Of Kings and Queens

A pitch have yet to be written, as the plot-planning is not 100% finished, but I couldn't stay away from writing the actual story itself.
This story is about war. And with war comes hate and love, blood and tears, passion and fear.

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18. Cleon

Cleon, Aronico

dies Solis, XV Iulias, 01:12 PM

 

She should be done with dinner by now.

Cleon had to take deep breaths as he walked down the bright hallway. His eyes stayed at the wooden floor and he followed the veins of it.

He had to tell her. Now. Admittedly, it was a bad time to do it, as he had made his decision a week ago, but had greatly hesitated to tell Lady Ranico. Who knew how she'd react?

His stomach tied a knot on itself at the thought of her reaction.

Standing before the door to her bedroom, he straightened his back, inhaled deeply and tried not to look too concerned.

But when he opened up the door, her bedroom was empty.

He hadn't joined dinner due to a check-up by the healers, as the pain had returned to his wounds.

“Excuse me.” He turned to one of the guards standing outside of the bedroom.

The guard kept his stand and barely even blinked, as Cleon spoke to him.

“Where is Lady Ranico?”

“She is not home. She is visiting Sir Valdas at his manor.” It was only the mouth of the guard that moved.

It was impressive how well they kept their stand.

Under normal standards, this answer would have caused Cleon's heart to drop and his mouth to dry out. But Sir Valdas had returned to duty, so whatever was Lady Ranico doing at his home?

He walked as fast as he could, since running would prove too painful and even now he had to bite it in him. Questions would fill his mind, and he entirely forgot about his original reason to talk to her, despite it being his job.

 

It was raining heavily outside, and even though the two manors laid close, Cleon still managed to get soaking wet.

 

Inside the manor, a lot of Valdas family members walked around with hanging heads and folded hands, some was even crying.

The further into the manor he went, the more nobles he met and it didn't take him long before he realised that it was the entire Valdas family.

As confused and concerned as he was, he managed to keep a somewhat calm face, when he bend down to a short maid watering some plants.

“Excuse me, miss.”

She turned by his voice, and her face too was mournful, and it only worried the guard even more.

“I've been told Lady Ranico is here. Could you tell me where?”

“Yes,” she sniffed. “She's in Sir Valdas' bedroom.”

He didn't even get to say 'thank you' to her, before he ran off. It was painful, but suddenly that didn't stop him.

 

He knew where the bedroom was, being Lady Ranico's guard he had been here a dozen times over. Up two sets of stairs and then down the hallway with the blue carpet and no windows.

 

The further up he went, the less people he met. And when he made it to the hallway with the carpet, his lungs were burning and his wounds were stinging.

Two guards was all he saw, where they stood before his bedroom.

The closer he came to the door, the clearer a whimpering voice became.

Cleon was torn. He wanted to open the door so badly, as he recognized the voice, and it stung his heart to hear it. At the same time he didn't. What was he going to find? That was what really made his hands sweat.

He took a deep breath and his hand slowly turned the golden door knob.

It didn't make a sound. Or maybe it did, he just couldn't hear it as all he focused on was the crying of Lady Ranico.

Even before he had opened the door too much, he could smell the scent of lavender, and he knew what was going on. But why did it make him feel so... relieved? Happy?

Lavender scented candles filled every surface they could. Stones at the size of his palm, decorated with runes, circulated a bed that stood in the middle of the room.

Three priestess' was tending the room; moving furniture and putting up ritual items.

On the bed in the middle of the room, sat Lady Ranico with tears running down her face, onto her dress and the sheets of the bed. Her face was red from her anguish.

Cleon had to clench his fists from running to her side to hold her. Never before had he felt such a heartache, but nor had she ever looked this miserable.

Underneath the covers was a bloody and beat-up Sir Valdas. Half his face was bandaged, the rest of his body, except for an arm with missing fingers, was underneath the covers.

Lady Ranico was holding what was the remains of a left hand. She didn't even look up as Cleon approached them.

“Milady,” he said lowly and placed a hand on her trembling shoulder.

“Oh, Cleon...” she murmured and kept looking at Sir Valdas.

Cleon couldn't see her face, but her voice was hoarse and her breathing was choppy. The way she had spoken his name twisted his heart.

“Look who has returned from the war! It's Sir Valdas...” She tried to sound cheerful, but it quickly broke down.

