Aurore Braganza @auroretrav2014 * Sheer frustration and indignation cause the colour to rise high into my cheeks! John and his men have stridden away from me down the passageway to the meeting room. Leaving me to drag my heels behind them. I am their Queen, and they will do well to remember that. All the rage I have harboured since Amante violated our home has lain dormant fueling my animosity against injustice. * Meu Amor! I say in a raised voice in an effort to get John’s attention! No response! John’s heavy boots sound hard against the stone floor, and then something snaps inside me I rip open my cape slipping from my shoulders and thrust it hard with my hand into the chest of the guard on duty on the door as they enter the room. To add insult to injury, Father Ryan is oblivious to my presence behind him and closes the door to the room as he enters firmly in my face! These men don’t know me and the fury of a gathering storm. To their disadvantage, they will learn or pay the price for their perilous neglect of duty. One glare at the guard on duty and he opens the door in a hurry. John! I SAID, MY LOVE! *My icy glare would turn a river to ice when I turn my attention to a guard languishing on a chair at the table.* You, captain, stand for your Queen! Why would I stand while you sit twiddling your thumbs?
Father Ryan @FatherPRyan
Shifts uneasily in my seat. Hell, I mean … damn, but I thought she’d gone to see Abilio’s wife and newborn child. Coughs discretely and tries to indicate with my head that the Captain should stand up and run for cover. Christ, does the man have a death wish?
*I take a deep, calming breath. I must have a word with the young soldier who was supposed to escort my beloved to see her friend, Adrianna. And now, the soldiers in the room are trying to hide in the shadows. I need to discuss these so-called leaders with Joao. If they are unwilling to stand up to my wife, then what chance do we have against the Spanish. Although thinking about it, she probably is scarier than the Spanish, but, only when she’s in a mood. And, unfortunately, it seems that she is indeed in a mood today.* Meu Amor. Please, come and sit here with me, by the fire. You must be tired after your long ride. Alone. Well, with only a priest for company. A priest you did not want with you at that.
*I sit down regally at the table taking my rightful place! Choosing not to sit near the fire with John. Surely my ill-humour burns hot enough and needs no fanning from the embers. John should choose his words well, or the atmosphere in our bedchambers will be decidedly fidged. * Meu Amor, don’t patronise me, I observe your men leave the formalities of good manners at home while engaged in war. Maybe you were preoccupied when I arrived in pursuit of an enemy of the kingdom of Portugal. Who attempted to kidnap our son and heir to the throne! What’s more, I take my responsibilities as queen diligently, although balancing motherhood and overseeing the daily running of our home weighs heavily on my shoulders!
John @DukeBraganza I was well aware of the incident, Miguel is always concise in his reports. As for my men, they were preoccupied in seeing off a unit of Spanish who have been raiding the borders for some weeks now, killing men, women and children at will. So, tell me, Meu Amor, was your trip eventful? *I smile my warmest smile. This is a conversation I would happily have left to the privacy of our chambers, but if my wife and the queen sees fit to discuss this in public, then so be it. Though how she is going to explain away the fact that she stormed off in pursuit of an enemy, leaving our two small children at home, alone, with only Miguel for protection, is quite frankly beyond me.*
*Shifts uneasily in my seat. Mentioning the report I delivered for Miguel is perhaps not the smartest move John will make this week. After all, a courier can not have hoped to have arrived here afore us, so it must be obvious to Aurore, even in her distressed state, that I was the courier. I don’t like my chances of accompanying her on future headlong rushes into the arms of the enemy. Maybe that’s for the best. Not the most fun I’ve ever had on horseback, that’s for sure. I must have words with Miguel later. His stablemaster chose my mount very badly, haste or not.
