Chapter 32 – A Change in the Wind
Chapter 32 – A Change in the Wind
~~~Many Years Ago
Ran after the woman he love, while she ran away; a letter clutched firmly in her hand.
His hand grasp onto her wrist firmly, and he pulled her back to face him.
“You are not running away from me this time, Gwen.” He said forcefully, but his heart dropped when he saw the tears in her eyes. His Gwen rarely ever cried.
“Flint, I-“She tried, but her words got stuck in her throat.
He didn’t chide her for using that name, even though it wasn’t his any more. Instead he placed both hands on her shoulders and then moved them down her forearms in an attempt to comfort her. “We’ll get through this.” He vowed, even though he wasn’t sure what it was. “We’ve been through too much together, to not be able to handle whatever is going on.”
The fear in her eyes danced wildly, and she tried to pull away. He knew that if she took off again he might not be able to catch her. He tightened his grip on her arms, “Look at me.” He pleaded.
And she did.
Her green eyes struggled to return to the strong stagnate stare that he had grown to love. Some of pins that had been holding up her blonde hair had come loose and her lips, though dry, were still able to draw his attention.
He kissed her, if for no other reason than to force her to stop thinking about whatever had been in that accursed letter.
“You are not running away from me this time.” He said again with a silent ferocity as their lips parted.
Gwen smiled up at him, her cheeks flushed with the loveliest shade of pink. Then the fear returned and she shook her head while she backed away.
“I can’t fight them.” She said as she retreated as far away as his arms allowed. “Not again.”
That was all he needed to hear.
“They’re coming?” He asked worry tinting his words. He was still trying to get his people to except him as a ruler. How would they feel when they learned that they would be going to war? “When?” He asked.
Normally when she ran off, he had very little chance of catching her. He was positive that her condition was the only reason that he now held her in his arms.
She didn’t answer. Instead she placed a hand protectively on her stomach. He smiled at his wife. Their first child was due within the week, and she still refused to be on bed rest. Although uncommon, her stubbornness was one of the many traits she shared with her family, and yet he loved her for it.
Now that same family would be attacking their Kingdom, and once again she’d find herself having to fight against the very people that were suppose to love her. He didn’t want her to have to do that again. He eyed the letter in her hand, but he didn’t take it from her. He needed her to tell him. “When.” He urged again.
“The next Trade Negotiation.” She informed.
That was over a year away.
“Who is the informant?” He asked cautiously still eyeing the letter with distain.
“My Mother.” She replied softly.
He forced himself to relax.
The ailing Rramnon Queen was perhaps the only member of her family that approved of their union. She had openly refused to accept that her husband had disowned their only daughter, and she had found someway to constantly write to them. At one point Gwen had insisted that she come live with them, but her health had been failing more rapidly in the past year.
“We’ll get through this.” He promised as he rubbed her arms again. “We will.”
“Flint.” She cried sadly as she collapsed against him. “What would I do without you?”
“You are the strongest woman I know, Gwen.” He said as he held her in in arms. “You’d do just fine without me.”
He never saw her cry again. After that day she had embraced the strength he already knew was in her.
Even when they received word that Gwen’s mother, Queen Phyllis, passed away, even when their son Phillip was born, and even she and their son left his side for the safety of the Royal Sanctuary while Rramnon ships loomed on the horizon...even then his Gwen didn’t cry.
~~~ Present-day, Change Character Focus
Dark clouds gathered on the northern horizon.
King Heralf had watched the Alminian Princess, and her entourage, return to the merchant ship the night before. He had many of his spies watching them carefully, but no one saw any signs of Phillip or the frustratingly similar Terrafein guard boarding the vessel.
He wasn’t ignorant. He knew that that bastard Freddrick was up to something, but he couldn’t figure out what it was.
He looked back towards the Kettu and watched as several guards brought up the last of the provisions. His poor eyesight told him very little about what was going on aboard the Kettu, but years of experience informed him that the ship would set sail within the hour.
