Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Mark of the King: Chapter Seven

So, guess what I'm finally getting around to today!!!

If you said putting Chapter Seven on here, then you're correct!! I am so sorry I've been stalling for the past couple months... but now that school is pretty much over and done for the summer, I can finally spend more time writing and posting my stories on here for you all!

Thank you for your patience! I think that's it!
Here's Chapter Seven!

Chapter Seven

A week went by. Then two, then three and Skandar grew accustomed to his new life in the Capitol. Under Sir Reuben’s careful watch, the other men no longer considered Skandar a captive, instead welcoming him as one of their own.
Much to his dismay, Flynn remained his tutor, though he eventually accepted the situation with silent tolerance. 
He lost his initial clumsiness with a sword, and day by day, the weapon melded itself to his liking, as though an extension of his arm. When he became comfortable on foot, he was placed upon a horse. Being raised a farm boy, Skandar excelled in the art of mounted combat, a thing which he found pleasantly to his supreme liking.
Physical changes also took place in those few short weeks. Gone were the gangly arms and lanky body, replaced by a compact torso supporting broad shoulders and muscled arms. He also discovered that he easily kept pace with Oliver and the other knights on their daily run.
Four weeks passed since Skandar set foot in the Capitol. After a tiresome day, Oliver, whom he now considered a brother, approached him cheerfully, and brandished a sly, lopsided grin.
“Are you aware of the date?”
“Pardon?” Skandar removed his leather vest, replacing it on the rack with the other similar articles of clothing in the armory’s arsenal. 
Oliver leaned on the wall, propping himself up with one arm. “You’re hopeless, you know that?”
“Hopelessly famished, maybe.”
“If that be the case, then you’d best come with me,” Oliver added, turned on his heel, and sauntered casually through the armory and turned down the hall. Once he checked the order of things one final time and everything appeared to be in order, Skandar raced after his friend.
“So,” Oliver announced when Skandar overtook him seconds later. “Today marks one month since we brought you to the Capitol.”
“Already one month and I’m no closer to achieving my goal than when I first began.”
“You’ll get there soon,” reassured Oliver. The two young men stepped into a courtyard. Already the sky overhead was black; the new moon cast no light upon the earth below.
Winter came early that year, and Oliver and Skandar tucked their hands under their arms and hunched over against the biting wind that swept around them. The cold blasts nipped at them like hungry dogs and howled as though a pack stood, searching for the smallest crevice of exposed flesh to enter and tear.
“For the present,” said Oliver, his teeth chattering loudly. “There’s a surprise awaiting you at Sir Reuben’s home.”
“First,” Skandar contradicted, his breath freezing in an icy cloud before him. “I must find a decent cloak!”
Oliver turned his head away, lest his smile betray him.