Meu Amor! Durate is making a mockery of your men! Who seems not to be prepared for the current situation! How are they, the Spanish, able to push further into the border without been stopped. And as for Amante, it was your decision for the odious toad to remain at court, I was the one who suffered his barbs and insults he should have been expelled then! Do you think I would leave our children in the care of a wet nurse and Aimee if it were not a matter of urgency? We were not protected, although God knows Miguel tries his best with the raggle-taggle troops left behind. He has to manage diplomatic expulsion of Spanish dignitaries who walk freely around the palace at Pena? * My breath is heavy and my shoulders rise with each incensed breath.*
My beloved, my men do not step onto Spanish land as we do not want that to become the start of yet another war. And yes, I realise that the Spanish have no such qualms, but I chose not to sink to their level, regardless of the provocation. Amante was not my choice, or rather not my free choice. He was chosen to represent Spanish interests in an official manner, and as such, I had no say in the matter. Besides, have you never heard the saying, keep your friends close and your enemies closer? With Amante in my court, I knew where he was. Now I have no idea where the odious little toad has got to, and can but hope his overseers are even less impressed with his antics than I am. *I take another calming breath. This could easily sink into something quite unseemly and unworthy of our status. Christ, but it is so damn hard to set an example when all you really want to do is protect your friends and family.*
// I stride along the poorly lit passageway my mind filled images of the siege. The stench of rotting corpses impregnated into the fabric of my cape. The odour will remain with me forever. I knock with a clenched fist on the meeting room door and wait. Joao opens the door and places his finger to his mouth. I know immediately as I pass by Joao into the room, that “my little bird” is far from pleased. I find a quiet corner near the back of the room leaning my shoulder against the wall knowing better than to interrupt her.//
It would appear John. That we are of a different opinion for the first time in our married life. I will tell you exactly where Amante is! He was rescued by a Spanish patrol at the precise moment that I held I dagger to his throat, demanding justice for the kidnapping of my son. It does not take a genius to ascertain that he will be grovelling at Duarte’s, feet begging for mercy. Now My love, if you excuse me, I will take my leave, I am weary from the long ride, and I miss my children. I stand from my chair nodding politely to John and his men, Amaia starts to rise, I shake my head, so he slumps back down again. In a state of total disbelief, I leave through the opened door. Half running down the passageway my emotions in turmoil tears form at the edge of my lashes and threatened to fall.*
*I sigh as I watch my beloved storm from the room. I know she is angry. Everyone in this room knows she is angry. But if she thinks I am unmoved by the attempted attack on my family, then she does not know me as well as she thinks.* Apologies, gentlemen. Now, onto the matter at hand. The attacks on our borders. We made great strides today, with help from an unlikely source, a source I intend to use to full effect if that proves possible …* and now a source that I feel duty-bound to protect from Aurore’s wrath at all costs. Damn but the woman complicates matters without even trying.* … We need to strengthen the siege on Duarte’s stronghold. Our supply chain is secure, we have the manpower and the armaments required to finish what we have started. Joao, I leave it to you to discuss the situation with Amliur and work out the details. I want the Spanish driven from our borders. Tiago, I need you to make arrangements to return to Penna. I sense Miguel will be grateful for the help. I need him to concentrate on this war, and ending it quickly. You will need to take over security for the royal children. And, yes, I know Mano was unimpressed before and requested you be transferred here, but I can no longer pander to his whims. I need you to protect Alexander and Catherine. Sort your personal life out, and do it quickly. We have no more room for manoeuver. Anything else? No? Excellent. I think my Queen and I have much to discuss.* I stride from the room purposefully, pausing only to whisper to Joao and Ryan.* If I’m not back by Christmas, send out a search party.
He apologises for his queen!
As if I am a petulant child! Bruised and wounded I leave with little of my composure in tacked. One cool gaze at the guard and he opens the door for me to pass. Not knowing the fort very well I walk going somewhere, anywhere away from the discourse between John and me. Dewdrops balances precariously on lashes I am too stunned to blink, and when they fall, the tears will taste bittersweet on my cheeks. Aimlessly walking not sure where I am going I ask a passing maid the direction to Captain Amaiur’s quarters. The one friend and confident I have trusted many times within the most difficult situation. I can trust my Basques brother. Seething with John! My body trembles as I walk up and down outside Amaiur’s door. How can John not understand that when he went away to war, a part of me went with him? And yes my reaction over that little toad could have been seen as extream, but what else would a mother do? But protect her children! And yes my reaction over that little toad could have been seen as extream, but what else would a mother do? But protect her child. In pities sake, John knows more than I the history behind my aversion to Amante. An orderly passing by and startles me! So collecting my thoughts, I ask him to admit me into Captain Amaia’s quarters. Better to waite by the warmth of his fire than freeze in the drafty corridors of the fort. Removing my cape, I toss it over the back of a chair near to the grate stooping down to pick up a large log from wrought iron log rack placing it on top of the dying embers. Stand facing I do not hear the latch click, and Amaia enter behind me. With the gentle touch of his hand I turn to face him.*
Captain Anaia@BlackBasque2016// I am somewhat surprised to find Aurore in my chambers a black brow arches framing a quizzical look in dark brooding eyes. Cocking my head to one side, I draw in a breath and wonder what trouble her presence here will bring to my door.// Little bird!” /I shake my head and take two strides towards her grabbing her arm I pull her into my chest placing a kiss to the top of her head./ What are you doing here? If anyone saw you enter my quarters. This is madness! You are the queen. And many would take advantage of the vulnerable position, you have placed yourself in. What were you thinking? //Clasping both her shoulders. I hold them firmly pushing her back to arm’s length and look deep into her eyes and wait for her explanation. //
Amaia! Who else would I turn to? You and John are the two people in the world I both love and trust. Now John and I are at such an impasse because I will not apologise for protecting Alex and going after his abductor. *I turn away out of his grip my back towards him. The world I perceived to be safe crumbles.*
Anaia@BlackBasque2016·// I step forward and embrace her from behind resting my chin in her hair. The smell of her evoked sweet memories of our childhood when life was simpler. I imbibe her sweet taste kissing her ear in danger of crossing the unspoken barrier between us. I take hold of her shoulders and turn her to face me. // Aurore I made a promise to your Pere to honour and protect you. And well, you know in our Basque culture, a “promise is a debt that must be paid.” Now I think we together must find John before my action, I will regret it!
