Chapter 30 - The Rescue
May 23, 1645
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris
-Queen Almira Adrienne Ivaris-
Finally! Court was done! I am now in my bed and I joyfully removed my jewelled, heeled shoes and tossed them across our chambers. Then I loosened the ties of my dress and shrugged them off. The beautiful dress fell to a heap on the floor. I tossed it across the room too.
Now, I was clad only in my chemise. It was very refreshing and a welcome relief from the haggard hours I spent at court. I jumped to the bed and savoured the softness of the hides piled underneath.
I closed my eyes and relaxed my entire body.
Memories of the day floated through my mind...
Seth and I made love fantastically the moment I opened my eyes...
Him and me at his study, writing letters...
Him showering me in his mother’s jewels.
Us having lunch
My declaration of my love for me and his declaration of his...
And then us handling state matters at court...
I hated Court. All I wanted to do when I was there was to silence everyone’s bickering and kick them out of the room so that I won’t feel their hostilities any further.
Everyone was beautiful. Everyone looked elegant and everyone was draped in jewels.
But also, everyone had their own agenda. They were cruel and they were merciless. They pleaded with Seth regarding lands and feuds. They brought in their daughters in hopes of asking Seth to arrange a suitable marriage.
I sat through everything while holding Seth’s hand. It bored me and I knew it affected Seth as well for he sat very stiffly. I squeezed his hand for reassurance. He smiled at me and I knew I could endure this farce a bit longer.
We had dinner with the nobles and their bickering continued. They threw malicious glances at each other and looked as though they itched to draw their swords and hack everyone to death. Again, I endured all this for the sake of my husband.
And now, court is finished. My constrictive clothing is gone and also my shoes that hurt like hell. I snuggled closer under the furs and breathed a sigh of relief.
After a few moments, I heard the door open and heard the muffled sound of footsteps. Then the hides were peeled away from my body and cold air caressed my skin. I felt the familiar warmth in my spine and even before I opened my eyes, I knew it was Seth.
I heard him remove his clothing and then felt his body heat as he slipped beside me on our bed. “You look even more beautiful draped only in jewels...” he said in a rough voice. I smiled and turned around to face him.
“The clasp is tricky and I do not know how to remove it.” I told him and pointed at my necklace.
“Ahh... Because it is for me to do it.” He replied and I felt his fingers on my neck. Then, he bent his head and his lips traced the path that his fingers created. Shivers rose from my skin as his lips touched that sensitive spot.
He cupped my jaw and I opened my lips. He wasted no time and captured them and plunged his tongue inside. I moaned for I loved the taste of him. He was like the finest wine and he got me so addicted.
“Say it again.” He growled.
I opened my eyes. “What?” I asked even though I knew what he wanted from me. His eyes were blazing with passion. He jerked me to him. He was a tall man and the top of my head reached only his neck when we were standing. Right now, on our bed, he hauled me up until we were lying on our sides with our eyes at the same level with each others.
“I want to hear it. Say it.” He pleaded.
I raised my hands and used both of them to cup his jaw. “I love you, my king.” I said tenderly, never taking my eyes of his. He growled his response and before I knew it, he was on top of me and his mouth captured mine in a crushing kiss.
“As I love you, my queen.”
My heart fluttered at his words and I felt my entire body melt under his drugging kiss and his heated gaze. He kissed me again and again and again until I felt that I was a mass of sensually heated limbs.
“How do you say ‘I love you’ in Amaranth?” Seth asked. I was taken aback by his question. I took a few moments to steady myself then I sat up on the bed and faced him.
“We do not have an old language like you do. This is our native language. Hmm... We say ‘I love you’ through our actions...” I told him.
I grabbed his arm and then clenched his fist, making sure his thumb was sticking out. “You raise this to your forehead and you touch your thumb there.” I ordered and he followed.
