Chapter 36 - Ruadan and Argyll
June 3, 1645 (The Next Day)
Fireham Castle (King James Murray’s Castle)
Island of Djinn, Virlinn
-Queen Almira Adrienne Ivaris-
I slowly drifted in and out of consciousness. I wanted to lie back on my soft pillows and sleep some more for my body ached so damned much. However, sleep continued to elude me and I find myself repeatedly being roused by a whisper.
Feeling incensed and tired of repeatedly being woken up, I slowly sat up on my bed and scanned the still dark room for the one who kept on disturbing my sleep. I blinked my eyes when I found myself in a different room.
Judging by the still motion of the room and the absence of the smell of salt water, I know I’m not at the ship anymore. Thank the Gods for that.
The room I was in was elegant. It was big and I was lying in a four poster bed. A beautiful tapestry depicting a castle on top of a cliff covered a large side of the walls. A hearth stood in the far corner of the room and shed warmth on this cold night.
There came the whisper once more. I scanned the room again but there was no one! Not even a hint of a shadow. I backed away on the farthest portion of the bed for I suddenly felt a massive amount of power in the air. It hung heavy like a thick cloud. The fine hairs on my body stood up for I the magic felt somewhat like static electricity. It felt as if I was standing under the eye of a storm and its power was swirling directly above me.
This magic was old and familiar.
I know I’ve felt this before... I just couldn’t remember...
But somehow, I do not feel frightened. I know it is a vast amount of power but it felt strangely familiar. It also didn’t feel like a threat. Instead, it felt comforting. It felt as if I was being reunited with a long lost friend...
I tried to expand my senses. I closed my eyes and attuned myself to the magic in the air. I concentrated hard to remember it but I suddenly felt something else.
Underneath all the familiar magic was an evil one... Unlike the first one I sensed, this magic made me want to run to the nearest exit and move far, far away. This one cannot be trusted. It was weaker than the first magic I sensed but it pulsed with pure evil.
I shuddered at the thought.
“Princess!” the voice hissed.
I turned my head to the left and saw swirling white mist. A shaft of moonlight from the window shed light on it and I watched as it got thicker and thicker.
“I have waited for you for a long time, my mistress...”
“Who are you? Show yourself!” I ordered.
“Right at once, mistress.” The voice replied. It was a small boy’s voice speaking.
The mist thickened some more until it took the shape of a boy. He looked about ten years of age and he stared at me with a longing expression. He had hair as pale as the moonlight. It was a color I’ve never seen before and it was beautiful.
He was dressed in a fine white robe and white pants. His white robe was embroidered with golden thread. A sword hung in his waist and its scabbard was covered with various jewels. He also wore boots made of the finest, white leather.
The boy slowly approached me and knelt before my bed. He crossed his right arm over his chest and bowed.
“Rise.” I commanded and he obeyed.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“You named me Ruadan, princess. Forgive me for being forward but I just have to say how happy I am that you have returned. I have waited for you for a long, long time.” His young eyes shone with emotion.
“Ruadan...” I whispered. I tilted my head to the side and looked at his face, trying to recall anything about him. I sighed in frustration. Of course I can’t remember. It’s the one thing I must do. It’s what Selene asks me to do but it is also the one thing I cannot do.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“The land is called Virlinn now princess. It has been called that about two centuries now.” Ruadan replied.
I sighed once more and rubbed my temples. Duncan and his men really brought us into Virlinn. They did not heed my warning and now they have brought us into more danger. There’s just something about the King of Virlinn that doesn’t sit well with me. It was as if he’s hiding something... Something that’s definitely no good.
“Are you alright princess? Do you want me to heal you?” he asked. He reached out a hand to me and I felt his power radiating from him and reaching out to me.
“Thank you, Ruadan. But I’m fine... Forgive me but I do not remember a lot of things... Would you be so kind as to enlighten me?”
“Anything for my mistress.” He replied curtly. He stepped back from the bed and the moonlight engulfed him once more. “What do you need to know?” he asked.
“I know I have been reborn into this life... But I cannot remember anything from my past life except what has been told to me. I do not remember anything about you... Forgive me.” I explained.
