Just_A_Memory

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As Fate Would Have Us | Chapter Seven

December 14, 2020

FREE WRITING

16
Duke Blackwell ran a hand down his clammy face before staring at the bread he’d abandoned on the railing. He’d hardly been able to keep anything down, but he was slowly getting better. Slowly. The sun was blinding, but the breeze felt nice on his overheated cheeks. He’d changed out of his formal attire into something less flattering: a white short-sleeve shirt. From his balcony, he could see soldiers running through the gate, whooping joyfully that they’d completed their training for the day, and felt a sense of longing to join them. But in his condition, he hardly seemed to be able to walk twenty feet without falling over. 

His mind went back to the figure in the corner of his room. He couldn’t piece together any ideas to whom it may have been. What he did know, was that Chandler wouldn’t have done such a thing, and he doubted Madame Akemia would either. Yeva didn’t seem the type to, but then again. Did he really know any of them? He supposed he did, but William had always been reserved. He never really talked to any of them; he was always focussed on his work, or hiding in his room. 

He fiddled with his marking, tracing the form of the dark feline. He swore it was trying to tell him something with it’s unmoving eyes. There was a burning desire to know what he didn’t. Who was the person out there for him? Would they even like him? He wasn’t the kindest person out there, he knew. But what if he found them and they wanted nothing to do with him. Worse yet, the other way around. “Ah, my head hurts!”  William said, clutching his throbbing head. He fell backwards to his bed, his legs towards his chest. He had felt pain before, just not this type of pain. His stomach churned and he groaned. That’s when another someone knocked on his door. “Co...me-”

“Oh son, how are you?” his adoptive-mother, Queen Hazel, questioned. 

“Queen Hazel? What are you doing here?” It was strange to see her here. As far as William was concerned, the Queen wasn’t a fan of him. When King Archer and Prince Chandler brought him home, she refused to take care of him at all. She fed him less, gave him less attention, didn’t give him gifts, or compliment him. That was why he looked up to Yeva, because while Queen Hazel was disgusted by him and his weakness, Yeva held him when he was a sickly boy, giving him something to smile about.

“Well, why can’t I check up on my son?” she simply answered, placing her cold hands on his heated forehead, “Oh, and here’s some medicine.” 

Her behavior was strange and unfamiliar. It certainly wasn’t a bad thing, it was just so different. Still, he took the medicine and immediately felt a strong soothing feeling in his body. “Thank...you,” he coughed around the burning in his throat. 

She smiled and began massaging his cooling forehead. For the first time since he came, he felt Queen’s Hazel’s motherly love. Someone then knocked on the door, announcing that Queen Hazel had to go. But, before she left, she pecked a kiss on his cheek and whispered, “I love you.”

He watched the person he’d wanted to love him leave the room, seeing through the facade. She must have been there for something. Why had she brought him medicine instead of the doctor? No matter how long he pondered, he couldn’t find an answer. 

Shortly after Queen Hazel had left, Yeva appeared through the door under the tapestry; the entrance to the servant hallways. “How are you feeling?” she asked, setting a bowl of soup by his abandoned bread. 

“Well enough. Can I leave yet?”

“Boy, you’d think you were five with your whining.” She smiled. “I suppose you can if you’re feeling strong enough. Can you walk straight?”

William stood slowly, doing his best to not fall over. Yeva eyed him, but nodded slowly. “Okay. So long as you stick with someone who can drag you back, you’re fine.” She squeezed past him to smooth his ruffled quilt, fluffing the pillows until she was satisfied. 

“Thank you!” he hummed, delighted, coughing when his voice cracked. “I guess I’ll see you later.”

“Right. Make sure your guards don’t leave your side!” she yelled just before the door shut. William’s guards, who sat right outside the door, blinked up at him before smiling wide, clapping him on the back. 

“Glad to see you out of there, sir. We missed you on the field,” Heirny, one of the elite soldiers said.

