Chapter 5 - Protect Him
March 10, 1645
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
I was lying down on the grass, under the trees, with my hands behind my head as I stared up at the night sky. The black canvass dotted by thousands of stars never ceased to fascinate me. The wind was cold on my skin and the grass was damp beneath me but I did not mind. Those are but trivial things when I could watch the beauty of the night sky.
I heard the sound of soft footfalls and my lips curved into a smile. I turned to the side and saw a cloaked figure come towards my way. As a warrior, I should be alert and wary but I am not for I know the face that lies behind that cloak. I know every beat of her heart for it beats in time with mine.
“Aiken...” the cloaked figure said as she lowered herself down and sat beside me.
“Selene.” I whispered, my fingers trailing a light touch on her cheeks. Her lips parted in a sigh and I moved my fingers lower and touched those lips. They were pink and full and every inch of them just begged for my touch.
I drew her warm body closer to mine. She sighed again and snuggled closer to me. I smiled in contentment and then slowly lowered her hood. Brown eyes fringed with dark, long lashes stared up at me. ”Sheska..." I whispered and she smiled.
I leaned in and kissed her very slowly. I coaxed her lips to open and like petals blooming, they parted and my tongue delved in to taste her sweetness. She responded by placing her hands on my chest and tightening her fingers on my clothes.
A soft moan escaped her as I deepened the kiss. Soon, we were both glowing and tendrils of light shot out into the trees and the grass surrounding us. I opened my eyes and her brown eyes changed golden with desire.
Then I heard a sound from far away and my entire body stilled. “Until next time, Aiken...” she whispered and then stood on the tips of her toes and pressed a kiss to my jaw. Before I could react, she wrapped the cloak around her again and ran towards the forest from where she came from...
I felt the frustration ripple through my entire body and I watched her as she retreated into the shadows. “Until next time, Selene, Li ’eras...”
My eyes opened and I was confused for a little while. I scanned the room and it was still cast in darkness. I stood up and shook my head to chase away the confusion and then I walked towards the windows.
I removed the thick pelt that hung on the window and cold air blasted my heated skin. There were still no signs of dawn outside and Ravenswood was quiet as the entire household slept.
What a weird dream.
I don’t usually dream but when I do it’s always about battle. This is the first time I dreamt about a girl... And the girl looked so much like Adrienne! No... This cannot be. That slave is getting under my skin!
I ran my fingers through my hair and then gave myself a thump on the head to chase away useless thoughts. I must not think of the girl. Women are nothing but weaknesses. They are materialistic beings and bring nothing but trouble...
But somehow... I could not remove the dream from my mind nor forget those large brown eyes. The dream felt real... It was as if I’ve truly experienced those things before. There was something in my chest too... I felt frustrated and lonely, just like what I felt when I was still dreaming.
Bah! Get a hold of yourself Seth!
I replaced the pelt on the window and donned a robe. Then I opened my door. My guards stood at attention. “I am going to Brianna’s room.” I told them and they nodded. Two remained in my room while two others walked by my side.
Brianna is a good choice for tonight. I know I wanted Adrienne but if I went to her, I would not be able to get her out of my mind. And besides, she fainted last night. She might be sick and she might not be up to the challenge of easing away the frustration I felt from the dream.
I was in front of Brianna’s room and I nodded to the guards stationed there. They opened the door and I walked inside. “Brianna.” I said and she stirred instantly. She looked around the room and then her blue eyes found me and she smiled.
“Your highness...” she purred as she excitedly pulled me into her arms.
I went down on the bed with her and inhaled her neck and her sweet fragrance. I pressed her closer to my body and rained kisses on her lips and neck. Then my hands grabbed her nightgown and I tried to undo all the laces. But there were so many patience and I have little patience so I dug my dagger from my boot.
With a flick of my wrist, the laces were torn in two and her nightgown fell off one shoulder. I saw her eyes burn darker with passion. I sheathed my dagger and removed my boots and my robe. Then I stood before her in all my naked glory. I saw desire in her blue eyes which only flamed my desire further. I grabbed the two edges of her torn nightgown and then tugged further until I heard the material rip all the way to the hem.
“That’s better.” I murmured as I tossed the torn nightgown all the way across the room. I went back to her on the bed and covered her body with mine. My hand drifted lower and I nudged Brianna’s legs apart with one knee. Then I delved my fingers between her thighs and found her hot and moist, more than ready for me.
With one stroke, I buried myself inside her and rode her hard and fast until we both shattered from our passions.