Ruadan’s face fell when I told him I remembered nothing about him. His blue eyes filled with pain and longing. I reached out and touched his hand. The moment our skin met, a huge jolt of electricity ran through my body. I arched from the sensation and grit my teeth as it travelled through my veins.
When it was finished, all the pain in my muscles were gone. I touched my forehead where a large bruise was. I pressed the area but there wasn’t any pain at all. I also felt refreshed. All the tiredness was gone.
My eyes widened and I instantly placed my hand back on the bed.
“What are you? Are you a God from Ilyia?” I asked him.
He shook his silver head. “I am called Dian Nim Exos. The Fountain of the Gods. The Gateway for the Gods into this realm. When you became my mistress, you gave me a name and you gave me this form. You named me Ruadan.” He replied. His chest puffed out with pride when he told me his name.
“F-Fountain of the Gods? Gateway?!” I stammered. “What is that?”
Ruadan stood tall. “Princess, when the worlds were created by the Cosmos, Gateways and vast sources of power were also created. The Gods of Ilyia were created as powerful beings and they were entrusted not only the realm of the Gods but also the different worlds. The Gods were given power and supremacy over everything but it came with a price. They must care for the different worlds entrusted to them.” Ruadan explained.
I nodded and urged him to continue.
“Gateways were created so that the Gods could travel across the different realms. Aside from that, vast sources of power were also made available. These Fountains were called Dian Nim Exos or the Fountain of the Gods. Gods have strong powers when they are in Ilyia but it gets weaker when they travel across the realms. Their power is not as strong as how it is in Ilyia. The Fountains give them the power they need to fulfil their tasks in the other realms. It replenishes their magic to give them the energy they need.”
“So you are a Fountain? A resource of power? Like a well of water, the water being the magic stored in you? And the humans getting water from the well are like the Gods drawing power from these so-called Fountains?” I asked.
“Correct, mistress. If there were no Fountains, the Gods would be weak here. For example, Gods could create the fiercest winds and the biggest waves in Ilyia... Without the Fountain, here in the mortal world, they could only make the wind blow harder and the seas to churn small waves... But with the Fountains, their powers are similar to the ones they have in Ilyia. But the Gods never knew of this. For right from the beginning of time, since King Rashad was our master, he shared the power with everyone. They thought that it is normal. That they are powerful in all the realms. The King never divulged information about the Fountains except for a very select few. The Gods never knew of the Fountains for the King feared that Gods would get greedy and tap the power of the Fountain for their own...”
My head spun from all this information. Something inside me tells me that I should know all this so I kept listening to Ruadan’s explanation. The fire in the heart died. Ruadan turned around for a moment and opened his palm. Flames erupted from it and went to the hearth. Within the blink of an eye, the flames were crackling merrily again.
“Go on... What does this have to do with me? Why do you call me mistress?” I asked.
“When you came of age, King Rashad entrusted to you the Fountains. It was your duty as princess. You have a pure heart and the Fountains only respond to a pure heart. We welcomed you as our mistress and we serve only you. You are the only one who can tap the power within us and command us to do whatever you wish. You are an even better mistress than your father, Princess. You gave us names and you gave us this form.” He indicated to his mortal appearance.
I smiled at him.
“When you died, we did not know what to do... The guardianship was never passed on and only you shall be our mistress. We then decided to withhold our reservoir of power from anyone and go into hiding. The gateways were also sealed so that the evil Gods in Ilyia won’t be able to cross the different realms and destroy it too. It was not commanded to us but it was the last thing we did in your honor. Ever since, we have been quiet. We hid ourselves and awaited your return...”
I turned my head away as I process all these information. Now I know why Ilyia has been shut off... Now I understand why Selene called us ‘Key to Ilyia.’ The gateways have been entrusted to me and only I can open them once more. Only I can reopen the Fountains...
“What happened during the years I was gone? What effect did this have to the people?” I asked.
“Only that divine intervention was withheld from them. They once prayed to the Gods for a more bountiful harvest. They prayed for healing. They prayed for Fertility. When the Fountain was closed off, the Gods could not intervene for them or grant their prayers. People died from disease, people died from hunger when crops failed. The Gods weren’t there to grant their prayers. They lived their lives free from the blessings of the Gods.”
