I storm across the gardens, flowers on either side of the path dry out and wilt as I pass. What the hell is he thinking? How many times is he going to break his own fucking rules? Isn’t it bad enough that he altered so much in France, now he has to try and completely fuck up the English monarchy? Stupid, stupid, stubborn jerk!
“Kaitlyn,” A thickly accented voice calls from behind me. I glance back to see Charlotte jogging up to me, as best she can in her ridiculous dress. Her eyes scan the dried, dead flowers around us. “What happened?”
“He tried to stop it!” I spit. “He knew Henry would get hurt. We knew. It’s in the history. He knows he can’t change time, and he tried anyway!”
Her brows rise, “This is an important event, yes?”
I clench my jaw. I wonder if I’ve said too much. Then again, what does it matter? He has no right to lecture me now. “Yes. Pivotal.”
“I see,” She hums, glancing around. “This is not the place to discuss such things,” She smiles at me. “Shall we return to the manor?”
I glance behind her, toward the arena. If hurting him like that doesn’t stop him, I don’t know what else I can do. “Yes.”
The scenery shifts, and we’re standing in the training grounds at the Halsey’s’ manor house. Servants that are walking past look up and bow quickly, going about their business. The few men who were training drop their dull blades and scurry out of sight, as if they sense the unpleasantness.
“Tell me, child. What is it he did, exactly?” Charlotte asks, cutting to the chase.
“He altered the fights, making the knights miss, for one,” I blurt angrily. “And then, when the horse was about to fall on the King, he tried to stop it – except it’s supposed to happen that way. It’s cited in almost every text in our time as one of the defining moments of the King’s reign because the injury affects him for the rest of his life.”
“I see,” She hums. “So the King will survive the fall with permanent injury.”
“Yes,” I nod. “It changes him. He gets bitter, more impatient and cruel. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still fine as a king, as far as I could tell, just not a very pleasant person.”
Charlotte nods slowly, “And you warned Andrei ahead of the joust that this would happen?”
“And he did it anyway?” She confirms.
“I knew he couldn’t watch the jousting. I knew he didn’t have the stomach for it, but he wouldn’t listen,” I start to pace, leaving a trail of burnt sand.
“Yes, so I witnessed,” Charlotte’s eyes follow me. “You are justified to be angry. The boy is young, and young men can often be stupid.”
I roll my eyes, “How am I supposed to help him if he’s going to ignore anything I say?”
“You make him listen,” She shrugs. “As you made him listen in the stands.”
“I don’t want to have to hurt him like that every time he’s about to do something stupid,” I retort. “I don’t want to ever have to do that again.”
“With any luck, once will be enough,” She chuckles. “He got off easy. If it had been me… Well, let’s just say he would not be walking any time soon.”
I pause to look at her, raising an eyebrow. She shrugs, waving off the unspoken question. I purse my lips, “What do I do now? How am I supposed to fix this if we can’t talk about it without his stupid young man stubbornness getting in the way?”
Charlotte lets out a long sigh. “You will have to give him time to see his error. I do not advise any more words or violence. In this, you must remain silent until his words form an apology.”
I stare at her, kind of surprised. I expected her to encourage me to beat him some more. “How long will that take?”
“That depends on how stubborn he is,” She smirks. “Come, let us get out of these silly clothes.”
Charlotte and I relax in the sitting room, wearing the much more comfortable casual dresses of the time. She had tea and snacks brought and she tells me the story of how she met Edward as we wait for the men to return. It takes a little over an hour before the sound of the carriage carries through the open window.
“Should we go out there?” I ask, looking up at the large window.
“No,” Charlotte sips her tea. “Let them find us.”
I chew my lip, leaning back in my chair. Several minutes later the door opens, but only one person walks in.
“Ah, here you are,” Edward smiles. “We wondered where you two had gone to.”
“Where is the other one?” Charlotte raises an eyebrow.
“Changing,” Edward waves a hand with a laugh. “He seems to be as uncomfortable in noble attire as you ladies are.”