“As much as I love running through the mud, I’m not training with anyone until I’m actually solid on my feet,” the Duke chuckled, ecstatic to be out of his room. He wasn’t on duty or anything. Not yet anyway, so he’d let himself enjoy a moment out of his shell. “How about we take a ride into the city?”

His guards looked to one another and shrugged. “If you say so, sir. I think that the soldiers could really use a boost of morale first, though. Some of them have started slacking,” his second hand, Benjamin told him. 

“I’ve only been banished to my room for a few days, and they’re already cutting hours?”

“Yes, sir,” Heirny sighed. “Mostly the younger ones, but some of the others have been slipping off to the taverns. We drag them back during patrol, but they’re still sneaking away to drink.”

“Why do you think that is?” William asked, actually curious. He himself didn't know. Most of his soldiers seemed on top of things while he was in their midst. Then again, plenty of them were vying for his attention, hoping to be ranked up into the elite. 

“My guess is that they’re getting bored, sir,” Samuel spoke up. He was an elite too. Actually, most of the guards following royal or noble members were part of his elite squad, or were looking to become part of it. There were only thirty of them out of thousands of soldiers. Of course, not all the soldiers were stationed at the capitol. Some were posted on the outskirts of their territory to keep out the kingdoms surrounding Arymea. Most were on the border of Kariliea, which wasn’t surprising. Samuel continued, “It’s the same routine every day. Same run. Same hours, same shifts. Either on-duty, or sleeping. Frankly, they need something different.”

“I never said that they had to run the same course,” William remarked, frowning.

“Yes, but it kind of just become a thing. We’ve run the same track for over fifteen years. Everyone just assumed that that was the path.”

“Well, then. I guess that we’re going to map out a new course then, men.” That got smiles from his small crew. “We’ll stop by the yard for a minute before heading out.” A group of young servants walked by, their heads bowed. William clapped once, and their eyes sprung up to look at him. “Get four horses ready for us, please.”

They all nodded, and one of them even had their lips faintly curl into a smile. They scampered off, and he heard their footsteps get louder as they turned the corner, probably racing to see who could get the job done first. 

“You’re extra… chipper today,” Benjamin, another guard, commented as we started walking.

“Just happy to be out of my cage,” William explained, stuffing his hands into his pockets. 

The guys grunted. “Any idea of what you’re going to say to them?” Heirny asked. 

“Not really,” he said, shrugging. “A little improvisation can’t hurt, right?”

“No, sir,” Samuel chuckled, shaking his head slowly. 

“Any ideas of what you’re going to say to them?”

The men blanched, looking at one another. “What do you mean?” Benjamin inquired hesitantly. 

“I mean that you, as their peers, should also voice your opinions. I’m like their superior. It’s not the same coming from me. They see it more as a command if anything.”

The group slowly nodded. William was young, that was for certain, but at times, his words were insightful. They continued to trot in silence until they reached the courtyard where soldiers were yelling at one another. William couldn’t tell if it was angry yelling, or orders being directed.

“Men,” he said, striding up to the group of red-faced soldiers. They all whipped around to look at him.

“Commander Blackwell,” they murmured, bowing their heads.

“Why are we yelling?” he asked, lifting an arched brow. 

“Sorry, sir. Personal affairs, m’lord.”

“So long as it does not ruin your ability to work together, it’s fine, but I can’t have my soldier unable to communicate just because one stole the other’s woman and such, understood?”

“M’lord, I don’t mean to sound childish, but he stole something very valuable from me: my mothers wedding ring, and sold it.” He glared at the wiry man beside him. “All so he could buy a fancy pair of gloves because he didn’t want to wash his other ones.”

“That’s not true! You tore a hole in my gloves, and I can’t ever replace those because that was the last gift from my wife, and you refused to either fix them, or pay for a new set, so I took matters into my own hands.”

“The last thing that they gave you, soldiers, were memories. A mortal item holds no value in the long run, but those memories will last forever.” Benjamin shook his head. “Kiss, make up, and get on your way.”

Samuel snorted at the ‘kiss’ part. “Something funny to you?” Heirny prodded, frowning at his friend. Sam quickly shook his head, doing his best to compose himself.

