believe otherwise?” She suddenly felt fear for her child anew as she let go of Maddoc’s hand and put both of her hands on her stomach. “Nothing has happened to our child, has it?”
Maddoc placed his hands over hers and gave a small smile. “Our child is fine, Anwen. I have checked several times since you have been asleep. I can sense she is very strong.”
“She?” asked Anwen as she looked up at Maddoc. “You believe our child is a girl?”
“I don’t really know; it is just a feeling I have. Perhaps I would just really like a daughter and have made myself believe you are carrying one.”
Anwen took his hands and leaned up to kiss his cheek. “But what of everyone else? Is my mother well? Bren, Lachlan, and Rillian?”
“You do not need to worry, your majesty,” said Elias. “Your mother is fine. She has checked on your many times. Most recently, when I had my healer come look you over. Your king insisted you were well, but we all thought it wouldn’t hurt to have a healer make sure. He said besides exhaustion, he believes there is nothing wrong with you.”
“Yes, I believe I am very well, but will you both tell me all that has happened? How long have I been asleep?” She struggled to remember what had happened to make her so tired. “Maddoc,” she said, stricken. “Your uncle… I… I am so sorry.” She tried to take her hands away from him, but he would not let her.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for. What happened to him was his own fault,” said Maddoc.
“He is correct, Queen Anwen. I saw what he was trying to do. If you had not stopped him, he could have easily killed our king.”
“Come sit down with us, and we will tell you all,” said Maddoc. He yawned as he pulled her towards the fireplace.
Anwen looked at him closely and could see the dark circles under his eyes. His hair was damp, and he wore comfortable clothes that looked like he had just thrown on. “Are you well, Maddoc? You look as though you are exhausted.”
“It has been a long day, but I am not too tired to let you know what has happened. Elias can help me do it quickly because soon I must go to the banquet hall to eat with our guards and guest. I need to thank them for all they have done.” Maddoc led her to the sofa in front of the fireplace. They sat down next together, and he poured some water into two glasses before handing her one.
“Do you remember all that happened this morning before you fell asleep?” asked Elias as he sat down in a chair near them.
“I believe so. I know we left my mother and the others to face my aunt. I remember going into the temple and speaking with your uncle. Something else happened before I…” She could not form the words to say murdered Prince Korben.
“Before you saved me from a mad man. That is what you were going to say,” said Maddoc with a sad smile. “That is what happened.”
She took a drink of water. “Well, before that, when you and I were in front of the table, I know something happened, but I cannot explain what.’
“Neither can I,” said Maddoc. “And Elias has been no help.”
“I told you what I saw, my king,” said Elias sounding a little irritated. “You two joined hands and were enveloped by a bright light. It was so bright that I thought perhaps I would go blind. It took me a moment to regain my sight when it went away.”
“Whatever it was, afterward, I saw you look at Elias, Maddoc, and I turned because out of the corner of my eye, I saw your uncle move towards us. He had his dagger and was coming towards you. My power reacted before I knew it. It has always wanted to protect you over anyone or anything.”
“I am thankful for it,” said Maddoc. “I want to spend many years yet with you.”
“After your uncle fell, I had never felt so tired in all my life. I didn’t want to sleep and leave you as things were, but I could not fight the need to rest.”
“I am glad you didn’t fight. You needed to rest, and while there was some work to do, it wasn’t as much as you might think.” Maddoc took a long drink of water.
“I carried you out of the temple to find your mother kneeling before your aunt who was laying on the dais. I quickly reassured your mother you were well as she was scared out of her mind that you were dead. She insisted I see to you as she had things under control there.”
“I stayed while the king took care of you,” said Elias. “The guards had all surrendered by their own volition. It seemed they no longer had the will to fight. Rillian said Princess Rosyln ordered them to attack a few times. They finally tried to listen, but he could tell they knew they could do nothing. Even he could feel the shield Brennan had put up. The feeling of peace was still in the room, which I am sure your mother had something to do with.”
“What of my aunt? Is she still alive?”
Elias nodded before he and Maddoc exchanged glances.
“What is wrong?” asked Anwen.
