Warrior’s Bride (Pt 6)

Chapter Six
Harbin once more shook hands with Cadell, both smiling at the other as her uncle spoke, his words causing a confused frown to sit on her smooth brow. “I will see you soon Cadell… And in much happier circumstances I hope”, her captor nodding with a firm movement of his head.
As Harbin turned, his eyes fell on her, her uncle giving Tialla a big wink as he spun round and, with his procession, once more moved back out of the throne room. Moving to stand by her side, Cadell ordered his men to leave, declaring that he wished to be alone with the princess, Tialla hearing him call her respectfully by her title for the first time since they met.
As the room emptied she leapt to her feet, her chin raised defiantly. “Can I assume that my uncle explained what would happen if you and your thugs did not leave my realm immediately?”
Cadell raised his eyebrows, a hint of laughter in his eyes as he moved closer to where she stood, Tialla feeling a small shudder run through her as he towered over her, his imposing figure closer than she was comfortable with. “I think that you will find princess, that had my men been ‘thugs’ then your realm would be in a very bad way. My men are trained and have a very strict code by which they live. They do not hurt the innocent, because if they did then they would have to answer to me.”
She glared malevolently back at him. “You dare to say that to me. You attacked us with no warning and with no reason… Everybody who was hurt here today was innocent.”
He nodded softly, moving back a little from her. “The casualties were regrettable”, her look disbelieving as she spluttered on his word choice, his hand rising to silence her as he held her look, his sombre. “However, believe me, if it had not been I then it would have been another… And his men would have sacked the city and put many to the sword.”
In almost an accusatory whisper she glowered at him. “So you are telling me that I should be thankful… Because you were the better of two evils?”
Cadell grimaced. “Well it does take from the sentiment when you put it like that.”
Standing as tall as she could, stood regally, her head held high, she spoke with an air of authority, “Get out of my province Cadell of Karok and take your army with you.”
He regarded her for several seconds, admiring the woman for her bravery. She was a fighter he could tell, and incredibly beautiful, Harbin’s marriage solution one which was at that moment holding a great deal of attraction to him. “No.” His one word answer saw confusion cross her eyes, her brow furrowing, her mouth opening to speak more as he stepped forward towards the doors. “Come princess – allow me to have you escorted back to your ladies. I think that we will eat together in an hour, give you a chance to present yourself in a more seemly manner, also it will give you a chance to improve your mood and then discuss what is to be done.”
Tialla wanted to stamp her foot, to scream at this man, to demand answers, however already he had reached the door, pulling it wide to direct his men to escort her once more to her ladies. Stepping forward, head high, she scowled as he gave her a mocking half-bow, caustic words swallowed down as she once more returned to her quarters.
Her ladies were relieved to see her return, even more so to see her covered demurely with the cloak. Nadia threw herself at her feet. “I am sorry my princess”, tears in her eyes, “I put you in danger”, her voice shaking as her head dropped. “I deserve to be punished.”
Tialla placed her hand on her handmaiden’s shoulder, directing her back to her feet. “No Nadia… I did not feel comfortable with the plan in the first place. You did not know what you were going into. He could have put you straight to the sword, and you were prepared to die for me.”
Nadia nodded, her face still full of misery. “Always my princess, but he knew. I failed to protect you.”
For the first time a smile rose to Tialla’s lips. “No Nadia. He is not called Cadell the Cunning for nothing. You have nothing to apologise for… And I will not see you punished for offering your life for mine.”
The handmaiden looked at her mistress, her eyes shining with thanks and devotion as she whispered with real feeling, “I WOULD die for you my princess.”
Tialla took her hand, squeezing it assuredly. “Well, let us hope that nobody is going to die, shall we?”
Throwing off the cape, the women stared at her in stunned shock, seeing the silks she now wore, her eyes warning them not to ask as they ran in different directions to retrieve more appropriate clothing for her.
As the sands ran to the hour, there was a knock on the door, her ladies looking nervous knowing that she was once more meeting with the barbarian now controlling their realm. Tialla had remained silent, refusing to discuss the meeting, instead dressing in her most regal robes, her hair once more styled on her head, this time her crown also sitting on her head, she wanting him to know that she was still the ruler of the province.
As the door was opened, she was surprised to see Cadell himself waiting on the other side, now dressed in more suitable garments, no weapons visible, the ladies shaking seeing the man who had terrified them in the throne room. With an ease which saw Tialla have to fist her small hands to hold down the anger, he stepped with ease into the room, his handsome features smiling at the women as he gave a small bow. “Ladies, I must apologise for our first meeting. However, sometimes one has to use techniques which would otherwise be abhorrent to us”, his eyes falling on Nadia, “I especially offer my apologies to you. It was brave of you to take your princess’s place.”