“Is everyone in the yard?” William asked the men who continued to squabble. 

“No, sir. They all went home, coming back for their shifts, but leaving right after. Everyone’s just drained,” the third party said, shrugging. “I wouldn’t be here if James wasn’t my ride.” He pointed at the man who first talked to William. 

The duke scowled. “And no one informs me of this stuff.” He sighed, running a hand down his face. “Very well. I want you three to send for them. I have something I need to discuss.”

They nodded, glancing at each other with wide eyes. William couldn’t care if it was of fear or question, or both. He himself was honestly… drained. He ushered the soldiers off, and started towards the stables, where he hoped the servants had prepared the horses. Not that he minded doing it himself. He enjoyed hanging out with the animals, quite truthfully. They weren’t talking nonsense in his ear, nor were they pressuring him to do his duties. 

When he got there, he found the stable boy, Buck, hugging William’s horse, Monarch. Some of the men teased the Duke about the feminine name that resembled the monarchy, but he shrugged the insults and jabs away. He’d named his horse after a butterfly, matter of fact. Her mane was pitch black, and her glossy coat shimmered like a flame in the evening sun. He was reminded of the beautiful butterflies that passed through the kingdom once a summer. Buck smiled at William, and William smiled back. He reached over and took the reins from the stable boy before ruffling the pale hair on the child’s head. “Thanks, kid.”

“Yessir!” he yipped, beaming. He skipped to the back and led three other horses to the entrance of the stable, passing them to Heirney, Samuel, and Benjamin. “Where are you going?”

William smiled. “Into the city. Just ready to get out.”

“Glad you’re better though!” Buck cheered, re-adjusting Monarch’s saddle. “I’ve missed the help around the stable.”

“The other boys are not doing their work?” William asked, canting his head.

“Meh. They stop by because Mother Teresa tells them to, but they don’t do anything. Not anything much anyway.”

“Well, I’ll give Mother Teresa a word when I get back.”

“And then can you teach me how to use a sword?” Buck begged, following them out of the barn.

“If you have Monarch’s stall really really clean by the time I get back, we can do anything you want, kiddo.”

“I’ll have it spotless by the time you’re back,” Buck claimed, putting his small hands on his hips.
 
“And I know you will,” the Duke acquiesced, boosting himself up into the saddle and digging his heels in, ushering Monarch forward. 

It had been a while since William traveled outside the iron gates. He was always in the palace, in the courtyard, or on the training ground. As they continued to gallop across the kingdom, they passed through a few small neighborhoods, one of which was his hometown, Ocagull. 

The place was far from how he remembered it. The old cobbled paths were now neatly covered in gravel. The sycamore tree that used to be in the center of town was replaced by a large fountain. The smell of the bakery that once taunted him was gone, replaced by the smoke of cigars from the men at the saloon. The park was well groomed, not the dead place it once was. Children giggled, chasing one another across the lush green lawn, and parents pushed their little ones in the metal swings. 

It was the perfect example of how far things had come. What places used to be neglected were now prioritised. And then they turned the corner. There was the little house that he had lived in for six years of his life. Some of the worst years. Nothing about the place had changed. Actually, it was quite pitiful compared to its surroundings. The blue walls were now grey, covered in thick vines on one side. He wondered if his real mother and father lived there still, but he didn’t want to stick around and find out, just in case they did. And just down the street, the spot where he was taken to a better place. The spot where his whole life changed. 

The spot his mother gave him up.

“You see that over there?” Heirny asked, pointing at a woman quickly walking away from two burly men. William supposed that was the one thing that never changed. The cruel people. 

William stirred his horse in their direction, his comrades following close behind. “Ma’am, are you okay?” Samuel asked as they approached. Heirny stayed with him while the Duke and Benjamin blocked the men with their horses.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, thank you.”

William stared into the eyes of one of the men, his heart speeding up. That voice brushed the back of his mind, touching something he’d kept locked in for so long. If anyone noticed his moment of shock, they didn’t say anything. Regaining composure, William sat tall in the saddle and glared at the men. “What did you think you were doing?”

