Story Arc Three: Chapter Seven
Bastion and Guenna followed Annie down the hallways directly to Riva’s door. Bastion felt his stomach knot up in worry. Something was wrong, very wrong. He glanced at Guenna, who shrugged in confusion, and then tried the doorknob. It was unlocked and opened easily. He had made certain she had locked the door before he had left her earlier in the evening. With his stomach in knots and every instinct alert, he edged the door open and followed Annie through.
“Riva?” He called out softly, not wanting to startle her. “Riva, it’s Bastion. Is something wrong?” He looked at the bed in the moonlight through the window and saw that it had been completely stripped of blankets. He heard a thread of sound from below the bed and saw Annie tugging on the edge of a blanket.
He fell to his knees and peered under the bed and saw that the blankets were bunched up. He thought he saw a pale face amid the shadows. “Riva? Is that you?”
The eyes blinked and he saw Riva scramble forward with a sob. “Oh Bastion, it is you. I thought… I thought Wolf Eyes was trying to trick me. I can’t sleep; it’s not safe. Bastion, I’m so scared.”
He held her close and rocked her back and forth gently. “It’s okay. You’re safe. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
After a moment she calmed down enough to notice Guenna, who looked at her with curious interest. “Who’s she?”
Bastion chuckled softly. “Riva, this is Guenna. She is a friend of mine. You wouldn’t want someone to get the wrong idea about my being here this late at night, do you?”
Riva sighed. “Kodran wouldn’t care, he’d just insist on subsequent formalities, eventually. As for the King, give me a chance to explain matters to him and he’d let things slide, too.”
Bastion felt his stomach drop at some of the implications of her statements, especially in light of what Kodran had said to him earlier. He sighed. “I would care, Riva. I don’t want people saying things that would hurt you, in any way. I must protect you, and that includes your reputation.”
She chuckled. “As you wish.” She considered Guenna for a moment. “Do you trust her? With everything?” She paused. “With me?” The last was nearly whispered.
He held her very close. “Yes, Riva. I would trust her with you.”
“I’ll try to trust her too, then.” Riva relaxed in his arms and began to drift off to sleep. Annie was already curled up nearby, secure in the knowledge that all would be well. “Please don’t leave me.”
“I won’t. I promise.” He watched her face as she fell asleep in his arms, her breathing eventually telling him that she was fast asleep even though she held onto his arms as if they were all that kept her alive.
Guenna knelt down next to him and pulled some of the blankets out from the burrow beneath the bed and gently covered the sleeping girl. “She’s no mere streetling, my friend, is she?”
Bastion shook his head, settling into a more comfortable position, leaning up against the side of the bed. “No, she isn’t. This, Guenna, is the greatest treasure in all Castellan, and we must seek to keep her presence secret as much as possible.” He met Guenna’s eyes in the shadow and the moonlight. “This is the missing Imperial Princess Tresoria Dauris Krellian, my Princess.”
Guenna drew in a quick, startled, breath. “Merciful God, in Castellan?”
He nodded. “And she is a dreamer. She dreamed of me, Guenna, of me and she ran from her brother when she discovered that I was the one she dreamed of, that I was the one who could protect her.”
Guenna felt a stab of ice in her chest at the wonder in his voice. She had known for years that eventually this day would come; she just didn’t expect these circumstances. “Did she also dream that you would love her?”
Bastion sighed. “Is it that obvious?”
“Only because I know you so well.”
“She fears love, but I suspect most strongly that it was foreshadowed in her dreams. Her brother saw to her betrothal before she left Pallantia. I have no right… no right whatsoever to seek her heart.” He tried to breathe normally despite the pain in his chest. “I can, though, protect her, and I will.”
Guenna blinked rapidly, fighting the tears that gathered in her eyes, even though she knew that he wouldn’t be able to see them in the darkness. “So you intend to gallantly stand silent? Will you not fight for her?”
Bastion looked up at Guenna and tilted his head in confusion. “What else am I to do? I am her Knight, Guenna.”
