I make my way through the servants' tunnels to Duncan's room. My mother is at his door talking with a doctor. I want to calm my mother, but I cannot let anyone know I'm okay and still in Kensington. It pains me to listen to the distress and pain in her voice. I cannot imagine a single reason for Uncle Kane to do this to us. My father loved Uncle Kane with everything he was. My father made sure I saw the good in Uncle Kane, and for a while there was a hidden light in my uncle. Now there is nothingness.
I see my mother going toward kitchen and use the opportunity to sneak into Duncan's room. His room is smaller than mine, much smaller. It reminds me of how simple and comforting Duncan is. He always boasts about how all he needs are his quill and ink to be happy. Duncan is a master of words I'm sure that adds to his allure with the village girls, as if his looks weren't enough.
When I enter Duncan's room he is fast asleep. I watch from the door as his chest slowly rises and falls. I slowly approach is bed, fearful of what Uncle Kane has done to him. Duncan's chest is wrap in bandages, and his face is swollen. I gently stoke his cheek careful not to hurt him. I notice I'm crying when a gulp of air gets trap in my throat. "I am so very sorry Duncan. I never wanted you to end up hurt because of me," I say and kiss his forehead.
"Red," Duncan says as he wakes. I look into his soft green eyes. "You need to leave," he yelled trying to ease up in his bed.
"Stop before you hurt yourself," I warn him. "I'm going to leave soon. I just needed to see you first," I say and he gives me a look signaling I did the wrong thing. "What did I do?"
"Father wants you dead and he's not going to stop until that happens. You have to leave and you can't come back," he cautions me.
"I'm not running from Uncle Kane. He needs to pay for everything he's done," I say receiving another look from Duncan. "What now?"
"You always have to challenge things you have no power over. There's nothing anyone can do at this point about father. Able has been trying for years, and it's all lead to failure. I'm not going to let you die Red. I refuse to let you to die," he says looking at me in that way that makes me melt.
"I love you so much Duncan, but I can't let him take over all of Wellington. Uncle Kane is corrupt and he's trying to overthrow King Erwin. I'm not going to run and hide while all of this happens. As Duchess of Kensington I have to protect it, and the king," I say knowing it's what my father would.
"Kensington and the lot of Wellington aren't your sole responsibility"-
"Yes they are. The blood of this land is mean. I'm the heiress to the Kensington throne. Soon I'll be a part of the king's order, and I need to stand up for what I know is right," I take Duncan's hand and look into his eyes. "I'm going to come back to you. I promise," I say as he rubs my cheek with his free hand.
"I'm coming with you," he says making me laugh.
"Be happy you can breathe without being in agonizing pain. There is no way you can ride in a storm all the way to Court. Plus I'm not learned in healing, neither is Josie nor Lucy," I say wishing I could take it back. Duncan's eyes are wide with shock and I brace myself for his wrath.
"Why would you put our friends in danger like this? Josie is already in so much trouble and Lucy?" he asks not seeing the connection.
"Don't worry about it, just know I can think things through," I smile at him and stand to leave.
"I'm coming after you," he warns.
"My mother won't let that happen, and I'm sure once Kane is gone there will be guards posted at your door," I tease him. "I'll be home as soon as time allows," I say smiling down at him.
"I love you, please be safe," he says.
"I love you too, and I will," I say and take one last look at Duncan before I leave his room. I know this is going to be hard, but I'm not going to lose my home to evil. I know I can defeat Uncle Kane either with will, or wit.
I make my way to the edge of the village to where I am to meet Josie and Lucy. I have Thunder from the stables and he adds comfort to my long journey. We make it to the woods just behind Lucy's house and I see Josie's lantern in the distance. I order Thunder in the direction of the yellow glow and he rushes to her. "Red is Duncan okay?" Lucy asks when I approach.
"He's alive and getting along," I say not wanting to talk about Duncan with her. I know she and Duncan are merely friends, but I know she loves him more than that. "Did Josie tell you about Kane?" I ask.
"I already knew everything, and I'm sorry about your father," Lucy says, and it makes my heart jump to know how much Duncan shares with her. I look at Lucy for a moment noting how the wind makes her long charcoal hair sway. The cold makes her skin fairer, and her cheek ripe with red, like a plump cheery. She was simply the most beautiful girl in Kensington, and she could easily have Duncan's heart. Maybe this was a bad idea, I think to myself. Then, I realize that if she's in Kensington alone with Duncan, she can change his mind about me.
"Red are you okay?" Josie asks pulling me away from my thoughts.
"Yes, I'm well," I say smiling at both of them. "Do you think your horse can fair the weather?" I ask Lucy.
"Collin is old, but that just means he is experienced. I'm sure he's the fastest horse in all of Wellington," she boasts making me want to vomit.
"I'm sure," I say as Josie eyes me. "We should be on our way then," I say trying to be nicer. It's hard to be accepting of someone like Lucy. She has everything, and yet she is so kind and proper. I'm sure she'd be the ideal duchess over me. Lucy is smart, level-headed, beautiful, and a true woman of valor. She is the complete opposite of me.
"What is your plan once we get to Court?" Josie asks as we ride into the woods.
"We need to stop Uncle Kane from having an audience with King Erwin. Or only objective is to stop connect between the king and Kane," I say.
"I think we should let everyone know that you are alive. That will out Kane as the liar he is, and stop anything before it has a chance to start," Lucy says getting Josie's approval.
"How do you suppose we do that?" I ask.
"Once King Erwin sees you and hears what Kane has been doing I'm sure he will do something," Lucy says.
"Do you honestly think we'll just be able to waltz into Court and have an audience with King Erwin?" I snort. "Uncle Kane wouldn't make it that easy. I'm sure, if he is willing to talk of war he has people all over Court ready to strike," I say.
"You think he's started a revolt within Court?" Josie asks.
"Yes. If Kane is marching all our warriors to Court he has a true opportunity to start something. He wouldn't use the lot of them for a mere scare tactic. He's too smart for that," I say.
"Your plan is too vague," Lucy says. I try to calm my mouth.
"Your plan is no better," I say. "We cannot count on the king putting an end to this. He has many enemies, and I'm sure Uncle Kane has exploited that fact," I add knowing I'm right.
"However, we also cannot try to stop him on our own," she says as if I am stupid enough to try that.
"I'm not dense," I yell pulling Thunder in front of her horse blocking her way. I manage to lock eyes with her even though it is dark and the snow is heavily falling. "I know what I'm doing and if you're not okay with it, maybe you should turn back," I warn her.
"Duncan wouldn't want me to leave you alone. He'd also hate me if I allowed you to do something this stupid," she challenges me.
I hate that she is using Duncan as a form of control. "If you want to help Duncan stop fighting me on this," I say then I ride off into the distance as fast as I can. Soon Josie follows behind me and Lucy is behind her. We race through the forest to Court not knowing what we're in for.