“Nun’ yous business,” the taller one guffed, narrowing his beady eyes. He crossed his inked arms over his chest, glaring up at Duke Blackwell with such venom. 

“Actually, as a noble, and commander of the royal soldiers, it is my business,” William snarled back, looking down his nose at them, his lips curling in distaste. “Now, explain to me what you were doing.”

“Nuthin’, Commander. Nuthin’ unprovoked an’who,” the other one said, spitting into the grass. He glared at the woman to William’s back. “She be stealin’ our food.”

“Is this true?” Samuel asked her. 

“Uh.. uhm, no. No sir. It’s not.”

William turned his horse around, trotting up to her. “Benjamin, send them off,” he called over his shoulder. He slid off his steed and handed the reins to Heirny, facing her. “You stole it. I know for a fact that you did.”

Her blue eyes stared into his own, thinking for a moment. “You can’t possibly know that,” she hissed. 

“I very well can, Maud. I very well can.”

Something on her face melted, suddenly becoming weary. Her skin was loose, and William could tell she was malnourished. “Why are you here?” she asked, tucking her hands under her armpits.

William glared at her. “Because I’m able to. Don’t worry. I didn’t come to intrude in your life again, Mother.”

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  • December 14, 2020 - 1:54pm (Now Viewing)

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14 Comments
  • Mespotz

    AAHHH DID THE QUEEN WHO NEVER LIKED HIM TRY TO POISON HIM?

    Also I really love the name Monarch for a horse omg


    25 days ago
  • Mespotz

    Please can I be on the notif list?

    Thanks :D


    25 days ago
  • ava09 (sorta back)

    fhejgfhjeaskgfajskfihkekfa
    okay so i feel like the queen is poisoning him? but maybe not...idkk ahh
    the delivery service was amazing as always XD


    5 months ago
  • Fernweh

    re - i'm alright too i guess but way too much loaded with work...like *sigh*
    so you were FoxLilly too? wow, i didnt even notice, my, i have been unconnected for way too long
    my apologies
    i remember when you used to refer to yourself as FoxLilly, i used to be in awe of you, like you are so talented and i remember a few of your earlier pieces, how things have changed


    5 months ago
  • Fernweh

    re (again sorry) - i remember you now!!!!
    you're Just_A_Memory!!!
    heyyyyy, how are youuuu???


    5 months ago
  • Fernweh

    re - heya!
    thanks for the warm welcome
    i see people have changed their usernames with respect to the holiday cheer and so i couldn't recognize you!


    5 months ago
  • Stone of Jade

    ooh this is great!! and the delivery service was definitely 5-star XD
    also just a random question that i keep forgetting--what is the time/era of this story take place? like..is it medieval, modern-royalty, fantasy? i keep forgetting to ask but it is an important question bc it really helps picture the gorgeous imagery in your writing (in busssy.bee's too)


    5 months ago
  • Minvra

    Re: Chaol the chivalrous. Still on Tower of Dawn. My favorite book so far is Queen of Shadows.


    5 months ago
  • Rachaelgrace

    Oooooooooo I love this one! The descriptions of anger are so good! And the ending line: woah.
    Re: Thank you :)


    5 months ago
  • ANSON REYNOLDS

    *in awe. can't talk or type or anything* AGAHDAHFNEHIGB
    *still can't talk but can sing off key* it just keeeps gettingggg bettterrrrrrrr


    5 months ago
  • Minvra

    Court drama. That's all I can say. I think it's too obvious for it be directly Queen Hazel. Who knows, maybe she's a puppet.
    Though, you should check out A Throne of Glass (Sarah J. Maas) there's also a lot of drama I think you may enjoy.


    5 months ago
  • Deleted User

    NICE! This is such an interesting story! :D


    5 months ago
  • anemoia (#words)

    WHOA
    LOVED YOUR DELIVERY SERVICE
    I THINK HAZEL POISONED HIM


    5 months ago
  • Busssy.Beee

    :)


    5 months ago