Five Years Later
Maddoc hurried down the stairs of the Lucidian palace, looking for his wife. He wanted to leave in time to make their first destination by sundown, and he knew it would take a while for her to separate from their children. As much as he would miss his son and daughter, he was very ready for a few weeks alone with Anwen.
As he made it to the bottom of the stairs, he was met by Brennan walking with the palace steward. He could hear Brennan discussing some things about the spring planting as the steward showed him a message.
“That will be fine, Aris,” said Brennan. “Send the message directly.”
The steward bowed and hurried from the room as Brennan turned to look at Maddoc.
“Are you ready to go, your majesty? I believe you will have to get on the road soon unless you want to travel in darkness.”
“I am very ready, my lord. I am only looking for my queen so we can leave.”
“She is already outside, I believe. I saw her with Queen Eira and both the prince and princess headed this way not too long ago.”
Maddoc nodded as he joined Brennan to walk to the front door. “You seem very busy.”
“There is much to do during this time in the kingdom, as you well know. I am doing what I can to help out Queen Eira and Anwen.”
“I appreciate it. As your future queen continues to take care of two kingdoms, she will depend more and more on your skills.”
“I am happy to serve her,” said Brennan as he opened the door.
As they walked out, Maddoc heard the sound of young children laughing. He looked up to see King Brone lifting his daughter in the air as she giggled. Her golden, curly hair was wild as though she had been running around all day, which he supposed she had been.
“My turn,” said a young brown-haired boy who stood next to the king. “You’ve already been twice, Mae.”
“Maelona, let Deri have a turn, and then you should both give King Brone a break. He has entertained both of you for too long,” said Anwen as she walked forward with her young son in her arms and her mother by her side.
Maddoc met Anwen close to the horses as Brone put Maddoc’s daughter down. She ran over and hugged her father around his middle. “Must you go, papa?”
Maddoc bent down and lifted her up. “Your mother must see to her people, and I have to help her. We will not be apart long.”
“But I could go with you,” said Maelona with a pout. “I will be queen someday.”
“Yes, you will,” said Queen Eira as she smiled at her granddaughter. “I have much to teach you, so you will stay with me while your mother and father do their duty. In a few weeks, we will journey to meet them at the Dunne’s estate.”
“Then we will travel on to the summer palace,” said Anwen as she put her son down. He steadied himself and hung on to his mother’s skirt.
“And Dylan will be there?” she asked happily.
“Yes, Dylan will be there with his mother and father. I had a message from Lord Elias just yesterday, and he said that his whole family will join us this summer,” answered Maddoc.
“So Thomas will be there too?” Maelona hopped up and down. “He has promised to help me learn how to ride.”
Maddoc looked at Anwen, who started to laugh. He shook his head. “It will be I who shows you how to ride, my little one. I believe you are almost ready to start, and I have a fine pony at the summer palace that will do nicely.”
He sat her down, and she went to her mother as Maddoc scooped up his son. “What of you, young Griffin? Will you listen to your grandmother while we are away?”
The boy smiled as he reached up and grabbed the clasp on Maddoc’s cloak. He put his head topped with dark hair against Maddoc’s chest.
“He is the easiest and happiest child I have ever seen,” said Queen Eira fondly. “I am sure I will have no trouble with this one. Which is good since I have a mischievous princess to watch over.” She looked down at Maelona, who happily talked with Deri as Brennan watched his son and the princess.
“I hope she is not too much trouble, mother,” said Anwen as she reached down and ran a hand over her daughter’s golden curls. “You will behave, won’t you, Mae?”
Maelona looked up and smiled. “Yes, mother.”
“She is no bother, Anwen. I am quite used to adventurous and bold princesses. We plan to work on her gift while you are gone.”
“She has gotten very good with opening some flowers, and I saw her trying to heal a baby bird the other day. Do not push her too far,” said Anwen.
“You know I will be careful, my darling. Now, you and your king need to get on the road. You have a long ride ahead of you.”
“I suppose we do, but I can’t think why you wish to stay in that small house, Maddoc. I could have arranged for a lord in the area to open up his home for us,” said Anwen.
“I have a fondness for the house, and I wish to see it again.” Maddoc kissed his son. “Go to your grandmother, Griffin. I will see you soon.”
Queen Eira took Griffin into her arms. Anwen leaned over and kissed her son’s head as her mother held him. “I love you, my dear. I will see you soon.” The boy smiled and giggled before burying his head into Queen Eira’s shoulder.
Anwen bent down and looked at her daughter. “Behave, Mae. Do as your grandmother asks. Do not wear out poor King Brone.”
“I am not some old man, your majesty,” said King Brone.
“I know you are not, but this little princess seems to have an unlimited amount of energy,” said Anwen as she pulled her daughter in to hug her.
Maelona laughed. “I will be good, mother. I will miss you.”
“I will miss you too, my darling, but we won’t be apart for long. I love you.”
“I love you as well, Mae,” said Maddoc, looking down at his daughter. She nodded before taking Deri’s hand and running closer to the palace.
“We must go, Anwen,” said Maddoc. “Let me help you onto your horse.”
Anwen moved close to her horse, Allinar, and Maddoc lifted her into the saddle. She threw her leg over, and he let his hand rest on her pant-covered thigh for a moment. Anwen shook her head as he walked over to pull himself up on his horse. Matthias, who had been waiting with three other guards, positioned himself in front of Maddoc.
“We will see you all soon,” said Anwen.
“Do not worry, my dearest,” said Queen Eira. “All will be well.”
Anwen nodded and moved her horse forward as Maddoc took one last look at both his children and urged his horse to follow.
A day later, Maddoc stood in the vast fields close to the small house where he and Anwen had spent their first night together on their journey to his kingdom. He put his arm around her waist and held her close as they watched the sun slowly sink in the sky.
“We should move on soon from here. I need to start visiting villages and checking in with the leaders soon.”
“We can leave tomorrow after a late breakfast,” said Maddoc as he turned slightly to drop a kiss on her head.
“You plan to sleep in?” she asked with an eyebrow raised. “Do you think we will have a late-night?”
Maddoc turned her, so she was facing him. “I hope to have a very late night, my queen.”
Anwen smiled as she put her hands around his neck. “And what do you plan to do on an evening such as this?”
“Something I have been dreaming about since the first night I met you. I have been trying for years to make it a reality,” he said before he kissed her.
As they kissed, her hands moved down to his chest and his moved up her back. He started undoing the ties on her light blue gown. He moved to kiss her neck as he pulled her dress down slowly. He kissed further down her neck towards her chest as they both slowly kneeled to the ground. He laid her down against the soft green grass that grew all around them. Hovering over her, he stared at her, not believing anyone could be so beautiful as her.
“What are you thinking about, my king?” she asked.
“I am not sure how I ever convinced someone as lovely and wonderful as you to be my wife,” he said as his hand moved under her skirt. “You have given me everything I have ever wanted. Sometimes I am afraid I will wake up, and all of this will have been some wonderful dream.”
“It is real, Maddoc, all of it, the good parts and the bad. You are everything I want as well. I can’t imagine being happier than I am right now.”
“I will see that you are always happy, Anwen. I promise to do everything I can to make sure you are the most loved woman in this land.”
“I will take your promise, my king, and I will hold you to it.”
Maddoc smiled as he leaned down to love his wife, happy that she finally let him promise to her all that he wanted.
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