King Ainmire paled. “I believe that you are going to have to repeat that again, Captain Bastion.”
Bastion sighed. It didn’t help that both royal heirs, the Prince Kian and the Princess Keara, were hanging on every word, eyes wide with interest. Kian was fourteen years of age, his sister was thirteen, and they were both showing early signs of strong romantic streaks. He could understand it in Keara, but her brother… “My brother is in the service of your nephew, as personal guardian to the Princess Tresoria Dauris apparently. He found me in the corridor and told me that I was not to approach the princess, nor to let her see my face, nor to tell her that I was his brother, or even to allow another to so inform her, on pain of my death.”
Prince Kian grinned. “Care to lay odds, Father, that… “
The King glared at his son, interrupting the statement. “Enough of that.” He turned back to Bastion. “Had you done anything which would have instigated his statements?”
Bastion shook his head vehemently. “No, Majesty, I have never even seen the Princess.”
The King sighed. “The whole family is a touch odd, you should know. My sister… rest her soul, my sister chose to come North even with the reputation of House Krellian. After what happened with Jules… Marus may simply be being overprotective. Though why he would single you out for such warnings… “
There was a knocking at the door and everyone jumped slightly. Even the King. Quickly he waved Bastion back from the door as Kian opened it and looked up, and then down, and then opened the door wider to allow a small, dark brown dog with big friendly eyes and a friendly wagging tail and a soft body with neatly trimmed hair to walk in carrying a roll of paper in her mouth. Kian closed the door again and then knelt to take the scrolls from the dog. Keara quickly picked the creature up in her arms and she had great fun trying to reach her face with doggy-kisses.
Kian looked at the papers and handed them to his father. “It’s from our cousin. I saw her, I think, watching from down the hall to be certain that her delivery girl did her duty. She smiled and waved at me before turning and leaving.”
Ainmire blinked and looked closely at the roll. A page was rolled around a sealed scroll. The scroll was addressed to him. He paled as he saw the handwriting; it was from his late sister. The other page he offered to Bastion. “This, I believe, is for you.” He smiled at Bastion’s disbelieving blink. “The Princess, it seems, is resourceful.”
To the Knight that my Guardian threatened,
I wish to apologize on behalf of my guardian, Gabriel. I am quite certain that he would not be so belligerent except by the instruction of my brother, Marus. They are both frustrating enough to make me wish to run off somewhere just to get away from them. I’m not likely to actually make such a move, but the thought of it becomes more inviting by the day.
I wished to find a way to deliver this scroll personally, but it seems that such is not going to be possible, so I had to find an intermediary that I could trust. Since I don’t think that either my brother or my guardian can find cause to keep my cousins from me, a response, if you wish to send one, can be delivered to me when they return Annie.
I am, quite simply, bored out of my mind. My other brother, Illian, is training more and more with the soldiers and Marus will not allow me to train with them as well. He keeps spouting some nonsense about it not being proper for a Princess to be more skilled with weapons than those set to guard her. I think he’s just scared I’ll trounce him in the sparring circle one of these days. I am curious about life in other nations, the details that are not in the history books that my tutors drone on and on about. I swear, if I didn’t have such a good imagination that I can fill in the blanks and intuit personalities for some of these figures then History would be a very boring subject indeed. And don’t even get me started on what they call Literature here.
I realize that it could be dangerous to correspond with me, especially after what my guardian did, and if you choose not to take the risk, I would understand. If you would be so kind to let me know one way or the other when my cousins return the puppy, I would appreciate it.
Bastion looked up from the letter as his king finished reading the scroll. “My king?”
The King smiled. It was a tired expression. “Well, that explains a great deal.” He looked up at Bastion. “Do not be afraid, Captain, nothing you have done has caused any of this to happen and time will make all things right again.” He glanced at the page that was still in Bastion’s hands. “It appears to me like she wrote quite a letter to you.”