Once free of the confines of the castle, the youths raced through the now-familiar streets of the Capitol and crashed into the door of Sir Reuben’s home. Not a noise could be heard from within, but through the window, Skandar saw the flitting shadows belonging to the people inside.
He shivered and banged on the door with a numb hand. John answered it, and instantly the room behind him came to life with people and voices. The young men hurriedly stepped in, welcoming the warmth and merriment of the dwelling.
Aidan and Eoin shouted from where they stood by the table, hanging over the steaming food like vultures. But when they reached a hand for the platter of fresh bread, however, Lady Morgaine, who stood watching them nearby, slapped their hands away and after that, they left it alone.
Muriel, followed by Catrain and two serving girls, entered the room from the kitchens. When she set the food on the long table, she rushed to the young men who stood shaking slightly near the threshold. Fondly, she hugged Skandar before embracing Oliver.
Cat smiled at him and waved from across the room, but remained where she stood with Aidan and Eoin.
Skandar returned the gesture, and then scanned the space for Sir Reuben, locating him sitting cross-legged on the floor playing a game with Eliza. Memories of his life in Tiem flooded his mind, and he stood trapped in his thoughts for several moments.
“Look Momma!” he called out.
Sybbyl turned her head and smiled. “What do you have there, Skandar?”
The little boy held the stick aloft proudly in his hand and struck a valiant pose. “A sword!”
Sybbyl laughed, her tired eyes lighting momentarily at the child.
Skandar toddled over to his mother and playfully poked her with the blunt end of the slender piece of wood. “Does Da have a sword?”
His mother’s face fell. A year passed since her husband’s disappearance; the wound still fresh and raw, though Sybbyl refused to acknowledge Edmund was gone entirely. She forced a smile and answered, “Yes. Yes he does.”
“Momma,” Skandar tugged at his mother’s thin skirt and looked upward with large silver eyes. “When is Da coming home? I miss him.”
The young woman knelt and picked up the child, placing him on her slender hip. “I don’t know, Skandar. Keep praying and maybe one day, you’ll find him and bring him home. Now,” she touched his freckled nose gently. “You play here and be a good boy, my little warrior.”
“Skandar? Skandar are you coming?”
“Yes,” he shook himself free of his brief reminiscence, crossing the room in only a few strides where he took his usual place at the now crowded table. “My apologies.”
“No need, lad.”
Sir Reuben said grace, a thing he did before every meal. Skandar respectfully bowed his head, but allowed his mind to wander until the prayer ended, and the chorus ‘amen’ spoken by all at the table except Skandar himself.
“I know this is supposed to be about Skandar and all, but what’s your opinion on the impending treaty?”
Skandar looked up from his soup as the table fell into silence; every eye staring fixedly on Sir Reuben.
The Keeper chewed slowly and raised his mug of crimson wine to his lips. 
Skandar looked from face to face. Everyone appeared to understand Aidan’s inquiry except Skandar. Replacing a slice of tender meat on his platter, he cleared his throat.
“Sorry, what treaty?”
Catrain answered first, “It’s a peace treaty between Corrthaine and Tir O Niwl basically stating that we will cease the exchange of meaningless threats against one another. Our countries have been playing a bluffing game; each side taunts and beckons the other to war, but neither acts upon their allegations.
“Corrthaine’s ambassador in Tir O Niwl, as well as the King and his officials, have worked for months to reach agreeable terms with the Niwls, and now it appears we may find some common ground.”
“And as is often the case,” groaned the Keeper, “King Fendral is quite adamant that King Caddock journey here for the signing. Which unfortunately arouses complaints from the nobles from Tir O Niwl.”
“What is your opinion, Sir?” repeated Aidan.
Sir Reuben leaned forward and rested his bearded chin on his hands. “I believe a treaty of this nature will be beneficial to some parties, and potentially harmful to others.”
From the corner of his eye, Skandar saw Oliver glance down quickly, avoiding eye contact with the other members of the gathering. Muriel must have noticed her betrothed’s movement as well, for she placed her hand in his own and squeezed it gently.
“As with any agreement of this nature, trade between the countries will increase and we shall acquire a new and powerful ally,” continued the Keeper. “But there are some in Corrthaine- in this very city, perhaps –who do not think the treaty should be signed.
“To ally ourselves with Tir O Niwl will draw out many enemies and may provoke the anger of the Thuaidhian clans. At any rate, it would be wise,” he met the face of each member seated at the table, “when travelling through any of the Four Kingdoms to keep a wary eye on the people and a hand ready at the sword.”
“What does he mean?” Skandar whispered to Catrain, but she only shrugged.
“Now,” Muriel rose and stared steadily at Skandar. “We have something for you.”
“What is it?” Skandar questioned dryly. That was rude, he scolded silently.
However, Muriel didn't seem to notice. “Wait here.” She disappeared into the hall and returned moments later with a large bundle wrapped in blankets and tied with a coarse rope, which she placed on the table before Skandar.
Carefully he untied the cord and slid it off the bundle before peeling back a corner of the thick fabric. Concealed within its folds lay an emerald cloak. Along the hem and hood, embroidered in silver thread, were intricate knotted crosses.
Skandar stared at the gift, speechless. It was finer than anything he ever owned in Tiem. Finer than anything he’d ever laid eyes on before arriving in the Capitol.
“Do you like it?” asked Muriel, her voice filled with hope. “Mother and I made it. Oliver mentioned you needed one, and with winter upon us, we thought you may have need of one.”
“It’s perfect,” Skandar held the long garment aloft and admired it with childlike joy and pride.
Then, the two hired girls came around and began to take up the wooden utensils, each filling her delicate arms with bowls and platters in a precarious balancing act.
“Here, allow me to help,” Eoin stacked the dishes and handed them to one of the girls with a sly wink accompanied by a playful grin. The girl flushed.
Catrain rolled her eyes and muttered, “Really?”
When all was said and done, the small party gathered around the fire, enjoying the company of friends. Unnoticed by all, Sir Reuben and Lady Morgaine slipped into the hall and spoke in low tones:
“Reuben, the boy must know.”
“I understand, but now is not the time.”
“When will the time come? When he lies dying upon the field of battle?”
“He won’t.”
“How can you be sure? How can you know? Reuben, please. Before he decides to leave on his own.”
“When the lords attend the treaty-signing, I will know our numbers and where we stand,” Reuben took his wife’s hands in his and gently kissed her fingers. “Then I shall tell him, but whether he accepts it or not depends on the True King. Skandar hardens his heart to His work; I know not if he will ever understand.”
“Give him time, Reuben. If it be the will of the True King, Skandar will fall.”
Morgaine laid a finger to his lips. “Shh, no. Speak not. Skandar will fall, Reuben, and we must have faith that the True King always catches the ones He loves; He never abandons His children. His will be done, not our own, Reuben. His will be done.”
“His will be done.”

So, that was Chapter Seven! Feel free to let me know what you think!
I've been working on another short story which I'll post on here when I'm finished with it!
Also, I've abandoned my schedule for The Mark of the King if you haven't guessed already! Basically, I'll post my chapters whenever I finish typing and editing them!
That's all! I hope you have a wonderful week!