Heralf knew that he had managed to get only one spy aboard the merchant ship known as the Gail while three hid aboard the Kettu. The spy on the Gail was purely there to record. He would return to Rramnon immediately after the ship docked. One of his men on the Kettu was given the same task, while the other two had been charged with something completely different.
Even though his eyes were failing him Heralf couldn’t help but notice a bound, blonde haired, Terrafein guard being forcefully escorted across the deck by several much larger guards.
He remembered the marks of disobedience that had been etched into his skin and was sure that Freddrick would be locking the man in the brig for the entire journey back to Terrafeuw.
Heralf had thought little about the guard since he had last seen him at the Embassy, and yet now he found himself wondering, for the briefest of moments, why a man would be allowed to undertake the watching of a Princess when he already had so many marks against him. If it had been one of his guards the man would have been terminated, or at least banished long ago.
His thoughts on the defiant guard soon became tiresome and he dismissed them.
Heralf kept his feet planted firmly in place until the Kettu was untethered from the dock and made its way into open waters. He watched with a satisfied smile as it slowly turned north and headed straight for the dark clouds on the horizon.
One of his men walked up besides him a short while later, and waited until his presence was acknowledge. Heralf wanted to enjoy the silence, but eventually he nodded towards the man and allowed him to speak.
The man informed him that they wouldn’t be ready to set sail until morning.
Heralf nodded at the information, and dismissed him with the wave of his hand. He then turned back towards his carriage and allowed his driver to take him back to the Embassy.
~~~ Two Nights Later, Change Character Focus
Freddrick knew something was wrong before he even opened his eyes.
Water and wind hit against the side of the boat forcefully, but that wasn’t what had woken him from his slumber.
He forced himself to breath steadily as the feel of cold sharpened metal pressed lightly against his throat. He could feel the other person’s breath sticking to his face. When a hand clasped firmly across his mouth his eyes snapped open.
For a moment he felt the assailant pause, but that moment was all Freddrick needed. He reached up and grabbed the hand that held the blade with one hand, while the other stopped the hand that now went after his throat. He wrist locked the hand that held the weapon, until he heard the satisfying crack of a broken wrist, followed by the clatter of the released blade.
But his attacker wasn’t alone.
Another pair of hands shoved him to the floor, and before his eyes adjusted, his ears picked up the footsteps of a third person running towards him.
Just as a wave shoved the ship sideways, so to did the third person shove Freddrick’s second attacker off of him.
Freddrick barely saw his first attacker’s fist fly towards him. He tried to move out of the way, but it clipped the side of his jaw. From behind him he heard the familiar sound of someone drawing steal, but it was too far away for him to let it be a distraction.
His attacker had already been unarmed, and neither of them would likely find the weapon with the ship swaying violently.
A pair of hands shot towards Freddrick’s throat.
He rolled to his side, and the ship pitched the man on top of him. Freddrick struggled to stand, but felt two large hands wrap around him with enough strength to force the air from his lungs.
Freddrick managed to steady himself on his knees, and elbowed his attacker directly in the stomach. He felt the hands release, and he pushed himself away.
On instinct he grabbed the wrist that he had broken earlier, and felt the attacker react at the pain. He held on to that wrist, as the ship moved unsteadily in the storm, and punched the man squarely in the jaw.
The man’s body went limp underneath his, and he kicked it away from him as he stood.
It only took him a moment to realize that the other two people in the room were still fighting.
It was dark and the storm did little to help with visibility inside the cabin. Lighting flashed and allowed Freddrick enough visibility to quickly assess the situation.
There had been two attackers, each of them wore a dark colored tunic. One of them lay unconscious on the floor near his feet while the other pinned the third against a wall and pressed an unsteady blade at his side.
Freddrick saw the pinned man manage to free his right arm. He heard the slice of fabric as the man twisted into the blade held to his side, so that he could backhand the attacker right in the temple.
The dark clothed assailant went limp, and his blade clattered lifelessly to the floor.
He’d have a headache in the morning, but he’d live.
