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Pen Your Pride

Chapter Thirteen

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The Chapel was deserted, three candles stood flickering at the alter as Natalie dragged her heavy feet towards the three painted windows. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she choked back her sobs. Falling to her knees on to a chunky pillow in front of them she clasped her hands together and pressed them into her forehead.

"I can't do this." She wheezed. "I need help, I can't do this by myself. Please, just ..." She took a deep breath. "I can't do this."

A hand touched her shoulder gently making her look up. A soft light came from the figure in front of her and she blinked trying to focus.

"Be strong Natalie." A smooth familair voice spoke to her. "There is still fight left in you."

"I've caused a war." Her bottom lip trembled, "The fight in me is the problem!"

"The darkness must be banished." A gruffer voice sounded, "From all the lands. Not just Estawen."

She shook her head violently, "I ... I don't want to. I can't!"

"You must!"

"It is your destiny!"

"Are you not listening to me? Everyone is going to die because of me. He's going to cut my head off!" She shrieked.

"Then cut his first." A third calmer voice spoke. "You lost someone once Natalie. Do not allow evil to claim the ones you love again. We will always be with you."

She stared speechless at the bright light, at first in confusion and frustration and then slowly in understanding. She studied the light, searching for a face but found none. She sighed heavily and ran her fingers through her hair.

"I'll try."

Kebes gathered his men, Sarus, the military general and their second in command together in the map room and stood heavily at the head of the table. He cleared his throat and looked darkly ahead.

"I've called you here," He addressed Sarus and his generals. "Because ..." He trailed off, pursing his lips. "Because we are at war."

"At war?" They exclaimed in unison.

"With the Yurian's. Emperor Xalvador himself declared war early this afternoon."

"The Yurian's? Under what reason?" A well built woman asked, her brows dissappearing under her fringe.

"I'm assuming you're familair with the Queen's performance last week." He growled, "He wants her head."

"Give it to him." A gruff older man with a thick mustache muttered.

Kebes glared at him but didn't bother responding. "We need to prepare our forces for invasion. For all we know the Yurian's are already beginning to march to Estawen. I want every able bodied man and boy trained with a sword or bow."

"Captain, we already have quite a substantial army-" Sarus began.

"I want more than substantial." Kebes barked. "I don't plan on losing any part of this Kingdom to those bastards." He turned to Roncero sharply, "Double the hours of training, Elres I want you on training as well."

"Sir." They nodded.

"Lighten, Pontheus, I want you two out in the surrounding towns and villages gathering any strong men that can wield a sword. Alkiphron, send word to the blacksmiths. We'll need swords, shields and armour. And lots of it."

"I want you to train me to fight."

Kebes almost dismissed the quiet voice until he noticed the mass of blonde curls out the corner of his eye. Natalie stood in the doorway, hands clutched tightly together at her front and a nervous expression on her face.

"Excuse me?"

"I want you to train me to fight." She repeated, barely making eye contact.

He blinked a few times before turning back to his men, "Send word to the villages lining the Kingdom border, they'll need to be evacuated. Any wishing to remain, leave."

"Captain Kebes -"

"The women and children can take refuge in the city of Oakwell, see to it they have food and shelter. I want the men brought to me-"

"Did you hear me?" Natalie raised her voice in frustration.

Kebes sighed, facing her. "Yes, my Queen?"

"I said I want you to train me how to fight."

"And why would I do that?"

"So I can help you-"

"Help me?" Kebes chuckled. "Help me? Shall I tell you how you can help me, Lady? You can go back to your room and stay there. Don't say anything. Don't touch anything. Don't do anything."

She frowned at him as the men fidgeted uncomfortably in front of her.

"I want to protect my people."

"Forgive me Lady but if I recall correctly it was you 'protecting' your people that lead to this war. I think it best if you return to your room. Have one of the guards escort the Lady." He said to Sarus, who began to rise.

"Really? You expect me to just sit in my room while you all risk your lives? This is my fault, I-"

"This is your fault!" Kebes bellowed suddenly, making her jump. "You are careless and reckless and you have sentenced many men to their death Lady." He hissed.

"I ... I want to help."

"Help?" He laughed, "Help? Lady, nothing you do can help us now. This is war." He rounded the table and leaned in close, "This is blood. Pain. Death. Taking another man's life haunts you, until the day the God's take you. Have you ever witnessed death Lady? Have you ever felt the weight of a man as the light leaves his eyes?" He turned his back to her, "Just ... Go back to your room Lady."

Natalie stared at him, mouth hanging open as the rest of the room sat in silence. "How ... dare you."

He looked over his shoulder at her, irritated by her stubborness.

"You don't know anything about me." She snapped, rage bubbling up through her, "You stand there and talk down to me but you don't know  me. I watched my father stab my mother repeatedly in a drunken rage when we tried to leave him, so yes, I know what death looks like. I know what it feels like to have blood on your hands. I sat helplessly while my mum bled to death, please don't make me turn my back on these people, not when I can give them a chance."

Kebes studied her face quietly, watching the emotion in her eyes.

"Kebes." A bulky red haired woman with piercing blue eyes stood up, "I will train her."

He looked from one to the other and nodded slowly before returning to his seat. "You'll be sent for first thing in the morning Lady."

She nodded, briefly meeting Roncero's eyes. "Thank you."

**I know this one was short but it just didn't feel right adding anymore to it, new chapter soon to come!**

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