Chapter 12

Many roads lead to different destinations. Yet, ever since she was born, her path had already been chosen. Predetermined roads to her destinations in life. Her parents had taught her well growing up so that one day she would lead the country into an aspiring future. That time was now. She did all that she was asked of and now in return, she was the role model for Highland. She was Queen.

That spring had led into summer as now six months had passed since the defeat of Mortimus. They had tried sending messengers into their lands but the boarders had remained closed and heavily guarded with no entry into their country. Mortimus had closed themselves off from the surrounding lands ever since with not even a single letter or word of mouth. Highland had placed several of their own guards at the border for their own security if the word of Camus Miclotov was to emerge. Yet all was quiet and peaceful. Too quiet. Cassia had made many decisions for Highland in the last six months including the rebuild of three small villages that were destroyed the many years ago as a monument to all those lost. She had also maintained all the other busy villages such as Ries and Laguna to receive proper provisions and livestock. The people were happy. The quality of life was increasing and above all, there was peace. Highland was slowly thriving with the care their new Queen was providing.

But through all the happiness and security throughout the land, there were still matters always to attend to and although their Queen always had a smile on her face, her heart was in desolation. Her Knight was still nowhere to be heard of. As the months passed by and she remained more busy than ever with her responsibilities, much hope was lost of ever seeing him. Cassia hid her feelings well from those around her. As Queen, she was not to think about herself—she had an entire country to look after now. The time of fairy tales and happily ever after was over.

Yet, she had to move on. Alexandria was busy as ever as the town was preparing for their next big festivity. The official coronation of their Queen. The castle gates were to open once more as Cassia would formally and publically be crowned.

Amidst in the castle, Qualen sat in a small tavern used by the royals alongside Hannah, their strategist enjoying an afternoon drink.

"How are preparations for thy coronation coming about?" Qualen began. Most days she wore a white tunic with an front lace corset that had Highland's emblem embodied on her back, knee high black skirt with gold trim and complete with leather boots. Her sword was always on hand in its sheath attached to her black leather belt.

"On schedule. Tomorrow, our Queen shall be crowned."

"She hast come a long way since the spring…" Qualen dwelled away. "I know she will not admit, but I know she is distressed at times."

"I would say so as well. Her highness hast rejected two marriage proposals from the Lord of Kovan as well as the Isle of Tordam. I have heard word that another is to come the day of her coronation. Thy topmost Knight from the Toran Republic in the north. The gent is known to be quite exquisitely good-looking."

"I suppose we shalt see. Her heart seems to be indifferent in the idea of marriage."

"I concur. But the people need reassurance in a new King to help lead." As a moment of silence passed between them taking a few sips of their beverages, Hannah continued on, "Has there still been nay word of Sir Pearson?"

"Nye, none at all. He has disappeared from the kingdom. Very strange… Pixo hast been trying to search him out with nay luck. But as a matter of fact, he did take off two days ago abruptly. Perhaps a lead?"

"Wherever the young sir is, I hope he is well enow."

"My lady, I must say, this gown is absolutely stunning!" One of Cassia's noblewomen spoke holding the dark blue gown presenting it. "Perfect for the coronation."

Cassia overlooked the well-made dress, lace cut in the front puffy shoulders and gold trim on the hems along the sides. "Yes, it is rather beautiful." She spoke, a hint of wit in her voice as picking out dresses wasn't up to her standards at the moment. Being a female heir came with much prep responsibilities in presenting herself to the people. Her attire and presentation had to be top of its class daily, which kept her maids busy throughout the days. Cassia wasn't one to admit she did not care much for the formality of dressing up, but did so to be the aspiring leader everyone looked up for her to be.

"Excellent choice. All of Alexandria and travelling visitors shall be very delighted. The choice to open the gates and publically preform thy coronation for all to seeth is very exciting."

"Tis a celebration, Mary." Another one of Cassia's lady-in-waiting spoke, and then looked over at Cassia. "One of the first female heirs taking the throne rather than a King. You inspire so many, my Lady."

"Thank you for your words." Replied Cassia. "Now if it be true only thy council would heed in finding me a spouse."

"I for one am glad the Lords that were presented for you, you rejected. You deserve much happiness, my Lady. The perfect match will come. If I may speak freely, I have heard many valorous deeds about the Knight from the Toran Republic. Young, handsome, skillful and intelligent..."