Next, I folded his thumb and guided his fist to his chest. The fingers flat on his skin. “Then you touch it there near your heart. That is the gesture for love.”
“And then the last gesture depends. If it’s a family member or a beloved friend, you bow. It symbolizes that you honor them. If it is a woman or a special someone, you open your fist and extend your hand towards them. It shows possession and declaration. It tells the world that she’s the one you love...”
Seth nodded again and then he cupped my jaw and titled my face up to meet his gaze. He clenched his fist and then raised it up and his thumb touched his forehead. He lowered it and tucked his thumb then he touched his chest. And lastly, he opened his palm and pointed it towards me.
I smiled and did the same.
Then I yelped as he pounced above me on the bed and resumed kissing me.
When we broke apart for some much needed air, I cuddled closer to him and asked. “What’s the news about Amaranth? Are the developments going as planned?” I asked.
He lazily stroked my hair. “Yes... Everything’s fine, my queen. The materials for the reconstruction of the palace have arrived last week, so did the workforce of builders that I’ve sent.” He replied.
“When it’s finished, we must go there. I think you’ll love the palace. I’ll show you everything.” I promised.
“Alright. We shall go there. And I’ll show you my ship.” He bragged with a huge grin.
“You have a ship?”
“I have hundreds! But I have my favourite.” He winked.
“What’s so special about this ship?” I asked.
“Well... She’s the fastest one in all of the land. She’s equipped with cannons, and all the latest weapons. She’s battled too many times but she’s never lost.” His voice was laced with pride as he told me about his beloved ship.
“What do you call this ship?” I asked.
“Dragonflame.” He replied. Well, that’s a pretty unusual name for a ship. But I decided not to tell Seth that in fear of him thinking that I’m laughing at his favourite possession.
“Now, where were we?” he asked in a husky voice and then he rolled over again until he was on top of me. “Right where I want you to be.” I replied and winked at him before parting my thighs so he could settle between them.
He started kissing me again and I wrapped my arms around him and tugged at his tunic and pulled it over his head. Then I ran my palms down his chest. I heard his sharp intake of breath and it fuelled my passion to greater heights.
I arched my back and kissed him with everything I’ve got.
And then suddenly, I heard a knock on the door. Seth didn’t seem to hear it for he continued kissing my neck and then he pulled at my chemise until one of my breasts was revealed to his hungry gaze.
“Seth... Someone’s at the door...” I said and then sighed with pleasure as his lips found my nipple. He suckled and my toes curled at the pleasure.
“My king!” Someone called out and then knocked once more.
“I’m attending my wife!” Seth growled. He turned his head and reached for my lips again. I smiled and wrapped my arms around him. I also wrapped my legs around him and he growled again this time with pleasure.
“It’s important, your majesty!” came the reply.
Seth groaned and then rolled off me. He picked up his tunic and pulled up his breeches.
“It better be!!!” he bellowed in a menacing tone.
I pulled up the sheets to cover my nudity as Seth opened the door. I saw him glare at the soldier and the soldier took a step back in fear.
“What?!?” Seth exclaimed.
“T-there...” the soldier started and then he seemed at a loss for words as he stared at Seth’s frustration.
“Make it quick or I’ll have your head! You dare disturb me with my queen!” he shouted.
The soldier seemed to have regained his composure. He straightened his spine and bowed. “My king, there’s been an attack at the city. Some homes were burned. The city has already been sealed down to catch the culprit but the fires are raging out of control. The scouts in the West Sea also report of a fleet of ships heading this way. They will make port in about five days.” The soldier reported.
It seemed to snap Seth out of his trance. He glanced back to me.
“I’ll return as soon as I can.” He said and then took my hand and kissed it.
“I know you will. You know how much I love you... Be safe, my king.” I replied.
He nodded and then without another word, he followed the soldier and slammed the door. I heard the sound of horses being readied and soldiers shouting orders. I stood up from the bed and went towards the window.
