Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Shattering of the Rose, final

and the final piece is set into place...the one that turns Brayden at last into Tam Lyn, and the one that will eventually change all their lives forever...

Park                                              Brayden                                                      Jennie                                                  Val  

Another awesome collage done by Jessica... :) she makes me want to write epic... XD

The Prince! The Prince is dead!
Brayden jerked awake, his heart pounding. But the waking was worse than the nightmare, and he shut his eyes, resting his head against the doorframe at his back, wishing he could block out the swirling memories of the past few days. Of that last wild pre-dawn ride with Park, racing their horses full out across the moors…of reaching the Ridge, only to find Prince Edward not there...of waiting until worry rode homeward with them…of arriving at the castle and finding it in utter confusion.
The Prince was dead, killed by a fall from one of those wild horses he insisted upon keeping in his stable. The news had been thrown at them in the chaos of the moment, and they heard it in a shock that held them motionless. But then his eyes had met Park’s, and the next instant they were both dashing headlong for the palace, Brayden’s heart nearly flying from his chest.
He opened his eyes, staring into the darkness that surrounded him. They’d known, he and Park, so soon as the reason for the prince’s death had been given, that it was murder. The queen had finally made her move, days before Edward’s coronation, just weeks after his wedding. At first they had feared a complete coup, and the safety of Edward’s new bride had been their greatest concern.
But the Princess Natalia was fine. So fine as an orphan princess and a newly made widow could be. And fine she would remain so long as Brayden had breath left in his body.  What more the queen was planning, he did not know, but of the fact she had a plan, there was not the shadow of a doubt. He just had to learn what it was, he and Park.
Brayden got to his feet, unable to sit still longer. Everyone knew the three of them had been like brothers, and surely no one knew better than the queen. She had told them they must include Henrik just the same, and they had thought her insane—they had known each other seven years before she married the king and brought a son from her previous marriage to live in the palace…half the time they spoke to each other in riddles, not even meaning to; no boy could share in that, not unless he had lived through it all with them.
Henrik. Brayden scowled, walking the thin strip of moonlight in the outer room, up and down. Even had he lived through it with them, he was one who would not have shared that closeness anyway. What he would do now was anyone’s guess. Did the queen plan to crown him, in place of Edward?
If she had so much as an inkling that they suspected the truth, Brayden thought, he would be dead, as would Park. They had to convince her they were on her side, that their only wish was for the country to be in good hands, that they had no opinion on the next reigning sovereign of Aviemore. He grimaced at the thought of such falsehoods.
He wanted the Princess Natalia to be queen, but as Park had pointed out last night, not only did they know next to nothing about her capabilities as a ruler, but Edward had not been crowned. Queen Christina was yet queen, only she was no longer carrying out her late husband’s plans for his son’s marriage and coronation. Did the prince’s widow, married such a short time, have any right at all to take the place of the woman who had been at the king’s side for years? If the king’s adopted son took the throne after such unfortunate accidents had befallen the royal bloodline, could any say him nay?
Brayden nearly cringed at the thought. He did not know what they should do, if there even was anything they could do, he only knew they must keep the princess safe. If that were all they could do for their country…Heaven help Aviemore.
He paused his pacing at the thought, glancing towards the princess’s door. In the silence that followed his footsteps, he became suddenly aware of a sound in the next room. Stepping closer to the door, he realize she was crying.
He leaned against the door, closing his eyes again, feeling as if he should not be listening. And yet…there was something so hopeless in the sound, so utterly alone. She had no kin here, no one she knew…even her childhood nurse had died before she came to this place. She seemed half afraid of the ladies in waiting, and he, for one, could not blame her.
A sudden resolve took him, and he turned, knocking softly on the door.
“Princess,” he said, then raised his voice just slightly. “Princess, I’m coming in.”
There was no response, and he carefully opened the door. Princess Natalia was sitting on the floor before the fire, one of Edward’s greatcoats thrown over her shoulders. She did not look up as he entered, but he bowed anyway, stopping short in the doorway.
“Are...” he began, then bit the sentence off. Of course she was not all right. “Is there anything I can get you, your highness?” he asked instead. He did not wholly expect a reply, and he was not surprised when she answered without raising her head, her voice muffled in her arms.
Her words, however, he was not prepared for, and the pain in her voice almost made him flinch.
“Can you keep me alive?”
He took an unconscious step towards her, going down on one knee at the side of the fireplace.
“I will keep you alive,” he said gently, then realized how far short of her grief those words came. She was abandoned in a strange country, among a strange people, and the one person whose responsibility it was to care for and love her had just died.
“I swear I will protect you, Princess, for Prince Edward’s sake,” he whispered. She raised her head, looking into the fire and he could see the tears trembling on her long lashes.
“And for your own,” he added, aching at the thought of her loss. She did not even know how much she had missed, but he did. He and Park had both known Edward since childhood, had both heard him raving about the girl he was to marry, and knew there was nothing he would not do for her. The two barely knew each other, and her short stay in the palace in the weeks before and after the wedding was scarcely enough time to truly understand each other…but he knew Edward had gone into the marriage prepared to fall madly in love with her.
The princess turned her head slowly to look up at him, her eyes glistening in the firelight. For a long moment she merely looked at him, before at last taking a shaky breath.

“Then…will you protect my child?”

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