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?


11. 9
















“So . . . this friend of yours?”

    “What about him?” Cyrus asked, glancing sideward’s at me.

    “What’s he like?”

    “Um . . .” He raised his arm and scratched the nape of his neck, looking up at the bare trees overhanging into intertwined arches above the dirt road we were walking down.

    “Oh come on, there must be something you can say.”

    “I’m not sure if it would insult your innocent ears or not.”

    I craned my neck and looked at him, my eyebrows raised. “My ‘innocent ears’? Really?”

    He shrugged.

    “My ears are not innocent, so go ahead.”

    “I’ll just say that he likes a brothel or two.”

    I stopped in my tracks and stared at him. “Oh. Um . . . I have no patience for men with mistresses.”

    “Robert isn’t married, so the girls aren’t technically mistresses.”

    I waved my hand in a dismissive gesture. “So what about you, Cyrus? Any whores under your belt?”

    “The only time I’ve ever stepped foot inside a brothel is to drag Robert out of one.”

    I smiled and set back off walking, suddenly wishing that my new cloak had a hood because the coldness had frozen my ears and so they really hurt. Maybe I could get a hood stitched onto it? Since the trip to Lothian would only mean more coldness and brutal weather. Why did it have to be the most northern Kindgom?


    I stopped abruptly and spun around. “Yes?”

    Cyrus pointed right with his thumb. “The town is this way. But carry on left if you want, you’ll eventually find a settlement . . . unless, of course, you get lost in the woods first.”

    “I was planning on setting off for Lothian early, actually.”

    “You were going east.”

    I pouted and narrowed my eyes before huffing and walking back the way I’d come, only to turn right when I met up with Cyrus again. “We really do need to be heading for Lothian soon though.”

    “And we shall.”





The town, I thought, should really be called a village. It wasn’t awfully large, but I’d guessed as much already. It was quaint, and the main square of the town had about six buildings and was the only part that actually had some sort of cobblestone groundwork—the rest of the town was all dirt paths and mud. The six buildings consisted of a large tavern, a bakery, a smithy, a building that I didn’t really know the purpose of because there was no signs and the shutters were closed, and the last building I presumed, from the images in the stained-glass windows of the ground floor and the loosely-dressed woman leaning out of the second floor windows, was a brothel. There were some, small market stalls.

    I was used to larger towns, with more life to them. There weren’t many people out, even the prostitutes looked bored.

    There couldn’t be too many people living here, three-hundred at a maximum.

    “At a guess, Robert is either in the brothel or the tavern,” Cyrus said.

    “Is he a drunk?”


    “You said he might be in the tavern, so I asked whether he is a drunk.”

    He shook his head before answering, “Well, he is partial to wine, but I think everyone is. But his father is the tavern owner, you see, so he lives there.”


    “And he is probably in the tavern, actually.”

    “How can you know?”

    He shrugged. “We’re best friends, we know everything about each other,” he murmured, glancing down at me with a smile. “Plus I make it about ten o’clock, which means he’s either still asleep or just got his arse out of—oh, apologies for my language.”

    I rolled my eyes. “I’ve heard worse, trust me on that. I’ve heard worse from men who said they wanted to do awful things to me.”

    “You must know I’m not like that.”

    “I know.”

    We fell silent for a few moments before Cyrus held out his arm for me to link mine through. “Come. I’m sure his mother will adore you.”

    “I’m not sure whether I should be scared of your comment or not.”

    “Nah, Robert’s mother is a lovely woman. And she’s quite quick and clever when it comes to deductions about people, and since you’re supposed to have been dead for six years don’t go all prim Princess or she’ll suspect something.”

    “Like my birthmark isn’t a dead giveaway.”

    “Don’t let anyone see that.”

    I sighed and pulled an apathetic, tired expression with a roll of my eyes. “There goes my plan, I was going to go up to everyone and say ‘you don’t know me but oh, look, I’m a Pendragon, and I’m ginger so that must mean only one thing’.”

