Chapter 6: Mending Bridges
Several months have passed since Logan's trial and the venomous words Ben Finn spoke to his beloved queen Rosa. He had known that he had been unfair to her but it had taken him so long to find reason and make sense of everything that was going on around them.
He had spent all of his time training the army and setting up defences all around Bowerstone for that was where the Crawler and the consuming darkness would certainly strike first. It was always in the back of everyone's mind that if they failed here then it would forever be over. But it is not his duty as a loyal soldier that brings him back to the castle where the Queen resides but his duty as her friend, even if she doesn't realise this.
It started a few weeks ago when Walter had begun having terrible nightmares that plagued him every night. He would scream and claw at the air in his sleep and when he would awaken, the most haunted look would decorate his face.
"This has been going on for weeks now Walter. You can't keep insisting you're fine...Tell me what is it that plagues your dreams?" Ben was standing beside the knights bed, his habit of trying to snap the man back to reality becoming increasingly difficult.
Walter merely sighed deeply and wiped his eyes and the remnants of the nightmare away before looking up at the blonde and deciding that it was finally time to confide in someone. "I didn't want to say anything because then I would be admitting that it was really happening..." He dragged his gaze away from Ben to look out into the camp to see the other men going about their daily duties knowing that they still had a little time left before the chaos came.
The Captain had never seen Walter like this and it scared him to his very core. He cautiously bent down on his knees to be level with the man "Walter, tell me please." He pleaded and although part of him didn't want the answer. He felt that he just had to know.
"I've been having nightmares about my encounter with the Crawler." It is a mere whisper but the shock of these words seems to fill the tiny tent. He lets the words sink in before carrying on, never looking at Ben but the men outside with the freezing rain.
"Darkness surrounds me, the Crawlers voice taunts and I try to get away but it's always there and when I finally stop running, I see all those that I have lost. They blame me for their deaths, that it's all my fault...I yell at them that I didn't...that I did everything I could..." He stops and takes several deep breaths and Ben knows that the worst is yet to come within this dreadful story.
"It always ends the same. Rosa appears smiling at me and I think that it's finally over...Then the darkness swirls around her like a dance and she's saying my name again and again, reaching out to me, begging me to save her. I can't move, I can only watch as it slowly consumes her. Watch as finally it drains her life and her last breath dies on her lips and she turns to dust before my very eyes."
The quiet in the tent is deafening and it's a lifetime until Walter turns his gaze back onto his most trusted friend and he sees his own horror reflected back in those blue orbs. "It wants her Ben, knows that she is the Life of Albion and without her we stand no chance."
That statement is like a slap across the Captains face and without hesitation he stands and makes his way to leave. For he will be damned if he lets that thing anywhere near her; He will gladly die in order to protect her.
It had only taken him a couple of weeks from the forest encampment back to Bowerstone, however his relief was short lived for upon his arrival he had heard distressing news regarding the Queen's health. According to those he interrogated on his way to the castle she had recently been suffering nightmares after an encounter with a lost loved one, thought to be dead.
The more Ben heard the quicker he ran, his legs burning from the abuse but he didn't care. Nothing mattered but reaching her and keeping her safe in any way he could. By the time he reaches the castle, night has fallen upon Bowerstone and most of the maids and servants have retired for the evening.
So it comes as no surprise to Ben when he sees Hobson wandering around the entrance hall in his pyjamas having come from the treasure room. The old man sees him immediately and flounders about in embarrassment.
"For heaven's sake could you not arrive at a more acceptable hour?" He doesn't mask his irritation at obviously been caught in his night clothes.
Ignoring his attitude and his remark Ben has far more important things to contend with and so curtly cuts to the chase. "Where is the Queen?" Despite knowing her name he feels unworthy to use it, especially suspecting that if he did, Hobson would surely tell Walter who would certainly maim him for becoming too familiar with her.
Startled momentarily Hobson points up the giant staircase and speaks in a mocking tone "In her chambers as any normal person should be as this ungodly hour." His voice softens and he sighs gently before continuing "Not that it's doing her any good. She's been waking us all up from her screaming. Jasper does what he can but it's not working."
Ben doesn't waste any more time with Hobson, he swiftly turns round and dashes up the main stairwell like a man possessed. The need to see Rosa urges him to run till his lungs are on fire. The desire to have her right in front of him consumes his very being and there is something in the back of his that tells him that this feeling goes beyond of that of soldier and concerned friend but he has no time for that now.