"What of his name?" Mary asked.

"I earwigged it being... Vash. Hmm, Vash Norfolk?"

"Strong name, forsooth. Let us desire his looks and personality live up to his name as well."

Cassia felt like a daze as her maids continued on about the upcoming festivities of the coronation and theso called Knight of the Toran Republic. She didn't feel quite herself these days and especially with the added pressure of leadership. Perhaps this man would be an appropriate suitor. Highland and Toran had always been close allies. As their neighboring country to the north, alliancing with them through marriage would give both countries a great strength and trading capabilities to further benefit each other. To the North of Alexandria stood a vast torrential gorge that separated the land between them. Three known bridges were built to join the neighboring countries, one for Highland, further east connected Toran with Mortimus and to the west joined them with Kovan. All bridges were guarded with men from both countries to gain entry into each other's lands. Only time would tell if this "Vash" would be acceptable.

Bang, bang, bang, the hammer forcefully pounded the wooden peg into the 2x4 as he, accompanied by many others worked long into the days building homes in a large empty area of the forest in Highland. Instead of using cheap materials such as straw, wattle and daub, her highness had ordered these homes to be built with more elaborate materials for more comfortable and long lasting residency. A total of sixteen homes were to be built in that area—Cherrygate. The ruins and rebel of the older village had been cleaned and a large stone monument stood large and proud with a memorable quote to never forget those who had lived and died there.

Through the busy months, they had built a total of twelve homes thus far. Much work was still to be done that would continue into the fall.

Pixo rode on horse as he slowly entered the newly built community that these men were hard at work constructing. If this is what they had started six months ago, it was mighty impressive at how fast they were working. The landscape was shaped nicely as paths and millwork was built as well throughout. Continuing through, he noticed something rather familiar. Up above constructing on the roof of a home, there he was. At first Pixo blinked to see if it was truly him or not. Alas it was. Trotting up closer to the house, he chuckle.

"So this is where thee hast been." Pixo began, speaking up so he could hear. Up above the man turned his head and looked down at the man on the horse. It was Pixo, unmasked revealing his face.

"Nay way, is it truly?" He smiled, smiling. Making his way down and approaching Pixo who then stepped down off his horse.

"It is good to see thee again, Ty."

"How did thee know I was here? Is everything well? It has been too long."

"Thee has been rather sore to track down. I did manage to eavesdrop on some rather important conversations in the council a few days ago that has led me here. Everyone has been well. They miss you…" He paused for a moment when Ty did not reply. "Qualen and I have been courting. Thy lady is a strong-willed, unique individual. I value her deeply."

"I am happy to hear that. She deserves the most wondrous." With another paused looking down, he then turned his head to face Pixo once more. "…How hast Cassia been?"

"Qualen is at each moment by her side and tells me stories of her. Her highness is forsooth not the same lady anymore since taking on the responsibility as Queen. She does often appear melancholy."

"I see…" Ty could only imagine how she felt. For him, not a day had past where he didn't think about her. Many thoughts had crossed his mind day after day he had been gone—what did everyone think of him leaving so abruptly and no word since? He knew it wasn't his fault but they did not know that. He wished things could be different. To be able to live back in Alexandria surrounded by his many friends, to live in the peace of no threat of Mortimus anymore. To have been able to tell Cassia his true feelings, regardless of how she felt in return.

"What are thee doing here? Wherefore did thee leave so suddenly after the battle that day?"

Ty then scratched his head and looked away wearisome before looking back. "I, uh…it is complicated…I cannot say why."

"Everyone has been worried about thy whereabouts. Perchance come back to see them? Her highness' coronation is tomorrow. I can escort thee to Alexandria. She will want to see you."

"Forgive me Pixo and the journey thee spent coming here but I must decline...I should get back to work."

Pixo suspected that something indeed was off with Ty and his unwillingness to return to Alexandria. He was definitely not the young spirited man when they first met nor when he had trained him. Something had happened to make him be out here in the middle of the forest on the duties oflabour. This man was Cassia's Knight who had fought against CamusMiclotov after all. He was to be knighted for hishonour and bravery towards Highland. What had happened? What changed him? There was no way he was just going to let Ty walk away from all of this—he needed answers. And Pixo wasn't going to leave until Ty was coming back with him to Alexandria. As Ty began to walk away, Pixo looked around him to see a nearby log. Walking over and picking it up, he then began to walk towards Ty. "Forgive me, myfriend." Pixo spoke, swinging it and smacking him across the back of his head. Ty blacked out, falling to the ground while some of the nearby workers stopped what they were doing to watch. Throwing the log to the ground, Pixo then walked over to Ty, picking him up over his shoulder and heaving him up on his horse. "Tis for the best that you return to Alexandria…" He himself then climbed up and sat on the saddle and directed the horse to gallop—back to Alexandria, less than half a day's travel.

