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Rolfin's Orb
Book 13 - The Beginning
Chapter 15


            The journey to the northern coast of France was uneventful and quick. They hired a ship to sail them across the channel. Storms and rough waters delayed their crossing for several days, but at the first sign of blue sky, they traveled by ship, docking in England. There they hired a coach to take them to London, which was a disappointment to them all. The river Thames was filthy and lined with bridges, each having dilapidated houses lining them. The Tower of London was in the middle of being built, but aside from that there wasn’t much else to see. As soon as possible, they made their way to Stonehenge. The queen enjoyed her visit there but the bitter cold winds cut their visit short. 

Several times they ran into warring tribes, but were allowed safe passage for gold and jewels. They decided to skip York and head straight for Scotland. When they reached the border, King Kegan and the others were surprised to see a wall spanning from one coast of Scotland to the other. Hadrian, the Roman Emperor, had built the wall centuries before to keep the Scots from crossing over into England. Most of it still stood, but crossing over it was a simple task.

“We’re here, my Queen,” Alroy said, taking her hands. “This is Scotland.”

She sniffed the air. “It smells fresh and is so green. I’ve never seen as many shades of green as there is right here. Look at the lovely flowers. They are little bells of blue and there’s thistle with its fluffy purple crown. I love it here. Thank you for bringing me. I can’t think of a better place to start a new life.” Queen Sarmantha hugged her husband. “What part of Scotland will we build our castle?”

Alroy interrupted. “If you don’t mind me giving advice, my king, may I suggest northern Scotland. There are few people living there and it’s supposed to be the most beautiful part of Scotland, wild and free, like you want your future children to be.”

“I’m not sure if I want them to be wild, but free, yes,” King Kegan answered.

They made their way up to the highlands, marveling at every burn, river, eagle and deer. Zerahemna had gone ahead to search for a clearing. When he returned he led them to the ideal spot. “Here it will be. Castle Athdara.”

“Athdara? That’s a Burillian word.” The queen’s eyes filled with curiosity.

“I know that, my dear. It means new life. This is our new life, hence Castle Athdara.” 

The first thing they did was to send their guards, including Usem, to search for people who would be willing to come and help build the castle. A loch sat next to the castle and a river ran into the loch. “Surely you will find a few scattered villages nearby. I’ll pay them well and treat them as family. If they have wives and children, bring them. We need cooks and hunters, stone masons and carpenters, along with seamstresses. The children can fish. Off you go then. Return with as many as you can. I want my castle built before the year is over.”

Kegan’s wish came true. Before the first snow of the winter season fell, Castle Athdara was completed. Carpets hung from walls, decorating the rooms. Lamps and candles lit each space, providing much needed light. Alroy was given a room to work on his books and histories. Zerahemna disappeared from time to time, never quite explaining where he’d been, but answering that he’d gone to his other home for a while.

The guards were given freedom, except for Usem, who was promoted to Royal Chief Guard of Castle Athdara and was allowed to select a few men to work under him to protect the royal family. His love for King Kegan and the others grew with each passing day and he was honored to have the new title.

                                                ***

Aghilis and Isud had followed their trail with no problem, once they’d been released from their rope and anchor prison. Anger and fury kept them going. They watched from afar, being careful not to be spotted by the wizard. When they heard about Usem, Aghilis cursed the traitor. The two men headed back to Zanaad, eager to tell King Dugan all that they had learned.

                                                ***

A few months after they had moved into the castle, Queen Sarmantha gave birth to a son, Prince Cerdic. His golden hair curled around his perfect face and his violet eyes were a gift from his mother. The year after that Princess Gelis was born, with sandy brown hair and big blue eyes. She captured Alroy’s heart the moment he saw her. Prince Rayad came a year after Gelis. Like his father, he had dark brown hair and chocolate brown eyes. Three years after Rayad, little Gilian joined the family. Her Viking heritage was evident by her blonde ringlets and violet eyes. Never were children loved more than Queen Sarmantha’s and King Kegan’s. The staff was devoted to them and the nursery was decorated with bright, sunny colors.

They lived together in harmony and love for another six years, until the day King Dugan’s men showed up.


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