A sob escaped my throat from his words. All of this is my fault. I placed my head in my hands and hastily wiped away my tears. Ruadan stepped closer and gazed at me. “It is not your fault princess...” he whispered. It was as if he heard my thoughts.
He placed a comforting hand on my shoulder and his power flooded me once more. It made me calmer and it brought away all the pain.
“How can you say it’s not my fault? The people who counted on us were let down by me!” I wailed.
“No... It’s not like that, princess. I have lived for a long time and I have seen everything. Before you died, the Gods became arrogant. They became cruel and playful in their ways just to assuage their boredom. They created wars on a whim and mortals suffered for it. They played with mortal lives just because they can do it. The mortals, on the other hand, became dependent for the support of the Gods. They became lazy in their ways. If the crops were not good, they prayed and prayed instead of trying to replant the crops so that they could survive the winter. If they have an enemy kingdom, a King sacrificed his daughter just to gain a certain God’s favour and win the war for them. That’s the way things were...” Ruadan trailed off.
He looked at me as if willing me to understand his words...
“When the Gods were gone, the mortals suffered for a while. And then they accepted that the Gods have deserted them and cannot help them anymore. They began to rebuild their society. They depended on themselves and accepted their Fates. They discovered Science and explored it as thoroughly as they could. They developed a system of farming, they created medicines for their sick, they ceased waging wars... You see, princess... They learned to depend on themselves and use their abilities to its fullest. They evolved and they are a much better people now...” Ruadan explained.
I smiled at him. “Thank you...” I whispered.
We were silent for a long time as I contemplated on the things he told me. I looked out the window and saw that the darkness was slowly being chased away by gold and orange streaks in the sky. The sun was about to rise and with it came a new day...
I sighed. “What should I do now, Ruadan?” I asked.
“It’s something only you can answer princess... Trust your heart when a difficult choice comes. Your heart is pure and it will guide you to the correct choices always.” He said. His voice held all the wisdom in the world and it made me smile.
“You are so wise for your appearance. Why did you choose that appearance, anyway?” I asked him to try to lighten the mood.
“Children are often misjudged, princess. They are deemed as lesser beings. I hold a vast amount of power. With this form, no one would look twice. You also love this form so much.” He said with a smile.
“I do!” I told him and the smile became a grin.
“I could morph into something else princess.” He bragged. The handsome child dissolved into white mist. It condensed once more and when the mist cleared, a large wolf bounced into my bed and licked my face.
“Stop!” I screamed and tried to push him away from me for he was tickling me. The wolf jumped away from the bed and there was white mist once more. When he landed back on the floor, he was a phoenix this time. He spread his wings and flew over my bed. His fiery form lit up the entire room and gave more warmth than the heart could.
He opened his beak and from it emerged a beautiful song...
“Alright, alright.” I told him and laughed. He landed back on the wooden floor beside my bed and assumed the form of the boy once more.
“My brethren shall be glad that you are back, princess. I shall bear the news to them. ” He said with pride. I nodded to him.
“Remain as you are...” I ordered. “Do not do anything yet. I shall think of what to do. But for now.... Ensure that the gateways stay closed. Tell the others to continue hiding and to hold their powers. We shall continue as we were until I decide a proper course of action.” I ordered.
Ruadan knelt once more and bowed. “We shall obey.” He replied. “It is a very wise decision, princess.” He added as an afterthought. This time, it was I who grinned at him. Suddenly, there was a knock in the door.
Within the blink of an eye, Ruadan shifted forms once more. This time he took the form of a large man. A warrior, from the looks of it. He was tall and heavily muscled. His hair and facial features were still the same but he looked much older. His clothing changed and he wore only breeches now. His chest was bare except for the numerous traps that held his weapons in place. Silver gleamed within those straps and I saw daggers strapped to his chest.
He turned around and reached for the weapon in his back. He withdrew it and a long sword emerged. He held it threateningly in front of him as he guarded the door.
“I shall defend you, mistress.” Ruadan hissed.
“Adrienne!” Duncan’s voice shouted.
“Are you alright?!?” He said frantically.
I quickly looked at Ruadan. “Hide! It’s alright. He’s my friend. I am safe. Hide now!” I ordered. Ruadan threw a reluctant look at me and then he suddenly vanished into a cloud of white mist which flew out the window.
