A couple days later I woke up and suddenly realized I had
wedding to plan. My own! I was so shocked by the thought that for a
while I had no idea how to go about doing so. It didnít matter that I had
been part of doing such a thing for Elizabeth and Luke, and then had
practically planned all of Corneliaís and Arthurís. I was completely
useless for days. Jason was no help, he found my
being utterly lost amusing. I had written Cornelia the day after my
engagement, and it was only when I got a letter back from her, because of all
she said, that I started being able to wrap my mind around everything that was
After that, and with help from
The journey "home" was about a week long... which was much shorter than it should have been because most of it was by water instead of land.† The trip was awful. †I was sick almost the entire time.† I didn't think I would ever get used to boat travel, but by the last day my insides settled.† I was very thankful for that since my new home was right on the water and so when the ship docked and there were hordes of people waiting expectantly to see the heir of their Lord's title I was able to stand looking like my actual self.† I hadn't realized until that moment how important it was to Father Becket's people and lands that he be succeeded.
Many days were spent on my meeting the important people of the lands and traveling about to be seen by the masses.† I was surprised to see how different the towns and villages looked from those in the Carver's lands.† I understood the difference in the farms were the kinds of crops and cattle being raised.† But the villages were practically non-existent, more like gathering places along major roads the local farmers came to in order to sell or exchange their goods which were then otherwise abandoned.† The towns were imposing compared to what I was used to.† Every single one had a stone wall around it and at least two armed gate keepers on duty, even during the day.† I was very well received everywhere I went.† The people seemed to love me, though it was most likely they loved that they would not be falling under the rule of some other family.† I wasn't told hardly anything about their concerns and fears, but it was evident from their faces my presence was potentially saving them from something they dreaded.
Back at the castle that was my home for the rest of my life, I wasn't able to determine much more.† It was very frustrating for me.† Back at the Carver's I could get information on just about anything going on that I wanted to because I was a part of the servant network of the castle and a close friend of the nobles.† At Becket's I was solely nobility... and it was not deemed necessary for me to know all the details of any and every thing that went on.† The wealthy and clergy did not tell me anything unless I specifically asked.† But how could I when I didn't even know the right questions?† The servants seemed almost afraid to talk to me.† None ever looked at me when they spoke, though they always looked at me when I spoke to them.† It was Very disconcerting.
I didn't have a lot of time to dwell on such things.† Between learning the intricacies of the household and planning the wedding and corresponding with Jason, Cornelia, Doctor Limir, and Mikel, I had very little time to worry.† I did manage to break the servants who interacted the most with me of treating me like I was more than just a person.† And I made friends with the head cook, Melissa, when she found me hiding in the pantry one day.† She was the only servant I had met to that time who had no issues speaking her mind, even to nobility.† I was promptly put in my place, which was an interesting experience as she managed to put me in my proper place of being nobility while retaining hers of being a head servant and yet still was able to scold me quite thoroughly.† By the end of it I couldn't hold my composure any longer and was laughing outright.† Melissa found me a "refreshing breath of sunshine".† From then on I was welcome in her kitchen any time I needed to get away.
Jason visited me many times over the next few months.† Every time he arrived it was as if we hadn't seen each other in years.† Father Becket seemed pleased to have Jason around as much as Jason wanted to be, and even made sure Jason was introduced to and forming proper relationships with the important people of the lands before was necessary.† Jason always seemed happy when I saw him, no matter what was going on.† He said so long as he was at least holding my hand he could help but be happy.† I felt the same way.
A couple times Matthew had come with Jason.† It was always fun to see him.† He would bow and kiss my hand and say all sorts of flowery things and do other kinds of things that were not his typical manner.† It was all done playfully.† I found the game great fun, and would act my part in turn with as much restrained humor as I could muster.† Matthew did tell me once that he was proud of how I was handling everything and that I made a beautiful Lady.† I told him he got some of the credit for taking care of me as well as he had and helping educate me on our journey.
Mikel and our friends arrived a couple months after I first had.† I was elated to see them all.† Mikel said very little as usual, but his eyes told me volumes.† He had come to see if what they had heard was actually true.† He was happy for me, yet somewhat surprised I was fitting in so well.† He knew me very well, and I did confess in private my issues with how I was treated by most people.† He told me not to worry.† As time passed and \my personality became known people would adjust to me the way I wanted.† The group as a whole greatly enjoyed the idea they now not only knew a noble but were friends with one.† Their wanderlust eventually took hold, but they promised they would be back for my wedding now that they knew the way.