“She is still alive, and to be honest, there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with her,” said Maddoc. “I checked on her myself with my Gift. There is no sickness or injury, but she is not the same.”
“What do you mean?” Anwen glanced at Elias before looking at Maddoc.
“She doesn’t appear to have the will to do much of anything. She barely speaks as she has only said a few words to your mother.” Maddoc took a sip of water. “Her Gift is gone. I cannot sense it in her anymore.”
“Gone? Her Gift is gone? How can that be?”
“I am not sure,” said Maddoc, “But I can assure you, she no longer has a Gift. “I have placed her in a third-floor bedroom. Your mother ordered several Lucidian guards to keep watch, but I doubt there is any trouble. There is a servant available to see to any of her needs, but mostly it is Princess Gwendolyn and your mother staying with her.”
“That is so strange, and my poor mother must feel so conflicted. I know my aunt has done awful things, but my mother must still love her sister. I will go to her soon and check on her.”
“She is doing well, but I am sure she is tried. Between checking on you, her sister, and King Brone, she has been busy,” said Elias. “Almost as busy as our king.”
“Has something happened to King Brone?”
“He was injured when he confronted Lord Gavin, Princess Meira’s father,” explained Maddoc. “Both men had severe injuries, but only King Brone would let me help him. Lord Gavin was stubborn to the end, saying he wanted no unnatural powers used on him. He died this afternoon after a few hours of agonizing pain. King Brone will take some time to recover, but I believe I did enough to see that he will be well.”
Anwen leaned forward and took Maddoc’s hand. She could feel just how exhausted he was. “Who else have you healed? I can tell you are weak at the moment.”
“He spent hours before and after lunch, healing what guards, lords, and others he could on both sides. I don’t think I can tell you how many lives he saved, but it must be dozens if not more.”
Anwen shook her head. “You should have woken me up, Maddoc. I could have helped you.”
“You needed rest. I could feel how drained you were, and I would do nothing to jeopardize your health or our child’s life. I am tired, but I will recover quickly. After I make an appearance in the banquet hall, I will sleep as much as I need. I imagine that by tomorrow, I will feel much better.” Maddoc laid back against the sofa and closed his eyes.
“You do not need to go,” said Elias. “You should already be in bed. I can make your excuses.”
“He is right, Maddoc,” said Anwen. “I can go as well. I know I have some dresses here. I can call Mrs. Owens or some other servant to dress me quickly.”
Maddoc opened his eyes and sat up. “You will not go downstairs tonight. I hate that you are even out of bed. You have been through too much these past few weeks. You need rest much more than me.”
She took his hand again. “I feel fine, Maddoc. You can tell how well I really am. I am tired, but not half as tired as you. Let me go for you, or at least go with you. I would like to see everyone that I can. I will rest better with at least seeing my mother.”
“Let her go, your majesty,” said Elias. “You know you don’t have the energy to argue with her.”
Maddoc released Anwen’s hand and fell back into the sofa. “Fine, but there will have to be times you do agree with me, Elias. You cannot always take the queen’s side.”
Elias laughed as he took a drink.
“Elias, would you pull the cord to send for a servant?” asked Anwen.
Elias stood. “I’ll go find you one myself. I will tell them you need a dress to wear. I am sure you would like Evan to come too, your majesty?”
“Yes. I believe he is seeing to King Brone at the moment, but if he is able, tell him to come directly.”
Elias bowed. “I will see you both downstairs. Before I forget, Maddoc, I have already sent a letter to Lucidala to tell your mother and those with her that they may proceed here.”
“And the villagers at Lord Fenner’s estate?”
“They are already back to their homes, I believe.”
Maddoc stood and walked over to Elias. “I could never thank you for all you have done today and during this entire trying time. I know our relationship in the past has not always been easy, but I believe you are my most valued friend.”
“I have always enjoyed our relationship, my king,” said Elias. “I will be happy to serve you and your queen for what is hopefully a long and peaceful reign.”
“I will do everything to see that it is a peaceful time for our kingdom. If anyone asks, let them know the queen and I will be down very soon.”