    “Ygraine,” he whispered softly, his eyebrows curved, and moved to stand in front of me. He leant in close, close enough so that I could feel his breath tickle my cheek, and spoke into my ear, “I just don’t want to see you carted off back to that castle. I don’t want you to become a prisoner to Mordred once again.”

    “Why?” I asked quietly on a breath.

    Cyrus straightened back up and looked into my eyes, holding my gaze. “Because I believe in you. Just as I believe in what you want.”

    “Cyrus . . .”

    “I would swear fealty to you right here. I would, but I think it would look a little conspicuous.”

    “I don’t want you to swear fealty to me,” I said. “I trust you. As mad as that sounds given we’ve known one another a day, I trust you.”

    “And I you.”

    “I am glad,” I said with a shiver. “Just as I am cold.”

    He smiled and grabbed two fistfuls of the material of my new cloak, pulling it further around me. “I’m sure Sylvia—that’s Robert’s mother—has a fire going, so you can sit in front of that. The tavern won’t properly be open yet, but I’m sure she can warm you some ale.”

    “Fire and warm ale, sound’s delightful.”

    “It really is,” he murmured and allowed me to hook my arm back through his.

    It took a minute to walk across the square to the large building that stood on its own. There were two doors built into the front stone wall, one for visitors and the other a larger one that I knew would lead to a small stable. The windows were stained-glass with the shutters open. The facade of the ground floor was a dark slate, the first floor timber framed with a thatch roof.

    Cyrus pushed open the main door and leant down to whisper, “Ladies first” in my ear.

    “Such a gentleman,” I laughed quietly and walked into the building.

    The place was set into sections, with booths in corners designed to be quieter places for the more private guests, but the majority of the tables were either long and rectangular or large and circular. There was an almighty fireplace built into one of the walls, as big as any in the Great Hall of a castle, and above it hung a mounted wolf’s head, and there was another smaller fire just off the centre of the room that I guessed was for spit-roasts. The bar area was tucked into one corner underneath the wrap-around indoor balcony.

    The tavern was entirely empty, except for the two of us and a woman who was walking down the stairs at the other end of the room. When she saw she stopped momentarily to stare before she came running. She was in front of us in a matter of seconds, glancing at Cyrus and then at me and back again several times. Eventually her gaze stopped on Cyrus.

    “My, my Cyrus, twice you come here in one day. Be careful or my ‘usband will start getting suspicious of ye.”

    “Sylvia,” he said and gave a polite nod of his head. “I presume Robert is still asleep?”

    Sylvia was a short, plump woman with brown hair tied up in a bun and brown eyes to match. She wore a plain green dress with an apron wrapped around her waist. She seemed to be at least forty. “As per usual, yer correct.” Her eyes glanced over to me and she asked, “And what is your name, my dear?”

    “Imogen,” I murmured and, out of force of habit, gave a small curtsey which I cursed myself mentally for afterwards. I was supposed to be staying inconspicuous; I doubted townswomen curtseyed to one another.

    “Ooh, a curtsey. I like you.”

    “Well, I’m going to go wake my friend up,” Cyrus muttered, running a hand through his hair. I itched to pat down the wild strands that stood out on all ends. “Sylvia, could you ready two tankards of warm ale for Imogen and me?”

    “Just a drink, or would you like some food?”

    “Two of the usual,” he said. Sylvia nodded and disappeared through a door behind the bar. Then Cyrus turned to me, reached up to unclasp my cloak and gave it to me. He tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and stroked his fingertips down my cheek, before he realised what he was doing and jolted, throwing his arms down to his side. “Um . . .” he cleared his throat with a cough, “why don’t you go sit by the fire?—get yourself warmed up.”

    I tried to ignore the rush of blood that had gone to my face, pursed my lips and smiled with a nod. “That seems like a good idea.”

    “I’ll be back down when I’ve woken Robert up,” he said, and with that he turned and headed up the stairs. I watched him until he disappeared into a room.

    The table nearest to the fire was a few feet away and surrounded by four stools. I threw my cloak over one of the stools to give it added comfort and then sat down, leaning forward to place my elbows on the table and put my hands at the nape of my neck to massage the stiffness there. My feet were aching ever so slightly, and because of my new boots I could feel that I had blisters already.