Cornelia arrived a month before my wedding to help me with final details and to run the whole affair for me.† From the moment she arrived she was glowing and I could tell she was holding a big secret.† I assumed it was a surprise for me for my wedding.† It took a few days but I finally got out of her the secret, and was shocked when she told me she was pregnant!† She then apologized for not coming earlier to help me and said it was because she had a very hard time getting Arthur to let her leave his sight after he had found out.† She also said he would be arriving within a week to be stuck by her side again, he hadn't come with her only because there had been pressing business at home.
We celebrated her and her child for the rest of the
day.† Then she insisted that all the
attention must be on me and the wedding until at least it had passed.†
In the midst of all the happiness of those four months I did manage to find out some of what was going on in my new lands through the history lessons I was being given.† We had been at war off and on for generations.† It had started as a land dispute over a hundred years before, grown into a heritage dispute over the next thirty years, which was tentatively settled by the church.† The terms of which dictated that any break in direct lineage would cause the title of these lands to be forfeit and the rule to be turned over to the rival family that had disputed the heritage rights. †The peace that settlement brought lasted for not quite a decade, until Lady Becket of the time gave birth to a fourth son for her Lord.† The rival family, incensed at what was obviously going to evermore prevent them from claiming what they believed was rightfully theirs, started a new war by managing to kill the three oldest children.† The worst part of that war lasted three years.† After that the enemy managed to fight the Beckets back to a standstill that lasted six more years.† The enemy finally gave up their border lands to the Becket's as an end to the war after the apparent disappearance of the fourth son was confirmed as truth.† The boy could not be found by anyone.† The reasoning for giving away land was they would be getting the border lands back and more once the current Lord Becket died.† Apparently there were several cases of attempted poisoning of the Lord Becket of the time before his actual death.†
The fourth son had been Father Becket's grandfather.†† His disappearance was a planned one by his family to insure his survival during the war.† He had been sent to a monastery, with a substantial donation, where he lived for four years.† He had been told by his parents he would know it was time to come home when his wife came to fetch him.† They spent the four years searching for the perfect woman, one who came from a large family to be sure she would be able to give him many children as well.† When the arrangement had been made in secret with the girl's father, she was sent to retrieve her husband to be.† They were married the day after the couple arrived home.† The whole plan worked quite successfully.† Within five years there were three children, two girls and one boy.† Four years later another boy was born.
More fighting occurred sporadically over the forty years between then and current time, consisting of one actual war, three strings of related skirmishes, and the rest being isolated attacks that were turned back by the standing and well trained army Becket's lands raised.† The Beckets had no desire to take any more land by force then they already ruled.† They had suffered much too many losses over the decades to know that the price of obtaining more land that way was much too high.† But the enemy didn't seem to have learned that lesson, or perhaps that family passed down its bitterness and anger over history to each generation.† Whatever the reason, Becket's lands kept a standing and well trained army even during what seemed to be peaceful times.† And was proven many times to be thankful for having done so.
The part I thought was most relevant to me was that the last many years the enemy had been pushing against the Becket army with new effort.† They saw their opportunity to make good their forefathers' claim due to recent history.† But they weren't being as patient as their ancestors had been about simply waiting for the current Lord Becket to die.† Father Becket had no children, his first wife had died in childbirth along with the baby.† He remarried three years later but his second wife died barren two years ago after ten years of marriage.† He had not found another wife since then due to many factors, most of which I was not informed about, only the escalating battles with the enemy.† While Father Becket had cousins through both his aunts and his uncle, it didn't matter.† The settlement agreed to by both sides had explicitly stated directly lineage inheritance only, and since Father Becket had inherited title it had to be his child to maintain it.
All of a sudden I felt a Lot more pressure than those I had been of becoming a Lady of a household and lands.† I realized I was the only hope for an heir for the lands.† I also finally understood why everyone was So happy to see me beyond there being an heir apparent.† As a woman, and specifically one of my age of fifteen, there was a much better chance of a next generation heir in the near future than if Lord Becket had brought home a son.
My whole life changed again a week before my wedding was scheduled.† The Carver household arrived days early, which I didn't mind at all.† I was already prepared for them knowing they would be in at some point shortly before the wedding so they could participate.† It was when Mikel and company arrived that things turned bad.† I had been informed of their arrival, and that John wasn't with them.† I was on my way with Cornelia to greet them and find out what had happened when I saw Mikel lumbering his way through the corridors with guards chasing behind in an attempt to catch him.† I called them off telling them it was okay.† But I could see from Mikel's expression things most definitely were NOT.