I watched as Seth barked orders to his men while his valet strapped on his gleaming black armor. More men assembled and they organized themselves in lines. Seth barked more orders and the others rode ahead. I watched as his headpiece was put in place and then he quickly mounted his warhorse, Lightning.
He bent his body low and raised his hand. Then Lightning galloped out of the castle and his men followed.
“Be safe, my king...” I repeated my words and whispered them into the night...
Brodie and Chard returned to our hiding spot near the forest. I need not ask if they were successful for I smelled smoke and saw the faint stirring of a fire in one of the old cottages.
“You made sure no one is inside?” I asked them.
“Yes, captain. The one we burned is an old cottage. It hasn’t been used for a long time and no one was inside. There also weren’t any valuable possessions. If the nearby area burns, they are just empty merchant stalls.” Chard said in his usual gruff tone.
“Good.” I replied.
“What now, captain?” Brodie asked.
“We wait for the King and his men to ride out.” I told him.
And wait we did...
I sat crouched near the bushes, my head down and my entire body alert. I heard the sounds of panic as the fire built larger. No one seemed to be hurt. The people only worried about their possessions and the threat to their homes should the fire spread further.
The fire became bigger and I knew that it would only be a little time before the King and his men were called to action to help put out the flames and search the entire city for a culprit. The King wouldn’t be happy with this for he was so proud of his walled city. It is impenetrable with its thick walls...
Yet here it is... Burning.
Soon enough, we heard the sound of hooves and I saw the King’s soldiers move into action. They formed a line by the river and shouted for citizens to bring buckets. Then they worked like a well-oiled machine as they passed buckets of water to each other towards the burning houses.
I scanned the crowd for the King. He was easy enough to spot for he wore black armor as he sat atop his warhorse, shouting orders to his men.
“Let’s go.” I hissed to my men and we all filed out silently into the night. We didn’t bring any horses for it would make too much noise and we would attract attention. The city is just a short distance from Ravenswood and we could run. The exercise would be welcome since we spent days cooped up in a ship.
“Men, we run.” I announced and saw my men grin at me. It was only Brodie who groaned with complaint. Rurik hit his head once more.
Today, we wore dark green breeches. Our chests and faces were painted with streaks of black and green so that we could camouflage ourselves in the night. I crouched low and then bolted up and ran. My men ran behind me and we all exhilarated at the thrill of having the wind on our face as energy pumped through our bodies.
“Catch up, slowpokes!” Brodie hissed and then ran ahead of us. Rurik ran beside me and I looked at him. He rolled his eyes. Brodie thought that we were running at the best of our capabilities. Well, the young one was wrong.
I raised my hand and clenched a fist. It was an order to move faster.
I spurred my body on and in a few strides, me and my men outran Brodie and left him in a cloud of dust at our wake. He looked bewildered and struggled to keep up. Harry and Barry, the twins laughed at him and it soured his mood even more.
Our little game cut us more time and before I knew it, we were at the edge of the forest and were staring at Ravenswood’s walls. I searched the area and tried to think of a plan. My men were silent behind me and I know that they too are assessing everything in front of us.
“Plan, captain?” Rurik asked.
“We take out the guards patrolling the outer wall and take their uniforms. That’s how we can safely infiltrate the castle. It would also be our way out.” I replied.
“Great plan.” Brodie remarked breathlessly. He still hasn’t recovered from the run. I saw the others laughing at him.
“If I remember correctly, it’s almost the switching of guards on the shift. That’ll make things easier for us.” Colin piped in.
“Good.” I replied.
“Here’s the sleeping draught I prepared captain. Place a few drops in a linen and clamp it over her mouth. It works quickly so be prepared to catch the princess.” Angus, the medic said. I received the vial and tucked it safely inside my belt.
“Run towards the wall and flatten yourselves there so those above won’t see. Keep the scuffle quiet.” I announced and then held up my hand.