When I was done and my heart was back to beating its steady rhythm, I got up and began to dress. “Can’t you stay the night, your highness?” she purred seductively in my ear as she ran her fingers down my chest. I disentangled myself from her grasp and said, “No. The games happen today and I must see to everything.”
She pouted and looked at me with those huge, sad, blue eyes. “How about some diamonds for that pretty little neck so that you’ll shine when you go out and watch the games?” I asked and her eyes widened with surprise. Then they darkened with greed, as they always did.
“You are most generous, my King...” she replied.
I finished tugging on the belt of my robe and then walked outside her room. I nodded to my guards and we headed back to my wing of the castle...
Again, I was awake at dawn. I’ve finished tidying my room so I sat down and lit a candle. Then I grabbed one of the books brought to me and made myself comfortable.
The first one was a book about the Old Gods. I discarded it and then looked at another. It was about farming. Ugh. No, thank you. I don’t need to learn more about farming. The third book was about the adventures of a Knight. Great! Now, this one, I could certainly read.
I fell in love with the story instantly and would’ve kept on reading but my candle flickered and died. With a sigh, I snapped the book shut and donned a robe. I walked across my room and pulled the door open, to the surprise of the guard outside.
He looked at me from head to toe and then said, “You cannot leave the room.” He said it in heavily accented English. I looked at him also and remembered the Hakor in which he fought. He won there so instead of being captive, he was given the honor of becoming my guard. And I do not even know his name.
“What’s your name?” I asked. I was so thankful that he could speak English even though I had so much difficulty understanding his words because of his Hannan accent.
“Lachlan.” He replied and then crossed his arms in front of his chest. This action made the muscles in his arms and chest more pronounced and I couldn’t help but stare. This warrior had flaming red hair that was kept back from his face using a leather tie. He wore a simple tunic that gaped at the neck and then the traditional patterned kilt of the Hannan people. His knees and legs were bare and they were also muscled. If I hugged him, I don’t think I could’ve wrapped my arms in his very broad chest. Also, he was a bit handsome and the scars on every inch of his body just added to his rugged looks.
“My candle died and I was wondering where I could get a new one.” I replied. Lachlan looked around the hall and then spotted a candlestick wedged on the window near the edge of the corridor. He retrieved it and then handed it back to me.
“Thank you.” I said and he replied with a grunt.
Then I heard footsteps from across the corridor and I got curious who would be wandering the castle at this time. Then, the King of Ivaris came into view flanked by two guards. Grey eyes bore into me and his gaze flicked from me and the guard and the candlestick I was holding. Lachlan bowed in acknowledgement of the king but I just stood there staring at him.
He wore crimson robes with gold thread making him look so very elegant. But that was where it ended. He wore boots which does not match his robes and then his hear was so messed up. His face was also red and when he passed by my door, I was able to see that his arms bore scratch marks.
And that was when I came into conclusion that he just came from one of his women. I rolled my eyes and turned my back right after he passed. He didn’t even acknowledge me! Then again, what’s it to me if he ignored me? I don’t even like him. And he was the one who conquered my kingdom. I shouldn’t even be thinking about him.
I went back to my room and lit the candle. Then I settled back on the bed and continued reading.
-King Seth Liam Ivaris, XV-
“Everything’s prepared for the games?” I asked Iain, the steward of Ravenswood castle, Maria, the governess and Hodge, my butler and valet.
“Yes, your highness.” They said in unison.
“Double check everything. I don’t want a diplomatic crisis to arise because of mere games. Various noblemen are here and they are sure to accuse each other of cheating. I would not have another war in my hands just because of men’s petty differences.” I said and then nodded.
Iain went off towards the armory where he will check the swords, lances, and all other things that will be used for the games. “Maria, have Malcolm check the security of the castle again.” I ordered and she set off to find Malcolm.
I have a bad feeling that something’s about to go wrong. It was as if my instincts were heightened and they were telling me there was an impending battle. My muscles were taut and my hands itched to hold my sword.
I checked the entire castle myself but nothing seems to be wrong. But whatever I did, the nagging feeling just won’t go away...
“Are you really going to wear that?” the governess asked me in a stern tone.
I looked down at what I was wearing. It was a simple white dress. It had bell-shaped sleeves and a bodice that clung to my waist. I had no corset and the skirt of my white dress fell to my calves in waves. I knotted a gold cloth on my waist and tied a ribbon at the back to complete my look. I placed my hair up and secured it with the golden comb that had rubies. Other than that, I wore no other jewellery. My slippers were white and simple and had no design.
