International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
felt the tower walls edge closer, imagined the spiders creeping
from their damp beds to crawl over her skin. The fever strangled
her once more. Fighting it she struggled to the window and collapsed
- breathing in the icy air. Outside the fields stretched for miles,
laughing with silent scorn at her weakness.
For twelve months
Adaira had waited - endured her suffocating prison - hoping that
each night would be the last, spent in a place she imagined equal
only to hell.
And so the days
were torn away, the nights plagued her and she had to acknowledge defeat.
No one was coming. As always her thoughts turned to those who had betrayed
her. Her father. She had never expected him to keep his promise of banishment.
It seemed his love was not as unconditional as she had thought. Perhaps
she could have borne this pain - if only he had not deserted her also.
She closed her eyes; a fierce refusal to meet the vision of his face,
slowing drowning in an army of sparring thoughts.
She made a vow to herself in that dungeon, witnessed only by the silent,
solid walls of her prison. She would never trust anyone with her heart
Looking out at the sweeping fields - licked with icy morning dew - she
recalled making another promise. A promise that was everything and nothing
A Chance Meeting
Leaving her three cousins behind in a giggling heap Adaira left the
dwindling game of bowls in search of Alfie, the Palaces groomsman.
He was in the stable-yard, lowering the stirrups on her frisky bay gelding
Pixie who snorted with impatience at her approach. Alfies face
bore a look of reproach as he saw her fine dress but he pursed his lips
and said nothing.
"Hes in a right mood today miss, hell be playing you
up Im tellin ya."
"Hell be fine once were out there, he just hates being
cooped up in the stables all day."
"Hmm I hope your right. Now I dont want you cantering down
those ditches again."
"Alfie stop worrying well-"
"Its far too dangerous not to mention improper for a lady."
"Especially if youre riding side saddle as yer meant to be
With a no more nonsense look he gave her a leg up, produced
a whip and frowned at her obvious haste to get going.
"Honestly, you encourage that horse Adaira, you really do."
Eventually he nodded with satisfaction, and without a seconds
pause Adaira had smacked the bays flank and left the stable-yard.
Sighing Alfie turned his back on the pair and strode off in search of
a task less provoking.
Half an hour later and streaked with sweat Adaira pulled herself up
from one of the muddiest ditches she had ever encountered.
"Pixie, you dont know how lucky you are, if Id have
She had to laugh, it was her own fault, and she was constantly being
warned about her "adventurous" riding. But with such extensive
countryside surrounding the palace she just couldnt resist a fast
ride and a few jumps.
"Thats enough for today Pix, wed better get back before
father threatens to give you away again!"
Adaira leapt up into the saddle, one foot in the stirrup. Just as she
was reaching for the other, a flurry of trumpets blasted out from somewhere
in the distance distracting her. She leaned forward to listen; suddenly
a loud shot rung out - unnerving Pixie who surged forward into a hasty
gallop. Losing her footing, Adaira was violently flung over her horses
neck and landed hard in a crumpled heap on the damp ground.
Her eyes swam and she struggled to see. On hearing a voice she tried
to sit up but an aching pain in her side forced her to sink back down.
"Hey, be careful there, you had a nasty fall."
As her eyes slowly regained their focus, she looked down to the arm
that was gently helping her sit up. She assumed it must belong to one
of her uncles men - sent out to search for her. Looking shyly
into the face of her rescuer, she caught her breath and quickly averted
her eyes. The man helping her was no servant of the king; he was a young,
handsome man and from his exquisite dress and private crest, most definitely
"Im so sorry to disturb your journey sir, I, my horse was
scared and I lost my footing."
The young man remained silent but his eyes danced distinctly with laughter.
Feeling extremely embarrassed she attempted to rise with dignity and
flushed at the offer of his hand to help her up.
"Youre clearly in pain. Please let me help you. "
Realising that she had no idea where Pixie was, or just how far from
home shed ridden, she accepted his hand - cringing at her dirty
one and wishing she had taken Alfies advice to avoid the muddy
ditches. Gently lifting her up onto the saddle of his horse, he leapt
up behind her, supporting her bad side whilst urging his horse on at
a brisk walk. Adaira akwardly leaned back into his chest, aching too
much to sit as rigid as was proper. She stared at his hands - not knowing
what to say. It was a feeling alien to her; only that morning she had
been teased about her constant chatter.
"You could talk the hind legs off a donkey, thats what father
says." The laughing voice of her little cousin Ella, trying to
mimic the grave baritone of uncle Ivor made her giggle.
"Whats so funny?"