“On my signal.” I said and the men tensed and readied themselves to spring on the soldiers patrolling the edge of the wall. I closed my fist and we ran forward. I used the momentum I gained and rammed the nearest soldier to me in his gut. I covered his mouth to muffle the sound of pain. Then with a sharp tug, I twisted his neck and he fell.
I quickly made work of pulling his clothes and wearing them. He was slightly smaller than me so the uniform was really tight especially across my chest. I helped Brodie subdue his guard and with one punch, the man fainted.
I waited and watched as the others finished dressing.
“Hide the bodies.” I told the others. There were only six men so five must remain behind. “Find us a way out.” I ordered Angus and the others and signalled the other men to follow me.
I walked high and as we reached the gates, the bell signalling the end of the shift sounded.
“Thank the Gods you’re early man! My stomach is killing me.” The man in front of me whined. He clearly believed that we were the replacement to his shift. I nodded to him and he quickly dashed away.
“Two of you stay here. The other three, follow me towards the North Tower. That is where the King’s chamber is.” I ordered. The two who stayed were Harry and Barry. I made them stay put so that we would have a sure way outside the gates.
We walked slowly towards the North Tower. Guards we passed by nodded to us and I nodded back to them. “We can’t take the front door, captain. The queen may have elite guards there.” Rurik told me.
“Right. We’ll take the balcony window. Guards aren’t allowed inside the King’s chambers.” I replied.
We scoured the entire area for a place where I could jump towards the balcony or climb high. There was no direct access towards the King’s chambers. We really would have to go through a room which had a balcony directly below the King’s and we’d have to climb up from there.
“Prepare yourselves.” I replied. They stood on either side of the door and then I quickly kicked it open. In my hands were the darts laced with sleeping draughts. The sight that greeted my eyes wasn’t what I was expecting.
A nobleman was on his feet by the bed and bent over was a small servant. Her skirts were tossed up and the nobleman was fucking her vigorously. Her moan and his grunts filled the room.
I allowed a moment of shock and then I quickly threw the darts. They quickly fell down on the rugs with a muffled thump.
“Sorry you weren’t able to finish, buddy.” Brodie whispered to the nobleman. Rurik followed me to the balcony and I prepared to climb the vines. But I needed help, they needed to boost me upwards because the nearest vine was out of reach.
“Brodie!!!” Rurik hissed. Brodie quickly scrambled to his feet. He was at the room and he was looking at the servant whose gown was pulled low and her breasts were bare. Brodie was staring at them intently before Rurik called him.
I shook his head at both of them while they went in position to boost me up. They bent their knees and locked their arms together. There wasn’t any place for me to run and then jump so I climbed towards the balcony rail before I jumped into their arms.
The moment I jumped, they sprang up aiding my momentum. I outstretched my hands and grabbed for the vine but I missed it. “Fuck.” I whispered before I fell down on the balcony again. I was sprawled on the ground and Brodie helped me up.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again captain.” He teased.
“That’s the idea.” I said through clenched teeth.
I glanced at Rurik who looked as if he was doing his damned best not to smile. “Aim closer to the vines when you toss me up, will you?” I groaned and Rurik let out a bark of laughter.
“We’ll do our best, captain.” Rurik said.
I climbed the balcony rails again and glared at them both as they positioned themselves. Then I jumped and sprang up in the air once more. This time, I landed hard on the wall and I was able to grab a thick vine.
I checked my back and sure enough, the length of rope was already there. I also had five more darts in my belt.
“Wait for me here.” I ordered.
“Sure captain. We’ll just be ogling the wench some more.” Brodie said with a wink.
I rolled my eyes and then kept my mind focused on the task ahead. My men and I must hurry so that we’ll be at the port of Ivaris when the King comes back and finds his queen gone. I stealthily climbed the vines and prepared a dart in my mouth should her guards be inside the door.