“Yes, well, fashion often sacrifices comfort. Wouldn’t you say, dear husband?” Charlotte smiles at him. He nods. “We will just wait for him to get his balls back,” She snorts.
I press my lips together firmly. I wish she wouldn’t say things like that… She and Edward talk as I feed bits of meat to Scoria, glancing at the door every few moments. I’ve had enough time to cool off significantly, and a part of me can’t believe I did that to him… I wonder if he’ll forgive me.
The knob turns and the door creaks open slowly. He steps into the room, soft brown curls hanging past his shoulders. He’s got a loose white shirt and plain pants on, similar to the outfits we wore the other day on our trip to the island. I resist the urge to smile at the thought. His head swivels and his hazel eyes land on me.
I feel a jolt, and it’s as though everything stops. I can’t move, I can’t breathe or even blink. Everything is eerily silent for a moment. Then, out of nowhere, a hollow voice seems to emanate from all directions.
“Child of time, how you disappoint. Observance is your guide. You must abide by the laws given. You will not be warned again.”
The feeling disappears instantly as the voice finishes speaking. The colour seems to drain from Andrei’s face, but before I have a chance to ask what just happened, my breath is taken away. The teacup slips out of my hand, shattering on the hardwood floor. I gasp, blindsided by a sudden pain in my stomach.
It feels exactly like when Sam stabbed me in the back, except as I look for a knife, there’s nothing. I curl in on myself, eyes squeezing shut as the pain spreads lower. I grind my teeth and groan. Scoria tumbles off my shoulder and squawks with panic, flying around my head.
“Kaitlyn?” I hear Edward and Charlotte both call out, the sound of their chairs moving as the leap up.
“What is it?” Charlotte crouches in front of me, grabbing my face to make me look up. “Talk to me.”
“It… hurts…” I manage to croak, arms wrapped around my stomach.
“Edward, call a doctor,” Charlotte orders. He takes off without a question. “Shh, it will be alright,” She strokes my hair. I shake my head, breathing shallow. It throbs, giving only brief moments of relief between waves of intense pain. It feels like it’s getting worse.
“Kat…?” Andrei calls out, his voice strained. His footsteps rush across the floor and he falls to his knees beside Charlotte. “Kat,” He repeats, with more force. I manage to focus on his face with some effort. “I… How?” He seems to be at a loss for words.
“What?” I pant, flinching as another wave hits.
“Did I? This?” He stutters.
I choke back a scream as best I can, “I don’t know?”
“No, no, no, no!” His eyes glisten. “How can I help? What do I do? I don’t know anything! I don’t understand?!” He panics.
“I have seen this kind of thing before,” Charlotte says ominously. “There is nothing we can do. Even our magic is no good here. I am so sorry.”
“Do?” I wheeze. “What’s happening?!”
“There has to be something!” Andrei shouts.
Charlotte looks at him sadly, “Maybe in your time. We do not have the means to help her here. The most we can do is try to save her. This baby, on the other hand…”
“That’s not an option. They both-” Andrei chokes. I feel the panic rise in my throat as I look at him.
“Andrei?” My lip quivers. Would that mystery voice kill me to teach him a lesson? Do they care that little? Or are they just going to force me to lose the baby? Why do I have to pay that price?
“Kat, I have to,” He winces. “You need Gwen. I told you I’d protect the both of you. No matter what.”
I nod weakly. I don’t want to stay here like this. I bite the inside of my cheek enough to taste blood as I reach up for Scoria. Even through the pain, I feel her fear too. I bring her down and hug her against my stomach before I look up at Charlotte. “I’m sorry.”
“No need for sorry,” She shakes her head, looking to Andrei. “Go quickly. Be safe.”
“I’ll try. I don’t know if… I have to.” He grabs my arm, crawling close to me and wrapping his other over my shoulder as he embraces me. The sparks jump and he cringes. The room fades, it’s dark. I blink against the pain, my vision swimming as the ribbons of light sway before my eyes.
