Chapter 11

Chapter 11

A Chapter by E Hartfallow

Aynia watched in anticipation as the liquid began to change from clear to colouration. Her hands were trembling and her lips were bleeding from where she had been biting hard on her bottom lip.

After she had vomited, the Earl of Darkwell had returned with a physician whom she did not recognise. He was a young man, with copper coloured hair and violet eyes which suggested to her that he had some magic in his family.

He had given her what seemed to be a glass of water that she had to add a few drops of blood to. The liquid would then change green if she was clear, red if she was not.

It was a test to reveal if she was with child. The very idea petrified her, she was the Goddess of life but she had not yet conceived a child, she could not bring herself to bring a baby into the treacherous land of Thornacre, but giving birth to the Earl’s child in Darkwell was just as terrifying.

What would become of it? Would the Earl cast her out, let her seek refuge with her cousin until the baby was born?  Unborn babies did not survive the transfer from Darkwell to Thornacre, Aynia was uncertain as to why this was and she would not risk the life of her child no matter who the father was.

Or worse, would the Earl take the child away from her after it had finished breastfeeding? Would he take it away and train it up to be just as vile and malicious as himself? The child would grow up to hate her and Aynia did not know that she could survive that pain. She might not even survive giving birth.

No, she could not think of that. She was a goddess and strong enough to live to see new life being given to the land. She closed her eyes and shook her head, pushing those thoughts to the back of her mind as she opened her eyes again fully prepared to see that she was not with child after all.

The liquid was green.

She was wrong.  

 

****

The cottage was small and isolated. Grainne could not tell if it was abandoned or merely poorly kept. The roof was in tatters, large gashes scarred the surface allowing them to see the beams underneath the ceiling. The windows, although in one piece, were cracked and clouded with dust.

Grainne was startled when Sir Diarmuid had slowed his horse to a stop opposite the moulding front door. She wrinkled her nose at the musky smell surrounding the place and looked at Sir Diarmuid as he dismounted his horse and began to walk towards the building

“I thought you said you had an uncle nearby, what are we doing here?” She asked, Sir Diarmuid looked sidelong at her and smiled

“We are here, Princess, because this is where he lives” he told her. Giving him a dubious look, Grainne dismounted her horse and joined him as they had approached the uninviting entrance.

Grainne tried not to look uneasy as Sir Diarmuid knocked several times on the door, his knuckles came away with mould and he wiped his fist on his tunic. Even though it had been mere seconds since he knocked, Grainne could not shake the feeling that they were in the wrong place, or that his uncle no longer lived in this ghastly abode.

So convinced that nobody would answer them, Grainne jumped when the door finally creaked open; a small shriek left her mouth and she hid behind Diarmuid who gave her a bemused glance before turning his attention to the open door.

A young man stood upon the threshold, he was tall, much taller than Sir Diarmuid and the Thorn King. His hair was dark and long, sweeping over the planes of his muscular shoulders like a waterfall of dark velvet. Grainne could not distinguish the colour of his irises, but his eyes were the shape of almonds and set under a pair of gorgeously shaped eyebrows. His whole face was gorgeous, it made her wonder what a handsome young man was doing living in a run-down old house surrounded by woodland.

A smile tugged at the corners of his perfect lips, lighting up the young man’s face as he looked upon Sir Diarmuid. His eyes shone as if tiny stars were inside them and his radiance was almost too much for Grainne to take.

“Diarmuid! How long it has been, my spotted nephew!” The man exclaimed, reaching through the open doorway and grasping Sir Diarmuid’s face into his long hands and planting a kiss upon his head. Sir Diarmuid smiled at this

“Uncle Aengus, I have missed you terribly” he replied. Aengus seemed pleased with this response and tilted his head to look at Grainne as she hid behind his nephew

“Who is this young maiden, Diarmuid?” he asked, releasing him from his grasp to clutch Grainne’s hands and haul her towards him to get a closer look. Grainne blinked incredulously as she looked up at him. She had never been grabbed before, not by her father, not by Lord Finn and certainly not by Sir Diarmuid.

“Uncle, this is Princess Grainne of Thornacre” Sir Diarmuid said, sensing Grainne’s unease.

Aengus looked at his nephew then again at Grainne as she stood rigid in his arms, shocked into silence. Sir Diarmuid’s uncle beamed, a smile that lit up his face and revealed a complete set of white teeth, his eyes danced with delight

“Oh! Oh, how wonderful this is! I heard that the Thorn King never let his daughters go astray! Oh, this is fantastic!” He let go of Grainne’s shoulders to clasp his hands and gaze upon her face in what could only be described as awe.