As darkness consumed the lands that night, the many villagers throughout slept peaceful slumbers. The air warm, clear skies and only the soothing sound of nature around. Yet, not all had the pleasure of sleeping in their beds as work was always needed to be done.

In the midst of the forests of Highland, one leaned up against a mighty tree, torch in hand to provide him light while he waited. As the minutes passed by, a galloping horse in the near distance approached and the two men met.

"I must make haste so speak now of the plans." The knight on the horse first began. "Her highness coronation begins tomorrow at noon. Will thee be ready?"

"Aye, yes sir. Thanks to Sir Rem's directions and instructions, we were with no trouble able to move into position without being seen."

"Excellent, our majesty will be most pleased. Keep thy men in line till the signal."

"Yes, sir."

Waking up, he placed his hand immediately on the back of his head from the throbbing pain. He got wacked pretty good. Looking up, there stood Pixo looking out a small window as the sun shined through. Then beginning to look around, Ty felt as if his body almost going into stock—sitting on a normal flat simple mattress with a feather pillow and linen blankets. There was a small wooden dresser and a small pub style table with two wooden chairs in one corner. He knew he definitely wasn't in CherryGate anymore.

"Good morrow, Ty. Finally wakeful, I see." Pixo began after he turned around and faced him.

"Pixo, thee did not do what I bethink you did. Are we…"

"Aye. This is my lodging in the inn. Welcome back to Alexandria."

Ty stood up and walked over to the window and looked out. Musicians were playing in the streets as the many townsfolk were walking around and setting up displays for their Queen's big day. Her official coronation. Children ran about playing amongst one another while local businesses prepared food and entertainment for the day's festivities that awaited them. Turning his head and looking back at a calm Pixo, he sighed. "I should not be here."

"Why so worried, friend?"

But Ty did not reply. He remembered well that day six months ago where he had to leave this glorious town. When we had to leave everyone—Pixo, Marx, Qualen…and especially Cassia. He then turned his head away and gazed back out the window…

"Ty Pearson. Thee is hereby charged with treason against her highness of Alexandria and of Highland for the delinquency misconduct towards thy country and nobles."

He was then escorted out of Deios castle and brought by carriage to the front gates of Alexandrian where a dozen men waited to be transported in another larger carriage. These men didn't look like criminals, none were chained or being punished. Ty felt so confused in what was going on around him. When he turned his head, Royston was approaching.

"Chancellor Royston, I do not understand what is going on. I have not betrayed anyone nor committed any treason." Ty began to plea, hoping to know more with what was going on.

"Mr. Pearson. I have been serving Highland for almost twenty years now. I live to serve the Deios family and to ensure the proper wellbeing of my nobles. Thee, sir, are trouble and I do not believe that your intentions are pure and honourable. King Deios, may rest his soul, might have had an intuition of placing thee in the Knighthood to protect her highness, but I do not. It is my duty to ensure her highness must be arranged with a proper suitor to lead Highland. I do not know of what happened between the two of you after Windermere, nor do I want to know, alas I know she is fond of you."

"So are thee accusing me of serving my own duty of protecting Cassia!? That is all that I have done!"

"For the misconduct you are deceiving her into! I will not allow her highness to be infatuated with a peasant. Thee sir, have been stripped of thy title as Knight. Punishment for treason is the stocks. Yet, I am a gentleman and will allow you to live—away from Alexandria. Thee hast been assigned labour duties on the reconstruction of thy home village of CherryGate. Thee shall remain there and are banned to return to Alexandria. Punishment will be death upon your arrival, boy."

Before Ty had the chance to speak, two guards grabbed him by the forearms and forced him into the carriage to be transported out of Alexandria.

And with that, he was gone. He remained in CherryGate since, doing his duty he was tasked with. Now that he was back in Alexandria, he was feeling nervous. What had Pixo done and what was to come about once he stepped out of the inn…