Chapter Seven: A Plan

Here is chapter 7 of the Caradonia story! If you still haven’t been reading, check out the previous chapters first!

Lenora watched with some uneasiness as Corin stalked out of the great hall and thought she had caught something like a tortured glance from him before he turned away. Lenora glanced at her sister who, it seemed, was being attended to by the duke of Wythorn.

“May I help you to your seat, Lady Ariana?” Wythorn asked Ariana who, after giving the duke a somewhat disdainful look, gave him her hand. Ariana took her hand away as soon as possible, but Wythorn was not to be so easily dismissed. “This is a fine castle you have here. And a very fine country besides.”

“Do not expect me to be won by a compliment of that sort,” Ariana retorted. “I see this fortress as little better than a prison.”

“Forgive me, Lady Ariana,” Wythorn replied with a smirk. “But if you compare your father’s castle to a prison, then you have never seen a prison.”

“I have. I’ve been down to the dungeons.”

“Then I suppose your father’s dungeons are far different from the king’s dungeons,” Wythorn replied. “The things that happen there are not fit to be mentioned before a lady.”

“Is that so?” Ariana asked curiously. “What sort of things?”

“I hope you never find out, my lady,” Wythorn said. “Let me just say that if a prisoner is sentenced to hanging, he ought to consider himself fortunate.”

“And what does one do to deserve such treatment? You would not, I suppose, give a starving young boy stealing food the same punishment as a person who commits cold-blooded murder?”

“Well, the king’s dungeon is generally reserved for those who commit crimes within the king’s personal jurisdiction and also those who commit crimes against the crown, such as treason. Thievery is probably more strictly punished than in other regions.”

“My warden takes a finger for every instance of thievery,” interjected King Garrick, who was beginning to listen to the exchange with some amusement. “If the thief is very young, we only start with the left hand. Wythorn, here, thinks it a bit harsh. But I challenge him to tell me where you will find the fewest thieves.” Ariana, who for a few moments could only stare at the king in mute horror, eventually managed to speak in a low voice.

“I don’t think I want to know what the punishment for greater crimes is,” she said. “And I agree with the duke—it is too harsh.”

“Well, it is all very well for you to think so,” King Garrick replied. “You’re a lady. However, for Wythorn here to be such a jellyfish is another matter completely.”

“Do you call him a jellyfish because he is not cruel?” asked Ariana, who was becoming more and more disgusted with the king.

“Running a kingdom is a very complex task,” replied the king. “I find that less people are inclined to break the law if they are afraid to do so. That is something my father taught me before he died.”

“And how did he die, your majesty?”

“His carriage was ambushed in a drunken riot,” the king replied after a few moments of stony silence. “The perpetrators were, of course, executed immediately. And I suppose you would not like to hear how, Lady Ariana?” Ariana shook her head.

“Let us just say they shall not be able to see or hear or speak in the afterlife,” the king said, leaning over Wythorn to address Ariana in a low voice. Lenora, who had been listening, grew white at this declaration.

“You look pale, Lady Lenora,” King Garrick noted. “But I know something that will cheer you up.” The king stood up and began addressing the crowd assembled at the feasting tables.

“As I’m sure many of you suspect, I had a very specific reason for coming to Aelbridge. It is with great pleasure that I announce to you all that I have requested the hand of Lady Lenora, daughter of Thane Haraldr in marriage and her father has agreed.” This announcement only served to make Lady Lenora feel even more mortified, and Ariana was scarecely less so, on her sister’s behalf.

“Therefore,” King Garrick resumed, “I would like to invite you all to drink to your future queen!” There was much cheering and noise at this conclusion, but Sir Wilfred, who cheered with somewhat less enthusiasm than his comrades, was only grateful for the absence of Corin.

King Garrick resumed his seat. ‘There, Lady Lenora. What say you now? The knowledge that you will soon be queen ought to lift your spirits. But you don’t seem very plased.”

“Forgive me, your majesty. I’m not feeling well at all. I’m quite overwhelmed.”

“Have some wine, my dear,” King Garrick told her. “It will settle your nerves.”

“Truly, your majesty,” Lenora said, “I feel quite ill. I think I need to lie down.” Lenora then rushed out of the room, much to King Garrick’s consternation.

“You must forgive my younger daughter, your majesty,” Thane Haraldr said apprehensively, as Lenora had left the table too quickly for her father to detain her. “She has had a little too much excitement today, I suppose. Normally, we have a very quiet little country here.”

“Nevermind it,” Garrick said rather sulkily. “She will come around soon enough.”