“He's resting now, bu-but he'll wake up again!” She stuttered. “He'll be fine! When he's recovered, we'll start a family with children! Just like we always planned when we were young. I'll even let you name one of them, Cleon!”

She looked up at him with a strained smile, pleading eyes and a trembling lip.

Cleon barely got to think before he embraced her tenderly. Her tears blended in with his still wet clothes, and he felt a hand around his own.

He took a deep breath before speaking again.

“Alys.” He honestly feared her reaction a bit, but all he got from it was a squeeze of the hand. “Maybe we should step outside; let him rest in peace for a bit.”

She didn't answer him, and he regretted his suggestion, but one of the healers was quick to agree with him.

“Milady, the Sir is right. Sir Valdas needs to rest when he can.”

No one bothered to correct the older woman, when she called Cleon a 'Sir'.

Lady Ranico was still ever so hesitant, and very slowly, she let go of Sir Valdas' hand and followed along with Cleon. He had an arm cross her shoulders, as she held herself and tried to stop her whimpering.

They stopped outside of the bedroom door, and as it had closed, Lady Ranico took a small step closer to Cleon, careless of his wet and cold clothes.

“It's raining.” He gave a soft smile. “I know there's a balcony this way.”

She loved rain, it was a blessing that barely came around here, and she went along with him.

 

The rain wasn't falling as hard now as it was earlier. They sat closely together outside in the warm summer rain. Lady Ranico was watching the drops clash against the stone of the balcony, whilst Cleon was watching it leave the clouds above them.

The moment he remembered what he wanted to tell her, his heart began beating loudly, but slowly. He looked at her and removed some hair from her face, catching her attention at the same time.

She had stopped crying, but still looked disheartened. It was a punch in the heart.

“Alys, I...” The words scratched in his throat and stung in his heart. “I need to talk to you about something.”

He almost made it sound like she had any say in it.

“It's about the letters.” He looked away from her, but still felt her gaze on him. “The letters are from my sister, Isolde. She's heavy with child but...”

He scratched the back of his head, as he now began worrying about both his sister and Lady Ranico.

“She's also very sick, and have asked me to... to come and sit by her side.” He looked back up at her as he spoke.

Despite the rain, he could see her tears clearly, and her mouth was twisted down in an angry scowl.

He felt fear and sorrow all over. He could hardly breathe, his hands shaking and his heart was beating loudly in his ears.

“Cleon no...” Her voice still managed to be so soft and fragile, despite the look on her face. He felt her hand clench in his shirt.

“I'm so sorry, my Lady.” He wasn't sure whether it was a tear or rain that fell by his eye.

“Cleon you can't--!” she couldn't finish as she choked on a cry, then grabbing his shirt with her other hand too. Her sobs became louder and formed in to a full out cry, and she rested her head against his chest.

With still trembling hands, he embraced her, pulling her in as close as he could and kissed the top of her head. Her entire body shook every time a cry came out and when she'd take another drag of air.

I love you he thought and was now sure it was tears coming from his face, as they left itching trails.

He had to leave today. It had been going on for too long, although he felt terrible leaving Lady Ranico like this, right after the return of a dying Sir Valdas.

Tears kept flowing and sobs made it through his lips, despite his desperate tries to keep them sealed shut.

With great difficulty, he managed to convince himself it would only hurt more the longer he stayed, and pulled away from Lady Ranico, yet his hands stayed on her arms.

She was avoiding his gaze and openly cried.

He gently took her by the chin and moved her head up so that he could look her in the eyes. Slowly and hesitantly, he moved closer and felt his heartbeat all the way through his spine and to the back of his head. Tenderly, his lips met her forehead.

He hurried to stand; if he lingered too long, he didn't know what he would end up do or say. But as he tried to walk away, he felt something tug at his shirt and turned to see Lady Ranico at her knees on the wet ground, her knuckles turned white from her grip on his shirt.

For a few, silent seconds, he looked down at her, before bending down and picking her up in both arms. Tears kept falling down her expressionless face, as her hand then clenched his shirt by the chest.

 

When they came inside again, Cleon called for the maids and three hurried and offered covers for their cold bodies, but Cleon didn't accept as he was going outside again.

He didn't say any sort of farewells, he simply put Lady Ranico down and began walking down the hallway again.

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