    I’d been staring at the roaring orange flames of the fire so intensely that I didn’t realise when Sylvia came to stand at the side of me and placed two tankards of warm ale in front of me. I jumped with a start and my hand flew to my heart as I gasped. I let out a long breath and murmured, “sorry, I didn’t realise you were there.”

    “It’s alright, my dear. The flames seemed to have captured your attention,” she said as she wiped her hands down on her apron.

    “Looking at fire calms me down and keeps me calm,” I admitted and brought the tankard to my lips. I was glad for the warmth inside of me. “Thank you for this, by the way.”

    She nodded a welcome and turned, but after taking a couple of steps away I saw her suddenly turn back around and sit down in front of me. “You’ve known death and sadness in your life, am I correct?”

    I stared at her slightly wide-eyed for a moment and took a sharp intake of breath, before glancing away back to the fire. “How did you know?” I whispered and slowly looked back at her and her serene face.

    “Your eyes,” she said. “So sad. Such sad green eyes.”

    I’d never before thought of my eyes as sad, as giving away that emotion, but they do say that eyes show the soul so I guess they could show turmoil and how one felt. Maybe that’s why Mordred’s black eyes showed hatred.

    Sylvia stared at me before leaning towards me and saying in a low voice, “I know who you are.”

    I reeled back, far enough that I almost fell off my stool. Panic hammered in my chest, my blood turned ice cold and I was frozen where I sat. “How do you know who I am?” I burst out lowly and abruptly, knocking back my stool as I swung up to standing.

    Sylvia straightened her back and adjusted her bun. “Mordred, the bastard, has tripped himself up letting you escape from the castle; your freedom meant he had to tell his army about you and your brother being alive so they would go after you. Of course, armies don’t follow precise orders, but tell other people, and in a matter of days the whole Kingdom—if not all Kingdoms—know you are alive,” she said calmly, never taking her eye off of me. “I won’t tell on you, but instead I’ll tell ye somethin’; he has a price on your head, little Pendragon girl, for the return of you to his side, and it’s a large price at that—twenty talents of gold.”

    “For all that gold, why do you not take me prisoner and take me to that bastard yourself?”

    “Both you an’ I know he won’t keep up that bargain,” she murmured, and was, of course, correct. “Instead he’ll kill whoever takes you to him so that he doesn’t have to part with that gold. And, also, I never swore fealty to that False King in the citadel, but I did swear fealty to the honest and just King, your late father, for he paid for this town to be rebuilt after it had burnt down many years ago.”

    A flash of a memory awoke in a corner of my mind. Paid for this town to be rebuilt after it had burnt down. “Oh! This town is Ash, isn’t it?”

    She smiled and nodded. “Yes. How’d you know?”

    “I remember my father telling me about it when I was little and curious. The town received its name because it is surrounded by ash trees. He told me how he paid men to rebuild your town, and helped with it as well.”

    “I’m surprised you know about this town. I would have thought a King would tell of his victories instead of his people.”

    I shook my head. “Then you don’t really know much about my father,” I said. “My father talked of his people and helping his peoples more than he ever did with battles and victories. He said that in a battle you kill another man’s son, that after the battle is over there will be mother’s crying and lamenting the loss of their dear children—you can’t take happiness and glory in that, not even in victory—but with helping people, being selfless and showing humility—a thing that does not exist in battle—comes the purest happiness a man can every have.

    “My father also used to repeat his own personal motto to my brother and I: ‘Always protect and help those who cannot protect and help themselves’. And we also have our family motto, Above All the Kingdom Comes. The people are the foundations of the Kingdom, and so my father would only ever do what he thought would not bring harm to his Kingdom, for he only ever cared for the people. You are the mechanisms of Camelot; my father cared for all of you even if you didn’t know he did.”

    “And ye, my dear, have changed this Kingdom.”

    My brows furrowed together. “How have I?”

    “We all know ye are alive now. Some want to take ye back, the ones who always hated your father . . . but for the majority of us ye have given hope to. Ye being alive has given them a reason to plan and raise arms against the False King. We’d all long since lost hope that the Pendragon’s were alive, but here ye are . . . what about your brother?”