John@DukeBraganza. I pace the corridors, searching for Aurore. I had thought she would be in our quarters … my quarters … our quarters. It seems she had decided against a civil conversation. or maybe she just needed to calm down. To be honest, I think we both need to take stock. We have both done what we thought needed to be done to further our cause … my cause. This is not a cause of her choosing. This is one she bought into as it served her purpose at the time. I’m not sure becoming part of the Portuguese royal family was ever part of her planning. Or two young children, with her husband away at the front line, while his enemies seek to cause disruptions closer to home. I turn the corner in time to see Anaia and Aurore exit his quarters.* Aurore!
Captain anaia@BlackBasque2016// I hear John’s voice and he calls to Aurore, the voice of my King! I gather my inner turmoil and lock away along with my high regard and love for “My little bird”. To betray a trust now would mean treason.// Come little bird! Put on your cape and we will look for John. // With my arm around her shoulders, I guide her towards John. So close and yet a world away, I breathe in her scent, as I did when I first loved her. I have no regrets! Other than the lost chance to ask for her hand in marriage. With the ring in my pocket on the day of her eighteenth birthday, I was prepared to go down on one knee and propose! As her father had given me a reason for hope. Brought to an end, all dreams shattered with her father’s untimely death. Flourishing a low bow, I greet my King. //John! I believe you and Aurore a have need to discuss affairs of state! I bid you goodnight.
John@DukeBraganza *I nod my appreciation to Anaia. Some men might be worried by his closeness to their wife, and although I suspect there was once something between them, I know him to be an honourable man who views her more like his sister. At least, I hope that is the meaning behind the looks he throws her way. I gaze at Aurore, her jaw set in stubborn determination. I suspect she requires me to fall on my sword and admit fault while taking none of the blame herself. While I would like nothing better than to share a bed with my wife, I am not about to dismiss recent events purely to make that happen.* We do need to talk, Meu Amor, but you have the bedchamber to yourself this evening. I have plans to make, maps to study, and I may need to confer with some of my men. I do not wish to keep you awake. You have had a long trip and must be sorely in need of rest.
Aurore Braganza@auroretrav2014 Meu Amor, how will I rest when my husband is taken from me by conflict? And our children are at risk from Lord knows what? *I move closer towards John I am now confident that with Amaia’s help we can find Amante. But before I leave, John and I should be on better terms. I look up deep into his azure blue eyes, laying a hand to his chest.* Meu Amor! Lets us part today as lovers for any other way would break my heart further!
John: *I chew my lip, like a teenager, torn once more between love for the woman I chose to be my wife, our children, and my country. I never thought that the country would be part of this decision. This was always the choice to be faced by my brother, by Alex. And yet, somehow, I find myself with this unenviable decision.* Meu Amour, you know that I love with with all of my heart, and yet, I do not want to be the one who deprives our children of that same love. I need you to be there for them. I need you to protect them when I must defend my country ahead of them. I cannot in all good faith send you on the mission you seem set upon. But neither can I even attempt to order you to do anything other than follow your heart. I can only hope that destiny reunites us, in body, soul and intent. *I stride away, not daring to look back over my shoulder. Aurore will do what Aurore feels is right, and I do not have the right to demand any more of her.* Aurore.
