Her Highness

Once, the Five Kingdoms of Albion had been at peace, but that peace had started to shatter when the Court of Camelot was broken by the treachery and evil of one Knight, Mordred, and his greed for power.
Now, it’s been almost ten years since Mordred slew Arthur Pendragon at Camlann, ten years since Ygraine and Duran fled Camelot in search of safety. It’s been six years since Mordred found and captured them.
But Ygraine Pendragon is bordering on twenty years old, and she is through with the whole of Albion thinking her and her brother are dead. She is the daughter of the great King Arthur, and she is done with allowing her cousin to sit on the Throne of Camelot, the throne which he usurped.
When bonds are broken, betrayal occurs, hard decisions are made, and lives are lost, who will lose and who will conquer? How will the Princess, a lost heir to Camelot, fair when this become more than just an effort to rid the Kingdoms of Mordred, and instead become a war between light and dark?

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13. 11

 

 

 

 

11

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The next week passed by in a relative blur of long discussions and arguing between Cyrus, Robert and I (well, the arguing had been between Cyrus and Robert, I just sat there occasionally meeting Sylvia’s eye of pity on me for having to deal with it all), long talks between Cyrus and I back at his house, and everything else humans waiting around to head to the other side of Albion do to occupy their time.

    On the third day of route-finalising and the arguments of getting to Lothian and the shortest and safest way possible had reached their climax, I’d taken a breather and headed to the smithy to see if my sword was ready. As it turned out it had been ready, so I’d paid them the amount I’d told them and, since sword naming was customary and compulsory in Albion, I named the sword Valkyrie as it meant ‘Chooser of the Slain’. And a fine sword it was, too.

    So I’d passed some of the time refreshing myself with sword-fighting techniques.

    By the fifth day the route to Lothian was thoroughly worked out, a route which snaked around the Kingdoms and kept to as much dense woodlands as possible. As soon as the route had been sorted out Robert had suggested I use some of my money to buy a horse for Cyrus (as, it turns out, Robert already had a horse), but Cyrus had revealed the fact that he couldn’t ride a horse—when I asked why he had a stable he’d answered “My father was the one with the horse and he took her when he left—I never saw the need to learn”. I’d said I’d let him ride behind me, which had slightly terrified him when I’d teased that I would have Aeron gallop straight off.

    Cyrus and I had agreed that he could leave his home with nothing in it, just pack everything up, and then just leave it for someone to perhaps hide in—all this because I’d said that when Camelot once again belonged to the Pendragon’s, he could have a chamber and Merlin’s Round Tower as his study.

    Robert would also stay in Lothian with us, because he was Cyrus’s best friend I didn’t want to split them up.

    But, all in all, the past few days had been unsurprisingly uneventful. I couldn’t wait to leave and arrive in a rowdier capital. I needed noise and the busyness of people in large markets, it all kept me calm.

 

X

 

“Ygraine, can you pass me that vial?—no, not that one. The one with the blue liquid in.”

    I ran a hand through my hair and murmured, “There are two vials containing blue liquid.”

    “The lighter coloured one.”

    “Cyrus, they’re both the same colour.”

    “Not, they’re not,” he said. I turned around to see that he had his hand stretched out towards me. “The one of the left is lighter.”

    “By what?—a minute shade?” I picked it up regardless and brought it to the centre table, placing it in front of him. “What are you doing, anyway?”

    “Practising potions.”

    I nodded and moved to sit down across from him. We were leaving tomorrow and I was already packed—now I was just waiting around. Reclining back, I took to watching Cyrus and his movements as he measured the weird looking blue liquid and added it to the rest of his concoction. And then I took to just watching him, the way his brow furrowed and his forehead creased as he concentrated on his work, the way his hair fell in front of his eyes but he didn’t bother to brush it back.

    He was rather handsome . . . even if the stubble-beard marring his chin and sides was darker than the actual hair on top of his head.

    I was about to say something but was stopped by a black figure cawing and flying in front of my face. I started, but calmed when I realised that it was merely Cyrus’s raven. Aconitum landed beside me and then walked over to Cyrus, jumping up onto his master’s hand. There was a small piece of parchment attached to his foot.

    “I was wondering how long you’d take, I was starting to get worried,” Cyrus said to his raven before he placed the vial down and used his free hand to unravel the parchment. “I take it this will be from your cousin,” he added and threw the parchment across the table to me.

    I caught it in my hand and lay it flat against the wood, my eyes skimming along the scratchy but still elegant font. There was a faint drawing of the personal standard of Gawain, a three-legged triskele, as faint as a watermark, in the centre of the small parchment.   

