|Photo courtesy unsplash by way of Write On Edge|
I have a renaissance faire to attend this weekend, in Escondido, California. With the recent weather and my thoughts colliding with another century, I wanted to return to my Anastasia and Arik, the Count of Monteschell. We last learned what a true beast Anastasia's brother is. The stakes of the game of power and royal favor are about to get more risky. This week's post, more than the seasons change.
I offer the following in response: The Death of Autumn's Reign
Trees pined for winter and dropped their scarlet and golden tears on the weathered gazebo deck, in requiem for its forgotten ash grove. Children played nearby under the scrutiny of the waning sun, oblivious to the end of autumn as if seduced by a piper clad in a pied cloak. Anastasia knew the moment autumn died; she felt the seasons shift in her bones. She drew her shawl closed and tasted snow on the eastern breeze.
A bad omen, withal. The season turned too early.
“M’Lady,” her footman said, leading her steed to her. “We should return.”
“We are waiting.”
He shook his head, “Twilight is approaching. His Grace will not come at this hour.”
Anastasia shivered. The footman was right, of course, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave. Something felt off. “We are waiting.”
“M’Lady, your teeth are chattering.”
Her breath rose in smoke-like tendrils. “We are still waiting.”
The children abandoned their games in a slow exodus from the field, the heartiest soul among them the last to leave. The footman bounced in his place. “M’Lady, this cold isn’t good for the horses. Will you not think of them?”
Ground-born thunder rolled through the meadow before the royal standards appeared through the tree line. “Damn,” she whispered as the King’s horsemen rose into view. One soon broke from the train, leading the others in formation and panic squeezed her heart as she realized the men had been sent for her. And her Arik rode among them. “Please, don’t leave me, Cullen.”
The footman was a beacon of fear. “Yes, m’lady.”
A nobleman dismounted and joined her count as he crossed the empty space between Anastasia and the circled soldiers. She dropped into a low curtsy, at their approach, uneasy at the display of force. Why was Arik riding with the King’s men and why were there so many of them?”
“My Lady Dumarche,” Arik extended a hand to help her rise. “I apologize for the show of force. I bring you grim news.”
Blood pumped in her ears. “I am your servant, Your Grace.”
“I am on King’s Business,” he continued. “His majesty has taken ill and your father has been arrested. Your brother is acting on behalf of your lands and requests that you return to your home at once.”
If her brother controlled her fortune, she could very well end up the next morning dead of poison, or worse, discarded in the old oubliette. She sucked in a stiff breath and stared against Arik’s hard gaze, seeking silent his guidance. “Your Grace, I beseech you,” she said, choosing her words carefully. There were too many witnesses to be informal. “As it is a long journey back to my father’s palace, and as the cold is unbearable, might I impose upon your custody and weather the night at Monteschell?”
Arik’s face relaxed, a spark of hope danced in his eyes. “That is a reasonable request. Come. Mount your horse. We will to my father’s stead.”