“How long are we to be honored with your company, your majesty?” Ariana asked the king. “I suppose you must have many matters of state to attend to.” The king whispered something to one of his attendants who then left the room.

“All in good time, Lady Ariana,” replied the king. “Right now I have more pressing matters to attend to.”

Corin sat by the door of Thane Haraldr’s stables and stared sulkily at the sky. Perhaps Sir Wilfred was right. The king could certainly offer Lenora more than Corin would ever be able to. Perhaps Lenora had outgrown her fancy for Corin, or at least could soon be brought to do so. Were it only possible Lenora would be happy…he could let her go. Or so he would like to think.

It was during this cheerful train of thought that Lenora herself appeared in front of Corin, who jumped up at once at the sight of her.

“Lady Lenora!” he exclaimed. “Why are you not at the feast?”

“I could not endure it!” Lenora replied. “Oh Corin, even if I felt nothing for you, I could not endure marriage to such a man!” Corin turned away from her, for he was trembling with emotion at such an assertion.

“I know not what to do, Lenora,” he said. “King Garrick can offer you a kingdom. I cannot even offer you a home, for I have none.”

I don’t want a kingdom,” Lenora told him. “I want to be free. Free from this prison I’ve been in all my life. Would you have me go from one prison to another?”

What would you have me do?” Corin asked. “You know I would do anything you ask. I would rather die than see you unhappy. But your father would never allow us to be together. He despises me and only tolerates my presence because I am his best archer. If he were to suspect what I feel for you–” Corin paused, unable to go on.

Then we shall run away,” Lenora replied. “We’ll go tomorrow. In the night.”

“Where would we go?”

“To the kingdom of Dunmoore,” Lenora replied. “The queen is my friend. I feel certain she will help us. It will be very difficult for King Garrick to get to us there, even if he should find out where we are. The king of Dunmoore is not subject to King Garrick like the thanes of Caradonia.”

“And you are certain the king of Dumoore will be friendly to our cause?” Corin asked skeptically.

“I’m sure your skills will be strongly in your favor,” Lenora replied. “The king of Dunmoore will be happy to have you in his army.”

“Lady Lenora—what you’re saying sounds very much like treason.”

“Treason? How so?”

“You are suggesting we go to the neighboring kingdom and that I should fight on their behalf,” Corin answered. “Should there be a battle between Dunmoore and Caradonia, I would be obliged to fight against my own king—perhaps your own father.” Lenora looked alarmed.

“I had not thought of it like that,” Lenora said. “But still, I cannot and will not stay here! I will go alone if you will not come with me.”

“Lady Lenora, forgive me, but that is nonsense. You cannot make such a journey alone.”

“Ariana will come with me, I’m sure,” Lenora said. “She has no ties here, and you know she is very skilled and longs for adventure.” Corin’s brow furrowed.

“Yes, I do know it,” he admitted. “And her eagerness for adventure would make her foolhardy enough to embark on such an endeavor. But it would be incredibly dangerous for the two of you. You cannot go without me.”

“Perhaps it will be better for Ariana to come with us,” Lenora said. “I can only think that our running away will cause my father to keep a closer watch on my sister.”

“And are you really so ready to leave behind your father and the only life you’ve ever known, perhaps forever?” Corin asked Lenora.

“I am as fond of my father as I can be,” Lenora replied. “Fonder than Ariana is, I know. But so often I feel trapped. I always knew this day would come. I knew one day my father would try to marry me to someone I did not like. I did not suppose it would the king who would take an interest in me.”

“You should have supposed it,” Corin said, putting his hand to Lenora’s face. “How could he not, when you’re the most beautiful lady in the kingdom?”

“Don’t speak such nonsense, Corin,” Lenora said.

“You have the evidence. Do you suppose you would be King Garrick’s choice if it were not so?”

“I cannot say why he would choose me. I only know such a thing can do nothing but make me miserable.

“If you believe that going to Dunmoore is the best course, then we shall do it,” Corin said. “We will make preparations tomorrow and go in the night, as you say. Can you meet me here after the changing of the night guard?”

“I will,” Lenora said.

“The squires are beginning to leave the hall,” Corin said.

“How do you know?” Lenora asked, for she could hear nothing except the sounds of the night.

“I hear them,” Corin replied, smiling wryly. As soon as he said this, sounds of merriment echoed through the courtyard. “You’d better go before you’re seen. I will meet you here tomorrow.”

“My heart will be with you,” Lenora whispered, kissing his cheek. She ran into the shadows toward the castle as Corin walked toward the squires’ quarters deep in thought.

Neither of them noticed the hooded figure in the shadows, nor had any idea they were being watched.