So lost in the madness of his urge to see her, he practically runs into the two massive doors to her chambers and slams them open dramatically only to stop dead and stare at the unsettling sight before him.
Rosa is thrashing around the huge kings sized bed muttering words he cannot make out. She is sweating and her hair sticks to her skin and her clothes are all terribly ruffled. She looks deathly pale almost as if she is a ghost.
Ben shakes his head violently before striding up to her and placing both hands on her shoulders roughly pries her from whatever nightmare was plaguing her. She snaps her eyes open and immediately starts to push him away from her, the remnants of her nightmare following her into reality. He doesn't let her and simply moves his arms around to cradle her and says softly "It's Ben. You're ok now."
She inhales sharply and stops fighting him and collapses into his embrace, her head resting in the crook of his neck, her hands instinctively wrapping around him. They stay like that for what seems like hours in the comfort of each other on the edge of her bed.
Eventually Rosa comes to her senses and pushes Ben gently away from her. For a moment she had thought it was Walter or even Elliot comforting her, never in a million years would she have guessed that the Captain would come to her in her time of need. She feels her defences rising for she has not forgotten the words he last spoke to her nor has she forgiven him.
"What in Avo, are you doing here Captain?" Despite her trying her voice doesn't sound as steely or as hard as she would have liked. She stares up at his face that is hidden in the darkness of night.
"I came here to ensure you're alright." He takes a few steps back from her and turns on the lamp on her bedside table, momentarily blinding them both. He gazes back into her ocean blue eyes and finds that he could easily lose himself in them, and perhaps he already has for he just can't seem to shake her from his mind.
With her night gown slightly raised, exposing her legs up till her knees, she suddenly feels extremely vulnerable. After all she is lying in her bed, in her loose night gown in front of a man whose eyes seem glued to her in the middle of the night. Definitely not a safe situation in her mind, not that she believes the Captain would try anything and she's fairly confident she could blast him with lightning if he did.
Ben senses the change in her demeanour and the position she is in and he doesn't want to make her uncomfortable so he walks round to stand at the end of her bed closer to the doors. "Walter was having nightmares about what happened in Aurora, so I came to check on you on his behalf." He blurts out in his need to fill the deafening silence. "When I got to town I heard you were ill and pelted over here to see for myself..."
"I appreciate your concern." Rosa can feel her defences lowering a bit, the news about Walter taking her primary attention. "What's afflicting Walter?"
"I'm guessing the same thing that's affected you." Ben says this gently, for he knows she doesn't want to be seen or thought of as a weak damsel in distress. Not that he would ever think that of her. He notices her tense up and suddenly finding it hard to look at him and all these disturb him than any Balverine could.
At first he thinks she's not going to respond to him but several minutes pass by when she finally says "I doubt Walter dreams of Elliot."
Just at that moment Lucky comes running in and pushes past Ben to jump on the bed and lay down next to his lady. The collie's arrival evokes a small smile on the queen's face and she immediately begins stroking his thick fur as she continues on without Ben's prompting.
"He was my betrothed and on the day I left the castle, I provoked Logan by asking him to stop his ways and he made me choose between the villagers and Elliot and... I didn't choose him. I believed him dead." Her voice shakes and tears well up in her eyes but she won't let them fall. "I was running an errand for a citizen and her fiancé had been kidnapped so I went to rescue him and it was none other than Elliot...He'd moved on and I let him go because in the end it was the right thing to do..."
Ben Finn could not say how relieved he was that her nightmares were based upon a lost love rather than the Crawler. However he feels a violent anger rising in him towards the Elliot fellow that abandoned the queen when she deserved to be happy.
He hadn't realised he had moved until he had placed his hand softly on her shoulder, trying to comfort her in the only way he knew how. Now was not the time to embrace but my doing this he hoped she would understand that he was there for her.
"Don't worry Rosa, you'll find someone better but in the meantime you'll just have to make deal with me." He joked lightly to help improve her mood.
The night was nearing its end and the dawn was threatening to break its entry, Ben wasted no time making his departure and closed the double doors behind him.
It wasn't until the doors clocked shut did Rosa realise that Ben had called her by first name and she settled back into bed with Lucky curled next to her with a smile gracing her as she drifted into a peaceful sleep that she hadn't experienced in a long time.