#NaNoWriMo 2013 Chapter 4
“Lena, this is Adare Boyce.”
An eight year old Lena, with eyes too big for her face and hair in dark wild curls too unruly to manage, glanced up at the teenaged Adare, who was soft in facial features and stoic. His eyes and face remained completely unmoving as he was introduced to the small princess.
“A pleasure to meet you, Sir Boyce,” Lena said, holding out her skirt and curtseying like a proper princess, her voice the only thing tame about her. “We welcome you humbly to our home.”
Rayne stood over them both, though Adare would soon catch up and pass her in height. She smiled and said, “He’s a good man but needs to be taught something in patience. He is too hurried yet to finish any training as a knight. For now he is to be your companion.”
Lena made a face that was quick before she perfected it. She did not want a companion like him. She was fascinated by boys, but he was nearly a man and had such cold features. Why would she wanted to spend her time with him? He would likely talk about boring things such as swords and fighting. She had little interest in either and wanted to go back and lose herself among the flowers.
Adare only nodded his head and allowed Rayne to leave the two of them alone in the gardens. Neither knew what to say or do. Lena turned from him and walked down into the heart of the gardens. More curious about the child than wanting to spend time with her, Adare followed her to the heart of things.
In the center she plucked a peculiar violet flower and Adare’s heart raced. He watched her placed it in her hair and say, “I will keep this, and if you ever get out of line I will force it down your throat and make you eat it.”
“You’d kill me so easily?” he asked.
It was a test. Lena had wanted to know if he knew what it was. She turned her head to the side and she offered a kind smile. “I think for now, though, w can be friends.”
Adare felt oddly comforted by the words. He sat down on one of the benches and said, “What do you know of that flower?” He pointed to a scraggly red thing that looked as if it was falling in on itself with the weight.
Lena pouted and said, “I can’t find anything on that flower.” She looked ashamed at her lack of knowledge after coming off haughty and smart only moments before.
Instead of Adare growing bored with her already he said, “I will teach you about that flower if you take the flower out of your hair.”
Lena gently took the flower out of her hair and placed it on the ground before kicking dirt over it and burying it. Adare raised an eyebrow and she tried to look casual with her, “I don’t want an animal to eat it.”
Lena curled up on the bench next to Adare and allowed him to talk to her about a flower. She couldn’t remember when conversations did change from flowers to sword fighting to politics to cultures, but over the years Lena and Adare spoke of everything. There is only one thing he had never said to her.
Lena shifted in the blackness and cleared her throat, her only indication to him that she was awake and listening.
“Are you all right? You were talking in your sleep.”
“What did I say?” Lena asked in a panic, reaching for her heart and feeling it begin to pound in fear.
“Nothing I understood,” Adare assured her. She wished she could see his face, though she was sure it would not offer her much understanding. His face rarely changed from his stoic expression, how could she think seeing him now would let her know if he lied?
Because that was not the reason she wanted to see his face.
“It shouldn’t be too much–”
“–further, I know,” Lena said. “You’ve been saying that for a day now. What if we took a wrong turn somewhere?”
“There are no wrong turns,” Adare assured her. He reached into the darkness and gripped her hand, pulling her to her feet. “I know you are tired and hungry, but we are almost there. We need to get out of here, sooner rather than later.”
Lena followed where Adare led, his hand never leaving hers. “Because we are running out of air, or because I dehydrated myself too much when I cried for my family who very well could be dead now? Because there are creatures in here waiting for us in this darkness so they can nibble on us while we sleep? What reason, Adare?”
“Because I am growing weary of the blackness, your highness,” he said.
Lena respected that answer. She was often afraid when they stopped for a few minutes they would somehow turn themselves around and start heading back towards the castle again. She at one point had panicked, mildly, over the fear the had just been walking back and forth between the same path for the entire day, not actually making any progress. Adare had calmed her down by simply lifting her again in his arms and said, “Then I will carry you through the circles so you will be less weary.”
They walked in silence, though neither released the hand of the other. It felt like days to Lena, though Adare assured her it was only hours. It did not change her exhaustion. She followed him, anxious for relief from the blackness. When they finally came upon a barrier Lena almost gasped with relief. They dropped hands and began to push. Then they pulled. Then they pushed.
Lena opened her mouth to scream before she hesitated and clamped her mouth shut. She only let out one shuddering sob and slid down to her knees. She knew not to make too much noise. They never knew what would be on the other side.
Adare shifted his stance and instead of pushing forward reached to the low hanging roof over them. He pushed his hands against it and both watched with fascination as small cracks of light came through with every push. Lena stood again, forgetting her momentary sobbing, and helped Adare push. She may not have been as strong as him, but she was willing to give her all to escape the blackness of the passage.
“There’s something on top of it,” Adare said.
“No, no, no, no,” Lena huffed. She pushed at it again, slapping the wood over her head. “Let me out of here!” Her voice was raising in near hysteria. Adare grabbed her and placed a hand over her mouth, hearing the scraping that was coming from the wood over their heads.
Adare pushed Lena back, drawing his sword in the small space, ready to attack whatever came at them. The people on the other side were just as ready with pitchforks and red hot branders pointing down as soon as the cover was flipped back. The four people on the other side would never have survived Adare’s attack, but he held back and lowered his sword. These were not warriors, these were common people of Chatham.
“Sir Boyce?” one of the men asked. He lowered the branding iron and looked down into the pit. “What are you doing beneath the floorboards of my house?”
“Escaping,” Adare said honestly. “How far out are we?”
“Not far enough,” the man said. He reached his hand down and helped Adare out of the hole before Lena stepped forward. The men looked down and quickly bowed their heads, one simply falling to his knees. “Your highness.”
“Please help me out of here,” Lena said, never betraying her panic. The men reached down and pulled her free and she dusted herself off as prettily as she could. She knew she had to look a fright, but she would not go racing towards a mirror first thing.
“Your highness,” one of the men said, “knowing you are safe helps my heart. We already have a group lead by Harding and Fergal planning on attacking the castle.”
“Do not,” Lena said hurriedly. She cleared her throat at their looks of surprise. “Do not attack the castle. They are well armed and have strong warriors. Hold back, but gather as many of your men as you can who will attack.”
“Seeing you would sure help things, your highness,” another man suggested.
“She can not,” Adare said, stepping forward. “You four will have to be the word that she is alive. I need to get her as far away from Chatham as possible right now. We will go to Ackerlea, my family will take care of her. From there we can send word at what the next step is, but until I have her secreted away she is a liability. They will be searching for her and if she stays and word gets around to them then our leader is destroyed. We will rise up, but it will not be until we have time.”
“What about your family?” another man asked.
“Why Ackerlea? There is hardly a fortress for her to hide behind.”
“I have horses to help you travel faster.”
Adare held on to that last line. He turned to the man and said, “How fast can you get me the horses?”
“I will run now, I should be back by nightfall.”
Adare nodded his head. “That is perfect. We will travel in the dark, it will give us the advantage. Do you have a bath here in your shop where her highness may clean up before we travel?”
“I do,” the man who seemed to be the owner of the place said. “I also have a few of my wife’s clothes that might fit her, if she wants to change from a royal gown.”
“Perfect,” Adare said. “Your highness, let us follow this man. Any questions the rest of you have I will answer while she is away.”
Lena followed, knowing Adare had just lied to these men, many times.
Neither had said the words to one another, but Lena and Adare both knew they had been betrayed. By who, they were not sure of, but until they had any answers only the two of them would know where they were going. Her eyes filled with tears that would not fall. He might have just condemned his family to protect her.