Grainne turned her head to look at Sir Diarmuid who was watching his uncle in amusement. He looked beautiful when he was happy, his eyes creased at the corners and his smile was enough to make even Aengus look boring. Grainne expected to be annoyed by Diarmuid’s reaction but instead she felt only adoration, still she brought herself to ask:

“Why is this ‘fantastic’, Sir Diarmuid?” He looked at her, the glimmer of amusement dulled a little when he realised she was not finding the experience as entertaining as he was. Aengus answered for him.

“Why! It is obvious, isn’t it?” He remarked, taking a step back so he could see the pair of them stood side by side. This only made him smile more, so much in fact that Grainne feared it would rip his face in half. Sir Diarmuid’s smile vanished and he gave Aengus a hard stare that looked to Grainne like he had done so many times.

“Uncle_” he warned

“You are in love, of course!” Sir Diarmuid took a step forward but his uncle continued to talk “Oh! I fell in love once! Oh, yes, what a cruel and beautiful state of the mind” he suddenly turned from them, bringing his hand to his forehead and looking up at the sky “Oh, my dear Caer, I will endeavour to find you and bring you into my embrace once more! Such a woeful tale!”

Grainne stepped back, alarmed by Aengus’ dramatic outburst. Though she felt pity, she could not get passed the fact that Sir Diarmuid had brushed off her affection and denied feelings for her. She watched as he took his uncle’s shoulders and moved in front of him to face him. Grainne could see the love and devotion in his eyes as he looked at the troubled man. He brought his lips to his Uncle’s head and kissed him as Aengus had done to him when they had arrived at his cottage

“Aengus, my dear uncle, you are very much mistaken. I am helping the princess run from her arranged fiancé, Lord Finn” Aengus’ smile faded and he frowned as Sir Diarmuid said the name

“What a wretched man. No one should marry a lovely lady if she does not return his feelings” He said

“Which is why we are seeking your help, Uncle, Grainne wishes to be free from her” Sir Diarmuid explained. Aengus took a step back to look at them both

“All I have to offer you are a set of rules,” he told them. Grainne stepped forward watching the young man intently as he looked at each of them in turn and said; “Lord Finn is most likely to be on your trail already. If you want to lose him you must never sleep in a cave with one opening, or a house with one door, nor a tree with one branch. You can never eat where you cooked or sleep where you eat. If you are to win this battle, you have to keep moving”

Grainne’s heart sank. She had dreamed of finding a safe place that she and Sir Diarmuid could call their own where they could live out their new lives without fear of Lord Finn, but that did not look like it was going to happen. With a heavy heart, Grainne thanked Aengus and remounted her horse. As she sat atop Thunderfoot, she noticed Aengus catch Sir Diarmuid’s arm and gently pull him back to whisper something in his ear. Grainne tilted her head as she watched Sir Diarmuid frown before bidding his uncle goodbye and mounting his own horse. As they began to trot away, Grainne turned to look upon her lovely prize

“What did your uncle say when he whispered to you?” She asked. Sir Diarmuid kept his eyes fixed in front of him and a muscle in his jaw twitched ever so slightly

“He told me that there is a small thicket ahead, we can rest there for a while” He replied. Grainne knew he was lying but could push no further as Sir Diarmuid squeezed the sides of his horse and broke into a gallop ahead of her. Grainne sighed and cantered after him.

 

****

 

The Thorn King rose from the log on which he had sat on as instructed by Gwyn the Hunter and looked at the archway as it loomed over them all, as if it was taunting them with their imprisonment. He trailed his gaze over the edges of the stones, the gaps now imbedded with moss but the King knew it would not fall down. The people of Darkwell intended to make him an exit path so visible yet so useless. He was willing to bet that they were still laughing about it to this day.

“Aynia… is with child?” he asked the archway as if he expected the fog to answer him. Fenne hurried to his side, reaching out to touch his elbow but he shrugged her off, looking at Gwyn “How. How can you possibly know this?” Gwyn the Hunter did not show any emotion as he squared his shoulders and walked towards the Thorn King, coming to a stop right in front of him, almost toe-to-toe.

He was about a head taller than the King of Thorns but no more intimidating. The Thorn King squared his own shoulders and raised his chin to look the Hunter squarely in his eyes. Fenne could not be sure that they were not going to break into a fight, but she was even less sure that she could stop them if they did.

“I have been watching the house in which your Aynia is being held prisoner. When the moon rose over the horizon this morning, the Earl left with great purpose towards the Travellers’ Market” He informed him. The King wiped a dribbling tear of sweat from his brow, catching his finger on a thorn as he did. His skin ripped and a thin line of blood dribbled down to the tips of his fingers as he lowered his arm. He paid no attention to Gwyn’s smirk

“And?” He questioned

“When he returned merely half an hour later, he was accompanied by a young Traveller of the trade,” Gwyn replied “The Earl spoke rather loudly of his suspicions that Aynia was pregnant, the Traveller told him of the methods he would use to determine if his inclination was true” The Thorn King thought this over for a moment before moving passed him and looking through the archway

“Then you do not know for definite that she is with child” He replied. Gwyn turned and placed a hand lightly on the King’s shoulder before moving it back to his side when the King flinched

“But you know that if she is, she cannot return while the babe resides in her womb” Gwyn responded. The Thorn King did not respond, only stared blankly into the foggy abyss.