    I managed to read the first two lines properly before a lump rose in my throat, tears stung my eyes, and I whimpered a sob that I tried, and failed, to stifle.

    “Ygraine? Oh, Ygraine, are you alright?”

    I raised my hand to my mouth and turned my face aside.

   “Ygraine?” There was concern in his voice now, but I couldn’t look at him. I didn’t want to cry, I never liked to cry in front of people—it made me feel weak, Pendragon’s aren’t weak. But yet here I was, crying. “Ygraine? Ygraine, what is it?”

    I grabbed the parchment with my other hand and tossed it towards him. “Read it. Out loud,” I said, hearing my own voice crack.

    “Aconitum, move,” he said and I heard the rustle of feathers. He cleared his throat then and read out the letter from my cousin. “Dear cousin Ygraine. I am gladdened to my heart to know that you are well and alive. I always knew you would be alive, I never for a mere moment believed you were dead—so, when Ser Tomas told me you were indeed alive, Aoifa had thought I’d gone mad for I was jumping around like a child.

    Alas, it also saddens me immensely to have to break the news that, no, your brother is not among us here in Lothian. I am sorry, but like you I pray he is alive and well and managed to escape my murderous brother.

    All is good.”

    Silence prevailed between the two of us, my sobs muffled by the hand over my mouth, until Cyrus suddenly exclaimed, “All is good? After saying your brother isn’t in Lothian, how can everything by good?!”

    I looked up and placed a hand over his frantically, shaking my head. “No, no, it’s not like that. ‘All is good’ is his response with our coded messages.”

    He glanced at me with his head cocked to the side, confusion in his eyes. “What?”

    “When I was ten and we’d escape the castle, Gawain and I had devised a coded message system for letters and conversations so that we knew each other was who we said we were. In my letter to him I opened with ‘I am well’, which is true, but it is also my half of our message—if I opened a letter or sentence with ‘I am well’, in a conversation he would immediately say ‘All is good’ and in letters he would end it with ‘All is good’.”

    Cyrus stared at me for a moment before nodding. “Well, that’s quite ingenious!”

    I tried to smile but couldn’t because the tears had started to fall again. I turned away and ran my hand under my eyes. I hated crying, but what else could I do? My brother could be dead. Could I imagine him dead? No. Did I want to imagine him dead? No. But there was a hole slowly ripping its way through my heart, an aching pain resounding throughout my chest.

    I heard the scrap of Cyrus’s chair against the floor and then suddenly he was crouched down in front of me. “Ygraine—Ygraine, it’s going to be alright.”

    I stared down at him, even though I couldn’t really see past the water blurring my vision. “How do you know that? My brother . . .” I stopped, my breath becoming irregular as I gasped for breath.

    He took a hold of my hand, pulled it away from my face, and rubbed his thumb softly over my knuckles in a circular motion. “Chances are he’s in the countryside somewhere and he’s on his way to Lothian as we speak. Chances are he’s hasn’t been able to send a message to your cousin, and chances are he’ll be waiting there when we arrive and he’ll run straight to you when we do get there.”

    “And chances are he might be dead. Chances are we’ll get to Lothian and a couple of days later Mordred will send a package up containing my brother’s head!” I cried out.

    Cyrus let go of my hand and reached up to pull me into a hug. I’d be shaking, but as soon as his arms wound around me and squeezed tight, I felt my shaking become less. One of his hands stroked my hair whilst the other stroked my back.

    “I hate this! I hate the not knowing, I hate assuming the worst,” I wept into his shoulder. “I want my brother. I just want my brother!”

    “Ssh,” he whispered and I felt his lips press against my forehead. “I know, I know. Ssh.” He pulled away slowly and brought his hands to underneath my eyes, dashing away the tears, and then his hands lingered cupping my face. “You will have your brother back, Ygraine,” he added, his eyes staring into mine.

    I sniffled. “Promise?”

    He shook his head, eyes sad. “I can’t promise you that.”

    I nodded and pulled away. “I hate crying,” I said with a weak laugh, pulling the sleeve of my left arm down over my hand and rubbing away the tears left. “Crying makes me feel weak.”

    “Tears are a sign of caring, of showing you’re alive and you feel emotion.”

    “I’m a Pendragon, I’m meant to be strong—I’m not meant to cry.”

    He smiled half-heartedly with one corner of his mouth and said, “Are you telling me that no Pendragon’s, in the history of your family, have ever cried? Because if you do I won’t, and don’t, believe you. Didn’t your father ever cry?”

    I glanced down at the floor. “I suppose he did when his father died. I know he did when my mother left him.”

    “See? So you can cry. Crying is good.”

    “If you say so.”

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