I reached the balcony and tried to open the doors. But they were locked from inside and I had no tools to open it. “Damn it.” I murmured. This would seriously cripple my stealth approach. I inhaled deeply and then exhaled. Then I crouched near as far as I could on the balcony and then burst out running.
I rammed my shoulders into the door and it opened. By the time I straightened up, two guards burst into the room. By the time they had their weapons drawn; two darts were already embedded in their flesh. They fell to the ground and I dragged their bodies inside and bolted the door shut.
What useless guards. They guard a queen and they easily fall like that.
“Who are you?” Adrienne whispered. Her voice was filled with fear. I slowly turned around and stepped into the dim lamplight. Another gasp escaped her lips when she saw it was me.
“Duncan?” she whispered.
“It’s me, Adrienne.” I replied. I heard her breathe a sigh of relief. She scrambled off the bed and then turned her back to me as she reached for a robe.
“What are you doing here?” she asked when she faced me again. Surprise, longing, fear and other emotions were etched on her face.
“I’ve come to fulfil my promise. I told you I’d find a way for us to be together again.” I replied. I took another step towards her and held out my hand. Now another expression crossed her beautiful features. It was panic.
“Come, Adrienne. We must hurry before the King returns.”
She took one step back. “Duncan... No...”
My entire body stiffened. Did I hear her right or did she really say no?
“We have to hurry, princess. I’ll take you away from him.”
“No... Duncan you don’t understand.” She took another step back and stretched her hands in front of her to keep me away.
Just then, I heard the sound of running footsteps below. They must’ve heard the commotion of the door breaking and came to investigate. I reached for my pocket and withdrew a small linen and the vial of the sleeping draught. I poured it in the linen and then walked over towards Adrienne.
“What’s that?” she asked with a hint of fear in her voice.
“I’m terribly sorry for this princess. Please forgive me when you wake up.”
Then I hauled her to me and clamped an arm around her. The other arm, I used to press the linen to her nose and mouth. Her entire body was tense but I counted a few seconds and her body became limp.
I kissed her cheek and then carefully placed her on the bed. I retrieved the length of rope behind me and then lifted Adrienne and draped her over my back. I placed her arms around my neck and her legs around my waist. Her head was nestled on my shoulders.
I quickly tied the rope around her body and secured it against mine. I tied it very tightly to make sure that she’ll not slip when I climb down or run. I knotted the rope very tightly and checked again the bindings to make sure everything’s secure.
Then I stood up and the ropes seemed to hold. I supported Adrienne’s body by placing my hands in her legs. Then I went out the balcony and whistled. I saw Rurik and Brodie in place and they both grinned when they saw their princess strapped on my back.
I climbed down gently, careful not to jar Adrienne or bump her head into the walls. When the vines ran out, I swung back and jumped. Brodie and Rurik were there to catch me should I not stick the landing. But I stuck the landing and they both grinned at me.
“We actually placed bets if you’d fall again or not.” Brodie admitted with a shrug.
Rurik grinned apologetically. “Let’s go. Alert the others.” I commanded.
Rurik threw a blanket over Adrienne. It was a dark blanket and would aid in our camouflage and at the same time provide warmth for her. I looked over the drawbridge and saw that the gates to the castle were still open. Harry and Barry stood there and around them were sleeping soldiers.
I signalled for them to go down and they climbed down the ladder. “Hurry!” I shouted and true enough, behind us, a number of guards burst forth.
The others who were left behind must’ve heard it for they burst inside the gates with their weapons drawn.
“Hunter, aim for the ropes!” I shouted and pointed at the lever that held the gate open or closed it. Harry and Barry had the foresight to tie a string around it. I asked Hunter to aim for that string so that it would snap and there would be nothing holding the gate open. It may be an impossible task for others but Hunter is our best archer and he could surely do it.
He fired a number of arrows which always hit their mark. With each shot, the rope got thinner and thinner. I continued running and so did Rurik and Brodie beside me. When we reached the edge of the gate, Hunter fired the last arrow and the large iron gates snapped shut.
