I walked with haste down the long cold stone corridor that connected the entry hall to the throne room. It was outside, snaking around the side of the castle, open space where windows would normally be. The cold winter air whipped my hair about my face and my dress flapped wildly around my ankles. The guards behind me were mumbling to themselves but I couldn’t hear them over the roar of the wind.
"Why is it you cannot tell me the purpose for my summons?"
The guards eyed each other and then me. I stopped walking and turned to stare at them. They shifted uncomfortably before the larger of the two puffed out his chest and spoke in a firm tone.
"We don’t have the authority to discuss this business with you Arianwen. You must wait to hear it from the Kings own mouth."
I frowned in suspicion. This was odd. Ever since the Maidens Festival four months ago, the castle had been in uproar over Prince Dustan’s proposal to me. The King and Queen of Taskan had been held up in the castle for weeks after the festival and then returned home without their daughter. She had been here for the whole four months since the festival and I had hardly seen prince Dustan. It was obvious that they were trying to convince him to choose her instead of me.
Although Dustan's announcement had come as a shock to the entire realm, it had not been as much of a shock for me. The prince and I had known each other since we were children. We had been very close friends and then had become secret lovers, but things had become difficult, as our titles became more of an issue the older we became.
I had spent a lot of time at the castle as a girl. My family always had a special title in the court, even when Gaurdian’s were not born. Of course the king took a special interest in me when I was born, being the first Guardian in four generations. When I wasn’t working for my uncle as his apprentice, I was in the castle under the king’s watchful eye. With our particular skills at handling light and manipulating energy, my people are master smithers. It was no surprise then, when my uncle Aelfric took an interest in my family after I was born. Whilst I was too young to enter the caves, I worked for him. The very crown on the king’s head was supposedly forged by my ancestors, passed down through his family for generations. I had forged the princes’ very first sword for his tenth birthday.
I turned on my heel irritated and walked at a fast pace. If I was being brought into court to hear that the Prince was going to marry Princess Branwen, then I wanted it over quickly. Regardless of what anyone thought, I loved Dustan greatly and I knew he loved me, or at least he had. We had been secret lovers for years. I could probably put a stop to the engagement by announcing the scandal, but I would not do that. I would not use what we had; corrupt it, by using it for petty revenge.
Finally I reached the large wooden doors that lead to the throne room. The guards behind me rushed forwards and the larger one beat his fist against the dark wood. A small hatch snapped open.
"Tis Brynmor and Broderick. We are escorting the Guardian."
The hatch snapped shut and the doors slowly opened inwards. A gust of hot air blew out, laden with the smell of roasted meat and smoke. I strode in past the guards, making my way round to the middle of the throne room. I was not impressed at having been lead through the side entrance.
When I reached the middle of the room I looked up and saw the whole royal family, including Princess Branwen. My worst fears were correct. My stomach clenched but I held my head high as I curtseyed low.
"Your Highness, your Grace."
The kings booming voice echoed around the hall.
"Please, step forward."
The king was being incredibly formal. I presume that there had been many a heated debate between him and Dustan over the past four months and this whole situation has obvioulsy left King Wolferick in a foul mood.
I strode down the long navy carpet, and noticed several of the Upper Royal Guardsmen were in their seats to the far left and right of the royal thrones. I always wondered how they managed to sit down in that thick steel armour. The candle light flickered casting ominous shadows in the far corners of the grand hall. Although the grey stone that made the hall looked cold, the air was warm thanks to the enormous raging fire to the far left. A grand banquet table to the right was covered in food, a hog roast in the middle the most likely source of the meat smell. The thrones were magnificent; thick twisted gold and silver, covered in jewels and precious stones, twinkling in the candle light.