Eleanor has made her choice and now she must do what she can to ensure her castle will fall.
Has she made the right choice?
Will she ever see Princess Adelaide after today?
And is there more between them than the mutual aim of peace?
Find out in the next instalment of ‘The Knight’…
A Princess, A Knight And A Tyrant King.
When war is brewing she must fight or die…
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A cry from Adelaide brought Eleanor back to her senses.
She looked away from the wide-open, dead eyes of Geoffrey and rushed to Adelaide’s side. She was in pain and clutching at her stitches.
“Are you well? Can you stand? How can I help?” Eleanor wasn’t sure whether to help her up or even if she should touch her; she didn’t want to make matters worse.
Adelaide laughed through gritted teeth. “You are like a mother hen,” she said. “I think the wound is not split… Help me stand.” She put out her hand and Eleanor took it, grateful to be of help, grateful that he did not hurt her, grateful that she had been saved. But unwilling to dwell on how.
She pulled Adelaide to her feet, and for a moment they stood together, just inches apart. Part of her wanted to reach out and hold her again, to feel the warmth of her body against her own.
“Thank you,” Adelaide whispered.
“I…” she didn’t know how to articulate what she wanted to say, how to form into words the emotions that were coursing through her. “I couldn’t let him…” she said, reaching out to touch Adelaide’s soft cheek, her heart pounding in her chest and as she stared into the ice-blue eyes of the Princess, she needed to know if she felt something too.
A trumpet sounded.
It was a fanfare, a warning. It brought the Princesses crashing back to their senses and Adelaide rushed to the window.
“It’s one of the search parties. It must be!”
“But they can’t have found you,” said Eleanor, confused. “You’re here!”
Adelaide turned to her, her face sombre. “They must have seen my army. We need to lock the chains and cut the rope!” She grabbed a sword awkwardly, the wound at her side still causing her pain. “Now!”
Eleanor snapped to action. She grabbed more spears off the rack, locking them into place on the chain links. She hoped they would hold, hoping that they wouldn’t break under the pressure of several guards fighting desperately to close the portcullis. But Adelaide was still struggling with the rope. She didn’t seem to have much strength, and Eleanor took a sword from the rack and started hacking the other ropes.
She had only ever used a knife for cutting meat and bread. She held it like an axe and started chopping at the rope, but it made little difference.
They could hear shouting, and the alarm bells, which had fallen to a slow melancholy tolling, suddenly lurched into life again, then suddenly there were yet more trumpets and fanfares in the distance. Eleanor glanced out the window, expecting to see another search party returning, but instead, she saw a wobbling black line emerging over the hill.
She stared at it for a moment as it charged into view, horses; a cavalry charge.
“Eleanor! The rope!”
Adelaide had finished cutting through, but Eleanor still needed to cut hers. The guards would raise the drawbridge the moment the search party crossed it. They had seconds.
She hacked at it with the sword, hitting it, slicing it, cutting it. The fibres were breaking one by one until the last one was finally hacked through.
They heard the familiar thunderous sound of the search party’s horses clattering over the drawbridge, and the calls and shouts to close it. But it didn’t rise. The chains for the portcullis were pulled at, but the spears didn’t break.
Eleanor held her breath as Adelaide took hold of her hand and faced the door with her sword raised. Any moment now, the guards would come crashing through the door to find out why the defences weren’t working.
The seconds seemed like an eternity as they stared at the door. Waiting.
Then it was over. As the mounted knights hurtled over the open drawbridge into the courtyard, the cavalry charge let out an almighty roar. The guards had greater problems now; the castle was under attack.
“I have to go,” said Adelaide, walking to the door.
“What!? No!” Eleanor shouted as she chased her out onto the stone steps. Adelaide turned and looked up at her.
“I have to join them,” she repeated. “I have to lead my army. I have to. This is what we have fought for.”
“But you can’t leave me!” said Eleanor, desperately. Not just thinking of everything she had sacrificed for Adelaide, but also realising that she didn’t want her to leave.
“I’ll come back for you,” Adelaide said softly as she walked back up the steps.
“Do you swear it?”
“I swear it.” She took hold of Eleanor’s hand and looked straight into her eyes. “I swear I will come back for you, at the end, when this is over, when it is safe, I will come and get you.”
“I don’t think I can live without you.” Eleanor knew she could be killed as a traitor, killed by either side in the battle as an enemy, but she also knew that now that she’d met Adelaide, been close to her, been near to her, she couldn’t face being apart from her and she felt as though part of her soul was being ripped from her body.
Adelaide swept her into an embrace, it was warm, comforting and reassuring, they held one another tightly for a moment and, as they drew apart, Adelaide kissed her softly on the lips, it was sudden and unexpected, and she drew back quickly.
“I… I’m sorry,” she whispered and, for the first time, Eleanor saw her flustered.
As she turned to leave, Eleanor grabbed her and pulled her back, pulled her back into the kiss and it felt good. It felt perfect. It was what she had wanted, what she had craved and as they finally pulled apart, they smiled at one another, knowing that the other felt the same.
“I will come back for you,” Adelaide said, then she turned and rushed down the stairs to join the battle.