Freddrick’s eyes looked back up towards the person that had helped save his life, and smiled when his eyes found those of his son Noah.
“I saw them sneak in here, and followed them.” He explained as he pushed himself off of the wall and gave the attacker a satisfying kick.
He nodded at Noah’s words, and was glad that he had been there.
“I’ll watch these two.” Freddrick informed as he rolled his shoulder to release the tension from when his punched his attacker. “Please inform the ship’s captain of what has happened, there might be more on the ship. Also bring several guards back with you, so that we can toss these two into the brig until we can figure out what to do with them.”
Noah nodded and quickly left the room to do as he had directed.
Freddrick couldn’t help but wince at the sight of a wet sheen on Noah’s side he turned to head out of the cabin. He could tell it wasn’t deep. With all the adrenalin from the fight, it was likely that Noah didn’t feel it yet, but Freddrick would make him wash it out later so that it didn’t become infected.
~~~ Two Weeks Later, Change Character Focus
Philip looked out to the mix of clear blue skies and calm waters. The trip had been uneventful for the most part.
One of the long time members of the Gail was a notorious snoop. He was called Duane, and he embodied the very word weasel. At first Phillip had worried about Duane being a problem, but in hindsight they had been lucky to have the weasel like man onboard.
After a week into the journey, Duane came across some documents that pointed to a spy being onboard the Gail. The man had been calling himself Jim, but soon admitted that he had been charged with recording the trip.
After they locked Jim in the cargo hold, Phillip tore through the man’s records, but found nothing to even hint that he knew who the blonde Alminian guard, known as Addam, actually was. They searched him just to be certain, but when that came up empty, they decided they would just allow him to disembark once they docked in Kingston Harbor.
Phillip saw very little of Princess Alexandria during the trip. The Alminian merchants were just as superstitious of women as Terrafein merchants were, and because of that, the Princess and her escort were asked to remain in their cabin between the hours of sunrise and sunset.
Even during the nights that they were allowed outside of the confines of the cabin, Phillip rarely saw them. The Princess had mentioned something about her escort being ill, but he hadn’t caught her exact words.
He did very little during his time on the Gail. It was a merchant ship, and the merchants were in no mood to teach the guards how to sail.
Phillip held his tongue when the Captain reminded the Alminian guards that they were merely passengers on his ship. Terrafeuw was the Trade Kingdom, Phillip knew how to fully command a ship by the age fifteen, but they didn’t need to know that.
“Port ahead!” The man in the nest called from above them.
Philip smiled at the call. The man couldn’t call out that he had seen land, not when they had been following the coastline for most of the trip.
He had been honestly shocked when the fist cliff, marking the boarded from Ohrim into Alminia came into view. Phillip knew that the Iron Kingdom was known for it’s Mountains, but he never imagined the towering walls of rock that shot up from the sea hundreds of feet above his head.
The whole coastline was littered with drop-offs, and steep descents. Kingston Harbor had been easy to spot. A wide gap between two high cliffs opened to reveal a large bay that held the town of Kingston Harbor.
As the ship pulled into the harbor, a steady mist-like rain began to fall.
“Home.” He heard from behind him.
Phillip turned and noticed the woman that his brother was willing to give up everything for. She was standing near him, the mist dampening her dress but she didn’t seem to mind. “Was this the longest that you’ve been away?” He found himself asking.
“It was my first time leaving Alminia.” She answered easily. That caught him by surprise. The first time leaving home was usually the hardest for many people, but it sounded like she hadn’t given it a second thought.
“Do you regret leaving home?” He asked thinking about how she had been kidnapped.
“Not one day of it.”
Phillip felt himself smile at her words. He realized that Princess Alexandria was just as devoted to Noah as he was to her.
The mist turned into a light rain and Alexandria glanced off into the distance when a clasp of thunder bellowed from the west. “Noah.”
Phillip caught worry in her voice, and followed her eyes towards the dark angry clouds that were forming far off in the distance.