Andrei reaches out a hand, taking one and the ground jerks. I cry out as we stumble into our room in the Guild. Andrei sags beside me, still holding onto me. I hear his heavy breathing as another wave of pain courses through my body. I feel like I might throw up.
“Andrei?” I look to see if he’s still awake.
I hear rushed footsteps from behind and a colourful skirt sway into view and chocolate hands grab my face.
“You’re back. You’re not well.” I feel a tingling sensation as she reads me.
“No,” I grab onto her arms to hold myself up. “I don’t know what’s wrong.”
“I do. If you don’t what to lose your baby, I must read you. Lay down. Try to keep still,” She insists in a calm voice.
“Please, please save them… I did this,” Andrei whispers beside me, his arm sliding from my shoulder.
I stumble to the bed with Gwen’s help. As I lay down, I force my eyes to find him. I reach out toward him, “Hold my hand? Please?” I ask hoarsely.
He half leans, half falls toward the bed, knees dropping as he grasps my hand in both of his. His face is stained with tears, eyes red. I see his lip tremble as he mumbles something, but I can’t make it out. It does help, having him here, seeing he’s still conscious even though he must be exhausted. I try to relax, holding still as best I can while Gwen works.
Her arms glow faintly with a greenish golden light. Her brows scrunch together as she concentrates hard. The waves of pain start to dull and lessen. I’m slowly able to breathe easier. When the waves of intense pain subside completely, the glow of her arms fades. My whole body aches, but judging by the look on her face, that’s not a bad thing.
“Well, I’ve done all I can. It looks like you’ll both make it. What on earth did you do to cause such an ailment as this? You very nearly gave birth prematurely!” She huffs.
Andrei sobs, mumbling, “Sorry…” Over and over as his eyes droop. I find it hard to stay awake too.
I shake my head, meeting Gwen’s gaze. “I-I don’t know. One minute I was just having tea and then… It happened out of nowhere,” I half-lie.
“Well, whatever it is, I hope you left it in the past where it belongs. You need rest, the both of you, it seems. I can’t heal him without my tea. What with Caroline and you, it’ll be a miracle if I get any sleep at all. Let’s just hope the three of you don’t burn me out before you’re healed,” She hums, looking at me warmly.
“What happened to Caroline?” I frown, confused. She was fine a few days ago…
“It’s none of your concern now. Rest. I’ll be seeing to her. Once you’re better I’ll let you know.” She glances down at Andrei and shakes her head pitifully. “Well, I don’t want him sleeping on the floor.” She reaches down, hooking her arms under his. He seems to have finally passed out. I hardly noticed his sorry sobs stopped.
Gwen drags him over to the other side of the bed and lifts him up with almost no effort. She clicks her tongue in a friendly, yet scolding manner. “I bet you he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain. No matter. At least you’re both back safe. Sleep well,” She smiles. “I’ll be back with a tea in the morning.”
I nod weakly, “Thank you…”
My eyelids feel so heavy…. I blink, but I don’t remember anything after that.
The sun is already high in the sky when I feel strong hands shake my shoulders. With some effort, I open my eyes to find a wide grin on dark, thick lips.
“Good morning, sunshine,” The rumbling voice chuckles. “I heard you got into some trouble in the past.”
“Nik…” I cough. My throat is dry.
“Hey, your memory is working. That’s a good sign,” He laughs. “Come on, I need you to sit up. You gotta have some tea.”
“Tea…” I mumble, looking around. “What about Andrei?”
“Gwen’s got him covered,” Nik assures me. I find her standing on the other side of the bed, a teacup on the nightstand as she seems to be examining Andrei. I think he’s still asleep.
“Oh… Okay,” I push myself up on my elbows and attempt to sit up. The pain in my gut flares and I fall back in defeat. Scoria, disturbed as I nearly land on her, screeches as she jumps off the pillow.
Nik frowns, “Alright, hold on.” He leans forward, sitting on the edge of the bed. He slides a thick arm under my shoulders and legs, sliding me up to lean against the headboard at an angle. “There, that should work,” He nods to himself, reaching to retrieve a cup from the dresser.