He took me by the shoulders and told me I had to leave.† Immediately.† I didn't get a chance to protest or even ask why as he turned me round and began to march me to my room to pack.† Cornelia had to hustle to keep up with us, yet managed to berate him and demand he let me go the entire way.† He ignored her.† She was appalled and infuriated, but knowing by looking at him she couldn't actually force him to do anything she stormed off.† At my room I did as he bade me, but said I would only do so if he informed me as to what was going on.† It wasn't that I didn't trust him, I was simply extremely curious as to what was going on and knew if it was in fact that important that he would tell me to keep me from wasting valuable time.† He started to tell that a group of warriors had managed to bypass the army and were on their way to the castle and that John had been taken directly to a doctor after the group's encounter with them.† He wouldn't elaborate any more he said until we were on our way to safety.† When Cornelia returned with several guards to bring to my aid against Mikel did he finally let me do something against what he wished.† It was actually the same group that had been sent by Father Becket to find me and bring me to him.† So I was forced to the wishes of someone else for the time being.
Cornelia and Mikel accompanied me, Mikel with great annoyance.† When we reached the court room we found Phillip and Joshua, and to my surprise Matthew, in audience with Father Becket and Jason.† Both Lords and Ladies Carver arrived shortly after I did.† Jason ran to me and hugged me tight.† Lord Becket came to the two of us and put his hands on our shoulders protectively.† He looked at the older Lord and Lady Carver for a moment.† Jason released me but took hold of my arm in a manner that told me he would not be letting go any time soon.† He turned to Phillip and told him to tell us all.† Phillip proceeded to tell us that a not large but not small group was on its way to the castle as we spoke.† They had encountered the group after finding and following some odd trampling through the forest for the area they had been traveling in.† They had managed to gain some of the enemy's plan before being discovered.† Which was when they discovered just how formidable a group the enemy were.† John was dead to rights, but for whatever reason he was refusing to let go.† However, since he would hold up the other four of them, they had turned him over to a doctor at the nearest town and then traveled day and night through paths known only to adventurers like Joshua to beat the enemy to the castle.† I noticed then that Joshua was without his bow, and quickly realized with horror that one of his arms was laying limp against his side.† Phillip believed they had only beaten the enemy by a day at best.
Father Becket said that would be enough time.† He immediately turned to the Captain of his forces and told him to call back all local squads to defend the castle, even those in the nearest city.† He then told another chief servant to take word around the castle to turn out all the children and untrained people to the nearest city, for that would soon be safer than the castle.† It turned out he had been planning for such a possibility for a very long time, ever since his first wife became pregnant I realized as everyone seemed to know exactly what to do and how and without any shock or fear.† While we waited for news to return on his orders, Father Becket told the Carvers he had no contingency plan for them, but if they could leave by night fall he would give them a boat so they would not be reachable by the enemy.
The next few hours were a blur.† At some point a lone survivor of one of our border patrols arrived weary from the long and incredibly intense journey.† He had traveled straight through to bring word that a group of about a few dozen of the enemy had broken through defenses two days ago. †He had come from a different direction than Mikel's group, which meant there were two groups on their way.†
I didn't pack much of anything.† There wasn't much I needed.† I was mostly concerned for my family and friends.† It was clear Matthew, Phillip and Joushua did not intend to leave until after I did no matter how much I begged them to.† I knew better than to think I could keep Mikel from staying, in fact Father Becket had to make a special shift in plans to accommodate that Mikel was not going to let me go anywhere without him.† I prayed quite often during those few hours, begging and pleading with God to let everyone get out in time and protect my family along their way.
I was taking a moment's break out from the intensity of it all, watching as the masses fled† quite orderly through the courtyard and out of the castle towards the relative safety of the nearby city, when I saw an abrupt change in movement even before the cries could be heard.† A handful of men were riding in with abandon, one falling off his horse in a very unnatural way as it came to a stop in the courtyard.† I jumped and pointed and began yelling myself.† The enemy was only minutes away the messengers proclaimed in unison as loud as they could.† Jason's arm was around my waist and I was being lifted away from the window.† Mikel cursed behind us, and muttered that they must have assumed his group would warn us and hurried their movement as well.