    I shook and stooped my head. “I do not know. He took on the guards so I could escape. But let the Goddess keep him alive.”

    Sylvia nodded and placed a hand over both of mine. “I will pray to Her and the whole Faith for your brother’s safety.”

    “I will bring a battle right up to Mordred just so I can have my brother back with me.”

    “Not the Throne? You don’t want a Pendragon to be where they should be.”

    “I want my brother on the Throne. I want our father’s crown on his head. I want a Pendragon ruling the Kingdom that is rightfully ours.”

    “You’re very determined.”

    I took another, large sip of ale. “It was the way I was brought up.”

    She smiled and stood up. “I better get your food cooking,” she said and glanced up at the balcony. My eyes went with hers to see that Cyrus was shutting the door he’d gone through five minutes ago. “He cares for you. He likes you.”

    I glanced straight back at her, eyes wide. “What? He . . .”

    “The thing I find about Cyrus is that he likes people and creates attachments quickly and easily, because he has had little of them in his life. He also trusts easily, so don’t do anything to affect that trust or it will hurt him. Don’t hurt him.

    “I won’t hurt him.”

    “Won’t hurt who?” My neck snapped up with a start to see that Cyrus had silently come to stand at the left side of me.

    “Not Mordred, that’s for sure,” I said quickly.


    “Sylvia knows who I am.”

    “I . . . how . . .?” he asked as he sat down and pulled the other tankard towards him.

    “There aren’t many girls with the little Princesses hair and eye combination. Then there are the scars on the back of your hands. I’m very observant.”

    I smiled and took another drink. My ale was starting to go cold.

    “The big giveaway was the signet ring on your finger.”

    I’d forgotten about that.

    Before any of us could say anything else there was a sudden bang and the sound of something smashing, followed by a loud and deep voice calling, “Mother, how much was that vase?”

    Sylvia huffed and shouted up, “Which one?!”

    “The one with the painting of the castle around the outside.”

    “That was cheap and fake—I don’t care if you’ve smashed it!”

    “I didn’t think it would have been expensive!”

    Sylvia looked offended and, with a curse under her breath, curtseyed to me and hurried off. I watched her bustle up the stairs, a faint smile on my face.

    Out of the corner of my eye I saw Cyrus rolls his eyes. He crossed his arms on the table and rested his cheek on his lower arms, staring up at me. “I should not have got myself up so damn early, I’m really tired.”

    I raised my eyebrows mock judgementally. “You’re tired? Try sleeping in a cell with your bed underneath a narrow window for six years. Last night was the first proper sleep I’ve had in years. I probably have black shadows underneath my eyes; I dread to look at myself in a mirror.”

    “You look fine,” he said, “though I agree about the shadows under eyes part.”

    “Such a charmer.”


    I mock-scowled at him and was about to make a teasing remark about his appearance, but couldn’t for a young man had jumped onto the table and was sat looking at us. Or, to be precise, looking at me with his head tipped to the side like a cat and was staring at me quizzically.

    “Hello?” I said. I guessed that the brown haired and dark eyed young man, who was sporting a stubble-moustache-and-beard combination, and only wore trousers and a tunic, was Cyrus’s friend Robert.

    “And just who might you be?”

    “Um . . .”

    “Can’t say I’ve ever met a girl before with the name of ‘um’, but there’s a first time for everything.”

    “Robert,” Cyrus sighed, “get off the table and introduce yourself properly. You know who you’re talking to.”

    Robert slid off of the table and moved to lean against the mantelpiece. “And I told you that I don’t believe you.”

    “Ygraine, if you will,” Cyrus murmured and nodded his head towards my right arm. I got the idea straight away and pulled my sleeve up enough to show off my Mark. Immediately Robert’s jaw dropped, and stayed dropped until Cyrus raised his hand and shut it.

    “I am Ygraine of House Pendragon, an heir to Camelot,” I said as I pulled my sleeve back down. “And it’s a pleasure to meet you, Robert. We have much to discuss.”

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