Guenna smiled and tried to hide the warble in her voice. “And Lord Gryphon was guardian and protector to Lady Zaira.” She sighed. “You deserve the chance to have this joy. Love deserves to bloom, for no matter how brief a season.”
He was silent for a moment. He knew how painful that brief season could be when it ended, particularly for Riva. She’d told him of her heartbreak, of grief that had nearly claimed her life. “I never thought I would hear you tell me to court another woman.”
“We had our season, my friend, years ago, and I have been grateful for our continued friendship and the comfort we have given each other, but I have known that eventually you would find someone who could give you what I cannot and that I would have to let go.” She took a ragged breath. “I don’t have to like it, though.”
“I never wished to hurt you, Guenna.”
“I know. That makes this bearable.” She sighed. “I will help you protect her, my friend, if that is your wish.”
— — —
Morning found the three of them still stretched out on the floor in Riva’s room. Guenna looked at Riva, who still dozed in Bastion’s arms. “Do you think this will happen again?” Guenna’s expression grew very concerned.
“I don’t know.”
“The King will have to be informed.”
Bastion nodded. “I will inform him myself.” He shifted himself slowly so as to gently set Riva down on the floor, cushioned by blankets. “Stay with her, will you?” Guenna nodded and Bastion crept out to return to his room and then to find the King.
— — —
Riva’s insomnia didn’t improve as the days went on. It got worse, and that attracted the attention of more Knights-Captain than just Bastion and Guenna. The trial of the squires and their underlings was accomplished with as much quiet as possible, as was the expulsion of those involved from the Order and from the kingdom. But knowing that they were unable to reach her didn’t cause Riva to calm. She still watched the shadows around her as if they could reach out to snatch her away.
Bastion knew something of the powers of the one the squires called Lukan, from Riva’s description, and wondered how much of her fear was justified. He found Riva walking in the gardens with Keara, and Kian nearby. He nodded to the Prince and Princess before taking his place at Riva’s side. “Are you well today?”
She sighed. “As well as can be expected. How are matters with you?”
“I was confronted on my way here by no less than three Captains and a dozen Knights all wishing to see a rematch between us in one of the training salles.” He tried to smile. “I told them that I would approach you on the matter but that I was not certain that now was a proper time.”
She sighed. “Now would not be a good time at all. I am likely to panic, and that could be dangerous.” She shivered slightly in a way that had nothing to do with the chill in the air of approaching winter. “I could hurt someone and that would only make matters worse.”
Bastion felt a thread of frustration. He had made the decision to court her, to seek her heart and her affection in spite of dreams she might have of another man. He just didn’t know how to go about it, especially since he had to be certain to be absolutely proper where others could see, and others had to see them at all times that they were together.
Riva stifled a yawn and Keara broke the silence for them. “I wish to retire for the afternoon, if I might borrow Riva for several hours.”
Bastion bowed to Keara. “If Riva is willing to be borrowed, Lady Keara.”
Riva nodded. “I am willing.” The two girls walked back to the bower where Riva would attempt to take a nap in the safety of the feminine domain.
Kian walked close beside Bastion as they returned to the Palace by another route. “She isn’t getting better, is she?”
Bastion shook his head. “No, she isn’t. I swear, the only time she sleeps, it seems, is when Annie wakes me to take me to her, and even then she doesn’t sleep deeply. Between them, Captain Guenna and Lady Keara have made matters easier, but Riva seems to only relax when I am present, and that will cause whispers soon or late.”
Kian sighed. “We need to talk to Father. Maybe other arrangements can be made.”
— — —
The King, it turned out, was waiting for them, and he wasn’t alone. Kodran was with him and was holding a set of papers, rolled and sealed. Bastion felt his heart sink. Those could be nothing other than the betrothal documents Riva had said she had entrusted to the dwarf. Had her true fiancé been found?