Elias bowed and left the room as Maddoc made his way back to the sofa to sit by Anwen. He held out his arms, and she fell into them. They sat in silence for a moment as Maddoc kissed her forehead.
“What about the battle in front of the palace?” asked Anwen as she leaned up. “How did it end?”
“After I saw you safely here and found someone to watch over you, I hurried to find Elias so we could go out and declare that Prince Korben was dead, and there was no reason to fight. By the time I got to the entry hall, Elias was already walking in with Matthias. The battle was over. I was told our side was firmly in control very quickly. Many common folk had joined the battle and not just some men from Quinlan. People from all over the kingdom traveled here to help me win back my throne. I will have to be a very good king somehow to make their effort and sacrifice worth it.
“After Matthias killed Jasper and King Brone injured Lord Gavin, my uncle’s guards were in disarray. Many of the hired fighters ran. After a time, the ones who were left fighting gave up easily.
“Matthias said it was as if they all decided simultaneously to lay down their weapons.” Maddoc looked down and shook his head. “He said there was a bright light that seemed to break through the clouds and rain. It was brighter than any lightning he had ever seen. He could not say how long it lasted, but when it was gone, the fighting stopped as those fighting for my uncle threw down their weapons and kneeled where they were.”
Anwen sat up further. “Maddoc, you don’t think it had anything to do with what happened in the temple, do you?”
“I don’t know how else to explain it, Anwen. I believe whatever did happen with us changed the kingdoms somehow, maybe the whole land. Before you woke up, we sent out messages to see where healers were needed in Quinlan for the reported illness. Just a while ago, we started getting messages back, saying that those who were sick have gotten better. Fevers have broken, and some have already risen from their sick beds.”
“But how,” asked Anwen. “I am not even sure why we did what we did. I don’t know why I was being called towards the temple.”
“I think you do, Anwen. I know how it felt during that time. It was as if we were taken somewhere else. I felt like everything would be well. Did you not have the same feelings?”
Anwen thought it over, trying to remember those moments. She finally nodded. “I did. I think we were somewhere else for a small moment in time. I think we might have been before the gods. I told you Alyvian showed me a story from the Gods’ Reflection. I think it was about trust and doing what is right. It is all the gods want from us, to trust them, each other, and try to do what is right.”
She smiled a little. “I have done quite of bit of study about your gods since I want to be able to help lead our people well. I was fascinated by the idea of helpers as the rest of your gods sound very much like mine from Lucidala. I think we do serve the same gods, Maddoc, and I think the helpers you celebrate were just ordinary people who trusted and tried to do what is right. I believe we are all called to be helpers, and when we answer that call, the gods use us to do their work here in the land.”
Maddoc pulled her back close to him. “I won’t even try to argue with you about it because I believe you are most likely right. I know what I experienced in that temple, and if it did something to help our kingdom and land, I will not question it. I have no problems trusting the gods if they were so good as to give me you. I only want to do what is right for our kingdom, for you, and for the future we will have with our children.”
Anwen stayed in Maddoc’s arms as they watched the fire. She thought he might have drifted off for a moment before a knock on the door caused them both to rise from the sofa. Mrs. Owens took Anwen into the room across the hall to help her dress while Evan went to Maddoc to ready him. It took no time at all for Anwen to be fully clothed in a simple blue dress with her hair pinned up. By the time she went into the hall, Maddoc came out of his room, looking somewhat refreshed.
They went down to the banquet hall together. It was a strange group assembled, sitting at tables, eating a thrown together feast. Palace guards and soldiers from different kingdoms sat together, eating and talking. Some laughed, and others looked thoughtful. Lords and some Ladies ate close by, many in deep conversations.
Anwen searched the room until she saw those she was looking for. At a table towards the back sat her mother with Brenna, Lachlan, and Prince Rillian. Anwen moved towards it as they all stood. Her mother moved forward and took her hand.
“My dearest, you are well, aren’t you?” Her mother’s eyes wandered over Anwen as though trying to find some injury.
“There is nothing the matter with me that a good night’s sleep will not fix,” said Anwen. “I heard about my aunt and King Brone. I am so sorry, mother. I know this must be hard for you.”