“I can’t get him to wake. What did you two do?” Gwen huffs, flapping her hands at her sides.
“He was low on energy when he made the jump back,” I hold the cup in both hands. “He said it couldn’t wait.”
“Well, if I can’t get him to drink I’ll just have to force-feed him and hope that helps him wake,” She hums, tipping the cup to his lips. I watch intently, waiting and hoping he’ll wake up. I forget about the cup in my hands.
Gwen shoots a look at her. “Get going. Let’s not wait for Christmas.”
I blink at her, “Oh.. Sorry.” I take a sip of the tea. It’s not as bad as I remember.
A tense couple minutes pass before Andrei stirs. He groans, his eyes fluttering open.
“Finally, sleeping beauty awakens,” Gwen announces with some relief.
Andrei blinks, staring blankly at her. His head snaps toward me, eyes wide. “What happened? Are you okay? Is she okay?”
“I think I’m okay,” I glance up at Gwen. “Did you check before you woke us?”
“Yes, yes. You’re both right as rain. Would you keep drinking?” Gwen urges.
I shrink back slightly. “I am…” I mumble, taking another gulp. Nik snickers.
“Oh Kat,” Andrei whines. “I’m so sorry. I did this. I nearly got you both killed! I’m so sorry.”
“Enough of that. You’re just going to get her worked up again. She needs rest. Do I need to put you in a different room?” Gwen threatens.
“No!” I gasp. I don’t want to be alone. Especially like this. “She’s right, Andrei. You need to rest too. We’re alright.”
He goes quiet, whimpering slightly. I finish the tea as quickly as I can and hand the cup back to Nik. “Would you bring something for at least Scoria to eat? I don’t know when either of us will have an appetite.”
Nik nods once, smiling at the dragon. “Sure. Let me just help you lay back down and I’ll go on the hunt,” He winks, standing up. He slides me back to my previous position and makes sure to adjust the pillow under my head before he leaves.
“I’ll leave you two be for a bit. If you need anything, just text me,” Gwen nods to the phone on the table next to me.
“Okay, thanks,” I give her a faint smile. I watch her gather the cups and head out, leaving us alone. Andrei still seems to be sulking, sniffling beside me. I shift partway onto my side so I can see him better. “Andrei? Are you okay?”
He shakes his head, weakly rolling to his side and leaning his head against my shoulder. “I almost killed the both of you, all over a stupid jousting match.”
I rest my cheek on his hair, “You didn’t know.”
“I didn’t, but Kat? It was so hard not to. I hated watching them get hurt when I could stop it. I didn’t think it would change that much, but I was foolish. I put you and our daughter on the line. I knew I wouldn’t make a good father. No matter what I do I mess things up. I’ll never get it right.” He pulls my arm to his face, covering his eyes so I can’t see him.
“No one expects you to do everything right,” I manage a weak laugh, though it hurts. “You’re only twenty, after all. How many twenty-year-olds do you know that are flawless parents?”
“I’m too young to be a dad… I’m no good for you…” He sobs.
“Stop that,” I raise my voice a bit, hoping to make a point. “We’ve already talked about that. You don’t get to give up. You have to learn from your mistakes, that’s how you grow. You can’t quit now.”
“I know… I know. I won’t.. but… I suck. You’re getting the worse end of the deal,” He sniffles.
“You don’t suck,” I roll my eyes. “A little arrogant, but no more than any other guy. Less than most, usually.”
“Why didn’t I listen to you?” He peeks out from behind my hand.
“Pride,” I answer simply. “At least, that’s my guess. I’m not surprised. I knew you wouldn’t enjoy jousting. Even I can’t stomach it.”
“Then why’d you stop me?” He looks up finally. “How’d you sit there and do nothing?”
“Why did I stop you?” I meet his gaze, raising an eyebrow. “You made it very clear that we weren’t to alter history and that revealing magic to common people was dangerous, and yet you threw that whole notion out the window as soon as people were willingly doing something incredibly stupid.”