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked.
The dress had no holes or stains and it was the last thing on the pile when we were told to choose dresses. Apparently, I was called last and the other mistresses of the King had already chosen the other most beautiful dresses. I had no choice for this was the last one.
The governess shook her head at me and muttered something under her breath. I don’t really see anything wrong with the dress. The games were supposed to be outside and this dress would serve me well because it was cool and simple. The dark colors and the silks that the other ladies wore would only trap the heat and I had no doubt they would be uncomfortable.
We filed into the hallway as the governess inspected us. The other ladies wore the most gorgeous dresses I’ve ever seen in my life! They also wore corsets and petticoats which made their figures more alluring. I saw Brianna and she was wearing a blue gown made of velvet. Her hair was piled atop her head, showing off the beautiful diamonds that adorned her neck. In her arms were bangles filled with sapphires.
The other ladies looked like here and the drab and dreary hallway was instantly awash with colors. They brightened the room with their colourful gowns and they shimmered when the sunlight touched their various jewellery. They also brought with them parasols and fans that matched the colors of their gowns. Again, I had neither of those.
I looked down and inspected myself. I stuck out like a sore thumb. These ladies were elegant and beautiful and I was none of those things. I looked more a servant than mistress to the king. My gown was so simple that it would not attract any attention. I sighed. Oh well, I have nothing else to wear. Better this than go naked.
We all walked together towards the courtyard and then exited the castle gates towards where the games were being held. I heard the sound of trumpets in the distance and saw the large crowd gathered for the games. There was loud noise as the crowd cheered and cheered. The crowd parted for us and the men eyed the king’s mistresses with lust in their eyes. I was last in line and no one paid me any particular attention. Maybe they thought I was one of the servants.
I shrugged. I don’t want anyone looking at me like I was a piece of meat anyway. We took our seats below the raised dais and I checked the throne but the king was nowhere to be found. The other mistresses opened their parasols and fanned themselves. I saw the one beside me begin to sweat and she wiped it away with her handkerchief. I, on the other hand, was very much comfortable and I loved feeling the sun on my skin for a change.
I tilted my head upwards towards the sky and then closed my eyes, savouring the feeling. It felt very good to be outside after being cooped up indoors for so long. I opened my eyes and saw that the lady beside me looked at me as if I lost my mind. I just smiled sweetly at her and went back to savouring the sun.
Suddenly, I felt a change ripple through my body. It was as if I was tossed upwards and then I landed back with a jolt. I opened my eyes and I wasn’t in Ravenswood Castle anymore. I was back on the meadow.
A woman walked towards me and she was wearing the same dress I was. When she was close enough, I saw her features.
No... This can’t be! It seems as if I was looking through a mirror!
We looked exactly alike! And we even wore the same white dress, except for the golden belt I wore and the golden comb on my hair. She wore a wreath of flowers in her hair and she was so beautiful that her skin appeared as though it was glowing!
She gave me a sweet smile while I looked at her in confusion...
“Protect him...” she whispered.
“What?” I replied. Protect who?
“Aiken...” she replied. Then she raised her hand and waved it across my eyes. The scenery changed again and I was back in Ivaris right where I was sitting.
I watched as an armoured man rode his horse with lance in hand. His armor was all black with gold in some parts and his horse was also black. Across the field, a man wearing silver armor, bearing a silver lance also rode his horse.
“For the next game: a joust! Announcing, the King of Ivaris on the black horse! Versus Lord Patrick Arrin, Baron of Wexton on the brown horse!”
The horses were dragged towards their starting lines and the riders waited for the signal for the joust to begin. My eyes were glued towards the king and his black horse and the way he moved with lethal grace. Then the flag was waved and both riders spurred their horses on. They bore down towards each other with great speed, their lances held at the ready.
There was the sound of splintering wood when they crashed together. The king’s lance snapped as it hit the Baron’s armor. The baron was unharmed but the King fell off his horse. A portion of the Baron’s lance was embedded in his chest and it went through his armor. “You cheat!” the King’s valet shouted as he inspected the wound and saw that a silver dagger was embedded in the Baron’s lance and that it was what wounded the king.
The wound was in his chest and the king was wracked with convulsions.
“It’s poisoned!” one of the men shouted and they saw that the King’s mouth was frothing and that his skin was now colored grey. Blood flowed from his wound and then down towards the sands of the arena.
There were loud battle cries as the King’s soldiers jumped into the arena to avenge their king. The Baron only smiled at them and raised his hand. Hundreds of archers stood up and the sky went dark as a volley of arrows rained down.