{next installment due 14th Jan 2015}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 5)

Chapter Five
Cadell sat silently listening as the other man spoke. “You and I Cadell, we are warriors forged in war. We can win battles and bring provinces to their knees… But what then? It is harder to keep the peace than it is to win a war. Tialla on the other hand, she is loved by her people… And mine. Not because she rules with fear, but because she understands the needs of those people. She knows how to keep peace.” His smile grew wider. “Did you know that she has implemented a system whereby her people receive monetary assistance in times of hardship, or that she is opening schools, free to all?”
Cadell raised an eyebrow in surprise. “I did not”, his voice reflecting his surprise.
Harbin nodded once more. “She is only 23, however she is the most intelligent, kind and loved person I have met. But I worry for her Cadell. Both she and her realm are easy targets, as you have so well this day proven. She is a peaceful woman and her armies are not well trained. She needs a man who will provide her with security and reign alongside her. However, she has refused each and every prince and warlord who has approached her, and I worry for her if she does not marry soon.”
Cadell frowned, “Are you suggesting I marry your niece Harbin?”, his tone full of the surprise he felt.
Harbin locked eyes with the younger warrior. “Yes. She will make a fine queen and compliment a man like you Cadell. She will provide strong children and she will love them because it is in her nature. In return you will provide both her and her realm the security they so badly need, and by marrying her you will gain myself as an ally… And I will admit, make me more confident about what happens to my own realm when I die.”
Cadell gave a small growl standing as he moved to the wall, leaning on it as he surveyed the man before him. “Not many men have the power to surprise me Harbin, but this was not the conversation I believed we would be having… Marriage was not something I had planned for some time.”
With another chuckle, Harbin nodded. “You are a mighty warrior Cadell. You should have a family”, his tone growing sadder, “Do not make the mistake I did and leave it too long… Having heirs is important – when you get to my age it is everything.”
Harbin could see the way the other man looked upwards, deep in thought, before his head fell once more to meet his look. “And will your niece agree to be my wife?”, his lips quirking softly, “I have not made the best impression on her so far.”
Standing and moving forward Harbin laughed loudly, “Well I cannot disagree with you there, but I am sure that a man like you can soon bring her round to seeing the benefits of such a marriage… You will certainly have my blessing. She is a dear girl, but perhaps a little headstrong. I promise you that you will not find her boring.”
For the first time a genuine smile appeared on Cadell’s features, Harbin noting how it gave him a gentler look, “Yes… Your niece has already pulled a knife on me.”
Harbin laughed even louder. “Now that sounds like my Tialla.”
Stepping forward Cadell offered his arm, the other man grasping his forearm also, an understanding struck between the two. “I look forward to calling you family Cadell”, his voice sincere as the warrior smiled back, another chuckle leaving him. “And for what it’s worth, in my experience women are more amenable when not shackled to the ground.”
Cadell’s lips quirked as he nodded, laughter in his eyes, “Well let us hope that when released she does not go for my throat”, both men moving towards the door to the throne room once more.
Tialla sat as though carved in stone, her every nerve taut as the men laughed, many making suggestive comments. When the door to the chamber opened, her head flew to it, hoping that somehow her uncle would have achieved the impossible, praying that she would soon be free, her province released. With eyes which grew wider with stunned shock, she took in the way the two men moved together towards the throne, both laughing like old friends, a bitter taste in her mouth. So she was betrayed and thrown to the beast of a man who had attacked her for no reason other than his own lust for power, hatred in her eyes as she stared at Cadell.
As the two reached where she knelt Cadell moved to hunch down before her, his look taking in the hatred in her eyes. She had been stunned to feel his hands release the collar around her throat, shocked even more as he took her hand lifting her to her feet. Retrieving the cloak dropped earlier by her handmaiden he draped it around her shoulders before indicating that she take the throne. Staring at her uncle in confusion she saw as his head inclined gently, a small sign of encouragement, before she moved to sit. She was aware of the difference in the other men as they stood taller, their eyes flicking to each other, no longer staring at her with lecherous eyes, their looks more guarded, respectful.

{next installment 23rd December}