The question brought her back to reality with a jolt and she mumbled
a weak excuse that it was nothing. A feeling of confusion began to attack
her senses. His very voice sent tiny tremors across her skin. It was
as if ants had somehow crawled into her veins and were somersaulting
in her blood. She had never been so close to a man before but never
had she felt so safe. Again his deep voice interrupted her thoughts.
"Where do you live? I just realised Ive been heading towards
Umbar and I dont even know if you live there."
"You live in Umbar?"
Adaira could guess at his answer but still hoped she was wrong.
"Yes, I live there with my father. I assume then that you dont?"
"No, I live in Keir. Actually my uncle is the king."
"Your uncle is king Ivor?"
"Yes, do you know him?"
"I know of him."
The silence that ensued made Adaira feel uneasy - what could have happened
for the mention of her uncle to provoke such a reaction? She knew that
King Bracken and her uncle didnt get along, but hadnt realised
the bitterness had seeped into the two kingdoms as well. Just as she
was beginning to feel hot and slightly panic-stricken, she felt him
gently take her hand in his. Something in his touch silenced the rising
blush creeping to her cheeks. As they rode on, she felt herself relax
and begin to notice the beauty of the woods around her. Usually she
rode so fast her view of the land was a blurred mass of colour. Now
she noticed the bird nests carefully sown amongst the branches, and
the damp moss lying at the oak trees feet. She was trying to decide
whether she had just seen a deer or a stag, when a sudden trampling
of hooves made her start. Coming toward her at a fast canter was Alfie,
astride a disgruntled and heavily panting Pixie.
"Miss Adaira! Thank goodness Ive found you, your father went
nigh on mad when the damn horse came a back without you."
"Im sorry Alfie, Pixie took a start and I fell. This kind
gentleman helped me."
Alfie looked at the "gentleman" in dismay, and after uttering
a mumbled - and Adaira felt - rather abrupt thank you, he insisted on
carrying Adaira home himself on Pixie. She turned to look up into the
strangers face, wishing she could say something. The ants were
sprinting through her veins now and all she could manage was a hopeless
silence. Seeming to understand the unspoken words she herself struggling
to grasp, he squeezed her hand and whispered into her hair.
"Im sure well meet again."
Before she could snap herself out of this uncharacteristic dumb show
she suddenly found herself in, he was gone and she was left staring
at the mud flicked up by his horses hooves.
Adaira shook her head violently, hearing the persistent trample of his
horses hooves in her mind. She wished she hadnt let herself
remember. The fresh air brought in through the open window that morning
had stilled. Feeling hot and clammy Adaira lay down on the floor; pushing
her cheek against its damp, cool surface and willing the memories to
leave her alone. Yet again her strength failed her and this time it
was her fathers enraged voice that disturbed her wandering thoughts.
"How could you betray your family this way Adaira, for a young
man you hardly even know?"
"Father I do know him and I know that whatever Uncle Ivor thinks-"
"What, you think your Uncle is wrong? You think that you know better?"
"I dont mean that I know better, but I know Leon and if you
gave him a chance youd-"
"Youre nineteen years old, what do you know about men? Do
not try to interrupt me again Adaira. I am your father and I forbade
you from seeing him."
"I love him. I had to see him Father - Im sorry."
"Youve gone against my orders - all those weeks - lying.
Against the wishes of your uncle, Against a King Adaira, and that is
no small matter. You will stop seeing that man or Lord forgive me what
I must do."
Tears tickled her
cheeks and she shut her eyes tight, wet eyelashes dusting the bare floor,
struggling to forget the rest of that horrible day. Her father had ignored
her pleas, refused to even meet Leon himself. It was then that she had
let slip their plans to marry. She hadnt meant for it to come
out, but somehow the words had escaped from her mouth before she had
even felt them on her tongue. Her fathers fury had erupted - a
tirade of accusations screamed that she was a traitor. She had been
cast out. A servant packed her things and within hours she was bundled
into a carriage and driven throughout the night to the tower. Believing
in her fathers love she had waited for him to realise his mistake.
She had waited for Leon to search and find her. She had waited
The days passed, and with them came the spring. Adaira woke from fitful
nightmares to sunbeams dancing on the tower walls - urging her to join
in their joy. Birdsong filled the emptiness of her prison, and even
the water she hauled up from the well tasted somehow fresher. Slowly
her tired body began to revive. Each week she felt herself grow stronger,
like the sunny daffodils outside her window - poking their heads up
from their earthy beds to display their colourful petals.