Everyone in the arena was killed and I was there on the dais, my mouth open with the horror I’ve witnessed. The king was sprawled there with five arrows sticking out of his chest. The arrows must be specially made for it penetrated the thick armor and chainmail that the king wore.
A woman walked towards me and waved her hand in front of my eyes. The vision faded and I was back in the meadow, breathing heavily.
“Protect him... ” the woman whispered to me again.
“Why should I?” I hissed. “He’s the one who ruined my kingdom! With his death, I may go free again!” I shouted.
The woman didn’t even flinch and she regarded me with solemn eyes. “He is the key to everything. If he dies, we will wait again for him for a long time...” she said and then sighed. Her sigh conveyed all the loneliness inside her.
“Protect him. All the answers you seek are with him.” She said and then waved her hands once more and the meadow faded away.
When I opened my eyes, I was back in the arena and the lady beside me was looking at me with fear in her eyes.
“You glowed!” she exclaimed.
“What?!” I looked at her as if she was mad. “You had your e-eyes c-c-closed then you glowed! It was golden and...” she trailed off muttering.
“Lady, it must be the sun hitting the strands of my hair making it look as if I was glowing. Have you never seen the sun before? Calm yourself, would you?” I said to her and grabbed the fan from her hand and fanned her with it. She took deep calming breaths and then retrieved her fan from me and slapped my hand away.
When she was settled, I thought about the vision again. Was it real? Or was my mind playing tricks on me again? And if it were real, why the hell would I save the King of Ivaris who brought me nothing but trouble? He who burned Amaranth to the ground? He who claimed my maidenhead? He who was cruel in every way? Wouldn’t the world be better off without him?
I looked around the crowd for signs of trouble but there seems to be none. The arena was empty too and there was no sign of the king or the Baron anywhere. Whew. Then it must be just a trick then.
Then I heard loud cheers and hoots from the crowd. I scanned the arena once more and the King’s black stallion was being led towards the far left. To the right, the baron’s horse was also being led to its position.
Suddenly, it got harder to breathe and my heart must be pumping furiously for I heard its fast beat.
No, this cannot be. My vision, it’s happening!
But what if I was wrong and there was no poisoned lance from the Baron? What if it’s just an ordinary joust? What if I humiliated myself? –Then the king will kill me! And maybe that’s a far better fate than what I have in store for me should I continue living as his mistress. Maybe death would even be better. That way, I could be with my parents again.
Darn it! What should I do???
I scanned the crowd once more and I saw something silver glint in the distance. It was beyond the walls of the arena and high above the crowd of people where I saw the archers positioned in my vision.
No... This can’t be happening!
More cheers were heard from the crowd as the King of Ivaris emerged. He was walking with purpose towards the dais where we were seated. Then he stopped in front of me and smiled.
“Would you do me the honor of giving me your favour to wear as I joust?” he asked politely. This was the first time I’ve ever seen him smile and it changed his whole face and demeanour entirely.
For the first time in his presence, I found myself at a loss for words.
I just sat there staring at him with my mouth open. “Adrienne.” The King called out and I snapped back to reality. Then everything came back to me: the vision, the poisoned lance, the archers, the danger to the King!
“Don’t fight! Please, your highness. Don’t!” I hissed. He took a step back and looked at me in confusion. “Why not?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Your opponent, he cheats!” I accused.
“And this is based on what?” he asked me.
“I saw it in a vision. Just believe me, your highness. Please!” I pleaded. He just looked at me as if I’ve lost my mind. Well, maybe I did. I just should’ve let him die. He doesn’t believe me and now thinks that I am a lunatic.
Then he leaned forward and whispered “Are you going to give me your token or not?”
I shook my head. Then with swift fingers, he tugged at the gold cloth I used as my belt and it came free. He looked surprised and smiled at the crowd making it seem as though I gave him the token.
“Thank you, milady! This is sure to give me luck!” he shouted and the entire crowd cheered for him. He took another step towards me again.
“Tie it on my arm.” He said through gritted teeth. His eyes flashed and he looked as though he might strangle me if I defied him again. I shrugged and then took the cloth from him and tied it securely to his arm. The golden cloth flapped when the wind blew.
“Wise choice.” The king said as he bent and gave me a kiss on the lips. I kept my lips shut tight as he kissed me and the crowd roared once more as he stepped away from me and went towards his horse.
Well, that’s it. I did my part. He didn’t believe me. He could die now and it won’t be on my conscience.