Father Becket appeared as if from nowhere.† Or perhaps my perception was confused by all
the happened seemingly all at once.† All
the men were instantly armed.† Father
Becket had a quartet of guards stay around me from that moment until we made it
out.† I refused to leave without my
We found all the Carvers, except Jason who had been with me,
hurrying down the stairs towards the docks.†
The three men of that group were armed also.† Lord Carver had the most intense protectiveness
about him I'd ever seen. †Luke's demeanor
nearly mirrored his father's, I couldn't recall a time when the two looked more
alike than that moment.† Arthur looked
scared.† Cornelia was holding his arm
very tightly, but as soon as she saw me her face brightened and she smiled as
if she knew we were going to be alright.†
We started to continue down the stairs.† By the time we reached ground level we saw a fight moving up the stairs towards us.† The back most officer in the group saw us and called up to Father Becket that this way to the docks was blocked, but the lines defending the docks had not been broken.† Father Becket grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the courtyard, informing Lord Carver there was another way.† It was longer but would definitely be secured once we made it through the courtyard.
The enemy had arrived in full force by then.† The courtyard was a bloody battleground.† Dozens of people cowered around the edges.† Thankfully none of the enemies seemed concerned with them.† As we started to pass through guards and army officers formed up moving lines, providing us a sort of hallway through the fighting.† Halfway through one of the enemy pointed at Father Becket and raised some kind of awareness alarm.† Suddenly our protection was being swarmed by the enemy attempting to get to him.† They even seemed to fight more viciously than they had been, and suddenly arrows started flying as if from nowhere.† No where I could readily see that is.† Two of my four personal guards were shot down during the next minute.† Father Becket pushed me into Jason's arms, and told everyone to stay with me.† He put his hand on my cheek and look deep into my eyes for what seemed like both a very long moment and the quickest second ever.† Then he put a hand on Jason's shoulder.† For a moment I thought he would never let go.† He told us to marry each other and be happy.† And if he survived, he'd see us after the honeymoon.† Then he was gone, disappeared into a mass of his personal protectors which disappeared into the mass of the battle.† My first instinct was to go after him, but Jason's hold on me tightened.† Then Lord Carver was before me, looking down on me with something I couldn't determine through the tears welling in my eyes.† After a second all he said was for me to lead them to the docks.
Father Becket's departure did indeed divert attention from us.† We made it safely across the courtyard.† Most all of the fighters who had been protecting us formed up two lines behind us to cover our departure.† The rest stayed ahead of us.† Just as we started to move through the archway I lost the other two of my personal guards and one of the army officers we had picked up along the way.† We were all surprised to find a handful of the enemy laying in wait.† They must have known somehow this was the only way we had to the docks, and that our only hope of escape would be the docks.† They were likely expecting Father Becket, but it didn't matter any more.
Luke, Jason and Lord Becket took up the front line with the last of Becket's men.† Lady Carver rounded us girls... women up into a small group against the nearest wall, and pulled an officer off the line behind us to stand guard of us.† Mikel stood next to the man, but specifically next to me.† I felt awful.† I felt like I should be up there too, defending my own life.† I kept thinking how horrible a coward I was.† Someone's sword clanged to the ground nearby and slid to a stop near my feet.† I looked at it, and my insides twisted as memories from throughout my life came rushing to mind.† When Jason cut my arm.† When I killed that man.† When Mikel first spoke to me.† Turned from the sword, grabbing at the wall to steady myself as I closed my eyes tight to try and shut out the memories and the pain they caused.† I felt Cornelia's hand on my back.† I vaguely heard her asking me if I was alright.†
Suddenly I heard a splashing sound and
As we got away from the courtyard the number of enemies lessened,
but they still seemed to be everywhere, and we were separated from Mikel when he took on three to give us a way to pass.† I mostly back peddled while fighting and
following after the other three, counting on Cornelia to alert me if there was
an enemy coming from the front.† I was lucky
not to have to face more than one opponent at a time.† My reflexes were enough to cover for my no
longer having a shield.† But they weren't
able to save me from the arrow I didn't see coming.† It hit me from the front in my left
shoulder.† It wasn't as painful as I
would have expected, I inhaled through gritted teeth at the pain.† At the same moment I heard
There was one last open area between us and the docks.† Not nearly as large as the courtyard and the
training grounds we had already gone through.†
On the other side I could see Becket's men... my men... still had the
docks secured.† I called over my shoulder
to Cornelia for them to keep close to the wall as we made our way across, it
would be the safest.† Two enemies
followed us out, and I managed to take care of each in turn.† But in between the two an archer on the wall
above spotted me before I him.† His arrow struck me in the stomach.† Less pain than the first.†
Once the three were in the shelter of the first corridor I
started to head back towards the castle.†
Cornelia grabbed me from behind, confused and very worried.† She asked aren't I coming with them?† I shook my head and turned around for the
first time in a while.† All of them
gasped in surprise.† I looked down at
myself for a second, then back up at them.†
I told them I was already dead.† I
told them to get themselves home, and that I was going to go back while I still
could to help get rest of our family out.†
Lady Carver looked helpless for the first time I'd ever seen.† She put her arm around her daughter's
shoulder as Cornelia began to cry.†
Cornelia shook her loose and quickly grabbed me in a tight hug. †She started to beg me not to go, but not for
very long as sobbing over took her.† I
hugged her back and much as I dared, and told her I loved her.†
I kept looking over my shoulder as I made my way back to the castle, watching the women of my family leave.† Cornelia kept looking back at me at the same moments, her eyes were horribly sad for as long as I could see them.