Lenora watched with some uneasiness as Corin stalked out of the great hall and thought she had caught something like a tortured glance from him before he turned away. Lenora glanced at her sister who, it seemed, was being attended to by the duke of Wythorn.

“May I help you to your seat, Lady Ariana?” Wythorn asked Ariana who, after giving the duke a somewhat disdainful look, gave him her hand. Ariana took her hand away as soon as possible, but Wythorn was not to be so easily dismissed. “This is a fine castle you have here. And a very fine country besides.”

“Do not expect me to be won by a compliment of that sort,” Ariana retorted. “I see this fortress as little better than a prison.”

“Forgive me, Lady Ariana,” Wythorn replied with a smirk. “But if you compare your father’s castle to a prison, then you have never seen a prison.”

“I have. I’ve been down to the dungeons.”

“Then I suppose your father’s dungeons are far different from the king’s dungeons,” Wythorn replied. “The things that happen there are not fit to be mentioned before a lady.”

“Is that so?” Ariana asked curiously. “What sort of things?”

“I hope you never find out, my lady,” Wythorn said. “Let me just say that if a prisoner is sentenced to hanging, he ought to consider himself fortunate.”

“And what does one do to deserve such treatment? You would not, I suppose, give a starving young boy stealing food the same punishment as a person who commits cold-blooded murder?”

“Well, the king’s dungeon is generally reserved for those who commit crimes within the king’s personal jurisdiction and also those who commit crimes against the crown, such as treason. Thievery is probably more strictly punished than in other regions.”

“My warden takes a finger for every instance of thievery,” interjected King Garrick, who was beginning to listen to the exchange with some amusement. “If the thief is very young, we only start with the left hand. Wythorn, here, thinks it a bit harsh. But I challenge him to tell me where you will find the fewest thieves.” Ariana, who for a few moments could only stare at the king in mute horror, eventually managed to speak in a low voice.

“I don’t think I want to know what the punishment for greater crimes is,” she said. “And I agree with the duke—it is too harsh.”

“Well, it is all very well for you to think so,” King Garrick replied. “You’re a lady. However, for Wythorn here to be such a jellyfish is another matter completely.”

“Do you call him a jellyfish because he is not cruel?” asked Ariana, who was becoming more and more disgusted with the king.

“Running a kingdom is a very complex task,” replied the king. “I find that less people are inclined to break the law if they are afraid to do so. That is something my father taught me before he died.”

“And how did he die, your majesty?”

“His carriage was ambushed in a drunken riot,” the king replied after a few moments of stony silence. “The perpetrators were, of course, executed immediately. And I suppose you would not like to hear how, Lady Ariana?” Ariana shook her head.

“Let us just say they shall not be able to see or hear or speak in the afterlife,” the king said, leaning over Wythorn to address Ariana in a low voice. Lenora, who had been listening, grew white at this declaration.

“You look pale, Lady Lenora,” King Garrick noted. “But I know something that will cheer you up.” The king stood up and began addressing the crowd assembled at the feasting tables.

“As I’m sure many of you suspect, I had a very specific reason for coming to Aelbridge. It is with great pleasure that I announce to you all that I have requested the hand of Lady Lenora, daughter of Thane Haraldr in marriage and her father has agreed.” This announcement only served to make Lady Lenora feel even more mortified, and Ariana was scarecely less so, on her sister’s behalf.

“Therefore,” King Garrick resumed, “I would like to invite you all to drink to your future queen!” There was much cheering and noise at this conclusion, but Sir Wilfred, who cheered with somewhat less enthusiasm than his comrades, was only grateful for the absence of Corin.

King Garrick resumed his seat. ‘There, Lady Lenora. What say you now? The knowledge that you will soon be queen ought to lift your spirits. But you don’t seem very plased.”

“Forgive me, your majesty. I’m not feeling well at all. I’m quite overwhelmed.”

“Have some wine, my dear,” King Garrick told her. “It will settle your nerves.”

“Truly, your majesty,” Lenora said, “I feel quite ill. I think I need to lie down.” Lenora then rushed out of the room, much to King Garrick’s consternation.

“You must forgive my younger daughter, your majesty,” Thane Haraldr said apprehensively, as Lenora had left the table too quickly for her father to detain her. “She has had a little too much excitement today, I suppose. Normally, we have a very quiet little country here.”

“Nevermind it,” Garrick said rather sulkily. “She will come around soon enough.”

“How long are we to be honored with your company, your majesty?” Ariana asked the king. “I suppose you must have many matters of state to attend to.” The king whispered something to one of his attendants who then left the room.

“All in good time, Lady Ariana,” replied the king. “Right now I have more pressing matters to attend to.”

