I'm tired. This week is a neverending round of meetings and appointments. I haven't been able to rest properly since I came back from holiday and my body is complaining bitterly. I did a crazy thing the day before yesterday and bought new furniture. It's being delivered on Saturday, right in the middle of the visit of a friend I haven't seen in years. Sigh. I just have to keep in mind that it will all be worth it in the end. In the meantime, here is the next installment of Demon, with even more questions being dredged up.
It appears I messed up the posting and numbering, because I completely missed out a week!!!
This post was supposed to have been Chapter Thirty Two which disappeared entirely. Therefore, I have added the chapter in to this one. I hope that makes sense.
This week I chose this picture
Chapter Thirty One
“Your bonded is very beautiful,” father says as we ride, side by side along a familiar road.
It hurts to stand and to breathe, but not as much as it hurts that I was too weak to prevent what happened to Tian. Father rages at Lord Trevithick and he rages back. The things he says disgust me.
“Stop.” The sound of my voice surprises me. It is louder and braver than I feel. “You laid hands not only on me but my prince also. Do not forget you are on his lands now. You have no authority here. Father, arrest him and hold him pending investigation. It is the least you can do given his assault on your son, and the possible damage what he has done to Tian might have on our mission here.”
Father hesitates. I understand why he does so. Lord Trevithick was one a friend of his and he holds great sway with the Counsel. However, this time he has gone too far and they both know it. Lord Trevithick blusters, spewing hatred about our coupling and a spear of unease hurts my heart. What if he does some real damage with my father or the Counsel? What if they hurt Tian? No. I cannot allow that to happen.
“Silence.” Again the strength of my own voice takes me by surprise. It hurts a little but I thrust the pain aside. It is fading anyway. “What we did was not wrong. Perhaps leading you to believe Jandra was Tian’s betrothed was wrong, but that was not my idea. I have always wanted honesty and here it is. Tian and I love each other and we will be together whether ignorant old men such as you will it or not.”
“It is an abomination. It is everything that is wrong with this sick alliance.”
“I love Tian and he loves me. There is nothing abominable about that, and this alliance is all that gives your miserable arse opportunity to save its seat in our home. Without it, when the South rises your perverted morals will do you no good against their magic. Do not speak.” I cut him off when he would have protested. A quick glance at Father reveals an almost amused expression. It gives me courage to continue.
“But this is for a later time. We have more pressing issues. Whatever your opinion of the alliance or my bedding habits you assaulted me and committed treason.”
“This is ludicrous. It was an accident. I was defending the honour of the kingdom and the crown as you defiled it with that demon.”
“That demon is my betrothed and crown prince of these lands. You will use his given name or title; or you will not speak of him at all. Your accident was a deliberate blow that caused me injury. There will be no more discussion. Guards, arrest Lord Trevithick and put him under guard on charge of treason.”
“Hold there,” Lord Trevithick blusters. “You have no right. I am a member of the Counsel.”
“Who is not exempt from charges of treason.”
“Still, that is going a little too far.”
I stare at my father in shock. I was not naïve enough to believe my father would approve of my actions but I did not think he would gainsay me. My heard slumps as Lord Trevithick sneers.
“Not at all,” a voice says, drawing our eyes to the raised flap and the handsome man who stands there. “In fact, if you do not arrest this man for treason under your laws, I shall have to do so under mine.”
“What? What are you talking about? Who are you? How dare you enter the royal tend uninvited.”
Without a word, the man moves smoothly into the tent and strikes Lord Trevithick across the face, sending him flying backward, as I had done a short while ago.
“That is for daring to lay hands on the Crown Prince of Coedwen. Had it not been that I respect the alliance I would have killed you for what you did.”
The cold, hard expression falls from the man’s golden eyes as he turns away from Lord Trevithick, with a flick of his hand, instantly dismissing him from his attention. “And this, I presume is the man that has stolen my son’s wits.”
I find myself wrapped in a warm embrace. Stunned, I hesitantly settle my arms around his surprisingly large girth and gaze over his shoulder. Tian beams at me and winks. Men dressed in forest great drag Lord Trevithick out of the tent while our own men watch helpless awaiting direction from my father, which never comes.
After a few moments Tian’s father draws back and scours my face, with a serious expression on his. “Tian has made a good choice,” he says. “For all that he was a damn fool to follow the pull of your bonding without proper preparation, I cannot say I blame him. When his mother’s call came I would have moved mountains to get to her.” His eyes narrow slightly. “You need work, but you will make a fine King.”
I begin to smile, but then his words hit. First; what does he mean need work? Second, and more important; king? True, I am crown prince and therefore set to rule after my father, but I feel that is not what he meant. It hits me. If Tian and I are joined, we are heirs to two kingdoms. I will rule here as he will rule my home. Oh hell.