“Well, yes. It made sense…” He complains. “If I couldn’t show them my magic I could at least save them with slight of hand. I didn’t think it would call down the wrath of God to show me I was wrong. I mean, I was helping them… wasn’t I? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Help people?”
“No, not really,” I sigh. “We’re supposed to keep balance. You can’t help fools who go marching toward death with smiles on their faces. They knew exactly what they were doing. That’s why I wouldn’t let you try. You clearly had no idea what you’d be signing up for.”
He looks down again, I hate to seem him so… vulnerable. He presses his brow against my arm and sighs. “I’m sorry.”
“I know,” I kiss the top of his head lightly. “When you’ve got some energy back… Do you think you could take me to the apartment at your parents like we talked about before?”
“Yes, I’ll do anything. Anything to make this right,” He nuzzles his face on my shoulder.
I smile. He’s kind of adorable, even though he’s sad. “Stop that and cuddle me properly, silly boy.”
“Okay,” He pulls himself up with a little struggle and stretches an arm behind my shoulders. He rests his head against mine and places his other hand on my tummy.
I turn my head and peck his lips, resting my forehead on his. “I love you, Andrei. Even when you’re stubborn.”
“You mean stupid,” He pouts.
“Yes, well,” I chuckle, “Even then.”
“I’m not your hero. Clearly,” He grumbles.
“No,” I pause for dramatic effect. “You’re my warrior hero husband.”
“I’m your what?” He shifts his head, confused.
I laugh and wince with the resulting pain in my gut. “Great warrior, hero, and husband. Remember?”
“Husband was just so Charlotte and Edward wouldn’t look at us weird when we said you were pregnant though,” He reminds me sadly. “I’m demoted now.”
I grin, “Fine, you’re just my warrior hero. At least for now.”
He shakes his head, laying it back down on the pillow, “Whatever you say.”
“What? Is it wrong to hopefully assume it’s just for now?” I ask, now unsure.
He thinks a moment before answering. “Maybe not. I just don’t feel like nows a good time to talk about it. I don’t. … feel in the mood,” He sulks.
“I could argue that it’s the best time to talk. I’m not asking if you think you deserve it or whatever you’re thinking,” I sigh, shifting to get closer and more comfortable. “Saying you would when you’re happy is one thing. Still wanting to when you’re upset means a lot more, don’t you think?”
He tilts his head toward mine, eyes glistening. I see his face crumple and his lip trembles. “I…I do. I love you so much, Kat. I do want to marry you, I just don’t think I’m good enough for you. Would you marry a hero who has a tendency of getting you nearly killed?”
“As long as that hero is you, yes,” I insist without hesitation. “There are worse things, Andrei. Much worse. You’re way too hard on yourself.”
He sniffs and then pulls himself away. I watch, confused as he slides off the bed and goes to the desk. He pulls open the drawer, moving a few things around inside. He pulls something out but I can’t see it from where he’s standing. He’s wobbly on his feet as he comes to the side of the bed. I look at him, not sure what’s happening. Is he mad? He gets down beside me on the floor and props his arms up on the bed. He looks exhausted from doing just that.
“What are you doing?” I ask, the suspense getting the better of me. “You should be resting. The tea hasn’t taken effect yet.”
“No, you’re right. For better or for worse. I need to do it now,” He shakes his head.
“Do what?” I frown. He’s starting to freak me out.
“Kaitlyn Halsey,” He pulls out a little black box and cracks the lid open. Inside sits a small ring wrought in the shape of a little dragon with its head curved around not a diamond but a little ruby. “Will you do me the honour of becoming my bride?”
I feel like the wind is knocked out of me. Even though we were talking about it, I didn’t expect this… especially right this moment. I stare at the ring, mouth hanging open in shock. It’s beautiful. When did he get this? How long has he had it there, and I had no idea?
I look up into his wide, nervous eyes. He’s holding his breath. Does he think I’ll say no? Admittedly, talking about it in theory, and it really happening feel totally different.
I flounder, my face hot and red. “Y-yes. Of course, I will.”
By Krystyna Yates