The King’s soldiers who were chasing us banged repeatedly on the door. I stopped and took a moment to catch my breath.
“See you, suckers!” Brodie shouted and kicked the door.
I glared at him and when I caught my breath, I signalled for us to start running towards the woods.
“This way captain.” Kurt told me and pulled me towards the opposite side. “Where are we going?” I asked thinking that he lost his way.
“We had nothing to do while you were gone and a group of the King’s soldiers returned. Err. We practiced throwing darts and now they’re all out.”
I raised my eyebrow at him. “What has this got to do with anything?” I asked impatiently.
“They are out and their horses are now ours.” He said with a proud grin. I clapped him on the back. “Good thinking.” I told him and we ran towards the horses.
I quickly mounted a horse and waited til my men were on theirs. I carefully rearranged the blanket around Adrienne and tucked it more closely around her. “It’s nice to have you back, my Princess.” I whispered to her.
I lifted my hand and signalled them to follow me. I tugged the reins and the horse bolted off and galloped deep into the forest. The heaviness and fear inside my chest left with each gallop that brought us further and further from Ravenswood. Finally, I had my princess back in my arms. That King wouldn’t be able to lay another finger on her.
She’s save with me and she’ll always be. I’ll protect her with my life and I know for a fact that my men would lay down their lives for her.
It was almost dawn and we never slowed down. We have to reach the port before sunrise. Also, I believe that the guards would alert their King soon and he would be returning to Ravenswood to find his queen gone. We must put as much distance away from him and be off to Virlinn where we were guaranteed the King’s protection.
I glanced around and my men rode with determined expressions in their faces. Their princess was back with them and safe. It’s our job and we already lost her once. We’ll never let that happen again...
We rode hard and fast and sure enough it was sunrise when we reached port. The port was busy and very much alive. Sailors were either on pubs for their breakfast or already on deck to do their chores.
I dismounted my horse and walked over the port, making sure that Adrienne was very much concealed inside the blanket. No one even threw us a curious glance as we walked. I saw that my men were tense and they were prepared should anyone approach us or call out.
Colin untied the longboat we used to come here and we settled ourselves. I sat at the back and settled Adrienne comfortable before my I grabbed one of the oars.
“Row!” I commanded and we backed out of the port and into the open seas. Our ship was hidden somewhere near the cliff and it was a far swim. We could make it but we did not want to risk the health of our princess so we decided to take a longboat and row.
The sun was high in the sky when we reached our ship. Harry and Barry climbed up first followed by the others. I came in last and they tossed a length of rope down. I grabbed it and they pulled me and Adrienne up.
“Jack, take us away from here. Waste no time!” I ordered our lead sailor.
“Aye, captain.” He replied and got behind the wheel. He barked orders to the others to haul anchor and lower the sails. The wind seemed to be with us for it blew and with a lurch, our ship rode the waves.
I went below deck and opened one of the cabins. I sat on the bed and slowly undid the knots on the ropes. I gently laid Adrienne down on the bed and smiled. “Sleep well, my princess.” I whispered to her and kissed her on the cheek.
My heart filled with emotion as I gazed into her sleeping form. I kissed her again and then stood up and went back to the deck. My men were busy working and I helped them. I climbed up and tugged on the sails and made sure that they were secure.
As I was high above the ship, I caught a glimpse of Ravenswood. And then I saw how far we were from it.
I smiled and then allowed myself to inhale deeply and exhale.
Finally, we’ve fulfilled our mission...
My princess was back in my arms... And I’d spent every day making her see how sorry I am at not being able to protect her. I’ll apologize day by day at leaving her at Durnham unprotected. That’s where it all started. That’s where she was captured as a slave and sold to the King of Ivaris.
If I hadn’t left her, she never would’ve met that bastard.
But everything will be okay now...
We’re together again and that’s everything that matters...\