As if reading my mind, Tian’s father smiles and grips my shoulder. “Details will come. For now perhaps you, and my wayward son, might like to dress. Come Alfric, let us leave our young to their affairs. I have a feast prepared. Partake of wine with me and our sons will follow as they may. I will leave my guard to ensure they are escorted safely to my halls. Your entourage would do well to strike camp and follow as soon as they may. The feast extends to them all.
Chapter Thirty Two
“Your bonded is very beautiful,” father says as we ride, side by side along a familiar road.
“Yes, he is. His heart is very pure.”
Father nods, but appears thoughtful, almost pensive. Words hang, unsaid between us and my anxiety increases. I had hoped father would take time to get to know Castien before he formed an opinion, but I should have known better. Father is a perceptive man and makes quick judgements that are rarely wrong.
I glance back to where Castien rides with his father. He seems ill at ease. Is he, too, anxious about his reception in my family and my home.
“What do you know about him?” Father asks, startling me.
“What do you mean?”
“Are you certain of his parentage?”
“What? I don’t understand. There are no doubts I’ve heard expressed regarding his claim to the throne.”
“It’s not his claim that concerns me.”
“Then what does?”
“Have you not sensed it?”
“Sensed what?” Father’s words scare me, but not as much as his expression. His brows are drawn and the tension in his lips betray deep emotion. He cannot be angry with my love; not this soon, so what can it be?
“Tell me all you know about him.”
Puzzled and alarmed though I am, I dare not question – mostly because I am afraid of the answers I might receive. A quickly and concisely as I can, trying to preserve objectivity, I appraise Father of all that I know, which I soon realize is not very much.
“I know he seems…different to the others; smaller and more delicate, but he has suffered ill health all his life. I hoped our healers might discover the cause and assist him to overcome his ailments.”
“What have you felt? You have some skill in healing. Surely you have made some attempt to cleanse him. You must have touched his energies during the bonding. Did you get no sense of where the problems lie?”
I think back. There have been a number of times when energy has flown between us and his has always been golden. I ponder. The energies of The Kingdom generally, are harsh and uncompromising. They are coloured red and purple. Of course, people vary and shades differ, but it is rare that one born and raised among one colour palette bears none of the shades of those around him. True, the queen is not purple and red, but neither is she gold. Come to think of it, I have never come across anyone whose energy is so golden; so…pure.
“I think I understand. Castien is very different to anyone else I have met from The Kingdom. His energy is golden. I have never encountered anyone whose energy is so bright or so pure. His flaws are invisible at that level. Whatever issues manifest externally have no roots in his energies. What does it mean? Everyone has flaws. Why am I not seeing them? And where does his ill health come from?”
“Perhaps your eyes are blinded by your love.” Finally, Father’s face relaxes into one of his warm smiles. “I can see that he is easy to love. Whatever mystery surrounds him does not detract from his sweetness.”
“You will accept him?”
Father’s smile turns sad. “Did you fear I would not?”
“Not until this conversation.”
“Take heart. There is something about your bonded that worries me deeply, but it does not flavour my certainty that he will be a good partner for you and an excellent ally for our people. Your mother will love him as much as you do, from first sight.”
“And you?” My heart thuds. I had not realized quite how important it would be that my father not only approve of, but care about my love.
“He has changed you. Your restlessness is calmed; your spirit shines. I cannot say for sure until I know him better, but my feeling is that he and I shall come to be good friends. Fear not, I will approve your union, and I will care for him as my own.”
Breath hisses from me and sudden weakness causes my hand to shake on the reins. Had I really been so worried?
The River Rede meanders through the wide plain at the heart of Coedwen, as though the Great Mother wrote in water, a word of power in a script long since forgotten. To have followed its banks would have added weeks to our journey. The loops are miles wide and cities sparkle, crouch or bask on the islands that decorate the arcs and curves. Some are large enough for great, sprawling cities, some so small they are inhabited only by small tufts of trees and the graceful birds that flock to the magical waters of the river. Fortunately, there are bridges, and we will soon join the great road that cuts through the centre of the valley. I wonder what they will make of that, as it is made not by man but by magic.
Our visitors may scoff at the existence of magic, but they are in my world now. Long ago, magillium was commonplace, and its properties permeated our lands and contaminated the water. Over centuries this has been diluted but there are few plants or animals here who do not exhibit some small talent in the manipulation of energy that some call magic. I wonder what my prince and his people will think when they first come across such a plant or creature.
So far, we have travelled only the very edge of our country, where magic is at its weakest. My gaze is drawn to the misty horizon where the mountain that shelters my home is visible only as a shadow against the morning sun. We will not reach it today, but we have a palace on the shores of a small island within the next loop. We should reach it within the hour. Here, my prince will receive his first taste of the life we will live; safe from the ridiculous rules and prejudices that have imprisoned his spirit for so long.
Now go check out the rest of our flashers this week