Aurore Braganza@auroretrav2014 * I watch John walk away and then doubt seeps in, and I am unsure as to what to do next. It creeps into my mind-destroying my clarity of thought. I am torn between motherhood and my convictions. Of one thing I’m sure the indelible bond between John and I can never be broken, and yet time and circumstance force us apart. Maternal instincts begin to wrench at my heart until its close to breaking and I visualise Alex and Catherine, and my heart splits in two. However, on the other hand, I know that I will never rest until Amante is dead or imprisoned! I stand alone and watch my beloved walk away, and I scream silently to no one, My Lord, what do I do now! *
Why has Amante caused me to be so irrational, lacking in reasoned thinking? I have begun to rethink the actions as I am of no uses to my husband or the King unless I find clarity of thought. Then an emergence of strength, my Troisville blood speaks to me and dispels all doubts. It becomes apparent that I should waste no more time and go to John’s quarters. With fading the light as the winter days shorten the torches are lit early. I ask one of the soldiers tasked with this duty to show me the way to John’s quarters; he obliges and walks with me carrying a torch lighting the way. Entering the chamber from the drafty passageway the warmth from a massive stone fireplace wraps around me like a comforting blanket. In an iron basket set back into the fireplace, a fire roars up the chimney. Johns orderly, who has been with him for years, had only just replenished the low embers with logs. He salutes in a military fashion his queen and inquires whether there is anything I needed. My shoulders relax with a sigh as I think a bath would soak away the dirt and anguish of the last few days. The more I think of soaking in hot water, I could not imagine anything better, and it would allow me time to relax and rationalise the whole sorry affair. Johns quarter has a faint musky scent and the smell of leather my senses are aroused with the thought of him. My senses have aroused at the thought of his touch his lips on mine tenderly at first then harder when he takes me into his strong embrace. No, I can not live without him my life would be a barren wasteland, this I will not endure. The bathtub arrives a simple affair set down to the side of the fire and almost straight after ladies entered the quarters and filled the tub with hot water. Johns orderly retreats from the room respectfully promising to return with a tray of refreshments I had not realised how hungry I was. I wait until the room is empty, and the ladies have disappeared before ridding myself of my soiled garments it is sheer heaven slipping into the steaming water infused with orange oil kindly sent to the chamber by Adriana, whom I will visit tomorrow. I remain in the bath until the water is starting to cool. Reaching for a soft towel, I step from the water to stand next to the fire in all my willowy glory. I glance down upon my naked form, and my body looks youthful after baring two children. There is a knock at the door, so I retrieved one of Johns laundered shirts from a draw in the clothespress, lifting it up, so I can smell its fragrance. Slipping it over my still damp body as God had intended underneath the large garment, I bid them enter. Johns orderly enters with a tray laid out with a selection of dishes and freshly baked bread. He sets the tray down next to the fire and leaves bidding me goodnight mentioning on his way out that he would not disturb me further, and the bath would be taken away in the morning. I relish every mouthful of food and the bread which is especially delicious so relaxed am I that I fall asleep in the chair oblivious of the time or when John will return to his chamber.
*I pore over the maps with my generals, listening to their advice, paying particularly close attention to Abilio’s thoughts, as he is the local here and knows the place better than I, and making my own recommendations. We have much work to do to secure our borders.
My cousin, Duarte, has been testing my resolve of late, emboldened by a few minor victories and the support of the Spanish. He has become far more than a mere nuisance, although that is information I would rather keep from Aurore.
She already has enough ideas in her head without adding to her troubles. I glance up as Jose, my orderly of long-standing, discretely enters the room and beckon him over. He would not interrupt such a meeting if it were not important.
I close my eyes and smile as he whispers discreetly in my ear. Apparently, it would be in my best interests not to trip over the bath. Which can mean only one thing? I nod my thanks and return to the meeting, ending it much quicker than I had intended,
much to the badly disguised amusement of Joao, before making my way down the corridors to my chambers. I open the door quietly and slide into the room, allowing my eyes to become accustomed to the flickering light from the fire, which is just beginning to die down. I step carefully around the bath, grab some bread from the nearby tray, and stand, watching my wife sleep peacefully in a chair rather than my bed. Our bed. Have we really been apart for so long that I think of it as mine, not ours?
I lift her carefully, smiling as she squirms in my arms and mumbles incoherently, and carry her to our bed, laying her down gently, before joining her, pulling the covers over us both, and draping my arm gently over her, inhaling the scent of her freshly bathed skin. Tempted as I am to pepper her with kisses, I know she needs to rest, as do I. Anything energetic can wait until morning. I yawn and close my eyes, allowing my wife’s steady breathing to lull me into a restful sleep.*