Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Shattering of the Rose, Part II

As requested, another moment from Tam's before-the-story life! :) And these are unpolished to be sure, but they certainly helped me get a better grasp of the story, and I enjoyed writing them. I hope you have fun reading them! :D 

The Brayden who is coming... Thank you, Jessica! :)

The palace steps were more packed than he had ever seen them. Brayden planted his feet sturdily in place and shoved back when the pressing crowd crowded in too close. Beside him, his mother rose on her tiptoes, a pink flush upon her cheeks and a glad sparkle in her eyes. He smiled to see her so, and craned his neck to see down to the far gate, where the first part of the returning procession was already visible. But he was not tall enough to see any further, and he sighed, resigning himself to waiting yet longer before catching a glimpse of his father’s face.
It was a small matter; soon enough he would be riding beside his father, and there would be no more more of this dreadful waiting. Or at least, so his mother said. Her definition of soon, though, did not seem to match his own.
A sharp whistle rose above the crowd’s restless cheering, and Brayden’s eyes darted about until he saw the whistler, a boy his own age, red tunic unwrinkled, olive skin scrubbed clean and shaggy black hair actually combed. Seldom enough did Park look so presentable, not that he was ever exactly dirty—Park was far too careful for that; some of the boys had even dared call him girly, before he pummeled them completely and forced them to take it back, despite being half their size—but there was always something off about him, whether it was a lost hat or missing buttons. Not so today. But of course, his father was coming back today also.
Brayden grinned back at him, waving happily. Park shouted something to him, but he was too far away and the crowd too loud to be heard.  He shrugged, and cupped one hand behind his ear. The boy opened his mouth to yell again, then clapped his hand suddenly over his mouth, glancing back over his shoulder.
The tall woman behind him, dressed in black, white-gold curls set perfectly in place, marble features utterly without emotion, did not so much as glance at him, however, but stood perfectly still. Her face seemed a strange contrast to the joyful chaos that filled the courtyard, and Brayden feel a shiver crawl down his spine. He glanced at his own mother, feeling pride rise in him again as she clapped her hands, giddy as a girl. The men deserved a hero’s welcome, and his father, at least, he knew would get one.
The screaming at the front of the crowd suddenly increased, and then he could hear it also, the sound of a great company of horseman, clattering in through the gates. At last they were back.
And finally he could see the king at the front, and the great black stallion on which he rode. The standard waved above the king, and Brayden straightened his shoulders, standing as tall as he could. The king threw up his hand, and the company halted. A moment later and they were dismounting, and the lords of the court were going to meet their ladies. But still Brayden had not caught a glimpse of him, and a frown crossed his face as his eyes searched the group nearest the king. 
The king broke away from the group, and started up the steps, his ermine-trimmed cloak sweeping along behind him.
It was the prince, running down the steps to greet his father, and Brayden grinned again. Prince Edward, now…he was no stuffy, spoiled princeling. Brayden had heard enough around the palace the past few weeks to be sure of that. It was good, he thought, to be in a place where the prince was not afraid to let anyone see how he felt.
But something about the reunion twisted Braden’s stomach, and he pulled his eyes away from their embrace, searching again the crowd. Where was his father? His father’s men would be in the back…unless he had already sent them straight home to their families…but his father should be beside the king.
He felt his mother’s hands upon his shoulders suddenly, and gave a start of surprise to realize the king was coming towards them. His heart sank. Surely the king had not given his father another mission, not when everyone had returned from the war?
“Lady Roxbury,” the king said, and his mother’s fingers were suddenly digging sharply into his shoulders.
“Your Majesty,” she almost whispered, and even in curtsying, her hands stayed where they were.
“I am sorry…” the king said, and suddenly his mother was sitting on the steps, her breath coming in short gasps. Brayden turned as her hands slipped from his shoulders, frightened to see how utterly white her face had gone.
“What?” he demanded, crouching down beside her so that he could put his own hand on her arm. “What is it?” He looked up at the king.
“The battle of Eidenborough…the last before we returned…we thought the enemy was gone, and we relaxed our guard too soon. There was an ambush, and they shot my horse out from under me.”
His mother’s fingers were clutching the necklace, her breathing still uneven. She was not looking at the king, and Brayden’s gaze moved between them both, a part of him telling him he knew what the king was saying, and another part refusing to believe it.

His father had saved the king’s life. And lost his own in so doing.

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