King Ainmire spoke first. “I require your honesty, Captain Bastion. What happened to my niece to cause such fear in her that she cannot sleep without her Knight nearby? The ones we cast out did not do this to her.”
Bastion shook his head. “They did not. We reached her in time to prevent such harm.” He paused. “Though if they had accomplished such, I doubt that the presence of her Knight, who is also male, would enable her to succumb to sleep.”
Kodran sighed. “There is truth in your words, Bastion-lad, but there is also the matter of her health and safety. We have to know what happened.”
Kian put a hand on Bastion’s shoulder. “Please, anything you could tell us would help.”
The King met Bastion’s eyes. “Since coming to Castellan my niece has been under a great many watchful eyes. I cannot imagine that a trauma this deep occurred here. Captain Bastion, you she trusts. Has she told you anything? Is anything, any hint of this, in her letters to you?”
Bastion sighed. “I will not betray her secrets, Majesty. I promised her that her letters would be safe.” In any event, he wasn’t certain that there was anything in the letters to help them, other than hints of one who hunted the Travelers, one who worked with Doctor Revier, one who taught him the methods of torture he used in his Tower.
“I’m not asking for details, Captain, though I well understand your reluctance. Generalities alone will help.”
Bastion sighed again. “I will not reveal the confidences of her letters; however, my brother was her guardian since the death of her father. There was another before him since just after she entered the Imperial household. Neither he nor my brother would have allowed any trauma in the life of the Imperial Princess. She was even more closely guarded there than here. I do not know what could have happened before the age of five that would cause waking nightmares and terror so strong that she cannot sleep.”
Kian thought a moment. “Dramsol said something about her ending up in Revier’s tower, and Dalziel also spoke of the place.”
Bastion felt very weak. “Do not make me break my word to my Princess, please.”
“It’s okay, Captain. You won’t have to.” Everyone looked over at the new arrival, who happened to be Dramsol. “I can tell them.” He sighed. “The simple answer is that we are hunted, Majesty. The one who taught Revier his current cruelty seeks our lives, though in the case of my kinswoman you call Riva, he also seeks her torture because of who she is and where she comes from. He just wants to kill me, well, kill or turn, it amounts to the same thing.”
King Ainmire straightened and looked at Dramsol. “So, we meet at last. You are the Seer?”
Dramsol nodded. “Yes, Majesty, I am.”
Kodran chuckled softly, drawing attention to him. “It’s been quite a while, Riordan. I must say, I didn’t expect to see you here.”
Even Bastion looked stunned. “Lord Riordan?”
Dramsol shrugged. “Properly Riordan Dreamsail. Dramsol is the old form of the family name. Unfortunately, I can’t stay long. The one who hurt Riva so desperately is on my trail. Talk to her; get her to tell you the whole story. Be careful, though, she’ll try to leave things out to protect you. And some of those things are about as bad as it can get for a woman on her own. Worse for her because… well, because until recently she was Cursed. She won’t want to tell you about that, but I think you’ll need to know.”
Bastion blinked. “I shall keep that in mind.”
He paused for a bare moment. “Get her to tell you the truth about Lenne and Rina, and tell her that she’ll get Jana back, Dewberry too.” Dramsol’s face took on a frightened expression and he quickly nodded to Kian and to King Ainmire. “Ah Elar… I need to get going. I hate to just pop in and run, but I have no choice.”
The King nodded back. “Be safe and return when you are able.”
“Yes, Majesty.” Then Dramsol vanished in a flicker of lights.
After a moment the King turned to Kian. “If you would, please bring your cousin here from Keara’s bower. I mean to have some answers and I mean to have them soon. Matters are more complicated than simply her safety now.”
Kian nodded and then turned to leave.
Bastion looked at his King. “I will protect her. I have sworn it.”
“I know you have, Captain, and I have no doubt of your capability. My fear is that you have been shackled in that endeavor by a lack of formalities. That is why I have called her father here today to stand witness and to give his approval.”
Bastion thought for a moment that his heart stopped still in his chest at the words.