Her mother looked down as she held on to Anwen’s hands. “My sister chose her own path. I don’t know what her future will hold, but I don’t believe she will ever fully recover from what has happened here. I hate what she has become, but it is of her own doing.” She looked up and smiled at Maddoc as he walked to Anwen’s side. “King Brone will recover in time thanks to Maddoc. Brone and I are both grateful for what you did, Maddoc.”
“I do not wish for anyone to suffer unnecessarily. I wish Lord Gavin had let me help him, but I suppose there is nothing for it,” said Maddoc.
“What of his niece?” asked Anwen as she suddenly remembered Princess Meira.
“She is locked away in the bedroom of a palace under heavy guard,” answered Maddoc. “Once her father is well enough, I will let him decide what to do with her. I hope she can leave before she has her child.”
“I hope so as well, but we will not be unkind,” said Anwen. “The child is not at fault for what she has done.”
“I believe in a few days, Brone will be able to talk with me about it,” said Anwen’s mother. “I will help him find a place for her to go to deliver her child safely. Perhaps we can find her a husband in time.”
“We is it?” asked Anwen with a slight smile. “I think you and I should have a long discussion later, mother.”
Her mother laughed a little. “We shall, daughter, but you must remember that I am still your mother and queen even with your high title. I will make my own decisions.”
“And I would not have it any other way,” said Anwen.
Brennan greeted her next by enveloping her in a hug. She gave Lachlan her hand, and he kissed it gently. She happily talked to both brothers, overjoyed to see they were getting along.
“You had no ideas about your powers, Brennan?”
He shook his head. “I did not, and it seems I am not the only one who discovered their Gift during this battle.”
“Oh?” asked Anwen as she looked at her mother and Maddoc.
“A few Lucidian guards were able to use Gifts that have long been forgotten,” said her mother. “Long ago, many in Lucidala were given Gifts by the gods, but over time, they disappeared. It is almost as if they laid dormant for many years and are just now waking up for some reason.”
Anwen looked at Maddoc, and he gave her a slight nod. She knew they both understood each other. She had thought that her family’s Gifts had grown in power due to her and Maddoc finding one another as life-givers. It would make sense that others would start discovering dormant Gifts as her and Maddoc connection and power grew.
“It is more things we will need to discuss and deal with as we move forward, but it is a good problem to have. Perhaps many things in Lucidala will heal,” said Anwen.
“I hope so, darling. I have a feeling we are seeing the dawn of a new era across the whole land.” Anwen’s mother took her hand and squeezed it.
Anwen spent a few moments speaking with Prince Rillian, happy to hear his father and brother had made it out of the battle with only minor injuries. One of Rillian’s guards was killed, and she knew he was close to all three of his protectors. She remembered them as good men when they helped escort her, Maddoc, and Rillian to Lord Aiden’s estate. She gave Rillian her condolences, feeling her weariness grow at the thought of lives being lost.
As they moved around the room to greet other lords, princes, and kings, Anwen could tell Maddoc was beyond tired. She was very ready to leave as well. Her weariness, combined with the wonder, fear, and sadness that marred the day, made her very ready to go to bed with Maddoc.
After he spent some time thanking the guards and soldiers, she leaned up and whispered in his ear. “You need to rest, Maddoc, and I am very ready to lie down. You can discuss more with your lords later and give orders that the soldiers and guards be given much for their service. Let us go back to your room and rest.”
He nodded and offered her his harm. They slowly made their way out, saying their goodnights to many. Neither called for a servant as they helped each other undress and prepare for bed. It seemed an eternity, but eventually, they both lay in bed, Maddoc content to be in her king’s arms.
“I know this day has been very hard, Maddoc, and that we have many things to do in the coming weeks, but right now, I am just so thankful to be here with you.”
“It has not only been a hard day but a hard few months, Anwen. There has been too much pain, death, and separation, but now we can do the hard work to make things right. All that matters to me tonight is you are with me, safe.”
She leaned up and kissed him gently. “Sleep well, my king, because I am not going anywhere. I promise never to leave your side.”
“You are the one making promises now, Anwen,” said Maddoc with a tired laugh.
“Yes, and I will keep them all.”