The gravel crunched under his feet as he made his way up the path. He had ridden up from the capital, but had taken a quiet path up to the castle. He wasn’t sure if he was being followed, and he needed to make sure he shook them before he got there. There had been many people moving on the North Road, some very dangerous to the royal children.
He popped out onto the road just south of the castle. The great three story structure cast it heavy shadow over the entire road. The men up on the wall had lit torches, but they did little to cut through the darkness below. Briahmen hung back at the forest edge for a moment. Further south he had seen gangs of men lurking outside of great houses. Everything as changing, Briahmen thought with a shiver. He stepped towards the castle, up towards the gate.
The men saw him almost immediately, and he heard then talking among themselves. Briahmen slowly raised his hands up.
“ Hello!” He shouted up to the guards.
“ Declare yourself!” The order echoed in the darkness.
There was more scurrying and Briahmen saw more cloaked men join them.
“I am Briahmen Lachaster, leader of the royal guard come in the name of the Queen,” He shouted
“Open the gate!” Briahmen recognized his Liams brothers voice.
It would take them a moment to open it up. Briahmen turned his back to them, focusing on the road behind him. He remained calm, but his hand lingering on the pommel of his broadsword. Behind him came the familiar shouting and creaking from behind him. With a heavy creak the gate as lifted from the ground. After a few moments Briahmen turned.
A young lieutenant sat on the other side, with to lines of guards at his back. Briahmen was quick to step inside.
“ Let it down!” the lieutenant called.
Within moments the gate hit the ground with a heavy thud. Out of the corner of his eye Briahmen saw his brother scurry down the stairs. The heavy oak door were swung back into place.
“ Sir. I apologize ” The lieutenant stepped forward.
He was young, Briahmen guessed right out of the academy. He was lanky, but looked strong.
“It is fine, I am happy to see it, what is your name?”
“ How long have you been here?”
“ About a month.”
“ Straight out of the academy in Palomiere and it shows, He is a great soldier, Ivylaugh is lucky to have him.” Liam had arrived. He was was tall, but much wider than his brother, but has the same dark hair and eyes as Briahmen
Despite the worry on his face the young man cracked a smile.
“ Thank you sir.”
Liam smiled back, then turned his attention to his brother. Briahmen held out a hand, and Liam shook it roughly.
“ Briahmen What is going on? We have only heard rumors, but there have been more people than usual heading north. Yesterday,two men came to the gates demanding entry, but them so I turned them away. They said they would be back, they looked like scouts. “
“ They did not carry the crest of Aidaen so we refused them.” Hellae said
“ You did the right thing.” Briahmen muttered
He looked at both of them. The young man was calm, but Briahmen could see the worry in his eyes. Even unshakable Liam seemed concerned. He hadn’t been quick enough, Briahmen thought bitterly.
“ Get all the men that are not on the wall together in the Great Hall, “ Briahmen spoke quietly for he saw the other men were listening, “ I need to speak with them, but I need to go see Gretia first.”
Hellae nodded “Of course”
“ Liam.” Briahmen said motioning to his brother.
His brother trailed behind him. He headed into the main building. It was a cold night, and the great oak door creaked ominously as the doormen pulled them wide. The house was warm and Briahmen felt his muscles relax as the heat from the fire hit him. He had traveled days on horseback to get here. He waved off the footman trying to take his cloak.
“ Where is Greta?”
“ Upstairs, let me bring you to them.” The butler said calmly coming down the stairs. “ This way”
The brothers followed him up the stairs, and to the left, it was a pretty place. Perfect and spacious for two young children to grow up. They reached the door.
“ Wait here.”
They hung back. Briahmen felt his impatience mounting, but they had to follow procedure, they could not incite panic. Plus he didn’t know if Ayren had spies.
“ Liam and Braihmen Lanchester, generals in his armies imperial guard.” The butler announced. Briahmen stepped into the room.
“ My Lords”
Gretia was the duchess the Gallcaen and she served as the head of the royal household. She had know the queen for much of her life, so they had not been surprised when Nathalia had entrusted her with her two youngest children, Colinith and Marianna.
“ Grety I’ve had told you I’m not a lord yet, I’m still waiting for you to match me up with one of those young ladies” Liam said, mischief in his eyes,
“ what would your wife say to that?” Gretia said
“ She told me that as long as she gets a castle she is fine with it”
A young red head turned looking scandalized,
“ Liam I did not!”
He smiled stepped towards her for a moment, He whispered something to her, and she kissed him on the cheek. A moment later she was called away.