He nodded. “Yes, Majesty. She wishes to correspond in secret, if I am willing to take the risk.” For some reason the thought struck him as strangely romantic, a young girl’s idea. At least she allowed that the risk might not be worth the return.
King Ainmire chuckled. “Somehow, that does not surprise me. Are you willing? This would be your risk to take, and we will all abide by the rules set down by our hosts, at least at this time.”
Bastion looked again at the letter and then nodded. “Yes, Majesty. I will take the risk.”
“There is paper, and pens, and ink in the other room. When your response is prepared, let me know and I’ll send my children to return the dog.”
Bastion bowed and then left. When he was gone, and the door was closed, Kian turned to his father. “Is it dreams, Father?” Both royal heirs looked far too entranced with the romantic idea. They did not know, yet, how difficult such things could truly be.
Ainmire nodded. “It appears to be.” Keara had to clap both her hands over her mouth to stifle her shout, and then fell to giggling. “This is not humorous, my children, however much you may think the matter to be. Marus seems to have set himself against it, as his father had set himself against your Aunt Alyssa’s dreams. I need for both of you to be extra wary, especially as you visit your cousin. I need to know if she is truly about to run, or if she wishes escape from her brother’s court so that she may follow her dreams. We are not allowed to tell her, nor are we allowed to instigate anything. But, if she is going to run, then Kian, you find Illian and bring him here. Keara, you bring Dauris straight here, and keep her in one of the back rooms so that our whole honor guard may stand between you and her and anyone seeking to come through the door.”
Keara paled. “Father, you expect violence if she runs.”
He nodded. “Yes, Daughter, I do. Marus dotes on his sister and I do not expect him to surrender her to anyone without a great deal of violence.” He made himself smile to her, to lift the suddenly somber mood. “But all this worry may be for nothing. Princess Dauris is very young still, and she may not be ready to run, not yet at least. Just, be prepared.”
Both royal heirs nodded. Kian opened his mouth a couple of times before making himself ask the question that was on both their minds. “Why do you not tell Captain Bastion that she dreams?”
Ainmire sighed. “Can you imagine that he would allow her to remain in ignorance if he knew that she were having Castellan dreams about him? He must be as ignorant as she, else he would go to her, cutting a path of destruction as he went. And to do that now… would place his life in jeopardy.”
— — —
I choose to take the risk in corresponding with you. I do not understand the circumstances that caused your guardian to approach me, nor do I understand why your brother would fear me. But I can readily understand their desire to protect you, and I choose to forgive them for the vigilance.
I am a Captain in the Order of Knights-Guardian of Castellan, the order founded by Lady Arie and her husband Lord Tertius. It means that to myself I am one soldier among many, but to others, I am likely to be placed in command as my ability to lead has been proven. I am not, however, noble born. Not all those who seek to be Knights through the Order are, but most of the Knights-Captain currently are. The Order places higher emphasis on ability and merit than on birth and rank.
I came to Castellan as a streetling, one of those children who are without parents or relatives to look after them, and so must look after themselves. In Castellan, the streetlings also look after each other. I was thirteen, and an orphan, and I judge myself very lucky to have risen to where I am now.
As a Knight I am expected to be a gentleman, and I have studied extensively, especially History and some of Literature. I have to agree with your opinion on the subject. Scholars do not seem to know how to write in the least manner to maintain attention in anyone other than other scholars. In fact, we may have struggled through some of the same tomes, the driest ones seem to be the most authoritarian. Perhaps someday you will have cause to write your own volumes, and then you can make History interesting, and whole generations of young students will sing your praises daily.
I look forward to receiving your response, Highness.
After some thought, Bastion made the decision not to use his name. It might cause too many problems. If circumstances demanded anonymity on his part, then he would do his best, as long as he was the only one under threat of retaliation. If he ever thought that she would suffer for reaching out to him… Gabriel, and Marus, would pay dearly.