*I ride onward, eager to be home, back with Aurore, with the war far behind me. I shake my head to try and clear my thoughts, but the sights and sounds of the battle will live long with me. The smell of gunpowder mixed with the iron tang of blood. The sound of cannon fire, and the clash of metal on metal, just about drowning out the cries of the wounded and dying. The broken bodies littering the battle field with their spilled blood making the ground treacherous underfoot. Too many died and suffered, and the price they paid can not be in vain. Duarte ran before his castle walls were breached. Last seen heading for the Spanish border, and good riddance to bad rubbish. Once his men realised he had gone, they wasted no time in turning on the Spanish soldiers left behind. I shudder involuntarily. That was truly an unappetising sight, although I could well understand the rage behind their actions.*
I slow my horse slightly, not wanting to run it into the ground, and nod to Joao, who has stayed close by my side, refusing any orders to the contrary. He’s right, of course. His job is to protect his king, and right now, well that is me. Or at least, it will be once we organise the coronation ceremony. Until that is finalised and the crown is officially on my head, it could all still go wrong. At least Joao has ensured that all of Duarte’s former strongholds and bases are now firmly under our control. Well, all the ones we left standing. Regrettably, two had to be razed to the ground. At least none of the locals suffered by that action, as they had long since abandoned the area. We must build our own stronghold in the area to replace what was destroyed and protect the people from any incursions from the Spanish. Perhaps it would have been prudent simply to re-purpose what was already there, but the defenders refused to surrender and left us with no option.*
I pick up the pace once again as my destination looms large through the evening dusk, the familiarity of the towers and crenellations causing a quickening of my heart. Home, finally, and Aurore. And our child. I pray she is healthy and our child … I so wanted to be with her for this, to be close to her side. I smile to myself. Not that I think Aimee will let me anywhere near. At least I had the sense to send Father Ryan back early, to take care of Aurore. And she has Miguel as well. I smile again. Not that I think Miguel will be in a hurry to witness the birth, even supposing he could sidestep Aimee.
I leap from my horse, leaving the reins free. I know Joao will deal with the horses. My main concern now is Aurore, I need to know that she is safe and well. Has she had the child? Is the child well? Why the hell couldn’t Duarte have surrendered earlier? Why was the final battle so far from home? Why are her quarters so far from the entrance? Where the hell is Miguel? And why are the bells ringing out? Bells. I pause. Yes, bells. So does that mean …. I practically pounce on Miguel as he appears in front of me.* Aurore? Is she alright?
*Chuckles at John’s impatience, although it’s perfectly understandable.* Aurore is fine, my friend. And so is the child. Ryan says he has a good pair of lungs.
I’m a father? I have a son? An heir, we have an heir! *I break into a run, with Miguel hot on my heels, waving Aimee out of my way impatiently and sink onto the bed beside Aurore, gently kiss her temples and gaze down at our son, with hope and joy in my heart.*
We are both well, especially our son who has a wonderful pair of lungs! * Gently lifting the babe up, I place him into John’s arms, John takes the little bundle carefully cradling him in the crook of his arm. For the first time in years the worry lines ease around his eyes joy shines in the azure blue as he looks down into our baby’s sleeping face, stroking his cheek with the back of his forefinger gently, he looks up at me in awe. * Meu amor, I know he is beautiful, I must pinch myself every time I look at his beautiful features I just can’t believe he is here, we have a child after so many years of war, with new life there is a hope for the future.
*Unable to draw mellowed brown eyes away from John’s proud face, I suspect he can’t really believe the little one is here, I can hardly believe it myself that we have been so blessed. I softly place an open hand to rest on his forearm lightly closing my fingers in a gentle squeeze. * My love please tell me the war is over, really over, unsettled times are no place to bring up a child!
IT’S OVER, TRULY AND HONESTLY. DUARTE FLED LIKE THE COWARD HE IS. I CANNOT BELIEVE THERE ARE ANY LEFT WHO WOULD SUPPORT HIM NOW, ESPECIALLY SINCE MIGUEL HAS ALREADY CONVINCED MOST OF THE NOBLES TO PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO OUR SIDE. AND NOW WE HAVE AN HEIR, HE NO LONGER HAS A RIGHTFUL CLAIM.
*I can’t help but smile john’s hands are those of a soldier a man who has not led the soft life of a courtier, and yet he holds our son with such tenderness. My admiration, love and respect have deepened over the years and now with the babe, I cannot imagine life without him ” John, we will have to think of a name before the christening, I have a name in mind but firstly what are your thoughts. ”
*I giggle holding my stomach at the same time as it is still tender from giving birth, slapping John playfully on the shoulder. I cannot remember the last time I felt so content and happy * Seriously John, Bart? A resounding no! I have a name in mind which I think is both appropriate and fitting, how about Alexander after your brother.