Corin sat by the door of Thane Haraldr’s stables and stared sulkily at the sky. Perhaps Sir Wilfred was right. The king could certainly offer Lenora more than Corin would ever be able to. Perhaps Lenora had outgrown her fancy for Corin, or at least could soon be brought to do so. Were it only possible Lenora would be happy…he could let her go. Or so he would like to think.

It was during this cheerful train of thought that Lenora herself appeared in front of Corin, who jumped up at once at the sight of her.

“Lady Lenora!” he exclaimed. “Why are you not at the feast?”

“I could not endure it!” Lenora replied. “Oh Corin, even if I felt nothing for you, I could not endure marriage to such a man!” Corin turned away from her, for he was trembling with emotion at such an assertion.

“I know not what to do, Lenora,” he said. “King Garrick can offer you a kingdom. I cannot even offer you a home, for I have none.”

I don’t want a kingdom,” Lenora told him. “I want to be free. Free from this prison I’ve been in all my life. Would you have me go from one prison to another?”

What would you have me do?” Corin asked. “You know I would do anything you ask. I would rather die than see you unhappy. But your father would never allow us to be together. He despises me and only tolerates my presence because I am his best archer. If he were to suspect what I feel for you–” Corin paused, unable to go on.

Then we shall run away,” Lenora replied. “We’ll go tomorrow. In the night.”

“Where would we go?”

“To the kingdom of Dunmoore,” Lenora replied. “The queen is my friend. I feel certain she will help us. It will be very difficult for King Garrick to get to us there, even if he should find out where we are. The king of Dunmoore is not subject to King Garrick like the thanes of Caradonia.”

“And you are certain the king of Dumoore will be friendly to our cause?” Corin asked skeptically.

“I’m sure your skills will be strongly in your favor,” Lenora replied. “The king of Dunmoore will be happy to have you in his army.”

“Lady Lenora—what you’re saying sounds very much like treason.”

“Treason? How so?”

“You are suggesting we go to the neighboring kingdom and that I should fight on their behalf,” Corin answered. “Should there be a battle between Dunmoore and Caradonia, I would be obliged to fight against my own king—perhaps your own father.” Lenora looked alarmed.

“I had not thought of it like that,” Lenora said. “But still, I cannot and will not stay here! I will go alone if you will not come with me.”

“Lady Lenora, forgive me, but that is nonsense. You cannot make such a journey alone.”

“Ariana will come with me, I’m sure,” Lenora said. “She has no ties here, and you know she is very skilled and longs for adventure.” Corin’s brow furrowed.

“Yes, I do know it,” he admitted. “And her eagerness for adventure would make her foolhardy enough to embark on such an endeavor. But it would be incredibly dangerous for the two of you. You cannot go without me.”

“Perhaps it will be better for Ariana to come with us,” Lenora said. “I can only think that our running away will cause my father to keep a closer watch on my sister.”

“And are you really so ready to leave behind your father and the only life you’ve ever known, perhaps forever?” Corin asked Lenora.

“I am as fond of my father as I can be,” Lenora replied. “Fonder than Ariana is, I know. But so often I feel trapped. I always knew this day would come. I knew one day my father would try to marry me to someone I did not like. I did not suppose it would the king who would take an interest in me.”

“You should have supposed it,” Corin said, putting his hand to Lenora’s face. “How could he not, when you’re the most beautiful lady in the kingdom?”

“Don’t speak such nonsense, Corin,” Lenora said.

“You have the evidence. Do you suppose you would be King Garrick’s choice if it were not so?”

“I cannot say why he would choose me. I only know such a thing can do nothing but make me miserable.

“If you believe that going to Dunmoore is the best course, then we shall do it,” Corin said. “We will make preparations tomorrow and go in the night, as you say. Can you meet me here after the changing of the night guard?”

“I will,” Lenora said.

“The squires are beginning to leave the hall,” Corin said.

“How do you know?” Lenora asked, for she could hear nothing except the sounds of the night.

“I hear them,” Corin replied, smiling wryly. As soon as he said this, sounds of merriment echoed through the courtyard. “You’d better go before you’re seen. I will meet you here tomorrow.”

“My heart will be with you,” Lenora whispered, kissing his cheek. She ran into the shadows toward the castle as Corin walked toward the squires’ quarters deep in thought.

Neither of them noticed the hooded figure in the shadows, nor had any idea they were being watched.

 

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  1. I need to download the Cartwheel app! I love Target, now I just need to save more when I go there!
    Marysa recently posted…Top 8 Michael’s Couponing HacksMy Profile

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