He heard the little patter of feet across the rug, and turned just in time to see the tiny blur. She giggled as he caught her deftly in his arms. Her auburn hair was a mess, but a smile peeked out. She was only 7 and her features still had touches of childhood, but you could already tell she was going to be a beauty like her mother. She snaked a tiny hand onto Briahmen shoulder.
“ Mairanna, what have a told you about doing that?” Gretia said sharply, but the sternness didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“ I’m sorry Gretia” She said dropped her smile
Briahmen held tightly her, thankful to have her in his arms. He had grown to love them his years in the imperial guard. The urgency of his task came back to him. He planted a kiss on the top of her head.
“I need to speak with the Duchess,” He murmured into her hair “ Can you go see Mairead for me?”
He pulled her in front of him, and though she looked annoyed she nodded. She allowed him to put her down, and she walked to the red head that Liam had been speaking to a moment before. Briahmen turned to the Duchess.
“Can we go to your sitting room?” He said quietly
“It cannot wait?”
“ I wish it could but it cannot.”
The Duchess nodded
“ If you need us we will be in my sitting room.” She said to Mairead who nodded,
Without a word she stepped out of the room and Briahmen followed her. They made their way down the candle lit hall, and into a corner room. On their way by Gretia grabbed a candle. She stepped in and lit the candles within the room, motioning for the brothers to join her. They sat down,
“What is it? Why have you come?” She said
“ We need to move them now” Briahmen said
Gretas face furrowed in annoyance.
“ We cannot move them tonight.” She protested
“We have to”
She sighed, glaring at Briahmen.
“Perhaps you do not understand what I am saying, for it takes several days to move the household.”
Briahmen sighed, knowing what he had to say.
Gretia, the capital has fallen,”
She looked at him shocked. Guilt tugged at his heart, but he knew he had to tell her, it was the only way she would listen.
“ But how do you know?” Liam demanded
Briahmen was still uncomfortable with the memory.
“The Queen approached me a few weeks ago,” He said quietly “She told me that if she was arrested we was to move the children.”
“How do I know that this is true?” The Duchess said
“ Briahmen would never lie to us.” Liam said defensively
“ You have seen it with your own eyes Liam, there are those who are hunting us,” Gretia shot back “ if we are to protect them we have to be suspicious.”
Briahmen turned to his brother. Liam, trusting Liam. He always looked for the best in people. The last thing Briahmen wanted was to take that from him. Yet he knew he had to.
“ She is right Liam.”
Briahmen reached under his chain-mail. He fumbled around, trying to find his breast pocket. He found it, pulling out the letter. He felt a surge of gult as his thumb brushed over the queens crest. He hadn’t been able to save her.
“ She told me to give you this if it happened.” He said holding out the letter to Gretia
She grabbed it gingerly, pulling it closer to her face. Braihmen watched as she read it carefully. Moments later all color drained from it. Briahmen guessed that she had had a similar conversation with the queen.
“ She told me this could have happened, in a stranger conversation weeks ago, But how did she know?” The duchess breathed
“ We both know she has her ways, What does the letter say?”
Gretia held it out to Briahmen.
“Gretia please make sure my dear children get hugs and kisses from me. Take them to the beach at Galla as soon as you are able, you know how my Collin loves the water. All my love, Nathalia.” Braihmen read
“ We need to get them into hiding.” Gretia suddenly said wihout question
“But how can you know that?” questioned Liam
“ When Collin was five we took him to Galla. We let them play in the water, and Collin got caught by a wave and he nearly drowned, since then he hates it” Briahmen breathed “ Only the Queen, Gretia and I know that. He begged us to keep it secret because he didn’t want to seem weak.” Briahmen said quietly.
“ So it served as a code.” Liam said quietly and Briahmen nodded.
“ Has she been killed?” Gretia demanded
Briahmen shook his head “Not yet, but she was arrested yesterday morning, they killed the king two days ago. Alexie and Lindseyanna are unaccounted for.”
Gretia looked shocked, and a hand flew to her mouth. Liam had gone white
“I will be back.” She said quietly. She got up and quietly left the room.
“ How much of the country has fallen?” Liam asked
“ Ayrens army has begun to move North, they cannot be more than a day out, that is why we need to move now.”
They fell silent as there was a light tap on the door.
“Come in” Briahmen called
Gretia came in flanked by Mairead, and another young girl that Briahmen didn’t recognized. They curtsied as Gretia
“ Girls,” Gretia said standing up “we need to hide the children.”