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