When the last wisp of mist curled out the window, the door burst open and swung on its hinges.
“Adrienne!” Duncan burst through the doorway and quickly scanned the room for any intruder. His tense body relaxed when he found none but he still remained on guard. “What?” I asked innocently.
“I heard a man’s voice and I heard you scream.” He said.
“No one’s here but me. I must have had a nightmare. Thank you for barging into the door and waking me up from that horrible ordeal.” I lied.
Duncan closed the door softly and walked towards me. “What was the nightmare about? Have your nightmares about drowning returned? I am sorry, princess... So sorry for not being able to rescue you right away. You shouldn’t have had to fall into the water...” he said with remorse.
“No!” I gasped. “The nightmares have not returned and don’t blame yourself because of my fall. The weather was bad and besides, all of us were in danger and all of us were holding on for our lives! The only difference between your men and me is that I cannot swim. Don’t blame yourself for this too, Duncan. I’m fine.” I told him.
He sighed but I saw his body relax even further. He stared at me as if memorizing every inch of my face. He did that for a long while until I was uncomfortably squirming on the bed.
“Princess... The King summons you to his study. You are to have breakfast with him. He wants to talk to you. I have already made excuses for you but he insists.” He said.
Fear wound its way around me and tightened my chest. Sooner or later, I would have to face the King. I should not be a coward and back out of this. I should just swallow my fear and face him. Maybe being in his presence would uncover more truths. Maybe I’d be able to remember...
“Fine. I’ll do it. Please leave so that I can dress.” I told Duncan.
“Adrienne... You don’t have to do this.”
“I have to, Duncan. We are at the King’s castle and he has summoned me. We are enjoying his hospitality. I have to go.” I answered. There was pain in Duncan’s eyes. It was as if he was slowly realizing everything I’ve warned him about.
But I guess it’s too late for that now. We’re already here.
“We’ll be right outside the door. Just scream when the King attempts something.” He said. I nodded for I know that it would ease his worries. I heard the soft click as the door shut after Duncan left. A few minutes later, it opened once more and a small army of maids and servants entered.
They carried a tub and buckets of steaming water. I almost drooled at the sight of the luxurious hot bath before me. It seemed ages ago after I’ve last had a proper bath. The other maids carried a beautiful white gown embroidered with gold. It had long white sleeves and the hem, shoulders and bodice had an intricate pattern embroidered with golden thread. It skirts were long and flowing.
“Your bath, your highness.” One of the maids told me. I instantly missed my maids at home, Finnie and Vivian. I also could not help but wonder if they were alright. I hope they’re doing fine.
I sank into the bath and allowed the maids to help me. They placed fragrant oils on my hair and scrubbed the grime and salt away from my skin. I relished in the feeling of a proper bath and I missed Ravenswood more.
The bath was finished and the maids help me don the white and gold gown. They also braided my hair and weaved some pearls in it. The glow of the pearls added a wonderful glow to my face. Virlinn is a country which is composed of islands and its people made a living through the gifts of the sea. Pearls are one of their treasures.
I smiled to my maids and thanked them for their service. After they left, Duncan entered the door. His steps faltered when he looked at me. “Is something wrong?” I asked. He righted himself with a small cough which effectively closed his open jaw. He shook his head and took my hand to escort me to the King’s study.
“Remember... We’re right outside the door. Call if you need anything.” He reminded me. We rounded the corner and I saw the rest of the crew leaning against the wall on the left side. On the right side stood the King’s soldiers and they were on a staring match with Duncan’s men.
I huffed. Men and their idiocies.
Duncan opened the door for me and I stepped inside. The King of Virlinn stood near the window with his back to me. He was wearing simple breeches and a plain white tunic. He turned the moment I entered and I did a curtsy.
“Ah... Adrienne. Such beauty...” he whispered. The moment I stepped into the room, the feeling of the evil magic in the air engulfed me. It was so heavy that it was almost suffocating. As I stared into the King’s calculating eyes, I knew right away where the evil magic comes from.
He inclined his head in greeting and indicated the table which was laden with food. He pulled out the chair for me and I thanked him as I sat. “You summoned me, your highness?” I asked him.
