This week we had free reign, with no prompt. As you are all aware. I like pretty pictures, so I chose this one to go with my brief this week
Why is Castien’s father yelling? Why is King Aleric here? Why is my father here? Am I ill? Am I…?
“Please, stop,” Castien begs. “You’ll wake Tian. This is no place for this. Can we not at least retire to somewhere more private where we will not−”
That voice. Can it be?
“How dare you give orders to my son. He is Crown Prince of The Kingdom and answers to no one but me.”
“Father, please, I can handle this.”
“I said, be silent,” the voice snarls, and I force my weary body into movement as the Druid strikes my beloved across the face with the back of his hand. Twice now I have been helpless to aid when someone has hurt him this way.
Castien stumbles and his father roars. “What is this? You invite us here to treat, then stand idle while this peasant assaults my son? Castien has suffered nothing but hurt since he first set foot on your soil. I will have no more. Consider the alliance at an end. We will return to our kingdom and there will be no more communication between us. Lay one more finger on my son and you’ll be fortunate indeed if you do not have war.”
“Aleric please, be calm. Druid, give us a moment. Our guests are not familiar with our customs. Please give us some time to discuss this.”
“There is no time. There is nothing to discuss. The Druach will come with me. We will leave at once.”
Everyone turns to me and Castien, seeming close to tears, throws himself into my arms. Careless of the pain I embrace him.
“Be easy, my love. I don’t know what’s happening but we can resolve it. I will protect you.”
“He is no longer yours to protect. Boy, come with me before I lose my patience.”
“I don’t understand.” My heart begins to beat in painful rhythm. Why is the Druid here? Why is he trying to take Castien from me?
“Tian….” My mother gazes at me with stricken, helpless eyes. “The Druid says your bonded is Druach.”
“They keep saying that,” Castien says, his voice revealing deep distress. “I don’t know what it means. I haven’t done anything.”
I swallow hard, the bottom falling out of my world. “No, it’s not something you’ve done. Is it true?” For the first time in my life I meet the eyes of the most powerful man in our world. Once, when I was very young, the Druid was often a guest at our home. I believe he was once a friend of my parents. Now, he remains secluded in the deep woods and comes only when the need is dire. Once, he was a kind man who would tell me stories and show me wonders in small magics. Now, he is hard and cold. I see his thoughts clearly in his eyes. He will take Castien and there is nothing I can do.
“You would accuse me of lying?”
I shake my head. “No. Must you take him now?”
“Take me? He’s not taking me anywhere.”
To have Castien look at me with such dismay and even fear, breaks my heart. I would fight to my last breath to hold on to him if I could, and even now my heart is breaking in my breast, but the Druid can be denied nothing, and if Castien is Druach….
“I’m sorry, old friend,” my father says softly. There’s such great sadness in his tone it shocks me. “I’m sorry your wounds have not healed, but I cannot let my son or my country suffer for it. I cannot permit you to take Prince Castien to the Cave of Winds.”
“You,” the Druid says, his voice low and deadly, “have no power to prevent it.”
“Castien is not of this land. He is here under my protection, under promise to treat and that is a sacred bond that transcends our duty to you and your power over us, and him. In addition, he is my son’s bonded. The bond has already been formed and I do not consent to it being severed.”
The Druid’s head snaps to me and he glares at me – and Castien in my arms. He snarls at me but I refuse to shrink before him. Castien is trembling but he faces the Druid just as bravely.
“The power of the Druid is bound to the land. Nothing transcends.”
“If we have war with The Kingdom, if the Dark Brotherhood rises in the South, soon there will be no land to be bound to, that is not polluted and dead,” my father says, his voice low, but clearly expressing his passion. I hold my breath and cling to Castien.
“It is because of the situation with the Dark Brotherhood that the Druach must be invested and trained as soon as possible. It is our best chance.”
“And you believe someone with no knowledge of our ways, no connection with our land and no free will or intent could ever be our best chance?”
“I have ways.”
“I have no doubt, but every one of them would limit his power. Time is short, I accept, but not so short that we cannot take some to explain and prepare.”
The Druid glances between my father, me and Castien.
“I beg you,” my mother says, drawing the Druid’s attention. “We were friends once. You knew love. My heart bleeds that you lost it but you must remember. I beg of you, please for the sake of your own lost love, do not steal away my son’s.”
A look of incredible anguish crosses his face, but then he hardens. “I will give you three days to discuss the terms. On the third day, the Druach will come to the Cave of Winds whether you approve or not. The bonding will be broken, as will the Druach’s connection with his old life.”
Now please go check out the rest of this amazing crowd of flashers