The king mounted his horse and his valet did the last adjustments on his horse and prepared to announce him towards the crowd.
“For the next game: a joust! Announcing, the King of Ivaris on the black horse! Versus Lord Patrick Arrin, Baron of Wexton on the brown horse!” the King’s valet announced. Both horses skittered impatiently and pawed the ground, eager for a run.
“Protect him...” the voice of the woman spoke in my ear as the valet handed the king his lance.
Oh, damn everything to oblivion! I screamed in my head as I stood up, gathered my skirts and jumped down from the dais and ran towards the middle of the arena. “Stop!” I screamed but the flag was already waved and both horses were now running towards each other, the riders’ lances held securely in place.
“No!” I screamed and jumped from the fence and onto the arena. Sand instantly got into my slippers but I kept on running. Actually, I don’t know what to do now that I am here but I just continued running until I was in the middle of the arena.
The people who were watching stood up and instantly sent curses towards me. The other ladies whispered to each other that I’ve lost my mind. I looked towards my left and right and saw both riders trying to tame their horses into a trot and trying to stop them from barrelling into me as I stood there. I kept my chin up even though I was scared to death that I will be trampled to death by those two huge beasts. My heart beat faster in both fear and anticipation.
I felt sand fly up to my face as the king was able to contain his horse and prevent him from running me to the ground with just mere inches to spare. The baron was not so lucky for his horse reared back and unseated him. He flew down towards the sand and his attendants quickly rushed to his side.
The King of Ivaris jumped down from his horse and captured my arm in a ruthless grip. “What is the meaning of this?” He hissed and his fingers dug deeper into my arm. “Let me go! I’m saving your life!” I hissed back at him.
I pried his fingers to get him to loosen his grip on my arm at the same time the Baron cursed. He stood up and walked towards me. “You bitch!” he shouted. The king tensed behind me and his hand went to his waist where his sword was sheathed.
“Watch your tongue!” the king roared and the Baron flinched. I welcomed the distraction for I was able to slip away from the King’s merciless grip and dash towards the Baron’s fallen lance. It was time to know whether my vision was correct or not.
I am unsure of what happens but there is only one thing I know: I am ready to accept the consequences whatever it may be. Should it be death, then I would welcome it with open arms.
I grabbed the lance and dragged it behind me. It was so heavy but I continued to hold onto it and drag it towards the king. The baron flinched and then screamed and he pushed aside all his attendants and attempted to seize the lance from me. “No!” the baron screamed but the king held up a hand to silence him.
“What are you doing?” the king snapped. “Giving you proof” I replied and then I lifted the lance and pounded it hard on the ground.
The tip of the wooden lance splintered and revealed the dagger within. I lifted it and thrust it upon the King’s hand. He inspected it and I saw the greenish liquid that coated the blade. “It’s poisoned!” the king shouted at the same time that he pushed me back and protected me with his body while the other hand withdrew his sword.
There! I changed the outcome of the vision. What now?
I saw silver glinting in the distance but the king was too busy to notice it for he was staring at the baron. The crowd went wild at the scene that unfolded them and it was much too noisy to issue a warning for the king.
The baron lifted his hand just like how I saw in my vision and I knew what it meant: it was a signal for the archers. “Nooooo!” I screamed and then threw my body towards the king. I caught him off balance and he fell to the ground face down with my body over his. I could not cover his entire body for he was much larger than mine but I covered his back and his head which were important. “What—?” the king groaned but I silenced him by tightening my hold on him.
I saw the sky darken and the sand was coated with shadows of arrows. I closed my eyes and braced myself for the pain. A searing pain hit my shoulder, then my left chest and just above my waist.
I felt my skin burn and I must’ve cried out because of the intense pain for I heard a shrill sound and then there was nothing...
Nothing more but darkness...
“You did it... You saved him... Our Aiken...” the lovely voice whispered to me.
I wanted to reply to her but I couldn’t move my lips. It got harder and harder to breathe and I felt as if every inch of me was on fire. I felt hands on my skin, lifting me up and I tried hard to open my eyes and see the sunlight one last time. “Adrienne!” I heard a distinct voice call out. It was so soft that it was barely a whisper. It must be the king.
Thank the Gods my sacrifice was not in vain for he was alive.
Yes... I saved him... But at the cost of my own life...
The Ivaris Language:
Li ’eras- My love
Token- this is usually a lady’s ribbon or handkerchief that she gives to a knight of her choice during a tournament or a joust. It is said to bring the knight luck and it shows that the lady is captivated by him.
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