He sat and leaned back in his chair. His blue-violet eyes gazed at me as if inspecting me right down to my soul. It seemed as if he was searching for something.
“Yes. I wanted to talk to you. But first let me lavish you with compliments. You are more beautiful now than the last time I saw you at the Duke of Escrow’s Harvest Ball.” He said.
“Your words are too kind.” I replied.
He chuckled. “It is true. Ah... But then you were a mere slave that Seth has dressed in a fine gown and decked with expensive jewels. Now, you sit in front of me as his queen. We could say that you have reached far, could we?”
I grit my teeth. “I suppose, your majesty.” I replied.
“I never received an invitation for the wedding.” He said and waved his hand. “But Seth has been my enemy right from the start. We treat each other as a favourite nemesis so I truly doubted that I’d receive an invitation.” He added with another chuckle.
Last time at the ball, I sensed the hostilities between Seth and the King of Virlinn. I just never realized it ran this deep.
“Might I inquire as to your health, milady? Yesterday, you were very sick.” He asked with concern.
“I am fine, your majesty.” I said. I leaned forward and stared at him. “Can we cut the pleasantries and please just tell me why you summoned me?” I said in a flat tone. The King’s eyebrows rose with amusement.
He picked up his fork and began to eat.
“Ah... Just like Seth. Waste not time with pleasant conversation.” He drawled. “Fine then.” He continued and his fork fell on his plate with a clang. He threw his napkin and stood up.
“As we speak, my army invades Ivaris. As you sit right there, your people die. While you are enjoying my hospitality right at this moment, your King rides his famous ship across the seas on his way here leaving his kingdom unprotected. Today, by noon... Your husband shall arrive at my shores. Tomorrow, by noon... Ivaris shall fall.” He declared bluntly with a snap of his fingers to emphasize his point.
An outraged gasp escaped my lips. I stood up so quickly that my chair was knocked over backwards.
The King of Virlinn raised an eyebrow and waved his hand. The chair righted itself. He tilted his head towards it. “Oh do sit down little slave. We have much more to talk about and I doubt your strength to stand through it all.” He mocked.
I continued to glare at him and disregarded his order. He sighed and waved his hand. The chair moved forward and knocked the back of my knees. It took away my balance and I sprawled on the chair. The designs on the chair which were like vines disentangled themselves from the wood and wrapped around my arms and my legs.
“Let me go!” I screeched.
“No. Not until you give me what I want!” he hissed. I continued to fight against my bonds but they just tightened even further.
“Do be quiet or you’ll find vines in your mouth too. How can we have a civilized conversation then?” he asked in a mocking tone.
My entire body flared with anger and I wished right then and there that I truly had magic of my own just so I could erase the smug look in his face. I thrashed more and more against my bonds but they were no use.
The King lifted an elegant eyebrow at my actions and waited patiently for me to stop. He picked up his fork again and resumed eating. He watched me with amusement in his eyes. Finally realizing that my actions only made him happier, I stopped thrashing and glared at him.
“Now isn’t that better?” he asked. He looked at me once more and I swore that those eyes truly looked familiar. It was as if I’ve seen them somewhere before. Their color was beautiful and I am sure I’d remember those unique eyes if I’ve truly seen them before.
“Do you know who I am, princess?” he asked. “You are James Murray, the bastard King of Virlinn.” I spat.
He clucked his tongue. “Such foul language for a beautiful queen.” He said. I turned my face away from him. Soon enough, I felt the painful bite of his fingers on my jaw as he forced me to look at him.
“Look at me more closely and tell me if you know me.” He hissed.
“I do not know you!” I screamed. He took a step back and let go of my face.
“Ah but you do... It’s just that you don’t remember. But... I know you, Selene.” He said in a lazy voice. My heart seemed to have stopped beating and my head spun as I glared at him. My lips parted on an outraged gasp but he was the first one who spoke.
“Yes... I know all about you.” He grinned.
“Who are you?”
“Argyll. Current King of Ilyia. Used to be second-in-command of your father’s Golden Army.” He said in a proud voice.
My mind reeled even further. “No!” I gasped. “It can’t be!”