One particularly warm morning - noticing she had run out of water -
Adaira began to descend the winding, stone staircase to the well at
the towers basement. As she walked past the oak door, heavy metal
bars in place as usual - blocking from her the world outside - she noticed
something strange. At the foot of the door in the right hand corner
was a small hole; probably a mouse had gnawed its way through she decided.
However on closer inspection, she saw that in actual fact the wood was
rotting away. Further up the door splintering gaps were appearing too.
Adaira held her breath in desperate hope, and gently applied some pressure
to the doors rusty hinges. The wood began to sigh and the hinges
seemed loose. Leaning harder against the door she felt the wood beneath
her give slightly, and in a joyous panic she began to throw her weight
at the door with all her strength. After several attempts she had to
rest, her arms were grazed and some splinters had nestled their way
into her skin, but she was so excited at the thought of seeing the sky
and touching the grass, that soon she was battling the heavy door again.
It was definitely weakening, but after a whole day of resting and pushing
she had to give up.
At first light Adaira was running down the steps and again throwing
herself at the stubborn door. After four days of repeating her efforts,
she told herself that it wasnt going to work. Forcing herself
to try one last time she summoned the last of her bodys strength,
threw herself side-on at the door, and finally it gave way - bursting
open with a great crash.
Adaira stumbled forward, stopped herself from falling and then flung
herself to the ground regardless, kissing the dewy blades beneath her
in sheer delight. Jumping up she ran, tears streaming down her face
and screaming at the top of her lungs. She was free. After months of
longing to feel grass beneath her feet and wind on her cheeks she was
free. Looking around her she suddenly remembered her situation, and
her joy simmered down into unease - what was she going to do now?
The Hidden Village
After two days of walking through nothing but fields and woodland Adaira
began to grow anxious. As a child she had never been further than 20
miles outside of Keir. The local countryside she knew well, from her
rides out with Pixie, but none of her surroundings here looked at all
familiar. What was even more disturbing was that she couldnt see
a single cottage, or even a farm house anywhere.
After a short rest - and having eaten the last of the raspberries shed
found - she was at a loss as to what to do next. There were no roads,
no signposts and no people to ask for directions. In front of her were
more fields and to her left was a rather dark looking forest. Deciding
that at least she may find something to eat in the forest, she set off
at a brisk walk - hoping to get through it before the evening fell.
It felt like she had been walking for months, not days and Adaira began
to wonder if shed been better off in the tower. Realising the
sheer stupidity of her thought she gave herself a stern talking too
and carried on walking. A few miles on and she was sure she had gone
round in a big circle, when suddenly she thought she could make out
a track up ahead. Stepping carefully over some fallen branches, she
came up to it - muddy and disused as it was - it looked as if at some
time a woodsman had cleared it, for it was big enough to drive a cart
down. Clearly however, it had not been for a long while. Weeds grew
across the path and dead branches lay strewn at its side. Once though
it had been used, so it must have led somewhere and this thought gave
Adaira the drive she needed to work her way through the boggy ground.
She kept slipping and falling in the mud and most of the berries shed
found in the forest were inedible. Slowly her energy was draining away
and just as she felt on the verge of collapse, she thought she heard
a noise. Listening closer she heard another sound and soon she was running
through the mud, out of breath with excitement. Bursting through a thicket
of bushes, she stumbled into what looked like somebodys vegetable
garden. Scurrying around the side of the adjoining house, she walked
out into a village square. All along the edges were tiny cottages and
here or there was the odd shop.
The sound of bustling life surged through her veins. A woman was coming
out of one of the cottages - a writhing ginger cat in her arms. Adaira
crossed the square and watched the woman knock on her neighbours
door, a heated onslaught followed whereby the woman dumped the cat into
a confused looking boys arms and stormed back over to her own
house. Adaira ran over just as the lady was closing her gate.
"Oh excuse me, excuse me!"
The woman ignored her, walked up her pathway and shut the front door
with a loud slam. Adaira assumed she hadnt realised it was she
being called and looked around for somebody else to speak to. An old
man was coming out of a grocers shop across the street and a flurry
of people further down the road seemed to be heading for a little church
on the corner.
"I wonder why theyre all in such a hurry."
As Adaira mumbled to herself, a mother rushed past her - trying without
success - to clean her sons face with a wet cloth.
"Come on Ewan, its the Queens coronation today - we
need to be in church."
A Queen? As far as Adaira knew there had never been a Queen in all the
history of Keir. Her uncle himself had prayed daily for a son, for he
said "no woman had ever been a successful Queen." Where was
this place, for surely she was nowhere near her home? Passing the grocers
shop she heard the shop keeper call back the old man.