The cliffs blocked most of his view, but Phillip was hopeful that the storm would be gone before the Kettu was scheduled to dock. Noah and his father weren’t due to arrive for another week. It was likely that the storm would miss them entirely.
~~~ Eleven Days Later, Change Character Focus
Edward watched with concern as his daughter paced back and forth along the west facing balcony. She spent most of her spare time watching the horizon. As her father, he knew exactly what pushed her to scan the waters, worry.
Her black hair, the same color as her mother’s, blew across her face and she brushed it away with out a second thought.
Yes, he agreed, she was worried.
Two days after she returned from Jodan King Heralf’s ship was seen in the Kingston Harbor.
All chaos erupted shortly thereafter.
As the ruler of Alminia King Edward wasn’t allowed to throw King Heralf in the dungeon for capturing his daughter, but as a father, he wanted to see that man rot.
Valerie was furious that Prince Anton had been allowed to stay until his father’s ship docked, but the last thing any of the Advisors wanted was a war with Rramnon.
As punishment for King Heralf’s actions it was decided that Rramnon would only be able to trade its goods at Port Charlotte, and would not be allowed to trade for any Alminian ores until otherwise expressed by the rulers of Alminia.
King Heralf didn’t stay long after that.
The man left with his son the day before the storm hit the western coast of the Kingdom.
Thunder and the crashing of the sea against the rock had even woken Edward from a deep slumber. Although the palace was physically unaffected by the hurricane, many towns along the cliffs were hit by the devastating winds and harsh rains.
Most of Kingston Harbor was in disrepair from the storm surges that had swept through the town. The docks would have to be completely rebuilt. Thankfully very few of the merchant ships that had been docked had been damaged, although one did ram into the Kingston Inn.
Edwards rubbed the back of his neck. He had spent most of his time since the storm in meetings with his Advisors in order to determine where aid and repair was most needed.
He looked back towards his daughter and noticed that she had stopped pacing and was leaning against the railing.
The Kettu had been expected to land four days ago.
“She’s worried.” He heard himself say out loud.
“We all are a bit worried.” He heard his wife reply next to him.
He looked up at her and smiled lightly. His meetings hadn’t left him much time to spend with her.
“Prince Phillip had gone to Kingston Harbor to help rebuild the dock.” She informed as she shifted closer to him. “I think that he’s a bit worried about his father, and wishes to be there if- when the Kettu arrives.”
The King thought back to when he first met the Terrafein Prince.
His daughter’s letter explaining that Prince Phillip was accompanying her, arrived at the palace only an hour before them. At first glance, Edward thought that the young man named Noah had accompanied his daughter into the throne room.
But, it wasn’t Noah.
His daughter’s explanation was incomplete at best, but she informed them that due to mistaken identity, King Heralf’s men had kidnapped Noah thinking that he was Prince Phillip. She refused to explain anything further after that and Prince Phillip also refused to add any information.
Even the young escort, Tilly, had been closed mouth about what had actually happened in Jodan.
“I remember someone telling me a story about a young Prince that watched the horizon for the one he loved.” Valerie whispered softly next to him. Her words pulled him out of his thoughts.
Edward wrapped an arm around his wife and continued to watch their daughter. She still scanned the horizon as the sun drifted further and further away. “She’s not going to give up on him.”
“It’s only been six days since the storm hit.” Valerie chided. “I doubt she’d give up just yet.”
“You know what I meant.” He scolded sweetly. “The Advisors will never agree to her union with him,”
“His name is Noah dear.” She interjected.
Edward ignored her interruption. “I don’t believe that she’ll allow them to tell her no.” He explained. “She won’t give up on him just yet.”
Valerie pulled away from his embrace and offered him a knowing smile. “She is your daughter after all.”
He softly chuckled at her words, as she headed back inside and promised to soon return as well.
Edward wanted to deny it, but his wife had been correct. He knew what their daughter was going through.
At least, to some degree he knew.
He thought back to the day that she was born and he remembered wishing that she would never have to go through what he had.