Once back in the castle I looked around for the rest of my
family.† Luke was the easiest to find, he
was on his way down from the wall.† His
eyes went wide at seeing me up close.†
Before either he could say anything I told him I loved him, calling him
by his name, and thanked him for being my brother when he didn't have to
be.† I told him
As he left for the docks I headed towards the training grounds.† There I found Lord Carver and Jason back peddling from around a corner.† Several of my men arrived as well, apparently everyone was regrouping there.† I stepped into the fighting to help against the few opponents currently around.† Once they were all taken care of everyone took stock.† Jason was so shocked at seeing me he fell to his knees.† "Faith... no..." he said over and over.† I kissed him, I couldn't think of anything else to do.†
I don't know how much time passed.† The next thing I knew the enemy was back in force.† But the more important fight occurred between Lord Carver, Jason, and I as each of them tried to get the other to leave while it was still safe and I trying to make them both leave.† It was all verbal arguing as we had actual physical fights to deal with as well.† It didn't actually take long at all to convince Jason, much to my surprise.† He suddenly left willingly.† Lord Carver then stepped up next to me and gave me a look I've never seen before from him, only from Doctor Limir.† He didn't say anything, only fought beside me.
After a while I started to feel my strength slipping.† I had been fighting too long, the exhilaration that dulled pain and heightened senses was wearing off.† I faltered on a block, and was sure that was it.† But a sword intercepted it for me.† I followed it with my eyes to see the owner of the sword was Mikel.† He looked extremely angry.† Behind him I saw Phillip.
Within minutes I was on my knees.† The battle started to sound far away.† I felt a hand on my arm.† When I turned I saw Jason kneeling next to me.† I couldn't be upset he had returned, despite my trust in God I was scared. †I hugged Jason as tightly as I was able.† As he held me I started to feel that everything would be okay.† He pulled me away from him slightly and looked up at a man I didn't recognize and ordered the man to marry us.† Quickly.
It was then I noticed Matthew was with us also.† I thought I should have realized he would have been wherever Jason was in all this.† Matthew, Mikel, Phillip, Lord Carver and Arthur - I hadn't noticed his arrival - circled the Priest, Jason and I.† The ceremony was short and sweet as the battle raged on in the background.† When the Priest indicated, Jason took the ring he had given me what now seemed so long ago off of the chain around my neck and put it on my finger.† I took his signet ring off his hand and put the one Father Becket had given me on him.† Somehow the Priest had a small amount of blessed wine and bread for our communion.† We kissed at the end of the benediction.† A long wonderful kiss.†
I lost the rest of my strength during the kiss, Jason had to hold me to keep me from falling the rest of the way to the ground.† He laid me down gently and brushed my hair out of my face.† I took his hand and smiled at him.† But then he was pulled away from me.† I thought I saw Father Becket doing so, saying Jason had to leave Now.† Jason struggled enough to be able to bend to my ear and tell me he loved me more than anything, he would always love me, and he would be with me again one day in Heaven. †Things started to get blurry.† I couldn't see Jason leave.† I could only see things directly above me.† I realized I couldn't really hear anymore either, unless it was right next to me.
I watched the clouds over head for a while.† The sky looking so peaceful.† Light dimmed further... and I started to see strange things.† Colors, which turned into pictures, that formed into scenes.† I witnessed my own memories, from as far back as I could remember to now.† There was no sound, but I knew everything that was being said so it didn't matter.
Now the light dims again, this time in my memories.† My life Is at its end, I know.† But... there's something... very odd... very different....† I can se- no, feel something.† As if... I'm being held.† I can feel hands.† I can feel... eyes.† Eyes looking at me, intently, staring at me... as if seeing right into me... eyes... watching me... reading me?†
You.† You can see me?