"John, youve forgotten your apples."
"Ah thank ya, no doubt Id forget me own head if it werent
"Not going to the church today?"
"No. I was a full supporter of Old Ivor. You wont catch me
celebrating a woman on the throne, even if it is one of his daughters."
"Ay I know what yer saying, but the Kings been in his grave
these past two months. We cant be without ruler forever."
"Such a shame his brother was taken too. He would have made a fine
"Ay, but they said he was going mad after all the trouble with
At these words Adaira stopped listening. Her uncle was dead. His brother
was dead. No, they had to be wrong, her father couldnt be gone.
She turned to the two men who were shaking hands and turning away from
"Sir, please, what you just said about the King. You must be wrong,
you have to be wrong!"
The tears poured from her eyes but the old man carried on walking, shaking
his head sadly. She longed to run after him, tear at his shirt, force
him to speak to her, but her body was weak and she leaned against the
grocers wall for support. She had to get home. Somehow she had
to get home.
A surprise encounter
Adaira marched stoically towards Keir. The odd signpost carved into
a piece of wood marked her progress. Weary and broken she listlessly
managed to put one foot in front of the other. The days and nights dragged
on like a waking nightmare. She was back again in the tower. The walls
were closing in on her. The spiders were crawling over her skin. She
couldnt breathe. Her body was thinning from lack of food and her
mind continued to play tricks on her. Shed hear her fathers
voice scolding her for riding too far, or his laugh as he ruffled her
hair and told her she was stubborn just like he.
Finally, as the moon shone down upon the tree tops she caught sight
of the castles battlements and knew she was home. Reaching the
palace gardens her body finally broke from lack of food and water and
she crumpled with relief and pain onto the grass. The suns light
touch awoke her several hours later and she heard a familiar, sweet
voice speak, yet it was unmistakeable tinged with sorrow.
"Poor father, if you could only see what your Keir has become."
It was Bethany, her eldest cousin. She was standing over a gravestone
laying down some snowdrops. They always had been her favourite flower
- the palace gardener used to grow furious when she picked them. Sighing,
Beth walked a few paces to another grave and bent down to replace some
dead flowers with fresh ones.
"Uncle, why did you leave it so late to save her?"
Adaira saw the tears on her cheeks and tried to lift herself up to embrace
her cousin, to tell her it was okay, that she was here. Yet her voice
would not awaken, the words wouldnt come. Beth moved onwards,
still clutching some flowers to her chest. Soon she came to another
head stone. No one else, Adaira prayed, please let no-one else I love
"Why did you have to go and love him? Now everything is lost. What
sort of Queen will I be? I have no strength to rule. The war has drained
What war? Adaira felt confused, delirious even. Who was Beth talking
to and what did she mean by a war? As her cousin laid the flowers down
and prepared to walk away, Adaira forced herself to rise and stumbled
towards her cousin.
"Beth, its me. Im back."
But Beth turned away from her, shoulders stooped in silent pain. Thinking
perhaps she hadnt heard her, Adaira tried again.
"Beth, its me, Addy! Whats been happening? Beth, please!"
Her cousin walked onwards, up to the castle, leaving Adaira in an aching
confusion. Dragging herself painfully over to where her cousin had been
standing, she read the slanting words etched into the headstone.
She rubbed at her eyes, she squeezed them shut tightly. She pinched
herself to see if she was dreaming, but the name was still her own.
Thoughts leaped before her minds eye screaming for attention,
yet her body couldnt take the shock. She fell to her knees, fighting
to breathe, and then she heard the whispered voices. Looking up she
saw the castles cook with another lady she didnt recognise.
"Such a shame, such a dear shame; she couldnt help who she
"Ay and her dear father, he loved her. He didnt mean to leave
her there so long."
"I heard it was the fever, me two sons had it also god bless. And
when he got to her it was too late?"
"Ay, of a broken heart she went they say. And that was it, all
fell away after that. Her father went mad, made Ivor declare war."
"The King died in the battle, but what of her father and the love?"
"Fought each other to the end; both loved her and blamed the other
for her death. Even after everything they couldnt make their peace."
Adaira couldnt focus on their words anymore. Her heart was beating
too loudly and she felt too hot. The spiders were crawling towards her,
scurrying from the earth by her grave, through her mind and making their
way down to her broken heart. There they rested, weaving a tight web
around her heart - a heart made for so much love. A heart now broken
and empty: finally free and finally home - yet eternally lost.
© Natalie Tehrani
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