Fenne stood watching the two men as they stood opposite the arch, the fey man slightly behind her father who looked less and less human with each passing day. They could almost be related, Fenne had not noticed it before but the Thorn King’s ears pointed significantly at the tops just like Gwyn’s and the ears of other faeries that she had seen. As soon as she noticed the ears she began to notice other fey-like features, too.

He walked with a grace that only weightless beings could muster, though he still stalked as he always had, his movements seemed calmer and well-planned as if he had foreseen every nook and cranny on the ground that could be tripped over and moved with a precision that avoided each of them. His voice, too, was light and delicate yet could silence a room of rowdy voices with one whispered word.

He looked… prettier. Fenne’s father had always been a strikingly handsome man, in Darkwell he had young maiden’s look behind their shoulders after him as he passed them. He was well-built, strong and masculine. Over the years, his features had subtly changed, so subtle that Fenne did not notice up until now when he stood beside a fey with matching characteristics. The Thorn King’s facial features had become sharper, more defined. His jaw used to be prominent in Darkwell but not it was strikingly sharpened, with an edge that could cut cheese. His lips that used to be full and round were now thin and delicate; his teeth glistened and were slightly pointed at the edges. And his eyes… his eyes were like crystal unearthed from rocks, shiny and new and glistening with life.

His soul was not glistening with life, though. The King had not admitted it to anybody but Fenne was almost certain of the real reason why he wanted to marry Aynia off to a suitor. Though his complexion was unblemished and supple, there were still black circles under his eyes. Fenne did not believe one could be both weary and beautiful until she realised her father was just that.

The realisation of the Thorn King’s many changes almost made it hard for Fenne to approach him. But she knew that no matter what he was becoming, underneath it all he was still her father and she was not entirely human either, she was a Goddess.

Being completely surrounded by mortals, other than her two sisters, Fenne found it hard not to get caught up in the life of humans. They were completely powerless, they possessed no magic like she did yet they were capable of so much more. It was hard to distance herself from them when they captivated her so much. However, in these circumstances, when her powers were useless, she felt as any human would feel when they lost someone they loved and had to both remain composed enough to comfort another.

Taking a deep breath, Fenne rose from the log and crossed the ground to stand at her father’s side. He exhaled at her presence as if he had been holding his breath but did not look away from the arch. She watched him carefully as he stared into the fog and took his hand in her own, interlocking their fingers. His palms were cold with sweat, a contrast to her warm fingers. Still he did not look at her, but tightened his grip around her hand and absently ran his thumb over her knuckles.

“Why can she not pass through?” she knew the Thorn King knew but did not expect an answer from him. She was right, Gwyn turned to look at her. There was no sympathy in his eyes but Fenne refused to believe that he simply did not care

“Because she is trapped under lock and key” He said simply. Fenne felt her temper but kept it at bay as she tightened her tone

“You know what I meant, Gwyn” She said. The Hunter merely blinked when she named him

“The babe was conceived from sin. Though they are joined in matrimony, the Earl forced himself upon her” Fenne held her father’s hand tighter as he began to tremble, she could not tell if it was anger or sadness or both.

“And?” she pushed on, not allowing herself to show her emotions to a faerie, especially Gwyn the Hunter

“Whereas the baby is pure at heart, Aynia is no longer. She is guilty of bearing the child of a monster. If she were to attempt to cross through into Thornacre, she would be welcomed here but the baby would not as it is innocent. It would create a conflict that neither of them would survive” He explained. Fenne’s collected façade slipped and she frowned

“But that is not fair; it is not Aynia’s fault!” She exclaimed, feeling hot tears burn her eyes “Who would compose such a rule?” The Thorn King spoke before Gwyn could answer, his voice trembling with the sorrow of a father and his body convulsing with the rage of a faerie, a deep growl laced his words as he spoke the four words that soured his tongue;

“The King of Darkwell”

 

 



© 2017 E Hartfallow


Author's Note

E Hartfallow
This may be heavily edited soon..

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This is the first chapter I am reading from you, and it is amazing.
I really love the way you describe things..

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

E Hartfallow

7 Years Ago

Thanks so much!

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Added on April 1, 2017
Last Updated on April 4, 2017
Tags: fantasy, adventure, magic, kingdoms, thorns, kidnap, king, irish, mythology


Author

E Hartfallow
E Hartfallow

United Kingdom



About
Hi! My name is E. Hartfallow and I have been interesting in writing and creating stories from a young age. My friend and I used to write stories together in school and we are still doing so even no.. more..

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