Chapter 18: Some Answers Revealed
Baffled was one way to state how I was feeling at the moment. I was all at sea, the scenario unfolding in front of my eyes refused to make any sense to my clueless mind. Absentmindedly my eyes drifted back and forth between the men on their knees heads bowed in front of me, and the man now standing with the princess in his arms talking without an ounce of fear. I was pulled out of my reverie as the men in front of me started to get on their feet.“We pledge our allegiance to you Lady Eleanor Black. Our swords will fight for you and protect you. Your command is our will.”
Spoke one of the men standing close in front of me, before pulling out his sword and raising it in air pointing towards me. Without any delay all the men followed his lead, pulling their swords out of the sheaths and raising them in air likewise.
Never had a single person ever pledged their loyalty to me, why would they, I am no one with power or position high in the society structure, but now at least hundred men simultaneously had sworn allegiance to me, why? Any answer was beyond my imagination.
“Ah now do not be so surprised, Ms. Black, I already told you, you are important in the game of politics far more than you dare to believe.”
I whipped my head to the side at an unbelievable speed to find none other than the lord Adrian Vergara addressing me while effortlessly holding the princess in his arms. As my mind churned into action and the pieces began to fit in their place my anger flared up. The brown eyed, sheep headed bastard abducted the princess, killed his own appointed guards and to top it all he toyed with me. I was mad to such extent that all I saw was red. I did not realize what I was doing until a stingy painful sensation originated in my hand and made me curse as my fist came in contact with the pretty face of that arrogant bastard, the skin on my knuckles tearing open. Emitting a grunt of pain sheep head stumbled backwards momentarily with the princess in his hold, but managed to stay upright with not much visible strain.
“You pack quite a blow, Ms. Black, but you need a lot of work for it to be effective.”
A sarcastic retort was still rolling on the edge of my tongue when the princess slapped the back of his head.
“Stop baiting her please.”
The dirty look the princess was throwing his way made Adrian smile sheepishly while he ran his hand not holding the princess on the back of his neck, and made me burst out into a spell of laughter. The big bad lord Adrian, who according to the rumors is lethal, highly feared, and makes the ones getting on his bad side wet their pants, with a single look was being kept on his toes by a seven year old girl.
“You do not laugh at me Ms. Black.”
He gave me a look that I am guessing was supposed to intimidate me, but failed miserably.
“Oh but I just did lord Vergara. What are you going to do about that?”
I smiled at him sweetly feigning an innocent look. His eyes narrowed into slits as he put the princess down on her feet. I stuck my tongue out to enrage him more while he made his way to me. The princess let out an exaggerated exasperated sigh before giving us both a look troublesome children muster from their parents.
“Adrian, can you focus on the important things please.”
“Yes sorry, you are right princess we need to leave now.”
With authority and power shadowing his previously playful eyes, Adrian turned to the men around.
“Keep up with the agreed upon plan. Disperse NOW.”
He almost growled. Now, I knew why his reputation was as it was.
Within a matter of moments most of the men were on horse backs riding away from the clearing into the woods. A man walked to Adrian, reins of two black horses gripped in hands. With a curt nod the man was dismissed by Adrian who took hold of both reins, and ordered me to get on one while he jumped onto the back of the other with the princess pressed against his chest secured by his muscular arm around her fragile frame.
“Keep on heels.”
He said to me just before kicking his horse into a run blowing dust after him. I did not waste any time either and rode after him fast enough to keep him in my sight.
For a long while we traveled at a steady pace. With Adrian in lead and I following close by, we rode in silence, the only sounds caused by the hooves hitting the ground, the leaves rustling as we passed by and occasional running around of some wild animal with the fear of our approach. The sun was set steadily on to the path of sinking; darkness was eating up the surroundings turning the surroundings to a mere blur as we sped along. Long after the darkness had set in completely we began to slow down, and fell into a trot for a while that we took to reach a stream. Dismounting the horses we let them drink from the stream. Since the princess had drifted off into a slumber, Adrian gently carried her while I stretched my sore limbs and patted my face with the refreshingly cold water.
I had millions of questions swirling in my mind, and my curiosity got the best of me.
“Why did the princess called you father, Lord Adrian?”
I fixed my stare on him, waiting for his answer. For a moment his eyes flashed fear and alarm, but it was gone fast enough to be replaced by his cold stoic eyes that I was forced to consider the possibility that I may have imagined it.
“It is because I have been more of a father figure to her along the prince than her father and also the king since king Cedric was mostly away on war or busy with matters of governance.”
That sounded plausible so I signed the doubts off as a fragment of my imagination, and jumped to the next question.
“Why did you kidnap the princess and me?”
“Because just like you the princess is an important pawn in the game of throne.”
“Care to explain?”
With a deep sigh he set out to explain things to me.
“Emily is very important to Vincent. If someone gets to her Vincent will be a puppet with its strings in their hands. To protect Vincent from falling in to that type of set up Emily needs to be kept safe away from the castle.”
Judging from how he dropped the titles and talked with a personal touch about our prince and princess he was certainly close to them and cared a lot about them.
“Why did you attack us and kill all the guards rather than just simply taking away the princess?”
Instead of answering me he began to tie the reins of his stallion to his belt. Done with the reins he took off his coat and wrapped it around the sleeping princess before starting to walk with her in his arms. With a flick of head he beckoned me to join him, and I complied. Gripping the reins of my horse I started walking along him.
“The princess’s guards are loyal to the king. It was killing two birds with one stone today; we got the princess and right along got rid of the king’s men.”
He spoke as an answer to my last question. His answer just gave way to more questions in my head.
“Is it not a good thing that the men were loyal to the king? The princess would be safer with them.”
“For now, yes perhaps it was good but not for future. Sometimes we have to lose certain battles to win a war. In time the king will be the greatest enemy of Vincent, and unlike Vincent the king has no functional conscience; he will go to all means to put the prince down.”
It was complex a topic, so I decided to let the topic rest on that, and skip to another important question bugging me since a while.
“Who were those men and why did they swear loyalty to me?”
“They are part of the army of Estercrest Empire. They work under the command of your father and love him with all their hearts, your blood makes you important to them. They helped me because they understand that graveness of the situation. They want the prince on throne in future and they know if your murder or torture or abduction ends up on his hands that would never be possible.”
Some clarity dawned on my fogged mind. After his answer I refrained from pestering him with further questions, and got lost in my own thoughts regarding how much my life had changed in past few days.
We kept walking till the princess woke up. We got back on the horses and sped up again. We traveled for three days, before the gates of Carter Manor came in to sight, stopping only for short time every once in a while to freshen up, and collect wild fruits to satisfy our hunger.