I searched my mind for a memory of Argyll. I remembered the visions Selene showed me. James Murray looked nothing like Argyll! He had a different set of features... Except for the eyes... I realized now where I’ve seen those blue-violet eyes. They were Argyll’s.
But how can this be possible when Argyll is locked in Ilyia? And why did he look different when Seth and I were reborn still looking like our old selves? Was he reborn too?
“I assure you, little slave. It’s me, Argyll. Though not as fully me as I can be.” He laughed.
“What?” I hissed.
“You see. I did not realize that Ilyia had more defense mechanisms. When you died, the gateways were sealed and we were trapped. Don’t blame me for your death, though. It was all Azrael’s fault. Anyway... I’ve strayed away from the main point here. I bet you want to know how I came to be like this?” he asked.
“I’ve manipulated most of the Gods into giving me their power before they died. Before they went insane, actually. Remember my gift of manipulating emotions? Well, I used it against them and they went insane fairly quickly. I gathered as much power as I could until I could cause a change in this world without the use of the Fountains which were also sealed off when you died.”
He stood up and paced around the chair I was sitting on with a smug look on his face.
“It wasn’t an easy job, princess. I spent thousands of years before I finally achieved my goal. Using an old spell which your father has forbidden to be used, something that involved possession of a mortal body by switching his soul with my essence... I finally achieved what I wanted. A way to have a mortal body here in this world. This body truly belonged to a King and he had a great life and a soul once. But it’s gone now and is replaced by mine. He’s in Ilyia right now... He’s in my immortal body but he’s rotting away in a cell. Great idea, right?” he gushed.
His smugness just increased and increased. I kept my mouth shut so as not to allow him to gloat over my emotions and my confusion.
“But this body is weak. I have lived for years practicing the magic that belongs to a lowly sorcerer. I am a God! A God King! This magic is beneath me!” he bellowed. Then he turned those evil eyes towards me.
“But I don’t have anything else because the magic of the Fountains died with you! Oh, by the way... Those Fountains truly are clever. It took me years of searching for a way out of Ilyia and I happened to come upon the scroll that contained information about those fountains. And it was very lucky because I saw it be accident while I searched for the soul-switching spell... Rashad knew what he was doing when he kept its secret from us all. But not you... Oh, not his precious daughter. You know everything about it because you are its guardian.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I lied.
“Yes, you do!” he shouted and slapped a hand on the table. The dishes rattled and the wine spilled.
“I do not remember anything!” I lied once more.
“Not now... But you will...”
“Even if I remembered anything, I shall not tell you! Never!”
He grabbed my jaw once more and his fingers gripped me so hard that I was sure it would bruise. “Oh you will, little princess...” he said in that smug tone. He reached into his side and drew a silver dagger. It was the same one he used to kill Aiken! I’d recognize it anywhere!
It was the Silver Dagger of the ten Gods of Justice!
He pressed the dagger against my neck and I felt the sting as it cut my flesh. A small trickle of blood fell and with it, I felt my strength slowly fading away. It was as if the dagger drained away a part of my essence.
I looked up at him and boldly met his eyes. “You think I’m afraid of dying? I’d rather die than give you access to more power!” I shouted.
“Ah... You think this will be for you? If you think that then you must not really know me well...”
A hint of fear crept up to my heart and almost crushed it... I figured out his game plan instantly. My eyes widened at the realization.
“Seth.” I whispered. Tears filled my eyes as I thought of him. It was happening. Everything was happening again. He would take Seth and he would kill him again... All because of me... No! This cannot be! I will not allow him to die again! This is our second chance! This is sent by the Cosmos so we could fix everything! Seth can’t die for he shall take his place as the rightful King of Ilyia and save it from distraction!
“You got that right! Smart princess!” Argyll shouted and clapped his hands. Tears ran down my cheeks.
“Later... By noon... I told you his ship will dock in my shores. And then your clock starts right then. One week, princess. One week to remember. One week to open the gateways and hand over the power of the Fountains to me... Or you shall find my Silver Dagger imbedded in your husband’s heart once more... Just like old times..." he said with a wink.
Tears fell from my eyes as despair overwhelmed me. At the same time, Argyll’s evil maniacal laugh filled the room with its hollow sound.